Friday 11/01/2013 by Doctor_Smarty

ATLANTIC CITY 1: CUDDLY BUT MUSCULAR

Like most of you I suspect, I spent the bulk of Halloween day embroiled in the grand mystery of what album Phish was going to cover during the second set of the first of three nights at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. When the doors finally opened and the Phishbill was in hand, I was stunned and excited. Phish would not be donning a musical costume for this Halloween. They would be performing a live debut of their new album Wingsuit in celebration of their continued vitality as a band after 30 years together. Rather than a tired classic rock cover that couldn’t possibly please everyone, they were with great bravery going to take maximum risk in hope of the ever elusive maximum reward. The only question remaining at that point was whether Wingsuit would be a trick or a treat. That conundrum persists.

After enduring traffic, grabbing some Halloween flowers for my surly spouse, and making it home, I climbed into my neon orange jumpsuit, donned my luchador mask and began double fisting cheap pinot and good ol’ Mountain Dew from the liquor shed in the back forty of Under the Table. To kill time before the first set I engaged in a lively stream of each variety of social media that was available. The texts from the inner circle were largely negative. The twitterverse appeared to be consuming haterade by the bucketful. The braintrust of phish.net were a mixed bag of trepidation and excitement. It might be awesome, it might be the musical equivalent of crop-dusting an elevator. The Phish world was standing on the lip of an unfathomably deep chasm and preparing to leap, with our fate resting on the strength of an untested Wingsuit. In that instant, I believe I understood what it felt like to be Felix Baumgartner.

After visits from Count Dracula and a host of Jedi the lights went down and Set 1 began. The formula for the opening frame was clear from the outset. Keep it predominantly up tempo, be technically proficient, execute with precision, and don’t sprain something before the big game began. With the exception of the clumsy stumble into “Poor Heart,” there was nothing particularly noteworthy about “Heavy Things,” “The Moma Dance,” “Poor Heart,” or “Back on the Train.” They were all played well, kept the energy high, but certainly didn’t break any new ground. “Silent in the Morning” remains horseless but allowed for a short walk back to the liquor shed and a visit from a tiny flower, a witch, and Kurt Cobain. “Kill Devil Falls” ramped the energy level back up and showed some early promise but was marred by some stream buffering issues. I haven’t yet listened again...but I imagine it was tight. During “Mound” I was engaged in a discussion with Kurt Cobain about the potential delight offered by Wingsuit. The slinky wah-wah of “Free” caught my attention and brought my focus back to the music at hand. “Camel Walk” induced dancing from the tiny blossom on the couch and featured some fine funky grooves to strut your stuff by. “Stash” was alternately soaring, dissonant, and cerebral. I expected “Golgi Apparatus” to close the undeniably safe set but was instead blessed with a healthy mug of “Bathtub Gin” with an extra dash of juice. It left me eager for what was to come.

During intermission we feasted on some tasty chickpea guacamole, the underutilized candy bucket, and the costume photo stream from the venue. The lights went down, the tension was palpable and we leapt as one into the abyss. A tiny hoot owl at the door.

The potential title track oozed from the stage and we were ensconced in a loving embrace. If it feels good...then it feels good. It felt good. I was expecting to be shaken and stirred instead I was lovingly caressed. Off to a nice start. “Fuego” means fire...this song definitely has some...and plenty of potential to sizzle and sear in the future. Two for two as we step to “The Line.” According to Trey’s comments later in the set, it is an ode to Michigan State (actually University of Memphis) baller Darius Washington Jr.’s missed free throws in the closing seconds of their final four (actually 2005 Conference USA tournament) matchup with Louisville. The Conference USA rookie of the year and freshman all-American went from hero to goat in seconds when he missed two of three. Intertwined with the lush groove I heard a deeper message about losing it all because of a line. As Trey indicated...the Phish can relate. The stage grew dark and change was afoot. As the light returned a new treat was revealed. We got a glimpse into the cozy confines of the barn with the stripped down acoustic awesomeness of “Monica.” Based on the success of The Lumineers and Mumford and Sons I think this one could actually get some air time. Very radio friendly. “Waiting All Night,” befitting its subject matter of unrequited love (perhaps at the end of “Yarmouth Road” waiting for “Monica” to return?) was kind of a downer. This was of course nothing more than artfully crafted showmanship. If you are about to tear the roof off the motherfucker, the best way to set that up is to crush the vibe.

Wombat,” featuring the hilarity of Abe “Fish” Vigoda and the Abe Vigoda dancers is my new favorite Phish song that isn’t “Tweezer.” I almost tore off my jumpsuit to go door to door twerking around my neighborhood. Serious throw you down and tap that ass material. A true play it at every show and I’m ecstatic kind of song. WOW!

