Thursday 12/26/2013 by J_D_G

HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE PHISH (A GUIDE TO FALL 2013)

More than any year since the band's return from its 4+-year Breakup, Phish has earned a special halo of anticipation around the upcoming New Year's Run. As you ramp up for the Run starting on Saturday, here's a handy guide to the highlights of the recent tour, written by nine different contributors.

(Note: the best and most useful part of this post comes after the introduction.)

I recognize that my view of 3.0 is not necessarily shared by all (or even most) fans, but despite my excitement about the return of Phish, I found the first few years of the comeback to be creatively ambiguous at best. And I'm not alone. While 2009, 2010 and 2011 each had their own highlight reels, the notable jams were like isolated oases amid a desert of sadly uninspiring fare. Weirdly, it was as if the creative advances of 1993 through 2004 had never happened. "Ripcord" entered the lexicon. While newly minted fans understandably wanted in on the fun, and jaded oldbies like me learned to focus on the overall experience and reunions with friends (instead of relying on the music alone) to justify the effort and expense of seeing multiple shows, the remarkable sense of surging forward, which had hovered over the band for decades, seemed gone. The tours started to blend into each other, with no linear sense of progress. Even when there was a run of standout shows with a sense of moment, the momentum quickly fizzled.

But in my view, Phish indeed turned a corner in 2012. The band not only produced exciting jams, it did so with enough regularity to start shifting expectations. It was no longer de digeur for a promising jam to be cut short according to the dictates of some invisible countdown. Still, I wondered if it was just another round of the pushing and pulling that had marked 3.0 so far—an advance followed by a retreat, followed by an advance, followed by a retreat. The big question was 2013: would they keep it up?

Yes. Most notably, the Tahoe "Tweezer" finally shrugged off the usual "great...for 3.0" caveats and took its place as an all-time jam. And then, in fall tour, Phish went even further.

Show for show—and by "show" I mean second set, as it's necessary to all but ignore first sets these days when evaluating shows—the Fall 2013 tour featured a level of quality and inventiveness that hadn't been seen since summer 2004. Phish not only ventured into creative, Type II waters, it did so with regularity. Each night felt like an exploration of the unknown again, as it had between 1993 and 2004. (I wasn't there personally until 1995.) The tour took on its own character, building momentum, raising expectations and then reaching them. For the first time since the joke slowly dawned on us in 2009 that Phish was back and healthy—but weirdly stifled on the creative front—it felt like Phish to me. This was not only because of the greatness of the tour (a consistency unseen yet in 3.0), but because it followed upon advances earlier in the year and in 2012. It seemed that the breakthrough was established safely, not just a fragile and tenuous glimpse of what could be.

Almost each night of the 12-date tour featured a major jam that earned quick recognition as "The [venue or city] [name of song]." From The Hampton "Carini" to The Atlantic City "Twist," there's an embarassment of riches. While there are other highlights to be found, I made a list of what I felt to be the singular, top-of-line jams that carried certain shows, and asked Phish.net staffers if they'd write short descriptions of each. (Nine of the shows are represented, and even the three shows left out feature their own highlights that may not be era-defining but are at least worth hearing.)

Note: Though these contributors picked the jams they wanted to write about from the list, this does not necessarily mean that each is the author's favorite from the tour. A few people wanted to write about multiple jams from a show or a whole set, but I wanted to nominate just one Hall of Fame jam per night to emphasize their singularity. (I originally assigned myself the "Carini" from Worcester, but later decided it didn't merit inclusion on the list, especially given the two other major "Carinis.")

As you get ready for the New Year's Run, here's a short-list of Phish's recent achievements. It's enough to give you faith in Phish again. It did for me.

--Jeremy D. Goodwin (@J_D_G)


10/18/13 Hampton "Carini" by Andrew Hitz (@tweezer)

[listen]

The “Carini” from the opening night of fall tour at the Hampton Coliseum was one of the best jams the band has ever played at a tour opener. “Carini” has arguably been the jam vehicle that most frequently hits pay dirt for the band in 3.0. The jam starts out with both Trey and Page playing very sparsely and leaving a lot of room for the rhythm section. Some very foreboding rhythm guitar playing, accompanied by some B-3 comping from Page, set the stage for the glorious jam to come. (In the moment, it just felt like something big was going to happen.) Mike then fired up the Meatball, which brought the house down.

Trey leads the jam into the relative major key pretty early on, with Fishman continuing to lead the jam. At about the halfway point of this 16-minute version, Trey stumbles on a lick that just oozes joy—one of those signature Trey licks that makes you feel happy to be alive. This was the point where me and the half dozen other .net staffers who were all gathered on the floor turned and flashed smiles at each other like we were getting away with something. Mike really lays down the foundation for this driving yet blissful jam, enabling Fishman to play a very busy and melodic line throughout almost the entire thing.

Trey briefly goes back to rhythm guitar for just a few moments before getting pulled back by that aforementioned, infectious guitar riff that sounded so good it seemed composed. Page, as he has in so many great Phish jams in the past, starts pounding away rhythmically on the grand which sends the jam on its way to the Promised Land. After the climax of this “Carini” jam, with Fishman continuing his busy and melodic groove, the other three all stumble on a descending riff that they trade amongst themselves. The band finally recalls the beginning of the jam, with Trey and Page both playing rhythm and allowing lots of space. One last funky flare-up brings us to the end of a jam that I will be listening to in 20 years. Not bad for the opening night of tour.


10/20/13 Hampton “Tweezer” by Jeremy Welsh (@jwelsh8)

[listen]

Patience. From the musicians, and required by the fans.

