Saturday 07/13/2013 by lumpblockclod

JONES BEACH RECAP

"The rain had let up and leveled out to its usual winter-long pace ... not so much a rain as a dreamy smear of blue-gray that wipes over the land instead of falling on it, making patient spectral shades of the tree trunks and a pathic, placid, and cordial sighing sound all along the broad river. A friendly sound, even. It was nothing fearful after all. The same old rain, and, if not welcomed, at least accepted — an old gray aunt who came to visit every winter and stayed till spring. You learn to live with her. You learn to reconcile yourself to the little inconveniences and not get annoyed. You remember she is seldom angry or vicious and nothing to get in a stew about, and if she is a bore and stays overlong you can train yourself not to notice her, or at least not to stew about her." – Ken Kesey, Sometimes a Great Notion

A common debate in the comments section of these recaps centers around who is better suited to offer a review, someone who attended the show or someone who has listened to the “tapes.” Proponents of reviews by attendees only will generally claim that the show is an experience that can’t be completely distilled to ones and zeros via the modern miracle of livephish.com. To authentically offer a review of a show, they will say, you have to have lived the full sensory experience.

I was at last night’s show at Jones Beach. And I’m here to tell you that I and the other 15,000 or so folks in attendance are arguably the worst people to offer you a review of last night’s proceedings. Sometimes those external factors seen as so vital to offering an accurate review are so powerful as to overshadow the music we’re all there to hear. The dominant external factor last night was the rain.

It rained for six straight hours last night. From 4:00 until just before the second set started at 10:00. It was an unrelenting rain accompanied by a steady wind. As the rain started, several of us began joking about the 6/5/09 Jones Beach show that took place amid a steady rain and temperatures in the low fifties. It sucked that we weren’t able to sip our fresh growlers of Barrier Money IPA (thanks for filling us up on a Friday, guys!) in the sun, but at least it wouldn’t be that bad. Alas, it was worse. I’m not sure when it happened, maybe hour four or hour five, but the unstoppable nature of the rain eventually rendered my rain jacket useless. That’s my ticket stub below. I took it out of my zipped rain jacket pocket exactly twice, once to get in the show and a trip to the bathroom. It was exposed to the elements for maybe 45 seconds total.

On the bright side, Phish played a concert last night that I did my best to pay attention to in the unspeakably miserable conditions. A standard “Chalk Dust” started us off. Though “Chalk Dust” is pretty much never unenjoyable, they were going to have to try a little harder than that to engage the surly crowd. They largely succeeded with a “Cars Trucks Buses” that stayed on the road for a bit longer than usual. “Ocelot” seemed to be the precise opposite of a rainy day song, though at least his stripes were safe from the “poisonous day.” After an unremarkable “My Sweet One,” we got our first highlight of the night in the all too rare “ASIHTOS.” While all the pieces seemed to be in place for Phish to knock this one out of the park, they stuck to a standard reading of the song. Still nice to hear.

A predictable “Water in the Sky” set the stage for a somewhat puzzling run of songs. Trey first tried his hand at “The Sloth,” a song they really haven’t played well for years. Last night was, unfortunately, no exception, even if the conditions certainly added a degree of difficulty. “Beauty of a Broken Heart” is a song that I would welcome in nearly any other set, but neither it nor Trey was up to the task of raising the crowd up. Trey frankly seemed lost. “Sugar Shack,” a song that thrives in Mike’s solo shows, was sadly given its usual oven mitt treatment by Trey. If they succeeded in picking up the energy a bit with the arena rock of “46 Days,” the standard “Number Line” that followed sucked it right back up.

Normally the set might have ended there, but these were not normal circumstances. Possibly trying to outlast the rain, we got our first “Reba” of the tour. While I don’t know that we can call this “Reba” flub-free (or even close), Trey really came up with some nice phrases during the jam segment. “Bowie” continued the upward trend and featured a somewhat unusual (and enthralling) major key jam that was probably the most innovative thing they played to that point. While they ended the set on something of a high point, the set as a whole was one long struggle to truly enjoy (and it was no doubt difficult for the band to play). Let’s be honest, though, none of the first sets have been particularly strong this tour and this first set may have been the worst of the bunch. Having said that, the first set of 11/17/97 might have been difficult to enjoy last night.

