, attached to 2015-12-31

Review by n00b100

n00b100 Set 1: Tight and right, with the band feeling as well-oiled as they did in Bend, making for another fleet (and short!) first set. Wolfman's impresses the most, but the Reba/Walls combo at the end is also a great listen, as is Fish's impromptu and very sweet Happy Birthday singalong.

Set 2: You could practically see the flop sweat forming on brows as the first half passed with little to no improv, but much like 8/22/15 II (or, say, some of Europe '72's second sets), the second half brings the thunder in fine fashion. Kill Devil Falls gets dark and eerie out of the verses, a fog settling over the music like it's 1999, before Trey busts out some plinko and things get weird. It's a very fine version, and the transition into Piper is quite delicate as well (as close to a segue as you can get without being one), with Piper serving as a transition into the last superb Twist of a true HOF year for Twist. Twist seems to be luxuriating in its usual jam, and even heads home at one point, until Trey decides to flip on one of his trusty effects and they worm into a sparse and nasty groove as Fish gets in some woodblock action. Trey goes to the Echoplex as they really dig into the nastiness, then he lands on a nifty chord sequence while Fish turns on the Bunsen burners and the jam really heats up. The resulting sequence is one of truly intense power, a yang to last night's Gin, um, yin, before the band heads home once again and neatly finishes. That's a darn good half-hour plus to close out the set.

Set 3: The band came out a good 20 minutes before midnight, and they amply filled that 20 plus minutes with the NMINML we all hoped was coming ever since its debut. Rather than explore the funk trappings of the song proper as they have every time before, the band immediately dives into a contemplative minor-key zone, Page really stepping up, Mike doing some fine work as well. Things start to get a little foggy and strange, much like the KDF from Set 2, and then Fish snaps into a relaxed late-night beat and we enter Drive-In Jam territory, the band's improv as warm and rich as in that totemic jam. This is just beautiful music, unhurried and unforced, and all the more impressive for being up against the clock. At least a few minutes of it was probably pre-recorded (in order to get the band from "hourglass" to the main stage), but it's hard to argue with the parts that undoubtedly weren't (not to mention the bit that was is just as good).

Auld Lang Syne leads into (what else?) Blaze On, and we go two for two in jammed-out 2015 debuts, with a soaring jam that serves as a nice counterpoint to all the strangeness and darkness from earlier in the show. Carini then steps up and offers another sweet little groove (although Trey and Page seemed to be having a debate about major versus minor keys that was never satisfactorily resolved), and a really nice Bowie that prods and occasionally sheds its boundaries rounds out a superb four-song sequence (5 songs including ALS, I guess). Everything else is fond farewell, but who wants to begrudge them that?

Final thoughts: it wouldn't do to close out a year as incredible as 2015 without another very fine show, and the entire chunk from KDF to Bowie matches some of the best of this peak (?) year. A very happy 2016 to you and yours, and let's hope it's another great one for The Phish From Vermont.


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