, attached to 2014-07-15

Review by solargarlic78

solargarlic78 https://medium.com/the-phish-from-vermont/35ffd49c0d3c

Being There: Review 7/15/14
A Phish Show is a Good Thing

So, I’ve reviewed every show here. But this was the first one I attended. I thought I’d reflect a bit on why being at a show still matters. First, the negatives — I was in the back right of the pavilion and for the first four songs or so the sound was piss poor — everything was boomy, muddled and it was honestly hard to even differentiate between the instruments. I kept thinking, I would hear the music better if I was on my couch with ear buds via some guys crappy iphone stream. This is frustrating because I go to Phish shows first and foremost for the music — not for the ‘scene’ or the drugs or the ‘energy’ of the crowd. When you can barely hear the music, it makes you wonder why you’ve spent all this money and energy going to the show (and why you’re sitting there around thousands of bodies and you really need to pee— but you’re not sure if this particular song warrants a pee break). But, the sound improved as the set went along. Now the positives. This is not an original thought, but there is just something that does not translate to crisp live soundboard recordings about Phish music (combined with lights) as an entity. During the DWD jam, the propulsive groove emanating from the stage was a single force creating bumps and jumps in the musical flow. In @heyscottyb’s recap, he described the funk jam as containing “rhythmic stabs” which I think is a perfect way to describe it. But, these quick propulsive “stabs” were not only Trey’s (or Page’s) chords, but the bass, drums, and lights creating this grooving single force coming from the stage. You can’t get that on couch tour. The other obvious positive is the crowd energy/excitement — which is kind of a constant (to be honest, the crowd is much more psyched than I to get “Meatstick”) — but when you get a song that you really hoped for like “Buried Alive”, “Wingsuit,” and “Divided Sky”, your excitement is shared with thousands others. And, we all know that the really amazing moments in jams are shared moments of crowd energy (I keep thinking back to that moment in the Stash jam from Mansfield where the entire crowd has realized “it” just happened).

OK, onto the show/music. For exploratory jam seekers like myself this was a decent not so great Phish show. Comparatively speaking I would say it is one of the weaker shows of the Summer thus far. But, it was still great. Every Phish show is great! There will be some who will say it was “rocking” and “had good flow” and a show like last night appeals to probably a majority of the fanbase (and certainly a majority of the room last night). The second set was “songy” (9 in total when compared to the 6 song sets of Sat/Sun). On the surface, there was really only one notable jam in the DWD. However, I think a more nuanced view is that last night’s second set was a narrative showcase of Phish as a groove-based organism. That theme — groove — persisted throughout most of the second set — even if it did so through songs. I’ll also say while there was nothing “out of the box”, the segment of “Gin” through “Bowie” in the first set was an absolute blast.

@mrminer asked “what band was that”? (in the wake of Saturday and Sunday I guess he was deluded into thinking 6 song sets will always happen from this point forward). My answer would be a band with a mammoth and diverse song catalog that sometimes just wants to go on stage and play a lot of songs. It happens.

“Buried Alive” — YES! Nasty-Phish blues at its best. I was so psyched to hear this, but less psyched about the sound quality in the venue. As usual, this was a short rendition where Trey shreds it up on 5 cycles of the 12 bar blues, plays the melody one more time and we’re out.

“Twist” — Really loved this placement. It is a nasty, funky jam that really gets the juices flowing and a straight-ahead “Twist” (much like “Sand”) is more welcome in the first than second set. This version featured Trey not playing too many notes and patiently leaving lots of space for the other members to fill in the groove (a theme of the entire evening).

“Heavy Things” — Bring back the Trey solo! Or, at least do a Page and then a Trey solo. For whatever reason, this one also didn’t feature the “once” pedal of that high G note (explained on Trey’s rig video).

“555" — This is the most played song of the new album. This version seemed to lack the bite of previous versions. Perhaps its time to let it rest for a week or so?

“Halley’s Comet” — This song seems to follow me (that and 2001). Fun sing-a-long, but not much else. The transition into Gin was very nice.

“Bathtub Gin” — Well, we had to have a straight-ahead Gin eventually. But, a straight ahead Gin is still great. This version started with a bit of a vocal jam which usually signals a tighter adherence to the Gin melody in the jam. The early part of this jam is just thick full band goo. Trey again is really patient and leaves tons of space for Mike and Page. I also noticed that Trey’s guitar tone also (at least upon re-listening to the SBD) sounds the best its sounded all tour imo. He builds up to a standardly glorious Gin peak. People will say this one was extra special — don’t believe them. Every Gin peak is awesome; so much so that is really difficult (pointless?) to differentiate and/or rank them. That is why some extra type ii improvisation is so welcome to see as we did at SPAC and Randalls.

“Wingsuit” — I can’t remember the last time I went into a Phish show desperately searching for a song I’ve never gotten live. I’ve seen “Spock’s Brain”, “Daniel Saw the Stone”, and various other rarities (still want my “Prep School Hippie”). But, I’m obsessed with “Wingsuit” right now and was so very excited to get it. I can’t emphasize enough how this song builds through the structure of the song itself. Once the jam hits the song is already peaking — and peak on it does for the length of the song. Admittedly, I think this fits as a landing spot for a long exploratory jam. After the ferocious “Gin” peak, this was yet another, similar soaring peak.

“Divided Sky” — I could just feel this coming. We had had a lot of storms in the area the last couple days, but the show started with stunning weather — a clear beautiful sky and low-humidity. Trey really struggled with those sustained notes at SPAC, but his tone on this version is clear, warm, and beautiful. As @MikeHamad noted on Twitter, this version went through 7(!) rounds of the chorus which is really unheard of in 3.0. (btw, this is some of the most interesting chord changes in Phish’s catalog — D-Em-D-Bb-A-D). Trey was uncannily patient with his solo. He started playing very quietly. By round 3 or 4, he actually started playing chords in the solo (unheard of!). He eventually went high up the neck to deliver the third straight melodic peak.

