When, in the course of human events, your favorite band plays a show that is just stupid-good—and historically important, in the context of an already rich and well-documented history—and, by chance, you have volunteered in advance to write a recap of that show for Phish.net…well, sometimes the best thing you can do is just shut up about it.
But, let's face it, that's not really my thing.
We deliberately call these items “recaps” rather than “reviews” because they are envisioned as timely, just-the-facts accounts of the show, with some amount of on-the-fly analysis mixed in. By design, they violate the “72 hour rule,” invoked by some fans (once upon a time) as a necessary buffer period to digest a show and let its immediate afterglow wear off before issuing any declarations about its greatness.
Yet, how does a just-the-facts summary of Sunday night’s show at Merriweather Post Pavilion, skipping chronologically through the setlist with nods for a tight “The Curtain With” here and a sarcastic comment about “I Saw It Again” there, capture the spirit of what happened? The absurdity of such an approach can be glimpsed in our (reasonable and accurate) setlist: “The third Tweezer included Page teasing Manteca.”
The third Tweezer, mind you.
Would invocations of the Tweezerfests from 1994 add historical context that enriches our appreciation of 7/27/14? Well, yeah, sure. But in the immediate aftermath, all I want to do it listen to it again. Or re-read the live-scroll of my group of JadedVet friends and .net colleagues, some at the show but most (like me) listening or watching from home, reacting in real time to the insanity and flipping out.
Yet I know part of the experience of savoring and enjoying a show, for people like us that come online to read and talk about this band, is indeed to read and talk about it.
But first, let’s take another moment to let it settle in—a show that goes beyond the level of "great" and gets short-listed when people talk about why they like Phish in the first place. And consider this prelude a sort of Havdalah service at the end of Shabbat, formally separating the sacred (if you will) music from the profane discussion of it. (Not to get all William-Blake-of-recaps on you.)
Take a breath. Let the afterglow solidify into a patina of glazed satisfaction.
I’ve been waiting ten years to say this: Phish is back.
The End of Phish History
In his 1992 book The End Of History and the Last Man, political theorist Francis Fukuyama argued that after the Cold War, Western-style capitalism and democracy had finally emerged as the final stage of political-cultural evolution, signaling the end of the churning series of cultural systems and political ideologies that had been conflicting and clanging against each other since the dawn of human civilization. (I’m no expert, but that’s more or less the gist.)
Since they returned from the Breakup, I had come to feel a similar way about Phish. The initial excitement that accompanied the Return turned, sometime in 2009, into a smile frozen on my face as I nervously looked around the room and waited for things to really get going. That summer of 2009, recall, there was lots of talk about waiting for “3.1” to emerge—the idea was that Phish was still finding its way back, and on some night soon there’d be a moment where they would finally break through again, and return grandly to the improvisational interplay and all-around chutzpah they enjoyed before exiting Coventry in four separate tour busses.
(For all that was troubled in the 2.0 era, Phish returned from the 2000-2002 hiatus at the very top of its improvisational game, and even through the emotionally turbulent August 2004 shows was churning out peak jams, from the SPAC “Piper” of 6/19/04 to the less-remembered but similarly incredibly “Birds of A Feather” from 8/10/04. That’s what made the hastily-announced breakup seem so cruel and bizarre, before it emerged that personal problems—and not the non-existent creative problems cited in Trey’s infamous “we’re done” letter—were the actual cause of the split. And once Trey was frank about that, how could any of us complain that he did what he needed to do to get healthy? But it took years for that to become clear.)
For me and lots of like-minded fans, the sense of linear progress that had marked Phish’s evolution forever (at least through Big Cypress—a feeling Fishman later summed up as “rolling a boulder up a hill”—and then again from the end of the Hiatus through to the ashes of Vegas ’04) was over. In 3.0, it was all a sort of equivalent mush—occasionally there’d be a “Seven BeGhost” or a Pine Knob “Disease,” but shows would always level off again into a place of improvisational hesitancy and ripcords. Phish didn’t seem to be building toward anything anymore. There was not the sense that IT was happening, or that IT could happen at any moment. We were Glad They Were Back™ and went for the experience, to see our friends converge within the show-going ritual, and perhaps to get lucky and catch an “Icculus” or a highlight jam. But the sense that each tour was building upon the previous one to sketch out an ever-dynamic history was sadly missing, for many of us.
Meanwhile, there’s been a weird bifurcation in Phish-appreciation out in the fan community. While the above description is more or less a mainstream summary of what many long-time fans consider to be the “true” story of 3.0, there are many readers who right now are wondering what the fuck I’m talking about.
It’s completely natural that, after a 4-plus years break, a whole new generation of fans has been in its first flush of newbie star-gazing, where everything sounds great and the band can do no wrong. But, although Phish’s biggest fans have been gathering online to parse the band’s musical development and apply the very high standards Phish had earned for itself—all from a place of great dedication to and love for the music—since the early 1990’s, a culture emerged during 3.0 where this was suddenly sacrilegious.
Even though these are the very fans who traded tapes by mail and created the internet network that facilitated Phish’s remarkable, grassroots growth, newcomers had burst into the room and boorishly insisted that “real” fans would never presume to analyze a Phish show objectively, comparing and contrasting what happened last night with what they’d done before.
No, the new orthodoxy was to enforce this End of Phish History at the point of a rhetorical sword: We should all just be glad they’re back, dude. Stop going to shows if you’re going to complain. It’s all good. If you insist on seeing lows that color and give heft to the highs, rather than a flat landscape of identical brilliance, then you just don’t get it. Mini-cults emerged online around newly vocal fans who suddenly emerged and delivered what plenty of new fans wanted to hear: validation that they were present for the glory days of Phish. All evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
What this rigid line of thought failed to understand was that we were never trying to deny that anyone had had a good time at the show, or that their experience was meaningful and special and worthwhile and Phishy. Or that Phish remained a special band in the musical universe and that we felt lucky to, yes, Still Be Seeing Them At All. All those things remained true. We were just hearing the music in context. Like we’d always done.
