Thursday 10/20/2016 by phishnet

NASHVILLE2 RECAP: DON HART'S FIRST TWEEZER

[Editor's Note: Please welcome professional musician Hunter Sholar, user @Guyute1976, who offers this recap of last night’s show. -CD]

I can’t start writing this blog post without giving a little background about myself and how I became a Phish fan. I’m a late bloomer with this band. I went to Northwestern University and was a Horn Performance Major, and I was surrounded by so many talented musicians with eclectic musical tastes. Some of my closest friends, including Drew Hitz (who many of you know), were diehard Phanatics, but during my undergrad years (1995-1999), I didn’t relate to them, somehow. Nope, I waited until the band had broken up, and then fell hook, line and sinker for them in the summer of 2005, and saw my first show on 3/8/2009 at the Hampton Coliseum. I missed the live pre-Phish 3.0 era, but thanks to their immense catalog of live shows, I’ve had plenty of time to do my research and play catch-up.

Wednesday 10/19/2016 marked my 29th show, and it was significant on so many levels – I’ll get to that in a minute. Since seeing my first show, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Trey. I’m a member of The Nashville Symphony Orchestra, where I play the Horn, and I actually met him after one of my symphony concerts at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center a few years ago, just a few blocks away from Ascend Amphitheater. Our mutual friend, Don Hart (composer/arranger who orchestrates Trey’s orchestral music), brought him in while the band was in town recording Wingsuit. Why is this significant, you might ask? Don and his family were attending the Ascend shows, and this was perhaps part of the reason our guys really stepped it up both nights.

Photo © Rene Huemer
Photo © Rene Huemer

Heading into the Amphitheater, none of us were sure if this would be deemed “the Night after the Weir Show,” or if it would stand on its own. Phish started off with a tranquil “Theme From The Bottom,” easing us in nicely and setting the tone for the first set, but proceeded to break out the funk with a rockin’ “Camel Walk.” Right out of the gate, the band sounded crystal clear.

Based solely on acoustics, Ascend is actually my current favorite outdoor venue. Since it opened in the summer of 2015, I’ve played Nashville Symphony Concerts there (most significantly with Boyz II Men and Styx), but I hadn’t been out front until this two-night run. One of our NSO rehearsals was used to let the sound engineers get the stage acoustics “dialed in” for our purposes. The venue features state-of-the-art acoustics on stage that can be adapted for any group. They can set it to a concert hall setting so we have the appropriate reverb we would experience in a concert hall. This is important because it takes away the dryness of being outside and enables the musicians to “listen across the stage,” maximizing communication. Through the years, Phish has demonstrated a remarkable ability to communicate in this manner (including an innate telepathy for playing music together). This is what classical musicians are trained to do. In essence, Phish is the quintessential chamber music group, similar to a string quartet firing on all cylinders playing Shostakovich. It’s obvious the band loves playing at this venue, and the acoustics on stage only enhance this.

After strutting their stuff, the band switched gears to the twelve-bar blues tune “My Soul,” and their vocals were honed-in better than I had heard them in quite a while. After an appropriate pause, the band opened up one of their new doors by way of the mammoth “Petrichor.” I have intentionally not listened to the new album yet, waiting to hear these songs in person. This song is an interesting, stand-alone tune, similar to “Time Turns Elastic.” On first listen, the flow is somewhat jagged because there are a lot of unexpected turns and surprises, but it sounded very well-rehearsed, and its episodic format drew me in, as it piqued my interest. I like the different movements of the piece, and that the texture thickens as the song transpires. I look forward to getting to know this one and hearing its evolution; it's always exciting to hear a song in its infancy.

From here, the band rocked through a formulaic “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan,” and then on into the very pleasing “My Sweet One,” a perfect bluegrass tune for Nashville. The highlight of the first set, though, was completely unexpected. We all knew that “Tweezer” was on the table, since it hadn’t been played on this leg of the tour - and we all know how much excitement the anticipation of the Phan-favorite tune is - so it made the grinding “Tweezer” tease (in the appropriate key, I might add) in “Waking Up Dead” all the more special. Goose bumps. And again, the vocals sounded great, Gordon’s voice resonating nicely. “Halfway To The Moon” featured Page’s vocals as pure as I’ve heard, and then “Running Out Of Time,” the ever-funky “Tube,” and finally, “Shine A Light.” Trey’s voice and guitar soared here to round-out the first set.

Photo © Rene Huemer
Photo © Rene Huemer

After the set break, Gordon noodled on the Theme Song from the movie “The Godfather” before the band started "Golden Age.” This version featured a funky groove that sounded like an “Also Sprach Zarathustra” jam, both of which are in the key of C-Major. As the TV On The Radio song was winding down with the Richard Strauss groove, Trey dove headfirst a minor third down into what we all wanted to hear – “Tweezer”! I had talked to Don Hart before the show, and he was really hoping to hear this song live. He and Drew Hitz spoke to Trey at the soundcheck, and Drew made the request. Don added that he was struck by hearing a recording of the 1.2.2016 “Tweezer,” and the rest is history - this one was for Don. The band turned the funk up, and as the song approached the double-digit minute mark, they settled again in the key of C-Major. The jam mellowed somewhat, got tastier and tastier and then heated up before winding down for an appropriate applause. What a great “Tweezer” it was.