“Wombat” — Holy crap — this funk jam is sick. The composed start got off to a bit of a rocky start and Trey was laughing too much to get through the “Fish TV show” bit, but the jam made it the best version yet. It only clocked in at 7 minutes, but it made me reflect how funk slows down time. It fits so much dense texture into so little time, it really makes you appreciate every ounce of music filled into the groove. If you want to appreciate life, listen to more funk.

“David Bowie” — They nail the difficult composed section and the jam is relatively standard even a it flirts with some major key themes. Little trick I employed last night: if you are living in a set-closing Bowie and have to pee, but want to avoid the setbreak rush to the bathroom, go when the jam transitions from a standard Em-D vamp to the C->D->Em changes that signal the song will end soon. Trey does his lightening fast arpeggios over these chords to end the song. Always. It’s a great section of music, but generally similar every time. So, you won’t miss much by hitting the bathroom (as I did) before the set break rush hits.

Phish took a 24 minute set break. Wow. These old dudes like to go to bed early I guess. Or, more likely, they are just generally psyched to be playing music right now.

“Down With Disease” — Third one of tour, and another indication that it seems like Phish will generally jam out their own originals in the first half of the second set slot. This jam established the groove-theme of the entire set (or was it “Wombat” that did that, er…had that?). After the standard A mixolydian Trey solo out of the classic riff, Trey, per usual, switched to rhythm guitar and established a rocking groove on an Em vamp. Very soon, the jam turned major (D) and we were once again in bliss-territory (starting around 11:40). This jam came close to “hose” moment at (around 14:20), but it didn’t quite “lift off” to the kind of peak we’ve heard earlier this summer. No matter, starting around 15:28 we get the aforementioned “rhythmic stabbing.” Again, this just doesn’t translate onto the recording. You really had to be there to see this groove punctuate on stage with the lights. Amazing full band groove improv.

For better or worse, Trey ripchorded this thick textured groove for “Back on the Train,” but what people haven’t really remarked upon is how the groove continued during BOTT. Not the exact same groove, but a really extra-thick and textured bass-drum based groove undergirded the entire BOTT. This is most obvious right before the jam when Trey is supposed to sing “It took me a long time to get back off the train” three times over the chorus chords, but it was almost as if he couldn’t escape the F9 groove he had created (the funk was too thick!!!). The rest of the band members tried to play “the song”, but Trey was ensnared in the groove. The jam was not your normal one-chord blues guitar build, but continued a thick groove-based jam. When Trey went back to the F9 chord signalling “the end” of the song, they didn’t finish it and instead segued into…

“NICU” — A rare second set appearance, and the first of the tour. This song also is incredibly thick and groovy (grounded, yes, in a ska beat, but translated through Phish textured goo, most notably Mike’s sick bass line). Really DWD->BOTT->NICU needs to be seen as its own groove-based journey, even if much of the groove had lyrics sung over it.

“Gotta Jibboo” — This is also a quintessential groove-based Phish song that was penned during Trey’s early TAB era where he seemed interested in creating repetitive bass-drum grooves (See also, “First Tube” and “Sand”). As @MikeHamad pointed out, this jam is “Reba in reverse” which is true harmonically (a V-IV jam instead of a IV-V), but the rhythm sections of the two jams are entirely different (even if Trey’s blissful soloing is similar above). This was a standard version. For exploratory jam-seekers like me, this was a critical point in the set. Had they taken “Jibboo” for a ride, it would have been a completely different story. They did not.

“Theme from the Bottom” is also a thick gooey groove in the verse section that, of course, peaks with the soaring, celebratory chorus. Well played version.

“Meatstick” is another two chord groove that features a nasty Mike bass line. Everyone was going nuts. I was less enthused.

“Fuego” — You could also argue that this entire song is really based on that one guitar riff, which, according to the accounts of the songwriting process, itself came from a Phish groove/jam that Mike uncovered. Obviously after SPAC and Mann, these late set, non-jammed out Fuegos are going to be slightly dissapointing. But, I was happy to get my first. And, this version (perhaps inspired by the rendition on Jimmy Fallon) saw the triumphant return of the delicate end-composed section.

“Wedge” — yet another groove song. This one is based on the very complicated drum beat.

“Run Like and Antelope” — My brother turned to me during the jam and said “Fuego-lope” thinking he had coined something really original. Not so much. But, this was fun. Some have suggested it harkens back to 93-94 tease-fests of Phish yesteryear. Yes, it does harken back, but 3.0 Phish does not pull it off with quite the same ferocity. Diego kidnapped Marco Esquandolas and we were on to a Character 0 encore (another needed pee break for me) and end show.

OK, so the last two shows I have seen were in Rochester and Canandaigua in Central New York. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that both shows are probably seen as weak when compared to the rest of their respective tours. (Many ranked Rochester the worst show of the Fall). As a Central New York (Syracuse) resident, I have to say, what the f***? This is Fishman’s home region. Will you please show us some love? This show had “sleeper show” written all over it — undersold, out of the way, and on a Tuesday. Don’t get me wrong: I had a blast. The Gin->Bowie segment and DWD were well worth the price of admission. And, after Randalls 3, probably anything is a let down. However, I have a feeling that Detroit will be seen as the winner in this little Tues-Wed jaunt through the “Middle East” parts of the country en route to Chicago.


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