Monday 10/28/2013 by phishnet

HARTFORD RECAP: LIFE SAVED BY ROCK AND ROLL

by guest writer Jake Cohen (@smoothatonalsnd)

As I was taking the train up from Grand Central through Connecticut Sunday afternoon, the sunny autumn day was punctuated by the news that Lou Reed, Velvet Underground founder, noise rock pioneer, occasional hit songwriter, and denizen of the downtown avant-garde, had died at age 71. There are many artists of that era whose deaths would be a devastating blow to me personally; while Lou Reed wasn’t really in that pantheon, I felt strangely sad and affected nonetheless, as though an epoch of rock and roll was somehow ended. I wondered what Velvet Underground tunes Phish would play that night, and secretly hoped we’d hear my favorite VU tune, “Venus in Furs.”

Phish owes a lot to Lou Reed. Obviously there’s the matter of the band’s 1998 Halloween album, the Velvet Underground’s 1970 masterpiece Loaded. Yet it’s hard to imagine the “Storage Jam” from SuperBall without Metal Machine Music coming first. So when Phish returned to the Hartford Civic Center after 14 years, continuing their fall theme of re-christening the old haunts of their late 90s indoor tours, everyone was expecting some kind of tribute to the late master – maybe a reprise of the Dick’s appearance of “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’,” maybe a “Sweet Jane” or “Who Loves the Sun” bustout. I was still caught off guard by the rollicking “Rock and Roll” to open the show, the first time it had done so since 12/29/98.

Phish played their set one opener like a set two opener, building the song’s rock peak, blowing it out of the water, and then settling in for an excursion elsewhere, allowing the jam to mix modes into minor key territory and following the dragon down that path. As the band turned into a new rhythmic pattern, Trey started layering the jam’s signature chords back into the mix, and a final chorus of “it was alllllriiiight” signaled the end, after which Trey acknowledged “one of the greatest musical minds of all time.” From the get go, it was clear that Phish would not be shying away from improvisational exploration.

Ocelot” loped its lazy groove into the picture, and the band continues to deliver highly satisfying versions of this first set staple, building up the jam with an exclamatory release. The dark funk of “Tube” was next, and found Trey exploring rhythm as an improvisational tool rather than melody or harmony. While Page took his usual clav solo, Trey began comping chords with highly irregular rhythmic patterns, almost suggesting the strumming habits of another rhythmically odd guitarist (hint: it’s Bob Weir). With Mike’s Akai Deep Impact pedal giving the jam a sinister foundation, and Trey locking into a polyrhythmic battle with Page’s lead lines, this was no standard four-minute “Tube,” even though it clocked in at just over four minutes.

I’m a huge fan of “Halfway to the Moon,” I think it’s one of Page’s best compositions, and really reflects his songwriting sensibilities in a way that works for Phish. “Fee” came next, and Phish explored about two minutes of gorgeous outro jamming, taking the airy ending and floating it out further, creating a pointillistic tableau of harmonics and soft textures, before devolving into the darkness of “Maze.”

While this “Maze” didn’t necessarily do anything out of the ordinary, it seriously kicked ass (which is pretty ordinary for “Maze,” I suppose), pushing the jam to a wonderful climax. A trio of first set filler followed: Page came out to do his thing for “Lawn Boy,” then decided to visit Mike during his bass solo, standing next to him and directing his microphone at Mike’s strings while the instrument “sang.” Mike returned the favor by following Page back over to his side of the stage, in a little bit of stupid Phish silliness. At nearly fifty years old, it’s good to be reminded that these guys are still a bunch of dorks (and that we are, too, for loving them for it).

Next was my favorite Phish bluegrass tune, “Nellie Kane,” followed by the always fun “NICU.” When they started “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” I was hoping for a possible repeat of the incredible jamming we heard in the SuperBall version. Instead, they allowed the jam to grow organically, rather than just heading out full bore from the start, starting with subdued soloing from Trey and pushing back to the closing. Finally, “Walls of the Cave” delivered a powerhouse finish to the set. As first sets go, this one was exciting and fun especially with the big, jammed-out opener, and an unusually high level of post-1995 first set songs. Yet if the past few shows were any indication, we’d get liftoff during the second set.

