Sunday 07/22/2018 by phishnet

GORGE2 RECAP: IT DOESN'T MATTER

[Thank you, Josh Martin, @Jsauce, for this recap of last night's show. -Ed.]

Greetings from the Gorge, everyone. Jsauce here. Long time listener, first time reviewer. I love the writing on here and I’m honored to be doing the .net review for Gorge2.

SO.

© 2018 Josh Martin
© 2018 Josh Martin

I’m going to cut to the chase here: I love this band. A lot. So do you. I will also admit to being a very critical Phish fan, to the point that several fellow heads have told me that if I can’t be more positive about what they’re doing at the present moment, then I might want to think about finding another band. Point taken. I mean, if you go to a show in 2018 and expect them to play 12/1/95 or 11/2/96 or 12/11/97 (plug for the best first set ever) or whatever set from the past 30 years, you’re going to be disappointed. And why would you want to? Isn’t part of the fun hearing something different? Isn’t that why we’re all here? Again, point taken.

All of that having been said, I contend that loving something and critiquing it are not mutually exclusive, and I have to be honest when I say that I feel as though there have been stretches of 3.0 where the band has shown an uncomfortable level of indifference in their performances. The first two shows of Bill Graham 2016 come to mind as prime examples. Sure, there are good moments, but not the sustained, focused excellence that keeps you coming back. What makes it all the more frustrating is that they still can really pour it on when they want to, like the third night of Bill Graham 2016, the first set of which was unquestionably fantastic. It’s maddening. Which is why, on more than one occasion, I’ve found myself in imagined conversations with the band (most often Trey), asking them why they would choose to follow a sick “Mike’s Song” with a “Farmhouse” (7/16/16) or a “Winterqueen” (Dick's 2017). Why, Trey, why?!?!

Such is the level of preoccupation I find myself having with Phish, and I honestly presume most fans have the same. At which point it occurs to me that my relationship with this band may not be entirely benign. It is not reasonable or healthy or sane. I love them. So do you. It is a problem. But, like so many of us, in so many ways, I am in love with my problems.

© Phish 2018 (Rene Huemer)
© Phish 2018 (Rene Huemer)

So what does all of this have to do with last night’s show? Glad you asked. I made about a million notes to myself about Friday night, the most important of which was, if you have a problem with Friday's sets, it really IS time for you to find a new band (see: supra). The music was patient and melodic, at turns dark and searching. I could go on about that show (and honestly wish I could), but at some point we’ve got to recap last night's show, right? Okay then.

Phish hit the stage at 8:15. They opened with “Party Time” and then “PYITE.” I’d love to tell you how those songs sounded. I wouldn’t know because I was still stuck in line with what seemed like a hell of a lot of people. I’m all for safety, but there has to be a more efficient way to get people in.

A strong theme throughout the first set was a very strong Page presence on piano. “Mike’s Song” featured some liquidy charging bass, overall a fairly close read to most 3.0 versions. “Weekapaug Groove” never quite took off the way one wishes it would.

I always think of “It’s Ice” as Fishman’s song, and he definitely delivered. The jam was short and muscular, with Mike leading the way.

Here’s the thing about “Divided Sky”: when they play it, everyone wins. It’s a beautiful song tailor made for the Gorge. It’s high energy, but also allows them to take a break from improvisation. A cleanly played version that paired well with “Cavern” to finish the first set.

Overall, first set had great song selection and pace, but the band sounded what one could describe as either patient or hesitant, particularly compared to Friday’s slugfest. What’s up next?

During setbreak, I said to my buddy the fastest way to get them to play “Tweezer” was to go use the bathroom at that moment. And so I did. And so they did. What followed was not the syncopated funk fest dance party we’ve come to expect, but rather, again, dark and melodic. Electric Page fills underneath Trey’s wah. Mike rides high, leading the band to an even darker space. We’re in a pretty scary part of town by this point. Trey bobs and weaves, jabs and feints his way through the solo. Just when you expect the peak to come, he sidesteps it over and again, so that when it finally does come, it’s feels surprising and deserved.