After “Tweezer,” the band pulled the funk card out again and laid into “No Men In No Man’s Land.” I really like this tune, and so far, it’s my favorite of the Big Boat songs in the live setting. “Plasma” was relaxed, turning away from the upbeat funk, continuing the impressive flow in this valley among the peaks. The song featured a grind towards the end, with Gordon and Fish driving the way. “Harry Hood” was another highlight of the set; talented Chris Kuroda is the best light guy in the business. He painted our way during this fantastic jam, using the more traditional spotlights and less of the newer light panels. It was a glorious rendition. I can’t praise the sound guys enough on the balance, specifically in relation to Mike Gordon’s levels. The balance was superb.

Closing out the set was “Suzy Greenberg,” which was a nice release and send-off before the encores. When they walked off stage, the time was 10:25 pm, suggesting perhaps a longer-than-normal encore set. They came out to start the lengthy “Walls Of The Cave.” Page’s precision on the piano set the tone for this ever-building tune, which gained momentum to the end and into “Tweezer Reprise.” This song is arguably one of the most intense moments in all of their repertoire. We had a sense that maybe this one was registering on the local Richter Scale readings, and joked about how we would have been able to feel it at our house just five miles away had we been there.

All in all, it was a great two-night run. I’d like to thank the band for their continuing inspiration through their music, Drew Hitz for twisting my arm into writing this, and Drew and Don for that “Tweezer.” For those who weren’t here, you might want to make a point to catch their next show at this venue – I have a feeling they’ll be coming back here to do what they do best. -Hunter

Photo © Rene Huemer
Photo © Rene Huemer

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Comments

, comment by thegripp
thegripp I enjoyed the technical aspect of the review, thank you for sharing your experience with music.

2016 has been such a strange year for Phish music. I've been listening throughout, and I feel that, like 1996, it is a year of changes. I'm glad that this Tweezer kept the doubting Thomas's at least at bay for a little bit longer.
, comment by Phescado
Phescado I second the comments above. Hope this isn't the last review we get from you. Thanks!
, comment by FunkyBitch_2001_CamelWalk
FunkyBitch_2001_CamelWalk Great review! I don't think the Tweezer request was necessary though, pretty sure it was coming last night either way. Great read.
, comment by smallz
smallz Really enjoyed the scholarly review. Interesting to read the insights of a Phish show from the perspective of a trained musician (and relative noob!). I hope to see a show at this much-hyped audiophile-phriendly venue.
, comment by Crosswalk
Crosswalk Excellent review! Was in the lawn and they brought the house down.
, comment by Bogotafee5514
Bogotafee5514 Awesome venue/awesome 2 show run!!!
, comment by tensionland
tensionland great review bud....i too really enjoyed your view of what went down. hope to hear more from you in the future
, comment by ColonelForbin96
ColonelForbin96 I've read many reviews over the years and this was definitely one of my faves. Great job- especially for your first shot. Hopefully Drew can convince you to write some more in the future.
, comment by JahNuhDead
JahNuhDead Easily the best review I've read on this site in a long, long time. Thanks for taking the time.
, comment by yemphan15
yemphan15 What a great read! Can't wait for Vegas!!!!!
, comment by Texas_TUBE
Texas_TUBE Sad to hear that it now takes a fan request to play Tweezer live. My how Phish has changed... Nonetheless, great review and glad you enjoyed the show.
, comment by guyute1976
guyute1976 Thanks for the feedback everyone. I really appreciate it.

TEXAS_TUBE
I think FUNKYBITCH_2001_CAMELWALK is right and that "Tweezer" was going to be played regardless. I would have almost bet money on it.
, comment by Tando
Tando Thanks for the review. Great read!

(Phellow NU music guy)
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray Great read, and an even better show. :)
, comment by Texas_TUBE
Texas_TUBE GUYUTE1976 - You're probably right but still... frustrating how many Phish classics/staples have yet to be played on this tour (I know it has only been 5 shows, still though).
, comment by PauperCaspian
PauperCaspian Such a nice Tweezer, nice to hear the perspective of a musician on it, along with how the acoustics of the venue contributed to the sound quality throughout the show.
, comment by LightsWentOut
LightsWentOut I am that nerd who needs to say that Phish does not use in-ear monitors.
, comment by guyute1976
guyute1976 LIGHTSWENTOUT

Thanks for clarifying. I really appreciate it. That's my mistake. I have a friend who had just pointed out that he was pretty sure they did not use IEMs.
, comment by dmg924
dmg924 Fantastic review, and being a trombonist myself (albeit hardly a professional one!), I highly enjoyed reading about the technical aspects of the Ascend Ampitheater. Oddly, it never occurred to me that Golden Age is in C-Major....I always think of Bathtub Gin as containing THE big Phish C-Major jams (and more recently, the Ghost jam from this past Friday night). Cheers!
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