And surely, we missed some things that newer, fresher fans could pick up and rightfully enjoy. And in a way, that was our own fault. But JadedVet bitching is really, at bottom, a form of gallows humor. There was never a moment when any of us wouldn’t have rather declared that All Is Well, again. So in the end, who is to say which is the privileged position? Many would surely trade their enhanced appreciation of an atypical "Tweezer" for the jump-up-and-down-joy at your first "Golgi."
While I've been using the royal-jaded "we," this is a good place to note that this recap is expressing my own personal views. It hasn't been approved by any Politburo. Your mileage may vary, or overlap.
(Digression: Me and Richard Nixon
So who am I, by the way? After seeing my peers get into Phish for several years, I finally discovered the band in 1995 and became instantly obsessed. I spent many hours on the old rec.music.phish. I read every single one of Charlie Dirksen's Tweezerfiles and reviews of Mike's Groove. I contributed lots of content to The Phish Companion and have been on the board of The Mockingbird Foundation since 2000. I've made my evolving relationship with Phish a public thing.
I got jaded, became born again, had a peak life experience at Big Cypress, rode out the Hiatus, was there for the first Return, witnessed the band at a high point in its history at IT, mourned the Breakup, and more or less moved on.
During 3.0 I've been revaluating my relationship to the music and the scene, prompted most, I argue, by what was happening onstage. And though I was very enthusiastic about fall 2013, I was profoundly disillusioned by the "Wingsuit" set at Halloween, and entered probably my lowest point as a Phish fan. I made some very bitter dismissals of that set. I skipped the New Year's Run. I just needed distance. My rage stick seemed broken.
Richard Nixon earned his political stripes and public credibility as an anti-Communist crusader. So it was against type when he ventured to China and started the process of normalizing relations between the U.S. and that country. Thus the expression: only Nixon could go to China.
Although I've come over the years to r.m.p, or the Phish.net blog, or another print or online venue, to declare renewed excitement about what Phish was doing at the time, each time I've found my own way there. Each time it's been an organic process and a pleasant surprise for me. Now I rarely take to the "airwaves" to spout off about Phish. I leave that to people who are more into it, and more qualified to talk about the latest developments. And frankly, I find my long digital trail of pronouncements more than mildly embarassing, as I'm not sure if my current aesthetic (and professional skills/instincts) can really stand behind all of those passionate prouncements from years gone by.
So when I declare my excitement today about what Phish is doing now, it's no knee-jerk thing. It's no play to the masses. But if 3.0 has become a Chinese buffet of renewed artistic relevance, I am shoving my face right into the General Gao's chicken.)
Umm, yeah, no.
Something funny happened on the way toward Phish’s sad post-history as a nostalgia act. It took more than three years, but Phish got its swagger back. After experimenting with bust-outs and mash-ups to gin up fan enthusiasm in the absence of boundary-breaking improvisational fireworks (or new material) in the previous years, summer 2012 offered more than a tease that things were changing. Then, the Dick’s 2012 shows happened—particularly the first night. In its mold-breaking series of surprising improvisations, spread through an entire show (including the first set), including songs like “Runaway Jim” that seemed like they may never jam again—it felt, in many ways, like the first Phish show since 2004.
Then summer 2013 gave its richest gift, the Tahoe “Tweezer,” a jam that for once could be described with all sorts of superlatives without the caveat “for 3.0.” It reached peaks that were higher than a kitty riding a giraffe. And fall tour was a nightly march toward renewed relevance. The great jams were no longer red herrings. They built upon each other, creating a new level of achievement and creating the sense that there was still a future left to invent.
So, then, summer 2014. The present tour. The one-step-up, two-steps-back phenomenon that characterized 2009-2011 could finally be seen to be over. It’s not just that the jams are better and more frequent, which they are. But that 3.0 tentativeness is gone. There are certainly some inner formulas the band continues to work with, but for the first time in a long time there’s the sense that something like “The Wedge” might suddenly emerge as a major jam, that a piece of improvisation will grow and change direction (even after the first little lull where a few years ago Trey would abruptly jump into “Julius”), that a second set will keep fighting and gain momentum even after the first “cooldown” song or two suggests that things might be winding down for the night. There’s the sense that each night onstage is another chapter in an evolving history. That the music will boldly venture to bed, bath and beyond.
By this point, it’s already been two years of the good stuff—this transcends the level of “exciting promise” and amounts to its own successful mini-era in and of itself. There’s no fear of the rug being pulled out, because the foundation is already there, at a higher level. The sense of the term “3.0” as not only a chronological marker but a rough stylistic grouping is over. This is not your older sister’s 3.0. It’s a new time.
Photo © Phish – Phish From the Road
Get Back On The Tweezerfest
One emerging trend of the summer tour has been the band’s newfound proclivity for the lost art of segues. Some shows have been held up by obvious, standout jams—the SPAC “Fuego,” the Randall’s “Chalkdust,” etc—others have dipped in and out of exciting jams while nimbly transitioning from song to song. This seemed to have reached its peak with Saturday night’s show, with fare like an out-of-nowhere, Page-led artisanal segue from “Light” into “2001” that provided its own thrill in place of an extended “Light” jam. It’s not a ripcord when it’s an inspired, full-band transition.
So, then comes Sunday night’s show. It’s always good when the boys take the stage looking to disprove the theories of Francis Fukuyama.
