Archive for Post-hiatus

The Victor Disc

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 18, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Poking around the Internet yesterday, I stumbled upon some new Phish music!  Posted in multiple Phish forums was the complete version of The Victor Disc, a series of instrumental outtakes from a 2002 jam session.  I had posted the first three tracks on Phish Thoughts recently, but now we have uncovered all ten tracks to the mysterious quasi-album!  The story behind the recording is as follows.

512266001_ed6e7332b2On December 19th, 2002, while Phish was in New York to appear on The Late Show With David Letterman,  Trey and Page popped into a downtown recording studio sometime after midnight.  Deciding to play, they called Fishman and Gordon, asking them to join.  Phish then taped an extensive spontaneous jam session, and decided on the title, The Victor Disc, named after the session’s engineer.

The overwhelming feel of the album is organic improvisation.  Looser than most Phish music, The Victor Disc is a portrait of a band reacclimating to each other by simply playing together.  With no particular goal in mind, the band got into the studio and let it flow.  If The Siket Disc was focused on psychedelic soundscapes, The Victor Disc is focused on looser jazz-based improvisation with a distinctly Phishy twist.   When digging into the extensive album, one will find that the first few tracks that had leaked onto the Internet are hardly the highlights.  Totaling two hours and twenty minutes of pure Phish improv, there are some golden moments hidden within.  Since we have already heard the first three tracks, let’s look at some of the other, far longer, offerings.  (You can download the entire album below via torrent.)

“Victor Jam Session” 11:20

This segment of improv passes through many Phishy textures, starting in a noodly territory and meandering through various loose musical feels.  Eventually, this track picks up some momentum, and the band locks into some rolling patterns.  Mike steps up to take the lead, and the band locks onto his bass line creating minutes of extremely cohesive Phish music.

“Sky Train Wand” 17:24

1141298742_834063c520Beginning solely with a sparse drum beat, Trey slowly layers some rhythm licks into play, inviting Mike and Page to subtly step into the quiet medium.  Sounding like a hybrid of reggae and jazz, Phish is off creating another unique slice of improv.  Illustrating the patience that became a huge part of 2.0, this jam uses space as much as it uses notes.  What is great about these extended “glimpses” into Phish’s private world is that we get to see a raw picture of the band offering new and original musical ideas with no preconceptions whatsoever.  While this point is reached in shows, there is always a context to the music; yet behind closed doors, we get to see a bit deeper into the band’s experimentation and imagination.  The second half of this “jam” sees Trey and Page combine to play beautiful leads over the open backdrop before the band congeals back together.

“Blue Over Yellow” 15:30

Trey carries a thematic lead melody over a unique pocket formed by Mike and Fish during this outtake.  Sounding like he is playing around with the “Banana Pudding” melody, Trey draws in Page’s piano accompaniment and the band engages in a methodical, cooperative groove.  Page adds quite a bit of tonal color to this segment of music, as the band locks into a series of slowed down hits- all very much on the same page.  Fish leads them out of this section as the band remains locked and incredibly loose.  In the second half of this track, they gain more of an edge, lending some harder, more dissonant sound to the mix.  The entire band is moving like a single-celled organism on this track (and on most of the disc, for that matter.)  This is a laid back, yet engaging, piece of music.

“Guantanamo Strut” 17:22

image-407d4750449b11d71Divergent from any of the previous tracks on this album, “Guantanamo Strut” starts right in with a harder rock feel.  Trey uses a much louder tone at the beginning of this piece than on any other (except the last track.)  Maintaining a jazzy beat behind the more straight ahead accompaniment, Fish maintains a rhythmic focus to the track, while Page lends piano chords that returns a jazzier feel to the improv.  One of the two most groove-based tracks, this jam possesses real musical diversity, and doesn’t stagnate in any one place.  Segueing back into a jazzier feel, the band locks into some interesting patterns that sound like they could be derived from a jazz version of “Stash.”  Building out a legitimate groove, the band explores in a free-form way, sounding like they are playing in a late-night smoky jazz club.

About two-thirds of the way through, the music becomes much more Phishy as Trey begins to access his more signature sound, creating sustained melodic leads, causing the music to sound like an ambient Phish jam you might hear at a show.

“35 Minute Jam” 35:33

By far the longest “track” on the album, “35 Minute Jam” moves through several different improvisational realms.  Stylistically fitting with the album’s loose playing, the start of the track possess a “louder” feel than much of the delicate Victor Disc. For the beginning of the jam, the 508810816_640c76bfddband maintains a blues-rock feel before switching gears into a far more mellow milieu.  As if they changed songs on a dime, this track’s second section become very quiet and beautiful, moving into an sparse “ambient” place.

The jam winds down into near silence for some minutes before Trey begins to add some happy rhythm chords to the barely existing canvas, inviting Mike and Page back into the mix.  Taking their time, and with precision, the band continues to morph in and out of some minimalist patterns.  Soon, the band jams back down to virtual silence again, this time with Mike leading them back out. Progressing into an interesting musical narrative, Trey plays more conventional patterns; albeit at a slowed tempo.  Gradually slipping into a drone pattern, the band unites in some improvised starts and stops, illustrating their cohesiveness and focus.

“Heartache”  0:34

This is tiny interlude that features a melancholic piano-led pattern that is gone before it really starts.  The only lyrics on the album appear for a few seconds on this track- a sample of a woman wistfully saying something indiscernible about about heartache.

“The Last Victor Jam” 24:23

511634157_9e98c9f655This track starts in with the most aggressive musical palette on the album, jumping in seemingly mid-jam when the band has already built some musical momentum.  While remaining firmly rooted in piano-led jazz, this track has more drive to it than all the others.  Moving a bit faster, Fish holds the framework of this musical stew as Page really stands out.  As it builds, this “jam” finds a distinct direction and follows its course, creating the sound most similar to live Phish that exists on The Victor Disc.  As the jam moves on, the band returns to the jazz aura of the session, while still holding onto their more direct path.  A definite album highlight, “The Last Victor Jam” puts a nice cap on this series of instrumental Phish.

At last, the mystery of The Victor Disc has been revealed.  In a collection of extended instrumental outtakes, Phish painted a portrait of where they were in December 2002, on the verge of stepping back onstage at Madison Square Garden for their second go-round.  Now, on the verge of part three, we can look back, listen, and reflect on a time gone by.  More extensive, yet less polished, than the “scrapbook-psychedelia” of The Siket Disc, The Victor Disc allows us to peek in on Phish with a completely different mindset than they had while creating its ’99 counterpart.

