[Editor's Note: Please welcome guest recapper Sven Jorgensen, whose brain --running on fumes after days deprived of sleep and oxygen-- is in a time zone that does not exist. -CD.]
IT is impossible to please everyone all the time. But Phish, as an ensemble of elder jambandsmen, seems to please their fans most of the time. And last night's gig at the weirdly intimate, yet 17k capacity, MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas was no exception.
The second night of the four-night Cirque du Phish, that culminates Monday evening in a Halloween extravaganza, could have been a subdued, through-the-motions, crucible of patience, a comparatively vapid night of rest for the band and fans. It was not. It flowned balls.
[Editor's Note: We'd like to welcome back guest contributor David Goldstein for this recap. - lbc]
When individuals recap Phish concerts, or any live music experience for that matter, sometimes there’s a tendency to focus on intangibles that don’t necessarily come across on a soundboard recording. Some of these include the weather, size and make of the venue, or even “the energy in the room,” commonly invoked to somehow justify lackluster song selection or poor playing, as in “yeah, I know they played “The Line,” “Number Line,” and “Friday” all in the second set, but you had to experience the energy in the room, maaaan.”
All of which is to say that I happen to be reviewing Phish’s Friday night Las Vegas show from the cozy confines of my living room couch, so intangibles are essentially limited to the quality of the IPAs and salinity of the bottomless bowl of Chex mix I (and two friends) consumed while watching it. The sightlines are courtesy of my 42 inch Samsung in conjunction with Apple TV, I can actually hear the show from the (short!) bathroom line, and the role of Chris Kuroda is relegated to a handheld strobe light / mirror ball hybrid that my two-year old accurately refers to as her “disco party.” This recap will focus entirely on the musical performance itself, which given Las Vegas’s several distractions and detrimental effect on one’s memory, may not be such a bad thing.
Phish.net is but one project of the entirely volunteer nonprofit Mockingbird Foundation. We frequently credit the volunteers involved, and accept critiques of our own roles among them. But we’re also proud that Mockingbird – which today turns 20 years old – has grown beyond the individuals behind it, and is now a structured, vibrant, productive entity that will outlive the participation of any us.
As we continue to envision the Foundation’s future, we take a moment today to look back – on the history of the band, its fans, and our attempts to contribute. We knew at the start that our vision was plausible and our intentions honorable. But the path following them to today was winding and confusing, testing both conventions and friendships. And it all started, of course, with that new sound coming out of Burlington.
Phish is a curious specimen. Because they share certain traits with apparent ancestors, the band and its concerts are often described with blunt classifications. Yet their musical diversity, performance ingenuity, and fan connections helped spawn a new lineage, of which Phish, even on their least ambitious nights, remain the exemplar – jambandus maximus.
[Please join us in welcoming guest recapper Matt Burnham, @TheRealBurnham. -CD]
It's hard to identify where to begin. Phish played the back end of a two night run in Grand Prairie, Texas, last night and anticipation was running high. The band's output this tour has been very high and although Monday's show was a bit disjointed at times, it was still executed well. Additionally, this show would be the final warm-up for the four night Vegas Run starting on the 28th. With what felt like a nervous energy, the band stepped up and delivered a first set that was exemplary.
The Mockingbird Foundation has the pleasure of joining Phish community artists at the upcoming PhanArt Show at The Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas on Saturday, October 29th from 1-6pm.
Art collectors won’t want to miss this one! In addition to selling copies and taking orders of The Phish Companion, 3rd Edition at our event price of $39 (including free shipping), we will be cracking open The Mockingbird Foundation art archives to offer the few “stashed away” extras of some of our most coveted art prints.
[Please welcome guest recapper Rob Mitchum, @PhishCrit. -CD]
For most of 3.0, my working theory for understanding Phish has been one of retracing the steps of their history. There’s even a solid nerdy ph- pun for it: “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,” the biological hypothesis that developing embryos recreate the evolution of their ancestors. To be a little less pretentious, the idea is that Phish, since their 2009 comeback, had to reenact their 90s climb from cult bar band to giant-venue superstars, like a stroke patient re-learning how to speak. The awkward part was having to go through this rehabilitation in full public view, playing from the start in the arenas, amphitheatres, and festival fields they’d left behind when they called it quits.
Nevertheless, heroically, they got there somewhere between the Tahoe Tweezer and Magnaball, reclaiming their prior role as the big-stage experimenters we knew and loved. The tricky part is what to do next, when the familiar path they were following ran out. Add in the fact that -- artificial ticket scarcity to the contrary -- they are past their commercial peak as concert draws, and the next chapter of Phish becomes even harder to conceive, one of playing to a loyal-as-ever but aging and often smaller audience.