Several people have already shouted in my ear that Sunday’s first set is the best first set of the tour. Personally I’m a Big Jam Hunter, so I’d rather get one Randall’s “Gin,” or even the SPAC “Reba” + “SOAM”. But many insist that the first set of 7/27/14 was deep and consistently pleasing in a way that first sets rarely are these days. Though there are no jams of note, as is customary these days, I agree there’s little better summer entertainment than a nice, pre-dusk “The Curtain With.” And a first-set “Sand” is not just a “Sand.” (Is anything?) The set also saw the best two tracks from “Fuego”—the title track, stashed considerately in the first set so as not to arouse false hopes of another Type II breakthrough version, and Mike’s lovely “555.” (Given that Mike introduced Americana to the Phish sound, it’s interesting that his latest output sounds almost like he’s never even heard the work of Mumford and Sons.)
All-around, the first set left people feeling very upbeat about the show. But we know that shows are won and lost in the second set. And after a snappy “Wilson” opener, it was only the third quarter but Phish sensed that it was already winning time.
Some interesting Fishman rhythms in the very infancy of the “Tweezer” jam gave way to what appeared to be a tease of “Get Back On The Train.” But Trey jumped on board right away, guiding a full transition into the song. Fess up, some were grumbling at how the “Tweezer” jam was aborted so quickly. But no, they rode the train for only a verse before zooming back into “Tweezer.” Yes!
The jam that leaves one song, goes to another, and returns to the original song is a particularly prized thing among Phish fandom. It’s special—though fairly frequent in some periods (like Summer 1993), it isn’t even an annual occurrence now. But not only seguing into and out of, but lacing an entire set with Tweezer is the sort of thing that’s referred to in tones of hushed reverence among Phish fans. That’s what they used to do, in 1994, when the magnificence of Phish’s capacity for deep improvisation and inspired, thematic jamming was emerging in full flower. It’s the basis of legendary shows like the Bomb Factory and Big Birch. It’s hardcore, old school, highly accomplished Phish straight to the dome. It’s what happened last night at Merrimeather.
There’s no need for me to narrate the twists and turns of last night’s second set here. And you’re not here to have that briskly outlined, are you? You’re here to share in the sense that something really special happened. And engage in some verbal high-fiving and patriotic fist-bumping. Me too. (In fact, that's have a quick round of 'em. OK.)
Yes, there was some good jamming in the actual “Tweezer,” particularly before the segue into “Waiting All Night” seemed (falsely) to indicate the end of it. But to me, the most important thing about last night is that even in the midst of “Free,” a song that many fans have long dismissed as a source of anything new and interesting, I for one was still perfectly upbeat as I waited to hear what would happen next in this engaging set. Did I think they’d go back into “Tweezer”? No. But when they did, briefly, and then segued right into “Simple,” it felt perfectly natural. It was mold-busting and original and thrilling and simultaneously not at all out of character. It was what Phish does now. Again.
And when “NICU”—a song that to my knowledge had only jammed out once before, in the legendary 12/14/95 show that also featured a multi-headed “Tweezer”—exploded out of nowhere into the highlight jam of the night, it was surely cause to jump up and down and “woo!” at the moon. But it wasn’t a shock. It was Phish, circa summer 2014. Think about it.
So when Fishman took center stage for a “Henrietta” song for the first time since 7/6/12, and launched (apparently spontaneously) into a hilariously mocking rendition of perhaps Phish’s most-mocked (and rarely seen) original, “Jennifer Dances,” it was organically generated humor that sprung from the band/audience relationship. It wasn’t forced. It was loose and optimistic and confident and swinging.
Photo © Phish – Phish From the Road
We’ll spend plenty of time figuring out where to rank 7/27/14, and how to measure its spontaneity and incredible flow versus the more heavy-duty jams found in some other recent places. There’s time for that. We’ll also talk about how a show like last night ranks as great by any Phish standard, including the days of 1994 when Tweezerfests were the hot new item.
But for now, I think it’s enough to exult in the fact that such great stuff is happening on a near-nightly basis. To realize that Fall 2013 and now Summer 2014 are great full-tours, not only “for 3.0” but for Phish. It’s enough just to feel like anything might happen on a given night. Most of all, it’s enough to know that Phish is making its own history. Again.
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My jaw was on the floor for most of last night's 2nd set and this morning I finally re-attached it...
Thank you for this.
I've been to some amazing shows at MPP in the past.... but this was like living mind blowing history! Thank you for making a smoldering glow in my soul reignite again with this awesome review!
Last night was my 15th show and by far I have it at the top,sorry 11/1/13.
Yes, their might not have been significant Jamming as in some shows of the revered Phish hall of Phame, but this show left me satisfied where at other times I felt hungry.
As much crap as this venue gets, my 1st show here was GD 84, and last night was about my 10th, Phish seems to really dig IT here,feeding off the positive vibes of the crowd.
Thanks all for making it a blast.
8/10/14 is up there when you mean 8/10/04.
Pretty much everything else, YES!
Just when my enthusiasm was slacking a little --I looked at Saturday's setlist and just sort of shrugged-- this happens. IT. Seque-heavy, mashup-like, music-as-liquid shows are one of my very favorite things about Phish (as evident in my review of 07-13-1994). We got a tiny taste of it in Chicago3 2011 (and elsewhere) with repeated C&P teases, but apparently nothing like last night.
Thanks for providing so much engaging context, and confirming that this setlist is everything it promises to be. Can't wait to listen!
Getting jaded after the Wingsuit set though? After that fall tour? You'll have to own that.
Now of course he meant people my age in general...but still I haven't been able to stop thinking about that...and the fact that he told me I rage harder than anyone he has been show neighbors with since 2.0.