Chalk Dust” opened the set at a touch slower pace than usual, and it seemed as though Trey was riding a funkier groove than the song’s usual rock feel. This, I thought, might open up to some deep places, reminiscent of the standout 8/31/13 Dick’s version. After the final chorus, Trey seemed to want to jam it out, strumming chords rather than playing the chromatic closing. The rest of the band missed the cue, and ended the song as though Trey was with them. As if to say “OK, we won’t jam that one out, but we need something to stretch out on,” the band brought out another Sunday “Tweezer.”

This “Tweezer” jam went directly for a major key area, skipping the usual dark funk that characterizes the early sections of many versions including Hampton and Tahoe. After building up to a nice peak, with Mike playing high neck contrapuntal melodies to Trey’s soloing, the band seemed to reset the jam to a new major key progression, initiating a gradual build to a grandiose, Who-esque rock jam.

The progression they found is more or less the same chords as “Weekapaug,” a double plagal progression going I-bVII-IV-I, and what was incredible was how the band built three distinct jams with completely different affects and grooves all on the same progression. First it was a chunky rock blowout, sending the crowd into a frenzy, followed by a chill downtempo section on the same chords. As ambience encroached and the jam seemed to shift into a new territory, the progression came out again, this time in a midtempo mellow groove that eventually faded into a final spacey section.

A standard “Birds of a Feather” followed, and then Phish took out the second repeat from last Sunday, “Golden Age.” Everyone was expecting this to yet again take us to some cosmic places, and just as the “Tweezer” differed greatly from Hampton’s excellent version, so too did “Golden Age” offer another panoply of jamming styles they’re capable of grafting onto this song.

The jam went in a relatively standard fashion, with Page soloing deftly on the organ and Trey laying down a funky foundation. Eventually, Trey and Fishman locked into some more of the atypical rhythms that they’d hinted at during “Tube.” This time, they took it to another level. The entire jam was an exploration of irregular rhythmic patterns, often with oddly timed accents that Kuroda was quick to pick up on and highlight visually. Page soon locked in as well, and this “Golden Age” became a funk jam of rhythm and texture, not melody nor harmonic exploration. There was some excellent start/stop jamming and some obligatory “woos,” but then they filled in the stop-time parts with more polyrhythmic patterns, before leading everything into a spacey fadeout.

It’s as if Phish wants to remind us exactly what they’re capable of, and that they aren’t merely going through the improvisational checklist. They’re actively crafting new and exciting musical ideas each night.

The “Halley’s” that followed seemed just a touch slow, which I thought bode well for some lengthy improv, but then without missing a beat Fishman turned the would-be jam into “2001.” This abrupt but seamless segue was unexpected, but fun as always. Although the jams were fine, the real excitement here came in the tiny spaces between the Strauss melody, as the band enjoyed playing with some tempo shifts and stop-time gags before launching back into the “verse.”

Fluffhead” was excellently placed but very sloppily played, with the band seemingly out of sync during a number of the composition’s complex moments. Whatever, it’s a tough song, and they still nailed my favorite part, the melody immediately following the middle lyrics in “Clod.” “Slave” would redeem any mistakes there, and in a big way. Again taking a departure from Hampton’s version, this “Slave” began in a more standard manner but then built to peak after peak of surging power and emotion, delivering an apotheosis on the magnificent set.

Returning for the encore, Trey expressed his love for the Civic Center and recalled seeing many, many shows here when he was in prep school, noting that he and Mike attended the same show before they’d met. The “Loving Cup” encore everyone had pegged for Saturday night came out before the most exciting three minutes in rock, “Tweezer Reprise.”

What’s fascinating is that Hartford’s second set was so similar to the Sunday Hampton second set, which was the last show I saw before Hartford. So at two consecutive shows for me, I saw a second set anchored by monster versions of “Tweezer” and “Golden Age,” with a fun “2001” and a majestic “Slave” closer. Even more remarkable is the fact that Phish managed to explore completely different jamming styles on these two Sundays, offering two nearly identical sets with entirely unique improvisations. It’s a testament to how easily they’re able to move around within their songs structures, and how willing they are to explore a multitude of jamming styles.

If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Phish.net. Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.


Comments

, comment by ColForbin
ColForbin Very nice review, great work!
, comment by bushwood_a_dump
bushwood_a_dump Great writeup. I think the RxR opener is the perfect statement of honor and tribute.

