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Monday 08/06/2018 by bertoletdown

ALPHARETTA3 RECAP: LIKE A RAZATO TO THE THROAT

We’re 13 shows into an 18-show summer tour, and by this point in the arc of a campaign we would expect to see a band in firm command of its powers. It’s also Sunday, so we’d also expect to see Phish do what they so often do on Sundays: stretch out, bust out, and show out. Let’s plunge right in.

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

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Saturday 07/28/2018 by bertoletdown

FORUM1 RECAP: ANOTHER FORUM FOR 'EM

Phish posted up today for a pair of shows that conclude tomorrow, in the shadow of the construction of a $4 trillion NFL stadium, for a team that three people in L.A. will ever really care about. Surprisingly, it’s the first multiple show run ever for Los Angeles, a city that has exchanged a lot of love with the band over the years, and tonight’s crowd greets the band with waves of encouragement as it slices into a nifty little “Chalk Dust Torture,” the second of the tour.

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

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Thursday 07/19/2018 by bertoletdown

WHY MUSIC EDUCATION NEEDS YOUR HELP MORE THAN EVER

Last month, the Trump Administration proposed Federal government “reforms” that included the consolidation of the Department of Education and the Department of Labor. Whether such a proposal will prevail in this sulfurous crater we call a democracy these days is anybody’s guess. But, symbolically, this proposal is a chilling indication that the administration holds a cynically narrow view of the mission of public education: to process children into productive adult workers.

We strenuously object.

The idea that the scope of public education in the United States should be shrunk—that students should learn on the taxpayers’ dime only what prepares them for life as agreeable worker drones—is not new. For example, since countless other fresh hells have spawned in the last several years, you can be excused for forgetting about that time when the Texas GOP enshrined their opposition to teaching students how to think critically. But it is the nation’s long-wavering commitment to music education that I’d like to talk about today—because it is almost certain to get worse before it gets better, and because you can help.

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Saturday 12/30/2017 by bertoletdown

MSG2 RECAP: AND IT SINGS A PRETTY TUNE

Joyous holidays, phanners! I’m excited for the opportunity to recap tonight’s show for two reasons. First reason, redemption: I could film myself caulking cracks in my driveway and it would surpass the recap we published for last night’s show. We do try to bring the content when you need it most, but we came up short this time. Sorry about that. Second, remembrance: tonight is the twentieth anniversary of 12/29/97-- my first Phish show at the Garden.

More on that later. First, the goods.

Photo © Phish (Patrick Jordan)
Photo © Phish (Patrick Jordan)

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Sunday 07/23/2017 by bertoletdown

THE STRAWBERRIES TASTE LIKE STRAWBERRIES: BAKER'S DOZEN NIGHT 2

Checking in from sunny, hot Los Angeles, at the corner of Peak and Fomo. Let’s see what Phish has up their sleeves tonight, besides the strawberry donut surprise. [But first: three cheers to this concept that the band cooked up with their pals at the estimable Federal Donuts. It’s been the catalyst for a lot of top notch Phish nerdery, conjecture, and fun. Well done!]

Photo © Phish
Photo © Phish

The a capella “Strawberry Fields Forever” that kicks off this unusual show is a lovely opening flourish, with each band member taking a verse, and gamely punching through the Saturday crowd’s semi-drunken appreciation. There’s a dramatic beat before the final “... forever” that baits the crowd much like the pause in “Divided Sky,” and then the strawberry theme carries forward into “Halley’s Comet” as the band takes their places.

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Saturday 12/31/2016 by bertoletdown

MSG3 RECAP: PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT!

12/30. Just four humble digits with a slash in the middle--but with so much history infused in them, and such a high standard implied.

You all know the sluggers. Big CypressMike’s” makes your knees wobble. The MiamiL.A. Woman” stirs your loins. You know exactly when to punch out of the MSGHood” before it segues into “My Soul” and you never skip the encore. Some of these performances are legendary and by now part of most fans’ genetic makeup. The ability to give something extra the night before the big gig and still handle your biz for three sets on NYE is sort of one of Phish’s proven superpowers. Big fans expect big things on this big day.

Photo © Herschel Gelman
Photo © Herschel Gelman

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Saturday 08/27/2016 by bertoletdown

LOCKN' 1: TIME TO PUT YOUR WEENSUIT ON

If you’ve been a fan for a minute, you’ve heard of “festival Phish.”

It’s the mostly pejorative term for a set that’s preciously curated for non-fans who really rolled up to see Bruce Springsteen, Matt & Kim, or some craft yoga emo battalion with seven snare drummers, five fiddles, and three artisanal washboards—but decided to stick it out and finally, passively, see what Phish is all about. These dilute sets nearly always seem to include a “Moma Dance,” a “Down With Disease,” a “Joy,” and a generous helping of unapologetic ripcords.

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Saturday 06/25/2016 by bertoletdown

FLY, FAMOUS ROCKINGBOOK

Phillip Zerbo, fearless and heroic co-editor of The Phish Companion, took a well-deserved victory lap at the legendary rock venue across the street from his new home. Watch this space in the days ahead as our lil' book makes appearances in other notable locales!

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Tuesday 05/24/2016 by bertoletdown

THUNDERBIRD OF A FEATHER: AN INTERVIEW WITH NICK SETTEDUCATO

Over the years, Phish has drawn legitimately creative talents into its orbit. One such talent is Nick Setteducato, the amateur filmmaker behind the stop-motion animated short 2016: A Space Oddity. Nick’s project delighted the online Phish community when it was published last week. We loved it, too, and had a few burning questions for Nick.

Okay, we had a lot of burning questions for Nick. First, here’s the video, because you know you want to watch it again:

2016: A Space Oddity from Nicholas Setteducato on Vimeo.

Nick, you moved to New Zealand 8 years ago to work with Peter Jackson. What do you do with and for him and what are you working on now?

I work for his production company, Wingnut Films. I do photography and help look after Wingnut’s collections and archives, but Peter asks me to help him with a lot of personal imaging projects, using Photoshop and the like.

Do you miss your old home?

I really love Wellington, but I do miss a lot of things about New Jersey. Bagels, Taylor Ham, Star Tavern pizza. My mom still sends me bags of Racioppi’s Taralles. They’re a real North Jersey Italian thing. I’ve shared them with some friends here, and I’m convinced I could make a fortune importing them.

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Sunday 01/03/2016 by bertoletdown

MSG4 RECAP: VAYA CON TWEEZER

“What’s up, 2016 Phish?

“It was a pleasure making your mellow, care-free acquaintance last night.

“You may be able to tell by the fact that I shaved my face and put on my Important Show Sneaks With Funky-Assed Day-Glo Laces that I am looking forward to getting to know you a little better tonight, baby. Please feel free to let your hair down and do the whole Garden thing you do. I’ll be stuck to you the whole time. Like groundscore on your shoe.

“Requests? De moi? Wouldn’t dream of it. Play what you want, but by all means feel free to add some nutmeg and other spice to the “Tweezer” cider you’ve got brewing. Some like it hot, you know what I’m sayin’?

“What’s that, you ask? Why, of course you can dim the lights.”


Photo © @Phish_FTR

The final act of this MSG holiday run boots up with what almost feels like a tease of “Your Pet Cat,” versus a performance. It’s gotten shorter than “Tube” way faster than it took “Tube” to get as short as “Tube” is. Actual statistics may or may not bear me out.

AC/DC Bag” slips into the two slot at what can only be described as a Weir-esque tempo. Message: the quartet from Vermont is going to storm the castle on their own time tonight. Page swings it out on the grand for a few measures, then Kuroda’s HAL 9000 Sentient Wizard Pod sends lighted signals that instruct Trey when to start the climactic trilling. He obeys. He must.

