Monday 09/02/2013 by lumpblockclod

DICK'S THREECAP: 9-0 OR 8-1?

Greetings sports fans and welcome to the final Phish.net recap of the 2013 Summer Tour. The tour has been a strong one, both in terms of strong jams (first and foremost the Tahoe "Tweezer" but also the PNC "Crosseyed," Hollywood "Hood" and Saturday's Dick's "Chalk Dust") and consistently well played sets (the second sets from Jones Beach, Gorge2 and SF3 particularly stand out). What's more, in 2011 and 2012, Phish saved arguably their best set of the Dick's run for last. Regardless of your view on the merits of comparing one Phish show to another, the band has played some undeniably strong shows at Dick's. Would Sunday night continue the tradition? Lets dive in...

Leading off with "A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing," seemed to be a statement of intent. "ASIHTOS" is rarely played and an atypical opener. Although this version, like the Jones Beach performance from earlier in the tour, did not receive extended treatment, it, nevertheless, seemed to portend good things to come. "Kill Devil Falls" followed and, other than perhaps eliciting some extra cheers at the "stand at the base of a mountain" line, stayed entirely within itself. The familiar shuffle of "Back on the Train" followed. Often Phish reviews approvingly cite instances of the band starting a show with a string of songs from the early days ("none of the first five songs debuted later than '89"). I tend to get more excited by the opposite situation and appreciated that the opening trifecta of songs all debuted in or after '99. "BOTT," though short, featured an engaging solo from Trey.

After a standard "Rift," the band started up "Meat." Though perfectly enjoyable, confining the song to four and a half minutes simply didn't afford them much room to stretch out. This would become a theme. But not for "It's Ice!" Page and Trey managed to find some room to jam in the breakdown section and the result was a highlight of the first set and one of the stronger versions of "Ice" in recent memory (rivaling the MPP rendition back in July). Of course your view on "It's Ice" serving as a first set highlight is likely a good barometer of your degree of optimism when it comes to Phish. The optimist is excited they played a good version of the song. The pessimist sees big problems when a highlight of your set is 90 seconds of Trey/Page interplay in "It's Ice" (and why won't that guy in front stop waving that god damn Colorado flag?).

Before we move on to the rest of the set, let's take a moment to discuss Mr. Colorado. There has been some debate on the internets lately over the merits of ranking versions of Phish songs. We can tackle that one later (maybe even in this recap!), but for now can we all just agree that whether you paid $15 to watch the webcast or got into the show as soon as the doors opened to secure prime real estate on the field, the guy waving the giant flag and blocking the view of 80% of the audience isn't "bringing positive energy" to the show? He's creating negative energy in the eyes of multitudes of people, who feel he is compromising their experience for the sake of his own. Lots of it. Moving on...

"Guelah" was up next and was its usual self. The "Divided Sky" that followed likely caused fellow .net admin @ericwyman to shed a tear . . . of joy . . . that he was in New Hampshire and not Colorado at that particular moment. Joking aside, "Divided Sky" is one of the songs that got me into Phish (and also the first song I ever saw them play live). Though it may vary little from version to version, I'll always enjoy hearing it. Page's solo in the ensuing "Funky Bitch" brought serious heat and delivered another obvious set highlight.

One of the more dismaying trends of shows in 3.0 has been the tendency of the band to run off a series of "closers" at the end of a set rather than opening up more songs earlier in the set. This is actually a notably infrequent occurrence in 2013, though last night was an exception. Either of "Cavern" or "Stealing Time" could have provided the exclamation point to the set but neither did. In any event, we can tackle that phenomenon later (maybe in this recap!). The "Bowie" that did close the set did so admirably, even if the upward trend of strong "Bowies" in 2013 seems to have leveled off after peaking in Toronto.

Before we get to the second frame, I'd like to jump back in time a year. After the FUCK YOUR FACE show on 8/31/12, several of us began discussing the fact that Phish had played (to that point) four undeniably strong shows at Dick's. After following it up with two nearly as strong efforts, we began to joke that each of those shows were "wins" and that Phish was 6-0 at Dick's. The six shows are all very different and, frankly, some are more deserving of repeated listenings than others. But all six, as shows played before an audience, were incredibly strong, rewarding and engaging performances. I'm sure that analogy will offend some who, justifiably, see all Phish shows as wins (which is true in many respects). Just know that it's done out of love and excitement in discussing the band we all love. It's also worth mentioning that what seemed notable in 2011-12 (that Phish would run off six consecutive standout shows at a single venue) seems almost commonplace in 2013.

Returning to 2013, after Friday and Saturday Phish entered last night on an eight game "winning" streak. Or, as we joked at the show, nearly halfway to matching the '72 Dolphins. However, continuing with the sports analogy, Phish entered the second set down by a touchdown. Still, hardly an insurmountable lead, especially at Dick's. "Carini" opened the set and our prospects looked good. At several points in the jam, the band seemed to have trouble finding direction. But, like a veteran quarterback converting a series of key third downs, they continued to explore new avenues and ultimately scored a touchdown in the form of a glorious last few minutes of "Carini."

Compact versions of "BOAF" and "Golden Age" failed to capitalize on the gains made by "Carini." When "Caspian" emerged where the rest of "Golden Age" should have been it felt like we fumbled on our two-yard line. However, the "Caspian" really was a good one featuring inspiring work from Trey. "Piper" provided the second jamming highlight of the set. The band first settled into a groove reminiscent of "Guy Forget" before switching gears and ending up in the land of "Woo!" More compact versions of potentially fertile second set songs continued with both "Boogie On" and "Saw it Again."

Phish was not playing poorly, but they went into the half trailing and now they were running out of time. "Mike's Groove" came next and the Dick's perfect season seemed to be riding on its shoulders. That's a lot, maybe too much, to ask of "Mike's" in 2013. The "Mike's" itself was enjoyable, if typical. Trey found a nice little theme in the middle, but it left as quickly as it came. As the closing chords rang through Dick's, though, an unfamiliar reggae beat emerged. In a nod to Colorado's progressive marijuana laws, we got a Phish debut in the form of Peter Tosh's "Legalize It." Obviously this was a crowd pleaser, whatever you think of it on strictly musical merits. Phish had just converted 4th and 26. A strong "Weekapaug" and solid encore choice could yet put Sunday night in the win column.

Alas, remember that whole parade of closers phenomenon? It returned in the second set. "Weekapaug" could hardly have been shorter and they followed that with "Show of Life." The "Suzy" that actually did close the show was really well-played (no need to see a Flubologist, Fish!) but by then victory was just out of reach. I should also mention the truly touching "Thank You" from Trey and say that it's us who need to do the thanking. I'm sure some will find that ironic in the context of this particular review but, really, THANK YOU to Trey, Mike, Page and Fish. Not just for this summer, not just for the past five years, but for the past thirty years. I wouldn't write this many words if, on a very fundamental level, I didn't truly love every Phish show I've ever seen. I just love some more than others. Anyway, did they encore with "Character Zero"? I suppose they did.

So Phish is now 8-1 at Dick's. That's ok, though. It was still a great time and a great weekend. There's no place id rather be than a Phish show, even when everything's not coming up Milhouse. And I can still say just as emphatically on Monday as I did on Friday, I LOVE DICK'S!!!!!

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Comments

, comment by phunky58
phunky58 Dick's run from last year blows this year's run out of the water. And usually I say that's just my opinion but in this case it's just reality. still enjoyed this year but just couldn't touch last yr. on to fall tour
, comment by InsectEffect
InsectEffect
Another great Set I for Dick's Night 3: "ASIHTOS" opener, "Meat" treat and exploratory "It's Ice," plus a "Divided Sky" that featured spontaneous "We Love Dick's!" cheering from the crowd, followed by a string of closers, yes, but all welcome and well-played, topped off with a delicate-to-decisive "Bowie."

Not sure if any 2013 Dick's 2nd Sets will make it into my regular rotation yet, but there was some heat in this one, and not just from lighters being sparked during "Legalize." ;-) "Carini" and "Piper" did the heavy lifting, complemented in particular by short but solid-rocking "Birds," "Saw It Again" and "Mike's." I like "Show of Life," and would rather have it where it was than as an encore. The encore itself, well... they do that a lot. Still, I think The Phish held their ground this year. Two cents, right?
, comment by tmwsiy
tmwsiy Fantastic recap Steve. Was simply a fantastic summer.

Agree totally with the sentiment of the recap- most particularly with the feeling towards the flag waving bozo. Everyone enjoys shows differently, do whatever you want: bury your head in your smartphone looking at stats, texting and tweeting, wander around aimlessly, dance you ass off, stay in your seat, spin in circles, whatever. But when your activity grossly affects those around you- it is simply not cool. Flag idiocy, chain smoking particularly at poorly ventilated indoor venues, puking, relentless loud talking, etc. goes over the line. A god damn minuscule amount of thought of others around you would alleviate most of these problems.