Two thumbs up!
It blows my mind how long this band has been blowing my mind - and that cruddy time when they weren't only makes it all the more precious now.
I have two things to say:
1) Although J brought up the song> jam> another song> first song is like the "canon" of Phish brilliance (and I couldn't agree more), the smooth segues allow that happen, and they have been few and far between in this recent era (I try hard to not say 3.0). But the very first magic to my ears of this starting to happen again was at Alpharetta last summer (unfortunately the only 2 shows we saw all last year) first night in the Tweezer> Silent. It was just pure amazing, and people were talking all around us and I was like "shut up, something amazing is going to happen!!!" and it did: a fluid segue, something we hadn't heard at a show in years. (I'm sure there are others, I've heard some since 2009, but that was the first that felt 1990s-natural to me). I think the band has been slowly building this up since last summer, last night it was like all the "segue practicing" was finally over, or as the OP says, "that 3.0 tentativeness is gone."
2) Did last night finally destroy the "3.0" moniker so we can just go back to saying "Phish" again? OP almost hints at this...
Our little couch tour party here in Montreal nigh exploded with ecstasy during that second set.
Cannot wait for this weekend as I attend my 8th, 9th and 10th shows. And watch the best band in the history of the world hose me.
Come 3.0, I've actually felt they were "going somewhere" positive ever since seeing Gorge '09. They just started from a base where IT was almost entirely absent, and because of their other commitments progress hasn't been as fast as it was back in 1.0. In general the 2009-2011 era was hindered by a lot of residual chemistry and distance issues from the breakup. It took a while for them to really deeply connect to each other again. I'd still argue the era has a distinct feel, heavy focus on classic rock, lots of floaty and plinko jams. Not nearly the progression from year to year in 1.0 but still something.
BGCA '12 III was the first show I saw where I felt like things were fully back in place. No surprise that Dick's shortly followed. Come 2013 they started producing a number of highlight shows and one of their best albums in a while, and put together probably their best tour of 3.0 in fall 2013.
In 2014 they picked up nearly where they left off; however, I've felt that it's taken them a little while to digest Fuego, which has led to some setlist awkwardness. Trey seems to be working through some stuff as well. He's been a bit choked off at times (producing complaints about his tone, whaling, etc.). Well, better to put it out there and work through it than try to force it down. The way he puts himself into his performances is what makes him stand out from other jam guitarists with exceptional technical skills.
I'm curious to see what's next. There is a sense of continued momentum, but given that they play ~40 shows a year now there is always going to be rust to knock off. And I think they are more crowd dependent than ever in 3.0. They've really abandoned large areas of the country, pretty much all of the red states other than the coastal south.
3.0 improvisation is the fucking bees knees and has been for years now. Give me 20 minutes of stuff this interesting over an hour of mostly aimless fall 98-04 slop any day.
I get that the lack of quantity and overall setlist construction can be lame.. But when it comes down to it, I consistently find the most interesting 10 minute stretch of a 3.0 show to be more engaging than the most interesting 10 minute stretch of - I dunno- 80% of Phish shows.
Here's to a killer show! Thanks, Boys!
I like how you used this "type" of show to clearly explain why 2009-2012 had so many of us "nervously looking around the room" and what makes Fall '13/Summer '14 different.
Phish has the talent. Always has, always will. But the confidence--to take chances, to laugh at themselves and us--that's what made 1.0 and 2.0 special to me.
In those days, Phish showed up to your town, smashed faces--and got joy from it: "Yeah, you've been to a concert before, but can you keep up with THIS?"
Like you said, I think that mind set is back. Buckle up, kids.
Helluva show last night!
Cheers to you
Screw it. Any of us who made it through every word of your review and compose a response clearly have something wrong with us. Glad you are back on the train and enjoyed the show last night. Even from the couch, it was a classic!
Merriweather is the Wimbeldon of garage bands.
Just don't piss on my Winter Tour '03 shrine.
There could not have been a better person slated to recap Sunday's show.
And you knocked it out of the park. Thank you.
Great piece of work, JDG!
I forget when it clicked for me. At some point, maybe the Camden 2010 Chalkdust or Chicago 2011 DWD..Or something random in between I had this realization: "I don't think Phish was capable of doing this in 1999" - and at some later point in summer 2012 I had to dig down, look myself in the eye and go "I don't think Phish was capable of this in 1997" and let me tell you, I'm such a 97 fluffer that thinking such a thing hit me like a physical blow.
Obviously Phish (often) wasn't really going for "8 part multidimensional suite" in those jams the way they are now, and comparing them qualitatively with the better jams of the last few years really misses the point of what the band was stylistically trying to accomplish..but I'll be damned if it doesn't feel like an evolution. I've been harping on it for awhile now but it seems like they've done a fantastic job of taking the two overarching improvisational styles - the frenetic unpredictability of the 93-95 Phish, and the methodical / textural / thematic stylings of 97-04 and molding them into something new. Shedding the worst excesses of both approaches (namely- occasional total schizophrenia of the former, contentment at resting on their laurels for entirely too long in the latter) while celebrating the things that made those approaches so addictive to begin with.
When I hear this band work through 4 different themes in two minutes and every change feels organic while also feeling surprising.. It brings me such joy. I honestly don't even listen to old Phish anymore. What they're doing in improv the last few years is getting so close to this imaginary ideal of what I think Phish should sound like that I feel like I owe it to myself to live in the now.
40 minute Bouncing.
First set had impeccable song selection, my friends first Curtain With being the huge highlight. A lot of bustouts and high energy type 1 going on
Jaded vets and noobs and every in between keep showing up or webcast because IT is still happening.