The Hampton "Tweezer" is an exercise in patience. For a majority of its 25 minutes, Phish layers idea on idea, weaving instrument over instrument. But rather than layers that introduce something new with each addition, I pictured the band’s layering of this jam as overlapping ends to stretch out the music linearly. Fishman plays the role of metronome while Mike and Page offer up snippets of funk, allowing Trey to offer counterpoint. Another way to put it is that you can hear the band slowly get from point A to point B -- there is no moment along the length of the first jam where you as a listener are left with an idea of "WTF?" The evolution, or transition, from Trey’s interesting idea around 5:20 plodded along for two minutes before that snippet of “No Quarter” would emerge, followed by Mike’s use of his Lovetone Meatball, smoothly building into that ominous section, which sound like footsteps or heartbeats. The progression is natural, dare I say even-keel.

That all remains true -- until the end. Around the 19-minute mark, after a nice build with Trey wrestling notes and really interesting runs by Page on the piano, after a return to the “No Quarter”-sounding section, the music just dissolves. Peacefully, relatively, not in a chaotic fashion. And what emerges is what I would describe as a “Storage” jam. Or “Tower” jam. Pick your favorite “fourth set” and go with that. Open, airy, loose playing from Fishman. Tones from Page, delicate soloing from Trey, sparse but full notes from Mike. It takes patience -- to get to this point, and to play like this.

Essentially nineteen minutes of “jam.” Fourteen minutes of subtle, linear improvisation that does not offer much in the way of peaks and valleys but is interesting in its progression. And five minutes of . . . decompression.


10/23/13 Glens Falls “Twist” by Parker Harrington (@tmwsiy)

[listen]

Phish’s return to Glens Falls was pure fun. It was an absolute blast being able to revisit the tiny venue and the welcoming and friendly environs of the small-town that was similar to so many others where Phish had cut their teeth in the early 90’s. It was literally like walking back in time and brought back a flood of memories. While a movie theater in the downtown area with a neon sign proudly advertising, “Dinner and A Movie” did not portend that old-time classic in the setlist that night, Phish certainly conjured up the spirits of 10/31/1994 with their Set I opener “Back In The USSR” and the encore, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” In between those tunes were a handful of highlights but the real show stopper was the mid-second set “Twist.”

Looking at the setlist on paper, one might logically conclude that the real gems of the night would have been found somewhere in the "Rock and Roll" > "Seven Below" sequence. Given that the relatively straightforward "Seven Below" was followed by "Alaska," hopes were dimming for an exploratory jam. However, "Twist" slowly, patiently emerged and became the highlight of the show and one of the better jams of the Fall Tour.

I simply love the slow, patient groove in the intro and build up- particularly Page’s keyboard. But the real magic happens about halfway into this 14-minute-plus gem. The band builds energy and "Twist starts picking up in volume, pace and excitement but then turns on a dime with the same keyboard led groove from the intro. Trey then takes the lead with precision playing and each individual note perfectly articulated and full of soul and conversation. Gorgeous and melodious, Trey’s guitar is literally singing and beckoning the band and the crowd to follow into a majestic, psychedelic peak. Fish gets a perfect rhythm going to compliment Trey and Page and climbing down from the climax is equally enjoyable as the ride to the top. It was quite a bombastic stretch of nearly fifteen minutes inside the Civic Arena and was another jewel in the Fall ‘13 crown. Listen to the end of the “The Line” from Wingsuit and you’ll hear what gave Trey inspiration for the best parts of the "Twist" jam.

Likewise, it isn’t hard to imagine “The Line” being taken out for deep exploration and a Set II opener slot at some point in the future.....or for that matter, the fourth slot. This glorious "Twist" certainly proves that can be a power slot of the set.


10/26/13 Worcester “Drowned” by Chris Glushko (@chopcg)

[listen]

The Worcester “Drowned” is a perfect example of what made Fall 2013 jamming so special—patience. Since the band returned in 2009, we've seen a dramatic cutback in jam length. This is perhaps the single biggest gripe by fans of the band's monster jams from the late-1.0 and 2.0 eras. At the same time, defenders of the more compact 3.0 jamming style often state that they appreciate how the band quickly move to another song when they’re struggling with ideas, avoiding what these fans refer to as "aimless noodling." But what if you are a proponent of this "aimless noodling”? What if part of your joy of listening to Phish improvise is getting lost with the band and then reveling in the energy created as they find their way back, often creating something far more interesting and exciting in the process?

If that's the case for you, then this version of “Drowned” should be right up your alley. The composed section starts off as a train wreck. The band is out of sync and Trey just can't land the right notes and timing. If this version was played in 2.0, those who dislike that era could make it the poster child for why 2003-2004 Phish turns them off. At around the 8-minute mark, the jam thankfully leaves “Drowned” territory and ventures into the land of improvisation. Between 9:00 and 11:00 there is very little going on besides a weak attempt at moving toward “No Quarter.” If this was two years ago, the jam would have certainly ended here.

But then something interesting happens. Trey catches a little groove-on rhythm. Fish adds some depth to the drumbeat, and Page starts pushing the issues on organ. Finally, at around 13:20, it all comes together. The band is in sync, they are flying, complimenting each other like they’ve played this segment 100 times. Then, as icing on the cake, the band turns on a dime around the 16-minute mark, drops the tempo and ends up in a near full-band “Sitting in Limbo” jam—simply gorgeous. And the best part? Without a little patience and “aimless noodling,” they never would have made it there.


10/27/13 Hartford “Tweezer” by Charlie Dirksen (@icculus)

[listen]

You’ve likely heard this “Tweezer” by now, but if you haven’t, be sure to check out both it and the rest of second set. The jam segment means business from its very beginning, with Trey hinting at and then pursuing a melodic theme above, beneath and within brilliant accompaniment from Page, Mike and Fish. This theme grooves along for several minutes awesomely, before Trey repeats a descending riff (no “Mind Left Body Jam” but a similar concept). Then, after a few measures, the jam begins to coast mellifluously along, largely in an enchanting way. Trey hits some chords reminiscent of part of the jam in the legendary 8/10/97 “Cities,” for example, and Page thunders out some chords that hint strongly at more than a few in “Fuego.” But the jam never really peaks, before puttering out, and dissolving away.

