Saturday 07/13/2019 by FunkyCFunkyDo

ALPINE1 RECAP: IGNITION

Alpine.

In the “real world,” alpine holds a different meaning: mountain slopes, evergreens; otherwise peaceful, placid, serene - much like the drive through waving, rolling corn fields and green cow pastures that leads into the venue. But in our world, the other real world, Alpine means something a bit different; fire, energy, the summit, not the slopes. The final three shows of summer tour have led us here, to the fire, to the summit – to Alpine.

© Phish 2019 - Rene Huemer
© Phish 2019 - Rene Huemer

“Sand” pulses its way into the opening slot and immediately gets a thunderous reaction from the crowd. Hot. Trey latches his guitar on to someone in the crowd, one person, perhaps, the one person representing the many dancing thousands in attendance, thinks to himself or herself, “He was totally looking at ME!” Whoever you are, good job, as you helped the jam reached a hot peak to start the show.

There are times when a song placement is entirely too perfect. “Tweezer” explodes into the two-slot of the show and amplifies of the energy already seething through the humid, summer air. The forecast on my phone just changed: lightning storms incoming. Mike drops into a hair-raising slap groove, Trey solos like lightning strikes. Fish downshifts the beat into a grimy, opaque groove which all four bandmembers latch onto, then release, into a final few measures of funk. Trey drips on this theme for a bit before nudging his way into “Free.”

“Free” was otherwise standard, save for when both Mike and Trey stepped away from their rigs and up to the front of the stage, delighting the crowd. Showmanship comes in many forms; some rock stars dance around onstage, some flail about with reckless abandon, but Phish’s understated approach, the confidence and bravado that accompanies even the most humble of movements, well, actions speak louder than words, and the extended thunder of the crowd post-“Free” speaks louder yet.

“Turtle in the Clouds” continues the dance party energy. My personal first version I caught live, a song I had been wanting to hear since its debut, it was a delight - especially the, “My friends are dancing on the hillside…” line. Trey was definitely talking to you, controversial hillside dancer. He gets you.

“Set Your Soul Free” reprised some of the smokin’ hot themes from the set-opening “Sand” and despite what this version may “look” like when viewing the official length of the song, the amount of energy concentrated into this version was absolutely not sold short.

Showmanship. A word I touched on earlier, speaking to the humility; the humble nature of Phish's stage presence. Part of their appeal, a big part I will safely assume, is their humanity. Showmanship doesn’t always mean that rock star vibe, the flair, the glamour or glitz. Sometimes showmanship is simple; an effortless ability to connect with your fans, simply by being you. So, seeing the four members of Phish visibly laughing, smiling, interacting with joy and happiness and ease and comfort while they figure out what to play next, it brings a oneness to the show – they’re just like us, these rock stars, they get it, they get me. Making a venue of some 35,000 people seem like you were seeing Phish in your own backyard is something only the best showmen can do. Phish did.

“Lawn Boy” was the choice, post-laughter, and it fit. It fit well. Mike’s bass solo fit so well, in fact, that one anonymous, pantsless (long since pantless at this point, I mean did you hear that “Sand/Tweezer” combo?!) fan, perhaps your author, yelled, “SEX!” (at Mike... he heard me… or, uhm, he heard that person). As did the dozens of fans around me, who gave me the old over-the-shoulder-side-eye-into -> agreeable-head-nod… clearly thinking, “Well, someone had to say it.” Not all heroes wear capes, but I will be wearing a cape for Saturday’s show.

“Camel Walk” struts next into the set and keeps the fun, high-energy swagger of the set scooting along. An energized “Theme From the Bottom” paired with a well-placed and well-played “Rift,” acted as a collective launch pad for our set closer, “Wolfman’s Brother.”

“Wolfman’s” was slimy. Gooey. Primordial. Growling tones from Trey’s guitar. Thick molasses dripping out of Page’s clavinet. Fishman hammering chasms into the earth. Mike, playing rolling thunder. The jam evolves, inching forward, mutating within itself; generations worth of changes happening in an instant as the jam grows legs and sprints to a zealous climax. Charles Darwin rethinks his career.