The fact that the tune has woven its way into the history of the band, and they pull it out often as a great exploratory vehicle is the real tribute to Lou and his music.

A sloppy, unrehearsed version of something of the obscure, or bustout, variety really only appeases the moment.
, comment by Zhaph
Zhaph This is an awesome review; I really like it when the reviewers throw in some music theory without getting over-analytic about it. Thanks, @smoothatonalsnd!
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS Absolutely phenomenal review, my friend. The best I think I've ever read on this site, and I've read plenty that were top shelf.

Especially loved the observations of the beginning of set 2; both the notation of the band missing Trey's cue (which happens often, but Trey always gets blamed for it), and especially the musical scale progression noted on Tweezer. This is really excellent because it highlights the subtley of Phish at this point in their career.

Miles Davis once was quoted as saying that his favorite Santana song was Incident at Neshabur, because (as he said), the whole song is built upon two chords, yet is layered in such a way with the scale progression that it sounds much more complex. Sometimes, he continued on, you can do that, but it's hard to accomplish.

Underneath the arena-rock anthemic jams we've enjoyed this year, that some dismiss as simplistic and lacking originality, is a subtlety of musicianship that passes by the average listener without displeasing them.

Sorry, didn't mean to get into all that. Just wanted to say nice job!
, comment by skidmorephish
skidmorephish This is a really good review and having been at the show, I agree with most of your assessments although i don't recall Fluffhead being sloppy (will have to listen again tonight). I especially liked your juxtaposing the Sunday Hampton experience with this show...thanks.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS "At nearly fifty years old, it’s good to be reminded that these guys are still a bunch of dorks (and that we are, too, for loving them for it)."

During a webcast this summer I commented on the blog that Phish is a testament to what college dorks can accomplish if they just stay focused.

It's so true isn't it? They are a mirror for us middle-aged dorks who love them.
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd @skidmorephish said:
I especially liked your juxtaposing the Sunday Hampton experience with this show...
This was so weird for me, because having not gone to Worcester, I got literally two second sets in a row with almost the same songs! But it really was two very different experiences, with totally different jams. And as I said, that's the real beauty of it all.

@FACTSAREUSELESS - I kept thinking of that Lou Reed quote where he says that 1 chord is fine, but 3 is jazz, with reference to all these big two-chord rock jams this year. It's about texture and timbre and rhythm as much as melodic and harmonic invention, which to my ears define a lot of pre-97 jamming.
, comment by thebabysmouth
thebabysmouth well done Jake. Fantastic review and for me the most important aspect of last night was the rhythmic improv. Happy you picked up on it as well.

Z
, comment by tweety
tweety Nice review. Thank you.

Here's one from the Hartford Courant:

http://courantblogs.com/sound-check/review-phish-at-the-xl-center-in-hartford/

, comment by phootyjon
phootyjon killed it. great review. Sunday is a funday fo'sure.
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd @tweety said:
Here's one from the Hartford Courant:

http://courantblogs.com/sound-check/review-phish-at-the-xl-center-in-hartford/
For anyone who doesn't know, the author of the Courant review is Mike Hamad, who is also @phishmaps on Twitter. Spent most of the second set jamming out right next to him and other friends.
, comment by tweety
tweety @smoothatonalsnd said:
@tweety said:
Here's one from the Hartford Courant:

http://courantblogs.com/sound-check/review-phish-at-the-xl-center-in-hartford/
For anyone who doesn't know, the author of the Courant review is Mike Hamad, who is also @phishmaps on Twitter. Spent most of the second set jamming out right next to him and other friends.
Thanks. Did not know that, but it makes sense: as I was reading the Courant review I was thinking "Wow, they actually got someone who knows this music." That is not a sentiment I often experience when reading the Courant--at least not for the past few years.
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray While the show may have been something of a rehash from a week ago, your review was not. Nice write-up!
, comment by earlytimes
earlytimes Great review and wow that Tweezer is fantastic. As @AlbanyYEM has been saying for awhile now, it would be amazing to see what would materialize on a full fall tour (or even better a full year of touring). The band has still got IT, they just need more shows.

Is anyone else getting the feeling that Halloween is going to be a Meter's album or something comparable?
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @earlytimes said:
Great review and wow that Tweezer is fantastic. As @AlbanyYEM has been saying for awhile now, it would be amazing to see what would materialize on a full fall tour (or even better a full year of touring). The band has still got IT, they just need more shows.