To save the file, right-click on the player above while the track is playing.
Welcome to the 245th edition of Phish.Net's Mystery Jam Monday, the penultimate and second-most difficult MJM of October. The winner will receive an MP3 download courtesy of our friends at LivePhish.com / Nugs.Net. To win, be the first person to identify the song and date of each of the three mystery jam clips, and the theme that connects them. Each person gets one guess – if no one guesses correctly, I will post a hint on Tuesday, after which each person gets one more guess before I reveal the correct answer on Wednesday around 10 AM PT / 1 PM ET. Good luck!
Answer: Congrats to @dbertsch, who identified all three Mystery "Jams," all from tour-opening shows: 2/13/97 (PYITE >) Jam, 7/21/97 (Theme ->) Jam, and (9/8/00 Gin) > Jam. I didn't "dock" him for not figuring out that they were all tour openers, because a) that aspect was something I was going to drop in the hint, and b) if anything, he solved a tougher puzzle. Be sure to tune in on Monday morning (if Vegas hasn't handed your ass to you!), when a guest host will drop a spooky and tough Halloween contest on you for the final and most difficult MJM of October.
It's been a strong fall tour so far and this cool Saturday night in north Georgia was no exception. Its pleasures may have tended more toward strong setlist calls than deep and transcendent jamming, but so what, really. When the big jam finally came, it came with a hurricane-force fourth-quarter "Simple" that ranks with the best Phish music of 2016.
There is no original riff in the Trey Anastasio songbook that detonates a live audience like the elementary major-chord fingering exercise that begins "Simple." A versatile song that the band has been comfortable taking very far out since its infancy, when "Simple" shows up in the second set, especially late, it's usually a call for exploration. Last night, with its great future still unwritten, Mike sustained the patient with some high-end color until Trey found a little phrase he liked. You might recognize it from the "Down with Disease" this year at Dick's. He repeated it persistently until the troops fell in line. Page added some classic-rock backbeat behind it, and then somebody in the control room smashed the JAM button.
[Editor's Note: For this recap, please welcome 20 year vet and longtime .netter and RMPer Chris Cagle (@OrangeSox), who offers this recap of last night's show -- AK]
A week ago, while Phish premiered “Petrichor” before the audience in Charleston, one of .net's finest, @ucpete, performed his first marriage ceremony, betrothing @telaree and me, having graciously answered a call made here in the .net forum for an officiant of a wedding in a redwood fairy ring in Marin County, California. In his wonderful presentation to our families, he necessarily mentioned the band and of course .net, reflecting the important role they've played in our union. After all, it was a jaunt to Deer Creek in 2012 that solidified our relationship, since maintained by a half dozen subsequent trips to see the band together, including the soggy, underrated run here in 2013. So it was only natural that we would make a return trip to Alpharetta and call it our honeymoon.
Trey in the upcoming issue of Relix
What changed, starting in 2009, is this clarity of vision and this clear understanding of what a precious gift it was that the four of us met. It took a couple of years after that for things to get rolling completely, but we’ve realized how important this is for everyone — the way that the primary relationship between the four of us is nurtured, and the way that ripples out into the rest of our families and the community. We communicate. The four of us are texting many times a day.
Fish used to describe our improv in terms of this ‘lifeboat’ concept: If somebody falls in the water, everyone reaches over and pulls him back in. I know I’ve experienced that myself personally with the band, where the other guys have pulled me back in. After Lockn’ and Dick’s, I was thinking about our crew who never come out and take a bow, but who literally make the show happen, and all of the people in the audience who are beloved members of our Phish family, and the big boat philosophy is more appropriate than ever. It's a big boat.... There's room for everyone.
[Editor's Note: Please welcome professional musician Hunter Sholar, user @Guyute1976, who offers this recap of last night’s show. -CD]
I can’t start writing this blog post without giving a little background about myself and how I became a Phish fan. I’m a late bloomer with this band. I went to Northwestern University and was a Horn Performance Major, and I was surrounded by so many talented musicians with eclectic musical tastes. Some of my closest friends, including Drew Hitz (who many of you know), were diehard Phanatics, but during my undergrad years (1995-1999), I didn’t relate to them, somehow. Nope, I waited until the band had broken up, and then fell hook, line and sinker for them in the summer of 2005, and saw my first show on 3/8/2009 at the Hampton Coliseum. I missed the live pre-Phish 3.0 era, but thanks to their immense catalog of live shows, I’ve had plenty of time to do my research and play catch-up.