Setbreak is weird.

© 2019 Graham Washatka
© 2019 Graham Washatka

Really weird. Where are we?! “No Men in No Man’s Land” sashays its way to open set 2. This version had an immediate snarl that wanted to be unleashed. Gnashing gnawing, and wild! Trey teases the theme from Star Wars - the good guys theme, not that Vader theme - we are the good guys after all, we are the men and woman in no man’s land. We are at Alpine. And we are winning. “NMINML” drips notes made of indigo velvet. Dripping deep down in the abyssal plains of the darkest ocean – Mike can withstand the pressure, his notes are now more physical than audible. Trey, however unfortunately, needs to surface.

“Prince Caspian” breaks through the surface tension like a bubble who’s late for work. Popping and fizzling, the jam does not wind down, no, Trey recoils and strikes at the peak. The serene nature of the song now takes on the gnarled edge that was initiated in “NMINML.” Trey’s fierce solo fires like an inverted tornado, swirling notes from the calm surface and blasting them into the peaceful chaos of space. The jam breaks apart as it reaches the stratosphere, and cascades in fragmented pieces back down to earth. Don’t worry, everything’s right.


“Everything’s Right” pops next into the setlist. Continuing its reliability as a jam vehicle, “Everything’s Right” sneaks back into that “NMINML” outro groove, right before the “Caspian” interruption. They knew they had a good pocket in here – patient, aquatic music that sits like a bubble suspended in Jell-O. Trey, perhaps feeling trapped, probes for an escape. A release.

“Roses are Free.” Wow. What a reaction. Easily the loudest, most rowdy moment of the show came during “Roses.” Richter Scales had to be recalibrated, jaws had to be reattached, as the US Geological Society was left wondering what could have caused such ripples flowing through the ground. To science, said the dancing crowd, we thought that we could help.

“2001” rippled spacetime itself, placement wise. The all-too-short jam paired exceptionally well with the preceding “Roses.” The crowd was delighted. The dance moves bordered on any combination of these words: beautiful, sultry, illegal, nude. The police presence in the lot was put on high-alert – “Nah uh … we’re not going near those guys,” said the chief, “Rethinking my line of work… should’ve been a poet.” My pants reached escape velocity - again – and shot themselves clear out the galaxy. Elon Musk looks on, inspired, thinking he should go into the fashion industry.

“The Wedge” jolts its way into the second set. I was not a big fan of this placement, but the song was played well in its own box, but might have it signaled the end of jamming for the night…?

“Light” bursts out of “Wedge” to prove doubters (read: your author) wrong. The jam tiptoes like starlight at twilight, eventually settling into “Plasma.” This sexy midnight jam gets hazy, light dissipating. It chugs along like a rhino through grassland, eventually circling right back into “Light.” This was a well-executed, nearly flawless segment of jamming – don’t be fooled by the song lengths - this is well-connected, cohesive, original improvisation.

“46 Days” was quintessentially hot; a song, like “Everything’s Right,” which has become sneakily reliable wherever it pops up in the set. This ferocious version featured animalistic Trey, roaring at the night sky with a guitar on fire. A humble “Squirming Coil” ends our night. A simple treat. A blissful exit. Showmanship in its simplest, most beautiful form. A big hug.

“A Life Beyond the Dream” lulls its way into the first song of the encore. Beautiful sentiment in the song, but, perhaps not quite matching the energy of the show that came before it. No matter, as a dirty little “Tube” launches us back to one last disco throwdown, recapturing the energy the show had built. Our grateful host, QLEE, had this to say about "Tube," "It was at this moment that I imagined your unbridled joy to be manifested in a rather x-rated version of the Cha-Cha. I saw security look on in awe, and although weren't dancing next to each other, I knew I had to accumulate bail money... quickly." “Grind” sends us home with endearing comedy, leaving us wanting more: more dancing, more laughing, more smiling, more fun.