Is anyone else getting the feeling that Halloween is going to be a Meter's album or something comparable?
indeed
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @smoothatonalsnd said:
@skidmorephish said:
I especially liked your juxtaposing the Sunday Hampton experience with this show...
This was so weird for me, because having not gone to Worcester, I got literally two second sets in a row with almost the same songs! But it really was two very different experiences, with totally different jams. And as I said, that's the real beauty of it all.

@FACTSAREUSELESS - I kept thinking of that Lou Reed quote where he says that 1 chord is fine, but 3 is jazz, with reference to all these big two-chord rock jams this year. It's about texture and timbre and rhythm as much as melodic and harmonic invention, which to my ears define a lot of pre-97 jamming.
nice call.
, comment by PennPhan
PennPhan @bushwood_a_dump said:
Great writeup. I think the RxR opener is the perfect statement of honor and tribute.

The fact that the tune has woven its way into the history of the band, and they pull it out often as a great exploratory vehicle is the real tribute to Lou and his music.

A sloppy, unrehearsed version of something of the obscure, or bustout, variety really only appeases the moment.
Yeah, like the Portsmouth Thunder Road after Clarence died.
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd @PennPhan said:
Yeah, like the Portsmouth Thunder Road after Clarence died.
Excellent point. That was a train wreck but I'm sure meant a lot to those in attendance. On the other hand, the "Night Nurse" from 2010 was flawless and perfect, so it can work.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown Just an outstanding recap. I am so embarrassed about my last one and this one makes me feel even worse, which makes me feel great. Love to see the content get mixed up and stirred up.

Thanks, Jake.
, comment by BigDudeInTheDoorway
BigDudeInTheDoorway Golden Age was definitely IT in this show. Love all the rhythm and textures they've been doing and I cant wait for a full blown plinko jam. I was definitely a much bigger fan of the Hampton3 show, I think I'm just really partial to the dark minor chord jams and any show was going to pale in comparison to DCU2 (I cant wait to download that one and give it another listen). Great review.
The "woos" sounded so forced too. The band definitely did not initiate it and in most likelihood cringed like me, seeing they went with it for a few measures and quickly drowned it out while some desperate fans just wouldn't let it go.
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd @bertoletdown, I actually really enjoyed your review! loved the bits of word play (for some reason, "junk akimbo" really worked for me from a purely aesthetic standpoint), and the story about the staffer who ate a candy and was hiding under a Slanket made me legit LOL. so there's that!
, comment by Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe Excellent review. The bits of theory are particularly interesting to me @smoothatonalsnd. Hampton was all I saw this fall, and the comparisons you draw between n3 and Hartford make this review especially compelling. Thank you
, comment by earlytimes
earlytimes That jam in Tweezer sounds more like Drifting than Weekapaug to my ears.
, comment by smoothatonalsnd
smoothatonalsnd @Cantaloupe said:
the comparisons you draw between n3 and Hartford make this review especially compelling. Thank you
thanks a lot @Cantaloupe! my review of Hampton night 3 on my own site is here.
, comment by somecoldgreentea
somecoldgreentea thought i heard hints of bug (or at least similar chords) in the tweezer jam in the 12:20-14:00 area. definitely no expert though.

