, attached to 2015-08-01

Review by PhishMarketStew

PhishMarketStew Cursory thoughts here on the first Lakewood shows Ive missed since 2003. Theses gigs were hinge shows without a doubt. Lots of mixed feelings and anticipatory emotions leading up to these shows. We all know how 2015 has unfolded thus far, how you've internalized the music so far is a personal and subjective thing, collectively though alot of people have been excited and worried at the same time.
Many fans have been waiting for The Tour that will ring in a new era of Phish greatness. This is in my opinion a misguided and naive take on the Phish experience. What so many are waiting for is a return to the constant depths of the 97'-04' era. That epoch represents 6 years of a band with 25+ years of touring under their belts, a small sampling size, albeit their artistic peak to be sure. I think its safe to say that if Phish had never evolved further than their 93'-94' style that they wouldn't be around right now, meaning that Phish has survived because of their jams, not their songs. So fan frustration towards the mixed bag that is 3.0 is not unwarranted, just myopic.
What Phish is now is perhaps the most modern musical group of the times. More so than at ANY point in their storied history the band is absolutely unpredictable. Far more unpredictable than any other touring act on Earth. No band has encapsulated the self-referential, ironic trappings of modernism quite like Phish. What many of us interpreted as a resting on their laurels type deal back in 09'-10' has instead shown itself to be something entirely different.
Those formative 3.0 tours that culminated at Dicks in 2012 were an evolutionary necessity for the band lest they fall back into easier patterns and risk a flame out. Those years sound now so much like a virgin band, like a stroke victim learning how to talk again. The fruits of those labors have produced a new vocabulary for Phish, one that is at times loquacious, academic, abstract, grating and often simple, but rarely is boring or repetitive and never is it simply nostalgic. The main problem for me, if it can be called a problem, of the 12'-14' tours was an inability or perhaps a refusal to string together two coherent sentences over the course of a show. Sets would have the feeling of four different people talking at once, sometimes hopping onto the same idea to produce beautiful music. A lot of fans have pointed to the Wingsuit show as another turning point for the band and there certainly is a case to be made for that. Phish seemed to finally break the chains of fan/artist expectation and forge ahead with a dialogue that has since been much more coherent. Although every show since that fabled Halloween gig has not produced a stand out jam they have I believe produced sets that have tremendous flow and ease.
Which brings me finally to 2015. Lots of shows in 3.0 have had the "something for everyone" theme, at times thats been frustratingly true, but 2015 has produced shows which while NOT satisfying to every type of fan, have certainly been singular, unique and unified in their artistic "voice", both musically speaking but more so within the context of set flow.
Im not of the opinion that the FTW shows are responsible for the impeccable flow of the sets or the awesomeness of the jams. I think that the FTW practice has definitely helped Trey with his sharpness and soloing but on the whole 2015 is just an extension of everything else Phish has been working towards since the return in 2009.
These Lakewood shows are perfect IMO. Setlist flow, execution, jamming, all on point, not just for 3.0 but for any era.
Take the 1st Sets for example, both with high replay value, both performed with passion and flow.
An excellent Ghost is the clear highlight of the two nights but the Ocelot, Mikes Groove and NMINML all feature spot on band interplay. Phish surrounded those tunes with a slew of great song choices, all well played.
The two Big Jams, KDF & Tweezer are polar opposites musically speaking but both are very representative of the two main 3.0 style of jamming.
KDF is a big burly Mike led proto-abstraction that never lacks nor wains, instead exploring math like rhythms during its long bumpy ride.
The Twist that comes after another awesome Martian Monster is more my speed, I love the way it lays back and waxes melodically, lingering in stark contrast to the giant KDF Jam.
In a ballad type 2nd Set, a' la Austin, Phish would drop more slow jams, perhaps finishing things off with a Hood or a Slave, but in this rager of set they know just whos number to call in Reba > Bathtub Gin.
Another great take on Reba and another fiery interesting Gin(things are happening with Gin) closes that great show.
8/01's 1st Set doesn't have the big Ghost or any bust outs but Nobody in Atlanta was complaining. Night 2's 1st Set was a chilly laid back summer evening affair and it went off without a hitch.
And then there was Tweezer.....
I'll skip the hyperbole, mostly because theres gonna be plenty of that to go around. Like I said earlier though the Tweezer jam stands in blazing contrast to the KDF jam. Both have one thing in common though, its Mike that steps up and gets things started. More off kilter idiosyncratic basslines from him, building a skeletal structure for Trey or Page to lay melody on top of. Where the KDF mostly stayed Mike led and abstract its Page that tickles some lovely melodies on his piano, Trey picks up on it, Mike willingly hops on the train and the boys are off. This Tweezer is a masterpiece and should be heard a million times.
I find it interesting that the rest of the jams in both sets contrast their set opening monster jams very well. The remainder of Night 1 saw an increase in melody after the KDF abstraction and Night 2 saw further exploration of the abstract with Carini & Sand after the melodic case study of Tweezer.
Throughout much of 3.0 Phish would bumble or not even attempt that sort of contrast but with new bridge tunes like Martian Monster, Blaze On and No Mans the band has had no problem in changing gears and making the whole thing sound "of a piece".
I dont know whats in store for the Tuscaloosa faithful tonight, although I suspect a deep fiery DWD is on the horizon, but I do know that Ive enjoyed every moment of 2015 so far.
Phish has arrived at this moment in their history and its plain to see how much fun their having up there. Lets all jump in the water with them, lets have a little perspective when they drop a "ballad" show or do the occasional fumble dance through a 2nd Set. Their out there putting musical acts 25 years their juniors to shame, still reinventing what a "Jam" band can do and pushing the boundaries of what a Quartet is capable of.


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