, attached to 2014-07-30

Review by solargarlic78

solargarlic78 https://medium.com/the-phish-from-vermont/review-7-30-14-mixing-it-up-fresh-song-selection-and-surprising-jams-66e2cf9d1b04

Review 7/30/14: Mixing it Up: Fresh song selection and surprising jams

I am a real sucker for Phish simply deciding to play rare/unusual songs. When Mike Gordon posted a photo of the band rehearsing yesterday afternoon, I think most of us expected them to play something rare (what a cool look into their daytime routines — who knew they rehearse?!). I mean this is why we love this band right? 99% of all bands out there have either play the same set every night, or have a very tightly circumscribed set of songs they may choose from. This band practices and rehearses old ballads (“Mountains inthe Mist” and “Billy Breathes”) and very difficult composed songs (“Guelah Papyrus”) during the day — just because they know the fanbase thrives on fresh song choices (early in the tour I was worried they were not going to branch out and mix up the setlists at all).

Set 1 had all three of my criteria for first set enjoyment — jams (“Gin” and “It’s Ice” — with another funk breakdown), bustouts (“Guelah”, “Mist” and “Meat”), and classical Phish composed material (“Guelah” and “It’s Ice.”). That being said, the “Gin”, while a really great opener choice, was pretty darn formulaic and in my opinion the weakest of tour so far (Trey’s playing felt halted and uncertain and the peak was fine but unspectacular). “Devotion” and “Yarmouth” is not a great pairing. And, unlike other songs this tour which have branched out, “David Bowie” appears to be in a kind of predictable rut. The jams are always great, but predictably so.

Set 2 opened with “Fuego”. They will play this song in any placement. Early set 1 (Mansfield), late set 1 (MPP2), early set 2 (SPAC, MANN) and late set 2 (CMAC, Randalls). I’m sure they’ll encore with it this weekend. Obviously, the lovers of the “jam” would prefer the early set 2 placement for “Fuego.” This version did not disappoint. While the Chalkdust’s in Charlotte and nTelos1 were a bit “searching” for my tastes, this jam was pretty focused on a groove orientation from the start. About 12 minutes in, it switched the groove to a more ‘major’ key feel, but Page’s clavinet and Mike and Fish’s repetitive and circular rhythms made this a droning, deep, groove attack (reminds me of the underrated Chicago “Golden Age”). Eventually the jam repeated the “2 beat” rhythm that has been so apparent in Phish’s groove jams since 2013 (in minute 13 it is mostly heard in Trey’s deep bass notes — 1-2…….1-2). At 15:45, the jam became more happy and “calypso” oriented, but Page’s clavinet kept the feel dark enough.

“Gotta Jibboo” feels like a song that needs to be taken for a ride. Given what came after, it was fine it was its normal bliss-groove type I self — even if this version was cut off a bit early. I have to admit when I was at CMAC and “Meatstick” came up, I was not thrilled. This really interesting thick groove song that almost never goes anywhere. Well, it finally did something. Instead of the normal happy solo over the V-IV chord changes (same as “Fire on the Mountain” btw), Trey got on his wah and stayed on the V chord (I think). The jam quickly escalated into a deep funk groove, colored by snarling blues-rock licks from Trey. In the 8th minute, the jam started to rise up with tremendous energy and it felt like it was about to build to a rock peak, but once again it kind of seems like Phish is avoiding these “easy” peaks. The jam segued into “Piper” which was by far the best version of the tour if not the last couple years. After it’s normal high-octane rhythm jam (which was well above average), it finally slowed down a bit and explored more spacey bliss territory (around minute 9:00). At 10:45 or so, Trey found some more happy sounding ‘classic rock’ chords (he’s been all about this since at least the 7/20 “Wedge”), Page added some nice colorful melodies underneath and Trey started trilling beautifully. It felt like we were primed for an uber peak, but once again (and probably the low point of the set) the band backed off the groove and let it dissipate into “Billy Breathes.” After a rough start getting going, this was a well played song. It is one of the rare songs/ballads that has a written Trey guitar solo. All things (re) considered, he did a pretty good job finding the notes. This is a beautiful song. Another rarity, “Seven Below” was perhaps not a classic “type II” version — the basic rhythm was maintained by Fish and Mike — but this was a very atypical “Seven Below” jam. Instead of its groove-minor key type jam, this one was major key oriented and blissful. It kind of felt to me like the peak I was waiting for in the “Piper” jam. Nicely done, Phish. “Waste” might have been too much for the ballads, but another rare song for 2014, so its hard to complain (this one got off to an awkward start as well). “Backwards” actually had a really fun playful jam with lots of interplay between Trey and Page (and Trey on rhythm for a lot of it). People hate, but this song really had a happy “Dead” feel to me. “First Tube” has been raging the set 2 closer all tour and “Lizards” is a ‘effin fantastic encore choice. Trey still struggles with the super-fast arpeggios leading us out of Page’s solo (and he actually started them pretty early, not giving much time to Page on the keys — maybe curfew??).

All, in all the mixed up song choice and rare/interesting jams on Fuego, Meatstick, Piper, and Seven Below made this a really great Phish show overall. I’d have to say it wins the nTelos competition for best show of the two. Three more to go. Get ready for a Jerry tribute on Friday. You heard it here first. :-)
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