The song... is over.

Gently, Trey begins chording “NICU” on his Ocelot Languedoc (sometimes called “OcelDoc” by rig-nerds and collector types who are so busy buffing pickups that they can’t spare three syllables). “NICU” does not go very well, I’m afraid, possibly owing to the not-having-rehearsed-the-song-at-all thing, or, like, other factors. When properly cared for, this song can propel a set forward and rarely even birth lovely wee jamlets (see: 10/30/98 II). When it’s being crossed off a to-do list, it tends to underachieve.


Photo © @hersch

That makes the selection of “It’s Ice” all the more mysterious. If the relatively elementary changes in “NICU” defy mastery, why dig a deeper hole? Yes, we are sensing a pattern here.

But now, what is this? A “Divided Sky” through yonder window breaks, and despite some missteps, it’s almost as if the Pause in “Divided” is the reset button on this flagging set. The band collectively breathes out the old and breathes in the new, and the music between this moment and the set break is infused with an extra measure of the good stuff.

After a powerful conclusion to “Divided,” a muscular “Axilla” sets the table for “Maze.” While it always has potential to light fire to the building, this “Maze” keeps the pot at a rolling simmer, with the highlight of the song once again arriving before the final peak as Trey transforms into a comp player and serves his Chairman dutifully through the organ run with slashing, atonal chords.

Train Song” marks yet another brief retreat into precious atmospherics, but a deliberate “Julius” punctuates this mostly-wobbly first set with some legit emphasis.

Onto the second, where “Tweezer” is not a question of “if” but “when.” That question is answered promptly – “Tweezer” is NOW.

Through the composed section of this “Tweezer,” my legs withstand beatings from flailing children dancing their little bottoms off, careening here-then-there-then-here. Mike and Page share some lewd instrumental pillow talk during the pre-Ebeneezer funk breakdown, and we are propelled forth into the jam at warp speed.


Photo © Jake Silco

Trey’s hot take is at first quite staccato, leaping from eighth note to eighth note with barely a touch to each string as Mike weaves a bed of luxurious, sustained tones behind him. Both players are pulling the other two behind them, creating an undercurrent of tension as they try to force their way to escape velocity. Fishman, demigod that he may be, can only hold back so long before the floodgates finally burst, and Trey gushes forth with a deeply satisfying blitzkrieg of pentatonic goodness.

There’s another virtual huddle, then a transitional passage with Page in the lead on clav, and finally a frenzied conversation in octaves that precipitates a shift to the major. The first measures of this blissout sound like the Big Cypress Sand jam on 78 rpm, and it’s apparent by now that this “Tweezer” is playing for the win. The band effortlessly moves from a 3-chord major key meditation to monochromatic and then back again, and then once again into blues rock territory, where they craft another peak of sorts with a stop-start jam.

As a bona fide sucker for the breakdown, I wish this could go on longer, but we have other places to go yet! A climbing four-pack of chords generates a jam somewhat akin to “Tweeprise” for a minute or so before “Sand” announces itself. At first and second blush, this is a truly spectacular, must-hear “Tweezer” that for my money may be the jam of the holiday run. Finger-licking great.

“Sand,” while mostly straightforward, is “Tweezer’s” note-perfect disco chaser, and deliciously funky. Just before the 8 minute mark, it is apparent that Mike wants to take this one out there, but Trey ain’t having it. He ties a proper bow on Sand in another minute or two, and introduces “Limb By Limb.” This “Limb” and the “Suzy Greenberg” that follow it don’t pretend to go anyplace special – they’re just solid readings of tried and true utility tunes that glide home easily on the froth and foam of the “Tweezer -> Sand” segment.

The fourth quarter is anchored capably by “Harry Hood” and “You Enjoy Myself,” both of which you can see coming around the corner. Mike assumes a commanding role in the early moments of this “Hood” jam while Fishman dances across his snare. Page moves to his Rhodes, suggesting a moodier direction, and the band slides agreeably into the minor, where they map their rapid ascent. Trey makes something of a tactical blunder in moving to his Whammy for some whale-calls, though, and this takes the wind out of the sails as “Hood” rather clunks to its unremarkable end.


Photo © @Phish_FTR

[Curfew is a factor at this point, in fairness, and it seems Trey wants to let the “YEM” breathe. Fair enough.]

And breathe it does! Versions of this song that contain soloing from Trey are now the exception versus the rule, but this one has a pretty good one with lots of greasy wah. Mike and Fish nail the drums-and-bass section, and this is suddenly one of my favorite straightforward “YEMs” in quite a while.

Lizards,” as always, is bloody gorgeous, its melodies perfect for conjuring a mood of gratitude. Tonight, in this placement and this setting, it feels like a carol, or a benediction. And the ever-thunderous “Tweezer Reprise” is there to make sure those smiles stay chiseled on our faces as we shuffle back – sated – to Our Normal Lives.

A happy, healthy, and prosperous 2016 to all of you, from all of us here at Phish.net! Nos vemos en Mexico!

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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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Sunday 07/26/2015 by bertoletdown

FORUM: THE INCREDIBLE SPEED OF YOUR ROCKET

While I’d never recommend to anybody that they make spontaneous plans to visit Dallas, necessarily, the argument for jumping onto Phish tour amassed another body of evidence with last night’s show at the L.A. Forum.

We are four shows into the summer swing and the band is deliberate, playful, and right where they belong – namely, deeply engaged with one another. Trey and Mike’s onstage bromance – manifested in lots of face-to-face interplay and even a little instrumental spooning – flowered further last night.


Photo by @tweeprise

For Mike’s part, I’m not sure if I’ve seen him as scrutable, engaged, and outwardly happy on a Phish stage in quite some time. As for Trey, it is hard not to conclude that his experience preparing for and playing in the Fare Thee Well celebration has reinvigorated his guitar playing, and in ways that nobody predicted.

The old, tired saw on the Grateful Dead and Phish, of course, goes like this: Phish brought precision and chops to the jam rock idiom that the Grateful Dead weren’t capable of. In fairness, that may have been sort of true a while ago. But none of us are exempt from the taxes of time and age, so in recent years precision and chops aren’t always on the menu when it comes to Phish. Yet in immersing himself in the riffs, techniques, and tones of Garcia’s playing, Trey has somehow rediscovered his Inner Anastasio. He is nailing the tough changes in a way that suggests it really matters to him, cheerfully volunteering for duty as Phish’s leader, prowling the stage, stoking a furnace of creativity, and assertively micromanaging the flow of jams and sets.


Photo by @tweeprise

The Forum crowd was electric and loud right out of the gate last night. The band took the stage to cacophonous roars, conspired for a few seconds, and then charged headlong into “Martian Monster,” which easily vaults into frontrunner status for Least Anticipated Opener of Tour. I confess that I still have trouble understanding where the scripted parts of that song end and the improvisational bits begin (if there are any, really), but I also don’t care very much. I’d take it over the expected perfunctory “AC/DC Bag” seven days of the week and twice on Saturday. A perfect audible.

The crackling energy carried over into a concise but ultra-fiery “Down with Disease” that featured a carefully constructed and gratifying return to the “this has all been wonderful” theme. “Waiting All Night,” a song I genuinely love, didn’t hang together particularly well, however, and precipitated a trough of sorts that encompassed “Heavy Things” (hot-ass organ), “Axilla” (LOUD-ASS organ), and “555.” Trey relished “Limb By Limb,” spinning up melodic gems en route to a scorching peak, but these gains were surrendered by a tossed-off “Ya Mar” that probably sounded like a perfectly reasonable call at the time. Band just couldn’t really play it for shit.