“Tweezer” faded nicely into “Golden Age.” To be honest I’m not the hugest fan, but I know some people love it, and Trey’s ebullient solo here is more than enough to recommend a listen. We’re rolling along in happy town for the first time in a minute, when BAM, another about face into a darker mood. Mike leads the way with some thundering 4/4 bombs, giving us what I’d say was the first real hard dance track of the weekend.

Which then faded to “Farmhouse.” This somewhat-odd (to me) song selection was offset by a beautiful solo replete with multiple “No Woman, No Cry” teases. “Piper” was a popular call around the campsite. This one started off hot and stayed there, with Page hitting the synth fills and Trey tossing out big handfuls of joyous notes. Again, the turn goes from joyous to dark on a dime, with Trey creating these long, wailing, plaintive notes so reminiscent of Summer ‘04 (e.g. “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” 6/19/04). This fades into “Prince Caspian,” which doesn’t get a lot of love from the community as a whole, but is sometimes good for a thoughtful Trey solo, which he delivers here.

Wading in the Velvet Sea” paired with “Rise/Come Together” means that four out of the last five songs have been fairly slow tempo numbers, and honestly at this point the crowd’s interest started to wain. One sure way to get it back is the strum the opening chords to “Run Like an Antelope,” which is one of my all-time jammers. This one stayed close to the vest, with Page exploding under Trey hard trills. A thrilling conclusion to a well-played set marked by strong playing of individual songs, but somewhat marred by song selection and placement.

© 2018 Phish (Rene Huemer)
© 2018 Phish (Rene Huemer)

I honestly have no idea why people don’t like “Bug.” It has some of the smartest lyrics and can always be counted on for a thundering, soaring guitar solo from Trey. I’m a big fan of it and I thought it worked well in this slot. Mike hit the brown note in “Tweezer Reprise” and we all had one more chance to rain down glow sticks on the lawn.

In all, this show was not the ripping barn burner that Friday’s show was, but then again, very few are. Hesitant playing during the first set and odd song selection during the second took some of the bite out of the proceedings, but there were still some fantastic moments (“Tweezer”, “Piper”, “Bug”). Walking out of the venue, it occurred to me that it can be both: we can be thoughtful and truthful about the quality of the playing AND try to be fully present in the musical moment. Because when they play as consistently well as they have over the past two nights, It Doesn’t Matter.

Best wishes from the Gorge. We’ll do it again tomorrow.

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Comments

, comment by IslandTourBaby
IslandTourBaby Good analysis of the show - I appreciate your nod to the fact that sometime we all can be a little too critical of the band that we love. But I agree - being a fanatic means acknowledging the good with the bad, but still appreciating the entity as a whole. In regards to the show, the Tweezer from last night was murky and swirling, but extraordinarily rewarding to hear. Great show review! Thanks!
, comment by Thunder_Lizard
Thunder_Lizard Very nice review- Thank You. We were up front for set 1- which we thought it was fire - and then we moved back to the hill for the rest of the show. I commented that I couldn’t recall a more delicate set 2, which I was fine with. Delicate Phish is some of my favorite Phish (see Roggae, Simple outro)

I have read a lot of consternation & finger pointing about Trey this morning, but my take on the situation is the venue brings out an overtly romantic side in him, and the sets moves to that delicate & wistful space as a result. Farmhouse, which showed up as the heart of set two for the second Gorge run in a row, was all about the stars, and think that the majesty of the surroundings was what he had the band playing to.
, comment by WalkLikeACanteloupe
WalkLikeACanteloupe I am an unabashed Bug fan.

And I like variety in Phish sets.

Sometimes I think the haters would only be satisfied with a tour that featured replays of the highest-rated shows from 1994-1998.
, comment by FitzyMcFitzy
FitzyMcFitzy Great piece, @jsauce- It's rare to see a fair and thoughtful review these days, and I love how you describe the middle ground between "jaded vet" and "noob fluffer" that most long-time fans live in. It was pretty dark times after Trey's "Breakup Letter", the Coventry disaster, then just hoping Trey would even make it long enough for Phish to have another chance, so I'm grateful for every last note.

