, attached to 2013-10-31

Review by n00b100

n00b100 Set 1: Reasonable for a first set; neither of the bigger Set 1 vehicles (Stash/Gin) stand out, especially compared to the heights that both vehicles have hit this year. That's quite all right, though - there's two whole sets of music left to go.

Set 2: Just a few scattered thoughts.

1. The thing about "critical" thought is that people tend to confuse that with being critical - i.e. disparaging something, being a critic of it, y'know? The idea, then, is that the only way to show that you've critically thought about something is if you disagree with it, and if you don't, well, that just makes you a sheeple or someone who can't distinguish a good idea from a bad one. It's only those with their eyes fully open that can parse everything a band that all of us profess to love is throwing at us, truly separate the wheat from the chaff, and ultimately reach a higher state of fandom. And anyone that likes all (or nearly all) what the band does? You're just living with your eyes closed, maaaaan.

I find this notion to be incredibly insulting.

2. It has occurred to me before that the same folks who were throwing nastiness at this show would probably have lost their shit if they played A Picture of Nectar or Hoist in full (in fact, I am almost certain of this). And I think the main reason why is because all of those songs have built up familiarity with the fanbase, and mostly through the jams. I mean, think about it - would you want to listen to JUST Tweezer, the song ("song", even)? Or Reba if it stopped at The Swallow? Or a 4 minute Ghost (like the 8/17/11 show)? You most likely would not. But you've heard 25 minute Tweezers, and Type II Rebas, and legendary Ghosts, and thus the goodwill is there, and it's totally built up from 30 years of jamming, and thus we're happy to hear Tweezer, because we know what Tweezer brings to the table.

So what is this Halloween set, then? An (almost) totally new batch of Phish songs, which we are a) not familiar with at all, and b) have no jams attached to them (like every other cover album they played, lest we forget). Is there any wonder people are considering this the bravest thing Phish has done on stage? They're stepping out without a net, playing a bunch of songs that have no goodwill attached to them, KNOWING FULL WELL that goodwill has carried them throughout their entire career, and for what? For what end? Promoting a new album (like their albums are multi-platinum smashes, or like they've given one solitary shit about promotion for years now)? Pissing off a room full of people who paid $60 to hear Phish play an album they're as familiar with and have built up as much goodwill with as Ghost or Tweezer or Reba? Or perhaps it's because they wanted to try something new, something bold and interesting, and something that shows that they're still interested in remaining a band that makes new music and wants to move forward in creating together?

I don't know - I loved that they did it. I get why someone else might not, but to me I'll cherish 10/31/13 II in a way I wouldn't if they'd just played Eat a fucking Peach.

3. The songs themselves? 555, Fuego, and The Line are all winners in my book. Some of them (not going to name 'em, since all of the new songs have fans) aren't my cup of tea. But I'll be glad to hear the majority of these over the course of Phish's career from hereon out, and that's more than enough for me. I'm okay hearing Rift in a first set - I don't see why I'd be upset to hear Devotion To A Dream.

Set 3: Possibly the most well put together second (or "second") set of the entire tour, if not the outright best musically. I mean, look at how it's structured - two big jam vehicles, an energy booster in Birds, two chillout songs in Hood and Bug, and then the release with Antelope. That's about as ideal as it gets without a host of arrows or only playing four songs. I don't think it's quite the best set of the tour (it's a notch below 10/20 II and 10/29 II, though right there with 10/26 II and 11/1 II), but it makes one hell of an argument.

The 1-2 punch of Ghost and Carini is the major talking point, and two bold-on-the-jam-chart masterstrokes. Ghost resolves itself into a relaxed major-chord (if not quite Gin-like) groove, with Page's fine piano work meshing well with Trey's trills and Mike's meaty basslines. The jam reaches a nice enough peak, then suddenly turns downwards and darkens, Trey stepping forward with sinister chords, Fish speeding up the tempo quite nicely. Then, again without warning, Page goes to the organ and now we're in a classic-rock jam. This is easily the Ghost of the tour, my favorite since 12/31/10, and a great way to start any set.

The Carini...man. Everything Phish can do in 2013 - go weird and dissonant, hammer out a jam with the force of a 12 gauge, switch to wah-wah laden funkiness, move into beautiful melodic hose, and occasionally mash all of these together - is contained in 19 minutes and 17 seconds of all-star jamming. An absolute A+ jam, maybe the best of the year. The ensuing Birds is fine, then Hood steps up and delivers a sweet, compact version (Page actually takes the lead, which is kinda cool), and Bug actually works great as a follow to Hood's usual climax. Antelope, a low-key version that finds a dark and swirling energy at the end, closes a magnificent hour plus of music. Quinn is a charming ending to what must have been a grueling show for the band, both physically and emotionally - but, ultimately, a very satisfying one indeed.

Final thoughts: A show that absolutely demands listening - both for the second set (so you can make up your mind about how you feel about the first new Phish album in nearly half a decade and what you think about the way it was presented), and the third set (a very strong suite of music anchored by an Almighty Jam). Like every great Halloween show, this show is practically Phish 101 now. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


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