Monday 08/13/2018 by swittersdc

MPP2 RECAP: THREE-PRISE'D

As fans, I think we sometimes underestimate the vast number of variables that have to align to create a great Phish show. Probably more so now, when everyone is older, travel and logistics are more complicated, the setup is so much more intense, and more.

Just start with the travel. Since last Sunday night when Phish left Atlanta, with dozens of buses carrying band members, families, gear, etc., they traveled 1600 miles in 6 days. Just driving 200 miles takes a toll on me, so I can’t imagine the physical toll of being constantly on the road—no nights in your own bed, sleeping on a bus, etc. It’s not like they’re sleeping on Greyhound buses, but still.

Then there’s the interpersonal dynamics of getting 4 dudes plus all of the crew on the same page. When they were playing more shows, closer together, it was easier to get in sync night after night. Then there’s the venue, logistics, sound, gear, weather, cluster flies, and everything else. It’s not always going to work perfectly.

The counterpoint to this is that “hey, these guys get paid really well to make music for us, and they have a responsibility to play songs as flawlessly as possible.” But that’s not how it works in reality.

At the risk of revealing too much up front, this was a great Phish show. The band was playing loosely, having fun, but they sounded well practiced, particularly with songs that are technically difficult, like “The Curtain With.” Walking out of a Phish show dripping with sweat and filled with gratitude is one of my favorite ways to do Phish. This was one of those nights.

Starting the show with “Llama” (only played once per year in 2014 through 2017) and “Big Black Furry Creatures from Mars” (played once or twice a year since the beginning of 3.0) showed that Trey in particular was comfortable and confident from the start.

The third song was another first time played in 2018, “Meat,” and then “Alaska” (yes, you guessed it, first time played in 2018). I sense a pattern here.

Then came “Tweezer.” I guess you could say things were getting pretty serious. Many of us expected to hear this song on Sunday, but definitely not in the middle of the first set. This set was starting to remind me of 12.30.17, in terms of a lot of really great energy and tunes packed into a first set. This is how you first set. This “Tweezer” was a really straightforward, rocking vibe. Multiple sweet rock peaks. No bliss, no funk, just a really solid rock jam, with a little “LA Woman” tease.

You might expect a ballad or a cool down after what had been a pretty uptempo set so far, but instead we go straight into a “Bathtub Gin.” A 3.0 staple is driving, upbeat, energetic “Gin” jams.

This song rarely disappoints, and this version was no exception. Now maybe a cool down? Again, no breaks, straight into “The Curtain With.” Trey did a really good job here on the composed part. A “With” is a beautiful crowd pleaser, and at this point I thought a very good first set would be over.

But Trey had different ideas. This “Chalk Dust” wasn’t just a standard run through, it clocked in around 10 minutes. Was this really just the first set?

One of the coolest things about seeing a great first set is how excited everyone is for the second set. The energy levels were amazing throughout set break, heightened only by a surprising “Tweezer Reprise” opener for the second set. First “Tweezer Reprise” 2nd set opener since 12.15.95.

I think there were a lot of people expecting a trip to the “Soul Planet,” and I thought we’d get a “Down With Disease,” but the “No Men” featured the most exploratory jamming of the night to that point. The song lengths of “Twist,” then “Caspian” and then “Piper” seem like they might not amount to much, but go back and listen to them. The “Piper” in particular contained some intense jamming with Trey on the Leslie which then segued into a straight ahead rock jam. Trey was leading the band in this second set, which is a nice place to be.

A second “Tweezer Reprise”? Why not! We then got “Number Line”d, which as I said before, I’m sorry if you have to listen to your favorite band play one of the songwriter’s favorite songs. It’s a tough life being a Phish fan.

This show kept going, with an almost 9-minute “2001” before a beautiful, patient and thoroughly fulfilling “Harry Hood” closer. Thank you Mr. Minor. Similarly to the first set, they could have ended after “2001,” but everyone was having too much fun. Trey was having an absolute blast, and I can’t think of a better way to end this part of the tour, feeding intense and frenetic anticipation for Curveball.

A brief “Heavy Things” led us to another emotional release with “Bug,” which is always welcome to me. Finally, why not finish with another “Tweezer Reprise”?

Great shows don’t come every night, but you know one when you see (or hear it). One of the telltale signs is when you expect the set to end, multiple times, and then it keeps going. The energy never waned, the mistakes were kept to a minimum, and the crowd was absolutely eating it up. On a hot night in Maryland, we saw what this band can still do. See you at Curveball.

RJ Bee is the co-founder of Helping Friendly Podcast and Osiris Media.

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Comments

, comment by sushigradepanda
sushigradepanda This review is a good review. You can acknowledge perceived shortcomings prior to the last show as a way to illustrate how good, how tight, and how undeniably Phishy the show in question was.

Threepirize? Yes, please. All day long.
, comment by TnJedHead
TnJedHead This show is a great example of how high energy and at least a B plus (if not a solid A) on technical proficiency can be very satisfying even without super deep jams, especially for those of us who remember this being the hallmark of Phish in the early 90's. Of course a super deep jam or two could've have pushed this show into contention for #1 of the tour.... And I love it when I still feel like it's just 4 guys goofing off, see the Three-prise for proof. If I had been there, I'm pretty sure I would have felt just like the reviewer leaving the show.

