Sunday 08/16/2015 by bertoletdown

MPP1: PUTTING THE 'ULTIMATE' IN PENULTIMATE

Comparing and ranking Phish shows is depraved. To suggest that one is superior to another is to make the sacred profane and in no way do we here at the Mockingbird back office condone such inhumanity. That said, if a marauding band of ISIS operatives were to seize a bus full of phish.net staffers and force us to name the consensus best show of summer tour so far, I am sad to say that a few heads might roll before we arrived at an answer.

Shoreline boasts the 45-minute electric trifecta of “BlazeTwistLight.” Atlanta 1 lays claim to the best “Kill Devil Falls” ever played and a mighty fourth quarter. Nashville’s second set has zero quit and the triumphant return of the second jam in “Mike’s Song.” Blossom’s outstanding first frame laid the foundation for its quintessential one-two “Cheezer” combination. And then there’s Mann 2, y’all. Scimitar to my throat, that gig stands shoulder to shoulder with Phish’s finest two-set performances of all-time. Don’t want to suggest it’s better than the shows I haven’t named here, like Austin for instance, but these ISIS fellows are very persuasive and have left me no choice.


Photo © Andrea Nusinov

The question is whether Saturday’s performance at Merriweather would make an exercise like this easier or harder on its merits. So, no spoilers. Let’s start from the start.

Phish practically gallops onto the stage and declares its intentions with an unexpected and pretty “Simple” that sets a loose and playful tone for what’s to come. Trey’s soloing features some Garcia-esque triplets, hammer-ons, and fluid phrasing before dissolving, then Fishman moves to the woodblocks to announce “Glide.” It was eleven years to the day after the Coventry “Glide,” but there is no such ignominy today. This version is crisp. This version is clean. This version is something for which to be glad, glad, glad, and the pit people fill the pregnant pause at the end with great rejoicing.


Photo © Jake Silco

Fish keeps the pedal mashed to the floor and plunges the band into a banging “Buried Alive,” and by now it is perfectly apparent that once again this tour, it’s on. Some have noted that setting aside an exception or two (cough, Vegas ‘04, cough), this tune tends to foreshadow relative greatness for the show in which it appears, and if I didn’t know that all Phish shows were equally awesome and weren’t so morally opposed to comparing them to each other, I might tend to agree.

This tasty morsel terminates into a lovely “McGrupp and The Watchful Hosemasters,” which gives me considerable pleasure to type. I tend to disfavor Dungeons & Dragons-style Phish songs but “McGrupp” is an exception and one of my treasured favorites. This version falls something short of sterling, perhaps, but is confidently rendered, with Trey calling some melodic audibles during the composed section. “Roggae” is one of those “anytime, anywhere” songs that seems incapable of poor placement or poor delivery, and tonight’s shimmering version is no exception.


"Big Black Furry Creature from Mars" – Photo © @tweeprise

If you appreciate great rock drumming, do yourself a favor and watch Fishman’s cymbal work in some of the closeups from the “Limb By Limb” in Saturday’s webcast. It’s the coolest part of one of the band’s most underappreciated songs, in my opinion, and this “LxL” is moving and soulful. Less so the “Big Black Furry Creature From Mars” that follows and bookends a quick run through “Your Pet Cat.” It’s a shitstorm of controlled chaos. Mike on his knees. Trey unleashing peals of feedback. Kuroda inducing motion sickness. By this point the show has crossed the goal line and all that’s left is endzone dance.

It doesn’t make much of a difference that “Horn” feels weirdly placed, or that “Blaze On” gets the first set treatment, or that the most interesting part of “Run Like an Antelope” is watching the band bat around a big red balloon during the coda. This is a scintillating first set that promises fireworks in the second. Achievement unlocked.


"Run Like an Antelope" – Photo © @tweeprise

[Hey, while we’re waiting for the second set to start, have I told you guys about the time back in college when I was making out with a girl on the lawn at Merriweather during a Howard Jones concert and she threw up in my mouth? True story. We didn’t date for long after that but... Oh, wait, Phish is back! Lucky for you.]

The second set kicks off with a spirited run at the expected “Halley’s Comet” (sans jam), then an interstellar version of “46 Days” – a song that has developed a tidy little track record at Merriweather. This “46 Days” navigates a spacey interlude before settling into a cozy, lingering, major key vamp – the kind of musical parlor you want to crawl inside to luxuriate for a while. Just gorgeous. “Bug” makes a lot of sense here as it emerges from the dappled sunset of “46 Days,” and comes off nicely.


"46 Days" –Photo © Jake Silco

The ensuing “Steam” -> “What’s The Use?” -> “Steam” sandwich is exquisite, and these two songs marry together in a very organic way, so much so that I hope they perform them together again as often as possible. “WTU?” is especially well played, with the band breathing together, and Page dusting the soundscape with perfect little runs on the Rhodes.