The monsoon and accompanying misery continued into setbreak. People tried to take cover where they could – at one point I counted a grand total of twelve people on the mezzanine level. Then, just after 10:00, the rain let up. No one seemed to notice at first, our bodies all collectively saturated at that point the idea that no rain was falling from the sky didn’t immediately register, since – rain or not – no one was going to be dry for some time. Had this show occurred in, say, 2010 or 2011, we all would have been hoping for the possibility of a strong second set. That’s not to say that there aren’t some great shows in ‘10-’11, but there wasn't the feeling that you had a good chance of catching "it" or that "it" could happen at any moment. One of the nice things about seeing Phish in 2013, is that I expect to see greatness in the second set. Those expectations were fulfilled last night.

Rock and Roll” (rather than the predicted “Drowned”) started us off. Though Trey had some trouble entering both his first solo and the jam segment, things took off quickly and the structure of the song was fairly abandoned early on as Trey and Page explored one theme after another. I think it actually started sprinkling a couple of times during “R&R” and the rest of the set, but at this point, the music was so good (and I was already so wet) I barely noticed. Or maybe I had trained myself not to notice. This jam may not have been on the level of PNC’s “Crosseyed,” but it remained engaging throughout. The fact that a jam like this can reasonably be viewed as par for the course in 2013 is a genuine thrill. And the best was yet to come.

“R&R” eventually wound its way into a standard “2001.” “Tweezer” followed and everyone seemed to sense that we were in for a great version. The band was clicking on all cylinders with Trey leading the way, blazing a winding path through the night. At one point, Page started raining down chords that had us headed in the same cathartic direction as the 12/28/12 “Tweezer,” but rather than following him in that direction, Trey began chording in a familiar rhythm. And, just like that, we dropped in the butteriest way possible into a rare second set “Cities,” recalling the 12/31/98 pairing of those two songs. “Cities” was not to receive the extended treatment we had hoped for, but was, nonetheless, a fine version, with Page leading the way this time. Trey drops in at the end and begins playing some nice ascending lines before we’re treated to a second consecutive butter segue into “The Wedge.” It’s hard to tell who really takes the lead in initiating this transition, let’s call it equal parts Fish, Mike and Trey. On the other hand, it’s easy to spot the star of this “Wedge.” It’s Trey and he just utterly destroys his solo and we essentially get the cathartic peak that was bypassed in “Tweezer” in “The Wedge.”

If this were 1997, they might have simply left the stage after that “Wedge,” a less-is-more approach I wish they’d take more often these days. Instead, we got a “Velvet Sea” followed by the arena rock of “Character Zero” as a set closer. A high energy version to be sure, nothing to match the heights scaled earlier in the set. The “Monkey” encore was a bit of a trainwreck, with Trey first singing “Sample” before catching himself and – eventually – remembering the lyrics. “Tweezer Reprise” did what it usually does, putting an exclamation point on a fantastic second frame of Phish. Hopefully the high quality second sets, if not the weather, continues at Merriweather tonight.