The gorgeous acoustic gem “Snow” which followed was marred by Mike’s cracked falsetto. This song would work fine as an instrumental...just a suggestion fellas. “Devotion to a Dream” struck me as what “Piper” would be if it had lots of lyrics. Has great potential to get out there if it makes it back to the stage. The Triple Nickel, AKA “555,” is what you would get if “The Moma Dance,” “46 Days,” and “Tweezer Reprise” were left to fight it out in a burlap sack full of feral cats. Another song with HUGE jamming potential. “Winterqueen” sounded like a TAB song. Which it is. But unfortunately not of the “Sand,” “Gotta Jibboo,” or “First Tube” variety. The title of “Amidst the Peals of Laughter” evoked images of Syd Barrett and “Ha, Ha, Ha.” In actuality it is a Trey and Page acoustic duet that bemoans the fate of the working stiff and borrows nursery rhyme lyrics. Trey thanked us all for participating in the process and “You Never Know” brought the grand experiment to a conclusion. It was brave. It was inspiring. I was proud of my friends for taking the risk.

Setbreak brought a hilarious The Gordofather short film with Abe Vigoda and a tease of Pink Floyd’s The Wall and more participants in the costume contest.

The third set was all about appeasing the haters. Even if you disliked everything about Windsuit, something I consider impossible because if you don’t like Wombat you are dead to me, the “Ghost” and “Carini” combo was worth the price of admission. No matter what you paid. Killer jams in both. Must hear versions. “Birds of a Feather” raged as it always seems to do. “Harry Hood” was like drinking a warm glass of milk and honey. “Bug” was a standard specimen but the “Run Like an Antelope” set closer definitely reached high gear. “Quinn The Eskimo,” the only cover (discounting “Winterqueen”) of the night, was largely an afterthought. All in all, this third set clearly ranks with the best of the best where extra innings are concerned. Enjoy the next two nights...a long cold winter awaits.

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Comments

, comment by mustard_tiger
mustard_tiger Well done. Exciting night without a doubt. Wombat and Fuego really brought it.. Excited to hear how these songs develop.
, comment by makisupaman
makisupaman "if you don’t like Wombat you are dead to me"

Seriously. Multiple goose-bump-evoking moments. I found "Waiting All Night" eerily reminiscent of something from futures' pasts (in particular, Gordo's bass riff). In fact, most of the new material, as indicated in the bill, seemed plucked from another era (or this era), but without a corny nostalgia in longing for something lost. Vitality, creativity, mastery.

If you would told me in, say, 2006, that Phish would not only reunite but continue to improve upon their craft and deliver, in 2013, a new wave of artistic innovation, I'd laugh you out of the room. Think of how far this band has come. It's unparalleled. Fuego.
, comment by RoundMound
RoundMound I loved the fact that they were so nervous during that second set. You can tell how much it meant to them. You can see that they had worked their arses off to get those songs ready for the big stage and i think it paid off. They hit a home run. Nothing but potential for great things

And you are Doc, I couldnt agree more with you regarding Wombat...Pure Magic.

Carini was downright filthy.
, comment by RoundMound
RoundMound ..........And I have already declared Amidst the Peals of Laughter my Friday Morning Work Hangover theme song.
, comment by RoundMound
RoundMound Lastly, kudos to the guy dressed as Richard Simmons. Definitely my Favorite costume.

That and Fish as Kay Adams of course.
, comment by GhostTube420
GhostTube420 WOMBAT!!!
, comment by drshaws
drshaws Wombat more than makes up for the last time I heard Trey say "It's so great that you're such a great audience and let us play new stuff" (or something like that - see: Dr. Gabel)
, comment by User_25940_
User_25940_ You said it just right. Great energy from the crowd too!
, comment by zound
zound Where are we heading with this band? Jamming and communication are at an arguable all time high, the band's playing fantastically, they are having a blast and reaching all kinds of creative peaks. My take on it is that key element holding them back is the lack of consistant new material to sink their teeth into; stuff that will last as part of the rotation and elevate the sets that the songs are inserted into.

Last night Phish took a huge leap in confronting their biggest current weakness head on, full speed ahead and damn those torpedos. Respect. Was it the funnest, most crowd pleasing set that we could have seen last night? Hells no. But I had a blast and came out of the room with more hope for the future than any cover record could have given me. They made a decisive, forward thinking creative decision, executed it precisely and clearly worked their butts off in the process. I say - Rejoice!
, comment by InsectEffect
InsectEffect
Thanks for a solid recap, with links to the phishbill etc.!