And the arrogance to continue after politely being told by at least a dozen people that it is really hampering the show for those behind, and then to continue, completely vexes me.
, comment by jdawg
jdawg I've been to all the Dick's shows and I thought Sunday night this year was in the middle somewhere. The second set had lots of surprises and it kept grabbing my attention and keeping it. I greatly enjoyed Piper, Saw it Again and the very relevant Legalize It. In Set I the Divided Sky we love Dicks chant was totally funny and unexpected -- Trey started pumping his fist along with it before finally playing his note. Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan is one of my faves of the 3.0 songs and I thought they ripped it. Dick's this year had a bonus that other years didn't - Odell's on tap (although it did cost a mean $10.50 for a big glass.)
, comment by Nissl
Nissl Surprised you'd count night 1 as a win and night 3 as a loss at the same time.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @phunky58 said:
Dick's run from last year blows this year's run out of the water. And usually I say that's just my opinion but in this case it's just reality. still enjoyed this year but just couldn't touch last yr. on to fall tour
Absolutely. I already said as much in the blog from night2, but this 3-show run had a lot more in common with SPAC this year than anything they did at the Gorge, Tahoe or Bill Graham. The three week layoff hurt the band's momentum severly.
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @Nissl said:
Surprised you'd count night 1 as a win and night 3 as a loss at the same time.
I don't know that either N1 or N3 will get many repeated listenings from me, but as a live performance, the spelling shows introduce a fun factor that isn't present in the other shows. If they did it all the time it would quickly get old, but once a year, at Dick's, it's perfect. The first night of Dick's is pretty much a guaranteed win for that reason.

Also, after finally getting an Icculus, there was no way I was counting that show as anything other than a win. :-)
, comment by PiperCakes
PiperCakes I think all three shows were solid and enjoyed them very much. Our group was a little worried that after the shows the last two years that Dicks's was going to have expectations on it that couldn't be met. I think that is what happened. The band seemed to be having fun and so did the crowd. I thought is was another great run and really want them to sign up for several more years. I really do think this venue brings out great things from the phans and the band. Now if someone could get them to do Gamehendge here I can die a happy guy. This is one of the best places I have seen them. If this is the only Colorado visit we get a year I want to keep this going.
, comment by Brandonclick77
Brandonclick77 An excellent Chalkdust is really the only thing worth repeat listens I think... Great groove but it still had it's flaws at the end, kinda disjointed...
, comment by HotPale
HotPale was there for all...good observations, but whenever we are so graciously treated to a phish show...everyone wins! 9-0
, comment by marcsarm
marcsarm @PiperCakes "If this is the only Colorado visit we get a year I want to keep this going."

Probably one of the best sentences I've read on phish.net. I couldn't agree with you more.
, comment by Roundabackcircled
Roundabackcircled Funny we were Pageside about even with the soundboard, and never saw the CO flag guy. But I agree that seems really inconsiderate.

As for the show, I feel like the boys really blew it out on Saturday. The mound, gumbo, antelope in set 1 was electric in my opinion. Though it may have had something to do with it being my first mound in my 40 some shows.

Still I kinda expected a more low key affair on N3, and thats what we got. It was fun nonetheless. Always is. And I'm happy Phish is still exploring the musical limits of its repertoire even if sometimes they don't find gold. Can't wait for next year!
, comment by RebaRift
RebaRift Dicks 9/1 was my first show since 7/4/99 @ Lakewood in Atlanta. It was my fiancé's first show, both of us thoroughly enjoyed it, even if I didn't get a 25+min YEM (was hoping for it). Can someone please tell me what is up with the fake 'stache thing? Overall good show, although I do long for the days of,the 90's......
, comment by MikeHamad
MikeHamad Excellent review. I enjoyed these shows tremendously, but during the second set last night (after Carini) all the jams went right for that I-IV alternation (piano especially). Seemed uninspired. Anyway, I dug it all despite all that.
, comment by nichobert
nichobert Today I was thinking about how people are saying Phish has hit another level.. I think I even saw somebody call it "4.0"

So I decided to make a top 25 list from the past two years.

And, what do you know. 16 were from 2012, 9 were from 2013.

I love what they're doing this year...but jesus, i don't know how anyone can say that they've made 2012 and 2011... and even 2010 and 2009 irrelevant.

There were jams after Carini last night?
, comment by nichobert
nichobert I guess what i meant about "jams after Carini" is just that.. Some of the most inspired sets of all time only featured 10 minutes of exploratory improvisation. It isn't really what Phish is about in large part. Besides some 97-04 shows where they'd have multiple songs leave their structure and go into long drawn out jams on a single theme.

What got me thinking about 2012 vs 2013 was 7/8/12.

I can't even remember the last time anybody mentioned that show within my ear/eyeshot.

And yet that Light-> Twist> Kill Devil Falls-> MFMF> Swept> Steep-> Piper-> Kung> Hood
segment would have probably been my 3rd favorite set of 2013. It's just so well put together, with exquisite DEEP improv in Light and Piper bookending a segment with unexpected improv in the KDF outro jam and the little mini jam out of Steep. Page funks it out hard on the clav during Twist instead of going for Oye Como Va.. I mean.. it's a damn near perfect set of Phish.

I dunno. I just can't even imagine 2013 being better than 2012 unless Fall Tour is a bunch of Dicks 2012s and Guyuticas.

It isn't a competition.. but let's hold our horses and go back and think about how much stunning music from 2011 and 2012 we've forgotten about in our haste. When's the last time you listened to the first 2 nights of Bethel? Or the Riverbend Twist or GBOTT-> HYHU or Sand-> Nellie Kane or the DCU Roses or those exquisitely crafted 2nd sets from DCU 1 and AC 1&2.. It was kind of a monster of a year, capped off by Dicks, the 3 best shows they've played in a row since either 6/14 through 6/16/2000 or 4/2 through 4/4/98

And don't even get me started on 8/28/12.. Which was like a freaking dream come true for people who wanted to see Phish build a jammy set around songs you wouldn't expect.
, comment by nichobert
nichobert Night 1 had that Stash and Limb.. I know they'll get overlooked because they aren't 20 minutes long, but the improvisation in both of those was spectacular.

Night 3 was the Saturday Night Special, postponed until Sunday..

As for that Chalkdust... I don't get the quibbling. With that much great improv in one jam, that many themes woven together flawlessly.. I just feel like people think about the late 90s and early 00s as a time when Phish did shit like that.. when really it was mostly really drawn out one or two theme jams.

I really don't think the degree of difficulty to Phish's jams, or the way they make it seem so effortless and liquid gets enough credit. If you asked me to pick one era of Phish to make a 60 minute jam, I wouldn't even entertain another time period. They've really put it together as far as jamming is concerned. The best of the old, the best of the less old. The lessons learned, the techniques picked up and discarded along the way...

I guess everyone wants them to go screaming into the Chalkdust peak or segue into Light instead of goofing around and ending it on Woos.. but fuck it, i'll take that hilarity and intentional blue ball moment anyday. The whole crowd is expecting that woo segment to take off into Trey soloing like a 91 Weekapaug like he did in the Tahoe Tweezer, and then they just kill it. Awesome.

The rest of the set after that wasn't very good, but again, whatever. They made an attempt at a cohesive set without much jamming, dropped a great succinct Tweezer super late in the game. No complaints here.

They're 50 year old men improvising and musically communicating at a depth that essentially seemed impossible for them for over a decade. Don't get too angry if it takes a lot out of them and all they can do is play a couple songs and maybe miss a mark or too. Boo hoo.
, comment by fhqwhgads
fhqwhgads @nichobert said:
Boo hoo.
May I "weigh" in with a "Boo woo?"
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @nichobert said:

"They're 50 yr. old men improvising and musically communicating at a depth that essentially seemed impossible for them for over a decade. Don't get too angry if it takes a lot out of them..."

You know I agree with the sentiment and I understand your deeper point, but c'mon, I'm the same age as those guys and I work a full time job and run business and raise a family and I'm tired most of the time and my body hurts and I still am expected to go at it every day and perform with excellence regardless, for a lot less money and glory. Let's not go overboard with superlatives and excuses.

With the amount of time they have off and the resources at their disposal, they have no excuse if they're not "fresh" for every show. After a run of six or seven straight shows I can understand an off-night, but an off "weekend", when they had three weeks off previous? I don't buy the age thing at all. It's irrelevant. They just came out flat. Has nothing to do with age and a lot to do with human nature and our built up expectations for them, as well as their expectations for themselves.