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Comments

, comment by liltrey
liltrey Your(all) recaps/reviews of shows this year have been a real pleasure to read.
, comment by liltrey
liltrey All meaning phish.net recaps
, comment by Leigh
Leigh My phone and wallet were sacrificed to attend this show. But the Tweezer> Cities> Wedge made it worthwhile. Perhaps the finest I've ever seen them play.
, comment by makisupaman
makisupaman Highly enjoyable review! I have a similarly destroyed ticket stub from the 2009-06-19 monsoons. Quick nerd note: a cursory glance at the stat books reveals that this night's Reba + Bowie combo constitutes only the fourth such pairing in Phishtory. The only other modern coupling came in the opening set of day 3 at SBIX (which, on the subject of first sets, should be firmly positioned in the "successful" column).
, comment by GeerShift
GeerShift The Wedge teases in Cities are pointed out in the .net set list notes here, but I also hear them in the fantastic Bowie. The fact that Trey picked up on this to segue into the song proper was magnificent. Tweezers is ice cream for the ears. If Phish is the Michael Jordan of bands, they are thoroughly in their turnaround jumper phase now. They can't necessarily do the foul line dunk anymore, but the 96 Bulls still won over 70 games. Treys sparseness of playing this year reminds me of other great years of Phish where he "forced" the other band members to take lead roles...only now they are perhaps more than ever ready for the responsibility.
, comment by jfl2112
jfl2112 You're review is spot on. Thank You. I was actually right behind you (Orch E row NN seat 4 - my ticket is identical to yours, my wife's, well, i'm happy just to get the code off the stub). This was my most miserable phish "experience" due to the monsoons but probably one of the better shows I've seen. My wife is not a phan and due to some strange circumstances she came with me to her first show. She had a miserable time during the first set and we ended up sitting in the VIP tent for Reba and Bowie, thank God for livephish.com so i can actually hear the songs. She begged me to go home but I promised her the rain would stop and I'm so glad it did. What a second set, wow... Loved it. I took two videos last night, one of them Trey singing Sample instead of Monkey, too funny and a video i will treasure. ....And my wife actually enjoyed the set, loved the vibe and is now looking forward to seeing Phish under normal circumstances. I'm now looking forward to the trek to Dicks Labor Day weekend.
, comment by BigDudeInTheDoorway
BigDudeInTheDoorway 2nd set was some of the best Phish I've ever seen!!!!. Trey has been absolutely killing wedge this tour. I had such a blast last night despite the weather. Just imagine if first sets were like that. Numberline and Ocelot were the worst calls, I felt, in that weather. Anyone who left after the first set, or during, obviously has no idea what its all about, and definitely missed out.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS Really well-written review. The first show I haven't listened to before I read about it and you really brought me there. Besides, anyone who starts a review by quoting Ken Kesey is A-OKAY in my book. (On a side note....as I began reading the piece, and not yet knowing it was a quote from a book, I began wondering if you had dosed for the event. Then, realizing it was Kesey, I knew why I felt that way!)

My only quibble with the piece was your assertion that there haven't been any good first sets this tour. Perhaps my ears are less well-tuned than yours, but I felt that SPAC3 was one of the best, albeit not perfect, 1st sets in a very long time. I also thought parts of NJ's 1st set were also excellent.

Great piece of writing either way. Thanks for braving the Velvet Sea for our benefit.
, comment by InsectEffect
InsectEffect
Yeah, you had me at the Great Notion quote, and I really appreciate what you've said about who is 'qualified' to recap a show.

Phish.net reviews have so far all been timely, balanced and a real pleasure to read this year.

, comment by whatstheuse324
whatstheuse324 I felt that the opening Chalkdust was like a challenge being presented to all of us from the band, as in "Can't I live while I'm young?" and have fun despite the horrid weather. Last night was an endurance contest, and I'm happy that I finished it. Phish totally delivered the goods for all of us in attendance while we dealt with ridiculous rain just to see our favorite band. I was really hoping for Sanity last night, since we were all pretty much insane to do what we did, but no complaints.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @whatstheuse324 said:
I felt that the opening Chalkdust was like a challenge being presented to all of us from the band, as in "Can't I live while I'm young?" and have fun despite the horrid weather. Last night was an endurance contest, and I'm happy that I finished it. Phish totally delivered the goods for all of us in attendance while we dealt with ridiculous rain just to see our favorite band. I was really hoping for Sanity last night, since we were all pretty much insane to do what we did, but no complaints.
A nasty Sanity would've been for the ages. Agree. I'm sure the band would agree too. They probably didn't think of it.
, comment by ucpete
ucpete steals download code from picture of stub

