Saturday 08/02/2014 by phishnet


[For this recap we'd like to welcome guest blogger Richard Pearlman) -PZ]

Friday night’s Phish gig at The Amphitheater at the Wharf in Orange Beach, AL began an increasingly rare three night, three city run. The first such run since 2012 also presents relatively modest driving distances (three to four hours) between shows, almost like we’re back in the 90s.

The Wharf itself is an interesting venue. Only a few miles from the site of the Hangout Festival (and the BP oil spill of 2010), the amphitheater is situated among a complex of high-end condos, mediocre restaurants and overpriced retail stores. Like Oak Mountain, the venue has no covered pavilion and no lawn. The reserved seats are just metal bleachers, behind a not-oversold GA pit area. Despite a seemingly tolerant atmosphere (the other Richard and I got to-go cups from Ginny Lane), there wasn’t much of a lot scene. Tickets seemed plentiful, with both pit and reserved seats available for face value or less – even free.

Photo © Phish, Phish From the Road

The last bunch of shows on this tour seemed to start close to their scheduled start time. However, it was after 7:45pm before Phish started tonight’s show, which was scheduled for 7pm.

Chalk Dust Torture” has been one of the bigger jam vehicles of the summer, but tonight’s opening version was more of a shorter, straight ahead warm up. This was a good indicator of where the rest of the set was going, as most of the songs stuck very close to their composed structures. Mike briefly stomped his fight bell during “Moma Dance” and Page offered extended organ solos in both “Heavy Things” and “Tube.” “Wolfman’s” was where they came closest to jamming in the first set, with Fishman aggressively pushing his mic to his left, some loud playing from Mike, and a nice peak at the end.

Photo © Pete Mason

Curtis Loew” offered a 36 show gap bustout for us setlist watchers, and the southern crowd reacted loudly and appreciatively to the Skynyrd cover. Page either took some time to reacquaint himself with the song, or he has it completely internalized, because he nailed the lyrics, offered a few deep growls, and played a pretty piano solo.

Photo © Phish, Phish From the Road

The set break seemed brief, and the opening to “Down with Disease” was fairly distorted. Trey’s playing during the pre-jam portion of the song seemed a bit deliberate and slower than the typical “Disease.” The extended jam was led by Trey and Page, with some staccato interplay between them. Midway through, they got fairly spacey before hitting a big energetic peak, which saw Trey playing some riffs reminiscent of the first set “Rift.” Slowing down the end of an excellent twenty minute jam with more rhythmic playing, Trey subtly introduced the opening notes of “Theme from the Bottom.” “Theme” contained some soaring Trey solos, but ultimately served as a break between “Down with Disease” and the next jam.

Photo © Phish, Phish From the Road

When they started “Tweezer,” the crowd reacted loudly, and Trey played some trilling notes between singing the lyrics. Before the last set of lyrics, Page played some dark interesting patterns and as the jam began, Kuroda used some bubbly effects on the back of the stage. Although the run through “Tweezer” didn’t really hit Type II territory and stayed at a slow pace, Page, Fishman, and Trey engaged in some complementary playing during the last half of the jam. “Tweezer” ended with a lilting, melodic solo from Trey, which led into the opening of “Prince Caspian.” Even Trey seemed a little bored with the selection and the band came to the first complete stop of the set.

Photo © Pete Mason

Unfortunately, “Waiting All Night” sucked a lot of the energy out of the Mike-side section of the pit with the crowd becoming nearly silent. On this tour, Phish has seemed more focused on, or dedicated to, a collection of new songs than at any time since the summer of 1997. By experimenting with the setlist placement of many of the Fuego songs, the band appears interested in exploring where each song may ultimately fit into the repertoire. Sometimes this creativity works, but like here, that’s not always the case.

Continuing the every-city-gets-a-”Fuego” pattern, the crowd was reenergized by this selection. The band didn’t jam it out, but after having the crowd sing the “rolling” lyrics, they perfectly executed a transition back into the “Tweezer” theme with Fishman also singing “rolling” over Trey’s guitar. They then dropped seamlessly into “Slave to the Traffic Light.” This segment of the show was another high point of the night and well worth listening to.

Photo © Phish, Phish From the Road

It was too early to end the set, so Phish was either going to go with a handful of rockers or possibly do something interesting. They sort of split the baby by dropping into a crowd pleasing “2001,” which ran smoothly into a keyboard and bass heavy “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” While Page continued to fool around with “Boogie On,: Trey played the opening part of “Antelope” in rhythm with Page. The two of them then essentially played a couple minutes of a “Boogie On”/”Antelope” mashup. Moving through a Munster’s theme tease, typically strong shredding from Trey, and another “Boogie On” quote from him, “Antelope” ended the set. Although it was brief, the improvised mashup was the third clear highlight of the show, along with the “Down with Disease” and the segues in the run through “Fuego”/”Tweezer”/”Slave.”