The Phish, you've done it again: may that strange, goofy, adventurous, unpredictable magic never perish.

ps. Can't wait to see the obligatory Don Gordleone and Wombat t-shirts gracing many a dancing human. ;-)

, comment by kstumbles
kstumbles I'm hoping 555> Carini is a thing in the near future
, comment by plICCULUS
plICCULUS Amazing second set...nice review too, well done.

How amazing is it that after thirty years our favorite musicians in the world are still creating music, Great Music?! Extremely brave of them to play the future album and pull it off famously to boot to boot...

Funny thing too- moments before the show started I texted my buddy "wouldn't it be funny if they just played the album they're gonna record when tour's over?" Sure enough, that's exactly what they did. Others thought similarly too...after all, it is quite fitting and original and it's just, Phish.

Sick Ghost and Carini....awesome night of music! Thank you for the new tunes to chew on Phish. We will cherish them for years and years to come. I'll be anxiously awaiting Wombat amongst others
, comment by phunky58
phunky58 Ghost--> Carini that's all I can say, I have no words to describe how good it was especially carini. This run blows summer tour out of the water.. Trey being extremely patient and especially going back to the ocedoc is a huge reason we are being treated to jams that will be listened to for years to come night after night.
, comment by Pnchundi
Pnchundi I was at work last and was keeping up by text. When I heard that the costume was going to be a new album, I was confused. It almost seemed like a cop-out. But from what I have heard and all the reviews I've read, this was really a bold step into the future. You talk about risk taking and 20 min plus Tweezers, it takes huge balls to play entirely new material. And they played it well. There were some really great moments in set two and several songs (fuego and wombat) that have real potential. I was really impressed and set three should keep everyone happy with the deep crunchy dance grooves

I do accept the counter argument that Halloween is a party and fans were expecting that party atmosphere. Phish could have played a classic cover album and then debued the new album tonight (ala the GameHoist from 94) but the beauty of this band is that they have never done what is expected. Keep the surprises coming because (IMHO) this two week run has captured my attention in a way that has no happened since the late 90s. Like a ditch the job, leave the wife home with the kids, and be on tour because you don't know what might happen.

Great review thanks and sorry for the ramble
, comment by GreenSunshine
GreenSunshine More Phish is always better than less.
, comment by GeerShift
GeerShift Don't sleep on a cover album tonight! Wingsuit to me sounds like it has the potential to be a great late night headphones album. Very dream like, contrasts between light (Winterqueen), dark (Fuego), and bizarre (Wombat). Can't wait to hear how it sounds produced, and if they will go for a more polished sound like Trey's recent albums, or back to the organic feel or Phish albums of yesterday. Funny enough I started the webcast during Fuego, not knowing what they were doing, and was puzzled thinking "now what progressive rock album is this, it sounds awesome and how do I not know about it!?" Convinced me right the that I must dig the material :)
, comment by whrdina
whrdina Screw the cowbell.
I've got a fever, and the only cure is more Wombat.
Great Review as usual Doc.
, comment by forbin1
forbin1 nice writeup..didn't get to listen to last nights show yet..but a ballsy move on phish's part..

looking forward to hearing some new stuff..
, comment by elephant
elephant a true pleasure to see so many people on this board who share in my enthusiasm of the band being so adventurous and in my opinion that energy paying off big time with an incredible set of music.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS Haven't heard the show yet, so I have nothing to add in terms of comments on it, but I must say that I'm grinning from ear to ear from the power of the joy coming off this page. Raise a glass to the architects of our favorite music on the planet!

