, attached to 2004-06-26

Review by n00b100

n00b100 If you listen to just about every era of Phish, you can hear notes of at least one other era of the band in their performances - for instance, 1995 retains the crazed energy of 1992-93, only sped up and given HGH; 1997 is the experimentation with minimalism started on 10/31/96 taken to its logical conclusion; 2012-13 is pretty much every era of Phish thrown into a blender and made into a really tasty musical smoothie. This is to be expected, of course - evolution in sound takes time, after all, and when you're playing the same songs over every era there's going to be overlap pretty much by default. But I guess what I'm getting at is that every version of Phish, even 2003, owes something to the Phish that came before.

That is, until you get to June 2004.

I'm not going to say that Phish in June 2004 sounds nothing like what came before, but I *am* going to say that, in my estimation, June 2004 sounds the *least* like everything that came before it, especially in the jamming style. I used this term before, but I'll use it again here - it sounds like Phish's jamming gun, usually so reliable and varied in its settings, is pretty much stuck on "upbeat foggy hose", which they will play for long, loooooooong jams (cf. the famous 6/19 Piper, which is an awesome jam with segments that just stretch on out into the horizon and screw you if you don't like it). Which is totally fine - they did "upbeat foggy hose" pretty darn well, especially over this short tour. But it does mean that you sort of have to temper your expectations, in that you're going to hear music that's very much of a particular style, and either you're going to love it or you're going to hate it. Lots of people hate it, which is why lots of people write off 2004 as a flat disaster. Those that do love it know what treasures this month can contain. I like to think of June '04 as a weird alternate universe where Phish re-invented themselves as a progenitor of modern EDM, where jams were all about finding a specific feeling and riding that feeling for all its worth, damn the torpedoes and all that.*

The first-set Scents and Subtle Sounds is a very good example of this - a jam that may not step outside its usual boundaries, but still climbs and climbs in a way that can't help but fill your heart with joy if you love "hose" jamming. It's essentially all hose from start to finish, if that makes sense. This style of play does mean that Stash, usually a reliable dive into darkness, loses a lot of its usual luster and just sounds like a band searching for a peak, shrugging its shoulders, and saying "hey, all good, man". But this does mean that the more upbeat numbers, like Funky Bitch and Zero, have a little extra pizzazz to them, which helps set the table for a personal favorite second frame.

Boogie On Reggae Woman starts things off, and it's as funky as it always is, before giving way to one of my all-time favorite jam sequences. Mike gets a few seconds to fool around on the bass, then the band slams into a *killer* funk jam, Trey playing fog-laden chords before switching to some nasty soloing, Fish keeping the pace going with some nifty cymbal work, Page hammering away on his piano. The jam never achieves total liftoff or hits any sort of BGCA Light-like peak, but it's ridiculously intense for all 7 minutes and 47 seconds, until the jam flattens out and turns into a quite familiar groove.

That groove, of course, is Ghost (via a superb segue), and while the composed section of Ghost features a nigh-unforgivable botch, the actual Ghost jam is a keeper, starting off deceptively quietly before Mike starts picking things up and Page switches to...um...*something* on his keyboard. The notes he starts spitting out after the 8 minute mark are unlike anything I've heard him play before, and matched with Trey's darker guitar tone and Fish's insistent beat they start building up a hurricane of sound, Trey finds some big-time power chords, and the band builds to a powerful peak.

After a couple minutes of sheer rock nirvana, the jam winds down and they go into Free, which actually steps out and has a cool funk jam (with a really gooey bass tone from Mike) with a stop-start section and some grimy bluesy play from Trey. Friday comes next, then Piper, and this Piper wastes no time in leading into a stripped-down, zippy groove, thanks to Fish going double-time on the toms, and Page & Trey meshing very well together with their clanging chords. The band then alternates between this fast-paced madness and crashing breakdowns, finding jam spaces that would not be out of place in Maze, before coming to a surprisingly funky finish and rolling right into Hood. Hood (which is pretty much built for June '04) is impressively strong (even if it doesn't so much peak and just sorta tiptoe its way into the usual climax), and Possum nicely rounds things out.

6/19 is still definitely the strongest show of this month, but this show has a heck of a lot going for it, and if you have the desire to delve into what Phish was doing in this month, you're going to find this show entirely to your liking.

* I ignored specifically talking about drugs in the main body for a reason - pretty much every other review mentions it. You all know what was going on in 2004.


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