Also, for everyone that has powered through some of Trey's new rig's failings this tour, last night was for you. The Leslie cabinet and the new overdrive sound brought a whole new dimension to 2001. Definitely worth checking out.
, comment by psuphan
psuphan You make a really great point about the variables that play into a great show, and we're kidding ourselves if we don't take this into consideration when we evaluate a show, so I'm glad you built your review on this foundation. These guys love what they do, but it is work, and when's the last time any of us killed it (in relative terms, of course) at our day jobs - I guarantee it's a small minority of us.

Any Phish is better than 95% of everything else out there, so when they have an off night I'll still leave thankful and try not to over analyze. However, when you witness brilliance like we got last night, I wil stand at the alter singing praises and preaching the gospel until I collapse from sheer exhaustion. Hot damn, last night was something else, and I can't wait to see where they go from there.
, comment by whatstheuse324
whatstheuse324 Nice review, I thought last night was absolute fire!

During 2001, when the band segued into the Martian Monster theme, there was the start/stop section for the “woo’s.” I know a lot of people hate the “woo’s,” but the band, especially Trey, seem to love it. I’m all about crowd participation, but can we pick a new collective outburst? Can we bring back “cheesecake!” for start/stop sections moving forward? Any other suggestions are welcome, but the “woo” has been played out. I’m not trying to sound preachy, sorry if it comes off that way, but I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard of creativity like we hold the band to.
, comment by PennPhan
PennPhan THIS show is why I stiil love Phish. That they can bounce back from Saturday's turd of a show to this sheer sparkling gem of joy is a wonderful thing to behold. The only thing I can find to complain about was the fact that I was on my couch, not there. Even the "woooohs" didn't bother me because of the close up shots of how happy Trey was with it.
This one's gonna get a LOT of listens.
, comment by PennPhan
PennPhan @PennPhan said:
THIS show is why I stiil love Phish. That they can bounce back from Saturday's turd of a show to this sheer sparkling gem of joy is a wonderful thing to behold. The only thing I can find to complain about was the fact that I was on my couch, not there. Even the "woooohs" didn't bother me because of the close up shots of how happy Trey was with it.
This one's gonna get a LOT of listens.
Actually, I can find something to complain about, all of the usual idiots who whoop and holler during the delicate quiet parts of "..With" and "Hood." People don't pay good money to hear you so shut the f--- up.
, comment by Lucky
Lucky Perfect review. You really just have to listen to this one, can't really be put into words. A friend of mine told me before this show that Phish has been doing this longer than the dead. Your review lends a lot to that point. To think about where these guys are at this point in their career to be able to still pull of shows like this one say a lot about what we as fans STILL get to experience. Thanks again.
, comment by Jarrod
Jarrod This is a great review! While I'm only a whole 21 shows in at this point (that's lifetime with 16 shows coming since Northerly Island last July) I have to say that last nights show is right there at the top of the heap for me! It was smoking' hot from the start! I'm still experiencing a lot of firsts in the shows I attend. Last night was no exception! My first Three-prise!
Hood is one of my ATF songs and I thought it was played so beautifully last night! The whole show was great and it didn't feel rushed or chopped up!
See y'all at Curveball!!
, comment by CForbin
CForbin So glad you called out the LA Woman jam, I heard it from the pit and was hoping thenwhole song would show up in the encore slot.
Nailed the review - they are as tight as ever and appear to be having a ton of fun. So blessed to see this great show, energy was off the charts esp in the first set. Some nights they just plain have it - this was one of those nights.
, comment by unoclay
unoclay I was there, 10th show Ive seen this tour, and I thought most of the big songs were lacking in depth, especially in the first set. Maybe i was a bit tired, but I still wouldnt put this near my top tier of the shows I caught. Felt like big songs sure, but nothing blew me away--I could definitely be wrong, just my take on it.
, comment by cletus22
cletus22 @whatstheuse324 said:
Nice review, I thought last night was absolute fire!

During 2001, when the band segued into the Martian Monster theme, there was the start/stop section for the “woo’s.” I know a lot of people hate the “woo’s,” but the band, especially Trey, seem to love it. I’m all about crowd participation, but can we pick a new collective outburst? Can we bring back “cheesecake!” for start/stop sections moving forward? Any other suggestions are welcome, but the “woo” has been played out. I’m not trying to sound preachy, sorry if it comes off that way, but I think we should hold ourselves to a higher standard of creativity like we hold the band to.


God I hate those woo's!
, comment by guzzishop
guzzishop Thanks for the review, it's spot on! Kind of rare to see set 1 as good as (or maybe even slightly better than) set 2. I've seen The Curtain With twice now, and this one was absolutely beautiful. Same goes for 2001, this one really made me smile. So did Bug in the encore slot. Overall, a great show!
, comment by Leigh
Leigh Thanks for the great review! And thank for a great show!!!

I have to ask if anyone other than me is having trouble with Trey's guitar tone this tour. I don't know how to describe it: Crunchy, fuzzy, squawking? It sounds excellent where appropriate, but hearing it all the time is a bit monotonous and, in my opinion, inhibits nuance and expressiveness...
, comment by swittersdc
swittersdc @Leigh said:
Thanks for the great review! And thank for a great show!!!

I have to ask if anyone other than me is having trouble with Trey's guitar tone this tour. I don't know how to describe it: Crunchy, fuzzy, squawking? It sounds excellent where appropriate, but hearing it all the time is a bit monotonous and, in my opinion, inhibits nuance and expressiveness...
Thanks! That could be the sound from the Leslie that others have commented on. It pushes the sound of the guitar into the background a bit...but that is switched on and off between jams and songs.
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