That said, Prince Caspian > Wading in the Velvet Sea > Rise, middle 2nd set, at the GORGE? Absolutely questionable song choices- that's the longest bathroom-break-song stretch I've ever seen.
, comment by Longtimegone
Longtimegone @FitzyMcFitzy said:
Great piece, @jsauce- It's rare to see a fair and thoughtful review these days, and I love how you describe the middle ground between "jaded vet" and "noob fluffer" that most long-time fans live in. It was pretty dark times after Trey's "Breakup Letter", the Coventry disaster, then just hoping Trey would even make it long enough for Phish to have another chance, so I'm grateful for every last note.

That said, Prince Caspian > Wading in the Velvet Sea > Rise, middle 2nd set, at the GORGE? Absolutely questionable song choices- that's the longest bathroom-break-song stretch I've ever seen.
I’m with you! Having come into Phish in ‘97, going to my first show in ‘99 and last show in 2000, and looking forward to my next show this summer, I’m planning on just enjoying myself and listening to the music from a different perspective than the last time. I just started listening to night 1 of this tour, and while it doesn’t have the same feel as the shows I went to 18 years ago, it’s still enjoyable to listen to.
Postscript: I’m an old dude.
, comment by ckess22
ckess22 Havent had a chance to listen yet. Will when I get back from vacation.
But I’ll just chime in to say that I disagree emphatically w dissing the first 2 nights of bgca 2016 as ‘indifferent’. We clearly weren’t at the same shows. To disagree further, I’d place night 3 at the bottom of that run. To each their own I suppose.
, comment by Playitleodan
Playitleodan I would have been bummed about the Farmhouse, Velvet Sea, Rise, if I was in attendence. But I couchtoured and loved them. Well, I really dont like Farmhouse, but Trey does, and its his song for Tom Marshall, and he clearly liked the stars at the Gorge. It was a delicate Farmhouse, nice Caspian, and the Piper!, Tweezer and Golden Age AND Divided Sky were outstanding.
Nice review!
, comment by FiveBranch
FiveBranch @Thunder_Lizard said:
Very nice review- Thank You. We were up front for set 1- which we thought it was fire - and then we moved back to the hill for the rest of the show. I commented that I couldn’t recall a more delicate set 2, which I was fine with. Delicate Phish is some of my favorite Phish (see Roggae, Simple outro)

I have read a lot of consternation & finger pointing about Trey this morning, but my take on the situation is the venue brings out an overtly romantic side in him, and the sets moves to that delicate & wistful space as a result. Farmhouse, which showed up as the heart of set two for the second Gorge run in a row, was all about the stars, and think that the majesty of the surroundings was what he had the band playing to.
Well said. Glad to find a perspective that differs from all the fussy carp found on the forum about this show. Its nice to balance out the frenetic drive with more subtle and, as you aptly put it, delicate expressions from the band. And if such a mode becomes the artistic focus for the majority of a set, fine by me. If I want intensity, I'll load up a 90's show (to the chagrin of my neighbors). But if I want something more diaphanous and embroidered, well, not much to choose from! So looking forward to settling down into the show in the near future. If it plays out the way I think it will, it will be a keeper.
, comment by Gumbo72203
Gumbo72203 You should listen back to that Divided Sky because Trey pretty epic-ally flubs the leads post-pallindrome segment lol. Practice, guy!

Although I'll give him Hydrogen... that was about as tight as you can expect that song to ever sound in 3.0. Tweezer was sick too!
, comment by Scott
Scott @ckess22 said:
Havent had a chance to listen yet. Will when I get back from vacation.
But I’ll just chime in to say that I disagree emphatically w dissing the first 2 nights of bgca 2016 as ‘indifferent’. We clearly weren’t at the same shows. To disagree further, I’d place night 3 at the bottom of that run. To each their own I suppose.
Agreed. N2 Set II was stellar, Set I not bad at all. N3 Set I was super-cool, but the final set of the Bill Graham 2016 run was the worst of those 6 sets by a country mile.

Still this was a good review of the actual show. I didn't care for the 4th quarter but there was plenty of quality to be found.
, comment by chipre
chipre Great review! Well-balanced, thoughtful, and clear.