Photo by @tweeprise

Fortunately, there’s “Fuego.” Phish played it in the same room not even a year earlier, so I think a fair number of the fans in attendance were surprised to see it pop up again last night, but it refocused the set, recharged the crowd, and poured the foundation for a powerful and dramatic “Walls of the Cave.” While not nearly as exploratory as the last Forum “Walls” (2/14/03), it sent us into the long set break with cottonmouths and knees of jelly.

No Men In No Man’s Land” opened the second frame right where the first left off, and I spent much of this song watching the throng of dancing dervishes at the back of the floor who were emphatically in it to win it, at any cost. It is easy-breezy to get sucked into this quicksand groove, and Trey’s new Mutron pedal (thanks again, Fare Thee Well!) turns out to be the express train to my cerebral pleasure centers. Various band members seemed to hint at “Ghost” as the “No Men” jam began to fragment, but set that aside for a businesslike run at “Carini” and “Tweezer” (both versions the first of the tour).


Photo by Dave Vann © Phish From the Road

It’s at this point that I’m probably expected to complain in calibrated fashion about the fact that the “Carini” -> “Tweezer” sequence was short and not especially adventurous. Yep, those two statements are factually true, and it’s also at least arguably true that “My Friend, My Friend” intruded upon the “Tweezer” just as it was starting to cook. But I didn’t mind a bit at the time, and even in playback it was a fun fifteen minutes. Moreover, there was nothing at all to complain about whatsoever in the following three tunes – neither the boiling tension of “My Friend,” nor the timely caress of “Roggae,” nor the machine gun fusillades of “Backwards Down the Number Line” (played in honor of Chris Kuroda’s birthday, or so I am told). The expected “Slave to the Traffic Light” closer – and the first L.A.-area “Slave” since Pauley Pavilion in 1996, strangely enough – found Mike and Trey toe-to-toe at center stage trading licks as they ascended to a deeply satisfying climax.


Photo by @stim_buck

Finally: Be it resolved that Phish should always encore with “You Enjoy Myself.” I always want to be sent home by “YEM,” and to be sent home with this unique and spirited version was especially sweet. By now you have seen the photos of Trey and Mike making the human guitar pretzel, which was certainly a nifty little parlor trick. The music produced during this section was not nearly as compelling as the “drum + bass” passage that followed, which was thundering and melodic and just plain huge. I’m told Bill Walton made it to the rail to get down to this “YEM,” but I suppose I couldn’t pick him out of the crowd...

There’s lots of good news in the emerging arc of this tour, fans. Phish’s playing is consistent enough right now that three of the first four shows could support arguments for best show of tour so far, and Bend I gets a pass because it was the opener. Devotees of the long jam will probably lean Shoreline, and devotees of the unusual setlist will probably lean Bend II, but devotees of the carefully assembled start-to-finish show may find their bliss in last night’s Forum gig. [Discuss.]

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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Thursday 01/01/2015 by bertoletdown

MIAMI1 RECAP: RESERVED FOR SERPENTS, SNAILS AND SLUGS

For me, 2014 was full of death and fracture and noise; a year to be ceremoniously booted in the ass and sent packing. It was brightened and softened in its waning days by the news of not one, not two, but three wedding engagements, and by the arrival of a few beautiful bouncing babies. But like many in my family and circle of friends, I couldn’t be happier about turning this page.


Photo by Scott Harris

These inverted holiday runs don’t lend themselves to that kind of punctuation. Expectations peak before the music has a chance to simmer and build flavor. You could argue that the band does itself a disservice by starting a run on New Year’s Eve (or Halloween, for that matter), and a few people I know who wouldn’t dream of missing NYE at MSG took a pass on Miami for just that reason, so it’s a safe bet that the crowd assembled for these shows in Miami is a die-hard and devoted bunch.

The band spends most of the first set validating the couch tour contingent’s decision to skip the trip, and dipping their toes into the pool. There are scattered moments worthy of note, like Page’s stinging Hammond leads in “555” and some spirited chicken picking from Trey in “Heavy Things.” The culminating “ASIHTOS” manages to transcend the cautious and contained quality of what happened before it, and promise bigger things in set two.


Photo by Scott Harris

Despite stumbling out of the gates with a rather clumsy and truncated take on “Birds of a Feather,” the band delivers on that promise with an electrifying second frame. “Ghost” demonstrates major potential in its composed section, with the entire band feeling loose and comfortable for what feels like the first time all night. After a few minutes of improv, the harmonic mood brightens and we’re treated to a homeward stroll through sunkissed pastures. The approach for the first half of this jam is classic “WentGin’”: a patient meditation on primary colors. The band then retreats to the minor, seemingly ready to end the song, but Trey has bigger plans and decides to break off some climactic blues riffs before succumbing to the allure of deep space.

Theme From The Bottom” surfaces from the ooze. It is hard to quarrel with second set “Themes,” especially when they are given their proper due. During the “from the bottom / from the top” vocal coda, Trey has another “we’re not done yet” moment and begins scratching on his strings. Fish picks up on this immediately and proposes a second jam that quickly veers into thrilling and chilling territory. Trey takes a back seat to both Mike and Page here, content to let them steer a bit, and Page drops a few “They Attack!” samples before we slide deftly into the most creative and inspired “Cities” since Berkeley 2010.

If you take your Phish loose and playful like party conversation, this is your jam. The band eschews showboating and huddles together in one of those “only Phish” moments of musical brotherhood to assemble something truly beautiful. “Cities” is unduly interrupted, alas, by a “Chalk Dust Torture” that fails to earn its second set stripes, but which hardly diminishes the distilled triumph of the “Theme” -> “Cities” sequence.

Martian Monster,” complete with album samples, lays to rest any doubt that this year’s Halloween material will find a berth in the repertoire. Page does some terrific headfucking on his Nord here before migrating to his clav and driving the band to a frenzied peak… and that’s all she wrote for set two.


Photo by @thebigmic33

The gag that opens the midnight set will go down as one of the band’s least memorable ones, if I had to guess. The best part of it may well be the Phish debut of “Dem Bones,” which immediately takes its place as the most satisfying a capella tune the band does these days. “Auld Lang Syne” spills into “The Dogs,” which is over before it begins, but which surrenders to an action-packed “Tweezer” that expends everything that’s left in the band’s reserve tank. This classic song saw something of a retreat in 2014 after a legendary showing in 2013, so it is gratifying to see the year end with a heroic version of this caliber.

Unfortunately, there’s little to recommend of what remains in this final set, all of which feels devoid of purpose and just a bit flat (save for a few measures of raw power in “Bug”).

But hey: it’s the first of four nights, and the highlights tonight were hardly anything to sneeze at. The “Theme” -> “Cities” combo stands up to anything Phish has played in 2014, and that’s something I never imagined I’d be saying. Keep your knees loose, folks, and have a wonderful 2015!

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Saturday 11/01/2014 by bertoletdown

NO... WE ARE EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES

It’s a feat worthy of mention for an artist (or anyone for that matter) to reach a new pinnacle at precisely the same time as they hit rock bottom.

I don’t have much to say this morning about the show, or the costume set last night. I bet it was wonderful if you were there. I enjoyed what I was able to piece together after paying $30 to experience it in the comfort of home, with friends, on a holiday weekend evening. With that said, let me button up the praise section of this blog and move on to the impolite truths that matter.

Phish:

I don’t want my $30 back. Keep it.

I don’t want your glibly-proffered credit for a future webcast. That’s not what I paid for. At all. Keep it.

I don't want defensive, tone-deaf tweets noting that "many could connect... without an issue." Many people made it onto the lifeboats the night The Titanic sank, but that was cold comfort to those who did not.

