I had occasion to interview a pop star last week, and in reference to his band's current tour, he said it was "a good show." One of the treats about following the work of Phish is that its touring history is a long, ever-evolving narrative—not a collection of singular "shows" that are each mounted night after night in different cities, aiming to achieve the same effect and hit the same marks, as if a touring Broadway production. And so, within the rhythm of a given Phish tour, different clumps of shows naturally cohere into groups: a West Coast run here, a second leg there, perhaps a Red Rocks stand. For attendees of the second-leg-opening pair of shows at the Gorge this weekend, the music of the two nights likey combines into a jamble of highlights. And so the weaknesses of Saturday's show are easier to overlook—it's more pleasant to take its high points, combine them with the best parts of Friday's tour opener, and celebrate the highlight reel of "the Gorge."
Once upon a time, a hot show to open a run would key up fans' anticipation, raising hopes of a second night that would pick up where the previous one left off and take things even further. In this hit-or-miss-or-miss-again world of 3.0, the wise Phish fan takes a show like Friday's—boasting a "Rock and Roll" that likely makes the Top 15 list of 3.0 jams, an unexpectedly Type II "Roggae," and fabulous segues into "Meatstick" and "BoogieOn"—and gears down rather than gearing up. It's unrealistic to look for moderate bouts of improvisation in back-to-back shows these days. It's best, perhaps, to put your 20 minute "Rock and Roll" in your back pocket and just look to pad your winnings with a few minor pleasures. Night two of the Gorge offered some minor pleasures that no doubt helped those in attendance enjoy the fantastic setting and rock out to the weekend-warrior rituals that make for fun summer vacations.
Although it's been noted that the 90-minute first set exceeds the entire show length of many touring acts out there, the show unfortunately opened with a mix-and-match batch of go-nowhere rockers that would frankly be best served by some time on the shelf. (Do you disagree? Then I challenge you a month from now to listen to any of the first six songs and identify its specific version.) I've seen "Ocelot" noted as an above-average version, but honestly, who can even tell the difference at this point? The set dragged on for 40 minutes before the first surprising moment: Little Feat's "On Your Way Down," one of those ultra-rarities that Phish has brought into light rotation.
Then "Wolfman's" finally offered distinguishing characteristics, in the form of some pronounced allusions to Led Zeppelin's "Heartbreaker." "Maze" was a high point for many in attendance, as it often is, though versions seldom differ by much; Page's solo may take the role on this leg that his "Suzy" solo did on leg one. A quick "Wilson" (seemingly pre-dating the breakthrough Super Ball IX version by some years) led to "Fluffhead," which is certainly a high-protein set closer. (This is a great placement for the song, rather than leaning on it to provide second set "meat," as has so frequently happened since the song's much-appreciated return to the rotation. Like someone playing mini golf for the first time in years and hitting the first ball much too hard, it's Phish's seeming lack of "touch" with respect to this sort of thing that makes 3.0 sit so strangely for many longtime fans.)
"Chalkdust Torture" feels a little off as a second-set opener; when you take a traditional first set song and put it in the second set without adding anything special, it's hard not to feel a bit short-changed. After dealing with "Possum," "MOMA," "Limb," "Ocelot" etc. in the first set, the fans deserved a shift to more special territory. "Tweezer" surely heightened some expectations. My understanding of the purpose behind the ballad segueing from a jam song, going back to the post-"Space" Jerry ballad, is that it's a soothing balm to follow some out-there experimentalism. It defeats the point entirely when it instead is jarringly used to cut off a jam before it ever gets going. At this point Trey is force-feeding songs like "Caspian" and "Julius" out of "Tweezer," as if out of some residual instinct, but while forgoing the actual jam. We get these songs *instead* of a jam, rather than as a cool-down from a jam. The best thing "Caspian" can do is end quickly and segue interestingly into something else, as it indeed does on occasion. This night, it segued rather compellingly into "Sand."
The "Sand" itself sounded pretty straightforward to me on first hearing, before thrillingly dropping back into "Tweezer" with old school aplomb. An unexpected treat, and a rejection of the by-the-numbers formality that generally characterized this show. "Birds" was standard, and again, by deep-second-set territory it would be great to feel like we're in a special zone. "Golden Age" was great to hear, but it's rather deflating to hear Trey shutting it down right away in lieu of a jam. Part of the excitement about so many songs is the promise that they will go on to do something new and interesting; when they are not given a chance to do so (rather than merely trying and failing), it is a betrayal of that promise and weakens the impact of the song the next time around.
The band is experimenting with "Reba" as a late-second set tune. Yes: I'd be thrilled to hear Phish play "Reba" any time of day or night, and not to mention at the Gorge. But again, if you're still just getting a pretty basic version, it's hard not to feel like it would have been much better recieved a few hours earlier. I'd like to say it's nice to see the band re-thinking and re-contexturalizing the repertoire, but it seems to amount generally to First Set creep. (It's not like the early-first-set "Ocelot"s and the "Suzy" encores and "Antelope" closers are being switched out for anything fresh and new.) On the other hand, second sets have been known to stumble toward the finish line (see Friday), so a combo of "Golden Age," "Reba" and "Antelope" must be particularly appreciated by folks on tour. "Antelope," in keeping with recent custom, featured several teases: a whistled "Reba" theme, "Tweezer" and "Sand" in the intro and "Golden Age" in the jam.
