Sunday 07/14/2013 by tweezer


The band and everyone in attendance at last night’s show in Columbia, MD were right where they were supposed to be. This band was never supposed to stay on hiatus after 2000. They were never meant to stay retired after 2004. There was simply too much left to be said. Thank God they came back to let us hear it.

Everything simply feels right these days with this band who have been blowing our minds now for three decades. Some shows in the current state of Phish feature multiple extended jams. Others, like the previous night’s show at Jones Beach, feature one “you have to hear this to believe it” segue after another. Still other nights, like last night, are far less exploratory and still have the ability to take the audience on a stunning musical journey. You never know what you are going to get in 2013 and that is an exciting place to find yourself as an audience member.

After a standard “Kill Devil Falls” to kick things off, the band launched into the first “Destiny Unbound” in 61 shows, the jam section of which was a perfect microcosm of the current state of Phish. The very end of the jam featured Page moving to clavinet which in turn inspired Mike to start dropping bass bombs. Even on the official LivePhish release, there is an audible crowd yell at this point. Even when strictly staying within a song’s structure, you never know what is coming in 2013 Phish.

After a typically solid “Taste,” Page stepped to the forefront for only the sixth ever performance of “Halfway to the Moon.” Interestingly, a third of those have come at Merriweather Post Pavillion. “Twenty Years Later” then led to a “Maze” that featured a little extra mustard. Just like the “Destiny Unbound,” you never know when a memorable moment is lurking around the corner.

One of those came in the form of Page’s solo in “Maze.” More accurately, it came from the rhythm trio of Trey, Mike and Fishman playing under Page’s solo. Trey started jumping up and down and got very aggressive with his rhythm guitar playing which was instantly picked up by both Mike and Fishman. The result helped launch Page’s solo to another level. The MPP crowd, which was filled with energy the entire evening, responded with an explosion of approving noise. It was one of many moments in a place where you wouldn’t necessarily expect one.

The second ever performance of the new Mike tune, “Yarmouth Road,” was followed by yet another set closing “Split Open and Melt.” While certainly less exploratory than the version from SPAC, this was a great set closer. They stayed in the typical Melt form (3 measures of 4/4 followed by 1 measure of 9/8) for much longer than they have been lately. As they frequently do with "Ghost," part way through the jam it switched to major for a brief stretch, then wound its way back to more dark and minor territory. The flow and unexpected highlights of the first set were promising.

Down with Disease” kicked off the second set in typical rocking fashion. Stretching almost fifteen minutes, it featured a few distinct sections that were woven together seamlessly. The highlight of this jam was the completely out of nowhere return to the main theme at the end. Judging by the crowd reaction, no one in attendance saw it coming and it really set the place off. The “Free” that came next did feature a slightly extended bass solo in the middle, which Mike seemed to be ready to let go on for a good while but Trey kept things moving along.

Bouncing Around the Room” featured one of the loudest crowd reactions of the night and was a nice breather before a very spirited “Birds of a Feather.” While it didn’t quite reach the levels of the Atlantic City "BOAF," this was an above average version with some great interplay within the band. In particular, there was a nice conversation going on between Trey and Fishman. Many people take for granted how melodically Fishman plays the drums; this jam is a great example of that. You get a drummer that phrases as well as he does and half of a band’s problems evaporate almost instantly.

Next up was the second “Harry Hood” in three shows. It is not surprising that this tune is getting so much play these days – it is creative, inspired and you can tell the band is having a blast playing it. It was definitely one of the highlights of the evening: Page on the talk box. Trey teasing “Birds of a Feather.” Mike teasing “Dog Log.” And that was all well before the jam segment even started. Trey began by soloing chordally a la the SPAC “Ghost” and took it home with some old school melodic shredding. The joy this band is playing with today is contagious.

Trey’s “Architect” made its second appearance in a Phish setting which set us up for the home stretch. “Mike’s Song” made a now common late-set appearance, and did not disappoint. There has been a very public clamoring for the second jam in “Mike’s Song” to reappear into the repertoire. While that has yet to happen, most will agree that it is resoundingly trending in the right direction.

