PZ: Happy 2015, Phish fans! We’ve been on a bit of a ride the past few days on the ship of Phish. The fans making the trek to Miami caught a monster wave with the NYE second set and “Tweezer,” though otherwise the band has presented as adrift, disinterested, and even for stretches taking on water, with New Years Day’s performance being even charitably among the least inspired in holiday run history. While not reaching the Jimmy Carter-level malaise that characterized the 2011-12 MSG holiday run, the band was straddling the Mendoza Line with only one and a fraction high quality sets out of five washing upon the Miami shores.
Photo by Brantley Gutierrez © Phish 2014. All rights reserved.
Phish would return to form this night, but it didn’t happen early. “Free” has settled into a comfortable rotation as an opener since first introduced in that role on 12/28/11 MSG. Rather than inspire, “Free” sounds flat and tired here, especially in contrast to the explosive “Martian Monster”-infused brilliance displayed on the final night of fall tour (11/2/14) in Vegas. “The Moma Dance” kept the vanilla flowing, with the first real signs of life came in the strong closing jam in “Possum.” Where one might be most hopeful to find rays of first set improvisational brilliance – “Roggae” and “Stash” – Phish delivered competent, relaxed, professional versions that served admirably in the moment but were otherwise unremarkable.
"Back on the Train” featured an ending that by intention or otherwise was basically the same (very good) jam that concluded the “Possum” from earlier in the set. The deep irony of this set was that Trey nailed the solos in “Sugar Shack” with which he has notorious difficulty, but then proceeds to completely butcher the infinitely less complex “The Line” bringing the vibe of the set to a full stop. “Ocelot” and “The Squirming Coil” conclude the set in much the same sleepytime vibe it began. Add in the increasingly long pauses between songs – often featuring seemingly intense discussion followed by the most mundane of song choices – and for better and/or worse this is your typical Phish first set these days.
Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish 2015. All rights reserved.
LMo: The first set included some of my favorite songs, though all the songs seemed quick to end and i was left wanting for something, somewhere, sometime to extend into uncharted waters, if only for a little while. Those special moments were entirely absent from last night’s first set. i love Free as an opener. i enjoy the tightly composed section and lyrics that invariably lead to the bass line taking over and some time to hear mike gordon lead along to the response of what is always some interesting guitar notes as the lead shifts back to trey. i imagine the song as about the freedom of bass and guitar to talk it out as the lyrics conclude.
in the first set there was a long pause between each song. there seemed to be a lot of deliberation about what to do and where to go and what is what. Moma dance was the choice at that juncture, another one of my old time favorites. i heard very satisfying guitar moments in last nights version, i just wish the MoMa dance would stretch out more and explore before returning to it's conclusion. Possum was just a straight up Possum, no surprises, though short in length. Roggae next with some very very sweet guitar moments again, a beautiful one always. calm calm calm... followed by Stash without surprises and Get Back on the Train.
Get Back on the Train seems to me a sort of calibration song for the band. there are other songs i would also call calibration songs, in that this song really brings all four members to a clear and excellent unison that later seems a basis for some interesting musical communication. there is such a walkable steady rhythm with Get Back on the Train.
Sugar Shack and the Line sort of pull the brakes on the forward momentum. I shrug and enjoy the ballads, though i noticed a slight stumbling sound with the guitar during the line, missed the net on that one. set one concludes with Ocelot and the Squirming Coil- nice bass in the Ocelot. i also enjoy the guitar and piano interchanges and melodic shiftings in this song and last night is a fair example, though nothing overwhelmed me. the Squirming Coil is often a set closer. sadly, the ending got foiled for me with the freezing of my stream and i missed my favorite part of Coil, page and the piano solo. i have experienced live great piano solo moments every time. i love to hear page alone. my stream unlocked as i saw a close up of page ending the set with the flourish of a man paying a bill offhandedly, rising from a table and making a hasty exit.
Photo by Patrick Jordan © Phish 2015. All rights reserved.
PZ: “Mike’s Song” has been on a strong run with innovative and extended first jams of late, with this powerful ten-plus minutes anchored by Fish laying down a simple woodblock beat around which a deep Mike-driven pocket developed, with Trey and Page trading riffs on the surface, a great version for the era. The first ever “46 Days” embedded within a Mike’s Groove was a refreshing and unexpected call, one richly rewarded with a radically funky type-II departure from the song’s structure, this Mike’s Groove was twenty minutes deep before the opening notes of “Weekapaug.”