The expected "Suzy"/"Tweeprise" was spiced up with an unexpected "Sanity" in the middle; this must have been a great treat! If anything, this show feels to me like *less* than the sum of its parts. The second set in particular was filled with plenty of songs that are very pleasant to hear live, and would have surely made the gorgeous Gorge feel like just about the best place in the world to be at that time. But the show was sorely lacking in flow, and featured the typical frustrating 3.0 "Tweezer"> "Caspian." The segue into "Sand" and the wonderful return to the "Tweezer" theme, however, plus such fare as the teasey "Antelope" and the surprising "Sanity" can sit comfortably as filler on your "Best of the Gorge 2011" iPod playlist.
In short, it's fair to call the opening Gorge weekend a success, and head towards Hollywood and Tahoe with excitement. This band still has some muscle, and the potential on any given night is probably greater than it's been anytime since The Return, even if the actual day-to-day payoff is mixed. And that itself is somethin'.
[The whistled tease in "Antelope" has been corrected.]
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and thanks for proofreading your review before posting it.
Everyone's ears are different, but Caspian was not jarring to my ears in last night's show at all, not like the Ghost> Mike's from the Greek, the Ghost> Numberline from PNC, or the Tweezer> Julius from Alpharetta. The Tweezer jam played to a natural conclusion, even if we all would rather have heard 10 more minutes of exploration. For me the 2nd set from Tweezer through Antelope is spot-on stuff.
Regardless of the disagreement, thanks for the recap.
And I think you've completely missed the boat on Tweezer > Caspian, as @joechip points out. Caspian has been a lot more interesting in 2010-11 than it was last night, but that's no big deal. It really did belong where it appeared. Think for a second: Chalkdust, Tweezer...what should follow?
They aren't the Dead. Their 'out-there' music is not anywhere near as far out there as 'Space' tended to be. Come on now.
it's a sign of how far they've come this year that this kind of thing can be upsetting instead of the expected norm of 3.0 (type I> ambient> julius/char zero/horse/caspian/boaf). the truly standout gorgeous music happens after the exhale of the ambient that cools down the in-the-box jamming of the first 8 mins or so. see any number of diseases this summer if you're looking for an example. or '98 if you want to get crazy about it.
sometimes jams have a Plan from the getgo that assaults your ears like some kind of rough beast, but more often than not the jam needs some room to develop, to mutate through an often blissful grey zone before a slight syncopation, modal or outright key change occurrs. from there trey/page will complement each other's runs starting off a single shared chord or octave. it's hard to describe but incredibly easy to feel, that locked feeling of melody with the beat pushing forward. then its the music playing the band--we need the search to get to the arrival. it seems to be a kind of future-oriented playing to cut things off after the ambient section in search of *where* to go next instead of realizing the present in the portal of an always-now.
sorry for the rant, $0.02
News flash, you aren't entitled to anything from Phish, especially when you didn't even attend the show.
In a word, pathetic.
I agree with this 100%. Big reason its so frustrating hearing a Wilson like this after the potential of the last one. I understand if they want to turn clock back on a lot of heavy-hitters, even if it's all the way to 1991.
I see a lot of people complaining about the lack of exploration in the uber-classics like YEMs, Tweezers, Bowie & Gins- as well as relative young guns Ghost, Piper & Twist- but (by itself) that feels fine to me. Phish has hundreds of songs, but a majority of them are played straight up 100% of the time. Camel Walk is one of Phish's oldest and funkiest songs, yet stayed glued to it's structure even during 1997. Sure, popping up in lieu of Mockingbird on 8/14/97 was a great curveball in setlist construction but once Camel Walk began, they played it close to the vest as usual.
I don't know if it's a failure of imagination on Phish's part, a conscious decision to predominately stick to the classics & new material which they're most familiar with and keep everything succinct or if they just assume that people would be happier hearing 25 of their favorite songs than 8. Perhaps they associate long freewheeling jams with the reportedly increasingly dark scene around the band around the turn of the millenial hotdog.
Personally, I think it's a little bit of 'all of the above' and none whatsoever of "They don't have it anymore"
The setlist scenario is the most confusing as Trey has stated that they write setlists and then abandon them. Does anyone know of any 3.0 shows where they (supposedly) stuck with the script they took the stage with all night? I'd be curious to see how that looks in relation to segments like Simple> Bug, Horse> Silent, Weekapaug, Joy, Zero E: Show Of Life from Superball- thats a seriously conflicted & disjointed stretch of songs and while most of them were pleasantly well played, outside of maybe Simple, nobody is ever going to flashback to that sequence unless they proposed to their high school sweetheart during it. Truth be told, Phish has always seemed to be worth 2 or 3 head scratching setlist calls per night but lately whole sets can just seem drawn out of a hat. Interestingly enough, this tendency seems to be exaggerated right after either an improv heavy segment or simply a cohesive bunch of songs. DTE's second set ended after Bowie. The encore started with 3 songs left to go in the 2nd set, fairly common occurence lately and it's baffling.