But make no mistake.....they choose their own tour schedule. They pick the venues, to a large degree, book the dates and agree to the agenda. We have every reason to expect, under those circumstances, and within reason, that each show is going to be excellent. I've never been to or heard a show I didn't like because I love Phish, but I'm not apologetic about criticizing them on this forum if I think they fall short of the mark. I've long since gone past the point of wondering if they care about us or if they care about the music. They don't have to play another show ever and they'll be fine and I'll be fine. It's all gravy now.

Just don't tell me that you can't be on your game every single day just because you're middle aged. A lot of are in real trouble if that's the case. :)
, comment by jarpua
jarpua Flag wavers suck.
, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM I think what may get lost in the categorization and rankings of this year and last is the difference in the structure of the tours and the effect it has on the band. Although I agree with @FACTSAREUSELESS in terms of this *ought* not having an effect on the height and breadth of the shows, the simple reality is that the schedule does in fact alter the level of shows. Last year they were able to come out of the gates incredibly solidly at DCU (come to think of it they did that at Bethel 11 too), but this year had some uneven moments all the way through the SPAC run.

We can speculate on reasons why this happened (working on new projects, etc), but the level of consistency was not up to the standard set last year throughout the early portion of tour. There were a couple of off shows here or there afterwards (MPP 1 comes to mind) but there were a couple last year as well (I'm looking at you, Portsmouth). Last year, Dick's was the culmination of 3 weeks straight playing shows that clearly had sharpened them up to the point where the music dictated the direction of shows (even paradoxically in a planned setlist). This year we get close to a month off and they are back to some of the same problems of Bangor/SPAC.

It seems that we have a pretty clear new trend (yes I know it only happened twice) of the band needing time to gather momentum throughout shows this year. The problem is that they simply don't play enough shows to figure things out as they go. The schedule this year is full of bursts of shows followed by time off so the year they need to be sharp off the bat the most, they are pretty off each new cluster of shows. It would seem less taxing to play smaller runs with breaks in between, but I'm starting to think that's not a great idea.

Phish took amazing strides each year through last year, literally each year was significantly better than the year before it. Whatever you may think about the Tahoe Tweezer, it is as much a statement of ability (if not intent) as it is a piece of music. All that said, this year has been a step backward (a small one but still backward) compared to last. I know last year had its lulls (Southern leg II run, e.g.) but overall was more consistent. Last year seemed to be a return to the full Phish show, where all of the smaller jam songs (Hood, Bowie, Reba, whatever) were revitalized along with one or two centerpiece second set jams. They also greatly diversified sets, dipping thoroughly into the catalogue.

It seems like this year is the "where do we go from here" year, where they returned to a level of consistent competency both in overall shows and jamming last year and are now just riding the wave instead of breaking new ground. Stylistically, they have the *structure* absolutely down in jams (a couple of minutes or less in each motif) and are playing more as a leaderless unit than maybe ever before. Yet this is much more demanding because there is no fall-back go-to *content* that serves as a springboard for new variations. I'd say this method of jamming has organically developed but is now more of a conscious choice. The content itself has no specific directions (ambient, cow funk, speed jazz, etc) and is beginning to show cracks in terms of its ability to provide consistent jams throughout a tour.

So to wrap up this unnecessarily long post, it feels like this is the '96 year (bad analogy) which still has some amazing shows but is beginning to wear in terms of needing new content. Phish is just too competent a band to ride the wave of past progress, so I'm not going chicken little here or anything. I'd say the off time and the contentless (no go-to jam styles) nature of the jams where anything is possible is a combination that has led us to a year that is a tiny step backward. But after '96 came '97...so I'm really optimistic about the future horizon of the band in general.
, comment by tek9rifleskills
tek9rifleskills I'd like to comment on AlbanyYEM's post:
I agree, I love your 1996 analogy, it is what I've been trying to grasp myself. We only need to look at 1995 as a springboard backwards into 1996 through one song: Free.

When Free first came out (and I'm thinking of the Charleston fall 95 version), it had even a slightly different lyric with "the ship goes sliding by" versus "as we go sliding by." The jam section had no major funk bass breakdown by Gordon and instead had insanity layered on top of evil doom. The chords modulate by half steps and its down right sinister...and I miss it ever so much.

But then, Billy Breathes was released, and that was the turning point. When I listened to Billy for the first time, I couldn't even express how disappointed I was. Especially in Free, and then hoped it was just an "album version" and would not be like that in concert...but it was and still is exactly the same, 17 years later.

How were they able to take such an amazing song (and Free comes up in discussion from time to time on the websites) and change it into a vehicle that has no good chances for exploration? The same thing happened to Black Eyed Katy. Again, what a spectacle!!! If anyone was present in 97 for a live performance, you know what I'm talking about. We got it for the first time in Winston-Salem that fall and didn't know what was happening. We were close enough to see Trey literally looking at the crowd with the expression of "they don't like this, I wonder if they think this is cool" because no one was moving, dancing, head nodding, etc. We were so into funk at that point (p-funk, james brown, etc.) that we lost it. By the end of that jam, the Trey peak was full blown and it tore the whole place down...and it was like the 3rd song into the show.

Why did Black Eyed turn into Moma Dance? Same as Free: compartmentalization.

AlbanyYEM points this phenomenon out so clearly, thanks for doing it so well. We expect catalogs of music to be delved into, and poured out with accuracy and clear direction, literally at every show. A girl behind us at first night ATL this summer almost got in a fight with me because I was getting down so much to Possum, as were the two cool guys next to me. "Seriously?!?!! They've played this like 6 times this tour!!" As I said to those dudes after Page's beyond sick solo (how often does Page solo on Possum????), "Possum never gets old." They agreed with violent hi-5s. Well, we need a raging possum more often than not, right?

Here, Possum has a standard structure, no type II going on much. We say that for most of the other songs with big jams. But the boys haven't written new songs with big new platforms for exploration..have they? How about Light? Has it fizzled out and gone dim already? The boys play a less-than-stellar version here at Dicks and it's like people think the song is done already, based on what I've read so far online. Did they blow their improv load during nite 1, or nite 2, or during the Chalkdust???

As a musician, it takes a certain "something" to trigger taking a chance that you will like. It's even harder to predict if your bandmates will like it too. Plus, playing music as intensely as Phish takes a lot out mentally. Sometimes the best idea you have all day, or all week, is played in the first 10 minutes, sometimes before the guitar player is even in the room. That spark is there, and its not fizzled by breaks in tours, or between shows, or a 3 week break before a 3 day weekend. I think it has to do with atmosphere, intention, nerves, and time. What do they say to each other backstage before set II? Those words could change not only the rest of that show, but the rest of the tour.

To wrap up my unnecessarily long post (too), 2012 brought us some big new experimental stuff within new(er) songs, like the Joy songs. It also brought us some very exciting stuff from old(er) songs. But there were stretches of sets that weren't the greatest or most exciting; same goes for shows within last year's tours. But this year, were those same songs as present and as exciting for us all? I heard so much about the MPP Stash and Toronto Disease from this year, but how do these performances rank to last year? Is there anything new they can do with the catalog of songs? I think Albany YEM says it best about the "kind" of jam, be it ambient or cow, or whatever. I'd like to weigh in with maybe a kind of jamming that is going on now.

It's not like a jam that is a medium for Trey to play a string of related melodies, or his harmonizing with Mike in spur of the moment moments along the jam's way. Trey is playing a LOT of complex chords and looks to me like he's trying out new chord voicings even, while improving, and it happens like 12-15+ minutes into a jam. Tahoe Tweezer, during second night Chicago, ATL, Dicks Chalkdust (there are a few other shows, can't recall exact songs or nights, recalling from what I've seen live and on the couch) has these moments. It's very original and I can't remember a time Trey was really relying on this kind of playing during big time jams. It's like writing a song in the Barn with the comfort of his friends, not sure if the chords will mesh with the piano, but they do, and I think this is what is catching people's attention in 2013.

Maybe this is the way Phish will be jamming, like a collective improv song forming/writing type of jam?

Yes, after 96 did come '97, and those cow funk shows came with them. Who knows what their new album will bring?
, comment by RoundTheRoom
RoundTheRoom Nice posts, you two.