What I want is for you to snap out of your interminable sleepwalker's trance and stop neglecting your distribution. I want you to stop behaving as if LivePhish and Nugs aren’t you, and as if the quality of your art shields you from criticism over the quality of its presentation -- which for most of your thousands of your loyal fans and customers last night ranged between non-existent (first 30-40 minutes) to maddeningly pixelated and glitchy (remainder of the night).

Your fans have been extraordinarily patient. We have politely endured years of burpy, buffering streams, surfacing to remark publicly on it after only the worst cases. Are you aware that these problems are chronic? Do you know that last night’s webcast debacle is notable more for when it transpired than how it transpired? We’re used to this shit; we’re just not used to it ruining a high holy day.

Your site traffic metrics aren’t published and I’m not sure how many people opened their wallets last night to watch at home, but I’m willing to bet your webcast audience was at least 2-3 times the audience you had assembled in the room last night. I could be shy by a factor of four or five for all I know. And while it doesn’t necessarily follow from that that our experience is more important, nor does it follow that we should be your careless afterthought.

What you don’t seem to understand is that it doesn’t need to be this way. Live event streaming on the internet stabilized years ago, and bands and festivals have been delivering seamless high-definition concerts to home audiences since before you reformed in 2009. There are vendors capable of managing this for you flawlessly, in their sleep. Yet you insist on fielding the junior varsity.

I don’t know why. No one understands. Maybe Nugs doesn’t take the same scrape off the revenue pile that more qualified hosts do. Perhaps Brad Serling smells nice, or always buys the pizza. Maybe you’re just loyal people who believe in dancing with who brung you.

But Nugs didn’t brung you. We brung you. The party host sitting at home pounding refresh while her party guests politely try to figure out something else to do to pass the time while Phish (notice I didn't say "LivePhish") wets the bed? She’s the one who matters, and she’s holding you accountable now.

Not your partner.

You.

You aren’t the first artists to mistakenly imagine that distribution is someone else’s concern, but you don’t need to cling to errant assumptions. The time has long since passed for you to get this right. Nugs didn’t have a bad night; Nugs is a bad partner who’s either incapable or unwilling to address fundamental issues of quality, customer experience, and brand equity, and you need to expedite your divorce before your friends stop returning your calls.

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Tuesday 10/14/2014 by bertoletdown

REMEMBERING LARRY AND DENISE BRESSLER

With a great burden weighing on our hearts, we would like to share that our community lost two beautiful people when Larry and Denise Bressler were slain in their Pasadena, CA, home yesterday. While the circumstances are gruesome and not entirely known, we do know that Larry and Denise had taken in a family member who had fallen on hard times and was trying to right his course. This kind of generosity and kindness surprised no one who knew them, but it cost them an unthinkable price.

Larry was a chef and a teacher. As the General Manager of Chefs Center in Pasadena, he helped young chefs and restaurateurs reach their dreams. While many of us struggle to find even one true passion, let alone turn that passion into a life's work, Larry had fully developed two of them in his 50 years: food and music. He mused often about the similarities between the harmonies of flavor and the harmonies of sound. His talent and his boundless enthusiasm earned him the honor of cooking for many professional musicians, and that was his favorite thing to do in the whole wide world. If you've played at High Sierra Music Festival, chances are you've savored Larry's cooking backstage – quite possibly with Larry sitting beside you, asking about you, your bandmates, and where your tour would take you next.

Larry's commitment to personal growth was an inspiration to so many. He was a fixture at the Wharf Rats table, the Phellowship, and more, and coached countless people to sobriety over the years. After losing 180 pounds in his own heroic battle with food addiction, he had a brand new life stretched out before him full of health, possibilities, friends, music – and, of course, his beloved Denise (who had a pure singing voice whose power seemed almost impossible, coming as it did from a woman of her modest stature).

I was lucky enough to be Chef Larry's humble student, if informally, in both cooking and in life. He cooked beside me Saturday afternoon, pulling my ass out of the proverbial fire more than once, and refusing to leave until the job was done even though I'd made him and Denise terribly late for Tom Petty. After the show, they came back and had a plate. He wanted to talk about Phish and the upcoming shows here. We had no idea we were saying goodbye.

Though their Facebook walls are technicolor outpourings of love and despair from coast to coast and beyond, it is impossible to express how deeply this cuts, and for so many. This loss and this inexplicable absence will be profoundly felt and displayed out there this Fall, but there is nothing Larry and Denise would want more than for their friends to dance the pain away. Please do not underestimate the value of an understanding hand on a shoulder, or a held glance, or a smile over these next few weeks. We sure could use it about now.

Farewell, good friends. We love you, always.

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Sunday 08/03/2014 by bertoletdown

RECAP: PENULTIMATE PELHAM

Tonight, Oak Mountain Amphitheatre hosts the 21st and second-to-last show of Phish’s 2014 summer season. Tomorrow’s capper in Alpharetta will close the books on a tour that has left smoking craters in its wake and paid off with a consistency that rivals fall 2013. With one or two minor exceptions that are probably better left unnamed, the band has played with purpose, patience, and fire at every stop this summer, spinning ideas into moments and moments into grand, cathedral proclamations.

On a few of these nights (like the second night of Merriweather, which is by now a shopworn reference) it has seemed as if Phish could do no wrong. The band’s own social media stream suggests that they are doing a whole mess of rehearsing out there on the road (as distinguished from sound-checking), which would certainly explain in part the confidence and surefooted execution we have seen so far.


Photo © Phish, Phish From the Road

Other forces are probably at work as well. Dropping covers out of the repertoire almost entirely (an extrapolation of the winning strategy the band adopted over the holiday run at MSG) has made room for them to focus on and celebrate their original material. Sure, this tradeoff cuts both ways (because who doesn’t miss seeing “Drowned," “Rock and Roll," and “Crosseyed and Painless” in the rotation?), but it does appear to net out as a positive. To these ears, JEMP is in their happy “tight but loose” place that makes them Jedi-level dangerous.

Out here on summer tour, there is no try, only do.

The circuit is complete.

Signs point to “yes.”

So let’s get this show on the road.


Photo © Peter Burrage

AC/DC Bag” proves a suitable introduction for what will prove to be a straightforward but satisfying first set full of bangers. Trey fires off some stinging chicken-pickin’ licks en route to a quick climax before we tumble hastily into a ragged-but-right “Poor Heart." Trey begins the first “Cities” of 2014 on the C# instead of the D, but recovers nicely and goes on to delight the crowd with a Birmingham reference and improvised lyrics. It’s a dank and laconic version appropriate for a warm southern evening. Welcome back, “Cities”!

A surefooted but short “Kill Devil Falls” follows, then Trey atypically introduces “Reba” before playing it. Like every other “Reba” this summer and every “Reba” since the truck set at MSG, this one is dealt face-up and flawless. Short? You bet, not unlike a 1992 version, and every bit as spic-and-span.


Photo © Pete Mason

A very forward-leaning theme has emerged by this point: short, sharp shocks, one after the other, all in the service of a proper Saturday night rock and roll show.

Possum” is tonight’s nod to Skynyrd-style boogie, and features some unconventional tones from Page during his solo. “Sample in a Jar," often clam-baked in recent years, comes off without a single hitch, and with some surplus oomph. The ensuing “Funky Bitch” is nice and hot, too.

But the first bona fide exclamation of the night comes courtesy of Page, who simply manhandles his organ break in “Maze." His solo section has been the highlight of many recent versions, and not only for his playing; Trey really seems to dig the comping role in this part of the jam as well. The Chairman earns a titanic peak in this version as the band gathers yet more momentum.