As lauded as this set’s “Tweezer” is, the “Golden Age” deserves even more praise, because it is more remarkable a version of “Golden Age” than the “Tweezer” is of “Tweezer.” Don’t miss it. Its jam is FEROCIOUS start-to-finish, and Fish’s drumming in particular is SPECTACULAR. It’s a “top version” of “Golden Age” to be sure. The “2001” in this set is also fierce. Don’t miss this set!


10/29/13 Reading “Down With Disease” by Marty Acaster (@Doctor_Smarty)

[listen]

I sat down to listen to the incredibly HQ (thanks to @taper420) audio stream of the Reading show with a small amount of regret that I would not be there. Since this was the show before the Halloween run in AC and was in a small venue filled with many old friends in a relatively out-of-the-way portion of Pennsyltucky, it had great potential to be the "if you snooze you lose" show of the Fall Tour. I was fairly confident the night would be full of special things if not hints at what was to come during the AC run in general and the Halloween cover set in particular. I was pretty certain at this stage in the game that Phish would be covering Traffic's On the Road album so I was intently listening for some teases of "Glad/Freedom Rider" or "Low Spark of High Heeled Boys."

Because Phish had no intention of playing a cover album this Halloween, I got something else entirely; but no less engaging. The jam in "Down With Disease" laid the foundation for what turned out to be a very sturdy yet adventurous second set, in what is likely to be the consensus pick for show of the tour. The framework of the jam is constructed with a high-spirited "Xanadu"-inflected rock groove that explores the interior dimensions of the song's composed structure for a solid three minutes or so. Once it reaches escape velocity it explores several thematic constructs that are vaguely reminiscent of both "Twenty Years Later" and "Waves" to my ears. An effects laden transition dissolves into a brief Woo-X-denied "Revival" of the Tahoe "Tweezer" before finding its way into an orgasmic "Easy to Slip" on "The Wheel" denouement toward "Taste" and the remainder of the second set is a celebration of Phish being Phish.


10/31/13 Atlantic City “Carini” by John Demeter (@johnnyd)

[listen]

It was a dark and stormy night. (Not really, the weather was actually seasonably pleasant. But for the purposes of this piece it was a dark and stormy night.) The burden of Heavy Things had been lifted. Phish had thrown us all a curveball and debuted their own yet-unrecorded album Wingsuit in lieu of a traditional cover album that already, you know, existed. A trick on some, hopefully a treat for most, this classicly Phishy gambit was now in the books. And after a well-deserved break and recalibration of what had to be precisely 15 minutes, band and fans were ready to bring Halloween 2013 home.

Set III opened with a strong if not spectacular "Ghost." From the initial guitar chunk, the energy in the room was tangibly lighter, with everyone in the room back in familiar, nay, hallowed territory. And when "Carini" came next, it was game on for some slammin, Fall ‘13-vintage Phish. For Carini had undisputedly been a top jam vehicle for several years, so it was no surprise that the band chose He of the Lumpy Head as their primary broomstick on this night.

But the band did have one more holiday surprise in store for us. A costume of a different sort, if you will. For this "Carini," normally dark and heavy, was actually an up-tempo, uplifting "Slave to the Traffic Light" jam in full costume. I was surprised to see any disagreement online that a prominent "Slave"-like jam anchors this song, as it was clear as a Hunter’s moon on a cloudless night to those of us in the arena (or at least to everyone in my neighborhood). But upon listening to multiple sources, I readily admit the masquerade is a tad obscured in the recordings. Below are some rudimentary jam notes. Timings based on the LP recording.

  • 1:04 - Fishman (presumably) provides us a little Halloween scare
  • 2:55 - JonnyB gets crazy-sinister with the vocals. Always a good sign.
  • The next couple minutes - a visit to Halloweens past, in the form of a delve into dark psychedelic territory, perhaps a little more sterile than, but reminiscent of some of the scary monster jams circa ‘95.
  • 7:00 - 8:40 - band flows into a more signature 2013 sound - a deep, satisfying funk-ish groove comprised of complex if repetitive interplay
  • 8:55 - Trey moves towards a Slave sound, intentionally or not, in tone and key
  • 9:15 - Page’s delicate Slave-ish keyboard tones start to emerge
  • 9:40 - hanging patiently on a single chord, Slave-ish; and Page’s tone
  • 10:00 - 10:45 - the two chord bounce that is the basis of the Slave jam (I think its A -G) arrives in full, granted at a much faster tempo. The tones combined with the progression are there. “Are they gonna -> into the middle of a Slave?,” the astounded masses murmur...
  • 11:44 - Trey says no. He introduces a groove that goes, “blrp blrp blrp.” 3 hits on one note. A texture to anchor the rhythm and allow Page and Mike to beautifully co-lead.
  • 14:20 - jam begins to escalate
  • 15:15 - 15:50 - really sounds like Trey playing a Slave peak, then modulates out of the straight 2 chord progression
  • 16:35 - final wail or scream to end that part of the jam. It could instantly dissolve, but Page and Fish hold the beat for almost a minute, which makes for a delicious post-coital afterglow before the nearly inevitable wind down into ambience

You may or may not agree, but that’s my Halloween story and I’m sticking to it. It happened that haunted night, even if all that fancy scientific recording and playback gear doesn’t totally capture it. We waited in the most sincere pumpkin patch of Set II and were rewarded with the arrival of the Great Lumpy-Headed Pumpkin. In its essence, the meat of this pumpkin is essentially a two-chord jam. And it’s up to you to decide whether that’s a trick or a treat.


