, attached to 2014-07-27

Review by solargarlic78

solargarlic78 https://medium.com/the-phish-from-vermont/throwback-throwdown-review-7-27-14-dd58371cb4d4

Throwback Throwdown: Review 7/27/14

What can I say. This amazing band, in their 31st year, still can play a show like last night that just completely knocks you on the floor in shocking disbelief. Part of Phish fandom is of course “knowing” what comes next: “Hey, they’re playing ‘Oh Kee Pah’ so I bet it goes into ‘Suzy’”, or, “They played ‘Mike’s’ so we’ll get ‘Weekapaug’ later.” Or even, “We are due for an ‘Antelope’ tonight.” What is so amazing about Phish is how they sometimes (it has to be rare to create this ‘knowing’ feeling in the first place) completely defy what “should” happen next. One of my favorite moments at a show where I witnessed this was 8/14/97 Darien Lake: Ken Kesey and his “Merry Pranksters” Bozo show got Phish into such a funk groove that they failed to go into “Mockingbird” out of “Colonel Forbins” because, as Trey exclaimed, “We can’t!!! The funk is too deep.” I remember laughing hysterically at that line. Just like I was laughing hysterically during much of the set II last night (by some miracle of summer travel plans I picked CMAC — a hometown show — and MPP2 — where my brother lives — as the two shows I could afford this summer…so lucky me was there last night). We don’t often appreciate that aspect of Phish — sure the jams take us to “places”, and the songs make us dance, etc., but sometimes this band just makes us laugh…a lot.

When Fishman kicked in the “Back on the Train” beat and Trey followed suit, literally seconds into the 3rd quarter Tweezer jam we were all anticipating, I was really pissed (I literally screamed “no” in a fit of rage…I regret that now). I was thinking: OK — these segues are cute and all, but for f*ck’s sake please don’t interrupt my second set “Tweezer.” But, this was my “knowing” Phish brain. Since they had ended the song, “Back on the Train” would do its thing and then we would likely be led down a march of more and more songs (and segues) for the rest of the set. When literally seconds (or maybe a minute) after that, they busted back into “Tweezer,” I first laughed, but then realized how this minor gesture really opened up the realm of what is possible at a Phish show. Suddenly the Tweezer jam could come after “Back on the Train” (which it did — for 9 minutes of melodic bliss hose; add that to the previous two “Tweezers” and we have a respectable 15 minute “version”). But once they did that, anything was possible. No formula existed anymore. “Free” — a song that has remained almost exactly the same since Billy Breathes was released (remember those ‘95 versions that jammed out ? So do I) — was suddenly cut off in the middle for more “Tweezer” — and then “Simple”, but what was the real icing on the cake is that they came back and finished “Free” proper. That non-Tweezer moment might have been my favorite moment of the set (somehow it didn’t feel right to leave that “Free” unfinished— and I generally don’t like “Free”!).

Although it appears the reaction to this show is almost universally positive, I’m sure there must be some corners of the internet who see 20 tracks on a set 2 list and dismiss the show as a ‘cute’ and ‘gimmicky’ segue-fest — but lacking any real serious improvisation (“I need my four song second set, brah!”). If only that were the case. The set not only included a sizable “Tweezer” jam, but also a ridiculously thick groove in the “DWD” that segued beautiful into what is apparently now a late set 2 song of “NICU.” Then that proceeded to jam “type II” for the first time in nearly 20 years. Yes, there were now epic long jams, but once again, Phish — with rapid efficiency — was able to create very interesting ‘out there’ moments in the interstices of the (many) songs.

Everyone is comparing this show to 5/7/94 (Bomb Factory), or other segue-fests (2/20/93 or 6/22/94), but what people haven’t brought up is the dramatic difference in Phish’s jamming style these days (when compared to 1993-1994). As many have noted @waxbanks and @phishcrit), Phish’s jamming back then was difficult/abstract/frenetic — featuring constant key and tempo changes and dissonant melodies (see A Live One’s Tweezer for instance)— even if they did hold to capacity to build anthemic rock peak jams that strayed away from this sometimes hard-t0-listen-to ‘spontaneous’ composition style. But, this Phish is a different animal. Since 1997, the band still has not really changed their improvisational approach in type II jams (there of course really importance differences in the years since then, I realize). As @waxbanks describes in A Tiny Space to Move and Breathe in 1997 Phish jams become much more open, free, and, most importantly, groove based (Phish tried to play funk prior to 1997 but it didn’t quite work). James Brown and Miles Davis’s electric music, etc. now represented the roots of their jamming style. So, last night, in between the Tweezers and slew of other songs, we got ridiculously open/free harmonically simple jams like Tweezer and funk-groove based jams in Simple, DWD, NICU, and (don’t forget that) Booggie On.

My point is: this is a very different band than the 1994 Phish. I personally much prefer their jamming style today (and I agree the band has found another peak period in 2012-present — even if we can argue if it is on the same level as their previous peaks in 1995 and 1997-1999). But, to ‘add in’ the crazy, unexpected, and hilarious segues and antics (common to 1994) to this Phish’s improvisational gusto and experience? Well, it’s a bit overwhelmingly awesome. And it makes sense. The roots might be something like the “Theme from the Shaft” in Worcester, but in 2013 for the most part Phish anchored their shows with epic improvisations rather than song selection/placement and “setlist flow.” There was a potential to create a new kind of rut of “knowing what to expect” (“it’s the 3rd quarter, so I will now get my awesome jam.”) They decided to shake it up, because, most of all, they just don’t seem complacent right now (like I would argue they had seemed in much of 2009-2011). Now, with fresh song placements and creative segues, Phish is once again keeping us on our toes.

I guess I was going to write a review of the show. The first set was just what I was looking for. “Fee” used to be Phish’s “pop” song when I was in High School — it’s really amazing how rare it is now. I must admit when Trey decided to end the Fee harmonic outro jam section to correct his missed lyric I was confused and angered (not as bad as the “Back on the Train” moment, but still). I love “Fee” jams — 7/1/12 was one of my favorite jams of the year. Sure, correct the lyric, but keep the jam going! When I checked my zzyzx stats before the show, I was informed that the two most common songs I’ve never seen live (in 74 shows), were “My Sweet One” and “The Curtain With.” Well, done and done. Seriously though, I have been chasing “The Curtain With” since 2000 (I got one of the rare “withouts” on 8/28/12, but was rewarded with a >Peaches). This version had a hiccup in the very first part of the intro (the transition between the hammer on’s and the first open “slave-like” A-chord), but then was very, very well played. The jam really chilled out at the beginning and there was a lot of space for Page, Mike and Trey to work. It hit a nice peak, but then felt like it ended a bit abruptly — but no matter — I got my “with” man! Don’t overlook the “Sand” from the first set. It really established a textured groove and was not just a simple guitar solo per usual (the groove it created was a sign of things to come in the second set!). The return of “YEM” was exhilirating, and I really love a first set YEM. While Trey didn’t completely fall apart in the (very difficult!) intro like SPAC, there was a minor flub — but, once again, this was made up for by a cool Mike-Trey duel jam that kept things funky and conversational.

Then, well, the second set happened. And, it had me laughing, laughing, fall apart. I love this band.
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