, attached to 2015-07-24

Review by funkbeard

funkbeard First, I want to say that Platinum Green Crack is some great weed for listening to music at a show.

I brought three friends to the show.

I was busking on the street one night, and this harmonica player walked up, intruded into my song… I left the lyrics behind, and we embarked on a journey. Anybody walking by burst into dance, and our corner was grooving. We hung out for a few, played some original songs for each other, bonded like brothers, shared info and that was that.

Fastforward to yesterday evening. My friend who was going to fly out had fallen ill, and she called the Shoreline box office and entrusted her tickets with me. I called and texted around. My girlfriend doesn’t like Phish, and I didn’t want the extra ticket to go unused. I recalled this harmonica player, realized it was fun hanging out with him before, so I texted him, and he joined on on short notice.

When I went to pick him up, his two roommates decided to join us as well, although I couldn’t promise them tickets. No problem, though. When we arrived, they found tickets easily and without hassle. Face value.

We drove down to Shoreline blasting Larry Coryell’s Earthquake at the Avalon. The CD has many highlights, but the final track, “The Dragon Gate,” contains probably my singular choice for desert island guitar solo. Music of the gods.

We got our tickets, used the restroom…. When at the urinals at Shoreline, you can really sense that this venue was made for the Grateful Dead. Stare straight ahead into the wall, and the pattern there might cause a tripping person to see cosmic variables of all kinds of shit. I can’t explain it… it’s designed that way.

We got food and beer, went up to the lawn, and found the best sounding spot, and although we couldn’t see the band, the lights were awesome (Karuda was on all night!). It wasn’t crowded, not too smokey, and there was plenty of room to enjoy the music without bumping into anyone.

The first set was a special kind of warm up set.

They weren’t pushing energy so much as emanating that inherent flow… Everything was played with patience, and rather than trying to force the music to be good, they allowed it to be whatever it wanted to be.

The Line was notable for the band’s unity of intent. Moma Dance surprised me, as I’d begun to think it one of those “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” songs. The groove was deeply streamlined, smooth, colorful, dynamic, intensely interesting. Other than that, it didn’t transcend standard Moma Dance form.

[I’ve seen a lot of Moma Dances. Not as many as someone on tour might have seen… Recent versions had sounded stale to my ears, perhaps. Doesn’t matter… it’s in the eye of the listener, if that makes any sense. I wasn’t prepared to enjoy a Moma Dance… and yet, here’s a version that said: “Fuck you, Feeouttacontral! I’m still a really likable and respectful song.” I pointed this out to my friends at the end of the song, and we had a laugh.]

Kill Devil Falls was also in this groove… the groove permeated the entire show, actually. Technically, the song was perfect. Artistically, the song was wonderful. Energetically, there was room for a little more life, but they played this one with their lives, so they seemed to decidedly forego a little of the “show biz virtuosity” in favor of allow the energy to arrive on its own terms.

Yarmouth Road continued on this superb groove. There’s an addition of a small jam added into the middle of the bridge that, in my opinion, makes the song work a little better for me.

I want to take a moment to mention… the sweet spots of shoreline amphitheater…. when it sounds good at that place, there are few venues that compare. That’s how music should sound. So clean, balanced, beautiful.

I’ve been going to Shoreline since 1990, and it always sounds so good to my ears. It seems they’ve upgraded the speakers, and this was really, in my opinion, one of the finest sounding Phish shows I’ve ever attended.

Undermind was a little less rhythm-heavy than usual (saved for the essential song-form of 46 Days, later in the set), and was clean fun.

Free came next, and the drop off after the intro right when Trey prepares to sing illicited excitement, gaining more crowd approval than usual. The transition into the jam is when the show’s energy sprouted its wings. Enter the funk, and the band passed through the doorway between merely good music and something else entirely. Although the song didn’t transcend any unusual territory, the communication among the members of the band, the originality of the ideas, Page’s sophistication of colorful chord choices, the rhythmic interplay….. The band enters deeper into the zone.

Mike solos. This is a good time to mention that Mike Gordon is back. In Fall 2014, during the Bill Graham run, his bass was quieter than usual, and he didn’t seem to have that interested aspect.