I kid, I kid. Nice review LBC. I'm curious to listen to this one in full, as I streamed it in the car on the drive up to Tahoe last night (technology is freaking great!) and though R&R was definitely long, it wasn't doing the trick for me. Trey seemed to be at a loss for ideas and it dragged on a bit. But I haven't listened to the LP release in all its glory so I reserve the right to change my mind. I almost crashed when the stream cut out right when Trey started some major chording that I knew was going somewhere awesome. Had to check Twitter at that point (I know I know, bad Pete, don't fuck with your phone while driving). Bummed to have missed the segues only to hear Zero onward : /
, comment by ucpete
ucpete Sorry, to be clear, the stream cut out late in Tweezer.
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @ucpete said:
I'm curious to listen to this one in full, as I streamed it in the car on the drive up to Tahoe last night (technology is freaking great!) and though R&R was definitely long, it wasn't doing the trick for me. Trey seemed to be at a loss for ideas and it dragged on a bit. But I haven't listened to the LP release in all its glory so I reserve the right to change my mind. I almost crashed when the stream cut out right when Trey started some major chording that I knew was going somewhere awesome. Had to check Twitter at that point (I know I know, bad Pete, don't fuck with your phone while driving). Bummed to have missed the segues only to hear Zero onward : /
To be clear, while I enjoyed the R&R, the Tweezer -> Cities -> Wedge was not only the clear highlight, but the fact that a thoroughly above average 19-min R&R in 2013 was essentially the opening act in the set is what made it so great. If that makes sense.
, comment by piper24
piper24 All the phish.net reviews have been very entertaining to read this year. Unfortunately what I find in the reviews and comments are people trying to find the silver lining in the clouds. It pains me to say this, but I'm starting to wonder how much phish is into this anymore. The shows of the past few years have had more ups and downs than a trampoline. They lack focus and almost any sense of direction. The playing is sloppy and awkward. At times it seems like they got their mojo back only to lose it the next night. They've started to use gimmicks to cover up the lackluster music, e.g. cover fest 2012 and new lights and stage arrangement 2013. I understand that mistakes will be made and that each show is different, but lately it seems as though the lows out weigh the highs. What happened to the consistency? I feel the lack of shows is to blame. What happened to spring tour? Fall tour? Phish was great live because they played together all the fucking time! More shows=better shows! I hate feeling jaded!! This is my favorite band. I've spent the last 18 years of my life seeing them. I have so many positive memories associated with them it's ridiculous. I will continue to see and support them as much as possible. I'm not trying to be negative or piss you guys off, but I know I'm not the only fan who is feeling this way. I know they can still deliver the goods when they want. It just seems like it's to far and few between.
, comment by ucpete
ucpete @lumpblockclod said:
@ucpete said:
I'm curious to listen to this one in full, as I streamed it in the car on the drive up to Tahoe last night (technology is freaking great!) and though R&R was definitely long, it wasn't doing the trick for me. Trey seemed to be at a loss for ideas and it dragged on a bit. But I haven't listened to the LP release in all its glory so I reserve the right to change my mind. I almost crashed when the stream cut out right when Trey started some major chording that I knew was going somewhere awesome. Had to check Twitter at that point (I know I know, bad Pete, don't fuck with your phone while driving). Bummed to have missed the segues only to hear Zero onward : /
To be clear, while I enjoyed the R&R, the Tweezer -> Cities -> Wedge was not only the clear highlight, but the fact that a thoroughly above average 19-min R&R in 2013 was essentially the opening act in the set is what made it so great. If that makes sense.
Yup, that makes sense. I hadn't heard any opinions on the R&R and listening on an iPhone through an FM transmitter in the middle of nowhere may have altered my perception of it. The Tweezer on the other hand was clearly sick to my ears, despite the situation. Will listen in full tonight!
, comment by sloth2112
sloth2112 Great review!! Except for one thing... They killed it at Spac3 in the 1st set! Prob best 1st set beginning to end that I've seen/heard since the mid 90's... & that night too was a totrential downpour!! But not cold... Just my humble opinion, after going to countless shows since the late 80's...
, comment by funkbeard
funkbeard Well written.

I was jaded by the reports of rain last night.