At the start of the encore, Page thanked the crowd and mentioned his swimming in the Gulf of Mexico before the “Bouncing”/”Tweezer Reprise” combo concluded the show on a high energy note.

Setlist Pictogram © Joseeen (available at Etsy)

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, comment by goatsticks
goatsticks solid writeup, and I'm loving the Antelope pictogram :)
, comment by Drivin_Disco
Drivin_Disco Richard thanks for your attendance it's obvious you were ready to leave as soon as you arrived to the beautiful gulf coast. How about a little less cynicism. You're at the beach, have a good time and stop looking for reasons to be pissed about being in Alabama. Hope Trey perks up for you for the rest of the run. Maybe they can play in your living room and you can pick the setlist.
, comment by Caralchambers
Caralchambers Pretty sure the late start time was because they ran out of bracelets for the pit. There was a huge line of people who couldn't in until they finally got more delivered. It was ridiculous.
, comment by elephant
elephant thanks for the nicely written review.
FACTSAREUSELESS Nice succinct writeup with just enough content to give a decent picture of the show.

I like your comment about how the new material is monkey-wrenching the flow significantly at times. This has been the case all tour, though the tour has still been above-average.

With band's penchant for mid-2nd set cool-downs, I'm surprised we have yet to hear some old favorites such as "Sleep", "Anything But Me", "Fast Enough For You" and "Dog-Faced Boy". I nice Sleep or Dog-Faced would be a welcome shot in the arm to overplaying Waiting All Night or Wingsuit, though I love Wingsuit.

Trey turned a lot of fans off by overplaying Backwards Down the Number Line, turning what should be a welcome energetic and joyful stomper into something dreaded from a long distance.

At any rate, the show looks on paper to be an average-great show. We were due for one of those. Not every evening can be epic.
FACTSAREUSELESS As an asterisk to my comments above, I should add that I still am not in love with much of the material on the new album. There are three or four songs that have grown on me throughout the summer, but generally I am left scratching my head somewhat by the majority of it.

Of course, I haven't liked any of their albums in their entirety. Billy Breathes is the only one that comes close. So I guess I'm cynical.
, comment by plICCULUS
plICCULUS I really, really like each and every song off the new me a phishHead, I guess
, comment by Sivad
Sivad I thought the last couple minutes of tweezer was a rather pretty type 2 section. ?
, comment by 4to6daze
4to6daze No doubt it was Type II, just not for long. It was a cartoon theme sounding weirdo jam that Trey picked up on from Mike soon after the jam started. I wish it would have gone on longer; one could argue there was a bit of a ripcord there I'm favor of 2 cool down songs.

One could also argue that it should be labeled as Fuego> Tweezer as they not only played the head but returned to the jam from the beginning of Tweezer.

DWD was as patient a jam as you'll get out of 3.0 - good stuff, not simply because it was 20 minutes. Big Red waited as long as he could to lift his head and communicate the next move.
, comment by funkbeard
funkbeard The first set started out with a standard Chalkdust, which packed better than average lift-off and punch. Listening to the first set last night, everything was quality, but nothing stands out in my mind as out of the ordinary. Character Zero may have had a little extra, nonetheless.

DWD didn't meet my expectations. It was good, but I didn't think it matched the praise dropped on it. Theme was a good one, with Trey contributing melodically to the solo in ways I'd be happy to hear again.

Tweezer was type ii, and the final few minutes contain probably the most colorful jamming of the night.

Caspian is not uninspired. The song and brief jam perfectly convey the environment of a tranquil shoreline in the evening. Perfectly done!

For those who go to Phish expecting a non-stop dance party, who are disappointed by the band's exploration or quieter musical environments, please take a moment to reflect. Trey is greatly influenced by classical music and classical musicians. He loves to rock out, but he also loves these quieter soundscapes, and the whole band has become masterful with such spaces. Caspian-> Waiting All Night may not be your thing, but the band is inspired and awake, alert, on point with these selections.

Fuego-> Tweezer-> Slave-> 2001 are all great, maintaining the lyrical tone of the show. And Boogie-> Lope! The 2009 Miami Boogielope had something of a Trey-bortion when changing songs. This segue, by contrast, was fluid, continuing the Boogie rhythm all the way to the end of the Antelope intro. The band attempted towards an all-time Antelope peak, and although Trey went for the stretch, he got a little lost in the effects and didn't match up until a tremendous final note. Perhaps he'll push and end this tour with an all-time version.

Low key encore to send everyone home.
, comment by fracai
fracai This is exactly what I look for in a recap. Thank you!
, comment by Dressed_In_Gray
Dressed_In_Gray Best 4th Quarter of the tour for me. Fuego through Antelope was very strong.
, comment by ColForbin
ColForbin Nice recap! Thanks for writing, love to see new voices on the blog.
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