, attached to 2017-07-14

Review by NICU4LIFE

NICU4LIFE Ok, so here is my big point about/theory this show and Phish in general. My point will center on the show’s opener, the song that would christen Phish’s 2017 Tour: What’s The Use. WTU is an odd but powerful song for Phish. First off, it’s a hidden gem from an album most pholks never listen too, let alone buy: The Siket Disc. The album was made in 2000, a couple of months after probably the most well know album Phish ever made, Farmhouse. (I must confess that I forgot this fact, until after I saw that show and listening to the album again). Strange songs full the album, but WTU stands in the list with a more robust sound that has a spacey but dark tone. The song has an empty feel too it, but still powerful and really speaking to the title of the song: What is the Use? One of the unique qualities of Phish is that there are surrealist, absurdist and even nihilist undertones to their music. Phish is a band that has been influenced by postmodern surrealist ideology that have entered into Rock N’ Roll in bands such as Frank Zappa, Pink Floyd, and Talking Heads. This quality of Phish is what makes people dismiss of them for being “too bizarre” or “too silly”. But Phish’s surrealistic and nihilistic qualities are in full flow in this song and it is done in amazingly where the band combines heavy and dark sounds with a spacey/transcendental mix. What is also unique about this song is that it is a slower but immense jam for Phish. As I have mentioned in my pervious reviews, Phish has gotten slower with age but they have created a new sound with that slower feel. We are never going to get again the wild and crazy jams of the 90s, but The Boys have been able to adapt their sound where that same spirit of the band continues. WTU is the quintessential song to the 3.0 era since it combines a slower tempo with spacey, dark, and heavy jams. I personally was blown away by this song in 2015 at Alpine when The Boys made a superb jam out of WTU in the second set.

But when they opened the show with this song, I was taken off guard. I would have not thought that Phish would have started a show with such dark sound and style. It was still powerful jam, yet I felt like The Boys were trying to say something. And as I am a Phish Phan with a philosophy background, I will offer to you my personal theory: Phish was speaking to the political/global state of the word. 2016 was a rough year: Trump wins the White House and American and even the world seems more divided than ever. It feels as if Phish was offering a postmodern nihilistic commentary on the state of things and how they have been feeling about it. Remember, Fishman was a big Bernie supporter. This song definitely changed the whole feel of the crowd when it first started to play and it was a chilling reminder that as much as Phish can offer you a happy/childlike take on the world with their bright bouncy beat, the band can also be dark, spooky, and strange.

However, even with all of the weird and spacey sounds that were introduced in the first song of the show/tour, Phish’s postmodern, absurdist, surrealist message was brought home even more with the song afterwards: Breath and Burning. This song is very upbeat and offers you a chill but bouncy rhythm to dance to. But listen to the lyrics and you will hear a sad, scary message, “…What does it matter. If the nightmares all came true? The black clouds that scattered across the sky so there’s nothing left we can do.” I don’t know about you, but those lyrics seem pretty helpless. Again it echoing back to nihilist/absurdist ideological tones that have influenced Phish for decades. When I picture what Phish is, sometimes I imagine a hippie from the early 90s, Gen X, probably Trust Fund baby, who dropped out of Amherst to fall the band around. Almost apathetic to the world around him but joyfully accepting of his reality because he is “…not going gently”, he is “gonna rage with Page at the dying of the light!” A positive carefree attitude in the shadow of emptiness and hopelessness is true to the Phish spirit. With these first two songs, you get a picture sorrow and joy rapped together into crazy jams and odd lyrics. I believe that balance of dark and light is at the core of Phish.

So after these two songs which, for me, capsulated so much of Phish, the rest of the second set had a much more upbeat feel. It was an extraordinary treat when The Boys did the a cappella tune of Good Old Summer Time only four songs into the set. The glories of summer were praised by the marvelous harmonies. After the a cappella, Phish jumped into a Trey original, Everything’s Right, but then moved into a strong Limb By Limb. The peaks on the jams of that song were solid and probably the strongest song they played in the first set. The style changed a bit with a move into Nellie Cane but then jived right in with a TFTB and ending with lovely Blaze On. Overall, the first set had an amazing energy, and with the profound starter of WTU, gave this show a value that I was not going to remember.

Phish opens the second set with NMINML, which I have frustrating history with. I have heard a few NMINMLs before, particularly in the first set of shows and in general, the song has never really grabbed me as a powerful Phish song. I was little surprised that The Boys had this song as “second setter” but then they started to jam with it. The jam was not super long but enough to offer a little more depth to the song that I had heard before. Also by this point, they began to show off the new light system, which engulfed the band with a rainbow of stunning lights. No Men moved into the Fuego, which is my favorite 3.0 era jam song and set a strong tone. Fuego moved into a MFMF and then in the crazy Pet Cat Golden Age sandwich. I would say that Golden Age was not the most amazing Golden Age I have ever heard but mixing into a surreal but heavy Your Pet Cat jam was first-rate. This moved into a Phish debut of Leaves, which I was very impressed with. Actually every new song Phish played on the Chicago run left me wanting to hear more. Leaves put a small pause to the jams but The Boys then started with up with a Harry Hood, which was the highlight jam of the whole show.
Marvelous energy in the song and the best part of it was the teasing of WTU into the jam, which was a reminder of the importance of WTU to the whole show. Harry moved into Shine A Light, which brought a lot of heart to the show and brought me back to this special balance of optimism and sorrow that was the meta-theme of the day. The second set ended with Julius and exploding energy. For the encore, Phish brought on another original debut: Love is What We are. A reggae tone, which gave a nice mellow sound to the encore, but the energy was pumped back up with the final song of Golgi. In summary, the theme of the night was light cheerfulness mixed with dark sadness, which I would like to call nihilistic optimism. This unique mix of ideas and energies brought and awesome sound to show and, like I mentioned in the big point about WTU, is indicative to Phish’s legacy.
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