phish was coming off a very hot show, but as always at deer creek, we were looking for them to top the previous night. i don't know if they topped it, but they came down close.... i'll let others debate their favorite of this run...
punch: nice hot version. they dug deep in the intro before making it into the "song".
beauty of my dreams: ahhhh.... i love this song. good snappy version. got the slightly buzzed crowd jumping.
gumbo: here we go! this was a dark, nasty, funky gumbo. it might be my favorite ever. it is at least my favorite version since tinley park 97. fishman held down a nice funky beat while trey, page, and mike just laid down this nasty funky jam. lucky for us, we would get to revisit this realm in sneaking sally the next night.
the divided sky: after a 20+ minute gumbo, i was expecting the boys to chill on this one, but they kept the ball rolling. trey really soared on the post silence portion of this sky. there are a goof or two along the way on this one.
boogie on: quick and to the point, but this kept the momentum of a nice no nonsense first going.
carrini: talk about momentum...this got the creek rocking. they started to stretch this one out a bit before quickly turning a corner into the seldom played...
magilla: talk about an odd pairing! this magilla really caught the crowd off guard. page was killing this one, and trey quipped afterward that they should play this one again. good 'ol deer creek.... you can expect just about anything here.
possum: they closed this set with a barn burner possum. trey lights up the night on this one. he was hitting those hot, bluesy, licks that he finds in possum so often. very good, completel band effort here.
soa melt: this one had been shelved for a while, and some rust was evident. once they "breathed deep in the steam dream," they absolutely took off. this jam was spectacular, the best of the 3 night run and maybe the best of the year. after really rocking and rolling the melt theme, they find themselves in this far out spacey/bluesy jam. for a minute i thought they would go into jesus left chicago, but after a little more exploration they moved into...
free: this fit like a glove. this free had more of a funky mid section than some of its hard rocking brethren. gordon was hot on this one. good free, following a sick melt.
friday: hmmm... gotta cool down some time.
the lizards: nice little treat here. nothing out of this world. good solid lizards.
walls of the cave: i wasn't a big fan of this song, and this version didn't do too much to change my mind. the deer creek 2004 version with the dwd ending nudged me a little in its favor. trey and page were sharp on this take though.
bouncing around the room: nothing to see here
frankenstein: nice change of tempo after bouncing. they ended a great show in style.
this was a good solid show, with some thick jams in some slightly unexpected places. I did feel that the 2nd set petered out quite a bit torward the end, but who can complain about anything after that mind blowing melt.
This show features an out-of-nowhere awesome Gumbo, a hilariously paired Carini>Magilla, which contrasts mayhem and old timey hammed-up jazz executed wryly and flawlessly. Then the SOAM. This piece helps along to define a year when the four explored an atonal battle dance like no other time. It menaces discomfortingly into a well-earned and yet strange and sometimes frightening resolution that > excitedly into Free. This version keeps the energy high and positive before settling out into a delicate and beautiful space then > the best placed Friday of all time-- and it shines. Lizards, a song that has lost a bit of its holiness with age brings an old school head nod and offering to what had just transpired.
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
This was my second night of the three day run. I was happy so far with the first night and was hoping for another one. I came to this show solo, and down the road, this wouldn't be my last one doing this. Thank GOD I didn't drive the first night, anyway, it ended up being as decent a show as it was the night before. Very surprised with the set of songs they did the first set. Very good Punch You In the Eye, great Gumbo and Divided Sky, both first timers for me. Another great first times was Carini and ending the first set with a great Possum. They can't go wrong when they do this tune. Not only do I love it, but usually the crowds do to. Started off the second set with a sizzling Split Open and Melt and going into Free, and Friday. Then came Lizards, another good one and ending with a great Walls of the Cave. That was the first time seeing it and I was not disappointed at all. They finished off the night with Bouncing Around the Room and a great Frankenstein. So far so good with these two shows. What was gonna happen my third night? I didn't know what to expect at this point. I'd have to wait and see of course....
This show would be an easy four stars from me, based on the strength of the Split Open & Melt -> Free, Walls of the Cave, and Carini. The SOAMelt is clearly the highlight of the night, with a jam which cooks during the standard Melt portion and then kicks into a rockin' high gear. The Carini is short but very strong, and the Walls of the Cave is a raging closer.
But the show is loaded with slop, even for 2003. Almost every song is messy, but the composed part of Melt is terrible, and the Magilla is flat out the worst version I've ever heard. Even the jam in Gumbo, which ends well, starts out rough and takes time to smooth out.
Based just on the amount of slop, I'd would have to go two stars, but combined with the four star aforementioned jams, I think it evens out to three stars. But definitely check out the Carini, Melt-> Free, and WotC.
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