Photo © Phish, Phish From the Road

“Maze” is followed in rapid succession by a syrupy, bluesy “Ocelot," then “Sparkle” and “Cavern” (which implodes to the band’s apparent amusement when Trey biffs a lyric in the second bridge and everybody, like, stops playing and stuff). By this point the set is already running north of 80 minutes, and most action is on the “end of set” outcome.

Instead, we’re treated to “Wingsuit," which works remarkably well as a first set walk-off. Its lyrics promise adventure ahead, and its outro section combines root chakra thrust with emotional depth. One of the unique and memorable moments in this version arrives courtesy of Mike Gordon, who lays down a bed of rolling thunder during the typically-silent section just before the jam. The song serves as a dramatic capstone to a first set that bodes well for the remainder of the night.


Photo © Phish, Phish From the Road

The second frame kicks off with “Carini," whose gangster lean may have developed just the slightest hitch after 2013. In fairness, this is probably the result of a deliberate attempt to spread the jam around to other songs a bit after letting it dominate nearly every show in which it appeared last year. “Ghost” surfaces next, sans segue, and like nearly every song played tonight, it does not fuss around. This “Ghost” cuts straight to the high speed chase, almost like a first set version from 1997, and beelines to a majestic and white hot peak. WentGin” is bandied about as a reference point during this jam, which (it should be stressed) is more an allusion to the approach and structure rather than its majesty or durability. This outstanding “Ghost” evokes a “Drowned” jam in places and glances past “Simple” on its way to “Mike’s."

In keeping with the theme of the show, “Mike’s” is launched out of a cannon. Trey scurries to his Echoplex almost immediately once the verses are done, and for the next several minutes simply breathes fire from his cabinets. This might be one of the shorter Mike’s in history, even as compared with the truncated 3.0 standard, but it is nonetheless blistering, spine-tingling, electrifying. It egresses predictably into the “Simple” that has already been teased, and which churns up a quite a nice dust cloud itself. Very cool “Simple," this, driven along by the rhythm section and awash in weirdness in a way most are not. According to several accounts from the show, “Simple” is accompanied by a meteor burning up in the atmosphere above Pelham, which serves as an apt metaphor for the show itself.


Photo © Phish, Phish From the Road

Now “Joy” steps forward to occupy the power ballad spot. Placement will always be the hobgoblin of songs like this, but this “Joy” comes across as a well-earned and well-executed palate cleanser, not deflating in the least. Not so with the “Weekapaug” that follows, which nearly ends before it begins for lack of a compelling direction. So it is on a Saturday, very often, and so it is with “Julius."

Phish reclaims nearly all of its lost momentum with “Sand," which like the “Mike’s” and the “Ghost” before it wastes no time accessing interstellar space. Mike pushes against harmonic boundaries here while Fishman holds down a rock solid pocket. Trey escorts “Sand” to a smoldering climax before resolving it quietly, then Page turns to the grand and introduces “Wading in the Velvet Sea." On paper, “Wading” suggests ballad overload, but it’s hard to deduct points when Phish has been charging so hard all night long. And it’s not like they’re about to limp across the finish line; the set closes with the first Alabama “YEM” since 1999. It’s a classic version with a scorching solo from Trey and a percussive and evil vocal jam.


Pelham, AL LE poster by Michael Gaughan, with Dan Black from Landland

Encore chatter centers around “Fuego," which has been performed at every other venue on this tour, but it’s not to be (which is perfect if you’re the sort of fan who likes to see the band confound expectations). Instead, we’re treated to “Quinn the Eskimo," a song I’d gladly hear at every single show, and which probably punctuates this gig more fittingly than would a prog opus.

A jam purist who glances at the setlist and timings might be tempted to skip over this show. Big mistake. There is a time and a place for a show like this, and I can’t think of any better time and place than a summer Saturday in the south. Give it a spin, and cinch up your seatbelt just a little for “Maze," “Wingsuit," “Ghost," “Mike’s," “Simple” and “Sand."

See you all Sunday in Alpharetta!


Setlist Pictogram © Joseeen (available at Etsy)

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Wednesday 06/18/2014 by bertoletdown

REVIEW: FUEGO

“There’s nothing to say / And nothing to lose.”

It’s been nearly eight months since Phish stepped to the line and unveiled nine of the ten songs that would come to make up Fuego. Lots of words have been written and lots of air expelled in the intervening time debating whether they got nothing but air or nothing but net that night. Finally, the album’s release gives us all an opportunity to release from those modes ourselves, and examine these songs anew. As they richly deserve.

I’m not sure why it took the band this long to get around to it, but I can guess. Whatever your take on the Joy songs in the live setting, it was a milestone album for Phish. It is their resurrection hymnal, their Easter Mass – both a celebration of their new life and an exhalation of relief for having stared down artistic and human mortality as brothers and prevailed (at least for now).

So how do you follow that act? Another concept album? About what collective passage or triumph, exactly? What do you have to say?

What’s your point?

[Oh, and please hurry up! The fans are waiting.]

If Joy bore witness to Phish’s urgent rebirth, Fuego bears witness to their settled maturity. They are now a band with very little if anything to prove. That state of mind has pros and cons. You’ve got permission to fall flat on your face without the fear that you won’t be able to get back up. But it can also diminish your edge, your urgency, your desire to go out there every night and deliver your audience the proper rock rogering they deserve.

Both dynamics are on display here, among many others. With the exception of a few tracks, this is not a party record. There is no “Down with Disease,” or even a “Moma Dance.” A gauze of melancholy drapes over most of the material. Fist pumping opportunities do not abound. On the other hand, Phish is most definitely taking bigger risks than they were in the Joy sessions, and some of them pay off.

The opening title track is one such risk. You have to look back at least as far as “Scents and Subtle Sounds," and “Walls of the Cave” before that, to find a Phish composition as densely proggy and with as much potential for improvisation as “Fuego.” Producer Bob Ezrin – a bona fide wizard and Badass Motherfucker – gets out of the way here, resists the temptation to gild the lily, and lets the song’s Rorschach inkblot essence emerge.

The result is absolutely spectacular. “Fuego” can be deeply appreciated from a number of different angles: its hooks, its movement, or its lyrics, which offer plenty of slack line for delving interpretation, but can just as easily be experienced viscerally, like an abstract painting. Hear it as GAF View-Master flashes of a midlife crisis gone horribly awry. Hear it as the triumph of abandon over madness. Hear it your way, but hear it, because it’s the goods.

What follows “Fuego” is a six song progression that might be described as relentlessly polite. Or purposefully sedate. Phish for waiting rooms. These songs are not bad, in fact they all have their charms. They simply tend to blend into one another.

Phish has a few cool “moment of truth” songs – from “Llama” to “Limb By Limb” – and “The Line” is a swell addition to that quiver. As a college hoops nerd, I fantasize that one day it will replace “One Shining Moment,” and I’m not convinced that wasn’t Phish’s ulterior motive for writing it.

Devotion to a Dream” benefits quite well from the studio treatment; I just wish I could put my finger on what it reminds me of once and for all. The elegant “Halfway to the Moon” boasts a chord progression that goes down like a complex whiskey, revealing new flavors ever so subtly as it rolls past your tongue and into your throat. Gun to my head, it’s my second favorite track on the album. Superb.

Winterqueen,” a delicate ballad in the vein of “Anything But Me," marks Fuego’s energetic low ebb, but suddenly we are awakened by new sounds: horns! We’ll hear these horns a few times more, but here they herald the start of the climb upward toward the album’s climax. Densely layered keyboards lend a bit of gravity to the pop confection of “Sing Monica," and “555” serves to remind us that Phish still has a dangerous rhythm section. More horns and a cascade of gospel voices lift this joint right over the top – so convincingly that it’s already hard to imagine the song without them.