DOWNLOAD THE VICTOR DISC NOW < TORRENT LINK

1. Lazy and Red (5:57)
2. Den of Iniquity (9:55)
3. Bubble Wrap (4:34)
4. Sky Train Wand (17:24)
5. Blue Over Yellow (15:30)
6. Guantanamo Strut (17:22)
7. Victor Jam Session (11:19)
8. Heartache (0:34)
9. 35 minute jam (35:33)
10. Last Victor Jam (24:23)

(Track titles are questionable)

=====

MAYBE SO, MAYBE NOT- THE DOCUMENTARY

456_msmn_trippy_v2_copyFan and filmmaker, Noah Wilderman, is in the midst of a documentary project that examines the evolution of the Phish community- “Maybe So, Maybe Not.” In Noah’s own words:

The Phish experience is an important cultural phenomenon, embodying the journey of my generation in many ways.  I’d like to tell that story.  Quite simply, now is the time to tell this particular story because this generation is coming into its own, personally and politically.  Our journey through life has been to a soundtrack that seemed to match the beats of many lives step by step.  By analyzing both the timeline of Phish side by side with the tides of the generation, we can see how closely they are linked and signify the relevance of Phish in the lineage of a century of influential music communities with a historical perspective.

hampton_outsideEverything is currently in place to do copious filming around Hampton to capture the face of the community.  While some established shoots are already set up, Noah is also looking to talk to people in a variety of settings, doing Phish related activities, random reunions, lot activities, local impact, etc.  Some of the things he hopes to capture are:
– old school fans and their views about Phish and the evolution of the scene and where it’s going (and where they hope it goes)
– new fans and their vibe
– community activism
–  the craziness and fervor over the reunion and why it’s important.
–  mini web interviews just for fun so people can go to the web and see their little piece of Hampton.

If you’d like to support film making efforts, they have started a grassroots fundraiser with the goal of getting each participant to donate $5.  If you’d like to be in the film, get in contact with the producers.  With only a few weeks left, every person following along and every $5 is huge.

Check out more about this project at Maybe So, Maybe Not’s website, or his Facebook group for the movie, and look out for him down in Hampton.
=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

10.25.95 St. Paul Civic Center, MN < LINK

St. Paul Civic Center, MN

St. Paul Civic Center, MN

A quality nugget from Fall ’95, this second set flows beautifully.  An uptempo “Reba” kicks things off before the band gets downright dirty with “Mike’s.”  Check out some great Trey work all over this jam, and then the band moves into an instrumental jam around Dark Side of the Moon‘s “Breathe.”  If you’ve never heard this one, you should.

I: Ya Mar, Sample in a Jar, The Divided Sky, The Wedge, Scent of a Mule, Free, Strange Design, My Long Journey Home, I’m Blue I’m Lonesome, Chalk Dust Torture

II: Reba, Life on Mars?, Cars Trucks Buses, Mike’s Song > Breathe*> Sparkle > Weekapaug Groove, Suzy Greenberg > Crossroads

E: Fire

*Pink Floyd cover (first time played); instrumental

The Return of Phish 2.0

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 16, 2009 by Mr.Miner

It was on this weekend six years ago that Phish re-established themselves in the post-hiatus era.  As much of the Phish community flocked to Las Vegas for two nights at the beginning of the band’s winter comeback tour, many fans held lingering questions in their mind.  The Hampton shows left a bland flavor in mouths of most fans, and aside from those who saw the “Walls > Carini” at the LA Forum on Valentine’s Day, many wondered when, and if, Phish would regain their explosiveness.  Any unclarity was wiped away over the course of two demonstrative shows in which Phish musically exclaimed their return.

image-808998a843c311d7There was nothing like another spectacular weekend in Vegas for Phish to regain the confidence of their fan base. (Ironically, it would be a weekend in the same room about a year later that signaled the band’s imminent demise.)  Returning to the Thomas and Mack Center, the site of so many special nights, the band played with a creative dynamic and that sense of urgency that was so blatantly lacking in their four-night reverse New Years Run.  Weaving together lively sets all weekend long, Phish highlighted songs past and present, culminating with the much-loved second set of the 2.16.03 show; no set of the weekend better exemplified the meshing of the old and the new.  The opening segment of “Disease > Seven Below > Disease” popped with intensity while the band’s playing remained incredibly intricate.  With remarkable improv and seamless segues, this was one of the first big highlights of 2003, a year that would resurrect Phish and bring us all back to those mystery-laden adventures of yesteryear.

powerYet, what also emerged from this Vegas weekend was a new direction in the band’s sound and playing.  Not as squarely focused on groove as in the late-90’s, the band still anchored their playing in dance rhythms- though with far more texture and effect- creating a “space-like” quality to the music.  This new direction would be typified by such legendary Winter ’03 jams as the Cincy Gin (2.22), the Chicago and Nassau Tweezers (2.20 & 2.28), and the Worcester Ghost (2.26).  This style of dissonant-space-groove became magnified as the tour and year moved on, taking Phish’s jams to new and different places than ever before.

image-ba5346c0449611d7The colossal “Piper” that came later in 2.16’s second set also foreshadowed a post-hiatus trend; that of huge “Piper” jams.  On this night, the song would fly off the handle for 22 minutes, something that became the norm throughout the year as it produced continuous highlights.  Including musical references to the set’s “Seven Below” and a full “Disease Reprise,” this “Piper” soared in a new direction for the song- a launch pad for adrenalized, full-on improvisational adventures.  Like this Vegas version, every time “Piper” appeared in ’03, jaw-dropping  jams materialized.  A full-speed canvas that the band collectively shredded to bits, “Piper” became one of the best developments of ’03, fully realizing a transformation that began as the band wound down in 2000.

While the most impressive playing came within the weekend’s final set, the others shone as well.  2.15’s “Waves > Bug,” highlighted the Round Room composition for the first time since the comeback show, and the “Ghost” that followed absolutely smoked. (Potentially in response to a banner that hung from the second level image-ba5300d6449611d71proclaiming it had been 871 days since the previous version.)  The first set boasted hot versions of “Reba” and “Antelope,” while 2.16’s first set opened with a ferocious “Bowie > Catapult > Bowie,” and brought some amorphous new-school improv with the second “Round Room” ever.

This Vegas weekend back in ’03 was cause for universal celebration in the Phish scene, as they were finally back.  Both inspirational and playful again, the Phishy vibe had returned in a city where it had thrived for years.  These nights were the first building block for Phish 2.0, in a year that saw their playing evolve, exploring a plethora of new ideas.  This was the first step (well, second and third) down a path that would culminate in Miami’s magnificent New Years’s Run.

All photos from Vegas ’03

=====

GUESS THE HAMPTON OPENER, WIN PHISH TIX!

Over at Jamtopia.com, they are running a Hampton opener contest!  If you guess correctly, and we all know we have the right answer, you have a chance to win summer tickets. The top prize is one ticket to The Fox if you are the only person to guess the answer correctly!  Give it a shot; why not?  Details are on the site.