Much less baffling is Phish's renewed dedication to playing their songs and "Phase 1" type jams properly. Compared to vast swaths of 97-04, Phish is seriously in command of their songs. Perhaps the way their brains work during improv throws them off their game some when it comes to playing some of this extremely complex material? Perhaps they are all too aware of the way a lot of their oldest-school-fans felt about the spacy and groovy material the band was churning out on a regular basis in the 99-04 era.
They've given us plenty of reasons to beg for them to jam more. From flashes of brilliance and inspiration so short that you may have missed them- the Superball Mound & Wilson, the Gorge's Roggae and Farmhouse- to seriously sprawling gauntlet-thrown improvisation such from the Bethel Waves Tech Rehearsal to the Gorge Rock & Roll.
I love jams. I'll stop rambling now. These tastes are mad tantalizing but i'm still holding out for jammed out Bouncins & 20 minute Rock A Williams without the rotation and with Fishman doing Phil Collins and whatever. Anything Goes Tour 2012. I'll hold my breath if you do?
If we all click our heels three times and pray to Vishnu, the next Makisupa will have a 15 minute long hose attatched to it and inspires such a massive trend of "!!!!?!!??" moments in improvisatory debauchery that it stands as the Murat Gin of the future.
I'm on Taste -> Undermind -> Vultures Tour.
With that said, I do agree with your estimation of the show. Although I thought Caspian was above average last night and the Tweezer was cool, Gorge Night 2 will not make it into my 2011 highlights folder.
I'm merely going on my reactions of one spin through the headphones earlier this morning, but playing contained versions of Birds and Golden Age didn't bother me one iota....it's not like those are overplayed as of late, and both versions were crisp and energetic. Golden Age, in particular, kinda played the role that 2001 has of late in second sets, and I thought that was great. Much preferable to another race through the ASZ theme.
Then a cap to the set with a rocking Antelope that recaps the themes of the set smoothly. This was a well put together set, the slower stuff was placed appropriately, there was a logic to the proceedings.
@mikh2wg said: I agree with your assessment of Prince Caspian, and disagree with your assessment of Tweezer. I felt that Prince Caspian rose above the norm but Tweezer seems to have been relegated back to perfunctory. Fluffhead, Chalk Dust Torture, Tweezer, Reba and Run Like an Antelope all felt like they were standardized versions. Excellent, but not standouts. I'd give them all 3/5 as I think Phish could play any of these versions as is on any day of the week. Nothing there makes me want to put any of them onto a highlights playlist.
For me, the highlights were First "On Your Way Down" which had a great James Brown meets Jimi Hendrix vibe, and went way beyond expectations, Second "Limb by Limb" which showed that Phish really can harmonize. Anyone who thinks Phish cant sing should listen to this "Limb by Limb". And third, "Prince Caspian" though I'll have to revisit it after some time has passed. I may be reflecting my thoughts that Tweezer was less than stellar and Prince Caspian felt better by comparison. My reasons for choosing those as highlights is that each one exceeded my expectations. Reba > Antelope was great to hear, but neither version exceeded expectations: great to hear, but not "wow, gotta save that and listen to it again".
Having re-read the review once more before posting, I must agree with the other posters who said that the review has too much opinion and not enough description. I really learned nothing about the show and after listening to the show, I feel like we listened to two different shows. Phish.net should consider a peer review policy for these recaps - sometimes, they do need a rewrite.
Just enjoy the music folks !
Cannot wait till Next Year at the Gorge !
lol, why even bother to read reviews on the blog section of phish.net then? stick to the setlists page where you'll get the soundbytes you're looking for. or there's another site that you may enjoy more entitled mr. miner's phish thoughts, he's uber-positive and for the most part goes to the shows. quarreling with a review you see here is like going on a mormon site extolling the virtues of booze and drugs. seriously not trying to hate, but until phish starts jamming 20+ mins every night you're not going to be happy with most of the reviews you're gonna read here. also, there's a reason that certain people show up on the review section of the blog...they actually know what they are talking about. it can be a downer to read but not every review should be positive. that wouldn't be much of a "review" then would it?
@mikh2wg - Reviews are supposed to have opinion in them. A written description of music without opinion is boring and pointless. Might as well just read the sheet music.
@fly_phishn - If you don't like reviews, don't read reviews. Make a thread talking about how Trey is a Jedi and Phish are gods who never play a bad note and all should blindly lap up every show like mindless idiots. Criticism does not equal hate, so get over it. And, while you're at it, get rid of the idea that people who didn't attend the show have no right to an opinion about the show. One of the reasons the shows are recorded and distributed and replayed and discussed is that there is more to it than just the party, there's also the music, which can be enjoyed apart from the live experience.
OK, I'm done. Waitin' for this to be up on the spreadsheet. Still boggled by the scores that night one is getting, as I think that R&R was a top 15 all time Phish jam, not just 3.0.