, comment by fracai
fracai Loved your recap, but I'm really craving a big glass of warm milk and honey.
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten Has anyone started to investigate which recreations of live jams the band added to the new songs (as mentioned in the Phish Bill)? They definitely played a part from the MSG Carini jam during the last few minutes of 555. I heard one other somewhere in there that I maybe recognized as Chalk Dust from Dicks the past summer, or something kind of like that. Also Windsuit and Fuego had sections that I could have swore I heard before. I haven't listened back to the show yet.
, comment by vtspeedy
vtspeedy We are the phish from Burlington Vermont. Nuff said.
, comment by tweezedout
tweezedout Loved your review man, good shit
, comment by mistermooner
mistermooner Yes Yes Yes!! Totally loved night 1. I have to admit, I stayed away from the internet the day and night of the show so as to not ruin the surprise, and when they started playing tunes I didn't recognize, I was like WTF is this???? This album they chose sucks!!! But I was just confused. After I realized what was going on, I let go of my preconceptions and hopes of what they might do , and enjoyed what was a truly special set. Hell, Wombat had me shedding tears of pure joy...that was so fun to hear and watch...so dirty!! After re-watching the whole 2nd set again today, I have to say I love what happened. Most songs were great and the ones that didn't stand out for me I'm sure will grow on me as always....seems to be the way it has gone for me every time they've put out a new album since Hoist..it always takes getting used to .....And holy shit that Ghost Carini was exceptional as well. I am now listening to night 2 as I write this review and I gotta say these guys are definitely killing it in a major way. Wish I was there!!!!!!!!!!
, comment by migbee
migbee I must be dead to you. Wombat was terrible. Phish should never ever ever ever ever try to rap. I was cringing the entire time. The 2nd set definitely had its moments, but I can't believe that everyone's favorite song seems to be Wombat. By far my least favorite song of the set.
, comment by MOstGhoSt
MOstGhoSt this was my first Halloween show and I was not disappointed that phish did not follow the past formula and shifted gears conceptually. as promised, they delivered a record costume. it was a truly unique experience to have a playbill in hand and consult the song titles upcoming, a reverse of the typical set list experience, guessing and writing it down on a notepad. i read the playbill just before the set started so understood what we were in for. and I love these songs. I look forward to the upcoming record very much. how great is this... a record yet to be created after the shared experience. something so new. I predict in the future this will be a special show one will happily say "halloween 2013 Atlantic city and I was there." I for one look so forward to hearing these songs in future concerts.

great review. "dead to me" if you can't get wombat. love it.
fuego,Monica,wombat, and snow really stood out to me. snow was so sweet as a soft song without being a ballad and the light effects of snow were a+
and yes yes the ghost and carini... ohh my.

I think I need just one more night.... just one more.... I think I will go back tonight for more.
, comment by Grateful_Dave
Grateful_Dave Jusy my opinion, but I think the new songs and new album are a prank. It's like Phish Spinal Tap. Everything is slightly off. Admist Peals of Laughter, the lyrics are almost suicidial. They pranked us all and none of those songs will ever be played again, except maybe WinterQueen, which is a TAB song. Remember, Halloween is about trick or treat.
The stage banter sounded like it came of a live album in the 70's maybe Foghat. The songs sounded like way Phish would sound like if they listened to the record companies and producers who told them what they have to change to get a hit.
And Abe Vigoda's character on Barney Miller was named Fish. So I'm sure they heard "oh is Abe Vigoda in your band" alot when they were starting out, so that stuff was an inside joke for the band. But one of the best Phish shows EVER. 3rd set all hose
, comment by ZipZam
ZipZam I don't understand all this happy talk about Halloween. We're a lot of the posters on Couch Tour? I was at the show, 2nd set, no one danced, just marginal head bobbing. Homer Simpson had his gigantic head off his shoulders and hand in head the whole time. It was a colossal disappointment.

I'm into risk taking, I'm into new music coming from the band, but wrong time, wrong place. If you're going to do , what I consider an "experimental set" ADVERTISE IT. (Like the acoustic set they did in California for the Halloween Run). Everyone can dress up like a chemistry set or beakers, Bunsen burners or test tubes for all I care.

I'm sorry, but all new songs, that the band has written, is not an musical costume. If I had advance warning, I wouldn't have opted to take off from work, dress up, pay a ridiculous amount for a GA floor ticket, etc. etc. I would have just gone for the Fri/Sat combo and sat out Thursday and watched on-line.

Like any good fan or listener, I did my research, to make sure I'm not the only one who is a Debbie Downer. Saturday Night, again on the back of the floor, I did my sample poll, old, young, women, men, people still in costume from the night before. I asked a very simple question without any predilection for an specific answer; "What did you think of last night's show"? I really asked ten people. Consensus, 10 out 10 we're NOT down with the "Phish is Phish" Halloween experience.

There was no outward hate towards the band, (we all love the band) just a poor way to build expectations (even if the band was silent on expectations) and a poor way to "introduce" everyone to the new material.

That being said, here's my analogy. You go to the finest restaurant on the planet. The appetizer is amazing, the desert is amazing, the main course is Rubber Chicken. Do you send the Rubber Chicken back, offend the chefs and other patrons, at the most highly acclaimed restaurant on the planet? Absolutely! I'll still come back to the restaurant again and again, it was a misfire, and I accept that can happen. But let's not pretend it wasn't a misfire, because we don't want to be a downer on the scene.

That's just plain silly.

