Well that was amazing. First of all, mea culpa. In my first review, I argued that there was no logical reason to expect “Fuego” to be the next jam vehicle because (a) it hasn’t jammed at all in the previous three versions and (b) the two jams preceded composed sections. I also suggested that if it jammed they would skip the composed piano based outro/ending and it would count as ‘unfinished’. Well, that’s what we got last night and with stunning results. After an unbelievable 20 minute “Fuego” we got three more(!) type ii jams in the set stretching to nearly a full hour. But first.
In my piece about what makes Set Is good I argued for three ingredients — jams, early classic Phish compositional material, and bustouts. Well, last night’s first set had two out of three (which Meatloaf has told me “aint bad”). Of course, bustouts by definition will happen rarely, so I’ll take First Set with quality jams and classic Phish songs any day.
“Star Spangled Banner” — It’s a cover! Gotcha Phish! But, as @zzyzx said on twitter this clearly falls into the Holiday obligation exception rule. As my brother remarked, “Auld Lang Syn’d”.
“555" — I really like this song in the “opener” (for the instruments at least) slot.
“Kill Devil Falls” — Ever since 5/27/11 I always secretly hope this song opens up. Otherwise it’s just the 3.0 Chalk Dust. This version was nice and patient at the beginning.
“Reba” — Classic early Phish composed material? Check! This is my favorite Phish song. It combines Trey’s early amazing talent for composition with my favorite style of type i jam — soul scorching, gorgeous, melodic, and emotional (see also, Hood, Harry). In 2.0, I used to get very upset with “flubs” (and lord knows there were plenty). Now, I’m kind of at peace with them. These dudes are 50 (or nearly). These songs are so, f’in hard (trust me, I know, because I try to play them in a cover band!)— to expect them to play them perfectly at this stage of life and success is just ridiculous. Not to mention, there have always been flubs throughout Phish’s career (yes, even in the early 90s). Flubs are a sign of their ambition to play such difficult material. This particular version was not flub free, but it was relatively well played. And, the jam was great (it always is). It really “hung out” in the quiet section which featured some beautiful interplay between Mike, Page, and Trey. The peak was its usual triumphant self.
“Waiting All Night” — The fact they have to count this one off (1,2,3,4) means it might be harder than we think for this song to emerge from a jam in a segue (that has been my hope). It just feels like it comes out of a jam. The jam on this version seemed extended when compared to the last on (or maybe I’m just comparing to the album). I still love this song…for now!
“Runaway Jim” — I can’t find anyway to confirm this on phish.net, but I would venture a guess that this is the latest first set Jim in a long, long time. This is may favorite opener (it is Phish’s “Bertha” as far as I’m concerned), but if it doesn’t open it almost always falls either in the first 3-4 songs of the first set, or as a jam vehicle early in set 2 (see, 8/4/13). This version was solid with some “echoplex” (I think) effects near the end of the jam.
“46 Days” is the rocking, Trey-peak fest I usually don’t enjoy. But, this version was particularly tasty. Anyone notice how much Trey is playing “octave” phrases this tour? This is a technique made famous by the jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery (playing two of the same note an octave apart on the guitar to get this full, airy sound). I love this style. The jam built to its rock peak, but didn’t self-indulgently stay there for overly long.
“Rift” — More early classic Phish! The problem with Rift these days is Trey has forgotten the proper chords to Page’s transition riff to Trey’s second (raging) solo. Also, at the outset of this second Trey solo, these days he almost always plays the wrong note (I can’t figure out why). To make things a bit worse this time around, his second solo was flubbed. That said, I’m at peace with flubs. Remember?
“Spit Open and Melt” — I love this song. I will take it over Bowie, Antelope, or basically any Set 1 closer you can imagine. After the legendary “SPAC melt” about a year ago (17 minutes — for the record I think its overrated — just because it is type ii doesn’t mean its good — this one meandered aimlessly, but I really appreciated its risk taking — just didn’t pay off imo), @mrminer remarked that he was so happy this “Melt” jam finally went somewhere because they had been awful in 3.0. I couldn’t disagree more. I always love Melt jams in 3.0. They are dependably weird, abstract and crazy dissonant. This one is no exception. The highlight jam of the set.