While this show is not a show that many will revisit on their own accord, it is safe to say that it most definitely has ignited the fire that Phish and Phish fans have come to know and expect at Alpine. It set a tone of fluid, palpable energy, focused micro-jamming, and a collaboration of rock, funk, ambience, and groove, each played with succinct respect, but each yearning to be let out of their confines to go deep. The fuse it lit for the final two shows. Ignition.

© 2019 Graham Washatka
© 2019 Graham Washatka

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Comments

, comment by MindMuse
MindMuse Wonderful review!
, comment by jclan91
jclan91 Loved the review! Matches my experience last night perfectly. Very entertaining and well written. Can't wait for tonight!
, comment by clarkw024
clarkw024 You should review more shows. Alpine sticking to the theme of a lot of summer 19 shows- looks just ok on paper- smokes IRL. Tone has been set, indeed.
, comment by Chicago_Mike
Chicago_Mike Well done. Tonight is going to melt!
, comment by EducateFright
EducateFright Nice job on the review. I loved the colorful metaphors... "It chugs along like a rhino through grassland." LOL!
Ignition, indeed... 2 more shows to go!
, comment by JuniorGong
JuniorGong Phish has an understated approach to showmanship? We are talking about the same band that road in on a giant hot dog and has used trampolines, correct?
, comment by KidCough
KidCough Nice review!! "My pants reached escape velocity - again – and shot themselves clear out the galaxy." Absolute gold buddy! I can relate...and yea, setbreak is really weird. House lights are weird too...
, comment by Millygrace23
Millygrace23 Great review.
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @JuniorGong said:
Phish has an understated approach to showmanship? We are talking about the same band that road in on a giant hot dog and has used trampolines, correct?
This is an interesting point. When it comes to stagecraft I tend to think of Phish collectively as...Type A hippies, you might say. They seem to approach their pranks and bits of 'showmanship' the way they do their compositions and jams, meticulously planning and then absolutely letting go. Think of this year's NYE prank -- Trey and Mike in flying harnesses, jamming away, weirdly not making a big deal of it while they're up there. Smiling like they're just two middle-aged guys playing music, who happen to be swinging on wires above Madison Square Garden instead of in a garage. Composing almost algebraically, then improvising with attentive abandon -- 'rigorously irresponsible,' a phrase I like.

Trey has talked about himself that way. In The Phish Book he described the first set of Halloween 96 as difficult because he was tense about the rehearsals -- they didn't make it through the whole set until shortly before the show as I recall. But then the second set kicked off and he finally let go, just had a good time playing one of his favourite albums. Fundamentally not making too big a deal of the very big deal he and his friends had made.

'Tight/loose,' as we used to say in a slightly different context.

Put another way: with Phish, even the Very Special Nights of Phish can have this shaggy, easygoing quality. Yeah they rode in a hotdog -- but it was just this one hotdog, right? They had George Clinton and his posse onstage, and just kinda...played around. A spectacle but not a U2-on-a-giant-heartshaped-stage spectacle.

The trampolines are just trampolines. They're just a thing they do during this one part of this one song. And thirty years on, they're still just jumping on the goddamn trampolines, which is showmanship so lowkey you don't even notice it anymore. It's silly, but crucially they're not self-serious about their silliness. They do not give a sense of being impressed with themselves, not at all -- that's the earnestness that saves them, which makes them seem like Such Nice Boys to us (inside the tent) where everyone else just hears 'spectacle happened' and assumes it's gaudy rock bullshit.

Anyway -- Dianna can speak for herself, obviously, but this is how I resolve the seeming subtle/showmanship paradox in my own head.
, comment by JMart
JMart @waxbanks said:
@JuniorGong said:
Phish has an understated approach to showmanship? We are talking about the same band that road in on a giant hot dog and has used trampolines, correct?
This is an interesting point. When it comes to stagecraft I tend to think of Phish collectively as...Type A hippies, you might say. They seem to approach their pranks and bits of 'showmanship' the way they do their compositions and jams, meticulously planning and then absolutely letting go. Think of this year's NYE prank -- Trey and Mike in flying harnesses, jamming away, weirdly not making a big deal of it while they're up there. Smiling like they're just two middle-aged guys playing music, who happen to be swinging on wires above Madison Square Garden instead of in a garage. Composing almost algebraically, then improvising with attentive abandon -- 'rigorously irresponsible,' a phrase I like.