By contrast, as great as everyone in the band is, Mike took the MVP title last night by a long shot, in my opinion. He’s on another planet, when it comes right down to it. All four guys are, but Gordo has taken his instrument to a new level of excellence.

Reba was next, and although Trey was slightly flabby through the song, the overall experience was that they are really deep in a groove, and they definitely brought something special to this version. Namely, that incredible mix, the deep an exhilarating groove that they’re in, and fantastic interplay. The composed section was full of life and did not come off as a technical exercise. And the jam that followed was pure, flowing beauty. Nothing more. Nothing less.

46 Days was a great set closer. In the Phish tradition of turning the energy up towards the end of the set, the energy was indeed increased. Tastefully, they didn’t rise above the context of the set, and they really made the most of every moment here. The peak was beautiful. The band weaves their lines and phrases with eloquence and brilliance, choosing sounds and textures that add to the music and not to take away from it.

Great set with limited replay value.

Among my friends, 2 were at their first show, and were blown away. The third was attending his second show and loving it.


NOTE: If you’re ever jaded about something you love, bring some noobs. You’ll find out if you still love it or not, and if you do, you’ll appreciate even the things that disappoint you, should you find yourself self-centered and stuck.

Second set began with the second performance of Blaze On. The intro sounds just like a Little Feat song. In this version, Fishman’s beat was less “Party Time” and deeper to the essentials of that groove. The lyrics are still fun, and I’m actually impressed by Tom Marshall’s recent work.

Singing about “the messiah” is still a kinda weird matter to sing about. But it’s a call to all to not get too big headed and start thinking you’re something other than the ordinary human being that you are. NMRK. (Those who are awake know that they are ordinary human beings, and are therefore able to have a higher capacity of appreciation and respect for others, in my honest opinion).

Blaze On was notable in that, in its second performance, it was used as a type II vehicle, and they brought us into the level and pure land of sound. Trey worked some echo effects, and the jam had a decent arch overall, but it was used mainly as a setup for the Twist that followed.

This Twist is the first “must-hear” selection of the show, going deep into brilliant territory. I actually like this better for my tastes than the fantastic Twist from last year’s Bill Graham stand (10/28/2014), and may well be my favorite jammed Twist of 3.0. It had it all. Great interplay throughout the musical conversation, shades of light and dark, a blissful disposition, and a great sense of purpose that never yielded. And when all was said and done, they turned a corner and slipped into Light, which felt a lot like a continuation of the jam that had just “ended.”

I’m not going to overindulge and speak about the Light jam at length. I’ll just say that when the song proper was done, they wasted no time before turning away from the usual cliche-jam that usually follows Light and dove back in to continue with the 30+ minutes of musical exploration that preceded it. The quality of jamming didn’t diminish in the least.

Eventually, the music arrived at Joy, and although some grumble, it’s not a bad song. The words are meaningful, Trey sings his pain, and it was executed better than nearly any ballad performed in 2014. And when I got past my own preconceptions, and opened my ears and listened to what was being conveyed, I found it all very listenable and enjoyable. And Trey ripped the hell out of that solo at the end.

Hood came next. And this was another in this new tradition of awesome type II Hoods. The intro was handled with patience; in fact Mike and Trey faced off for some dueling, and Page and Trey, and Mike and Fish…. they took their time and made awesome on this. Words were fine, composition handled with grace, mid part of Hood was exactly what you want it to be (and you know you do).

And then the jam.

They started this one in standard Hood chord progression, with Mike and Trey building rainbows in sound, and then advanced in great Hood fashion…

then they dropped off the Hood map and went to the outside, building up something truly hypnotic and wonderful, and, stepping away, allowing Fishman to play through on an act of faith, and rematerialize the elements that brought this Hood to a triumphant conclusion. Cavern rounded out the set, and Trey hit words and music with great power. Further, the between verse mini-solos were not mere blurps of 1 and 2 note phrases. This was Trey in the zone, bringing heat to every twist and turn, and stands as the most enjoyable Cavern I’ve witnessed live.

A great, formula Character Zero closed out the show in the encore zone. The beer and weed had worn off for the most part (I stopped partying at set break…. designated driver duties), and at least 2 of 3 friends were converts, with 1 telling me that, if I decide to drive to LA today, he will help fund the trip. I’m still here in SF, enjoying my first lazy day in a long while.

Great show!


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