My one gripe with the reviewer is that he was not there. There are enough fans that are good enough writers that could provide this site with a review from the venue. It does make a difference and adds the appropriate perspective. Being mostly on the couch tour myself, I know I am truly missing a major part of it and would love to have that conveyed in writing by someone that was there.
Also, newer fans need to relax and stop being so defensive. People who have seen shows for 15-20 years are allowed to critique and add their opinions about the direction, style, and setlists. This is not hate. We all love this band and we would not be on this site if we didn't. The band is still excellent and we appreciate them for what they do. After the misguided return from the first hiatus, it seems like the 5 years off really did them well. They look healthy, happy, and engaged in the music. We are lucky to have them back. Oh, and sorry noobs, it is true...96-98 is the BEST shit ever and will never be topped. Just the facts.
Carry on with your complaining.
"After dealing with "Possum," "MOMA," "Limb," "Ocelot" etc. in the first set, the fans deserved a shift to more special territory."
Really I'm so sorry that Phish made you deal with songs that you consider lackluster (apparently including the second most played Phish song of all time), good thing you didn't waste your money to actually attend the show.
I'm not asking you to fluff every show that gets played, but writing a "recap" that's really just an explanation of how much better the show would be if you had your way is a waste of time and not worthy of phish.net.
Don't shoot the messenger. Although you may be thrilled with a "two first set" jukebox of six minute songs and no jamming, type I, II or otherwise, because you love Phish or the individual songs, don't conclude someone is "jaded" or not a phan because they are not satisfied.
It's not like you can't listen to a Phish 2.0 show at the click of a mouse and compare/contrast.
BEST SHOW EVER. I have nothing constructive nor scathing to say about it. It was literally perfect note for note, and nary a decision was made on stage or in the lighting booth that was anything less than inspired and visionary. Hollywood, California, the United States, the world, and the known Universe will never be the same.
And one of those places is on the blog. Saying that this discussion is ok on the forum but not here is ludicrous.
That's ancient history. You can listen to the music with your own ears with negligible effort within an hour of the show. Comparing now with an effort that hinged upon the concept of describing something people not there wouldn't hear for some time is unfair. Some might even say that describing the show in that manner is trite given today's technology.
I'll make sure in my comment on your review to say "Best review ever of anything anywhere by anyone." Then we'll all be happy.
I really appreciate J D G's thoughts and how he was able to "vocalize" some thoughts I have had, particularly concerning Phish's song placement of late.
But, maybe that is the beauty of Phish, we all see and hear it so differently, that there is lots of room under this big phish net tent.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, JDG. This review strikes me as a little over-analytical, with too much attention given to the "placement" and "specialness" (or lack thereof) of various songs, but I do appreciate seeing some thoughtful, informed criticism in a recap.
And while anyone's review of a show is generally welcome, on the blog and elsewhere, I think that the RECAPs are best when they're written by someone who was in attendance. As others have said, the energy of the evening is a major part of the magic, and does often influence the music. It's a feedback loop. Beautiful thing.
Also, I like Prince Caspian. Perhaps its not always well-placed, but I really don't understand phans' antagonism toward that song...
Energy means vastly different things to different people. I have a friend who has been religiously seeing and loving Phish since 1995. His favorite songs? Character Zero, Suzy Greenberg & Golgi. He thinks 3.0 brings the energy in a way that he hasn't seen since his first shows in summer 95 and is glad that they don't clutter up their sets with a bunch of weird spacey improv. I see where he's coming from, and I know he isn't the only one. Every time Phish pushes out into weirdspace you start seeing swaths of the audience losing attention- the same people who are raptly attentive during the composed parts of Golgi which haven't seen any deviation since 1988.
Prince Caspian can be awesome. 12/12/97, 7/31/99 & Bethel 11 in particular really do it for me.
First, it takes .net (or "the front page of .net" and puts it on a pedestal that isn't warranted. We treat our documentation efforts (setlists, song histories etc) for Phish's history "seriously" but I think too often folks are confusing us with the New York Times, who we are decidedly not. We want to provide content that folks find useful. News, opinion, serious, frivolous: it all has a place. We certainly don't take ourselves that seriously; blog posts are starting points for discussion, not "the official word" on anything.
Second, this approach presumes there is one type of "proper" review. Asserting that "reviews should be this" or "shouldn't be that" is just silly. The editors here are all for diversity of opinion: it is a fundamental premise of how we do business, as should be evident by the fact that basically every component of the site encourages user participation. If you want a site that only uses one approach to a style of review, or only reviews gigs positively or what have you, there are places for that. If that is what folks are looking for, you should explore other options; we're not going to conform to one style that you or anyone else may prefer.
The key point that is so often missed: a review from a .net staffer on the blog/front page is just one person's opinion. They do not reflect the views of the staff as a whole, and most importantly they do not presume to be some end-all "truth" on a gig or whatever is being discussed. If you disagree with the opinions offered, counter with some of your own (actually ideas, not "this review is invalid because it isn't the review I would have wrote" or "this review is invalid because you weren't there" etc). We provide a review section: go write one of your own. There is a forum: go post there. Have a different opinion *on the substance?* Offer it.