Trey has talked about himself that way. In The Phish Book he described the first set of Halloween 96 as difficult because he was tense about the rehearsals -- they didn't make it through the whole set until shortly before the show as I recall. But then the second set kicked off and he finally let go, just had a good time playing one of his favourite albums. Fundamentally not making too big a deal of the very big deal he and his friends had made.

'Tight/loose,' as we used to say in a slightly different context.

Put another way: with Phish, even the Very Special Nights of Phish can have this shaggy, easygoing quality. Yeah they rode in a hotdog -- but it was just this one hotdog, right? They had George Clinton and his posse onstage, and just kinda...played around. A spectacle but not a U2-on-a-giant-heartshaped-stage spectacle.

The trampolines are just trampolines. They're just a thing they do during this one part of this one song. And thirty years on, they're still just jumping on the goddamn trampolines, which is showmanship so lowkey you don't even notice it anymore. It's silly, but crucially they're not self-serious about their silliness. They do not give a sense of being impressed with themselves, not at all -- that's the earnestness that saves them, which makes them seem like Such Nice Boys to us (inside the tent) where everyone else just hears 'spectacle happened' and assumes it's gaudy rock bullshit.

Anyway -- Dianna can speak for herself, obviously, but this is how I resolve the seeming subtle/showmanship paradox in my own head.
Well, that’s about as good an explanation as you’re going to get.
I’ll add that it also seems, STILL, as though they’re trying to make themselves laugh and anyone who wants to laugh with them is free to join, but the party’s happening whether you like it or not.
There’s something so honest about their tomfoolery. They didn’t get into this to avoid day jobs or to get laid or make a shitload of cash. That they’ve done all those things along the way isn’t beside the point. It IS the point. They’ve done it all while still nerding out.
, comment by JMart
JMart They do not give a sense of being impressed with themselves, not at all -- that's the earnestness that saves them, which makes them seem like Such Nice Boys to us (inside the tent) where everyone else just hears 'spectacle happened' and assumes it's gaudy rock bullshit.

I’ll bite on this. Fall ‘97 and Spring ‘98 Trey seemed very aware of exactly how thoroughly they were annihilating almost every night.
The best bands always seem to have a mild, if not outright, contempt for their most devoted followers. I’m thinking of ESP-era Miles Davis, early 2000’s Wilco, and basically every era of Bob Dylan.
While Phish’s contempt was never as complex or virulent, I’m of the opinion that the slavish devotion started to wear on them. And how could it not?
, comment by NipseySlicer
NipseySlicer Love your enthusiasm, but last 3 shows of summer tour are at Dicks . Always . Hope you get a Harpua Sunday night.
, comment by rockinhorn
rockinhorn @NipseySlicer said:
Love your enthusiasm, but last 3 shows of summer tour are at Dicks . Always . Hope you get a Harpua Sunday night.
How is Dicks part Summer Tour when there is a 6 week gap? Especially with TAB hitting the road during said gap.

Dicks is a standalone 3-night run. Always.
, comment by Moutstainz
Moutstainz QLEE sounds awesome!
, comment by JMart
JMart @rockinhorn said:
@NipseySlicer said:
Love your enthusiasm, but last 3 shows of summer tour are at Dicks . Always . Hope you get a Harpua Sunday night.
How is Dicks part Summer Tour when there is a 6 week gap? Especially with TAB hitting the road during said gap.

Dicks is a standalone 3-night run. Always.
True. Everything resets for dicks. It’s its own thing. This year moreso than ever.
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten Great piece! Let’s make this (and the review for Alpine2) the norm. No one wants to read the anal retentive play by play reviews that always seem to mention precisely when the recapper went to the bathroom.
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