, attached to 2003-07-07

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo With Winter 03 firmly cementing the sentiment of, "They're back," with a healthy portion of "Holy shit they're better than ever," there was zero question that Summer 03's expectations were a little higher than many other tours, before or after. Rightfully so. Winter 2003 was an embarrassment of riches contained in Phish's single most efficient tour of their career. 12 shows. TWELVE. And think about what came from those twelve shows: THAT Tweezer, THOSE Gins, THAT Piper, THOSE Hoods, THAT Stash, THOSE YEMS, THAT Moma Dance... you see where I'm going with with. Comparatively, Fall 2013 can't hold a candle to that. Pick the 12 best shows from Summer 15. or Fall 97. or Summer 98. You'd be hard-pressed to find the same amount of "all-time" jams as you would in Winter 2003. Not saying you couldn't, but you'd have to really dig to find 12 shows that carry the fire power of the 12 Winter 2003 shows. And this isn't really taking into consideration that Winter 2003 ONLY HAD 12 shows - there need not be picking and choosing - every show delivered. Food for thought next time you write-off Winter 2003...

So here we are, in the heat of early July with another full nation-wide tour laid out ahead of us. This time, with more shows. Quite literally, the possibilities were endless, as Winter 2003 showed us that there were no rules to setlist construction, jamming style, jamming placement, and so on. Look what Phish did with 12 shows. What could they do with 22 culminating in their first festival since Cypress? Let's find out.

Phish | Mon Jul 7th, 2003 | Cricket Pavilion | Phoenix, AZ
Set 1: Stash, Sample in a Jar, Billy Breathes > Waves, Spices1, Anything But Me, David Bowie, Dirt, Possum
Set 2: Birds of a Feather, Wolfman's Brother -> Scents and Subtle Sounds2, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > Walls of the Cave > Prince Caspian
Encore: Character Zero

This show featured the Phish debut of Spices and the debut Scents and Subtle Sounds.

As you are being suspended in mid air, your feet are floating beneath you without touching the ground. You suspect to come to earth in a respectable, dignified fashion, wading into Summer tour, but Phish supplanted this idea by saying, "No thanks, we prefer to hit he ground running." Stash opens the tour with a bang. Context is everything, and suffice to say this Stash, placed anywhere else in a set in any other show would be mushed into mediocrity, but as a Summer tour opener, this was a statement choice. Stash billowed into spiraling psychedelics, if ever so slightly teetering on insanity, but ultimately never quite hit the frenetic peaks of tension and release we crave. Nonetheless, a show opener like this, let alone tour opener, and we knew within 12 minutes Summer 2003 was going to be a treat/ But how sweet? Sample kept us on cruise control two songs in and Billy Breathes, within a tour a whole 18 minutes old, was the first HOLY f*** moment of quite-a-many HOLY f*** moments to come. Humbly played, Billy Breathes weaves a tapestry of melodic beauty that couldn't have been better placed within the tour opener. It showed Phish was still busting out rarities, it showed Phish was still unafraid to take risks, it showed Phish was back to be unpredictable, unprecedented, and unparalleled -- in a word, Phish was (still) back to being Phish. Waves (along with Walls of the Cave) quickly became Phish's two most versatile songs of 2003. Anywhere in any set, these two songs found homes and grew roots. They always delivered. Always. This is another no-doubter. 4th song of the show and we have Trey and Page really getting after it. Surfing the interthreaded rhythms, this Waves. though not exemplary, does exemplify some high quality first set, first show jamming. The debut of Spices is met with personal and crowd mixed emotions. The song itself is pretty and delicate, the jam itself is disjointed and directionless. I would love to see Spices reworked into a style of Fee-outro jamming, but I am not a member of Phish. Spices sucks the wind out of the sales that Waves had created, and Anything but Me culled the waters completely. Quite frankly, I am a fan of Anything but Me. Super pretty song with a heartfelt message that can be empathized by anyone who has been in love, but mid set one after a slow debut was not the place for it. Thankfully a gnarly Bowie swoops us back into the churning waters of a Phish show. Up until last night, I had never heard this Bowie. Not a single second of it. I am happy to say that because this one really caught me offguard. It was gritty and windy - a sandstorm of jamming placed smack dab in the middle of the desert. It whipped around itself and defended its territory with ferocity and passion, culminating in a good handful of truly unique, truly psychedelic peaks. Although not an "A+" version, this one deserves your attention. Extremely well played. A heartfelt Dirt caught me offgaurd but was pretty, with ease and patience. It fit nicely, sandwiched between two rockers. The second of which was a smokin hot Possum (weren't they all in 2003???). Yes they were! This Possum delivers a solid exclamation mark to a rather straightforward set 1. [author's aside: Comparative to Winter 2003's opening set 2.14.03, this doesn't even come close... like, not even in the same city, let alone ballpark. This was not a bad set by any stretch, but blow for blow, 2.14.03 Set 1 delivered knockout after knockout compared to this. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!? Read on, loyal fan, to find out.]

We had been spoiled by Winter 03. No doubt about it. So when Phish plays a "normal" set, especially in the context of where they were at this point (following a Winter tour for the ages) we may have been scratching our heads. I agree I was one head scratcher, but then I remember to contextualize how uniquely special Winter 03 was versus the rest of their 20 years career. That helped soften the blow of a "normal" sounding Phish set. How crazy, right??? A "normal" Phish set is better than roughly 94.2% of all music shows out there - fourfteen percent of people know that - and if you caught my Simpsons reference, kudos to you. You can't judge an astrophysicist by his ability to think only like Carl Sagan. You can't judge a batter by his ability to hit only like Willie Mays. You can't judge a show by its ability to stack up only to Winter 2003. I hope those analogies help. Birds of a Feather swoops out of setbreak and delivers some high octane tension and release rock grooves. Nothing special, but a more-than-perfunctory set opener, like Stash, it gets the job done satisfyingly well. Now is when we get dirty. Wolman's Brother showcases some swampy funky. Ohhhh boy do I love this Wolfman's! Fish is the all star of this jams with some of the splashiest snare work I can remember. Just KILLIN IT!!! Mike is a close second with deep, dirty bass bombs, and the effects-laden Trey/Page backing is downright sultry. This Wolfman's sets the tone that yes indeed, Phish is STILL back! A smooth, spacey segue into the debut (with opening... it should never be played WITHOUT the opening to be honest) of Scents of Subtle Sounds. Ohhhh boyyyyy do I love this pairing. Swamp funk into space funk into space into bliss funk. This is a segment worth many many relistens. That opening bass riff and guitar riff, man, awesome; plus whatever the hell Page is doing, I love that shit. SASS breaks into a humble, cathartic bliss jam that is verrryyyy easy on the ears before evaporating into a beautifully placed TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu. That pairing is ideal in the middle of this set. It fits snugly and appropriately. Walls of the Cave follows up the 30+ minutes of beautiful playing with some firey hose. Nothing too extraordinary here. Caspian closes the set with mixed temperament - it has passion and direction, sure, but I dunno... it just doesn't *feel* right to close a show. My opinion. Character Zero provides usual rock and roll fireworks that are ALWAYS welcomed (seriously, if you hate on Zero, there is something wrong with the happiness section of your brain) and the night comes to a close with a few good songs, and one great segment. Phish gave us a glimpse of what was to come, and it looks awfully good...

Must-hear jams: Wolfman's Brother -> Scents and Subtle Sounds
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Billy Breathes, David Bowie, Possum


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