It’s at this point in a lesser Saturday evening Phish show (not that any Phish shows are below average, no sir) that one might expect the band to throttle back and set aside improvisation for a flight of successive, concise rockers... but one would be fucking wrong. Instead, Trey steers the band out of the steam and into the “Piper” intro. “Piper” is another song with a massive on-base percentage at Merriweather, and you can chalk this one up as a double off the corner fence.


"N2O" – Photo © @tweeprise

Page shines alternately on B-3 and piano through the early, straightforward section of the “Piper” jam, which soon veers type-II at Mike’s urging. Fishman experiments with a few different beds of rhythm before settling on one and opening up a can of whoop-ass, propelling the band to a series of glorious peaks. To reward his heroism, the band drops out and gives him the opportunity to play what’s as close to a solo as you’re likely to see Fish play – basically some swaggering fills – before spilling into “Tweezer” and setting the building on fire.

The head section of this “Tweezer” features yet more breakdown jamming around the main riff. This Phish is mad. This Phish is dangerous. This Phish eats segues and craps thunder. This is Sunday Phish on a Saturday, folks. Page is melting his Clav keys, the rhythm section is deep in a filthy pocket, and now Trey reaches for the megaphone. A balloon with “NO2” on it landed on the stage earlier in the show, and the band obliges the request. Trey and Mike run laps around the stage as Page quotes “Martian Monster” on his sampler, and when it’s all said and done the band slides slickly back into “Tweezer.”


"Tweezer Reprise" – Photo © @tweeprise

Walls of the Cave” makes a rare second set appearance to bring home this special set of music. As he’s done all night, Trey infuses the composition with extra flourishes, and the jam’s dramatic peak is a fitting capstone for what we’ve just witnessed.

The pre-encore banter that introduces “Sleeping Monkey” is hilarious inside baseball, as Trey takes the piss out of Richard Gehr’s ranking of 333 Phish songs and by extension the wicked and indefensible act of ranking Phish in general. [For what it’s worth, I’d definitely rank this stage banter at the top of all summer 2015 stage banter.] And with a predictably heavy “Tweezer Reprise,” this one’s in the books.

It’s hard to ask for more out of this band than we got tonight, but if this tour’s trajectory is any indication, we might get it anyway.


LE Merriweather Post Pavilion poster by Nate Duval. Edition of 875.

Phish Summer 2015 – Setlists & Recaps
07/21/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 1
07/22/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 2
07/24/15 SetlistRecap, Recap2 – Shoreline
07/25/15 SetlistRecap – LA Forum
07/28/15 SetlistRecap – Austin
07/29/15 SetlistRecap – Grand Prarie
07/31/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 1
08/01/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 2
08/02/15 SetlistRecap – Tuscaloosa
08/04/15 SetlistRecap – Nashville
08/05/15 SetlistRecap – Kansas City
08/07/15 SetlistRecap – Blossom
08/08/15 SetlistRecap – Alpine 1
08/09/15 SetlistRecap – Apline 2
08/11/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 1
08/12/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 2
08/14/15 SetlistRecap – Raleigh
08/15/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 1
08/16/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 2
08/21/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 1
08/22/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 2
08/23/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 3
09/04/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 1
09/05/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 2
09/06/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 3

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Comments

, comment by showoflife19
showoflife19 Great review as always
, comment by bopapocolypse
bopapocolypse The only small exception I will take with this otherwise fine review is the dismissal of the Antelope. Sure, it was "standard" in the sense that nothing much out of the ordinary happened, but this version had something extra going for it (beyond the aforementioned balloon antics). It may have been the slick interplay between Trey & Page, or the frantic build at the end, but there was some additional mustard on this one. Not unlike the Zero at Mann2, this predictable set closer is nevertheless worth another listen.
, comment by tubescreamer
tubescreamer This review made me laugh, thanks!
, comment by notio
notio Trying to decide if I'd rather get the make-out vomit or attend a Howard Jones show...

Fantastic review. From couch tour the show occurred as if sculpted note by note. Mind was still reeling this morning.
, comment by PhishMarketStew
PhishMarketStew Nice to see Mr. Bertolet tagged into the ring for this recap. Points lost for waiting until the east coast sunset to get it out though, what a show ranking noob.
IMO, this show bests FUCK YOUR FACE for best show of 3.0 and its not really a contest. The great thing about this tour is that if this show isn't even your favorite of the year I wouldn't even be able to argue that point too much, just an embarrassment of riches.
I know its not a popular opinion but I believe that by the time the final notes at Dicks ring out Summer Tour 2015 will have knocked off some seriously sacred cows.
Thanks again .Net heads for giving us a place to be lame and stuff.
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @tubescreamer said:
This review made me laugh, thanks!
Sentiment echoed -

I tend to disfavor Dungeons & Dragons-style Phish songs.... I'd read if you care to expand your thoughts here / wildly amusing
, comment by jaredprox
jaredprox @raidcehlalred said:
@tubescreamer said:
This review made me laugh, thanks!
Sentiment echoed -

I tend to disfavor Dungeons & Dragons-style Phish songs.... I'd read if you care to expand your thoughts here / wildly amusing
= most of Gamehendge
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @bertoletdown said:

"This Phish eats segues and craps thunder."