I used to have similar conversations/disagreements with people about 90's Dead shows (yeah, I'm old too). And I'll take a 50-year old-Trey over a 50-year-old Garcia any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Looking forward to seeing the boys in Chi-town!
, comment by jsauce
jsauce @ckess22 said:
Havent had a chance to listen yet. Will when I get back from vacation.
But I’ll just chime in to say that I disagree emphatically w dissing the first 2 nights of bgca 2016 as ‘indifferent’. We clearly weren’t at the same shows. To disagree further, I’d place night 3 at the bottom of that run. To each their own I suppose.
True. I don’t begrudge anyone. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
, comment by lilcuts
lilcuts Thank you for validating my very similar experience of Tweezer, my overall thoughts on Bug, the misplaced Farmhouse (a song I don't really need to hear again) and several other components of this show. Including the unreasonably long wait to get in. We left our campsite earlier than I wanted to, around 6:30. Knowing Phish didn't start until pretty late on Friday, I didn't want to submit myself to the merciless Gorge sun for no reason. But my group wanted to go, so in we went...and baked anyway, in a sea of people standing completely still for what felt like hours.

I had heard Friday's line was really bad and I wrongly figured they would have things sorted by Saturday. I mean, I was at Dead & Co. just a few weeks ago and security was easy breezy. How bad could it be? If Phish went on at 8:05, we must have finally gotten in about 8:20. I heard the tail end of PYITE and assumed that was their opener. Nope! Totally missed Party Time. I'm sure there are reasons and I know security is there so we can all live to see another Gorge show. And I'd really rather not complain about this part, but it colored my experience of the entire first set because that godforsaken security line stole part of my show.

By the second set I was ready for a clean slate and ready to dance, so I got down to the floor about 15 rows back. Perfectly placed to hear every layer of Tweezer. Some people seem to like that song played by the book, party-style. I much prefer what they delivered: full-flavored and deep. I guess I missed the sick jam on Golden Age described by the reviewer, but to be fair I was in transit to find my group. Farmhouse was a perfect zone of nothing-interesting-happening-here, which makes for a great opportunity to get to a different part of the venue.

I have nothing bad to say about Caspian except that every time I hear it, I feel like the rest of Billy Breathes is missing. That song feels like a tiny piece of an album I wish they would play in its entirety, just for me, just one time. I was back on board for the lovely progression at the end of Rise/Come Together (a song I'd never heard before.) And like everybody else I know, I love Antelope -- but thought they did very little with it.

It's amazing how different everyone's experience of a Phish show can be, and all experiences are totally valid. I'm super happy for everybody that loved this show. And hey, congrats to everyone who got there Friday and stayed for Sunday, you guys lucked out. Image
, comment by GhostPhunk
GhostPhunk Bug does have excellent lyrics!

Great write up!
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten Thought this review was gonna be another disaster but you pulled through. While it’s important to remember that music appreciation is an active process, it’s probably best to not have TOO too many imaginary conversations with Trey. Still, nice work. :)
, comment by Jayrizzledizzle
Jayrizzledizzle Hey Wayne, wheres Garth? Riding his wain? Well, my interest in these reviews has officially waned.
, comment by phrappie
phrappie I felt the second night was nice. The way they ramped up the Gorge nights was pretty cool. The Golden Age kinda set the tone for me. It was a realization that they were going to not follow a script. The dark jams were hard to wrap my head around at times, they were so good. Very good show. Great stage setter for the 3rd night.
, comment by PennPhan
PennPhan @chipre said:
Great review! Well-balanced, thoughtful, and clear.

I used to have similar conversations/disagreements with people about 90's Dead shows (yeah, I'm old too). And I'll take a 50-year old-Trey over a 50-year-old Garcia any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Hell, I'd take a 50yr old Trey over a 30 year old Jerry.
, comment by martykardon
martykardon This is a perfect blog title (no offense to author) for the utterly callous, self absorbed and irresponsible fact that the band has been utterly silent about the horrendous injuries suffered by two innocent men (of color by the way) at the Gorge concert.

How about an expression of regret for fellow humans (and fans') terrible misfortune. And isn't this charity the band funds an appropriate entity to help out? Or does it only give to the band's pet projects?

Shame shame
Gutless
Just plain wrong
I wish I could take back all the $$ I wasted supporting this band .
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