This isn't directed at anyone in particular, but so many of the blog comments just make fans seem like a bunch of insufferable whiners! Try to help make this a marketplace of ideas instead of a marketplace of people shitting on each other because they don't see something exactly as you do. The constant griping over what is the "right" way to talk about Phish is IMO stale, boring, and reflects poorly on the community. I'm not holding my breath but it would be awesome if as a community we could improve upon the current dynamic. Carry on.
(I would think everyone who visits this board would agree that not much can compare to seeing Phish live and in person, but I think that excitement and happiness is a separate-but-parallel companion to the music. If a review on the Blog is from someone who is only listening to the music, then you know what they are commenting on. It is almost more pure to the songs that were played. While a review from someone who was actually there could be filled with a number of caveats, almost as excuses for the fun that was had in spite of this or that miscue . . . )
Sorry. Rambling a bit.
@ADAWGWYO I hear your comment about n00bs thinking a show is epic just because it's their 4th show. When I was coming out of the pav after Blossom, I accidentally let the word "epic" slip from my lips. Some (presumably) jaded vet heard it and shot me a look that literally hurt. "Epic? EPIC?!" and he got in my face, he was seriously ready to throw down. Excuse the ever loving shit out of me for having a little enthusiasm. Just wanted to share that.
I also rather enjoyed Caspian out of Tweezer and thought that Trey's ambient yet blistering solo in Caspian made up for the jam the reviewer felt was omitted from Tweezer. After an 8:00 spacy improve in Tweezer Caspian felt well placed. Like I said, the solo in Caspian brought on that satisfied feeling (in conjunction with a gritty Sand which followed) that Tweezer was well played when they finally emerged back into the main riff. Just my opinion though. For each person that felt let down, maybe there is another that felt completely inspired!
I agree with the reviewers assessment of the show as a whole, but disagree with some of the sections. For instance, I think Possum is a great show opener. It immediately grabs your attention and gets the crowd "in the mood". Calling it a "go-nowhere rocker" is much to harsh. I would reserve the term "go-nowhere rocker" for songs like "Jack & Diane" by John Mellencamp, or anything by REO Speedwagon, etc. To lump the first six songs into the "go-nowhere rocker" group was pushing a button that was obviously going to get a riled up response. On the other hand I agree that the next five songs (after Possum) kind off felt like cruise control, and as @J_D_G said, it was "40 minutes before the first surprising moment". I agree that "On the Way Down" was certainly a surprise, and a show highlight for me, and I also agree that I kept expecting something to come busting out a bit sooner, I don't think it fair to say the first set "dragged on for 40 minutes". That feel like something a little kid would say ... (aka) "Are we there yet?"
As for the second set, me and @J_D_G are never going to see eye-to-eye, In this case, I think @J_D_G was far more positive in his review than I would have been. I hope he continues to find enjoyment in Heartbreak teases, and Trey dragging the band back into a second Tweezer that quickly disintegrated. Definitely not a highlight for me, but everyone perceives Phis a bit differently, looks for different things, and enjoys different aspects of Phish's music (and show).
All shows have peaks and valleys, great shows progress over multiple peaks, while sub-par shows languish in the valleys. This also applies to shows reviews. Any review that seems to wallow in negativity or fails to connect with readers opinions will be criticized. This is just as it should be. The reviewer can read the comments and make changes as necessary if he agrees, or dismiss the criticism if he disagrees. That seems fair to me.
So I said:
@pyite said: Ok, so I'm a dinosaur. But ya know how the first record you ever heard from your favorite band is your favorite record, even if it's not their best one? That's kinda how I feel about the old-school recaps I describe. I know they may be anachronistic, but to me that is what a Phish review should look like. That's what I'm used to.
But I think you made a good point about the site showcasing different kinds of reviews. And how we should focus on the music and not the style of the writer. But the original post here had a lot of style to focus on.
As far as the music goes, I still have to stick by my opinion from yesterday. Not the best show ever. It would have been cool to see that segue back into Tweezer in person, and I still think that was a great Caspian. But I already deleted the show. Not that memorable overall.
One of my favorite parts of the Gorge were all the teases in Antelope. It made me happy to have many of the earlier songs in the set recapped in that way. Sort of make you think about where you have been.
While I understand that people prefer a less disjointed stretch of songs, I think it is also a good idea for them to play whatever they are feeling at the moment.
I have been seeing Phish since 94 and I thought they were great at the Gorge! They need to play at the Key Arena in Seattle during the winter. We need them around here more than once a year : )
That said, this review is utter CRAP and the writer was obviously NOT at the show. How can you review a show you weren't at?
Also, reading this article makes me want to criticize the reviewer because he/she comes off like a total asshole. And while this person may be a wonderful human being in real life, if I met him/her and he/she started talking like they are writing, I would call them an asshole and walk away.
So, that said, the writer's a dick, the re-cap is utter garbage, and the Gorge was FUCKING GREAT.