11/1/13 Atlantic City “Twist” by Chris Bertolet (@bertoletdown)

[listen]

There are Phish jams that are like bouquets -- fistfuls of flowers, each bud a movement or section or idea, all of them clustered together to form a thing of many colors, but often a single, unified character. The Tahoe "Tweezer" jumps to mind as a recent example. My wife has characterized these types of jams as a tour through the rooms of a decorator showcase house, each new chamber designed by a different artist who contributes to the grand vision, and I like that too.

Then there are Phish jams that are like a single perfect flower. Jams that contain just one big idea, but coax out its fullest bloom. Maybe the best known example would be the Went "Gin," but I would include the AC "Twist" in that category. It isn't careening or schizoid or even meandering. There's barely any soloing to speak of. There's just a spare pair of chords hanging on a simple, sturdy frame of rhythm. That something so beautiful can be formed from so few ingredients is a testament to the power of the band right now.

Of course people will remind me that this showcase house really has two main chambers, the second being the "Under Pressure" vamp near the end. But that's a vestigial tail. I love this "Twist" and would gladly marry it.


11/2/13 Atlantic City “Down With Disease” by Phillip Harrison (@Dog_Faced_Boy)

[listen]

As much as it's likely to live forever in the shadow of the Reading "Disease," the AC '13 "DwD" is a great, GREAT version; in fact I think I personally prefer it. Following the expected "Type I" rocking, the jam starts to break away from "DwD" at the 7:00 minute mark, becoming rocking, percussive, and moderately dark in tone. I really like the groove in this section, as I'll admit to being a fan of jams with a brooding, twisted or even ominous nature. At 10:46, there's a sudden shift in sentiment, and the jam begins to sound a bit similar to pieces of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. After developing this theme for a good minute plus, at 12:15 or so, the power starts to build. This section is very upbeat in its mood and tone, but it's not flat out, pump-you-up, major mode "Hose" jamming as seen in the Reading "DwD," AC 1 "Carini," and AC 2 "Twist." At 14:20, the jam settles, and we get some more of that A Love Supreme-like jamming as things begin to wind down. But the jam retains a good pulse; it never gets to that spacey song transition place, and the next thing you know, we've -> to "Piper."

So there are really two things that I personally like about this "Disease." First, it has a section of darkish jamming, or perhaps not-upbeat jamming, even if it's only mildly forbidding. Two, while the jam winds up in a feel-good place like many of the jams from this fall, it's not over-the-top for my personal taste. I guess I prefer brief, or more subtle use of the "Hose" than some or most fans do, and this "Disease" feels just about right to me for balance. Some of the other exceptional jams from this tour, from my personal preference perspective, are ones in which the "Hose" runneth over, so to speak. Check it out if you haven't.

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Comments

, comment by smellslikemule
smellslikemule ...and by "show" I mean second set, as it's necessary to all but ignore first sets these days when evaluating shows....[/b]

Reviewers/Phans lose credibility when I see statements like this. I just don't get it. At the end of the day it seems like these guys go to shows and only enjoy about 15 minutes of it. For me I am looking at the entire experience and that's why I go. I love the music, the songs, love first sets and am not simply waiting for type II jamming to be able to achieve a great show. Of course I enjoy that too, but, there is so much else to enjoy outside of type II jamming. It seems a shame to me that Phans like the author completely dismiss first sets and then authoritatively announce it as if that should be the norm for all Phish fans. My guess is that the author is actually in the minority. Reviews that concentrate only on the Type II moments, setting aside everything else, bore me.

, comment by jimithin9
jimithin9 unf unf unf
, comment by jimithin9
jimithin9 @smellslikemule said:
...and by "show" I mean second set, as it's necessary to all but ignore first sets these days when evaluating shows....

Reviewers/Phans lose credibility when I see statements like this.
Noone is saying they don't enjoy them, just that subjectively they are all on a fairly similar level of awesome and difficult to compare to each other.
, comment by J_D_G
J_D_G I'd say they're on a fairly similar level of rote, uninspired and plodding, and thus difficult/unnecessary to compare to each other.
, comment by jk99951
jk99951 Show for show—and by "show" I mean second set, as it's necessary to all but ignore first sets these days when evaluating shows...

So one should ignore roughly 50% of every show in order to evaluate them? lolphish, it's sad what a shell this band has become, but hilarious to watch the phluffers try and validate them.
, comment by RoundTheRoom
RoundTheRoom @J_D_G said:
I'd say they're on a fairly similar level of rote, uninspired and plodding, and thus difficult/unnecessary to compare to each other.

I agree with this.
First sets these days are what they are. If you don't get the Tweezer/Curtain With/DWD/Undermind (and let's be real, these are rare in the first set), you're likely looking at your set highlight in Split/Maze/Bathtub/Wolfman's, and usually those songs are kept "in the box" these days.
I enjoy all sets of Phish, I just enjoy your average 2013 Set II about 1,000x more than Set I.
MPP2 (and others) aside.
, comment by meanpete
meanpete Reading DWD over 20YL? I'd like to take a poll and see how many people agree with that one?

And why limit our choices to one song per show? One of the great things about fall '13 was how the great ones often came in pairs...Hampton Tweezer -> Golden Age, Worcester Waves -> Carini and Drowned -> Light, Hartford Tweezer -> Golden Age...these segments are more powerful when ingested as whole, half hour pieces of music.