=====

FYI : HAMPTON AFTER-PARTIES

hampton_outsideFor those of you who won’t nearly be done with your night when the encore ends, there are Phish after-parties scheduled in the surrounding Hampton area each night.  If you are arriving on the 5th, the night before the shows begin, The Disco Biscuits will be passing through Norfolk on their winter tour.  After Friday’s Phish show, Bassnectar and Orchard Lounge will take The Norva Theatre’s stage starting at midnight.  Following both Saturday and Sunday’s shows, Steve Kimock and Friends will be playing late-night gigs at The Norva as well.  In addition, after Sunday’s show, UK psychedelic dub maestro, OTT, will be headlining a down-tempo electronica party at The Omni in Newport News.  Click on artists below to buy tickets now!

3.5 The Disco Biscuits @ The Norva, Norfolk, VA (Pre-Phish)

3.6 Bassnectar, EOTO, Orchard Lounge @ The Norva

3.7 Steve Kimock and Friends w/ Melvin Seals @ The Norva

3.8 Steve Kimock and Friends w/ Melvin Seals @ The Norva

3.8 Ott, Bluetech, Telepath @ The Omni, Newport News VA

=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

10.26.96 Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC < LINK

1996-10-26gnA show that has always been overshadowed by the Halloween hubbub in Atlanta just a few days later, this stop in Charlotte had plenty to offer. With a second set filled with feel-good Phish anthems, the band took the most improvisational liberty with “YEM,” “Simple” and “Antelope.”  This night had an upbeat feel from the beginning, and was a solid effort amidst a relatively generic east coast run to begin Fall ’96.

I: Julius, Cars Trucks Buses, Wolfman’s Brother, Reba, Train Song, Character Zero, It’s Ice, Theme From the Bottom, Sample in a Jar

II: Down With Disease, You Enjoy Myself, Sparkle, Simple, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Waste, Run Like An Antelope

E: Fire

A City Spectacle

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 21, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Just when we thought we’d seen it all from our band, they came up with one last stunt.  We’d seen Phish play in so many contexts– atop an air control tower, on a flatbed truck rolling through the lot, from midnight to sunrise in the swamps, at Mt. Fuji, in European towns, at huge festivals, in giant hot dogs, in tiny clubs, and on multi-band bills– you name it, they had done it.  Yet, on the day after SPAC on their June ’04 run, they would pull off one more spectacular act.

img-3On June 21st, they were scheduled to play Letterman in NYC.  My ride was coincidentally heading back to NYC where I was hopping a late-afternoon plane to Indianapolis.  But on the way down to the to the city, we started getting text message rumors that Phish was going to play on top of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, where the show is filmed, that afternoon!  Whaaat?!  We were shot with 100 ccs of adrenaline knowing that we were headed directly for Phish’s next “concert.”  I told myself that I’d believe it when I saw it.

When we turned onto Broadway in midtown Manhattan, we looked up to the theatre, and sure enough they were setting up equipment!  Before long, the band was atop the two-story marquee for an extended soundcheck before taping their four-minute late-night promotional spot.  Immediately, I called American Airlines and switched my flight to the last one of the night, giving myself ample time for whatever might happen. We got there a couple hours before it was supposed to start, and there were already fans congregating behind the metal barricades that blocked off part of the street.  As time passed, fans continued to steadily stream in, creating an oversized crowd in the middle of the New York City block in broad daylight.  This was surreal.

img-4As Phish stood atop the marquee, they continuously practiced the newly-shortened version of “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” the song they would play for the show.  The gorgeous jam became the soundtrack to the afternoon, as they literally must have played it through ten times.  Meeting up with some others, we grabbed some rail space, watched the cars go by, and waited.  New York didn’t stop for anyone, not even a spectacle like this, and that made it all the more crazy.  Cars, trucks, and buses drove by like nothing was going on while over a thousand people congregated across the street and hundreds of others leaned out the windows of their apartments above the marquee.  In all of the my wildest Phish dreams, never did the this scenario pop up, and that is why Phish is Phish.

When the band finally took the mini-stage for the formal filming, they evoked memories of The Beatles playing their final concert as a surprise gig atop a building while cameras rolled.  As Phish started, they played “Scents and Subtle Sounds” not once, but twice!  I guess they would later choose which one to air, but what would happen next was anyone’s guess.  This was the discussion of the entire afternoon. How long would they play? What songs would they choose?  Would they rage it?  Would it be mellow?  All of these questions were answered at once as Phish dropped into a mid-day “2001” in the middle of the Manhattan skyline!  As they swirled the grooves around the skyscrapers, I looked up and saw Phish against the New York City backdrop speckled with the bluest sky and cloud puffs.  A question we often found ourselves asking when baffled by this band seemed very appropriate here, “What the hell was going on?!”  Trey stared up at the clouds above and smiled as he was having as much fun as anyone with this Phishy spectacle.

ph20040621-162We were all blown away with the magnitude and sheer absurdity of what was going down; Phish, amidst a sea of skyscrapers, was ripping a “2001.”  As the band peaked the abbreviated version, they moved right into “Wilson.”  No one knew when this set would end, so every next song was like another shot of energy.  The crowd played their part chanting “Wilson!” from across Broadway, and the band looked giddy with amusement.  They tore into the song with utmost energy as we raged the the flat cement dance floor provided so graciously by the city.  Riding the frenetic tide, Trey concluded the song and ripped into the beginning chords of his personal favorite, “Chalk Dust Torture.”  We all exchanged shit-eating grins while passing some herbage, this was too cool to be true; we were five songs deep in a mini-urban-Phish set!  Sure the versions were truncated, but the jamming clearly wasn’t the point here.

img-1As the band wound up the final twist of “Chalk Dust,” it seemed perfectly reasonable that their “set” would end here.  But without saying a word, Trey dropped the opening lick of “Tweezer!”  I laughed so loud inside my head I’m certain that some sound came out of my mouth, but needless to say, I was speechless.  Trey looked like a kid in a candy store atop the marquee melting into a “Tweezer” jam with the sun reflecting off the glass monstrosities that surrounded him.  The band bounced their grooves around the urban playground, improvising directly into “Tweezer Reprise.”  Now this was the way to end the afternoon!  Everyone collectively freaked as Reprise bellowed through the streets of New York.  Phish was having at it in one of their favorite cities of all time, playing a selection of the most boisterous tunes possible to match the midtown madness.  They played to their surroundings perfectly as they always seemed to do.  Whether it was 100,000 at Big Cypress or 1,100 at The Fillmore, Phish were maestros of matching the mood.  With the final note of Reprise, Phish walked off the stage much more carefully than usual, leaving us with one of the most unique memories in Phish history.

