, attached to 2014-08-03

Review by solargarlic78

solargarlic78 https://medium.com/the-phish-from-vermont/subtle-sounds-review-8-3-14-14ac58e3bef1

Subtle Sounds: Review 8/3/14

The “never miss a Sunday show” dictum held once again. While perhaps not the level of Randalls or MPP2, Alpharetta closed the tour off with joy and style. Sometimes tour closers are kind of standard and ho hum — not this one. It featured surprising jams, bustouts, and a downright adorable moment of band love/energy in “Harry Hood”. And, oh, that encore.

“My Soul” is a perfect illustration of how Phish is not (I repeat NOT) a blues band. Sure, they play “blues” songs like “Funky Bitch” and “Possum”, but the band just does not offer the gritty, soulful sound of the blues. If anything, Phish is influenced by the blues “once removed” because their main influences are rock — much of it extremely influenced by the blues — Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, and a blues band called the Warlocks (later named The Grateful Dead). Which brings me back to Phish’s rendition of “My Soul”. Compare it to Clifton Chenier’s version which is steeped in a funky backbeat, soulful (no pun intended) vocals, and a gritty, jangly American blues music sound. Phish’s version sounds nothing like this. The beat is faster and straighter, Trey and Page’s solos are derivative and employ only the most cliche blues licks. This is why I don’t particularly enjoy Phish’s cover of “Exile on Main St.” Phish is not bluesy enough to pull off the “Rolling Stones” (they do, however, always do a great version of “Loving Cup.”) Now, the only time Phish does do blues right is when they turn it into something their own — frenetic crazy energy and chromatic phrasing (think “Buried Alive” and “Llama”). Anyway, they played that blues song. “Bathtub Gin” followed and this one didn’t waste much time before launching into a full on guitar peak that featured really expressive and lightening fast playing. “555" again was followed by the always welcome “Pebbles & Marbles.” For those of us who yearn for the days of epic Trey compositions it is songs like this, TTE, and even “Fuego” that we’re left with. Songs with intermittent, somewhat complex instrumental sections. This is one of those jams that starts with a lot of peak energy (kind of like the DWD jam). There is no reason why it can’t go off (like DWD) into some more interesting territorty, but it hasn’t in 3.0 (If I remember correctly there are some 2.0 “jammed out” versions of this song). This one was well played considering the layoff. “The Line” was followed by another mild bustout (we get about one per year) of “Vultures.” This one sounded really bad when the vocals came in out of key, but they quickly recovered. The jam is based off those syncopated power chords and it creates a lot of space for Mike and Page to work around Trey’s often dissonant soloing (they also incidentally create a lot of space for “wooos”). Yet another “rarity” came along with “Fast Enough for You” — one of my favorite Phish ballads and the solo at the end can actually pack quite a punch. This one took a more delicate and soft approach to the solo which works too. Next came a standalone “Back on the Train” that had a nice short, energetic jam. One of my favorite things Trey does is simply sustain a note for a long time — check out 5:39-5:51. Not an eternity by any means (there are some “Harry Hoods” where he has held a note for 2-3 minutes!), but still really cool. “Taste”, with its Latin rhythms and interesting chord progression, is a great choice for set 1 diversity (something that matters to me). The jam featured Trey’s “halting” style that he has done a lot this tour (and I’m not very fond of it — rather than let the notes really ring out and sustain, he plays them in a truncated, uncertain fashion. To his ear maybe this is rhythmically interesting?). HEY NOW, the real highlight of this set was the first “type II” “Gumbo” since 2.0. It was of course all made possible by the addition of the “funky” breakdown since 10/23/13 (either preceding or obviating Page’s ragtime outro). Sooner or later, we were going to see this song open up. This one wasn’t the 15-25 minute versions of day’s lore, but it was a thick and nasty funk groove that layered some really awesome rhythms and textures with Trey mostly soloing and Page on the clavinet. At about 6 minutes in Mike plays a melody that the entire band picks up on (is this a tease?). At the end, it almost goes into a ska-like rhythm (was NICU coming?), but Trey found the Gumbo chords and alas it was over. The standard trio of “Halfway to the Moon”, “STFTFP” and “Suzy” closed out the set.

Set 2 once again opened with the surprising “go to” type II jam vehicle of tour — “Chalk Dust Torture.” I feel strongly that the reason for CDT’s explorations this summer are not only because they have really opened up the song in 2012-2013 with some amazing versions, but also because they were consciously or unconsciously avoiding covers as jam vehicles (really I think maybe the Chicago “Golden Age” was the only major cover jam?). After Randalls, this was probably my favorite version of the tour. It meandered around in the mercurial style for much of it, but finally at about 10 minutes in they just simply sat on one chord and built it up and up and up into some rock-oriented power chords. Then around 11:15 Trey played some glorious single-line notes that seemed to hint at a crazy glorious peak. But, yet again, they pulled back the reins. Nevertheless, it was a solid two minutes building a single chord and theme. As Trey kept on playing different chordal phrases, it seemed like he almost stumbled on the chords for “Scents and Subtle Sounds.” I know a lot of people were REALLY hoping they would play this song — myself included. Sure, there was no intro or no jam, but it was one hell of a segue and the bustout was enough to create a lot of adrenaline for all lovers of Phish. It was pretty well played too. “Twist” and “Fuego” were standard (actually the "Fuego" was kind of rough - who knew they could flub it!?), and a non jammed “Wedge” created a kind of lull in the set. “Light” to the rescue. Is there any more consistent jam vehicle in 3.0? This version was minimalist — simply exploring a very spacious and sparse groove for 5 or 6 minutes. No builds or peaks — just quality space grooves thick with loops and band interplay — at around 7 minutes in Mike is just leading the eff out of this jam. A rare segue into “Harry Hood” was predictable and welcome. Rather than type II “Hood” or create a blazing, glorious, reflective type I, they instead chose to use the Hood jam as a kind of celebration of the tour…and of their friendship. Trey traded solos with Mike, Fish, and Page and luckily we got to witness it on the webcast (it just doesn’t translate on audio). This band?!? So adorable. :-) The “jam” was pretty mellow for its entirety — and even went into a D minor blues section briefly in the 11th minute — before modulating back to D major town and delivering a brief but joyous Hood peak. “First Tube” is comfortably playing the role of the set 2 closer. It really works.

No one can overrate that moment on March 6th, 2009. Phish opened with Fluffhead. It was a statement — it was a commitment to maintain the integrity of what Phish was and had become. Well, encoring with “Fluffhead” last night was also an extraordinary statement. I bet if you looked at most tour closers in any era, Phish tends to close with a rocker or “Show of Life” or something. Playing one of their longest, most epic and difficult songs was just a sign that they were in no hurry to get off that stage. I’m sure, like us, they cannot wait to have the energy of Dick’s all around them…that came out wrong. A great tour. I would have to say Fall 2013 was probably more consistently incredibly, but there were far less shows to work with then. This tour had so many incredible and surprising moments. That is Phish at their best — always surprising us. I can’t wait for the many shows left to come in 2014.


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