And I agree with smells like mule, you can't ignore the first set. AC should've taught us that.
, comment by RoundTheRoom
RoundTheRoom Definitely Reading DWD > 20YL.
Not in terms of significance to the song (i.e. best 20YL vs. a top, what, 30 all-time DWD?) but in terms of playing...give me the DWD. 20YL doesn't get that good until the last 3 mins when Trey decides to join in.
, comment by DistressTube
DistressTube @jk99951 said:
So one should ignore roughly 50% of every show in order to evaluate them?
I don't think that "all but ignore first sets these days" means that there's nothing to evaluate. There are song by song recaps of every show these days on this site, including analysis of first sets. When analyzing a tour in retrospect, you can make the point that "for the most part" unique moments in these shows come from the second sets. This post was just a review of extraordinary moments in Fall 2013. First sets did not produce the most outstanding moments, so why would this particular review require an evaluation of everything?

It's just a recap--if someone who doesn't have time to listen to every minute of every show reads this, then they might have a good place to START.

@jk99951 said:
lolphish, it's sad what a shell this band has become, but hilarious to watch the phluffers try and validate them.
Oh, and it's just an opinion...on which I believe @J_D_G clearly prefaced his entire review.
, comment by Voraciously_Alternate
Voraciously_Alternate thanks for the write ups. all around spot on really. really ramps up the anticipation for this NYE run!

2 days
i would like to start a campaign to change the title of the song Carini to "He of The Lumpy Head"
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd "For the first time ... it felt like Phish to me."

I think this is a much more operative statement in the introduction than the tangential mention of first sets. The essay is about the huge jams of Fall 2013; most of the action is in the second sets.

But to the point, and this is the feeling I got - the excitement that every show was likely to produce standout, exceptional, progressive music. Not just the hope or possibility that it could happen. But the momentum, energy, and synergy were real, and not going anywhere. That's what phish and phish tour should feel like. Feeling like there is like a 90% chance on any given night that IT is going to happen. IMO that started to evolve over the summer of 2012, grew through 2013 (especially late summer), but absolutely exploded for the fall tour.

Thats my takeaway from the intro and essay.
, comment by TheLengthy
TheLengthy it is inevitable that greatness will be marginalized to make way for stronger opinions. i find my self trying to choose the *best* show of a year, and when i give up amid all the variables, i realize how much fun it is to evaluate and compare.

remember the first set of Denver 1997? what if that happened again?
, comment by Ravinus
Ravinus I think the fact that out of 9 choices, there are only 5 songs to choose from, pretty much sums up Phish 3.0.
, comment by tripsforjoeg
tripsforjoeg Great stuff in here!
, comment by renaissance
renaissance @meanpete said:
Reading DWD over 20YL? I'd like to take a poll and see how many people agree with that one?

And why limit our choices to one song per show? One of the great things about fall '13 was how the great ones often came in pairs...Hampton Tweezer -> Golden Age, Worcester Waves -> Carini and Drowned -> Light, Hartford Tweezer -> Golden Age...these segments are more powerful when ingested as whole, half hour pieces of music.

And I agree with smells like mule, you can't ignore the first set. AC should've taught us that.
DWD > Twenty Years. Not even close in my mind. DWD is an all-time great version. Twenty Years is the first jammed-out version, so both are 'historic' I suppose...but I think the DWD peak is unmatched in the entire tour. But, two very different types of jams, so understandably there will be debates, depending on the kind of jam you're into.
, comment by PennPhan
PennPhan @Ravinus said:
I think the fact that out of 9 choices, there are only 5 songs to choose from, pretty much sums up Phish 3.0.

That's an interesting perspective, but one could also make the case of "the more you hone a knife, the sharper it gets."

That being said, I'm soooooo happy I got to see the Reading DwD in person and I wasn't holding out for a Wading jam....
, comment by kernalforbin1983
kernalforbin1983 First sets are fun and Im a bit nwer to the scene so i get to see songs i may not have seen before, but there is (usually) no crazyness or epic moments, good stuff but nothing for a best of list, i hope they turn some fire onto first sets and then we'll have no freaking clue what to expect.
, comment by 12zlavin
12zlavin @johnnyd

you're absolutely right, anyone who can't hear the slave jam in carini needs to get their ears checked
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS I enjoyed this blog entry. I have no qualms with any of the reviewers' commentary as they were all quite consistent with the stated thrust of the post. As for me, I'm an old Dead Head and I have never attached too much importance to the length of jams or their connotated improv. I much prefer to look at a show as an organism unto itself; like a breathing entity with blood and sinew and energy.

I cannot state how often (almost always) I hear elements of great pieces of 2nd set music hinted at during moments in first sets. As a musician I know the feeling of having an idea rear it's head only to resurface later that evening or several nights later. This happens often with Phish and it's what makes them the premier jam band of the age.

The great Bathtub Gin of 2/28/03 was germinated during the Ghost in Worcester two nights earlier. I heard the foundation of the Tahoe Tweezer at Northerly Island night 2 and also at the Gorge.

When the Dead were on and tight, every song was an artists' brush stroke that layed a foundation for what came after. "The Music Never Stopped", as it were.

Let's also not forget that creativity cannot be turned on and off like a light switch. It's an organic process that cannot be controlled. If it could, I'm sure the boys would knock us out every time they take the stage. I'm just thankful that it all came together this past Fall and that it's all recorded for us to enjoy for many years.

I think the staff did a nice job with this.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS But what if you are a proponent of this "aimless noodling”? What if part of your joy of listening to Phish improvise is getting lost with the band and then reveling in the energy created as they find their way back, often creating something far more interesting and exciting in the process?

Right on, Chris.

I'm a big 2.0 fan, warts and all, because they weren't afraid to get naked, even if it meant sloppy, too. I prefer much of the "aimless noodling" of 2.0, with all of it's wild, growling and thumping power to a good deal of the somewhat boring cow-funk of '97. Don't get me wrong, I'm not putting 2.0 ahead of 1.0 by any stretch, just that I like the period a helluva lot more than many of my contemporaries.

Like @J D G said before you, 2.0 still represented an attempt to push the envelope forward.