Wednesday 10/19/2016 marked my 29th show, and it was significant on so many levels – I’ll get to that in a minute. Since seeing my first show, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Trey. I’m a member of The Nashville Symphony Orchestra, where I play the Horn, and I actually met him after one of my symphony concerts at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center a few years ago, just a few blocks away from Ascend Amphitheater. Our mutual friend, Don Hart (composer/arranger who orchestrates Trey’s orchestral music), brought him in while the band was in town recording Wingsuit. Why is this significant, you might ask? Don and his family were attending the Ascend shows, and this was perhaps part of the reason our guys really stepped it up both nights.
[Editor's Note: We welcome Craig Hillwig back for this recap. –CD]
Phish returned to Nashville last night for the first of two shows at the still sparkling-new Ascend Amphitheater, a 6,800 capacity open air venue along the banks of the Cumberland River. That Phish is back in Nashville is wholly unsurprising, given that much of Phish’s 2016 release Big Boat was recorded in several local studios. It also seems to be a popular stop among fans with its combination of authentic southern cuisine and honky tonk night life. Luckily for us, the weather was perfect with ample sunshine, temperatures in the mid-80s, and a comfortable breeze. We settled in at Puckett’s to pre-game with some bourbon, brew and ‘que.
By all accounts, last night's show should have been the sleeper of tour. It was a Sunday show (Friday is for the fans, Saturday is for the bros, Sunday is for the band), it is early in the tour, Phish is touring new material, and it was Phish's first time playing Jacksonville. Not counting Miami, the last time Phish played in Florida was 1999 for Big Cypress. And the last "normal show" in Florida that wasn't in American Airlines Arena was in Fall 1996, in Gainesville. Twenty years later, Floridians were palpably excited: several of us trekked north and many east, joining untold hordes journeying down from Charleston, awaiting the magic of the one, two punch we were all sure would happen. We certainly had the feeling that you had a good chance of catching "It" or that "It" could happen at any moment.
Alas, Phish turned in a performance that, setting aside a few moments of brilliance, fell mostly between adequate and competent. There were, thankfully, several high points and between them, mostly tightropes, in that they were still highs, but they gained their stability from the peaks to which they were tied. For many, Jacksonville felt like it was just not the show they were hoping to see. Almost 20 years to the day after my first Phish show, filled to the brim with my jaded-vetted-ness, I walked into a crowd whose average age was probably 10 years below mine. But this show was very different for me, personally, in that it was another first: the first show for my daughter Jillian, on her 9th birthday no less. I could step you through the setlist with a few creative adjectives, but on the long drive home last night, I realized the real story was the juxtaposition of the show abutting my twenty year Phishiversary with her first show. Experiencing the show through her eyes was maybe the best thing that could’ve happened to me last night.
Welcome to the 244th edition of Phish.Net's Mystery Jam Monday, the middle of five MJMs both in placement and in difficulty this month. The winner will receive an MP3 download courtesy of our friends at LivePhish.com / Nugs.Net. To win, be the first person to identify the song and date of the mystery jam clip. Each person gets one guess – if no one guesses correctly, I will post a hint on Tuesday, after which each person gets one more guess before I reveal the correct answer on Wednesday around 10 AM PT / 1 PM ET. Good luck!
Answer: It was a wire job, but @experiencechuck managed to pull out his first win at the buzzer by figuring out that the picture of Mark Messier hoisting the cup was taken at Madison Square Garden, where Phish played the 12/30/98 Squirming Coil. For those that haven't heard that set (or if it's been a while), be sure to check it out – the full band ambient fog swallows "Coil" whole before moving into -> "Slave" to cap a five song second set. Stick around for the encore too, which features a pre-Undermind (and the only non-3.0) "Grind" and an epic "Possum" taboot. Stop by Monday, when the MJM steps up yet another notch in difficulty.
[This recap, like last night's, is also courtesy of dot net user Zach Stearns (@StepIntoTheZeezer).]
Always nice on a second night of a run, having settled in and gained a little more familiarity with the the city, the venue, the lot, etc. Hope the band feels similarly.
I'm pretty sure I've gained 20 pounds since arriving Friday morning, as all I've done in the waking hours is eat and drink. Will night two of tour bring the heat and help me shed some of this newfound weight? This story and more to come.
Phish.net is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.
This project serves to compile, preserve, and protect encyclopedic information about Phish and their music.
The Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Phish fans in 1996 to generate charitable proceeds from the Phish community.
And since we're entirely volunteer – with no office, salaries, or paid staff – administrative costs are less than 2% of revenues! So far, we've distributed over $1,000,000 to support music education for children – hundreds of grants in all 50 states, with more on the way.