This version was focused, energized and had different members stepping to the forefront at different points. This is how chamber music is supposed to be played. Assertive playing while having an ear always open to respond to those around you. Trey soloing melodically, then switching to rhythm guitar while Page takes the lead on the B3. Trey and Fishman trading machine gun licks at the climax of the jam. Mike playing more notes than just about any other bass player without ever playing too many or stepping on any toes. (How does he do that?!)

The middle tune of the Mike’s Groove sandwich was “Simple” which has been a particularly wonderful creative jam outlet for the band in 3.0. The last few minutes of this were a gorgeous, meandering conversation between four of the best musicians in the world. Playing together for 30 years will tend to help in the communication department. Easily a highlight of the night.

The final song of the second set was a ten minute “Weekapaug Groove” that was a fitting closer to a great set. After a standard start to the jam, Page moved to the clavinet and got his Herbie Hancock-circa-“Rockit” on, while Trey backed him up rhythmically. Mike’s playing was very sparse in the middle of this “Weekapaug,” which gave them space to do their thing. Then it returned to a more familiar, bass heavy place. Fishman even threw in a disco beat for about fifteen seconds. You never know where anything is headed nowadays, which is just awesome.

The encore was “Waste” followed by a “Good Times Bad Times” that absolutely blew the tent off of Merriweather Post Pavilion. You want to talk about a little extra mustard It literally takes your breath away when all four members plus CK5 hit one of “those” climaxes at precisely the same moment, all in perfect sync with each other and the universe. The climax of this “Good Times Bad Times” was just that – an explosion of energy that inspired reactions ranging from guttural screams to stunned silence. That’s how you end a show emphatically.

Phish left the Merriweather Post Pavilion crowd drooling in anticipation for tonight’s show. They showed off the many different strengths the band currently brings to the table and reminded us that you can’t sleep on any songs because you never know where the highlights are going to be.

We were all supposed to be there last night, getting our groove on together. Thanks for coming back, Phish.

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, comment by fluffhead108
fluffhead108 *heads to LivePhish to check out the Simple and Maze*
, comment by PennPhan
PennPhan My take, for whatever it's worth, was slightly different, but I by and large agree with most of this post, but here are my exceptions:
The 1st set was pedestrian (there might be a good reason why some songs aren't in the rotation) up until Page's solo in Maze. THEN, the crowd actually got into it after the boys started feeding off of him. Where we were (pavilion, center, towards the rear), half the people weren't even paying too much attention to the music until Page exploded. Then wow.
Seemed like we were just getting into the groove when intermission came.
I need to hear the Hood again, but to me the guitar solo sounded strained. A great Hood (4/4/98, for one) builds like a musical orgasm. Didn't feel any of that with this Hood. Could be me, could be the sound where I was, dunno. I reserve the right to change that opinion after listening again.
Architect? Yawn. Cool lyrics, but didn't nothing else for me.
Mike's Groove? Superb! After that Mike's I was scared that they'd drop into a Hydrogen that would slam the brakes on the momentum that they'd built (they did that a bit later with Waste, but they way it built up into GTBT made it not a bad placement), so the extended Simple was great.

Best thing? No Possum!

Hopefully, tonight will be even better. After that second set, though, the bar is set pretty high.
, comment by fhqwhgads
fhqwhgads It's not a vocoder; it's a Talk Box.
, comment by SoStupendous
SoStupendous A positive review, thank God. Very enjoyable read!
, comment by funkbeard
funkbeard Really solid show. Taste was essentially nailed, after a flubbed chord early on. Much more old school in the quietly ripping solo. Trey did his homework for that one.

All in, seemed to be the most consistently solid show of the tour, although the highlights are basically average to great Phish.

The band is getting more comfortable with the new stage set-up, and they're pushing the boundaries in the energy department once again. The peak of the Mike's Song jam was just ferocious, with the whole band clobbering it and going next level with near-telepathic unity. No hesitations there whatsoever.
, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM This was a fun show to be present for, but will probably not reward multiple playbacks. Weekapaug was truly excellent, sounding almost like a fall of 79 Brent-led bug-squishing jam. Pretty severe set flow problems and a few flubs (most obviously starting simple in the wrong key).