Phish has found their legs again and has also found themselves without peer in a land crawling with wannabe's.
, comment by 7beatspersecond
7beatspersecond @smellslikemule said:
...and by "show" I mean second set, as it's necessary to all but ignore first sets these days when evaluating shows....

Reviewers/Phans lose credibility when I see statements like this. I just don't get it. At the end of the day it seems like these guys go to shows and only enjoy about 15 minutes of it. For me I am looking at the entire experience and that's why I go. I love the music, the songs, love first sets and am not simply waiting for type II jamming to be able to achieve a great show. Of course I enjoy that too, but, there is so much else to enjoy outside of type II jamming. It seems a shame to me that Phans like the author completely dismiss first sets and then authoritatively announce it as if that should be the norm for all Phish fans. My guess is that the author is actually in the minority. Reviews that concentrate only on the Type II moments, setting aside everything else, bore me.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS Would like to add that I categorically disagree that first sets are dismissable. The first set from Hampton3 is IMO the best first set of the era, better than MPP2 by a considerable margin and worthy of many relistens. The Divided Sky alone is worthy of merit as a top performance of the tour.
, comment by tek9rifleskills
tek9rifleskills @TheLengthy said:
it is inevitable that greatness will be marginalized to make way for stronger opinions. i find my self trying to choose the *best* show of a year, and when i give up amid all the variables, i realize how much fun it is to evaluate and compare.

remember the first set of Denver 1997? what if that happened again?

Or, the first set of 11/30/97, the night after the longest Jim ever? By discounting 1st sets, we discount almost ever Bowie also, and Bowies can and usually do, make not just a set worthwhile, but some whole shows legendary. We just need the boys to put that set II energy into a few set I songs again. If they can do it like this next year on tour, we'll get 1st sets worth noting again.

These song reviews, by the way, are very good! Makes me want to hear all of them again right now
, comment by slavetothehood
slavetothehood The only show I was able to attend last fall was the first night of Worcester. It had been a real long time since I caught a Curtain W/ and the one they played that night was perfect. The Waves was pretty good too. Looking forward to a great New Years run in my home venue. Hoping for a Lizards.
, comment by pistilstamen
pistilstamen @Ravinus said:
I think the fact that out of 9 choices, there are only 5 songs to choose from, pretty much sums up Phish 3.0.
Um, you do realize that from 1993-Spring Europe 1997, it was pretty much exclusively Tweezer, Mike's, YEM and Bowie that would **consistently** stray from the beaten path? Unless you would also like to criticize that aforementioned time frame by the same rationale, your logic is flawed.
, comment by pistilstamen
pistilstamen I like Phish SONGS; therefore I enjoy first sets. I like Phish jams; thus I also enjoy second sets. I don't like every Phish song, so some first sets I will enjoy more than others (based on the songs they contain, perceived "energy" level, etc).

One of my favorite things about a Phish show is seeing how they will weave the tapestry/paint the picture/any other stupid art metaphor, of which the first sets are an integral part. That said, I can also understand why people don't particularly enjoy them.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @pistilstamen said:
I like Phish SONGS; therefore I enjoy first sets. I like Phish jams; thus I also enjoy second sets. I don't like every Phish song, so some first sets I will enjoy more than others (based on the songs they contain, perceived "energy" level, etc).

One of my favorite things about a Phish show is seeing how they will weave the tapestry/paint the picture/any other stupid art metaphor, of which the first sets are an integral part. That said, I can also understand why people don't particularly enjoy them.
Very well put. You said what I was trying to say with less words. You must be a 3.0 recapper!
, comment by 7beatspersecond
7beatspersecond One more comment on this first set business; is anyone else as tired of all the negative phish comments as I ? I've seen hundreds of shows covering decades and have never once felt let down to the point of offering negative critique, whether in the lot post show or in a special place such as phish.net. I typically feel complete elation and thrilled to have had the shared experience.

I think its time for these nay Sayers to dial their self importance down a tad. Frankly it pisses me off that these chumps get my ticket, let alone wine that every show does not harken back to another time. Live in the past, die I the past.

Happy MSG RUN TO ALL.
michael
, comment by Jballz
Jballz Nailed the intro here...I am thinking the comment about the first sets is the kinda stuff the band and phans are sick of and we were finally breaking out of. Most of what Phish does is about crescendos and so naturally the show builds towards the epic jams of the 2nd sets, but we get a lot of treats early in shows.

Case and point, set 1 from Friday AC:
Cavern > Runaway Jim, Sand, Halfway to the Moon, Halley's Comet > Tube > Possum, When the Circus Comes, Sugar Shack, Jesus Just Left Chicago, David Bowie

Also how can any Phish song be a 'burden'?
, comment by 7beatspersecond
7beatspersecond Jballz nailed it.
, comment by lumpblockclod
lumpblockclod @pistilstamen said:
One of my favorite things about a Phish show is seeing how they will weave the tapestry/paint the picture/any other stupid art metaphor, of which the first sets are an integral part. That said, I can also understand why people don't particularly enjoy them.
FWIW, I don't think (most) people are saying they don't enjoy them. It's more that when comparing them primarily comes down which songs are your personal favorites and whether it was generally sloppy or well-executed, there's just not much to discuss. I enjoy (most) first sets in the moment but after the moment ends, I seldom go back and relisten.
, comment by pistilstamen
pistilstamen @lumpblockclod said:
FWIW, I don't think (most) people are saying they don't enjoy them. It's more that when comparing them primarily comes down which songs are your personal favorites and whether it was generally sloppy or well-executed, there's just not much to discuss. I enjoy (most) first sets in the moment but after the moment ends, I seldom go back and relisten.
Sure, I understand why, in a post about the highlights of the Fall tour, first sets are not considered in the discussion. My comments were made as a subjective interpretation of how I view the first set and also a statement toward those who were getting bent out of shape regarding JDG's dismissal of first sets from the discussion. Basically, my point is: who gives a fuck if someone else doesn't enjoy something that you like?
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd :::gets all bent out of shape about dismissive mention of first sets:::