Bring on the hater comments, I can handle them.
, comment by okiephishman
okiephishman Im not going to throw down a hater comment. I was surprised but on the other hand, I was stoked. Of Course, we got to see "phish" to see out favorite phish songs. 95 were my first shows, one night in Ft. Worth and then 2 in Austin. Me personally when the last studio album came out in 2009, it took awhile to grow on me. Of course some of them last night will also take time but I was couch tour and didn't see it live but I thought there were some songs with great potential. I was there in Cali for the Rolling Stones set, I was there when everyone sat down and chilled for the acoustic set. Personally, I go to shows because I know that I am going to get a different experience every time. Like I said I couched toured it because work is super busy right now. I also listened to it again on my phish.net app and it grew on me even more. I mean im sure you dont like every song that phish plays, I don't but I there is alot I do like. I would go 80% like, 10% don't like and 10% impartial. I do like when phish covers and album here and there but I really like when they play phish songs. I go to phish shows to to hear phish songs. If I wanted to go to Huey Lewis to hear him, then I would pay to go see him. I hope none of this you considered me bashing you. You are entitled to your own opinion and I give you props for calling it out. Me, personally I did enjoy of few of the new ones and am excited, that they are excited to keep on truckin...Peace
, comment by Dividedsky333
Dividedsky333 Thank GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD these guys can still write good music. This new album has some serious potential....

Now they just need to throw a big F-YOU to all the haters who hate change and play a 40+ minute "Time Turns Elastic" on NYE.

Phish 4.0 is about emerge, this time without a break-up to write the line in the sand.
, comment by migbee
migbee > 40+ minute "Time Turns Elastic" on NYE

I'm pretty sure there would be a full-scale riot if that happened. That's like my personal nightmare.
, comment by Piper72
Piper72 I, too, went "off the grid" and didn't watch until later, and thought that they had chosen the most obscure indie or prog album they could think of, then fell asleep (it was almost 4am)...then when I heard what they did the next day, I laughed my ass off. Only Phish. Then I listened again. There are some classics here. Some had weak moments or need a little more development (is Phish inviting us into the editing process? I think so...isn't that what they have been doing all tour?) but overall the listens got better and better. The fact that the first impression was "who the hell is this" not "what weak crap are they trying to pull on us" proved (IMO) that they really had spent a long time crafting and practicing the material, and I felt lucky to have witnessed it, and that my favorite band is still writing strange, interesting and catchy material, and is putting their faith in us as we are in them.
, comment by unoclay
unoclay @ZipZam said:
If you're going to do , what I consider an "experimental set" ADVERTISE IT. (Like the acoustic set they did in California for the Halloween Run). Everyone can dress up like a chemistry set or beakers, Bunsen burners or test tubes for all I care. I'm sorry, but all new songs, that the band has written, is not an musical costume. If I had advance warning, I wouldn't have opted to take off from work, dress up, pay a ridiculous amount for a GA floor ticket, etc. etc. I would have just gone for the Fri/Sat combo and sat out Thursday and watched on-line.
So many fails here.....obviously, you've forgotten a core tennet of phish: Surprise is Everything.

It must be noted, paying over face (as you admit to doing) is failing in itself. I dont think that needs any further comment.

You can't be salty about devoting time to phish when A: the entire experience is (and always has been) about risk-taking and surprise (even when that means subjectively-displeasing shows) and when you B: dont get what you expected.....the very essence of Phish is Risk/Fail/Reward.

Expectations ruin everything, and its a shame that you dont understand some of the basic aspects of Phish. As a vet of more shows than i'd care to mention, i can say it ranked in my top 100 of all time. Truly epcot.
, comment by unoclay
unoclay It's great to see all the positive reviews on this board. Myself (and a house of 18 people) had unanimously positive reviews of this show. Literally, to a (wo)man, everyone had an incredibly positive reaction to Wingsuit.

Winning = Wingsuit.
, comment by unoclay
unoclay @Dividedsky333 said:
Thank GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD these guys can still write good music. This new album has some serious potential.... Now they just need to throw a big F-YOU to all the haters who hate change and play a 40+ minute "Time Turns Elastic" on NYE. Phish 4.0 is about emerge, this time without a break-up to write the line in the sand.
I couldnt agree more. Haters killed TTE and fans have developed the attention span of insects (common i just want to dance bro). I'm in favor of (even more) experimentation and out-there songwriting. A band shouldn't be beholden to the opinions of negative nancy fans--they're in the drivers seat, and I'm always willing to listen.

Especially when they're this good.
, comment by MOstGhoSt
MOstGhoSt the wingsuit suits. I love the costume. after listening again and again today... yea...
, comment by RINSKYDINKS
RINSKYDINKS loving 555> winterqueen
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