With the two insane SPAC shows and this surprise appearance, New York rejuvenated the Phishy spirit one last time before the second go-round was over.  A band known for their extraordinary antics and sense of spectacle, this was one last ride on the ferris wheel.  Yet, as dormant as this spirit has been for the last five years, it has been reawakened, well-rested from an extended hibernation.  Regardless of what music Phish decides to play this year, you can be sure it will be infused with this very spirit we have come to love.

DOWNLOAD 6.21.04 The Ed Sullivan Theatre, NYC < LINK

Scents and Subtle Sounds (x2), 2001 > Wilson, Chalk Dust, Tweezer > Tweezer Reprise

=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

1997-12-09gn12.9.97 Bryce Jordan Arena, Penn State, PA < LINK

This show gets overlooked and dogged on way more than it deserves.  While it may not be the greatest show of a standout tour, it has some great segments. First and foremost, an incredibly exploratory second set “Simple” that lasted over thirty minutes.  Leaving behind ’97 funk grooves, this jam goes way out, providing some abstract psychedelia.  This jam dominated a show that also featured a great show ending “Harry Hood,” and the infamous and blistering first set “Stash > Hydrogen > Weekapaug” songs after the “Mike’s” opener.

I: Mike’s Song, Chalk Dust Torture, My Soul, Stash > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Dogs Stole Things, Beauty of My Dreams, Horn, Loving Cup

II: Julius, Simple > Timber Ho, Contact, Axilla, Harry Hood

E: Fire

Phish’s Last Stand: Part II

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 16, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Streaming out of the venue after the show, silent disbelief fell over most everyone. What had just happened?  That wasn’t just good, that was IT; but Phish was now calling it quits?  This inner mounting conflict swirled in so many minds after the first night of SPAC.  What had suddenly come over the band?  Would this type of playing continue for the rest of tour?  It was all a big mystery to which another clue couldn’t be discovered until Phish took the stage again.  After such a performance on night one, something hinted to us that night two would also be something to behold.  And it was.

"Ghost" 6.20.04

"Ghost" 6.20.04

Following another hot first set that featured smoking segments of improv out of “Waves” and “Drowned,” Phish prepared to play their final set of the weekend.  With echoes of Oceans and ‘Piper’ bouncing in the recesses of our minds, we readied ourselves to receive what Phish had left to give.

As the opening licks of “Seven Below” emanated from the stage, the seminal post-hiatus song enveloped the summer evening with new crystals of snow.  Having worked itself into Phish’s regular rotation, “Seven Below” had already produced several monster jams, and as this one opened the second night in Saratoga, everyone knew we were in for an improvisational beast.  As they began to move beyond the song’s chord progression, the playing moved from a rhythmic palate to a slower more amorphous place.  Phish smoothly slid into an overtly psychedelic melange of sound, beats and dissonance.  The jam had taken a turn for the dark side and began to explore a beautifully demented soundscape, neither led by nor devoid of groove.  Phish was happening once again.  Right in front of our eyes, the band engaged in a compelling journey that cast a spell on the legions of fans who willingly surrendered their souls to the extraordinary improv.

39302878106_0_albPicking up the pace, Phish emerged from the murky textures with a head of steam, tightly chugging away while hinting at the original composition.  Having no intention of conventionally wrapping up “Seven Below,” the band took this momentum and transformed it into a slowed down groove that somewhat abruptly moved into “Ghost.”  It was apparently just as on as it was the night before.  The band oozed into the “Ghost” jam favoring a slower playing, utilizing the pace to assemble musical phrasing that brought them back to the ambient and psychedelic realm.  Transforming into a stunningly amorphous and cooperative work of art, this jam moved far away from what you’d expect to hear from any “Ghost” jam.  Entering truly beautiful and transcendent territory, this jam conveyed both mystery and beauty simultaneously.  Skyscraping in scope, this divergent path was crafted with utmost care and delicacy, and was very much a continuation of the musical ideas presented in “Seven Below.”

Having been taken for an abstract ride through Phishy psychedelia for the first 30+ minutes of the set, Phish patiently transformed their playing into a groove that seamlessly entered “Twist.”  Far smoother than the initial transition of the set, it seemed as the band was working on a subconscious level at this point.  Flowing effortlessly, the band continued to produce music as if there was no separation between themselves and their instruments.  Completely connected and moving on sheer instinct, this “Twist” turned into an intricate masterpiece that would hold up to anything played over the two nights.

Using conventional “Twist” patterns, the band dove into the jam.  Swimming in the shallow end for the beginning of the jam, the band soon pushed off into deeper waters led by a thumping bass line that the entire band hooked onto.  Immediately, the jam took on an entirely new life with infectious and quickened staccato dance grooves bubbling from Phish’s cauldron.  The entire band jumped on the bus and went on a fifteen- minute joyride through some of the best music you’ll ever hear.

"Drowned" 6.20.04 (franckedesign.com)

"Drowned" 6.20.04 (franckedesign.com)

Busting into an outright Phish groove, the music grew in stature as Trey and Page delicately tickled the rhythmic canvas.  Just when you thought things couldn’t get better, Trey quietly began strumming some of the most delicate rhythm licks ever played, and the band moved directly into the center of IT.  Completely lost in their fantasy world once again, this moment is what it was all about.  Pure Phish improv showered down from above, lifting us to unimaginable heights.  As the band painted a surreal portrait of psychedelic groove, the crowd body-surfed the vibrant rainbow of Phish.

Tearing into the peak of the jam, Trey shredded as if there was no tomorrow, while the entire venue seemed to float.  Descending from the apex of the jam, the band concluded this journey with some slowed down, menacing funk grooves, letting the last note carry out into silence.  The crowd quickly picked their jaws up off the floor to fill that silence with boisterous applause and enthusiastic cheers for the perfect 50 minutes of music they had just witnessed.  Two nights in a row?!

"YEM" 6.20.04

"YEM" 6.20.04

Before we had time to process, the band dropped the opening melodies to “You Enjoy Myself.”  Of course.  What better way to end the weekend than a massive dance session to Phish’s most definitive piece.  The entire composed section was another one of those times that your cheeks began to cramp from the involuntary smiles.  As the drop of the jam hit, it felt as the entire audience was moving in unison as if some experiment in collective consciousness.  The dancing paradise that is YEM overtook SPAC for the final twenty minutes of the set, offering a catalog of grooves.  Straight Phish crack was this jam, and nothing could have been better to finish off this two-night other-worldly excursion into the depths of Phish’s universe.  Bringing it all back home, YEM centered us with a dose of classic Phish to bring out into the night with us.  The band put their signature at the bottom of the two night document that was SPAC.  A high-energy encore of “Good Times, Bad Times,” kept everyone’s spirits high while lyrically suggesting the ups and downs of life that the band was simultaneously experiencing.

