, attached to 2003-07-22

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo Having been involved in the 2003 Jam of the Year bracket, I am familiar with two of the "tentpole" jams from this show. Interestingly, I had long since forgotten about each since that tourney concluded -perhaps a harbinger of things to come in this review? Needless to say, I was looking forward to listening to these jams within the context of this very strange Phish show.

Punch You in the Eye starts the disco groove right out of the blocks. One of my favorite all-time opening song selections (not this one per se, but just the song in general) PYITE always sets the groove tone dance party. Energy high, expectations higher (with how strong the previous evening was...almost at least) the crowd was abuzz for the seond song of the evening... until it was Beauty of my Dreams. Weird choice. Not a bad choice, but a weird one, Phishgrass after dancegrooves early in the first set is an odd pairing, again not bad, but odd. The dance party picks back up with the first Gumbo of 2003. Woo hoo! Let the swamp funk commence! Hmmm... well... I mean I like this jam but I am not in like with this jam? Ya know? Maybe not? Fair enough, as this jam has got the "highly recommended treatment" and many .netters have waxed poetic about this 18-minute version. But this .netter though. I find this jam take a while to get rolling, and when it does, it is a little sloppy and disjointed. It darts in and out of major key, uplifting jams, only to be bogged back down into - well - not swampy cow funk like the extended Gumbos of old, but just kind of a quagmire of trying to resurrect the past. To my ears, you can almost feel the band consciously trying to stretch the jam out, but it feels as though they are trying too hard, rather than letting the jam unfold, as so many Winter 2003 jams did. Let's take a moment hear to compare that - unfolding vs forcing. Winter 2003, nothing felt forced. Every jam just happened. Every extended jam (and yes, I know the rule about never using absolutes) but really, every jam felt natural and organic in the moment. It's what makes Winter 2003 so special. In Summer 2003, I think Phish was trying to recapture that magic. But that's the problem: trying. In Winter 2003, they didn't try, they just did. Now in Summer 2003, especially in the middle part of the tour, they seem to be trying too hard to jam. I can hear it now... "LOL FUNKY! WTF are you talking about?! "Trying too hard to jam?!" KYS. We'd give anything for an 18 minute Gumbo in the first set these days." True enough, and fair enough, but contextually within the framework of this tour this Gumbo is trying to way too hard to be a Winter 2003 jam. For me, it never gets close. But for some people, it might. And that's the thrill of the chase. Sojourn on, loyal listener. Having waxed poetic about alllllllll that, Gumbo was a pretty sweet #3 song in the set. A solid, extended Divided Sky comes next and I gotta admit, even though DSky's 2003 tone is gritty and not-as-pretty as it was in pretty much any past year, these versions are all smokin hot. I mean Trey and Fish really get after each and every version with fire and gusto. This one is no different. A standard and dare I say tame Boogie On comes next and provided nothing but standard funk, which isn't a bad thing, but don't expect anything fancy from this version. A terrifyingly heavy Carini drops in next and scares the pants off of all in attendance. Like Boogie On, I will never relisten to this version again, but I am 100% certain in the moment at this show these two jams were dancey and energized, even if the replay value is neither. An oddball but very fun jazzy number called Magilla comes in next, and quite frankly I am stoked on this song. I cut a rug on our hardwood floors (turns out I stepped on the cat) as the swinging jazz sashays through Deer Creek. Fun stuff. A smoldering Possum closes things out. Possum in 2003, like Divided Sky, ALWAYS rips. This is a good version.

Set 2 starts off with another "weird' choice in Split Open and Melt. Weird seems to be the theme of this show. So why not go all in! This jam is highly polarizing for me. For the first 12 minutes, it is a dissonant wank-off. Nearly unlistenable and cringe-worthy, it just has no teeth. But then whammo! They turn the corner at the thirteen minute mark into a funky, locked in, up beat groove. This groove swirls and dips and dives some about 5 minutes: crawling into funk, jumping into energized jamming, and swaggering back into more funk before an almost clean -> Free. If you can get through the first 12 minutes of this Melt without your ears dying, the remaining 10 minutes will be worth it. Free is standard fair... for 2003. But contextually if this were to drop in 2016 we'd be freaking the f*** out because Free (today) is 5 minutes of normalized quasi funk. This one is 10 minutes of dirty, gritty funk. Cool to hear what Free *could* be. Sigh. Next up is a song whose name I will not mention because it is the worst song in the history of time. Trey must have been mad at you guys in the venue that night, to drop this song in middle of set 2. But he quickly made amends by playing Lizards next THANK GOD. Easy come easy go... Lizards was a super treat, again the first of 2003 I do believe, and this one, though kinda crunchy, was more than welcomed in this set. Walls of the Cave finds its home as a raging set closer and this one delivers the goods! 17 minutes of IN YOUR FACE shreddage, striking again and again at the peak, this version EXPLODES with energy! Perhaps the highlight of the set? I mean, say what you will about the last 10 amazing minutes of Melt, the first 12 minutes just sucked... and there is nothing sucky about this WOTC. Bouncing, Frankenstein encore is exactly what it looks like on paper.

All and all, a weird show. An example of Phish tying too hard in my opinion. But at least they're trying, right?

Must hear jams: Split Open and Melt, Walls of the Cave
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Gumbo, Divided Sky, Carini > Magilla, Possum


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