The point is that doing so changes the subject to *the reviewer* and not *the subject of the review*, i.e. Phish. We make this site available to talk about Phish; not about us. Thanks.
If you took the time to listen to the show, you would see that it is clearly among the best of the year. If all you care about are "jams" and "setlists," then you managed to miss everything extraordinary about this particular show.
Trey and Phish are not the Trey and Phish of the past. Get over yourself. If you want old school, become "The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday."
I thought Friday to be one of the best shows I've heard in ages, and on second listen, I was bored to death.
On the other hand, Saturday's show is simply sublime. The more I listen to it, the more amazing it becomes. Trey is playing other-worldly guitar right now, and his techniche is at an all time high.
He is definitely more influenced by jazz at this point, less into rock and roll runs. He is also infusing every line with more variation and vocabulary than before. Rather than simply peaking and peaking, he's adding complex runs and weaving round and round those peaky lines, so that you get both texture, depth, and peaks; and it all comes at you a mile a minute.
If you don't think about the music he's creating, you're not gonna get it. This is not the "in your face" sound anymore. You actually have to participate.
As the show goes, the Possum is one of the year's best. Even Poor Heart bounces more than usual, forgoing Fishman's silliness in favor of revealing the great song that it is. Every song has a little extra special going on.
Sand, for example, is one of the best jams I have ever heard out of Phish. The vertical symmetry of sound, the layers and the space between the instruments, the exquisite phrasing and breath, and the fact that the band is so loose that the Sand groove does not bound them like a prison, but rather they can easily roll into Tweezer without extensive tension or force.
Further, it took me three times before I actually heard the power of this Antelope. It is sublime. Trey plays more like a jazz musician than a rock musician here, and he casts many listeners aside while scaling one fantastic peak after another.
One thing that also sets this show apart is that the band are on from the very first note, and they never lose the groove. There is no warmup here. They are on fire right from the start.
The Fluffhead, on the soundboard, is perhaps the most note-perfect rendition, with Trey even reharmonizing the final build of Bundle of Joy, seemingly spontaneously.
There are many musical surprises to be had this night. I would definitely call this one of the best shows of 3.0, and the above review is nothing but jaded complaints of someone who listens to too much Phish and is bored to death with himself.
Reading the review, it is nothing but a complaint about what they didn't do. That's not a review at all. That's a failure to perceive what's right in front of you.
this one's for you jeff...
also, i don't claim to be a good writer, my grammer and spelling suck, so be easy...
The subject is Phish, and anyone who feels a review of Phish is inaccurate, should be encouraged to say why.
All the repeats: I think Trey is pissed that an official fan site panned one of the best performances of his life.
The nite 2 Gorge review concerned itself not with the show at hand, but with everything that the show wasn't. Rather than reviewing the merit of the performance, it complained about the band not doing the stuff they did when everything was 'drug' based.
It's actually quite pitiful and unfortunate that a fan can't perceive when the band crosses over from rock and roll into the realm of genuine art.
Question: Did the reviewer rate the music based on the setlist or the performance? Did the reviewer notice the way that Trey is using the final note of one song to introduce the next: check Chalkdust-> Tweezer! The the reviewer listen to the sbd on a high end system and really get a sense about the music that went down?
Maybe not best ever versions of any song in particular, but the quality of performance and consistency is clearly best-ever.
No, it is not the funk of '97, the colorful dancing sound of '98, the dialated rage of '99, the trace grooves of 2000, the endless jams and swirling cocophanies of sound of 2003-4.... no. This is not Phish of the past.
This is Phish with new-found confidence, owning that which they do best, and putting on a great show that also keeps in with the times.
Once again, although the jams are not long on saturday night's Gorge show, there is nothing lacking. Hell, many shows of 2011 feel like long jams that contain several songs, and the band is connecting songs better than they have in years.
The Possum has some of Trey's best soloing in years, Moma Dance is silky and smooth, and Trey takes his time through the structure of the song, giving extra without becoming overindulgent.
Sample in a Jar soars like none I've heard. Trey no longer plays his solo verbatim every time. He gives us chorus after chorus of original, soaring rock and roll, perfectly united with the band. Mind you, the music is not just Trey anymore. Fishman is a beast on this show, as is Mike Gordon. Page is also much more tuned in than most of the first set of night 1.
Limb by Limb is peak after peak after peak. Try and follow Trey as he takes his solo to the Washington state skies. Ocelot gives us a flavor of the whale calls without overdoing it. It is a worthy version for sure, but it also seems to blend in with the flavors of the night.
Poor Heart forgoes the usual Fishman rants, and they give us the am radio version, really locking into a groove, with the whole band taking it up for the final chorus of the solo before the closing verses. Trey nails his parts while sacrificing none of the energy.
On Your Way Down is quite nice as well. I feel that Page gives a little extra, and Trey is really in a zone this show. His lines are actually very lyrical and complex; he seems to be drawing from a greatly expanded vocabulary as of late. One thing I have noticed with some great jazz musicians is that the bigger the flurry of notes, the less I notice of it until I learn how to hear it. Perhaps many fans are not sure how to approach Trey's artistic development. There is a lot more going on now, and each moment contains far greater riches than were once offered in an entire show.