6.20.04 SPAC

6.20.04 SPAC

Capping two of the best nights of Phish ever, the “four-song set” had returned, rearing its uber-improvisational head for the first time in 2004.  Thematic in nature and traveling an adventurous path, this set existed as one inseparable piece of music.  Like a psychedelic symphony, Phish delivered one of the most magical movements of the summer.  Rivaled only by the night before, these sets at SPAC suggested that Phish still had a hell of a lot of music left in their tank.  Unfortunately, it was their energy and motivation to produce that music that had been compromised.

The rest of the summer would wind up with the Midwest run and then the final farewell shows up the east coast.  Those SPAC shows must have been listened to more times than I can remember during that last month, because no matter how sad we felt, no matter how bittersweet everything grew to be, we would always have those two nights in Saratoga.

=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

11.15.98 Murfreesboro, TN < LINK

21One of the smallest shows of Fall ’98, this took place in a college field house– bleachers and all.  The retro environment didn’t impede Phish from throwing down some nasty jams, something that was seemingly involuntary during Fall ’98.  A great opening combo of “My Friend,” “Ghost” got things started quickly.  The entire second set is great, highlighted by the opening triumvirate of “Runaway Jim,” Stash,” and “Mike’s.”

I: My Friend My Friend, Ghost, Driver, Scent of a Mule, Cavern, Limb by Limb, Roggae, La Grange

II: Runaway Jim, Stash, Mike’s Song  > Simple, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Loving Cup, Weekapaug Groove

E: Rocky Top

Phish’s Last Stand

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 15, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Something was in the air at SPAC on those June nights five years ago.  In the woods of upstate New York, Phish would throw down the gauntlet one more time before calling it quits.  Sure, Coney Island was a great time with the huge movie broadcast, the baseball field, and Jay-Z’s appearance, but musically, nothing from ’04 can compare to SPAC.  Deer Creek and Alpine would go on to provide us with fabulous music and moments, but it was in the intimacy the New York forest where the band last dipped their golden ladle.  On June 19th and 20th, Phish delivered the last opuses of their career.

6.19.04 (Mark Terry)

6.19.04 SPAC (Mark Terry)

The 2004 summer run was surrounded by a bittersweet aura.  Knowing this was gonna be it, we wanted to savor every last drop, but that unspoken feeling of imminent loss lingered.  We didn’t want to mourn something that we still had, but the knowledge that this would be the end of the road wouldn’t disappear.  After two exciting nights in Coney Island, the caravan headed north to Saratoga Springs for the first time since Summer ’95.  Following issues with management, the band was not invited back after until nine years later under new ownership.  The whole community knew that these shows would be special, but we didn’t know the half of it.  Once Phish hopped onstage in the beautiful northern setting, the magic hose would be turned on, and left on full blast for two straight days.  Phish would tap into the universal spirit more coherently than any other time in 2004, providing the audience with two final nights of cosmic communication to hold in our hearts.

While all four sets of this weekend were out of hand, this is a story about the second sets of 6.19 and 6.20, two of the greatest, if not the greatest, post-hiatus frames of music created by the band.  Whether it was the light at the end of the tunnel or just the the inspiration of performing their final run, Phish dug in and played their souls out.

"A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing"

"A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing"

As the lights dropped signifying the start of the second set, we assumed our places.  After a stellar first half, highlighted by an opening “Reba” and a sublime ambient jam bringing “Walls of the Cave” into “David Bowie,” we knew that what was about to drop would be special, yet how special, we didn’t know.  Launching the set with the opening drum beats of Undermind‘s “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” Phish chose one of their most sought after new songs to sculpt into a masterpiece.  As soon as the song started, everyone knew the jam would be huge, but the sheer perfection of it would be uncovered slowly.  After an abbreviated first-set “album version” at Coney Island, this second-set opener would clearly take a different course.

img_0627

SPAC '04

Following Trey’s Hendrix-esque guitar solo, the jam began in earnest, and one could tell it was on.  The twisting and sinister music soon settled into a space where the whole band hopped into a collective jam rather than merely supporting Trey.  This is where the shit began to go down.  Improvising on the future epic for the first and only time, Phish created a menacing, yet uplifting, jam that would immediately vault into the annals of Phish history.  The exuberance of hearing the band absolutely slaughter this new favorite, combined with their absolutely locked and flawless playing, resulted in one of my top Phish experiences ever.

14071878106_0_albThe band connected several directed sections of improv, building a monstrosity.  By merging hard groove with searing evil psychedelia, Phish created a beast we had never seen before.  About half-way through the jam, the band snapped into some collaborative playing that set the table for the unbelievably spiritual jamming that would follow. This is where the magic began to blossom at an alarming rate, infusing the menacing piece with a sense of redemption and hope.  The band garnished a serious Pink Floyd vibe at this point, creating a beautifully  intense soundscape that was led to a cathartic release by Trey’s surreal and triumphant melodic licks.  This jam defines epic; for those looking to start listening to post-hiatus, start here.  As the only improvisational version of the song, Phish went all out and created a masterpiece.

6.19.04

6.19.04

As the twenty-minute jam closed, Phish moved directly into the opening of a superbly unique 32-minute “Piper.”  Using the popular jam vehicle to blow out any of the song’s conventions, the band took the momentum from their opening jam and kept it rolling.  As “Piper’s” scorching path left a wake of fire in its trail, it wasn’t long before the band broke down the jam into a more percussive place, stirring more musical creativity and diversity into the mix.  Bass-led grooves began to boom as Trey initiated some highly-addictive rhythm licks; where were we headed?  The pace slowed a bit, allowing for more spacious improv from all band members.  Following minutes of this polyrhythmic playing, Phish settled the music down again, creating an ominous tone before dropping into an “Tweezer Reprise” themed jam.  Starting with slow infectious patterns, the band built a completely unique jam into a straight dance-a-thon.  Gripping us with their imagination, the entire venue was soon bumping to the otherworldly rhythms.  Infusing an edgier tone to the music, the band built towards the Tweezer-laced peak.  This was heaven; one of those times where you danced so hard you knew not where you were, and you smiled so hard that your face muscles began to cramp.  This was IT, plain and simple, and everyone knew it.  IT was unmistakable.  With Trey wailing with the enjoyment of 1995, we all seemed to jump into a time warp to a place where things were firing on all cylinders again.  Were they really stopping in a month?  That didn’t make any sense now.