Funny thing is.... when I went to work today, I listened to that second set twice. SO damn good!
, comment by Jimmymac03
Jimmymac03 I disagree with the rain taking anything away from the experience. If anything myself and those I were with seemed extra amped because of the rain. We were in the VIP section dancing barefoot on astro turf and loving every second of that first set. No, the music was not perfect, but the experience was. Dancing in the that rain was honestly one of the most fun experiences of my life.
, comment by FMixolydian
FMixolydian Regarding "Sloth" being poorly played - I noticed Trey miss the right chords at one point and I had the same initial impression as you that he flubbed it. It sounded like he was playing out of position, but it was just before he sings "I'm so bad..." with a huge ironic grin on his face - so I was left thinking it was on purpose. Made me crack up at the show. Overall I thought Trey's performance was terrific and he made very few errors, at least none that distracted me from having a good time and enjoying the performance. I agree with a previous blog that Trey has upped his game and Phish are playing exceptionally well, contrary to quite a few negative reviews I've read recently.

While the rain was torrential and definitely put a damper on things, there was something uniquely psychedelic about them playing in the pitch dark, pouring rain, in full view of the ocean. They seemed to really be carrying this theme through most of the songs - most obviously with SIHTOS, which I thought worked really well given the setting. Also Trey and the band are particularly adept at listening to the acoustics of a venue while playing - and I noticed this morning that this really doesn't come across in the SBD recordings (was hoping to find the show on eTree but I wouldn't be surprised if no one even could record last night given the weather). During the Ocelot solo for example, Trey sustains a note on the Languedoc, Mike continues to move harmonically, and the sustained sound of the band is textured and altered by sheets of rain and gusts of wind almost like a rotating Leslie speaker. It creates a very psychedelic experience, which I think is at the core of the appeal of Phish for me (they've mastered the rock concert experience imho).
, comment by sumodie
sumodie Had such a blast dancing in the rain to phish! Sure, it was tough at times, but also glorious. And that set 2 made it all worth it. Love Jones Beach, rain or shine.
, comment by CarinCarpenter
CarinCarpenter "Sometimes I live in ze country, sometimes I live here in town, sometimes I have the great notion, to jump into the river and drown"

That was possibly the best .net recap I've seen. It works from all angles and for all audiences. Kudos.

That kinda echoes everyone's sentiments though. So why am I posting? I'm wondering if I should bother expecting any AUD sources to pop up for this show. If that's what happened to your ticket, I can only imagine what happened to someone's 'gear'; but as a true-blue non-east coaster, I've never been to Jones Beach and therefore don't know if the OTS/Soundboard area has a roof.
, comment by ericwyman
ericwyman @Jakechyllenhaal It's an entirely open venue, but those guys mean business in OTS :)
, comment by E_Wolfe
E_Wolfe LBC, thanks for a solid, unbaised review of the show. Pretty refreshing to see, here on .net, people reviewing the shows w/o bias one way or the other.
Just to throw in my two cents regarding the in-attendance-or-not review opinions, I think the idea that only those in attendance can truly review a show is bogus. I, for one, think a review of a show I was at is biased toward being overly positive, since I've never had a bad time at ANY phish show. Couple that w/ the fact that all sorts of other outside factors weigh into my general outlook of the show; who I was with, what we experienced getting to the show, (i.e. was it a sweet road trip from another show, or was it hell-on-earth just to get there on time) what we consumed before/during, etc. That being said, reviews are there for one obvious reason; for those of us who WEREN'T able to be there, and want to know what we can expect when we give it a listen. I couldn't care less what someone else thought of a show I was at, 'cuz I WAS THERE! I already have my own opinion/experience. I'd like to know what those whose opinions I respect about this band/their music thought...and if I listen to a show that I think is just 'ok', a review that tells me how EPIC it was for you & your buds that night doesn't really tell me about music quality. I understand the qualifying factors for a memorable show experience may have made it awesome for you as a whole, and that's great. Its also great to be able to revise my view of a show when I see someone else's perspective, and/or they open my eyes to things I wasn't aware of. I dunno, I guess I just think show reviews are (IMO) about the musical performance, and the only outside factors that should be considered are those that CONTRIBUTED TO said performance/song selection...i.e.- A song played may not be a personal favorite in phish's repertoire, but noting that they played it because of show locale, venue, weather, etc., may make it more relevant,funny,unique, etc....and having been to enough shows to understand the significance of this, I can appreciate it more even if I wasn't there, 'cuz I know how cool it woulda been to be there, ya know? Who doesn't get the chills listening to the '98 show w/ 'Terrapin Station' encore?!! Ya can't tell me the whole "Dude, what song is this? Is this...IS THIS...HOLY F**K DUDE, TERRAPIN!"-vibe isn't f&&king palpable when you listen as the crowd figures it out and the cheering escalates to a seething roar of recognition & appreciation...ya aren't there, but it still gives ya butterflies every time you listen to those opening notes & the audience reaction and love it 'cuz its so sweet and ya know being there woulda been SICK. Now, doesn't that mean you DON'T have to be there to "get it"?! Peace y'all, have fun. I'm off to listen to MPP2, and I'm stoked!
, comment by Phish686
Phish686 No mention of Fish playing the wedge beat through out all of cities?
1st sets have become very uneventful but the 2nd set was fantastical.
, comment by ucpete
ucpete I finally got a chance to do some catching up, so I have a couple more thoughts on this show I'll share.