Everyone wins when Phish takes risks. It didn't happen enough at Dick's '13, but we did get takeaway versions of a few tunes, so I'm satisfied. That Bathtub Gin was awesome.
, comment by MDosque
MDosque Great review - thanks for that. I love that I'm the only one so far that caught the FRED-X reference! Awesome flashback there on the eve of football season.
, comment by hoydog23
hoydog23 Great recap Steye (though, as a Packer fan, the 4th and 26 analogy stung a little bit) and great to finally meet you this weekend!
, comment by BajaPhish
BajaPhish Great shows, I just wanted to note the "we love Dick's" chant during the silent part of Divided Sky
, comment by smackfooey
smackfooey All i can say is im glad i paid 14.99 to watch from home. All three shows get a thumbs way down. Phish is such hit and miss these days. legalise it was cool but woo hoo in my opinion. Glad i got to experience them in their truest form in the mid to late 90's.
, comment by mahimahi
mahimahi 9-0, Perfect Dicks run. Maybe Phish should cover "Jive Talkin" from the Bee Gees and dedicate it to the haters. Oh thats right, they already dedicated "Garden Party" to you. Sometimes things are great and there is nothing to nit pick about. So silly reading comments about what jam someone would have "extended" etc. Why should they have played anything differently? Why don't you start a Phish tribute band, and I will decide how long your songs should have been, whether the set list was to my own personal liking or not, and what jams worked for me or not. I enjoy the recaps, historical reference, and comparisons. Please write more of that, I think we all have personal taste that differs. The playing and set lists were great. Good grief, if you find a complaint with Dicks, you would probably complain if Gamehenge was played 1 minute and 2 seconds short of your liking.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS In response to @AlbanyYEM and @tek9rifleskills:

Excellent thoughts and two points I think are worth belaboring are the tour schedule and the jamming style.

The topic of tour schedule has been on my mind since we were debating the merits of the New Year's Run this past year, which came after a long hiatus. The hiatus was theorized by myself and (I think) by @AlbanyYEM at the time to be a negative, not a positive. I agree that the band fails to get nice and dirty and greasy on the road these days; not allowing themselves (according to the theory we are suggesting) the ability to get into the "flow", as it were and let the "music play the band". I tend to agree, though not being in on the inner workings of the organization, it's hard to tell really.

I will say, however, that while 2012 may have been more consistent overall (a debatable statement), 2013 had a longer sustained peak of stellar shows. Also, I think that 2012 lacked the same level of excellence in its early tour highlights as did 2013. I also give a nod to the band, in the form of an asterisk, given the horrendous weather conditions they and their audience had to endure during the early tour this year. To enhance my point, last year there was BGA3 and the 3 night Dick's run as end-of-tour highlights. This year, you essentially had six, perhaps seven (if you wish to include Tahoe1) shows of extremely high quality, certainly in the same league as 2012 Dick's, if not in some cases (Gorge1+2, Tahoe2, BGA3) exceeding them, at least by my ears.

I also thought, on the technical side of things, that the light show was better, the sound mix was better (the downloads sound excellent this year, as opposed to quite muddy last year) and I actually have come to prefer Trey's sound and tone this year over last years'. This wasn't the case for me earlier in the year but it is now.

I thought Page McConnell took major strides forward this year, which I think is significant. At this point in time, when I listen to recordings from 95-99, and then from today, the biggest things that stand out to me, besides Trey's tone and playing style is Page's involvement. He doesn't just fill and accent, he leads and directs quite often. His playing much more front and center, if I can say that with credibility.

Still, though, the fact remains that they are not playing enough shows to really oil the engines on a consistent basis. I think the band is trying REALLY HARD to give us what we want, but sometimes I feel (such as this past weekend) that they are baking a pie which has a 2-mile high crust but the filling is not keeping up with the volume of the pie pan. In other words, they are reaching beyond what their tour schedule is letting them achieve consistently. The amazing thing (to me) is that they can actually get there anyway. The Tahoe Tweezer might be the most incredible "moment" in rock&roll history by any band of any era. The potential of this band to do this nightly is what keeps us on the edge of our proverbial seats, and also what frustrates us when they roll out a rote performance.

Regarding the jamming style, you've both touched on it with some interesting thoughts. I would only add that while I agree that no-one has decided what to call it, it is definitely different than in past years. There is a near-violent intensity to the jamming in many cases that is simply stunning and breathtaking. I think of the Piper from Northerly Island, the Crosseyed from PNC (and even the Gorge), the Jones Beach R&R and Bowie, the Alpharetta Chalk Dust, and there are of course others. I started hearing this out of Trey during the TAB spring run. His playing was becoming focused in a frantic sort of pent-up way. I think he was even quoted earlier this year that he felt "pent-up". It's interesting, because the finest moments of this tour felt different to me than the finest moments of other tours. When they hit "IT" (as @Icculus puts it) this year, it was more often than not a rip-your-shirt-off jailbreak. It was not like the jams of '97 at all. No meandering funkafied patient jamming, but a veritable eruption of energy and notes, brilliantly orchestrated, leaving you sweaty and dizzy and wondering what just happened. That happened often this year.

I don't know where it's going any more than anyone else, but I would say if it were possible to combine Miles Davis with Iron Maiden, well it might sound a little like Phish in 2013.

Anyway, I too will apologize for going on so long but you guys really hit on some interesting ground there.
, comment by smackfooey
smackfooey get over the fact that the dicks run blew arse this year. period.
, comment by Architect
Architect Sunday was a win for me! The dance party that I was looking for!! I can always enjoy a type II jam even more so later when I get to hear it objectively but when it comes down to it I like to booggie down all night every song and Sunday definitely let that happen for me more so than the first two nights! So thanks guys and thanks friends for an amazing weekend! Cant wait til next year!
, comment by zound
zound Thanks @FACTSAREUSELESS @AlbanyYEM and @tek9rifleskills for real interesting thoughts. I'm in the camp that this particular Dicks3 was super meandering on the jam front.

@FACTSAREUSELESS you totally hit it when you said age is no excuse especially given their almost unique-in-the-history-of-music advantage when it comes to control over locales, scheduling, consistent positive fan input, etc. And being 50ish player - man, they SHOULD be peaking right now with only comparatively slight declines in physical dexterity and so many years of learning under the belt. But does that mean we should expect greatness at every turn. Hells no. What makes this great is no matter how hot they are playing the unpredictability will NEVER disappear. There are always a bounty of predictable (Trey took too long an afternoon jog and his knee hurts, Fish didn't practice quite enough the week before tour, Page caught a wittle sniffle from his kid, Mike's brand new Finnish designed poly-fiber trenchcoat is causing an unexpected mild itching between the shoulder blades) and unpredictable (the un-quantifyable interpersonal communication shit) factors at play.

Oh, and whatever Page was working on in the offseason turned out to be pure gold this tour.

@AlbanyYEM I totally hear you that short clusters seem so much for difficult to pull off. They have come out swinging for a bunch of opening runs recently but usually those end up pal-ing in comparison to the rest of the run.

@tek9rifleskills - love what you are saying here. But compartmentalization is by design in a lot of cases I think. So many amazing Possum Trey solos this tour, he calls the tune 'cause he has been feeling awesome soloing over it! And - agree Trey's chord playing has been beefing up and it really helps things out. This exploratory chord style and crazy voicings have roots in the past couple years of Maze, Birds, stuff like that. Moving that kind of work into open jams is a huge step forward!

(thanks - this is my first post here after reading awhile so good to meet all you folks and thanks for coxing me in with such great words and thoughts).
, comment by makisupaman
makisupaman Well rendered, @lumpblockclod. I'd put night three in the win column, but then, I never find much use for those kind of analogies anyways. I took the 'Legalize It' cover to be a much more specific reference than to merely being in Colorado. If you were at Dick's, you probably noticed the "Grow Your Own" airplane advertisement that circled the grounds the whole weekend after "Read the Book" was retired. The line "I will advertise it" made perfect sense to me in that more specific context.