I love the new phans, their feelings are just as important as anyone. I am more than happy they are here, quite frankly, we could use some more good folks. It is really weird to me that some in our community just don't get what has been happening the past few years. There are cymbals in the band.
I will not make any more live shows in person until Dicks. If you are at, or camping at Dicks, please let me know. I would love to spend some time sharing the love from the way they were in the old days, to the utter beauty of today. Open your hearts, keep being groovy, and may us all enjoy the ride.
And yes - my heart dropped when trey started singing back on the train add I was almost pissed and very disappointed, so what do they do? Go back to tweezer how many more times? Great show, very fun tour, And awesome "review. "
Oh, and who else drove up 95 through that outrageous lightning storm after the show? It felt, at least to those in my car, like a direct result of what we had just witnessed and shared in.
"While the above description is more or less a mainstream summary of what many long-time fans consider to be the true story of 3.0." NO that has not been conceded. Lots of years and tours took a few weeks of inconsistency before hitting late season peaks and for some reason 3.0 was held to a higher standard. Maybe this is the reason: "But the sense that each tour was building upon the previous one to sketch out an ever-dynamic history was sadly missing, for many of us." Say what? How did Summer 96 build upon anything? How did 2000 build on 1999 build upon 1998? It didn't. It sounds like the author had put the band on a pedestal when he was younger and infatuated and let that color his experience more recently.
In my view the band has been playing a long game these past few years. By deliberately erring on the side of ending a passage that wasn't clicking, we got ripcords, by Fish as well as Trey, so weak shows stood out more obviously than shows with long periods of directionless, lower-tempo stoner music, but the weaker shows were always part of the mix, questionable historiography notwithstanding. This conservative bent held the rest of the band more hostage to an off night by Trey. But it also purged the band of lazy habits and forced them to listen to each in new ways, and led to a more uptempo Mike-centered jam platform. I welcome the return of silly phish and think it bodes well for their future, and July 2014 is more consistent than some recent early summer swings and that's nice for the east coast, but it is not a seminal moment in phish history. There will be another epic show or 3 or 5 this year, with or without segues, and the turning point within 3.0, if there was one, happened a while ago... Utica? 8.5.11? 8.19.12?
There will also be disappointing shows here and there. This proves nothing. This was a great 2 set show after a short run of meh to good, strong but not epic ones, and it showed more personality than most phish shows from most years, and it deserves this review, the meat of which is well-done. But the historical narrative it is being shoehorned into is, in the opinion of this history teacher, garbage.
Fukuyama, btw, has never lived down the title of his essay and grew frustrated with ideologues using it as part of their American triumphant narrative, claiming that his conclusions were overstated by others. Perhaps he himself was guilty of overstating matters at the turn of the Cold War?
"Shedding the worst excesses of both approaches (namely- occasional total schizophrenia of the former, contentment at resting on their laurels for entirely too long in the latter) while celebrating the things that made those approaches so addictive to begin with."
P.S. however, I do listen to old shows....:-)
I find much of the talk reductionist and uninformed (perhaps as a result of being over overinformed?) Are we just happy the band segued in and out of Tweezer a la the glory days or is the show THAT GOOD? Granted, in this day and age even a nominal nod to the mid-'90's is welcome, but I fail to see a watershed trend whereby the band has turned a true corner. Truth is, much of the new material is a joke, the whale call needs to be shitcanned stat, and the band needs to practice lest their tours be seen as cash grabs.
Let's not over bill things. A great show for 3.0? Yes! A turning point? No. Several shows this tour have been downright uninspired. Check back in when we get 5 of these a tour.
One man's opinion.
I'm grateful to have been present and under the pavilion up-close, with no distractions. This was show 86-ish for me, and it is worthy of the hyperbole.
THANK YOU .NET
I'm having trouble seeing the point you are trying to make in your second paragraph here. Sounds like you disagree with the author in paragraph 2 and then agree with him in the 3rd, in terms of how tours used to build onto the next year, or even from the start of the tour until the end of tour. I can pretty confidently say that for the most part they weren't thinking about that shit long term when they were doing huge amounts of drugs on tour from 94'-2000, and if they were, it most likely got thrown out the window a few shows in. I would guess it was more of a "lets hit the stage with this set list and see what happens" kinda mentality, with a few obvious exceptions. Did you see the show at Polaris, in Columbus Ohio, maybe 95 or 96, when they basically had to prop Gordon up in front of the mic and do the equivalent of whipping a race horse to get him to wake up and start playing? I doubt they had a coherent discussion before that show,or the Deer Creek shows that followed about how that night's performance is going to fit into the whole entity that was that summer tour. Or Vegas, when it sounds like a bullfrog jumped into Trey's voice box because you know what does you know what to your voice when you're on too much of it? Again, I'm not sure if the point you are trying to make here is that they do this now and didn't do it then, or vice versa. Either way I can safely agree with you concerning it being way too early to be talking about overall historical context of one show, a few days after, but to channel a 94 Tweezer teaser set in 2014 is hands down awesome, and we shall see where things go from here. On another note, does this show change anyone else's idea of what "the message" on new years might have been? I know it has changed mine.
No doubt a remarkable evening and very unique, and obviously brings back memories of 94-95, but I agree with many of the points you make in your post. I think this tour has been a step backwards from last year in term of consistency.
The practicing issue is interesting. Who knows how much they practice other than those close to the band? Really, it's mostly Trey who has flubitis. His playing, while often pleasantly loose and open, has been horrifyingly sloppy on many occasions, and in at least part of every show I've heard since last summer.
But this is a great recap - one of the reasons why I enjoy coming here. I enjoy poking fun at jaded vets, but their opinion (I have to admit) is as valid as mine, and it's truly heartening to see a self-proclaimed jaded vet still leave room in their hearts for a show such as this one.