First, I must say I completely agree with your (@lumpblockclod) assessment of Trey putting on the oven mitts for (BoaBH and) Sugar Shack. It's something that's been a little disappointing to me for quite some time -- that Trey doesn't seem to try as hard (or practice enough?) when it comes to playing Page's and Mike's songs. I really like what Mike and Page are doing in the songwriting department, and considering Trey's less-than-prolific writing output on the Phish front these past few years, you'd think that he'd be chomping at the bit to jam on something new. I'm trying not to read too much into it, though I had this thought as early as Festival 8: the entirety of Phish's career, the rest of the band has poured their hearts and souls into learning and playing the shit out of songs that (primarily) Trey wrote, so it only seems fair that Trey do the same for them. I don't know what to make of it really.

Second, on repeat listen, that Reba was a little too rough for me to handle. Beyond the flubs, there was just too much whammy for me in the jam and Trey basically handicapped himself again. In fact everything up until Bowie does almost nothing special for me -- don't get me wrong, I'd be dancing my ass off enjoying the show if I were there, but nothing until Bowie is worthy of another listen in my book. And I forgot it all by the time Bowie came around. Freaking awesome Bowie! As its Jam Chart entry points out, it is so good to see Bowie trending upward. This Bowie, coupled with the great Stash and YEM from a few nights later, make me so happy to hear new life breathed into (in my opinion) some of the greatest songs written of all time.

And finally, the third quarter and beginning of the fourth: Rock & Roll was better on second listen, and you're right that it is a great setup for the segment that's to come -- Rock & Roll is a bit "long-winded" if you will, and I did recognize the parts I thought Trey was at a loss for ideas. But we want MOAR jamZ right? I further understand what LBC was getting at, in that R&R was a nice loose counterpart to the extraordinarily tight, 3.0 style focused jamming that came in the 2001 > Tweezer -> Cities -> Wedge segment. I'm now listening to that segment again because it's so damn good. I'm a real stickler for melted butter in my segues, and this double dip "-> " had me reaching for a napkin (I realize that sounds creepy on re-read but I'll leave it because IDGAF). Do they mail it in after The Wedge? For the most part, yeah, but they had just gone on an 18-0 run to go up by 15 in the middle of the fourth quarter, so I'll forgive them saving up some energy for the Finals (BGCA / Dick's!).
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @ucpete said:
Do they mail it in after The Wedge? For the most part, yeah, but they had just gone on an 18-0 run to go up by 15 in the middle of the fourth quarter, so I'll forgive them saving up some energy for the Finals (BGCA / Dick's!).
To be fair, I mailed in my recap after The Wedge, too.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @lumpblockclod said:
@ucpete said:
Do they mail it in after The Wedge? For the most part, yeah, but they had just gone on an 18-0 run to go up by 15 in the middle of the fourth quarter, so I'll forgive them saving up some energy for the Finals (BGCA / Dick's!).
To be fair, I mailed in my recap after The Wedge, too.
Truth is, we all mail it in at the precise moment that we get what we want, which is why this forum is so damn interesting......"how'd I miss that?"
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