Waiting All Night” is eerie and impossible to ignore, like one of those hyper-produced 10CC breakup songs from the mid-70s. Phish paints something here that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen: a lingering, cool, but intensely psychedelic portrait of distilled sadness. Yes, there are reasons not to love this tune on paper, but it is compelling through headphones.

Though it earns bonus points for its goofball ambition, the first half of “Wombat” suffers from a dearth of musicality. It’s not the first time the band has sounded as if they’re satirizing themselves or taking the piss, but it sounds the way an ill-fitting suit looks. The second half (“post explosion” – those who’ve listened will know what I’m talking about) is viral and greasy but over all too soon. It will be interesting to see what direction this tune goes over the next tour or two.

“Wingsuit” makes a much better ending than it did a beginning, back when it was a “title track.” The song is, after all, a benediction – an exhortation to cast aside fear and live fully. Trey’s concluding solo is nothing short of breathtaking, and a graceful denouement to it all.

Of all the Phish fans I know, precious few regularly listen to the band’s studio output. Fuego may not do much to change that, but maybe that’s beside the point. Maybe the point is illustrated by the album’s cover, which depicts a team of giant old-timey baseball players warming themselves around a thermonuclear fireball.

Or maybe there is no point. And maybe that’s okay.



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Wednesday 01/01/2014 by bertoletdown

MSG4 RECAP: MESSAGE RECEIVED

New Year’s Day is known more for restraint than indulgence, but I’d like to indulge in a little departure from the norm. Usually I tackle these recaps in a pretty linear fashion, as that’s the way shows tend to unfold for me, and I feel that descriptions of what the band played and how they played it are typically the best way to synthesize a performance.


But last night’s show was different. You felt it whether you were there or whether you were streaming it in your living room. I don’t believe most Phish shows spell something, or have a point to make apart from communion (which is point enough). I don’t listen between the notes for life guidance, nor do I imagine that the band wants me to. But last night was that rare bird: a statement show.

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Thursday 11/07/2013 by bertoletdown

PHISHING POLL THURSDAY, VOL. 10: BEST OF WINGSUIT

And we're back! Did you miss us? Let's go right after the elephant in the room, shall we?

Below the fold, you can use your thumbs to tell us what Wingsuit tunes you think most deserve a permanent home on the new album and in the repertoire. The staff here definitely has our own favorites, but this is about you, so get in there and get dirty. The action's in the comments...

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Sunday 11/03/2013 by bertoletdown

RECAP: AC3, CK5, AND P30+

If you’re Phish, Halloween is a high-pressure gig. But what about the act of drawing the curtain on a tour like this one? Before we delve into AC3, let’s put it into context.

Before tonight, the tour consisted of 11 shows in 14 days. Those 11 shows produced no fewer than 8 essential jams. By “essential,” I mean that someday your roommate at the seniors home is going to doze off listening to you gush about them for the millionth time. Two of these jams were “Tweezer” (Hampton and Hartford), and two of them were “Carini” (Hampton and AC). Of the remaining four, three of them deserve mention in any conversation about all-time versions: the Hartford “Golden Age,” the Reading “Disease,” and the AC “Twist.” Rounding out the list is a behemoth in its own right: the Worcester “Drowned.”

Not too shabby -- and that’s barely the half of it.

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Thursday 10/24/2013 by bertoletdown

GLENS FALLS, AND FISH'S (UNSEEN) BALLS

I’m not going to lie: I fucked up.

The “why” isn’t important. I just did. I flat-out forgot I had volunteered for recap duty tonight, and I have been so dually preoccupied with work and a gnarly case of the crud to even realize there was a webcast. Yes, I made it home and dialed in the feed in time to catch the very beginning of “Limb By Limb," but if I tried to pretend I knew what happened before then (apart from what songs were played), I just couldn’t live with myself.

So I asked some other staffers about the first half of the first set, and here’s what they told me:

One replied, “I’m not streaming.”

Another offered, “I had technical difficulties for half the set. Then I got really high off a candy. Now I’m hiding under a Slanket.”

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Wednesday 10/16/2013 by bertoletdown

PHISHING POLL THURSDAY, VOL. 9: JUKEBOX TOUR

It's been a gas to watch all the musical costume chatter from our users these past few weeks. The staff is every bit as wound up for the big AC reveal, and the anticipation put us in a nostalgic way about a spate of shows during the Summer 1998 U.S. tour when Phish dared to don a musical costume nearly every night (even if only a song at a time).

The resulting flurry of debut covers -- some intentionally ironic, some unspeakably poignant, but all completely unexpected -- gave rise on rec.music.phish to the nickname "Jukebox Tour." The moniker didn't last, of course, and some of the output has even faded from memory for me personally (Wait, Phish played "Running With the Devil"?! Really?! Yep!), but that made it even more fun to revisit. We hope you'll enjoy with both ears and both thumbs.

[NOTE FOR THE ANALLY FIXATED: This is a list of debut cover songs from the Summer of 1998. Anybody who complains that established covers played during the Summer of 1998 were not included, or that debut covers from some other tour were not included, or that the "California Love Jam" that's not a song was not included, will be dipped in honey and fed to fire ants. Thank you, The Management.]

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Wednesday 10/02/2013 by bertoletdown

PHISHING POLL THURSDAY, VOL. 8: BOO!

"Ghost."

It's a wisp of a song, yet one of the band's most versatile canvases. It can become a melting reactor core, a V8 ghetto glide, a starship awakening in the cradle of a distant nebula, or a lurking menace. And 'tis the season: If Winter Phish is "Tweezer," Spring Phish is "Reba," and Summer Phish is "Bathtub Gin," then Fall Phish is surely "Ghost."

To mark and celebrate the onset of autumn, we want to hear about your favorite "Ghost." And this Ranker comes with a bit of a twist: we are letting our users start with a blank canvas. We haven't named a single contender . . . not that we could name just one if we tried. [Edit: Well, we had to name one to create the poll. What better to start with than the studio version?]

Please add your selection using this format: Ghost YYYY-MM-DD. Thanks!

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Thursday 09/19/2013 by bertoletdown

PHISHING POLL THURSDAY, VOL. 6: BEST FISHMAN SONGS

Norton Charleton Heston. Bob Weaver. Henrietta.

Sneezeblood Eyeball.

Call him what you will, the truth remains: Jon Fishman is Phish's one, true, natural-born showman. Though threadbare of garment and hairbare of head, the man knows how to own a song like nobody else.

Pick one favorite Fishman tune? A fool's errand for sure. So we made it easier for you by including only those that have at one point been accompanied by HYHU. And, as usual, you can always click through and vote for (or against) more than one . . .

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Thursday 09/12/2013 by bertoletdown

PHISHING POLL THURSDAY, V5: FALL TOURS TO REMEMBER

With the sounds of summer so fresh in our minds, it's hard for us to fathom that the first Fall Tour since 2010 (and the third since 2000) is right around the corner. But it is!

If you are as giddy about that as we are, it's with good historical reason: Phish's autumn excursions have yielded some of the band's most enduring performances and have marked quantum leaps in Phish's song catalog, stagecraft, and improvisational prowess. And while it's no easy task to pick a favorite from the bunch, we know you're game. Once again, we're giving you the full monty (sans staff bias) so limber up your thumbs and hash it out in the comments.

And hey, don't forget to bring a bulky wool sweater.

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Thursday 09/05/2013 by bertoletdown

PHISHING POLL THURSDAY, V4: FIRST SETS OF SUMMER


First sets matter.

Above all else, the first half of a Phish show is about the band stretching, getting their sea legs, reading the venue, and establishing a connection with the audience; ideally, a feedback loop of energy that can turn a second set into something truly special. And sometimes, a first set is worth well more than the price of admission.