It's amazing to think about how much shows like this energize the fanbase, especially when it comes around to the next show. I remember the same buzz last year, on August 2nd, when the band played their first show after the Tahoe Tweezer. And that's the real big takeaway from all this - the band can still energize us that way. Look at how many comments this recap has. We're still excited for Phish, even after all this time. That's truly incredible, no?
You said a lot of things I just think about saying here.
Thanks for getting that off my chest. LOL
Seriously: great recap. Please do this more often.
2nd, I would have to disagree that Dick's 2012 is the 3.0 turning point.
Maybe cause I was there, but the 1st night of SPAC 2012 and especially 8/19/12 were as much of a turning point as Dick's.
They just have been building since 2009. No one night is THE turning point. Many shows have been.
I'm having trouble seeing the point you are trying to make in your second paragraph here. Sounds like you disagree with the author in paragraph 2 and then agree with him in the 3rd, in terms of how tours used to build onto the next year, or even from the start of the tour until the end of tour.
Well, I agree that some early 3.0 tours had fair number of shows light on whole band improv and therefore amounted to a great rock show worth seeing once in a while but not worth obsessing over day to day. Where I disagree with the OP is how that compares to 1.0 (or even the best years from 1.0), when weaker shows didn't circulate and queuing up the best 20 minutes of a show wasn't worth it. I also disagree with those who prefer the whole band improv of 1.0 to the whole band improv of 3.0, which I think is more interesting and well-played. Just because I think the narrative of "they are finally back to proper form" is ridiculous doesn't mean that the band didn't evolve at different periods and that the band is better than they were in 2009. Of course they are, but this is not a recent development.
I fundamentally disagree with the negativity around 3.0 because:
*most of the anti 3.0 analysis gives short shrift to first sets and fetishizes type II over all other aspects of the experience
*moreover, it isn't just type II, but the spacey, long-form variant of type II that some people find lacking, although I won't ascribe that to Jeremy specifically, I find it tolerable in concert and boring at home.
*Higher tempo jamming is harder -- if the ideas don't keep coming and one person anticipates another's next move incorrectly, it gets chunky. On a minute by minute basis, I think 3.0 jamming showed more quality musicianship and creativity. Others are free to disagree but they are not free to assert their preferences as the baseline of what makes for great phish.
*the pro 1.0 analysis more or less ignores the development of the band up until 1993 and the weaker tours (summer 96, 99) and the fact that the band has always had a fair share of playing mistakes. 7/13/94 set II goes crazy when they try to cover up a cringe-inducing mistake. 12/31/95 has a hideous flub in set I, and 12/30/93's Mockingbird had to be stopped and restarted.
*Balancing Trey's dominant position in the sound has been a long term issue for the band. I do think that 2012-2014 is generally superior to 09-11 in this regard, 09-11 being more like 90-92. But there is evidence that the rest of the band pushed back a bit and one thing that resulted from that was not writing setlists in advance, something Trey used to retain control over, and something he used to engineer segues in advance. The lack of segues in recent tours is probably more due to a greater emphasis on democracy in the band, which has had other good effects (like Fuego).
I can pretty confidently say that for the most part they weren't thinking about that shit long term when they were doing huge amounts of drugs on tour from 94'-2000, and if they were, it most likely got thrown out the window a few shows in.
I am not confident in that but we'd have to ask them. The band did huge amounts of drugs for a long time, that didn't start in 94. See the RS article about the Horde festival (93?) or read Gehr's _The Phish Book_. Moreover, I think there is ample evidence of the band caring about their reputation and legacy. Sometimes they used setbreak for self-criticism (as described in Bittersweet Motel, I believe).
The thing about non-organic drugs is that they aren't universally detrimental to performance, or at least not if one manages to stay high. Ever heard of "work hard / party hard?" For a while the band pulled that off. Then they couldn't, and Trey was the last to get off the party train (although I understand Page loved his cocaine for a long time, too). My admittedly indirect sources told me circa 1994 that Mike became health conscious and didn't smoke pot much anymore. I'm not familiar with a bad Polaris show with an intoxicated Mike, I suppose that could happen, but so could getting a Norovirus, or being exhausted to a divisive fight with a girlfriend or spouse.
Anyway, I can't prove it here but I do believe that the band is self-consciously trying to improve their craft like they have for most of their career and that we are benefitting from their professionalism more than ever. That in no way validates the OP's historical narrative.
In fact, your post causes me to state publically what I've suspected since early Fall last year, and that's the notion that Trey has fallen off the wagon. I certainly hope not, but there are many signs. Having said that, I refuse to believe it until proven, yet the thought has been in my mind frequently over the last year, and it never was from '09 to '12.
I just listened to this show and didnt watch however since 09 I've seen all the new songs for the first time in joy & Halloween 2013! And I love segueing as they have been doing but to me this was different than the past! They'd segue and jam! Which is what I enjoy(Ed)! Not saying I didn't enjoy listening to this show as they teased a lot during tweezer til the end of the show!
But as far as putting this on the mantle I have to disagree with many people's opinions. The Curtain With was average and I love the song, sand was solid, Yem..is yem ever not a pleasure to hear? Same goes for Tweezer! However besides teasing and going in and out, back and forth....their needs to be some realization that many shows of the past and possibly the future will out weigh this. I called the Saw it Again prior to the show starting as its not the first time it's been played at MMP...and if you go back to Summer '10, I believe a Sunday...that show was much better then this. And maybe not as tight playing as they are now but go back and listen..the flow was there!