, comment by NipseySlicer
NipseySlicer @phunky58 said:
Dick's run from last year blows this year's run out of the water. And usually I say that's just my opinion but in this case it's just reality. still enjoyed this year but just couldn't touch last yr. on to fall tour

I agree that the high water mark of Dick's last year has yet to be eclipsed. Tahoe Tweezer was not as densely brilliant as Light Dicks '12. 37 minutes of low energy noodling does not great phish make....especially cause it created this extreme case of the Woooos.
Still for me Saturday was the funky dance party that I needed.I wish they all could be Colorado girls. We love Dick's.
, comment by NipseySlicer
NipseySlicer The author has removed all of the text from their comment
, comment by NipseySlicer
NipseySlicer Phish's batting average for high level shows (especially out west) is at an all time high . While Friday's show suffered from the disjointed nature of the spelling nonsense, Saturday was the funky dance party throw down that I needed.Start to finish. the entire show was a monstrous funk groove. On Sunday Meat at under 5 minutes proves that they don't need to play long to get to incredible music.Listen to Ice again , gets my vote for best version ever, extremely tight without being boring.The whole second set was unique and had great flow. That Piper was extremely fast and became something totally different than usual in the jam.Then in Weekapaug they bring back the funk groove from the previous night showing how masterfully they can shift gears to whole different levels instantly. 37 minutes of noodling Tweezer in Tahoe is still weak sauce compared to the density of music from Dick's Light last year where they found 10 distinct sections of complexity, with no searching .Long does not equal good.Phish explores fewer themes and what's more troubling is this led to the birth of Woooooing. Please stop encouraging the wooo's. I was screaming Guy Forget at the top of my lungs during piper when Phish was getting Wooo's. The amazing thing about 3.0 is that they can get so far out so fast. I was at Nectar's in 88 and 89. I've seen the whole trajectory of this band. The scene has more caring, sharing, beautiful people at Dick's that any I've been a part of( Telluride and The Gorge are a close second). It does not matter what song they are playing. Phish finds the jamminess in all . Even that Backwards Down the Number Line second set closer Saturday achieved brilliance.
, comment by NipseySlicer
NipseySlicer Piper should have resulted in Guy Forgets from the crowed instead of Wooooing.I screamed mightily trying to get the crowed to Guy Forget instead of Wooooo, but alas, it fell on deaf ears. The only song where wooooing belongs is Twist.
, comment by Ferpetesak
Ferpetesak I don't know shit from shinola, but I know I REALLY enjoy EVERY Phish show I can get to, watch the webcast or just plan listen to. Enough of the criticism

, comment by moonfacebrb
moonfacebrb THANK YOU @nichobert & @AlbanyYEM . I swore I was alone with my thoughts on the current state. I've been banking on this Fall Terr to blow minds since Dick's last year. Hopefully the short 6 weeks and the need to practice for Halloween will bring us that new sound we need to break through into 4.0 FO REAL!
, comment by Sivad
Sivad I viewed the webcast on Sunday night ( first time watching from the couch) and I was thoroughly unimpressed

Trey seemed to be having a riot all nite long and every time there was a shot of the crowd it appeared that they were having at least as much fun as trey. That being said this show did nothing for me. In fact it kinda pissed me off. I am sure if I was there I would have had just as wonderfull an experience as YOU. But I wasn't there. ( please note I said kinda pissed me off. Not pissed me off. I had a lovely time watching the show with my wife )

I haven't listened to a single note since viewing this concert ( although I heard the same exact notes as everyone who was there, granted they sound a bit different in person and I wasn't dancing in a sea of thousands of presumably like minded individuals but rather sitting on my ass) so this is strictly from memory.

Trey seemed lost at points in the Carini jam and I remember piper seeming really forced, as did just about every segue. (mike seemed to think the same thing from what I could tell). I'll be honest here I play guitar and I thought trey was sloppy all night. Not a crime by any means. Just my opinion. We all here the same notes, some of us interpret them differently. I KNOW damn well I wasn't there and couldn't feel the " energy". I just feel that the show was subpar ( on the one night I have off and can catch a webcast. Oh well)

I am ready for the "hater" hating.
On a serious note, if we can't make distinctions of value(regarding a show, or jam) then how can we claim (as I feel most of " us" would) that phish is better than say, I dunno, Justin Bieber? Is it just regarding phish that we have to enjoy all of it equally or does that go for all music across the board? Correct me if I am wrong but didn't this band critique tapes of themselves and did that not help them to get better?
, comment by mnphish
mnphish 3rd night was the dance party of the run but not comparable to the last set of summer 2012 tour - 9/2/12. I honestly had just as much fun at this show as the previous two but it certainly won't hold up as well. Thank you Thank you Thank you so much phish. Too much fun at Dicks. It's become the all star run.
, comment by camrend
camrend @MikeHamad said: during the second set last night (after Carini) all the jams went right for that I-IV alternation (piano especially).

glad someone pointed this out. the I-IV plateau/stuck-point seems so beneath our boys yet they still get stuck in that for nights at a time. it's what distinguishes a show from a quick flick through of highlights and fast-forwards to minute 7 of anything in hopes of new territory but coming up empty handed (i.e. I-IV plateau shows) versus something i'll listen to again and again combing through for every morsel of delicious dissonance and syncopation, amazed every time (i.e. nights that avoid I-IV, I-V, etc. played out rock/adolescent changes).

Maybe they're getting something out of it that i'm not hearing, maybe it's the lights, maybe it's the crowd. Who knows?

To me it just sounds like they've become good enough/know what to play for a basic steady-state reaction, that even when they phone it in it's still 'pretty good.' It's pretty 'dad' of them, and there aint nothin' wrong with that. You feel lazy after mowing the lawn, you play a I-IV'er after traveling for a few months.

fishman/gordon play at the transition from "Legalize It" to "Weekapaug" is one of my favorite moments from the tour for its uniqueness and how locked in while gappy it was.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @NipseySlicer said:
@phunky58 said:
Dick's run from last year blows this year's run out of the water. And usually I say that's just my opinion but in this case it's just reality. still enjoyed this year but just couldn't touch last yr. on to fall tour

I agree that the high water mark of Dick's last year has yet to be eclipsed. Tahoe Tweezer was not as densely brilliant as Light Dicks '12. 37 minutes of low energy noodling does not great phish make....especially cause it created this extreme case of the Woooos.
Still for me Saturday was the funky dance party that I needed.I wish they all could be Colorado girls. We love Dick's.
Don't agree that the Tahoe Tweezer was 37 unfocused minutes of "noodling around" as you somewhat claimed in your other post. Neither to I share your feeling on the woo's. The spontaneity of wooing at Tahoe must be separated from the grandstanding that followed in other shows, and subsequently appreciated in context. The woos at Tahoe were the equivalant of an uncontrolled moan from your partner during intense sex. It was a clear indication of the visceral and organic swell of the moment.

Have to say, though, that you're right on about the Light from 9/1/12. In fact, the entire Golden Age> Caspian> Light sequence to open that 2nd set stands to me as the finest 50 minutes of music the band played last year. Just listened to it last week, in fact. Yet and still, you are seriously undervaluing the Tahoe Tweezer, in borderline criminal fashion.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS To @nichobert:

I'm with you on a lot of your comments and completely agree about 7/8/12 from SPAC. That's one of my top five shows from last year.

But St.Louis? Hmmmmm......I'll have to listen to that again. I remember parts of that show standing out but I don't recall it the way you have described it, which is on a par with Gorge1. I'm not buying that just yet but you've got me curious. Thanks for the homework assignment.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @tek9rifleskills said:

"As a musician, it takes a certain "something" to trigger taking a chance that you will like."


Well said and a subtle point indeed. I'm a musician, too and what you are saying here is not easily discerned. We'll never know about the group dynamics at play between the boys both on stage but especially off-stage, on the tour bus, etc.

Also, from a slightly different angle, I know from personal experience that there are sweet moments with music when your simply "hear" a certain piece of music or a song in a certain way and you are able to interpret it with freshness and vitality. Then, you try to pick up that same piece of music a year or two later or even six months later, and try as you might, you just can't recapture the same vibe or feel that you achieved previously. The song has changed for you and you must move on and adopt some other piece of music as a vehicle to express what inside you.

Music is organic and I believe this is part of what's going on and why some things get left on the shelf when we perhaps feel they should be getting more exploratory treatment.

For instance, there seems to be a group consensus about the languishing state of AC/DC Bag. Maybe the boys just aren't feeling it? Maybe they aren't comfortable going there?

, comment by tek9rifleskills
tek9rifleskills @fastsareuseless, totally! Thanks for that :)

Trey plays what he hears. That's what he's always said. The Golden Age rug-pull, while I was watching (had to watch 2nd set twice, second time next morning, I thought I missed something, and it was past 1am east coast...) wasn't that bad. It "sounded" to me like that was going to happen. If Trey isn't getting the food he needs from the band, I think he decides it isn't sounding good, or good enough, and he pulls it. Page is the main giver here, at least I think Trey has said that in the past. Page plays mostly chords, and guitar can play notes over top them. The bass gets lucky (I play bass) in that the bass notes HAVE to mesh well underneath the piano, since piano/keys outline chords more properly than a guitar can (it's the length of the strings and the fact a piano string plays only that note, while a guitar string can play 24, or whatever...its a vibration/wavelength thing). So bass has to be right on.

But Page's playing is so right on, and he can throw in little different notes to slightly change chords, that Mike gets to really lay on an off-color note and you hear it. You hear that if you're there, on couch, in car, etc. And then Trey goes "BOOOOOOM" and he's playing in a different scale and your heart melts with ecstasy. When Page is feeding Trey things that can take the jam into "type II" territory, we love it and don't complain, the song goes into 15+ minute territory (the point in time, quoting Page from the IT PBS show, where "something" new and different starts to happen).