@smoothatonalsnd
totally agree about Night Nurse. The segue made that song.
, comment by Your_Intense_Delight
Your_Intense_Delight Am I hearing things or was Page teasing "The Safety Dance" during the Golden Age jam?
, comment by CanandaiguaRyan
CanandaiguaRyan Parliament
, comment by Aweiss716
Aweiss716 Great review. I loved that you commented on Trey's rhythm playing. I noticed his effort to do this throughout the evening. He even worked in his boomerang and straight up wah pedal in parts. Love to see that style coming back.
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu Just finally got a chance to read this. Seriously fantastic job, Jake!
, comment by laxman
laxman @Your_Intense_Delight said:
Am I hearing things or was Page teasing "The Safety Dance" during the Golden Age jam?
Definitely heard it too
, comment by Chanel
Chanel The air jordan place tend to be remakes in the <a href="http://www.twinvalleyzoo.com/dubai.html"> Louis Vuitton Dubai</a> vintage Women of all ages Air travel Jordans the year 2013 either in the colorings Mike dressed in in older days, or slightly
<a href="http://airmax360.authenticshoes-cheap.com"> air max shoes</a> customized to enhance with recent trends. From the year 2005, Nike jordan Brand name has brought rear a number of “crossbreed”
<a href="http://louisvuittoncanada.handbags-shoes.net"> louis vuitton canada</a> The nike jordan place release of which consider particular person aspects of distinct Air travel Jordans and also shape one person
<a href="http://www.louisvuittondubai.com"> Louis vuitton dubai</a> sneaker. Within the 3 calendar year get together, The air jordan Sword began any multi-class campaign “fusing” mid-air Drive a single
<a href="http://www.extravagantsuitcasesuk.co.uk"> louis vuitton uk</a> with Air flow Jordans 2013 making mid-air Michael jordan Fusions. Thanks for visiting your inexpensive Jordan footwear available for sale
<a href="http://louisvuittonoutlet.handbags-shoes.net"> louis vuitton outlet</a> memory on the internet, have a look at ply air jordan footwear, i appreciate you for your current good option! Additionally , you will discovery a number of other running shoes in
<a href="http://www.louisvuittonhandbags-uk.co.uk/"> louis vuitton handbags uk</a> Nike jordan Blend Shoes. If you need to from suppliers nike jordan footwear, you'll be able to straightly physical contact each of our
<a href="http://nikefreerun357.authenticshoes-cheap.com"> nike free shoes</a> the nike jordan sneakers at wholesale prices group, many of us assure an improved the nike jordan footwear sweeping service! Boys as well as women The air jordan shoes or boots, made
<a href="http://www.shoesportshandpick.org/"> JORDANS FOR SALE</a> for max impression defense. View a range of variations, shades and also measurements. Purchase on the web At this point.
Thank you for visiting
<a href="http://cheapjordansneaker.handbags-shoes.net/"> air jordan sneakers</a> each of our Nike Air flow Jordans 2014, you will find a number of mens along with children's Michael jordan skateboarding place along with Nike jordan mode along with The air jordan classical shoes. Trying to find Nike jordan <a href="http://gnarf.net/page/oakley/"> replicas replica Cheap</a> Skateboarding Shoes or boots as well as The nike jordan vogue shoes and boots? Here you are at the Ladies Jordans For Sale On-line the year 2013 - the place to find guys and kids Michael jordan, such as Jordan Authentics, The nike jordan 106&#8242;ohydrates, The air jordan Chukka boot and also a whole lot more. Be it canvass Michael jordan shoes and boots, buckskin The air jordan place or even suede leather Air Jordans you actually’ray after, anyone’ll discover their whereabouts below. We all inventory almost all shades also – via black The air jordan (the institution shoes and boots kinds) to help hopeful chicken Ne The nike jordan, crimson, crimson, bluish , checker board – whichever! When at this time there’ersus a pair of Nike Nike jordan shoes you see in this article upon the website, however your size is sold out, tell us and now we’lmost all try and ordering set for you actually. Likewise, if there is a couple of Michael jordan skateboarding footwear you would like yet put on’to see here in our Jordan shoes or boots team – we could make an attempt to obtain set for you too. All of the Michael jordan footwear in this Nike jordan place section can be purchased with free obstetrical delivery to landmass. We all stock options the latest time (2012, 2013,2014) The air jordan shoes and boots designs in addition to each of our Jordan Shoes and boots section is the best location to obtain Jordan on the web. All of us’re also the state run Nike jordan supplier too – in order to buy your The nike jordan with confidence in this article! Acquire females Jordan shoes on-line in your The air jordan team in newjordans2014.online skate shop class. We all deal mens Air Jordan 12 in addition to children Jordan place – most current variations inside The air jordan footgear as well as chinchy discount sale Michael jordan shoes or boots way too. whichever your brake shoe measurement you can present your Nike jordan! Recognized on the net stockist regarding Nike jordan shoes – make an online purchase with certainty from your on the web skate shop class Jordans 2014 available for sale!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Support Phish.net & MBIRD
Phish News
Subscribe to Phish-News for exclusive info while on tour!


Phish.net

Phish.net is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.

This project serves to compile, preserve, and protect encyclopedic information about Phish and their music.

Credits | Terms Of Use | Legal | DMCA

© 1990-2019  The Mockingbird Foundation, Inc. | Hosted by End Point Corporation