This “Weekapaug” started out uneventfully enough before soaring to an open, airy plane – Page in control on clavinet – before the “first ending” jam, then they blow through the stop sign and drop into a stop-start, sadly though predictably infected by the fucking “woo.” Page quickly rinses the palate with “They Attack!” samples from “The Birds,” opening the door to the second half of this 17+ minute “Weekapaug” jam that was the clear highlight of the gig. Trey abandoned his new/old guitar in favor of Fish’s marimba lumina. Page picked up Mike’s bass line, while Mike took over on Trey’s guitar for a rotation jam that instantly and easily ranks among the (if not the) best rotation jams of 3.0. As a stand alone “Weekapaug” (clocking it at 17:33) it is in a tier of its own for 3.0 and likely the best since 1.0.
The improvisational jets were exhausted at this point, but riding such a high third quarter wave floated all boats for the show, one that maintained crisp, crowd-pleasing energy. “Fuego” wasn’t in the mood to go big, but yielding to the much loved “Slave to the Traffic Light” left few if any disappointed. An all-too-brief but still fun diversion into “2001” set up a super high-energy “Walls of the Cave” to cap off a set that joins 12/31/14’s second in Miami’s top tier. An uneventful but fun “Sleeping Monkey” (clappers join talkers and smokers in the unholy trinity) and “Rocky Top” send the assembled masses home happy. The band was due for a stellar set... we asked, they delivered. Happy New Year to all, enjoy the final gig and safe travels home.
Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish 2015. All rights reserved.
LMo: as i heard Mike’s Groove from the cloud - mikes - 46 days - weekapaug – it was one coherent whole and it was absolutely amazing good. in Mike's song i heard an amazing piano / bass interplay and exchange, the tension was superb. it is cool to see trey step aside a moment as things get kind of dark and deep. my impression of the guitar moments are of stepping and swaying within the tight rhythm section, a really nice guitar sound all flawless and smooth and soaring through moments. there is a smooth transition into 46 days - really really nice guitar with this song and i am not disappointed - trey just talking talking talking - say it, say it, say it! i like the way the piano supports the melody in 46 days, trailing the lead guitar and spinning with the angles and changes, all the while, a solid rhythm section. i like the extension near the end beyond the lyrics, this is a worthy funky let's take a ride sort of jam. set two is all on.
the transition into weekapaug is just right, smooth. the bass line intro is always a pleasure to hear, page takes up with a really sweet funky groove on the clavinet keyboard, great sound. this is the good good part... the sound builds, very unified very lead guitar and all the sound pulls together. there is the start stop i love though unfortunately the crowd does the woo thing. past that is on track with the Birds - They Attack - from the now infamous 2014 vegas halloween set. things get great and funky good with the shifting of trey to percussion taking up the marimba lumina, then mike shifts to guitar. page on keys takes up the rhythm section with a very bass line keyboard sound while fishman holds it all down fishman style - a must hear and revisit moment. mike on guitar is very very interesting and an entirely different listening experience, while trey looked to be having good fun with percussion. really good old-school fun - mixing it up, getting a little crazy, a band and crowd totally aligned in the moment.
Fuego was a perfect song choice at this juncture. trey’s guitar takes flight into some unknown places in solo. at the conclusion of Fuego there is a really comfortable gentle sounding soft regroup that was good on the ears. from the tones of the guitar at the conclusion i was imagining Whats the Use? coming next, instead it is Slave, one can't go wrong with Slave and this version is no exception.
2001 - ohhh my. very good and very brief. superb things sometimes are enclosed in shorter time frames. i hear the hints of the guitar riff that is so superb from Dick's Simple 8-29-14. this is a winner of a sweet guitar riff that seems to have a lot of room for interchanges and shifts. the bass sound thumps and grooves right along. count me greedy, this 2001 could have extended and had potential for another over the top jam. i was defiantly left wanting more, though this is said as a compliment to the band.
Walls of the Cave is a terrific high energy last blast of excellent blazing light soundscaping. page is on fire with trey - rocking it out and pounding sound to a conclusion... and fishman on drums punctuates the conclusion of an excellent second set. magic!
the encore - Sleeping Monkey and Rocky Top - i wanted to note that fishman has a really familiar and excellent voice. i really enjoy the humor of this song and fishman sings it so sweetly. i could do without the unison crowd clapping. people are happy, in any case. i also wanted to note that for a band of new england guys, they do a soulful version of the southern Rocky Top. having grown up down south, i am amused hearing Rocky Top sung with New England accents.
looking forward to watching from the clouds tonight and cheers to everyone both at home and in Miami. cheers and thank you to my favorite band. i am most vicariously happy for my friends who are there in person.
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