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Sunday 09/01/2013 by bertoletdown

DICK'S NIGHT TWO RECAP: TOBT2JS4LCRGGBHTHFYWAB!

With night one’s hit-&-miss prank in the books and the band liberated from the need to spell something, it’s back to business as usual for night two. When you’re talking Phish Dick’s, of course, business as usual can prove to be unusually potent. Let’s get right to the action.

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Thursday 08/22/2013 by bertoletdown

PHISHING POLL THURSDAY #2

Thanks to our community for the response and feedback to last week's inaugural "Best Jams of Summer" poll. Predictably, it was a cakewalk for the Tahoe "Tweezer," with the PNC "Crosseyed" and the Hollywood "Hood" placing and showing.

But hey, we were the real winners. In fact, we had so much damn fun we decided to do it again.

This time, since we're doing some fine tuning with Clark and team at Ranker, we thought we'd keep it light. As it happened, we recently got our hands on the lot vendor roster for Dick's, and suffice it to say you may wish to... eat before arriving...

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Thursday 08/15/2013 by bertoletdown

INTRODUCING PHISHING POLL THURSDAYS! (V1)

Comparing, contrasting, and ranking is a rite of fandom. We do it instinctively, compulsively, as an expression of our devotion. The staff here at Phish.net embraces it internally, and now we'd like to invite our users in on the game.

With help from our friends at Ranker, we're glad to introduce a new blog feature called Phishing Poll Thursdays, which will give you the opportunity each week to rank a list of our choice -- some serious, some not-so-serious, and some downright absurd.

We kick off today with a topic that's on everybody's tongue during this brief respite between the standard issue summer tour and the coda of Dick's: your favorite jams of summer so far. Below the fold, you'll find a self-explanatory widget where you can register your favorites, and we encourage you to defend and debate your rankings in the comments section. We've started you off with our list of serious contenders, but you can feel free to add your own if you feel we've given the short shrift to a jam you love.

Ready, set, go!

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Saturday 07/27/2013 by bertoletdown

GORGE 1 RECAP

1900 miles separate Chicago and George, WA, home of The Gorge Amphitheatre. That’s already a long way to schlepp a band the size of Phish, but the plan was there’d be nearly a week to do it. Then the Toronto show got flooded out, forcing the band to jog eastward another 500 miles for a Monday makeup gig – instead of westward toward Washington at what one imagines would have been a leisurely pace. Like the forces majeures that plagued the first half of summer tour, it’s the kind of unforeseen circumstance that demands teamwork and improvisation. A test of the band’s mettle.

So what’s the verdict? Will we see a road-weary Phish tonight, or a battle-hardened unit that takes the stage at The Gorge with clear heads, full hearts, and a shared desire to win their westward campaign? Let’s find out.

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Thursday 07/18/2013 by bertoletdown

ALPHARETTA 2 RECAP

Hang with me a minute...

If you stipulate that this tour ends at the Hollywood Bowl instead of Dick’s (which happens three and a half weeks later and is... well... Dick’s) then we’re nearing the halfway mark of summer tour 2013, with tonight being the 10th show of 22. Wow. Time flies when you’re having fun, and it’s safe to say that tonight’s show in Alpharetta had fun in spades. In fact, each successive outing now feels more playful and sure-footed than the one before it, and that can only be a good thing, right?

Right.

Tonight’s first set kicks off with a “Runaway Jim” that meanders through a breezy sonic meadow before being propelled to a quick peak by Mike Gordon’s insistent bass lines. [“Jim” is typically on the shorter side when played as an opener and this is no exception.]

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Saturday 07/06/2013 by bertoletdown

SPAC1 RECAP

Phish is sort of like golf.

It’s hard to step onto the tee box after six months without swinging a club and blast a drive right down the middle. Hitting buckets in the off-season can help keep the swing in tune, but sometimes it’s hard to make time for that when you’re a parent, or you just debuted your first Broadway musical, or there are elite symphonies who want to play with you. That kind of stuff.

Phish didn’t slice one out of bounds in Bangor on Wednesday, but let’s just say they missed the fairway wide right and dropped an uneven tour opener that was destined to be largely forgotten by time Dick’s rolls around, save for a few sparkling moments. But if anybody deserves a mulligan now and then, it’s Phish, no?

Fore!

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Wednesday 06/26/2013 by bertoletdown

REVISITING HOLLYWOOD BOWL

Summer 2013 marks Phish’s second visit to the Hollywood Bowl, a beloved concert destination for artists and patrons tucked squarely in the heart of America’s pop-cultural capital. L.A. is my home, and the Hollywood Bowl is my backyard venue, so when we decided to run a blog series on summer tour venues, I called "dibs" quickly. It's a special place, and it's my humble pleasure to tell you about it.

The Hollywood Bowl debuted as a proper venue in 1922 and evolved organically over the decades, hosting larger audiences and shedding its iconic band shells from time to time for sleeker and more acoustically pure upgrades. While its location in Hollywood’s heavily trafficked Cahuenga Pass (along the 101 Freeway) is conspicuously urban, the experience of attending a show at the Bowl is more akin to a retreat: once you’ve climbed the hill from the busy street below and passed through the gates, you enter an open, manicured, meditative space designed to minimize sensory friction between audience and performer.

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Monday 06/24/2013 by bertoletdown

INTERVIEW: NATHAN RABIN ON THE JUGGALO-PHISHHEAD NEXUS

Diehard fans aren't made. They're called.

Ask a Bengals fan, or a Mets fan, or a Phish fan. Nobody gets into Phish music because Phish music is cool. We get into it and we bend our lives around it because we can't not do that.

Sometimes, nobody seems to understand. But any Juggalo would, and that's the axis of rotation for Nathan Rabin's new book You Don't Know Me But You Don't Like Me.

Rabin, who recently left his post as Head Writer at The A.V. Club, compares and contrasts the Phish and Insane Clown Posse communities through the lens of his own personal and professional turmoil. We caught up with Rabin as he finished a promotional stop in Madison, WI.

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Monday 12/31/2012 by bertoletdown

MSG3: "SHOW OF LIFE" NOW OFF THE BOARD FOR NYE

See the title up there? That’s the last thing I’m going to say about “Show of Life.”

And now the rest is easy, because now I get to review a really great Phish show. Better yet, I get to review a really great Phish show that doesn’t quite start out that way.

The band takes the stage at 8:18 p.m. MSG time. Page and Trey are wearing the same outfits they wore the prior two nights. Mike is dressed in his 5th outfit of the run, give or take an artisanal pashmina. And you know what Fish is wearing.

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Saturday 12/29/2012 by bertoletdown

MSG1 RECAP

Glad tidings from Phish.net to all of you.

Much has come to pass since this summer, including recent human tragedies that have underscored how reliant we are on each other as human beings, and how blessed this community is by the generosity and passion of its members. In no official capacity whatsoever, I would like to thank you for being here and taking part, whatever that looks like for you.

Now let’s pick up where we left off three months ago and change, with a short and sweet look at night one.

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Saturday 09/01/2012 by bertoletdown

YOU'LL NEVER FORGET YOUR FIRST DICK'S (SPORTING GOODS PARK RECAP)

What a year 2012 is shaping up to be for Phish.

It is worth remembering that 2011 ended not with fireworks but fizzle, as the band turned in an uncharacteristically flaccid run at Madison Square Garden. I had firm hopes – but limp expectations – that Phish would emerge in 2012 with a renewed sense of purpose, creativity, and fun. Thus far they have shattered those expectations by delivering a first leg that snowballed gradually and even methodically to a SPAC-tacular finish, and a second leg that (while somewhat more erratic) has offered a lavish mess of jaw-dropping improvisational highlights.