Hoping to be part of the relevant conversation here. Or something.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @lumpblockclod said:
@pistilstamen said:
One of my favorite things about a Phish show is seeing how they will weave the tapestry/paint the picture/any other stupid art metaphor, of which the first sets are an integral part. That said, I can also understand why people don't particularly enjoy them.
FWIW, I don't think (most) people are saying they don't enjoy them. It's more that when comparing them primarily comes down which songs are your personal favorites and whether it was generally sloppy or well-executed, there's just not much to discuss. I enjoy (most) first sets in the moment but after the moment ends, I seldom go back and relisten.
This is an interesting conundrum and typical of what happens in these threads. The stated purpose of the this post was to shine light on some great 2nd set jams from Fall Tour, which all of you did. One writer made a negative comment about first sets and it set off a firestorm, but perhaps a justified one, now that we're here.

I agree with you Chris, generally, but I think a poster above made a valid, though exaggerated, point when he presumed that all of you enjoy maybe "15 minutes" of each show. Now, obviously that's not the case but I think it's unrealistic to expect more than half of any show to be improv. It's just not possible to do that and have the music be quality. For the jams to be enjoyable there needs to be some cohesion and direction. Just constant free-form for the sake of itself would end up with something similar to what Furthur was doing recently. It loses steam after awhile when there isn't a build-up, is what I'm saying.

What makes the jams special is just that....they're special. I still enjoy first sets (much of the time). Where I break from you and some of your peers is when you dismiss the first sets as a one-time listening experience. I don't do that. I listen to entire shows straight through. Perhaps because I have a 6-disc changer in my SUV, it lends itself to that, but honestly I enjoy patiently relistening to first sets because there's a lot of nuggets in them thar hills. I don't want to miss anything. I think my approach has its own benefits and I never lose out on the thrill of the epic jams because it's not all I focus on. I don't know, just a perspective.

Still think this blog post was great. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I won't be at MSG. Hope you enjoy it if you are, though being on the West Coast I doubt it.
, comment by johnnyd
johnnyd @jwelsh - I'd go specifically with "Ambient Jam." Much more so than any of the other secret sets.

@chopcg - sign'd - also a huge proponent of "aimless noodling" for the exact reasons you state.

@bertoletdown - "one big idea" - I believe that captures many of the big jams of the fall. More than a handful of them really boil down to a very simple two chord pattern as a foundation, but with everyone so deep in the pocket that it is hard to comprehend how deep and involved and all-encompassing they are. Like, you can get submerged or surrounded in them.
Particularly with the first half of the AC Twist, it comes across as more involved than that, as the music comes across as a full band call and response exercise - almost like its two different full bands yelling back and forth at each other. Starting to evolve a little after 10 mins, and developing in through some hey-hole woos (11:20) and really picking up steam from there.
Listening again, they integrate the Get Back tease with the music that comes immediately after it. Like they have a cross-fader going every 4 measures til Under Pressure emerges (directly out of the left channel, call it) and starts spinning on the third deck around 13:40.
Its fucking phenomenal.
, comment by Vegassimple
Vegassimple Maybe I'm the lone dissenter here, but I think "learning" to love the current state of phish pretty much means becoming a Trey apologist. Maybe I'm pointing out the obvious here, but the man who used to be bursting at the seams with creativity and fire has largely been replaced by a man who doesn't want to be the leader anymore, largely relegated to becoming a rhythm guitarist. When he does solo, the FIRE is simply not there, with perhaps a few exceptions. I think this is painfully obvious when comparing his current playing to 1.0 AND 2.0.
, comment by renaissance
renaissance @Vegassimple said:
Maybe I'm the lone dissenter here, but I think "learning" to love the current state of phish pretty much means becoming a Trey apologist. Maybe I'm pointing out the obvious here, but the man who used to be bursting at the seams with creativity and fire has largely been replaced by a man who doesn't want to be the leader anymore, largely relegated to becoming a rhythm guitarist. When he does solo, the FIRE is simply not there, with perhaps a few exceptions. I think this is painfully obvious when comparing his current playing to 1.0 AND 2.0.
I'm sorry but I gotta disagree here. I think Trey has been on fire for most of the last two tours. Yes, he has relegated many moments to let the other guys shine, but just watch Reading's DWD or some of the Tweezers in the Fall Tour and you can see that he still has the spark and the fire to dominate many jams. When he wants to go, he goes..

Truly, I'm tired of hearing about Trey losing a step because of his age. I just couched a couple of shows and saw Jimmy Herring and John Scofield knock the shit out of the park.. You don't think Trey will be doing the same for the next 10-15 years? Get off his ass and enjoy what Phish are doing right now, which is better than anything they've don in the past 5 years.
, comment by Vegassimple
Vegassimple Really? You think his solo in the Reading DWD has fire? I couldn't disagree more. I thought it was incredibly weak.

I think we have different definitions of "on fire".
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @Vegassimple said:
Really? You think his solo in the Reading DWD has fire? I couldn't disagree more. I thought it was incredibly weak.

I think we have different definitions of "on fire".
Sometimes Trey's hands and feet are mangos, but he's still a genius.
, comment by Sivad
Sivad Hate to say it but scofield and herring are both capable of playing a lot of stuff that trey can't play. Never could as far as I can tell.
Then again trey does a lot of creative stuff they they don't
, comment by BigDudeInTheDoorway
BigDudeInTheDoorway I feel like what you're saying is that you want the other band members to act as a backing track for Trey to just rip over. I Personally love the fact that Trey doesn't take lead guitar solos over every song and every jam. The organic building of songs with every member playing as one and each member shining at different times is what makes 3.0 so special in my opinion.
, comment by Vegassimple
Vegassimple I feel like what you're saying is that you want the other band members to act as a backing track for Trey to just rip over. I Personally love the fact that Trey doesn't take lead guitar solos over every song and every jam. The organic building of songs with every member playing as one and each member shining at different times is what makes 3.0 so special in my opinion.

