Thursday 08/05/2021 by swittersdc


© 2021 RJ Bee
© 2021 RJ Bee

If you just look at the rankings for the two nights of Nashville (3.168 for Tuesday, 4.3 for Wednesday), you’ll see the community’s different perspective on these shows.

When Phish rolls into town for a multi-night run, it’s a losing person’s game to try and guess which show will be better. Historically, the conventional wisdom has been that the second (or last) show of a run will be the strongest. But in recent years, we’ve seen some night ones be the best of a run—for example, Rosemont, IL, 10/26/18. Going into Tuesday night’s show, given the strength of the past several shows, expectations were sky high.

I think Ascend Amphitheater is one of the best venues for a Phish show. The size is perfect, the sightlines are great from anywhere in the venue, the staff is friendly, there’s ample room to dance everywhere, and the sound is great. Being in the middle of downtown Nashville, it’s an awesome spot. You should really go if you haven’t been.

On Tuesday, they came out swinging with Punch You in the Eye, which was an ambitious way to start a show given the complexity of the song. The band is more well practiced than any tour I can remember in the recent past, and with songs like this, it really shows. A mid-set Backwards Down the Number Line was perfect for me (again, I’m sorry if you have to listen to your favorite guitarist play a very meaningful song, I hope you survive!).

The new Mike song, Mull, was a really cool song to hear, and I think there’s a lot of promise with that tune. About to Run was the highlight of the set. It perfectly featured Trey’s new tone and gear, and was highlighted by a shredding solo.

In the second set, it felt like they were searching for a sound, but never quite got to that point of transcendence, like we saw in the previous several shows. Why? No way to know. If you really think about it, there are hundreds of things that need to come together for a show to even happen, let alone be a magical experience with top-notch improv.

But there were some great moments, even if they didn’t quite sync in the set like we all wanted them to. The No Men In No Man’s Land spotlighted Page’s enhanced synth sounds, and this was the first of many moments over the past two nights that went into a sonic space where Trey and Page were both contributing their insane space sounds (that’s a scientific term). You can see more about Trey’s new setup in our recent HF Pod on Tour segment with Ryan of Trey’s Guitar Rig.

The Light featured similar jamming, and the You Enjoy Myself was a welcome closer. This was my first show back since the pandemic started, and this YEM felt like a cathartic release. Back with friends. Back home.

© 2021 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2021 PHISH (Rene Huemer)

Night two was a completely different story. I’ve been waiting to hear Evolve, and was so happy to have it open the show. Many in the crowd didn’t know the song, adding to my belief that the Lonely Trip material has been a bit overlooked. Once we heard Free, we knew that repeats were back on the table, which added to this show tremendously. I thought that Cool Amber and Mercury was when they really got cooking, even though there was a little confusion about how the song started. I like the ambition and fearlessness that Phish is showing this tour, with the song choices and not avoiding songs that haven’t been played in a while or that might not have been as well practiced. This is a band that’s so happy to be back, happy to be playing for us, and you can see and hear that in these shows. I loved hearing Halfway to the Moon, and thought this was another strong version.

Ok, set two. Wow. This is hard to put into words. This is the kind of set where you walk out of the venue high fiving (or fist or elbow bumping) everyone you can. This is the kind of set where you can’t go to sleep for a long time afterwards. The energy after the show was palpable among the group I was with. We were part of this energy exchange with the band where everything worked perfectly. The bets paid off, and everyone won.

The set opener, Mr. Completely, set the table for the rest of the show. This 19 minute journey featured aliens, robots, space travel, and more. I heard Fishman bringing the main beat back far before they finished the song. At that point, they could have easily transitioned into the next song, but it seemed like Trey wanted to keep pushing it.

When they finally did wind down and land into Birds of a Feather, we were ready. I don’t think Fishman ever lost that Mr. Completely beat, throughout the rest of the show. The Ghost -> Bathtub Gin (please note that silky segue, one of many amazing segues this tour) was just amazing, bringing us back into this psychedelic soup that really felt like one long jam throughout the entire set.

The 2001 was a welcome and expected song, and allowed for more cathartic release with the peaks. The Split Open and Melt set closer represented this whole show perfectly—everyone stopped dancing, staring into the sky or at the stage, trying to figure out what’s going on, while the band kept pushing us into the dissonance. Kuroda’s rig was moving in wild ways during this song, and added to the madness. And the Character Zero allowed for some last minute karate chops and dancing before we all filed out into downtown Nashville, not wanting the show to end and not wanting to leave this beautiful venue.

The lesson of the tale of these two Nashvilles, to me at least, is that there were a lot of risks taken last night, and they paid off. Bringing back repeated songs (Ghost, Bathtub Gin) was a great call, as these allowed for this thematic set of jamming to continue unabated. I think it’s about the fearlessness and comfort with the music and the crowd. They’re happy that we’re here. We’re home. They’re home. Welcome back.