SPAC '04 (Mike Piera)

SPAC '04 (Mike Piera)

As if the “Reprise” peak wasn’t high enough, the band eventually morphed into the third section of this “Piper.”  Peeling away some of the layers of sonic residue, the band stripped the music down to some heavy drum and bass patterns.  Soon Trey and Page jumped into the mix and the band was locked into another infectious piece of improv, this time a down-tempo bulbous groove.  At this point, everyone’s minds were shattered to smithereens.  We were 40 minutes into the set and the entire time had been filled with some of the best Phish improvisation ever.  Before we knew it, we were coaxed into a funky and accented rhythm that delivered us right into the bouncing beginning of “Jibboo.”

3176382207_0d3c0e8ddaAt this point, we all knew we were in the grips of the Phish on an incredibly special night of music.  The jam stemming from “Jibboo” provided the us with the tight and uplifting candy-grooving that was much-needed after such a long and ominous period of improv.  Returning our brains to some sense of normalcy, this “Jibboo” was placed at the perfect point in the set, bridging the dark and the light.  With none of their impeccable tightness lost, Phish lept from their melodic relief into a late-set “Limb By Limb” that turned into yet another indelible 6.19 memory.  Transcending the general path of Limb jams, this version blossomed with patience and beauty into some truly delicate Phish.  As the jam reached its midpoint, the music gained some swing and built into something far greater than an average Limb peak.  In a geyser-like eruption of melody, Trey led the band towards spiritual apex that echoed of The Grateful Dead’s rolling melodic peak of “The Eleven.”  This was pure hose, and it was good. Perfection, beauty, and symmetry are all words that could describe this musical arrival, putting an exclamation point to this set of utter insanity.

With the classic set closer of “Cavern,” everyone’s brains came back to earth and realized the enormity of the Phish they had just experienced.  This was a perfect set; the type that didn’t come around all that often in the post-hiatus period.  As the set ended and Phish came back for an encore, there was nothing they could do to upstage what had just happened. Fully cognizant of this, they elected for one of the classiest encores in their repertoire, “Wading In the Velvet Sea.”  Reserved for post-epic situations just like this one, Velvet Sea provided the perfect reflective denouement to a show that no one would ever forget.

And this was only night one.  To be continued…

=====

ironmountain_archive2ARCHIVE REMINDER: I know there are a lot of new readers lately, and I wanted to remind everyone that there is over 150 articles archived on Phish Thoughts.  You can use the orange “tag cloud” on the bottom right of the page to search by category (right above this paragraph), or you can search for any term using the search bar on the top of the page.  The search bar is especially useful when looking for particular show downloads.  You can always just click on a particular month of the archive, and all the articles should appear chronologically.  Also, the entire “Miner’s Picks” series is linked at the right side of the page as well, for quick access to the goods.  All links are always active.  If you find a broken link, please let me know via email.  Thanks so much, and enjoy!

=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

Markthalle - Hamburg, GR

Markthalle - Hamburg, GR

7.23.96 Markthalle, Hamburg, GR < LINK

Dipping back into Phish’s oft-overlooked Europe ’96 tour, this show was their last headlining gig, and a fan favorite from the tour,  A standout show from start to finish, this should fill in a gap in many collections.

I: AC/DC Bag > Foam, Theme From the Bottom, Gumbo, Scent of a Mule* > Down With Disease > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Stash, Hello My Baby

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Runaway Jim, Loving Cup, Sparkle, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Bike, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Rocky Top

*Contained an a capella solo by Trey.

Summer 2003: A Return to Glory

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 5, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Phish 3.0 is around the corner.  In two months to the day, many of us will be traveling to the beautiful hamlet of Hampton, VA to set up camp for the weekend.  2009 is here, and with it, butterflies of excitement and a sense of anticipation is filtering through the community.  As we prepare our psyches and souls for brand new technicolor journeys, let’s take a look at some high points of Phish 2.0

7.30.03 Camden, NJ

7.30.03 Camden, NJ - Alex Phelan

In a comeback that lasted only a year and a half, Phish managed to play a fairly heavy schedule, creating some real monster shows within the year of 2003.  The winter run got the band back in the saddle, and though ripping from the onset in Los Angeles, once the band hit mid-tour in Cincinnati, they were once again firing on all cylinders.  Capping the tour with their renowned run through the Northeast, blowing up both Worcester and Nassau to the fullest, Phish was now prepared to undertake a full summer tour.

Summer ’03 is when the band hit their post-hiatus peak.  While Miami was outstanding, and the Summer ’04 run was even better, if not all-too bittersweet, Summer ’03 is when the band truly felt IT again.  Everything was back in full swing this summer.  The Sammies and veggie burritos flowed freely once again, and we went on a nostalgic tour of Phish’s most beloved summertime amphitheatres.  However, while the feeling of being in front of the Phish may have brought recollections of previous years, the music was most definitely evolving to a new place.

7.26.03 Atlanta

7.26.03 Atlanta

Integrating more exploratory effects and layered textures into their music, “space funk” took on a whole new meaning.  No longer as raw and unadulterated as ’97 and ’98, the band’s playing grew more refined and their jams took on completely new directions.  Exploring rhythmic psychedelia through both minimal groove and layered soundscapes, 2003’s music soon possessed a unique sound. Growing a host of new material from Round Room and beyond, songs like “Seven Below,” “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” and “Walls of the Cave” began to work themselves into rotation, along side more classic numbers.  Yet, more than anything musical, that innocent purity of Phish had returned.  As big as the scene may have been, the vibe in the shows was that of old.  Phishiness had returned, bringing the dynamic of the unknown to the stage each and every set.  The excitement was back, and every day you awoke with the question “What will happen tonight?” Everybody felt it.

As Phish traversed the nation, once again climbing up to Limestone, they left behind a trail of phenomenal music.  Songs were jammed out differently, new songs took center stage, and Phish vitality was reborn.  Reinvigorated, at least for the moment, the band was fully dedicated to their craft this summer, something that would be gone in just one year.  By the time the weekend at “IT” had concluded, Summer ’03 had taken a place next to the most well-loved tours in Phish history.

Below is a recap of seven epic jams from the Summer of ’03.  Because I only possess official SBD releases for these shows, I cannot post these songs on site.  However, you can download each track from phishows.com and put together the compilation yourself.  Unable to write about all the magnificent music that took place in the Summer ’03, I’ve included an additional list of Summer ’03 highlights.

“Seven Below” 7.13 The Gorge

The Gorge '03

The Gorge '03 - Brian Spiritsano

Hailed as one of the lasting high points of the summer’s improvisation, this late set jam on the second night of The Gorge signaled loud and clear that Phish was back and as good as ever.  This sublime improv began firmly rooted in the melodic template of the song before twisting into a more overtly psychedelic realm.  Trey’s post-hiatus uncompressed and dirty tone was on full display, typifying his more aggressive and edgy playing of ’03 and ’04.  Before too long, the band had left any semblance of the song’s structure in favor of more cosmic exploration.  Entering an eerie space, the band took the audience on a delicate stroll down a sinister and ambient musical roadway. When all was said and done, calls and texts flew around the nation about the most exciting and terrifying Phish jam since their return.