That's not what I'm saying at all. What I am saying is that Trey does not rip, and he does not contribute much in their improv. Quite frankly, he does not "shine". To say that he does is a straight up insult to his legacy. This is in sharp contrast to 1.0 and 2.0. I actually think the balance was much more ideal in 2.0 compared to now. There are countless examples of this. 3.0 = 3 members contributing. Trey is a non-factor, and it's straight up sad.
, comment by bigdudeinthedoorway1
bigdudeinthedoorway1 A great write up. As a noob, I was privileged to be at all 3 Hampton shows, and they forever changed my perspective of this band. See my blog post of my journey if interested:

http://forum.phish.net/thread.php?thread=1375227848

, comment by MzRprz
MzRprz Great write up! Now I need to check out half these songs. I might add - not that I was at the show, but it sounded amazing the 2001 from Hampton.
, comment by Wilson
Wilson Not to get hung up on the "first set" thing here, but I think it's fair to say that there haven't been many (any?) "notable" jams in 3.0 first sets. Perhaps Worcester Roses is the exception to the rule?

, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @FACTSAREUSELESS said:
Would like to add that I categorically disagree that first sets are dismissable. The first set from Hampton3 is IMO the best first set of the era, better than MPP2 by a considerable margin and worthy of many relistens. The Divided Sky alone is worthy of merit as a top performance of the tour.
I would like to to take this opportunity, upon further review, to disagree with myself.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS Hate to say it but scofield and herring are both capable of playing a lot of stuff that trey can't play. Never could as far as I can tell.
Then again trey does a lot of creative stuff they they do
n't

I'm a Jimmy Herring fan (and there aren't a whole lot of us) but I cannot agree with this. Herring is an excellent technical player who rarely strays from the 'box'.

He doesn't have nearly the vision or ability to anticipate as Trey does, and few do. Trey has a skill at building mountains of musical beauty seemingly out of the dross of nothing, on the fly. Of all the guitarists I've heard over the years, only Jimmy Page and David Gilmour compare in that regard. Yet, he also has the virtuoso of Steve Vai and Joe Satriani. You can't compare Trey flying without a net on a live stage to well-polished studio renderings, either.

For what it's worth, Eric Clapton has gone on record as saying that he believes Trey is the best guitarist in the world. You may not be a Clapton fan, but that's pretty high praise from quite a reliable source.
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten @FACTSAREUSELESS said:

For what it's worth, Eric Clapton has gone on record as saying that he believes Trey is the best guitarist in the world. You may not be a Clapton fan, but that's pretty high praise from quite a reliable source.
I don't think he ever said that...
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @TwiceBitten said:
@FACTSAREUSELESS said:

For what it's worth, Eric Clapton has gone on record as saying that he believes Trey is the best guitarist in the world. You may not be a Clapton fan, but that's pretty high praise from quite a reliable source.
I don't think he ever said that...
Haha....Actually, yes he did. While Clapton was being interviewed by BBC a couple years ago, he was asked by a young reporter how it felt to be the "best guitarist in the world" as it was phrased to him. His reply: "I don't know, you'll have to ask Trey Anastasio that question."
, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM Not that anyone is still reading this, but the interview happened in 2003, fwiw.
, comment by J_D_G
J_D_G I'm not sure I really remember that Clapton interview. Interesting.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @AlbanyYEM said:
Not that anyone is still reading this, but the interview happened in 2003, fwiw.
Albany!! Nice to hear from you! I'm still reading, occasionally.

, comment by AlbanyYEM
AlbanyYEM I've been incredibly busy but have definitely been lurking on here. You know it's a good tour when absolute gems aren't even present in the tour write up, seriously this tour is exactly the fulfillment of the promise of Dicks last year. I could not be happier with the state of Phish right now. Haven't been this excited in a long long time.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @AlbanyYEM said:
I've been incredibly busy but have definitely been lurking on here. You know it's a good tour when absolute gems aren't even present in the tour write up, seriously this tour is exactly the fulfillment of the promise of Dicks last year. I could not be happier with the state of Phish right now. Haven't been this excited in a long long time.
Yeah, I agree. It drives me crazy reading people's comments sometimes. I have to resist focusing on negatives and just enjoy what's going on.

There was someone complaining that Trey doesn't "rip" anymore. I mean, I know what the guy means because Trey went through what I call his "Hendrix" period in the 90's; that time in the band's history when Trey would just go off, and the rest of the band just sort of followed along at a safe distance. But what bothers me with that sort of commentary is the total ignorance of the sublety of the band nowadays. They were so tight and interactive this past Fall. Far from being "content to play rhythm", as one person put it, Trey seems so locked in to his bandmates, just unselfish and letting the music dictate the flow of his playing.

I listened to some shows from Fall '10 a couple weeks ago and there was a lot more soloing going on from the Golden Bear, with tight chops and almost impeccable timing. This past Fall was much more raw, as though he had finally shed the fashia of an older incarnation and was finally in the atmosphere of free space again. There was an edge and a "garage-band" flavor to the jams this past Fall, if you follow.

Thought the New Year's run was pretty rough around the edges, and you could once again hear the rust from the layoff. Thankfully, though, they didn't lose what they gained in group dynamics regarding their improvisational style.

Also love that they are not afraid to go "dark" lately. This Fall really felt like a tighter version of '03 Winter Tour.
 
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