Now let's not forget life is subjective just like reviews of shows! I never got to see Phish in the 90s however started listening to them in '95 hence a subjective ideology of then, the in between and the now.
I believe that this Amazing Band can and always has been able to pull out their Ace card when and if they please! And yes, the Ace was pulled tonight but I think to a degree in which is a little overhyped! This show shouldn't be considered as a bustout show just cause they played "Jennifer Dances" for the first time since '99 as many feel that's what makes it so as well as the segueing. I think especially with the way the set lists have been looking on paper..they stop after Waiting All Night...unless stopping is the new segueing? But to me segueing is that 1-3 minutes it takes of each member slowly transparently changing from one song to the next, not stopping for 5-10 seconds and going into the next song! That stoppage..is a stop, a pause, a momment in time that a break is taken!
Fall last year was by far better then any show so far this summer! Not every fall show but most were better! However, the song selection this summer is so minute! I expect the new songs but when every other show contains the same songs it gets a little misleading to the IT factor!
I know it sounds as if I'm bashing the heck out of this show but my point is where is the love for a truly bust out show in Burgettstown 2003? A show where you had to be there, not watch it on your TV! That's what's made some of this fun and also taken some of the fun out of going to the shows or chasing THAT SHOW! Now everyone can say I saw 7/27/14...whether there or not, which is fine as I'm glad that for the past 5 years I've been able to listen to almost everything in the moment as if I were there!
But to sum up this show IMO..it's being overhyped just as the TahooTweezer and all it's Woooing that continued into fall and early this summer and if the band digs it, cool. But let that be in that moment! And as the band progresses thru the summer tour lets get over the fact that the next show isn't always better then the last as most newer fans seem to think! Cause tonight's show..VA was not!
Now bash, hate, neglect my opinion but remember its just that ONE persons opinion amongst thousands! But please go listen to Burgettstown 2003 and realize that is a true bustout show from beginning til end! Everything everyone wish they could hear...all in one!
Cause 2003 good or bad had some great moments! But let's not overhype a show because of one song or because it was the first moment of them getting back to segueing!
Anyway, right on about Jeff Beck. He is the cat.
Very long-winded post with lots of run-on sentences, but I think your main point is that they've done this (Sunday night) at other times and that this show should not be considered a watermark? Not sure I agree with your presumption about that. @J_D_G never said it was the greatest show of all time, he simply made an eloquent argument that it was consistent with the greatest shows from the past and therefore made his general observation that Phish was "back". Whether or not we individually agree with his perspective on history, we all agree that Phish is back to being Phishy.
You also make the underlying point that Phish never "left", therefore how are they "back". Others here have taken umbrage to the supposed bashing of 3.0 in favor of the "glory years", and I will always raise my hand in agreement with that notion, but the reviewer made an excellent case for his perpective and spoke for many.
You harp (pun intended) on the Burgettstown '03 show quite a bit. If your point is that Burg' 03 compares favorably to this show on Sunday, then yes, I agree with that. There are many similarities between that show and this one. Both have some electric moments in the first set and some bust-outs throughout. Musically, I would give the nod easily to Burgettstown as superior, but in the context of where we are with the band, from a fanbase perpective, this show on Sunday was quite something.
The fact that we are still in the middle of tour should temper our desire to enshrine it too soon. As enjoyable as this show was, I don't think it will ever get the airtime on my stereo that, say, 8/19/12 or 12/29/13 get. It just won't. I mean, this show probably must be compared to the Bomb Factory and I must listen to that once every two years.
Jeff Beck is infallible :-). How does he keep doing it?
I am a jaded vet. I know this. I do not get excited at the opening notes of Golgi, 46 Days, Zero, Loving Cup, GTBT, Suzy.....and this list can take up the remaining space of the world wide web Phish phans help build. I have been chasing songs like Forbin> Mockingbird, Icculus, Tela, Harpua, and up until a few weeks ago, an electric version of McGrupp (after seeing the acoustic of F8). I do enjoy hearing the opening notes of DWD, Tweezer, Ghost, Carini, and all the other frequented 3.0 second set jam vehicles.
One of the things that's bothered me the most of 3.0 is the predictability. (also high on this list is Trey's lack of use of the digital delay loop in jams, but that's a totally different discussion which deserves its own time and space) Predictable song selection, set placement, and even jams. Which is the exact opposite of Phish 1.0 and a large part of what drew millions to love this band. With unpredictability comes excitement. Excitement that can be felt throughout an entire concert venue and ultimately reaching the band. It produces Energy (a song I hope they never cover again).
Has every show since Dick's 2012 brought this excitement? No, not even close. The lack of jamming in the first set prohibits or prevents this excitement from building. But there have been jams which have proved Phish is back. Holmdel's C&P, Hampton's Carini, Reading's DWD, AC's Carini, Twist, Theme, and most recently Randall's CDT, and Merriweather's Tweezerfest. And because of that, this jaded vet will continue to go to shows (without the willingness to travel as far as I once have), hope to be present for one or two of these fantastic jams, and maybe even be lucky enough like I was on July 9th to catch one of the remaining songs I am chasing.
I've found myself poking around this parts after being reminded (thanks Phish.net) that I saw my first show 21 years ago tonight. Cool that I am able to see a show tonight as well.
If I am not mistaken, when met, I was a bit surprised that you had only seen shows in the NE. You were doing so much for the community at the time (I imagine you still do thanks!!). Anyway, I am pretty sure I was trying to point out how much this band feeds off the audience and because of this, the influence of the crowd out West can produce a different feel to the show than one in the NE...I think you reminded me of that in Vegas or somewhere along the line...blamed me for your travels ;-) I hope you were able to see what I meant and experience some different 'feeling' shows because of it.