At this point, the music captures the move from light into dark very gradually, as the sun sets on the venue, and perhaps upon the economy (is that not a major fear of many right now?). Wolfman's Brother brings the promise of funk, along with dancing grooves, and the aforementioned "heartbreaker" reference. Flowing freely, they drop into a great Maze, and although it is not a best-ever performance, they don't spare any details.
The Wilson that follows lacks the very cool descending jam of Superball IX, but it is given a full-throttle treatment that leads into another perfectly nailed Fluffhead. One thing I have noticed as of late is that Trey is not making mistakes on this tune, and he has traversed the place where the technical exercises of the orchestrations really sound like good fucking music to my ears. I particularly like Trey's variations on the 'Bundle of Joy' sequence in this version, where he adds some riffs that sound brand new and perfect.
The band is clearly breathing new life into old material, with a lighter, more focused sound. Trey plays more like he's speaking, and he embellishes old riffs with a plethora of notes, leaving only implications of the original form of which he references.
Chalkdust Torture. Out of place, perhaps, but there is a little of that James Brown funk chord between phrases on the verses, allowing the song to breathe in its initial stages. Treys solos are masterful, not simply peaking the old cliches, but embellishing the hell out of them as to deem them new and unfamiliar. The final note of Chakdust is the first note of Tweezer, creating a great exclamation point right there!
Tweezer has some of its best moments in the spaces between the verses. I'm not a big fan of the strut-strut-strut-strut strum that Trey has thrown in as of late during the theme, but he gets away from that after a bit, and some of the song's best moments actually hit between the verses before the jam.
The jam itself is flowing, unforced, and it seemed to me that Trey allows the other guys to carry the groove a bit more. The transition into Caspian is very natural and it works for me, as does the early departure into Sand.
Sand is probably my favorite jam of the night. This is the kind of music I was hoping Phish would eventually create when I became aware of them in 1993. Jon, Mike, Page and Trey play with complete ease and freedom, conversing naturally while protecting a most rare type of groove that is absolutely difficult to encounter. I don't have words to express what sets this Sand apart, except to say that this is my kind of music, the shit I search for that keeps me coming back. The return into Tweezer is textbook Phish, and the transition into Birds is just as natural.
Trey wastes no time getting to the verses, and the song is competently played.
I got a little sleepy during Golden Age and had to go back. Reba wasn't the peakiest version ever, and Mike flubbed the coda. Nonetheless, the musicianship remained stellar and I have noticed that this is the kind of music I hear something new and different in with every review.
Antelope is spectacular. I say this after listening to it three times, and finally hearing it on that third time. Trey plays more like a jazz musician here, but also takes the solo to its expected peaks. Mike's double-time solo during the Esquandolis part is very impressive, and Trey is less obnoxious here than the performance at Blossom Music Center June 4.
The encore is given that extra little bit as well, and the band clearly goes well past the 11:30 closing time, playing an extra 17 minutes. If there happens to be a curfew at the venue, then that would be money out of Phish's pockets from the band to the fans. A clear testament to the enjoyment factor that the musicians reveal in their performance on this night.
I have recently noticed that playing the sbd on a high end stereo really enhances my listening experience. Further, I think it is important to attempt to perceive all the changes this band has gone through over the years that have lead them to become what they are right now.
They are not the Grateful Dead. They are not Phish of old. This is a more mature sound, a more awake sound, and a more light and joyful sound. Further, It is not Fishman and Trey challenging each other to mighty heights. Mike Gordon's tone is fat and full, and rich with character. Page's keyboard technique reveals a matured freedom of his limitations of old. Trey is playing on a whole new level, painting castles in the air with intricate, musical lines that would make John Coltrane proud.
Listen again. This is a whole new Phish. In my opinion, this is a peak!
P . S . In my opinion...the second set was pure rock...They Killed it !!! Thank You Phish!
*Friday had some great heights but also some staid covers and well-played standards.
*Saturday had great setlist flow, a real greatest hits feel with only one cover, very consistent type I rocking with glee. I danced my freaking feet off, but wished for one more really out there exploratory piece.
*Neither was face-melting, but I think both were probably better than 8/5/10, a show that hardly sucked. A total experience worth traveling for. They are not the setlists I would have written exactly but I'm glad I didn't get disappointed in the middle of the show once I realized that history was not being made... I was too busy having a good time and listening to some great performances.
My long take on the review politics:
I think the reviewer is missing a lot of the subtle musicianship going on within the structured parts and periphery of the so-called standard songbook, suggesting that the reviewer is listening more carefully only when there is a type II soundscape. Thus, I think the perspective is pretty narrow and I'm afraid JDG isn't the only .netter with this bias. Successful type II is glorious stuff indeed but I think most people overestimate the % of type II, even in the mid 90s, and tend to forget about the less successful adventures altogether.