What an embarrassment of riches, and what better place to conclude the second leg – or, perhaps, introduce a “third leg” of sorts – than Dick’s?

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Wednesday 08/29/2012 by bertoletdown

ST. LOUIS RECAP

I’ll open with a confession. Before hearing tonight’s show, I had cooked up a snarky idea for the recap. Something cutesy. Something high-concept. I thought it was clever.

Then Phish smacked the smirk clean off my face.

Given what transpired in St. Louis tonight, I conferred with some of the staff and we all agreed that we owe it to you to do our best to describe the show in clear and simple terms. Phish did not show up tonight to mess around, so neither will we.

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Tuesday 08/21/2012 by bertoletdown

WHENCE WE RECAP

We receive suggestions occasionally that those who recap the shows should have attended the show whenever possible.

We are grateful for these comments as we are for all manner of constructive criticism, and encourage the .net community to continue to suggest ways that we can bring you more content and better content.

That said, let me take a few moments to explain why this specific suggestion will not be implemented.

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Saturday 08/18/2012 by bertoletdown

BGCA1 RECAP

Checking in from the afterglow zone around Long Beach, still marveling and laughing at all that went down on Wednesday. Given the fuel-injected power of recent tour openers, nobody was expecting Phish to phone shit in, but I’m pretty sure nobody expected things to get quite that wonderfully weird, either.

Taking in the first set with Justin Bieber and his entourage? Can’t say that’s an everyday occurrence for me. Nor was the ghostly introspection of “Rock & Roll,” or the rocking party vibe of “Ghost.” Bottom line? You never know what you’ll get when Phish comes to Southern California!

In contrast, Phish and the Bay Area go together the way the Grateful Dead and New York City did for so long: predictably, like peanut butter and chocolate. Since the Warfield gigs in April of 1992, Phish has demonstrated its love for Bay Area fans by crafting dependably smart sets and delivering them with fire, and those fans have demonstrated their love for Phish by knowing their shit and getting down accordingly. Yes, it’s true: San Francisco crowds flap their gums too fucking much. But they’re also smart, seasoned music people, with ears that are even bigger than their mouths.

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Monday 07/09/2012 by bertoletdown

SPAC3 RECAP

I have bittersweet feelings about tonight, as there’s part of me that wishes this tour could go on and on. I love many of these sets and even shows individually, but most of all what I really like about this leg one is its narrative arc. By and large, since regaining their footing in Atlantic City, Phish is telling a story about consistency – the kind of consistency that makes a Phish show a very safe bet in 2012. They are playing like a band in command of its arsenal, and with an understanding of what its discerning fans expect and desire. More often than not, they are sending those fans away sated with a winning combination of showmanship, deep cuts from the repertoire, and a healthy balance of tight and loose playing. Even the most jaded fan can find something to be glad for about this stand.

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Saturday 07/07/2012 by bertoletdown

SPAC1 RECAP

Welcome, PTers! Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Phloating In SPAC!

Here we are at the final stop on leg one of the 2012 summer tour. It’s been a pretty terrific summer thus far, with a clear and steady and upward trajectory, and with very few clunker sets to speak of since the band pressed the master reset button after Bonnaroo. Yes, the herky-jerky second set from the 4th of July at Jones Beach could be cited as an exception – but the band swept a lot of material into their wake that night until at least leg two, and the keg is now spilling over with dry canon powder. Will tonight bring a “YEM”, “Stash”, or “Split Open and Melt” worthy of water cooler chatter? Will Phish continue to revisit covers from Loaded, or validate rumors that deeper cuts from Remain in Light are in play for the first time in over a decade?

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Friday 06/29/2012 by bertoletdown

DEER CREEK1 RECAP

At least in theory, this was a night when things were poised to go sideways.

Temperatures in Noblesville, Indiana, peaked near 110° F today as the entire Midwestern United States roasted. Phish issued a sober advisory to fans, warning them to seek shelter, hydrate, and SPF themselves liberally. In contrast with the scorching temps, the decision to interrupt leg one of summer tour with a four day break after three strong consecutive performances led some to wonder whether Phish might come back cold, and give back some of those hard-won gains.

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Tuesday 06/19/2012 by bertoletdown

PORTSMOUTH1 RECAP

Summer’s here and the time is right to skip the preliminaries and get right to the action. So let’s!

The band takes the stage at nTelos Wireless Pavilion just before 8pm and warms up with a perfunctory “Sample,” which gives way to the oblong Delta rhythms of “Party Time.” During the jam segment, Trey introduces Carl “Geerz” Gerhard of Giant Country Horns fame, informing the audience that Gerhard now leads music instruction for all of America’s armed forces(!). “Geerz” blows a big old solo that brings the crowd to life before taking a bow and exiting stage left to the first notes of a rare but mostly unremarkable first set “Simple.”

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Thursday 09/15/2011 by bertoletdown

ESSEX, VT RECAP

All right, raise your hand if you're gonna miss Couch Tour!

This event, as absorbed via the Information Superhighway in my computer chair, must have been wonderful to attend. Even the webcast was permeated with a sense of community and homecoming, and it's just a shame that it took a horrendous force majeure to make it happen. If Phish is playing, I'm either there or wishing I were, and this was most certainly true tonight.

Of course, it was the kind of night (last announced show this year, rumors afloat about another mini-or-quasi-hiatus, first show in Vermont since Coventry, loose and loping soundcheck) that stirs up disproportionate and even mythical expectations among fans. Tonight's show, while entertaining, was a reminder that expectations are best kept small.

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Monday 08/22/2011 by bertoletdown

BLUDGEONING THE PHISH-DEAD HORSE

The thing about clichés is that they are mostly true.

It’s obvious after watching the Waxbanks-Wolfson-Gans cage match here on Phish.net and on Facebook over the past week that a lot of you feel very passionately about the Grateful Dead and Phish. More than a few of you feel very passionately about both and, like Waxbanks, I number myself among you. And more than a few of you favor one over the other with a generous measure of – let’s say – passion. It seems bafflingly necessary for some to litigate the merits or superiority of one over the other.

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Tuesday 08/09/2011 by bertoletdown

HOLLYWOOD BOWL RECAP

Tonight marked Phish’s first Los Angeles appearance since Valentine’s Day 2003. That’s an awfully long time for our little town – which boasts a lot more Phish fans than many may assume – to wait. It was worth it.

Words serve poorly when trying to describe the Hollywood Bowl. For an audience it is an eyeful, and a constant inspiration, and for a band it presents certain problems. It creates a lot of space that wants to be filled. It has spirits and mythology. And for much of the first set tonight, the P.A. wouldn’t warm up.

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Thursday 07/07/2011 by bertoletdown

TO YOUTUBE, OR NOT TO YOUTUBE

Before YouTube removed it earlier this week, most of the Phish community had seen a video of a Phish fan at SBIX under the influence of what appears to have been a psychoactive substance. The man was sitting cross-legged on the concert field during "Crosseyed and Painless," by himself, harming no one, and taking in the music. The person responsible for posting the video on the Internet also supplied some editorial commentary - which amounted to little more than speculation - about what was happening between the subject's ears.

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Wednesday 12/09/2009 by bertoletdown

PHISH = OBAMA? READ THIS GEHR PIECE.

I love the formulation in this essay as somebody who follows Phish and politics avidly. Hope you all like it as well.

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Tuesday 12/08/2009 by bertoletdown

SO YOU'RE THINKING ABOUT STREAKING ON PHISH STAGE...

Where do you put your keys, driver's license, and other personal effects?

I'm not trying to encourage this kind of behavior. I'm just wondering about logistics.

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