Today is the first installment of Dog Gone Blog’s newest feature From the Vault. Each article will feature a memorable segment from a past performance. There are few better days to begin, as today is the anniversary of one of the most famous, and many fans’ favorite, Grateful Dead jams – the soundcheck jam from the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen.
On the day prior to the Festival, the bands (the Allman Brothers, The Band and the Grateful Dead) took turns soundchecking. By the time the Dead took the stage a sizable crowd had gathered, and with the permission of Bill Graham they were permitted to view the Dead’s soundcheck. What followed was the essence of improvisational music at its finest. The piece of music that was crafted from thin air 37 years ago today still stands as one of the finest moments in Grateful Dead history. This jam occurs spontaneously, rising from a lengthy period of noodling. Words cannot explain what takes place during this 21 minute psychedelic ride. Ease back and prepare to embark on this unforgettable journey.
“Watkins Glen Soundcheck Jam” (7.27.73)
Throughout the years, many songs have taken the helm as the jam vehicle that defines a particular era. Some have adapted to the band’s ever-evolving musical style, transforming with the band as they grow; while others have become jamless standards. Some remain in the rotation to this day. Others have gone by the wayside. But one song that has remained a constant jam vehicle since its debut is the tale of our friend the red worm, “Piper”.
What is it that draws the band’s improvisational eye to a particular song? And what is it that turns it away? There seems to be no criteria as to what “makes” a song a jam vehicle. A song must be complex when necessary, but not necessarily complex. Songs such as “Split Open and Melt” or “Bowie” are both extremely musically complex, while others like “Gotta Jibboo” and “BDNTNL” are as simple as simple gets. All four songs are jam vehicles, and all four songs have taken us to that place. Transcendent moments can arise from a two-chord song or one that is fully composed with multiple sections – jams do not discriminate.
The present direction has seen the band push the idea that less is more. Simplicity has favored itself over complexity, in most cases. “Piper”, while not a two-chord song itself, is hardly much more. The song appeared much like a ship in the distance and has taken us on many great journeys since. Often overlooked as one of the defining vehicles of 3.0, “Piper” continues to propel jams with an energy rarely witnessed on the musical stage. Today we look back at the trail of the red worm – a song that can seemingly emerge from anywhere at any time.
“Piper” was officially debuted in Dublin, Ireland on 6.14.97 (the song was played once prior on 6.6.97 during a private performance at Brad Sand’s house). The early “Pipers” featured the drawn out intro heard on the studio version followed by a charging, yet contained, jam. By fall, the song had developed into a jam vehicle with numerous versions reaching great heights (11.30, 12.6., 12.12). The slow intro build, simple song structure, and gradual rise in tempo allow for endless jam and segue possibilities. To put it plainly, “Piper” is one of the most versatile vehicles in the bands repertoire.
In ’98, the band continued to carry the song into charging rock jams while digging more frequently into outside territory (4.3, 7.6, 8.8). On the second night of the Island Tour, the song kept pushing the envelope as it transitioned liquidly from the blissful outro into a sinister psychedelic ride. This ambient exploration foreshadowed the songs potential which would be fully realized one year later in the summer of ’99…
’99 brought “Piper” to new heights on a regular basis beginning in the early summer. On the second night in Oswego, the band took the song for many fans’ favorite excursion to date. A segment of the intro was actually used for the studio version, a testament to its quality. The jam gradually cruised through numerous themes sweeping all 65,000 attendees into private satori moments.
In 2003, “Piper” became a defining song for the direction the band was taking. Showing how dear the song is to the band, they chose it to open their first show back from the hiatus on 12.31.02. It’s as if 2003 opened the remaining doors “Piper” had to offer. Throughout the year, numerous versions captured the raw improvisational energy that was flowing through the band at the time. The jams are sloppy at times, but the energy that exists within drips with improvisational goo. Cover your eyes and select a “Piper” from ’03 – you’ll pull out a winner every time.
Since the beginning, the tale of the red red worm has typified the type Phish’s direction at the time . In it’s current form, the the gradual build up has been dropped in favor of a more rock-focused edgy intro. The jams continue to break ground, although not as frequently as in 2003. As seen last year in Indio and Albany, and this year in Merriweather, “Piper” continues to produce some of the most promising musical explorations.
One of the changes that has taken place since the reunion has been Phish’s ability to transcend simple songs into deeper expression. It seems this was a goal that Trey brought to his own band, but has since carried over into Phish’s style. In an interview with Parke Puterbaugh Trey made a statement on the band’s jamming style since the reunion:
“The first thing I noticed at Hampton, and especially as the tour went on, was a little bit more of an emotional weight based on life coming into the picture. Anybody our age, once you’ve had divorces and deaths and arrests…It’s part of rock and roll…I hear an element of humility, an extra added element of humility, in our music now.”