Maybe Trey gets that food some shows, or some sets, and others he doesn't? I personally thought Mike wasn't laying it on as much dicks2 or dicks3, compared to other nights of the summer. He wasn't all over the place and was more locked in and didn't venture into unknowns; something he likes to do and can make work almost all the time.

I guess, to me, that's that "trigger" or that "something" that you hear as a musician that makes you play something for over 5 minutes, it's that good you have to do something about it and with it. One of the all time musical highlights of everything I've ever seen live at a Phish show was the transition from Tweezer> Silent at Alpha this year. It was just really too good, and at that moment I realized I wasn't seeing the same phish as the year before, or any other year. People commented how good it was, but also how short the Tweezer was, and that it made it not as good as "it could be." But that cohesion, those 4-man segues, that's Phish right?

And for AC/DC bag, yes @facts, where are the bags of old? I saw it almost every show since 2011 now (lucky maybe lol) and its kinda the same: a burner of a song, but not like what Chalkdust is now. It's funny, like i was saying before, that big vehicle songs (like free or katy, etc.) got changed into standards, but now songs like chalkdust, undermind and heavy things (of all songs!!! wow!) are exploratory vehicles. Heavy Things the last few years has really come into its own, the one from way back Miami new years 09 was really super sick (y'all should listen to that one again) and while being there, I was probably more pumped during that song as it evolved than any other that night! We should look at these new views of old(er) songs as highlights to focus on, not if a Tweezer pushed past 12 minutes or not. A chalkdust that goes beyond a couple minutes, or a huge Page solo in heavy, is worth a 30 minute Tweezer to me or more any day, cuz we've all heard those super long songs that are already super long to begin with :)

Man, this thread is super fun guys!
, comment by zound
zound People always seem to talk about the distinction b/w playing what you hear and playing what you know - with the implication that of course everyone wants to be in that zone where they play what they hear as much as possible. But it's just not possible for mere mortals to do that every second. The more you "know", the more you have to fall back on in the inevitable times when the ole telepathy isn't quite tuned in. Sure we'd all be happier with much less I-IV and I-Ving around but these are necessary staples - a bulletproof way to add a bit of variation to a jam where a "trigger" just isn't happening. But maybe this allows them to relax, have something to play and then have clearer headspace for the next big decision. I never stop thinking about how much pressure the boys have to come up with so many original ideas, on the fly, with nowhere to hide and no time to really process it. That's improvisation and it doesn't always work the way you want it to.

The real job of the band members seems to be to create circumstances that increase the probability of musical chemistry happening - on and off the field. They book a tour, 6 months in advance or whatever, and try to make decisions about how they'll be feeling far in the future. They take certain tunes that have felt a certain way recently and place them at points in a set where a jam is more likely to happen. They restrict the song choices for the first stretch of a tour to increase comfortability and consistency. They stop getting all fucked up for shows. They do what they can and it doesn't always work the way you want it to.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @camrend said:
@MikeHamad said: during the second set last night (after Carini) all the jams went right for that I-IV alternation (piano especially).

glad someone pointed this out. the I-IV plateau/stuck-point seems so beneath our boys yet they still get stuck in that for nights at a time. it's what distinguishes a show from a quick flick through of highlights and fast-forwards to minute 7 of anything in hopes of new territory but coming up empty handed (i.e. I-IV plateau shows) versus something i'll listen to again and again combing through for every morsel of delicious dissonance and syncopation, amazed every time (i.e. nights that avoid I-IV, I-V, etc. played out rock/adolescent changes).

Maybe they're getting something out of it that i'm not hearing, maybe it's the lights, maybe it's the crowd. Who knows?

To me it just sounds like they've become good enough/know what to play for a basic steady-state reaction, that even when they phone it in it's still 'pretty good.' It's pretty 'dad' of them, and there aint nothin' wrong with that. You feel lazy after mowing the lawn, you play a I-IV'er after traveling for a few months.
this comment thread is excellent! what a nice surprise.

@camrend, i think i hear what you're hearing, but i don't feel it's as big a problem as you seem to. the short version of the following might be, 'I-IV and I-V games are a feature of rock music, not a bug.' though hopefully i'll manage something more subtle than that...

the Dick's shows from *last* summer initially left me thinking much the same thing you're saying here. the band's been playing interesting games with harmonic movement these last three-ish years and i'm loving it, but the big marquee jams from Dick's 2012 all arrive at anthemic guitar-driven climaxes in a pared-down, kinda 'easy' harmonic environment, and i can't listen to more than one of those tracks at a time; my ears get tired.

that said, i don't think it's 'beneath' the band to get into such material -- and i'm reminded today that specific chord changes *aren't interesting (or 'adolescent') in themselves*. we don't punish musicians for playing a blues, do we? they're only chord changes. i'd say in general the band is admirably willing to dwell in tension and dissonance now, without making it into a parlor game; and because it's not a game, just a moment, they don't actually care how long it goes on. when i hear gargantuan 1994-95 tweezers with long antagonistic dissonant passages, i sometimes feel like the band is deliberately pushing the form not because it's beautiful but because it's Weirding Out the Norms. ok, but what do we gain by getting back into that practice? Stash is a means to an end; so's 46 Days...

i feel like there's lots left to say but i need to check out for a while. anyway: good thread.

best,
wa.
, comment by NinaNectar
NinaNectar Hi everyone, it's always interesting to read your take away about the shows. I am perpetually amazed at the detail included in these reviews, do you guys take stopwatches to the show to time the jams?
I have to admit I am confused by some of the technical terms used, like type I-V, but I think I kind of understand. I thought this run of shows was great.

I've been going to see Phish since 1991 off and on. At some point I became a Phish hater. Not sure exactly why something about the scene and the music was boring. The show that turned me back from the dark side was seeing Trey and Mike play at a benefit for firefighters in Colorado before the Phish shows in Broomfield, CO, 10-12 October 2010. It was amazing just the 2 of them brought back the Phish I loved before my hatin' days. I went to the first and third show of that run and then all 3 at Dick's 2011, the second show of Dicks 2012, and all three of 2013. I did not think last year was that good probably because I had chemotherapy earlier in the spring and was undergoing radiation treatments at that time.

So what's my point? I really enjoyed all 3 shows. The jam pattern to me seems to be a wind up to this intense moment where I just can't stand how good it is and I have to scream because its so good followed by a release to pure enjoyment. Sure maybe they weren't perfect... Whatever that means but for me each night was awesome in its own way. The first night Iculous was cool I hadn't seen that before, Esther was awesome, MOMA Dance, Sand etc. The second night was a total dance party for me, loved it! And night three while it was more laid back still rocked hard. I danced thru all 3 shows so hard that Sunday night my knee was hurting (I'm 48). It was an awesome experience!

The crowd was lovely. Except that guy with the flag. If I had been down there I would have probably ripped it right off the pole. Less patient with bullshit as I get older. And how exaclty do you get in the door with a fucking flag. We were on the floor the first 2 nites just right of center a little more than halfway from the stage to the sound board. My husband fainted during Harry Hood (it was that good!) and everyone around us was so nice. They gave us water, food, a towel, and made space for him to lay down. We were going to try to take him out but a guy next to us who was a medical professional of some sort told us to lay him down and just to wait until the end of the show. I just want to say a huge thank you to you caring Phans for your generous support and kindness.

Sorry this is so long! Just wanted to talk about what a great experience it was and I am definitely looking forward to next year.

See you there.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @waxbanks said:
@camrend said:
@MikeHamad said: during the second set last night (after Carini) all the jams went right for that I-IV alternation (piano especially).

glad someone pointed this out. the I-IV plateau/stuck-point seems so beneath our boys yet they still get stuck in that for nights at a time. it's what distinguishes a show from a quick flick through of highlights and fast-forwards to minute 7 of anything in hopes of new territory but coming up empty handed (i.e. I-IV plateau shows) versus something i'll listen to again and again combing through for every morsel of delicious dissonance and syncopation, amazed every time (i.e. nights that avoid I-IV, I-V, etc. played out rock/adolescent changes).

Maybe they're getting something out of it that i'm not hearing, maybe it's the lights, maybe it's the crowd. Who knows?

To me it just sounds like they've become good enough/know what to play for a basic steady-state reaction, that even when they phone it in it's still 'pretty good.' It's pretty 'dad' of them, and there aint nothin' wrong with that. You feel lazy after mowing the lawn, you play a I-IV'er after traveling for a few months.
this comment thread is excellent! what a nice surprise.