“Scents and Subtle Sounds” 7.30 E Center, Camden, NJ

7.30.03 Camden, NJ

7.30.03 Camden, NJ - Alex Phelan

One of the most significant musical developments of the entire summer tour was the debut and evolution of Trey and Tom’s post-hiatus masterpiece, “Scents and Subtle Sounds.”  A stunning composition musing on the power of “The Moment,” this song instantly turned into a crowd favorite with its intricate sections, lyrical brilliance, and soaring improvisation.  The first versions remained contained within an uplifting musical structure, not dissimilar to “Harry Hood,” but once Camden rolled around, the song had developed into a legitimate improvisational vehicle.  This 30-minute performance steeped in blissful and surreal jamming, still exists as the defining version ever played.  Reaching psychedelic planes that would remain untouched by the song until the band returned to Camden the following summer, this rendition stood out immediately as both inspiring and exploratory at the same time.  Truly a jam for the ages, words can only go so far in describing its regal nature.

“Split Open and Melt” 7.22 Deer Creek

7.22.03 Deer Creek

7.22.03 Deer Creek

Another defining moment of the summer happened during the middle show of Deer Creek’s three night stand in the form of “Split Open and Melt.”  Forging the jam’s fierce trail, the band hopped into some driving patterns, immediately building musical momentum.  The thickness of the music beefened, as Trey’s exploration turned towards the dissonant and distorted.  Similar to much of his post-hiatus playing, his guitar’s dark path into the center of muddled dementia really stands out as the needle pulling the musical thread through the fabric of this jam.  A fantastically evil voyage that turned much slower about half way through, the entire band turned their vicious improv into something far more settled and grooving.  Taking the audience on a bass-led section of slow rhythmic playing, Phish created a multi-faceted monster out of this jam.  Watch out for evil seething guitar venom as the music descends into the center of the earth.

“Harry Hood” 7.25 Charlotte, NC

7.25.03 Charlotte, NJ

7.25.03 Charlotte, NJ

With all the changes in post-hiatus Phish, none were more intriguing than the emergence of “Harry Hood” as an enhanced jam vehicle.  No longer confined to its uplifting chord progression, Phish used their classic song to explore new uncharted places.  Gradually growing in depth from its first performance at Chula Vista to its colossal version at Camden, “Harry Hood” developed into something far greater than ever before.  “The Charlotte Hood,” would come to symbolize this transformation.  On this night, Phish created a twisting tale that passed through many segments of improv, moving far beyond the song’s conventions.  As the jam built upwards, it also built outwards, winding up in an uptempo groove-fest that you might expect from a “Bathtub Gin.”  Moving into a boisterous and shredding section, it was very easy to forget what song the band was playing this time.  A strong wave of distortion preceded the final peak of the song– a truly revolutionary version of “Harry Hood.”

“Twist” 7.30 Camden, NJ

7.30.03 Camden, NJ

7.30.03 Camden, NJ - Alex Phelan

Typifying the raunchy and abstract quality of post-hiatus psychedelia, this monster “Twist” opened the second set of one of Summer ’03’s best shows.  Gently sliding into the jam via regular “Twist” textures, the band soon painted with a much more aggressive palate.  Entering some of the most masterful improv of the post-hiatus era, this jam illustrated the crushing jaws of the monster that was ’03 Phish.  The band navigated an extended period of jamming that is not for the light-hearted, letting it all hang out in Southern Jersey.  This jam is one ’03’s finest moments.  Read more about this night here!

“Mr. Completely” 7.15 West Valley, Utah

7.15.093West Valley, Utah

7.15.03 West Valley, Utah

Pulling off yet another Utah surprise, Phish busted out one of Trey’s most popular solo jam vehicles, as most fans skipped the show and made their way from The Gorge directly to Sandstone.  Anyone making that decision missed one of the danciest jams to come out of post-hiatus Phish.  Taking off on a thirty-minute joy ride, the band lit up the Southwestern sky with musical fireworks.  Featuring some absolutely nasty playing, Trey led the band and audience alike through this exercise in groove.  The only time Phish has ever touched this song, it turned to gold.  A certain summer highlight, this one boomed though everyone’s rides for the rest of tour.

“Crosseyed and Painless” 7.29 Burgettstown, PA

The Gorge '03

The Gorge '03 - Dan Gareau

Perhaps the jam of the summer, this set opening odyssey was pure Phish.  Transcending the musical path of the Talking Heads cover, Phish used the song’s rhythm as a springboard to some purely spiritual music.  Hitting a subconscious musical stride, the band was clearly tapped in on this night, channeling IT directly to our ears and minds.  Showcasing a plethora of textures and feels, this jam was one of those where everything was in the right place.  The band chugged along the tracks as one, leaving a vibrant wake of beautiful psychedelia.

—-

OTHER GREAT SUMMER ’03 JAMS:

Wolfman’s > Scents (debut) 7.7 Phoenix, Harry Hood 7.8 Chula Vista, Ghost 7.12. The Gorge, Tweezer 7.17. Bonner Springs, Antelope 7.17 Bonner Springs, Disease > Catapult 7.18 Alpine Valley, Twist 7.18 Alpine Valley, YEM 7.19 Alpine Valley, Gumbo 7.22 Deer Creek, Scents and Subtle Sounds 7.23 Deer Creek, Antelope 7.23 Deer Creek, Drowned 7.25 Charlotte, Bowie 7.25 Charlotte, Piper 7.26 Atlanta, Ghost 7.27 Raleigh, Harry Hood 7.31 Camden, IT (a lot)

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE JAMS FROM SUMMER ’03?  RESPOND IN COMMENTS BELOW!

=====

SUMMER ’09 RUMOR MILL: With Rothbury just confirmed for 2009, don’t be surprised to see Phish make a two-night headlining appearance a la Bonnaroo.  I heard about this far before the festival was firmed up, and I think it is likely.  From what I’ve heard, Rothbury was a great time last year.

=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

9.11.00 Great Woods, Mansfield, MA < LINK

Great Woods Amphitheatre

Great Woods Amphitheatre

In a year that gets dogged on all too much, there are a bunch of fabulous shows. This installment from the first night of Great Woods is one of them.  With a perfectly flowing second set that never stopped, Phish slaughtered the ending segment of “Piper > What’s the Use > YEM.”  A unique collection of songs comprise the interesting first set on a night that stood out as one of the strongest from the first leg of tour.