The most absurd part is when the writer petulantly suggests the band shelve songs that aren't spontaneously producing "better" versions of themselves: "Do you disagree? Then I challenge you a month from now to listen to any of the first six songs and identify its specific version." A ridiculous challenge, based on the premise that an ideal concert would include unique versions of every song played. I can't agree. Sometimes as songs, you know, there IS one best version; as expressions of something beyond pitch, tempo and meter, songs work better with the words not being broken up by an improv segment that might be inventive (or not) but definitely has nothing to do with the emotions and feel of the song.
"We want you to be happy, for this is your song too." --I hope that Trey doen't debase Joy by relegating it into a mere entry point into some longwinded jam. Joy deserves to stand on its own. There may not ever be a best Joy or special Joy or unexpected Improv Joy, but I'd be disappointed if they just stopped playing it because outspoken fans can't get past their own need for novelty, fireworks and type II to get themselves to listen.
I absolutely loved hearing my show neighbors on Saturday predict a 2nd set Bouncing because they hadn't played it yet in 3 sets! It had to be coming up! Then other people started listing tunes that hadn't been played and it started to dawn on them that 1) they probably weren't getting their Bouncing and 2) Phish has a deep catalog and they can basically play any of it at any moment and just might. It was adorable. Not that I want to hear a 2nd set Bouncing, but these sorts of reviews lack the context of all the new fans and how the band tries to balance all the various genres and styles in their music.
For example: there were 30 odd people all dressed in Larry Bird jerseys with a sign in a front section of the amphitheater. Not a favorite of mine or good placement in the set but a nice touch to fulfill the request.
The reviewer might be the salt of the earth, a mensch, a real pal, but I don't think much of this piece. The Gorge 2011 was not all time epic but all the setlist politics about 3.0 vs. previous eras has gone off the rails. Previous eras are filled with first sets, type I and only occasional truly great improv. It isn't a 3.0 thing. It is a "best of your show collection" vs. 3.0 thing. Aborting jams is a new development I don't care for, but the .net spent many hours wishing for fewer repeats, more impov, and first sets that felt more like 2nd sets in the 1990s. Grousing about 3.0 not living up to campground fantasy tour setlist fun isn't worthy of being posted, and while this review is better than that, it is falling into that zone of cliche.
Phil, that zone of cliche is due to editing choices made by .net folks. You've done an admirable job trying to moderate ad hominem and otherwise keep it pleasant but at the same time keep posting show reviews that devolve into the same themes and then come into the thread to fend off the less articulate responses to those themes. The most inventive and comment worthy aspects of the music are more subtle than in the past and I don't have the musician's vocabulary to explain the neat things in the nooks and crannies that I am hearing, and nor do most fans, and I think the discourse suffers accordingly. This particular review was a perfectly ordinary opinion that came off as bitter and maybe even uninformed.
What I took from J D G's review when he said "dealing with" certain songs is that the band seems to have parts of the catalog that come easy to them and they have no problem pulling them one after another right now. (Cheap thrills?) And sure, if I am at a show, I might find favorites out of those string of songs and could hear slight nuances that put a smile on my face. But "confidence"? The word can be parsed.
If you took the time to listen to the show, you would see that it is clearly among the best of the year. If all you care about are "jams" and "setlists," then you managed to miss everything extraordinary about this particular show.
Trey and Phish are not the Trey and Phish of the past. Get over yourself. If you want old school, become "The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday." "
Wow, let's take this point by point.
"He is definitely more influenced by jazz at this point, less into rock and roll runs. He is also infusing every line with more variation and vocabulary than before. Rather than simply peaking and peaking, he's adding complex runs and weaving round and round those peaky lines, so that you get both texture, depth, and peaks; and it all comes at you a mile a minute.
If you don't think about the music he's creating, you're not gonna get it. This is not the "in your face" sound anymore. You actually have to participate."
This seems to make listening very complex.
"As the show goes, the Possum is one of the year's best. "
It's not. Not even close but they've played this song every other night so I can see how they all run together
"Further, it took me three times before I actually heard the power of this Antelope. It is sublime. Trey plays more like a jazz musician than a rock musician here, and he casts many listeners aside while scaling one fantastic peak after another. "
It is quite good, but I'm not sure how listeners get "cast aside". Is there a decoder ring available to hear something different?
"I would definitely call this one of the best shows of 3.0, and the above review is nothing but jaded complaints of someone who listens to too much Phish and is bored to death with himself.
Reading the review, it is nothing but a complaint about what they didn't do. That's not a review at all. That's a failure to perceive what's right in front of you."
The reviewer probably does listen to too much Phish. Roger Ebert probably sees too many movies, but that doesn't preclude you from making comparisons to previous work as point of reference.
Aye, there's the rub. What are the listener's expectations? Do they want to hear something new, or are they happy to accept whatever Phish is performing in the moment? To what extent does the listener allow his/her prior experiences dictate their present experience?
Each of us must decide for ourselves, but I *try* to incorporate both points of view when I check out a show. It ain't easy, but I'm not giving up.
JDG, thanks for the recap, and for sparking the discussion.