Have to agree that the Hood sounded a bit shrill. I'll have to listen to the Disease again but the reprise to finish was certainly unexpected. But it came at the cost of what was a promising jam that they had been searching for for much of the 15 minutes or so.

I certainly had a good time at the show, but this will probably not be one of my go-to shows. Especially with the wealth of amazing shows already available this year.
, comment by tweezer
tweezer @fhqwhgads Thanks! Fixed.
, comment by SporkFan
SporkFan I've always thought of Split as 6 measures of 4/4 followed by one measure of 5/4. Either way, I still get bummed that they lose count of it these days.
, comment by CarinCarpenter
CarinCarpenter Sirs, I would not have downloaded this show based on the setlist. Now I am, and I'm pumped. Thought you'd be happy to know. Can't wait for tonight's show too!!

PS. Great review from what I read (I stopped after realizing 7/13 was a keeper. It better be. Just kidding.)
, comment by GeerShift
GeerShift Certainly thanks for coming back, Phish...but we are now in year 5 of the return, might not need to explicitly state that anymore. This song based show seemed to be really waiting on a bustout based affair. Other than the Destiny it really was not to be. One of the more disappointing features of 3.0 is the lack of that 2nd jam in Mikes. The fact that I do not get excited with the opening notes of this old workhorse anymore is disturbing. They have the chops now, the rust is well off, let this one breathe a little!
, comment by InsectEffect
"...and reminded us that you can’t sleep on any songs because you never know where the highlights are going to be."

Right ON. For me this perspective, now becoming more common with recaps, helps foster a more positive and nuanced appreciation of what the band does every night, rather than simply emphasize jams or their absence. My listening is sharper as a result. Well done.

FACTSAREUSELESS Very positive review. Thank you. There's a time to be critical for sure, but the points you brought out in your piece justified the rose-colored-glasses approach to the show. Especially enjoyed the fluff you gave Fishman, which is very much deserved. He could be the most underrated drummer in rock history. Also agree with your emphasis upon the fine nuance of band member communication, which gets lost in translation as people take broad sideswipes at the bands' overall approach.

The band today seems a lot like finely aged wine. They do more with a few minutes than any other jam band does in an hour, and that's not an exaggeration.

Looking forward to hearing this show after your enthusiastic endorsement.
FACTSAREUSELESS @InsectEffect said:
"...and reminded us that you can�t sleep on any songs because you never know where the highlights are going to be."

Right ON. For me this perspective, now becoming more common with recaps, helps foster a more positive and nuanced appreciation of what the band does every night, rather than simply emphasize jams or their absence. My listening is sharper as a result. Well done.
Totally agree with your comments. If only everyone could take the same approach, then we could dispense with all the tiresome "it'll never be like '97" dialogue.
, comment by Shangho
Shangho I feel what people are saying about Possum these days (I unfortunately have not been able to catch a show for 2 years now),while I was on tour in the summer of 98 Mikes Groove and YEM were played HEAVILY and we found ourselves getting mildly tired of both....that being said though,if the band is really enjoying a certain tune enough,especially and oldie like Possum,it's a great sign that they still have that fire for older material!I would never speak negatively of the boys,but I do find myself wanting new material more in the vein of Guyute or even later multi section songs like Walls Of The Cave.Ive felt little connection to their "newer material",but also understand that people change and what matters is that THEY enjoy the new stuff!
, comment by Shangho
Shangho And I'd also like to add that I always disagree with the "good old days " mentality some fans have.My first show was the Clifford Ball and in my opinion they have changed as a band but for the better!!!!If people keep wanting the funk of 97,or the long jams of 98 they will miss out on the amazing moments that are ahead!if they stayed the same they simply wouldn't be Phish!
, comment by Roofless_Sheds
Roofless_Sheds Hood was spectacular. Truly an old-school vibe, one I've only personally witnessed with the Dick's and MSG Hoods from last year.

Check it out. Liquid joy in sonic form.
, comment by Jamaal
Jamaal Shangho-

So you like the new approach by the band? The one where the TRY a jam and then just say @#$% it and end it? Not me. If they want to be a concise, song-driven band then fine. Right now they are kinda stuck in middle.
, comment by Ravinus
Ravinus Loved the Destiny Unbound.
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