I: Roadrunner*, The Moma Dance, Rift, Brain and Robert, Vultures, Horn, Beauty of My Dreams, Ya Mar, Stash

II: Chalkdust Torture > Twist > Piper > What’s the Use? > You Enjoy Myself

E: Good Times Bad Times

*(Jonathan Richman and the) Modern Lovers cover from the album “The Modern Lovers”

Camden 7.30.03– A “Post-Hiatus” Masterpiece

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 29, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Post-Hiatus; 2003-2004 Phish means so many things to so many different people.  Some savor it; some don’t even really listen to it.  Some trash it for petty reasons.  Some were unable to drop their personal or Phish baggage and allow moments to exist and unfold in front of them.  Yet, anyone who turns a cold shoulder to this segment of Phish history may be blindsided by certain shows and jams that would beg to differ.  The SPAC stand in ’04 might object to such an argument.  The Nassau ’03 show might want to throw its two cents into the conversation, while the near 50 minutes of Hood>Bowie from Charlotte might want to speak up.  The IT certainly would rise to make a case.

To name a few more argument makers; the entire June ’04 run from Brooklyn to Alpine, Walls>Carini from the LA Forum sending its Valentine’s love, Deer Creek’s Split>Free, or the Chicago show followed by the Cincy two-night run in the winter of ’03 might raise their hands to be called upon.  I could go on and on.  It’s funny, because there is often so much trash talked about these two years while they are strewn with high quality shows and great jams.  People would make the following point– Trey flubbed too many composed licks of Stash, or messed up the fugue in Reba; he wasn’t as accurate on the technical aspects of written pieces.  First off, who goes to shows with the primary goal of hearing the composed sections of songs played immaculately?  There are albums and 1993 tapes for that.  The essence of Phish- and what has always been the essence of Phish- is their improvisation.  And to be honest, the “post-hiatus” period was heavy in improvisation and exploratory jamming, typified by the dark-horse show in Camden on 7.30.03- five years ago today.

When Phish played two-night stands, the first night was usually reserved for darker, more experimental jamming, while night two was more often than not, a “greatest-hits” type of show, reserved for more of the crowd favorites and classic jam vehicles.  This first night in Camden of ’03 follows this pattern and remains one of the strongest shows from ’03-’04.  In looking at this show, we can uncover the facts that Phish, while their sound was ever evolving, and Trey’s tone dirtier and more distorted, were still producing heavy improvisational journeys for all who opened their hearts and minds to them.

On the heels of one of the more popular ’03 shows on 7/29- (the Starlake Crosseyed>Thunderhead & bustout fest), Phish did not let up on the 30th of July as they prepared for IT.  Overshadowed by the next night’s more bombastic songs of Piper, Mikes>H2>Weekapaug, Free, and Hood, many don’t recognize the depth and darkness of what happened the night before.  In fact, when I mention this show to people, many are not even aware of it.  Let’s quickly run through the first set.

In menacing fashion, foreshadowing the rest of the evening, My Friend, My Friend opened the show, honing in on the darker side of things right away. Following Star Lake’s trend of pulling dusty songs of the shelf, Velvet Underground’s “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” batted second, put in the setlist for the first time since Halloween ’98.  What followed was an absolute highlight of the show, and the entire summer tour- a sublime 30 minute performance of Scents and Subtle Sounds, the post-hiatus Anastasio/Marshall masterpiece about living life in the Moment.  Steeped in blissful and surreal improvisation, this best-ever version reached abstract and psychedelic realms that would be virtually untouched by the song until the band returned to Camden the following summer.  Truly a jam for the ages, words can only go so far in describing its regal nature.  (See below for the track).  A first ever performance of the Dylan classic, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” followed this deep exploration, providing a respite before they launched into the rare and sought after Spock’s Brain, showing its face for the first time since 10/6/00.  A more conventional end of the set included Chalkdust, On Your Way Down, Fast Enough, and Taste- a combination of commonly played and not-so-commonly played songs.  The stage was set for what would be a serious second set.

After the break, the opening notes of Twist filled the pavilion.  Greatly divergent in form and focus, Twists always appeared in differing forms- from the more Santana-sounding Latin grooves that typified many, to the space-funk that defined the Island Run and SPAC, to the straight alien ambience that made the Meadowlands ’03 version and the Alpine version from earlier in the summer (7.18.03) so heavy.  Well, this one would also be different.  The jam eased in through previously scouted Twist territory, but soon Trey began to lead the jam outwards as the rest of the band built a collective and cohesive groove underneath him.  As Fishman switched beats, the feel of the jam changed and the whole band began to dig deeper, as Trey’s tone became a little dirtier and more distorted.  As the band locked into a singular rhythmic pattern, the improvisation moved into darker depths.  Speeding up, Phish turned into a chugging freight train with some serious non-conventional Twist jamming highlighted by a sick drum beat which Trey soon picked up on and began to speak over.  This jam moved into very abstract and dissonant places which transformed into frenetic madness with Trey offering some of his deepest phrasings of the night, before it chilled out into walls of sound with lighter Trey and Page melodies on top.  With a magnifying glass on evil darkness, the Twist trickled to an end as a stand alone piece without resolution within the jam itself- but as Phish can often do, they used the next song, Bug, as the release to the Twist.

The Twist>Bug is really one entity- one experience- juxtaposing crystalline guitar melodies, providing the emotional and triumphant conclusion, to the 25 minutes of darkness that preceded.  Trey and Page built the Bug to a truly massive crescendo before its conclusion.  The band took longer than normal after such an adventurous excursion before deciding to turn the Tweeter Center into a dance party with the opening melodies of You Enjoy Myself.

The YEM, itself, is multifaceted beginning with minimalist staccato rhythm licks from Trey over the notoriously bulbous groove, letting Mike and Page take the lead.  Trey seamlessly morphed his licks into melodies, providing lead lines and rhythm patterns simultaneously, before ripping into a more typical YEM shred session that brought the crowd to energetic heights.  The four-song set closed with the highly allegorical Walls of the Cave, made even more poignant in the long-cast shadows of New York City.  Ending the dark and exploratory set with some high octane energy to lead the crowd off into the night, Phish had just provided a set (+ Scents) of incredibly deep improvisation which, honestly, typified a lot of summer 03 shows.  Secret Smile provided the perfectly sensual ending to an evening that would live on in infamy.

Regardless of the year, 1993 or 2003, Phish are magicians.  A couple of years off didn’t change that, and fours years off now will not change that either. Should we expect things to sound different when they come back for post-hiatus part deux?  For sure.  Will it still be magic that speaks to and explores our souls?  For sure.

Pictures above are from 7.30.03 Set II. (Thanks to Phishpics.net)