@camrend, i think i hear what you're hearing, but i don't feel it's as big a problem as you seem to. the short version of the following might be, 'I-IV and I-V games are a feature of rock music, not a bug.' though hopefully i'll manage something more subtle than that...

the Dick's shows from *last* summer initially left me thinking much the same thing you're saying here. the band's been playing interesting games with harmonic movement these last three-ish years and i'm loving it, but the big marquee jams from Dick's 2012 all arrive at anthemic guitar-driven climaxes in a pared-down, kinda 'easy' harmonic environment, and i can't listen to more than one of those tracks at a time; my ears get tired.

that said, i don't think it's 'beneath' the band to get into such material -- and i'm reminded today that specific chord changes *aren't interesting (or 'adolescent') in themselves*. we don't punish musicians for playing a blues, do we? they're only chord changes. i'd say in general the band is admirably willing to dwell in tension and dissonance now, without making it into a parlor game; and because it's not a game, just a moment, they don't actually care how long it goes on. when i hear gargantuan 1994-95 tweezers with long antagonistic dissonant passages, i sometimes feel like the band is deliberately pushing the form not because it's beautiful but because it's Weirding Out the Norms. ok, but what do we gain by getting back into that practice? Stash is a means to an end; so's 46 Days...

i feel like there's lots left to say but i need to check out for a while. anyway: good thread.

best,
wa.
Nice to hear from you Wax. I was wondering when you might join the party. I miss it when you don't put your two cents in. You usually have very thoughtful and unique views. This has been an interesting discussion to me.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @zound said:
People always seem to talk about the distinction b/w playing what you hear and playing what you know - with the implication that of course everyone wants to be in that zone where they play what they hear as much as possible. But it's just not possible for mere mortals to do that every second. The more you "know", the more you have to fall back on in the inevitable times when the ole telepathy isn't quite tuned in. Sure we'd all be happier with much less I-IV and I-Ving around but these are necessary staples - a bulletproof way to add a bit of variation to a jam where a "trigger" just isn't happening. But maybe this allows them to relax, have something to play and then have clearer headspace for the next big decision. I never stop thinking about how much pressure the boys have to come up with so many original ideas, on the fly, with nowhere to hide and no time to really process it. That's improvisation and it doesn't always work the way you want it to.

The real job of the band members seems to be to create circumstances that increase the probability of musical chemistry happening - on and off the field. They book a tour, 6 months in advance or whatever, and try to make decisions about how they'll be feeling far in the future. They take certain tunes that have felt a certain way recently and place them at points in a set where a jam is more likely to happen. They restrict the song choices for the first stretch of a tour to increase comfortability and consistency. They stop getting all fucked up for shows. They do what they can and it doesn't always work the way you want it to.
Kind of a spattering of thoughts in your post but I've read it several times now and there's one thing you said that intrigues me enough to post again even though I'm feeling a little embaressed by how many times I've already done so.

Your statement: "The more you know, the more you have to fall back on..." is very true and brings me back to the discussion of the jamming style.

If it's true that Trey is progressing through some fairly complicated chord phrasings this year during the free-form musical passages (and it is), then the question is (for me); "Why?". I say this because back in Bangor I felt that the band had taken two steps back in order to take three steps forward, as it were. I find this interesting because for many people and for many Phish fans, it is enough that they "stretch out" a song. Many, if not most, fans are content if the band simply "jams" and "grooves". The concept of "exploring" and going "type-2" or however you wish to say it, is exciting and fun to talk about, but not everyone who goes to the shows or listens to the band on recordings really even recognize when they are actually doing that. Nor do many of them care. In fact, some are annoyed by it because they don't know what's happening and they think they're just dicking around or something. I'm thinking right now of the people who seem bent upon dissing the Tahoe Tweezer as some sort of unfocused, meandering and overrated exercise.

There is a point I'm trying to make here it just seems to be taking me forever to get to it. My thought is that over the years there have been many, many ideas that the band has already explored ad nauseum (to them at least) and they have sort of run their course.

Naturally, music is always being regurgitated with the same ideas in new packaging. If one were to study carefully Trey's stylings and phrasings over his career one would no doubt find that he probably has less than a dozen ideas that are sort of unique to him as a player and which make his sound and style distinctive. The rest of his playing is variations on a theme. I know this is true because it's true of all original artists. It's true of Clapton, Jimmy Page, Satriani, Vai, et al. Don't raise an objection to it....your favorite guitarists are usually recognizable by their stylings. So......

The concept of jam music to me has a couple different levels to it. There is just pure jamming. You know, stretching things out, playing a theme, finding a groove and staying on it, the type of stuff that those of us who are into this sort of musical genre find appealing. Then there is another level, a level that is usually reserved for the most revered jazz artists, and that is taking an established theme, twisting and manipulating it, changing it's core structure and taking off into new territory while always keeping a toe-hold in the original idea, then, after finding firm soil in a new idea, letting it go (the segue) and embracing the new. This is what we long for and hope for in it's purest essence.

Phish, with it's jazz based, Zappa-inspired song-writing, has always been at their best in the second form of jamming. However, they are most revered by their most veteran fans for their efforts in the first type. Many of the long jam passages so honored and immortalized over the years have their root in what many would call "noodling". Now, I'm generalizing to make a point so don't trot out the long list of exceptions to what I'm saying in the above statement, I know there are major cracks in the assertion.

Another aspect of the whole concept that needs to be considered before I try to bring my overall point home, is the idea that during a jam an idea may arise. As the idea percolates (and @zound this will speak directly to your statement) it may immediately be recognized by the band as an idea that has already previously been brought to full maturity in the form of song that they have written. Thus, a new song begins, just seemingly as the last one was getting "legs". We all bemoan the unfortunate development as a "lost opportunity" of sorts, along the lines of: "While I love song "x", it would've been nice if they had stretched out song "x". Oh well. In fact, the band, with 30 years of exploring ideas under its belt already, may have recognized what we didn't, and that's the fact, perhaps, that the idea we were excited about was already explored in depth, say, 15 years ago, and the idea became song "x." So song "x" comes out of the "ripcorded" jam. We all moan. The band smiles.

I remember Carlos Santana being quoted in the mid-seventies, after an incredible time of exciting improv and exploratory music seemingly came to an end and he seemed to go more mainstream again. He said something along the lines of this: "When you've gone so far out there with ideas, it begins to feel attractive to you to play the chord you are normally supposed to in the spot you are supposed to. You know, to sort of lay back and just 'play'." I remember him saying that.

Could it be, as has been suggested above, that they really only have a couple of original ideas at the time being and once they've explored them to the level that satisfies them, that they really just want to "lay back and play what they're supposed to", as it were? It could be.

It could be that, with the new undefinable jamming style and complex chords and (what we may think is) directionless jamming with no definable end-game in sight, that they are actually trying to make the music interesting to themselves again? That they are trying to reinvent themselves and keep it all fresh? I think it's worth considering. I also think that if it's true that they are doing that, then my respect for their music is going up up up. People in their position, at this stage of their career, don't reinvent. They "lay back and play what they're supposed to." Maybe we are witnessing an attempt by the boys to make Phish relevant and viable for the next 10 years, rather than retiring and focusing on solo projects. Time will tell.

, comment by Jballz
Jballz Yes there 8-1 at Dicks, but Sunday was a win. Big time. Friday was terrible and the worst show I saw out of 14 this year. There was no flow, no energy from the band or crowd, and at the end of the show no one even clapped or cheered. The same happened after the encore, folks just turned and walked out no cheering, no excitement from the crowd. It was like lets go to bed already.

They totally redeemed themselves Sat, and Sun with killer dance grooves, and high energy jams. Two of the best shows I have ever seen. (since 94' as that has to be included these days, ha!)

Really someone with a flag ruins your show or good time? Damn we are getting old. Relax. You cant see the band from hardly anywhere, I heard a lot of complaints and people that just gave up on seeing the band as the floor is flat, especially girls who cant see shit but the back of the guy in front of them who is falling on them ever two minutes. And Phish never moves, you cant see Fishman ever, and only we only see whats left of Page's hair. Trey and Mike hardly move an inch, so whats to watch?....the lights.
, comment by thebabysmouth
thebabysmouth Good read Mike. "Uninspired" is the word. @MikeHamad said:
Excellent review. I enjoyed these shows tremendously, but during the second set last night (after Carini) all the jams went right for that I-IV alternation (piano especially). Seemed uninspired. Anyway, I dug it all despite all that.
, comment by thebabysmouth
thebabysmouth yeah except they are artists and not office workers or analysts or attorneys or marketers. Its not about just showing up. Do you you do your best work everyday? Now imagine having to sync that with three other human beings...

@FACTSAREUSELESS said:
@nichobert said:

"They're 50 yr. old men improvising and musically communicating at a depth that essentially seemed impossible for them for over a decade. Don't get too angry if it takes a lot out of them..."