Oh, so earlier today I saw an interview w/ Page and Trey done while they were doing the Lettermen show, I really wish Trey wouldn't care so much about trying to please everyone...I feel that was a big part of his downfall from the 1.0 days...just caring too much, taken it all personally or something. Trey sounded so thankful that folks were cool with the idea of Phish playing their own album, but at the same time he sounded a bit bummed that folks really hated it. I assume from what you wrote above that you were not a fan. Sorry I did not (not yet anyway) go back and look up what you had to say about it, but I have a hard time understanding why someone would be let down by it not being a cover set...I could understand not liking the set or the choice, but what if they played a cover of an album you were not familiar with? I recall a cab driver in Vegas telling me I was the 1st person in his cab who he felt was old enough to even know who the Velvet Underground was...so I feel for many that night was all new to them, so I hope to dislike is not because they played their own music but simply because folks didn't like the show...
Reading the comments here, I guess I have missed a lot over the years...people have taken sides...I see terms like 'jaded-vet', but hey, I had those in my days of following these guys...I knew a good chunk of the tapers back in the day, knew a lot of folks that saw ever night, they always had something to bitch about...I liked the way I did things...try and catch around five shows in a week when I could...so what if you heard heavy things or something every third night...I always imagined there were around 2K folks that saw every night why the other 18K were only there for a night or two.
I don't have much to say about 3.0. I enjoyed the 1st set from GA tonight. It is so great that the darkness that was there leading up to Coventry is gone and the light has returned. The band seems to listen to each other and most importantly (to me), they seem to be having fun! I enjoyed how fast bath tub got (without being out of control), I miss how they could change tempo sort of like a train's wheels...slipping on the track, how they could speed up, slow down, change on a dime...but what I heard tonight was neat...went way fast, they fell back to normal when they wanted to get back to it...fast enough was slow...neat tempo stuff still
Oh, set two is starting I think...chalkdust...nice memories being enjoyed by myself for the first time in a long time...so the only 3.0 run I saw was that NYE run in Miami (I stay close to home these days)...some 'jaded-vets' I talked to seemed unsure about the whole direction of the band...me I loved it as it helped me heal from memories of Coventry that I did not want to be my last memories of such a great run....but I was mainly happy to see that a new generation would have Phish as part of their lives...I may have grown up and out of it (maybe not), heck the band has grown and changed too, we all do...but I was so happy to see some kids, jotten down the set list...I got a kick out of how I knew the band was playing 2001 long before these kids recognized, but that's OK, I let them be, didn't explain how we had been in the intro for some 5 minutes...I just recall being at a show not long before hiatus, was just standing with a friend when this girl, I imagine around 16, just shaking...tells us she just had to let us know that she had just seen the best concert of her life...I was sad when Phish hung it up that there wouldn't be others having their lives influenced like that anymore..so glad that there are folks getting to enjoy 3.0
Peter B (enjoying the memory of my 1st show 21 years ago)
And of course, those who see things a bit differently, thank you for sharing your perspective as well, and doing so in the context of a thoughtful conversation. A lot of times these comments turn into shooting matches; if the biggest breakthrough here is that I've helped encourage us to take online Phish commentary back to a place where minority views are respected, and the It's All Hood Brigade is not waiting behind every bush to pounce, then I would be thrilled!
It takes a generous reader to consume, reflect upon and respond to my very-long recap. Thank you for being so generous, and kind.
I'm going to claim some high ground here. I was in Burlington at Nectars and The Front in 87 , 88 , 89 goofing on these precocious kids (who were my age) at precisely the time I was becoming a jaded Deadhead. My first Dead show was New Haven 4/23/83 2 days before my 16th . I thought Jerry was wizened an old man trying to spare some me some of his hard earned pain, as he took me through Wharf Rat deep in the second and Broke Down finale. Guess how old Jerry was kids........ 38.....The Grateful Dead sold 5400 seats of That 10,000 seat venue. Brent was new (3 years in ) and brought huge energy to everything, helping build monstrous crescendos that would dissolve into bliss-filled meadows where we could catch our collective breath before the next climb. Bobby was on fire too, having had enough time (10,000 hrs?) to master his craft and still be in his early thirties. In 4 amazing years I would be done with seeing the Dead, and on to seeing Phish. Dylan and the Dead in Foxborough was the end of the ride for me. 150,000 in the lot 65,000 in the show. The scene was fun (and sketchy with hangers on from Jersey etc)but the music was garbage compared to the beauty I had seen in Hartford ,Springfield , New Haven, Providence, and The SPAC. Jerry was nodding out more and more frequently. Your odds of a transcendent moment were not terrible , but a whole show? <30% ?
So Phish was young and fun and full of grandiose ideas that they could not quite execute ...yet. The silliness was refreshing. The tempo was high vibrational. The stumbling through divided sky was forgivable because it was so far beyond what anyone in rock was attempting (Frank Zappa excepted).
So I think My perspective is pretty full field. I was there at The Mother Ship for the return. Would I be anywhere else on the planet? No. Will I ever listen to those shows again? No . I've never seen them fall as low as the Dead. I saw plenty of throw away Phish shows in '93. I have often doubted them and questioned my choice to continue to travel great distances to go see them. But as of yet they have never let me down in the over all progression. Last year was tough. But in 2010, I was at the Gorge for Rock and Roll . Do you have any idea how amazing that was after 2009? I've been to all the Dicks and before this last 10 shows I would have said the peak was Dicks 13. I'm really excited about Dicks 15. I was worried after Bend. Sometime I wonder if they are just fucking with us. Like I said in the beginning, any review is as much a mirror revealing the state of the reviewer as it is and objective view of the band. CAN YOU STILL HAVE FUN?!