Great show, great recap. Thanks man. And thanks for not throwing up in my mouth, too.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @PhishMarketStew said:
Nice to see Mr. Bertolet tagged into the ring for this recap. Points lost for waiting until the east coast sunset to get it out though, what a show ranking noob.
IMO, this show bests FUCK YOUR FACE for best show of 3.0 and its not really a contest. The great thing about this tour is that if this show isn't even your favorite of the year I wouldn't even be able to argue that point too much, just an embarrassment of riches.
I know its not a popular opinion but I believe that by the time the final notes at Dicks ring out Summer Tour 2015 will have knocked off some seriously sacred cows.
Thanks again .Net heads for giving us a place to be lame and stuff.
haha
, comment by agelva
agelva How do you write an article about best shows of the summer and not reference Sunday Alpine. Ridiculous.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown Let me guess, you were at Alpine.

Article isn't about the best shows of tour per se. If it were I would put Alpine 2 somewhere in the middle. I enjoyed it a lot but it didn't knock my dick in the dirt like the ones I mentioned.
, comment by TnJedHead
TnJedHead The Sleeping Monkey banter was some of the funniest shit I've ever heard. Thank God for couch tour or I would've missed it.
, comment by Sativar
Sativar @jaredprox said:
@raidcehlalred said:
@tubescreamer said:
This review made me laugh, thanks!
Sentiment echoed -

I tend to disfavor Dungeons & Dragons-style Phish songs.... I'd read if you care to expand your thoughts here / wildly amusing
= most of Gamehendge
I'd lump in wotc, maze, rift, and the like. But I love the D&D Phish!
, comment by jadedforbin
jadedforbin Zero mention of the show with the best first set (bar none) of the entire tour...that'd be Alpine2. Mann2 and MPP are insane, but this show is right there. Not to mention it at all is (as one person already mentioned) utterly ridiculous. It's a far better overall show than Shoreline or Blossom. And yeah I was there. Let me guess, the person who wrote this review is from the east coast.

Northeast bias is real, as ever. I love seeing shows out there, but Alpine2 was the fucking bomb. Not including it makes this essay weaker.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown I'm from LA.

The Forum show was super fun but like Alpine 2 it was middle of the pack, imo.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS Okay...y'all inspired me....

This is the WORST ranking of Phish shows of all freaking time! Can't believe this joke of a reviewer (who the hell is he, but SOME WOOK), would be SO IGNORANT that he would try to rank shows, and then spend the whole post talking about the specifics of a single show!!! Incredible and inexcusible BIAS.

I wouldn't have said anything AT ALL but c'mon...Island Tour is an INEXCUSEABLE OMMISION!!!

Finally, Richard Gere hasn't impressed me since "Officer and a Gentleman". Bringing him up is lame.
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @Sativar said:
@jaredprox said:
@raidcehlalred said:
@tubescreamer said:
This review made me laugh, thanks!
Sentiment echoed -

I tend to disfavor Dungeons & Dragons-style Phish songs.... I'd read if you care to expand your thoughts here / wildly amusing
= most of Gamehendge
I'd lump in wotc, maze, rift, and the like. But I love the D&D Phish!
Is 'slow' Llama D&D?

No mention of Clifford Ball either
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred @jaredprox said:
@raidcehlalred said:
@tubescreamer said:
This review made me laugh, thanks!
Sentiment echoed -

I tend to disfavor Dungeons & Dragons-style Phish songs.... I'd read if you care to expand your thoughts here / wildly amusing
= most of Gamehendge
that i get - but thanks.

personally, i've been torn. i have always loved the music, but can do w/out the d&d bit myself (and that since a tween). i've always defended the band, and preferred their brand - but it was a lot tougher in 94 when, say, they shared a - physical - space with the dead in vt.

it was sorta tough to support an argument for something like the lizards against china cat.

but the playing simply appealed to my / always has, always will.

anyways, it was interesting to see a .netter w/ this POV.

cool pic by the way -
, comment by Hose_jam
Hose_jam you should stop using the phrase "the best" and use the more accurate "my favorite". music is subjective, something phish phans tend to forget while they try to compare, validate and boast about shows.
, comment by Phunkyparker09
Phunkyparker09 The first sentence of this post couldn't be more accurate!
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