Soundcheck: Devotion to a Dream
SET 1: Timber (Jerry the Mule) > Undermind > AC/DC Bag, 555 > Divided Sky, Ocelot, Halfway to the Moon, Kill Devil Falls, Split Open and Melt, Good Times Bad Times
SET 2: Chalk Dust Torture > If I Could, The Line > Birds of a Feather, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > Mike's Song > Prince Caspian > Waves > Weekapaug Groove, Cavern > Golgi Apparatus > Run Like an Antelope
ENCORE: Wingsuit > The Squirming Coil
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Review by solargarlic78
Spoiled: Review 7/29/14
Last night was a perfectly great Phish show. A well balanced first set that featured the “Spit Open and Melt” of the tour, followed by a second set that was anchored by yet another long-form “Chalkdust”, a bustout of “If I Could”, and some very interesting improvisation on “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing”, “Weekapaug,” and even (gasp) “Prince Caspian.” Yet, why is it, that many, were kind of “ho hum” about this show? In 2009-2011 this would be a 5-star show. It was a good to great Phish show. The answer is that ever since this band has elevated its game in 2012-2014, we have become spoiled. Suddenly a nearly 20 minute second set jam simply isn’t enough. Where were the bustouts and (crazy) segues, and ever more jams??? Why won’t they jam out “Mike’s”??? Why do they have to play so many songs in the second set? It’s a Faustian bargain for Phish. The more awesome they are, the more awesome-er their fanbase expects them to be.
Shockingly, last night’s first set featured the first “Timber” opener…ever. After I thought about it, this makes sense: Timber is a droning Bb minor jam that requires tasteful and developed musical ideas to pull off well. It is not a jam for a player who is not warmed up and in a musical ‘zone’ so to speak. That might explain why the jam last night lacked its usual bite and fire. To be frank, “AC/DC Bag” really was also lackluster last night. Trey seemed uncertain in his early solo, and then it was cut off even before the drums kicked into full on ‘double time’ (you could tell the band was surprised Trey started playing the ascending lick to signal ‘the end’). Yet, another “555" was followed by “Divided Sky” which featured Trey actually playing around with the melody within his sol0 (a rare occurrence). “Ocelot” was the best version of the tour as it departed from it normal ‘bluesy’ feel and flirted with very pretty major key jamming (in early 3.0 was a blues jam over a B major chord which featured a blues scale with the minor 3rd note — that dissonant contrast of a major/minor third is what makes the blues. But, last night was more of a B mixolydian jam with a much more upbeat and major feel). The low point of the set was “Halfway to the Moon” and “Kill Devil Falls” but most first sets will have such low points. The real highlight was of course the “Split Open and Melt” which (like the MPP Stash in 2013) vacillated between major key and minor key and dissonant themes. A lot of people think these jams are “too weird.” I personally love when Phish gets weird (whether its this “Split” jam or the Northerly “Ghost”). From 8:50 onward toward the end of the jam, there was a lot of dissonant and hypnotic repetition — very interesting textures. A “Good Times Bad Times” closer was a nice addition (and it’s amazing how these covers feel like bustouts now!)
Set 2 was anchored by the “Chalkdust.” I hate to be a “debbie downer” but I’m still not entirely satisfied with these ‘stream of consciousness’ “Chalkdust” jams. Once again, we saw the band doing what @phishcrit calls the ‘mercurial approach’ — cycling through a number of themes very quickly — a major key ‘bliss’ section, a hard rocking pentatonic section, a groove-funk section — but, again, nothing really stuck and built to anything significant. It almost seems like Phish is avoiding the obvious (and perhaps easy) peaks. Check out 12:21 thru 13:11. This is a very simple ascending melody that feels like it will build and build into a glorious peak eruption ala the SPAC Fuego or Reading Disease. But, Phish pulls back and goes into a more ethereal blues lick. Maybe the peak builds are too cheap in their mind — too easy. Regardless, I rather like them, and this jam was great but didn’t lead to anything mind blowing in particular. “If I Could” is a beautiful song. They kind of flubbed the intro, but the solo/jam was as delicate and gorgeous as possible. All it needs is Alison Krauss on back-up vocals. The low point of the set was the straightforward pairing of “Birds of a Feather” and “The Line”, but, after those, we finally go a set 2 “ASIHTOS.” A song that is made for type II improvisation finally saw some last night. Going from droning loop jams to a delicate, quiet and blissful section that built some beautiful textures anchored by Mike’s fluttering bass lines and (oddly) Trey’s wah pedal. “Mike’s Song” did it’s thing and “Prince Caspian” actually went type II (even if only for a minute or so to create a hypnotic set of riffs between Page, Mike and Trey) before being ripchorded for “Waves.” Where art thou, “Waves” second jam? This one just quickly descended into beatless abstract mush — impossible to go anywhere. Thus, Fishman ended it with the closing of the groove with “Weekapaug.” Like previous versions, this one started funky, then it went into a “Shock the Monkey” jam (finally a riff/tease that we can all put a name on!). The tease was followed by your generally awesome soaring Trey solo. “Cavern” and “Golgi” played the role of closer fake outs and we got “Antelope” (which really was due). This song has been nothing special this tour, but it is always a rip roaring ride.
The encore of “Wingsuit” and “Squirming Coil” is a pretty spectacular combination. You get the glorious Lydian jam in Wingsuit and then the emotional closer of Page’s “Coil” solo (I personally don’t care that much if people clap during it — some people have murderous rage towards these people for some reason???).
Again, this was a good-average-great Phish show. It was not the mind blowing craziness of 7/13 or 7/27, but it was really good. If we’re not too spoiled with where the Phish is these days we should appreciate such shows for what they are (and what they have to be to create the very possibility of ‘crazy’ and ‘rare’ shows in the first place!).