© 2021 Kevin Umberger
© 2021 Kevin Umberger

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, comment by pureguava
pureguava Nice write up. Second set, second night was straight fire. I actually lol’d when they slipped into Gin. Silky indeed.
, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 Thanks for the review(s). Disclaimer that any and all thoughts, feelings, analyses or critiques were made ala couch (and bed night two). While I think this is a wholly respectable vantage point, I was not in attendance.

Like mashing up the two reviews together but also feel that detracted a bit from the detail in general. I believe the concept was well intentioned and the execution was admirable.

Anyhoo, night one just never got going to the point that I was totally engaged and realized there is a perspective that the band has to account for when asking significant $$ for a live stream. Near ticket price for the experience seems a little steep though I will account for the crew that puts it on and the hard work and effort and artistic direction.

All that being said, it was hard to engage. This is wholly my perspective and not detracting from the bands playing or their intent.

Night two delivered the goods from all over the soundscape spectrum with a healthy nod to CK5 for his Wall of Lights. There is an effect he has employed recently that I shall coin the Hampton, owing to its uncanny resemblance the lights cast up the sides of the fable coliseum. Look for it, it’s noice.

My one comment is one that I have echoed in the past. The silky segues (Ghost->Gin) was as masterful as it was unique. This band, and Trey namely, typically lands on the desired song on the far end of the “dash carrot” but at the point where the two songs meld, there is a slight adjustment to meet the necessary tempo of the new segued song. Again, not saying that there aren’t strong transitions but last night was an instance where the melange of sound that morphed from Ghost was embraced as the catalyst and back drop for Gin. Absolutely magic and mysticism.

I would love love love to see much much more of that from the band. They already have the ingredients necessary, a) willingness to explore and extend jams, b) the wherewithal to anticipate each other’s moves, c) not counting out repeats of songs to silkily roll into to.

Thanks again for the review.

Mahalo Nui,
, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 Small correction. SOAM didn’t encore. It was last song second set.
, comment by swittersdc
swittersdc @mgolia6 said:
Small correction. SOAM didn’t encore. It was last song second set.
Thank you! Fixed that.
, comment by ForgeTheCoin
ForgeTheCoin The second set was a behemoth, and as you describe super cohesive... in a way I haven't heard since 12/30/19. The influence of Page's "Visitors" album is really showing through and leading to much more of this spacy, alien-like jam style which was pervasive throughout the set, even in unexpected places like Bathtub Gin. The Gin is an all timer, and likely there are a handful of jam chart entries. A set this tight and complex will be hard to top, but its early in the tour yet. If the cohesiveness on display last night can also find its way into first set offerings, then look out - the sky's the limit. See you in PA next week.
, comment by EvenCarlSagan
EvenCarlSagan Nice review.
And thank you for using scientific terms.
, comment by skradiate
skradiate Nice recap. When Page took an extra round of soloing on Suzy stopping Trey in his tracks on the way to the mic was when I felt the magic really started to happen because a spot on Fluffhead that followed made it so. The second set had that special thematic flow that we all seek…so much so that there was no reason to add a ballad/breather. Amazing night at an incredible venue.
, comment by Kneuyartan
Kneuyartan Great review! I would only add that in Gin, Page had two sick quotes of Cliff Richards' "Devil Woman" leading into and after the "We love to take a bath" verse. Go & listen; I'll wait.
, comment by EducateFright
EducateFright Love the lack of melody, and the abundance of dissonance and noise in the SOaMelt jam. More of this please!

It reminded me a little bit of the wild SOaMelt encore(!) from Blossom 2019-06-19, that one was also really noisy (and it almost derailed and they brought it back to the SOaMelt theme).

Keep bringing the heavy effects, the spacey synths, and push for a new 4.0 sound!

To the author: been enjoying your recap videos, thanks for those!
See ya at Deer Creek!
, comment by Murat_Gin
Murat_Gin @Kneuyartan said:
Great review! I would only add that in Gin, Page had two sick quotes of Cliff Richards' "Devil Woman" leading into and after the "We love to take a bath" verse. Go & listen; I'll wait.
F*ck yeah it did! I'm glad I'm not the only one who heard that. Although I thought it was Trey playing it. But seriously, it's there.
, comment by 46Blaze
46Blaze Trey started it during the Ghost jam, and it just kept happening! I knew I wasn’t the only one hearing it!

@Murat_Gin said:
@Kneuyartan said:
Great review! I would only add that in Gin, Page had two sick quotes of Cliff Richards' "Devil Woman" leading into and after the "We love to take a bath" verse. Go & listen; I'll wait.
F*ck yeah it did! I'm glad I'm not the only one who heard that. Although I thought it was Trey playing it. But seriously, it's there.
, comment by makloon
makloon Cool review! That was a mutant Bathtub Gin and I loved it.
, comment by suzydrano
suzydrano I’d like somebody (anybody) who knows what the Persian scale is to describe how they thought about Trey using it during the SOAM, I’ve been trying to figure out how to describe it and based on my googling and you tubing I think I’ve nailed it down to Persian scale, but would looooooove some expertish takes
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