Wait, Melt wasn’t the closer?!? More early classic Phish compositional material??? Yes, please — “Squirming Coil”. A very well played version too. Beautiful set closer. And, it featured Mike (I think right?? The webcast is inconclusive) doing the high screeching vocal line that is on Lawn Boy during the final “It Got Awayyyyy” line. Has Phish ever done that screech live? If so, when was the last time? Absolutely hilarious.
If you’re still reading, the best is yet to come!!
Set 2 opened with “Fuego” and everyone was like, “this is it!” I was sticking to my guns and thought it would be played like it was at Great Woods. I was wrong. This jam, man. This jam. For a while it kind of appeared to be meandering in this spacious, open “bliss” territory. I worried it might meander into nothingness ala the Gin the previous night. I was wrong again. This jam was architectural. It just built, ideas brick by brick slowly, with incredible patience. After a long period of spacious building, we found our self in a gorgeous “trilling” melody led by Trey that repeated over and over again. As if that wasn’t enough, that transitioned into an absolutely triumphant melody based on a series of “bent” guitar notes. This “peak” of the jam was on par with the 10/29/13 Disease, 10/31/13 Carini, and the often forgotten 7/10/13 Crosseyed. Just absolute hose.
“Down With Disease” — when was the last time DWD fell in the 2 spot in set 2? I know recently they have put it in the middle or end of second set, but the 2 spot was weird. Just more evidence that lack of covers means interesting set placements. If this Disease opened Set II, we would be like “that was a really good jam” and would understand if Phish went on to play a lot of songs (as they sometimes to do). This jam had some really nice rhythmic grooves — Trey mostly played chords. It then descended into some weird abstract mush that was highlighted by Trey making a “popping” sound with his mouth. The “popping” rhythmically slid beautifully into the next song.
“Twist” — This song has had some epic journeys in 2013, but usually it sticks to about 8-9 minutes and even if it doesn’t always go “type ii” it always is dynamic, rhythmic, and features dense interplay. This one is no different, and to add icing on the cake, this one got weird. In the middle of the jam it featured a dissonant funk riff that the whole band gathered around. After some more “Twist” comping the jam fell apart into that spacious, melodic “bliss” territory. I was hoping this might build to another peak ala “Fuego” but that might be simply too greedy. It slid into…
“Light” — why does Trey always start this song in the wrong key? It’s funny. So, after three amazing and satisfying jams we get the most dependable jam-vehicle of 3.0. This one stuck within the normal “Light” jam (which means Trey playing a lot of dissonant notes and phrases over the main Light groove) for a while until Trey started playing this gorgeous chordal phrases, followed by some more Wes Montgomery-style octaves. Those phrases and chords got more dissonant and Fishman responds by adding crazy fills. Then, we appeared back in normal “Light” territory for maybe 30 seconds before the jam really opens up. Trey starts playing some punchy chords that established a groove for Mike, Page, and Fish to basically go off. He starts looping those chords to create a fuller texture. Then the jam gets more dissonant with Trey playing this weird, descending melody (@MikeHamad I think said this is a “whole tone” scale which is what it sounds like) with his octave pedal (that is a pedal that makes a note sound an octave higher than it really is on the guitar neck). The jam peters out into mush which allows a new song to emerge from the depths.
“Theme From the Bottom” — Great placement! This (like “Free”) can often be a ripchord song. But, after nearly an hour of incredible jamming, it allows you to take a breather and reflect on the fact that this is really a great fucking song. Trey has trouble with the transition riff again (I don’t understand this — it’s not that hard), but a nice jam.
OK -this is the only part of the show where I have a slight complaint. For me, this is where “Slave to the Traffic Light” should (must?) be played. After so much “out there” jamming, “Slave” is the perfect, beautiful type i jam to allow us all to reflect on what just happened. Instead, we got “Backwards Down the Number Line” and “First Tube”. Now, don’t get me wrong, the “Backwards” solo was beautiful and celebratory and the “First Tube” practically brought the house down with energy. It was a great pairing. I just would have preferred “Slave.”
Encore with “Character 0" — I was still hoping for Slave. What a show. What an early start to tour. Lets be thankful we have this band still playing this stuff for us, OK?