You know I agree with the sentiment and I understand your deeper point, but c'mon, I'm the same age as those guys and I work a full time job and run business and raise a family and I'm tired most of the time and my body hurts and I still am expected to go at it every day and perform with excellence regardless, for a lot less money and glory. Let's not go overboard with superlatives and excuses.

With the amount of time they have off and the resources at their disposal, they have no excuse if they're not "fresh" for every show. After a run of six or seven straight shows I can understand an off-night, but an off "weekend", when they had three weeks off previous? I don't buy the age thing at all. It's irrelevant. They just came out flat. Has nothing to do with age and a lot to do with human nature and our built up expectations for them, as well as their expectations for themselves.

But make no mistake.....they choose their own tour schedule. They pick the venues, to a large degree, book the dates and agree to the agenda. We have every reason to expect, under those circumstances, and within reason, that each show is going to be excellent. I've never been to or heard a show I didn't like because I love Phish, but I'm not apologetic about criticizing them on this forum if I think they fall short of the mark. I've long since gone past the point of wondering if they care about us or if they care about the music. They don't have to play another show ever and they'll be fine and I'll be fine. It's all gravy now.

Just don't tell me that you can't be on your game every single day just because you're middle aged. A lot of are in real trouble if that's the case. :)
, comment by thebabysmouth
thebabysmouth I disagree with all of this but its exceptionally well said and argued. Damn!

@AlbanyYEM said:
I think what may get lost in the categorization and rankings of this year and last is the difference in the structure of the tours and the effect it has on the band. Although I agree with @FACTSAREUSELESS in terms of this *ought* not having an effect on the height and breadth of the shows, the simple reality is that the schedule does in fact alter the level of shows. Last year they were able to come out of the gates incredibly solidly at DCU (come to think of it they did that at Bethel 11 too), but this year had some uneven moments all the way through the SPAC run.

We can speculate on reasons why this happened (working on new projects, etc), but the level of consistency was not up to the standard set last year throughout the early portion of tour. There were a couple of off shows here or there afterwards (MPP 1 comes to mind) but there were a couple last year as well (I'm looking at you, Portsmouth). Last year, Dick's was the culmination of 3 weeks straight playing shows that clearly had sharpened them up to the point where the music dictated the direction of shows (even paradoxically in a planned setlist). This year we get close to a month off and they are back to some of the same problems of Bangor/SPAC.

It seems that we have a pretty clear new trend (yes I know it only happened twice) of the band needing time to gather momentum throughout shows this year. The problem is that they simply don't play enough shows to figure things out as they go. The schedule this year is full of bursts of shows followed by time off so the year they need to be sharp off the bat the most, they are pretty off each new cluster of shows. It would seem less taxing to play smaller runs with breaks in between, but I'm starting to think that's not a great idea.

Phish took amazing strides each year through last year, literally each year was significantly better than the year before it. Whatever you may think about the Tahoe Tweezer, it is as much a statement of ability (if not intent) as it is a piece of music. All that said, this year has been a step backward (a small one but still backward) compared to last. I know last year had its lulls (Southern leg II run, e.g.) but overall was more consistent. Last year seemed to be a return to the full Phish show, where all of the smaller jam songs (Hood, Bowie, Reba, whatever) were revitalized along with one or two centerpiece second set jams. They also greatly diversified sets, dipping thoroughly into the catalogue.

It seems like this year is the "where do we go from here" year, where they returned to a level of consistent competency both in overall shows and jamming last year and are now just riding the wave instead of breaking new ground. Stylistically, they have the *structure* absolutely down in jams (a couple of minutes or less in each motif) and are playing more as a leaderless unit than maybe ever before. Yet this is much more demanding because there is no fall-back go-to *content* that serves as a springboard for new variations. I'd say this method of jamming has organically developed but is now more of a conscious choice. The content itself has no specific directions (ambient, cow funk, speed jazz, etc) and is beginning to show cracks in terms of its ability to provide consistent jams throughout a tour.

So to wrap up this unnecessarily long post, it feels like this is the '96 year (bad analogy) which still has some amazing shows but is beginning to wear in terms of needing new content. Phish is just too competent a band to ride the wave of past progress, so I'm not going chicken little here or anything. I'd say the off time and the contentless (no go-to jam styles) nature of the jams where anything is possible is a combination that has led us to a year that is a tiny step backward. But after '96 came '97...so I'm really optimistic about the future horizon of the band in general.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS To @zaccohen:

I do a lot more than "show up". I'm not an attorney but if he wasn't on his "game" while working on my case I lose. If I'm not on my game every hour of every day, I potentially ruin many thousands of dollars of material as well as a client's project.

So, yes, to answer your question, I try to be on my game every day for 8-10 hours a day.

If my performance was being evaluated by my boss for work I did on 30 out of 365 days, I'd be put under similar scrutiny, I'm sure.
, comment by NinaNectar
NinaNectar To @FACTSAREUSELESS

Performing requires much more than just showing up on the days that you play. The members of Phish do have more flexibility and control over their situation. They have worked very hard to get where they are as a band. And they each have done or are doing other projects. They have a passion and dedication to their craft and art and we are very fortunate that they can share it with us and they are fortunate to be able to share it with us. I am grateful for every show I see. We all contribute to the groove.
, comment by tarfu7
tarfu7 Great discussion here. Thanks to everyone for their thoughts.

I really enjoyed the weekend and thought each show had something great to offer. But I'm a little surprised that NONE of these reviews of N3 mentioned the very obvious issues that Fishman was having in the 2nd half of the 2nd set. I mean, he even mentioned it during Suzy - said he needed a flubologist (twice!). I think his mistakes were very evident, as they threw off the synchronization of the whole band - particularly in the segues, but also during several songs.

It was very strange for me to hear this, because Fishman is usually completely on point, driving each and every song like a machine (in fact, other than the 4th quarter of N3 he was probably the MVP of the weekend). By my ears, if anyone is sloppy at a show its usually Trey. So the Fishman flubs were very noticeable to me.

Just surprised that nobody mentioned this in any review I've seen. Especially since Fish himself acknowledged it during the show.

But I don't want to end my comment with negativity. This was but a minor blip in an absolutely awesome weekend, with 3 great shows attended by the best group of fans any band could ever ask for. My cup runneth over... see you kids on Fall Tour!
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @NinaNectar said:
To @FACTSAREUSELESS

Performing requires much more than just showing up on the days that you play. The members of Phish do have more flexibility and control over their situation. They have worked very hard to get where they are as a band. And they each have done or are doing other projects. They have a passion and dedication to their craft and art apnd we are very fortunate that they can share it with us and they are fortunate to be able to share it with us. I am grateful for every show I see. We all contribute to the groove.
I don't disagree with anything you had to say there. Trey may be one of the hardest working people in the business. I'm just offering a perspective to think about, that's all. Good comments.
, comment by Kindofblue76
Kindofblue76 I've now officially listened to every show from the summer; most importantly/recently the 3-night run in Colorado (still mind blowing). That marked #82, 83, and 84 for me. I've read the reviews and criticisms of all this summers' song choices, song placements, length of sets, length of jams, set comparisons from one night to the next, the tour of this year vs tour of that year, this version of Phish.whatever vs. that version of Phish.phuckyou, and all I can say is that if you're with me or see me at a show...that is the happiest moment of my life...always. I never compare and I'm always grateful. They annually repress the negatives of my persona and expunge the pure joy in my soul every single time I see them play. I just wish that from the couch, floor, stands, etc., that people will never forget how extremely blessed and fortunate we all are to have had the pleasure of such a mind blowing and radically progressive/exploratory musical experience during our lifetimes' that Phish has given us over the last 30 years...and they show no signs of slowing down! - until the next time....
, comment by ThemeFromTheUP
ThemeFromTheUP @Kindofblue76 said:
I've now officially listened to every show from the summer; most importantly/recently the 3-night run in Colorado (still mind blowing). That marked #82, 83, and 84 for me. I've read the reviews and criticisms of all this summers' song choices, song placements, length of sets, length of jams, set comparisons from one night to the next, the tour of this year vs tour of that year, this version of Phish.whatever vs. that version of Phish.phuckyou, and all I can say is that if you're with me or see me at a show...that is the happiest moment of my life...always. I never compare and I'm always grateful. They annually repress the negatives of my persona and expunge the pure joy in my soul every single time I see them play. I just wish that from the couch, floor, stands, etc., that people will never forget how extremely blessed and fortunate we all are to have had the pleasure of such a mind blowing and radically progressive/exploratory musical experience during our lifetimes' that Phish has given us over the last 30 years...and they show no signs of slowing down! - until the next time....
Kindofblue76, I appreciate your comment "and all I can say is that if you're with me or see me at a show...that is the happiest moment of my life...always."
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