I hear it too. Last year, I wrote an article entitled ‘Bar 18‘ (a song with an intro often has two bars of eight, followed by the actual song which begins on the 17th bar. Trey’s solo album had taken the Bar 17 title, and so I suggested the 18th bar was where Phish would pick up). I compared the evolution of the band’s songwriting to that of the Beatles after meeting Dylan – a deeper, more expressive form.
Inevitably, this evolution has not only influenced the band’s songwriting, but their jamming as well. Many of the new songs debuted on the first leg carry a strong element of humility, similar to many of the songs off Joy. The days of writing goofy songs with meaningless lyrics are seemingly over, a new style has emerged in its place. Several of the covers seem to follow in this transition, with the most obvious being the cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris”.
Here are some examples from the first leg of tour (analysis to come…):
“Limb By Limb” (6.11.10)
“Slave To The Traffic Light” (6.15.10)
“Show Of Life” (6.19.10)
“Free Man In Paris” (6.25.10)
“Summer of ’89” (6.25.10)
Over the past few weeks, Phish built a tidal wave of energy rarely seen on the musical stage. Riding an overwhelming momentum the band delivered each night with a tightness not seen in years. Throughout June, Phish recreated their improvisational direction stepping into 2010 with a defined purpose.
As the dust from tour settles, and we prepare for the next run of shows, we have a chance to look back on the highlights from the first leg. While some shows indicated a hesitance to explore extended jams there were many exploratory jaunts that brought us to that place. These moments not only foreshadowed the great possibilities for August, but left us with memories that will stand out in our minds for many years.
Starting today the site will be returning to the regular flow of things – articles, reviews and such. We begin by looking back at some of the most transcendent moments from the first leg, analyzing each jam in detail. At the bottom you can vote on your favorite jam from the first leg.
Dropping two highlights in the first show of the tour it was clear the band intended to make 2010 special. From the outset Phish indicated a readiness to step out and explore their new sound, guided by Trey’s new style. This second set “Light” opener answered many of the questions that had been looming since NYE. A wide-open jam ensued that became part of the memorable segment of “Light”>”Maze”>”Ghost”.
A heavy bass-driven groove with Trey whaling above the melody line. The jam reaches a point of all-out rock before entering a section of syncopated space.
Arguably still the jam of the tour. This version reached way beyond any past rendition of the band’s new single, taking everyone in Cuyahoga through a vortex of psychedelic exploration. The jam begins as with a standard solo, similar to the album version, but then departs into a lush groove of ambient soundscapes. Each member helps to build the jam, piece by piece, as the music departs for a dark industrial segment. Page adds psychedelic sheets of sound, while Trey rides a droning riff that glides below. As Mike turns on his meatball, the jam reaches a point similar to the flatbed jam where each element builds toward a combined climax. This is the real stuff folks.
“Bathtub Gin” (6.15.10)
As the tour progressed, Trey became increasingly familiar with his whale-solos. This “Gin” saw Trey really find his place with his new style, and featured a soaring jam with numerous peaks.
“Down With Disease” > “Sand” (6.17.10)
I have mixed feelings about this combo. After a funk-rock jam on “DWD” Mike seamlessly connected the bassline of “Sand” producing one of the finest segues of tour. The jam that followed, however, showed Trey lagging behind the groove, failing to hit the note. Instead of allowing the band to take over, Trey stepped forward cutting the song short in favor of “The Horse”. Everyone, including Trey, knows how bad this segue was. Let’s hope Mike gave him shit.
A very tight syncopated jam emerges guided by Mike’s bassline. Both Trey and Page riff off Mike’s grooves. Several major/minor modulations take place. Trey latches on to a melodic theme throughout the latter part of the jam.
“Rock and Roll” > “Free” (6.19.10)
Throughout the entire tour Jon has reemerged as the drummer we all used to know and love. Fish shines throughout this entire jam, grasping onto the other member’s notes using them to launch the jam into several charging collective grooves. Trey and Fishman riff off each other like Jerry and Bill in this one.
“Chalkdust Torture” (6.25.10)
Many fans know of Trey’s advocated love for the 7.10.99 “Chalkdust” from Camden. Thus, there is little doubt that when Big Red chose to open the second set of Camden 2 with the song, he had his favorite version in mind. The song departed from its typical frame (as it did briefly at Festival 8), into what is arguably the other jam of the tour. The jam explores several sections of deep psychedelia in an onslaught of musical intensity. Weeks later, the energy is still jumping off the tape.
Phish carried a tidal wave of energy into their newest jam vehicle late in the second set of Camden night two. The jam erupted into a flurry of whaling leads before reaching an ambient section of percussive syncopated grooves.
“Piper” > “Ghost” > “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” > “Saw It Again” (6.27.10)
While strong jams often bring the most transcendent moments, liquid segues as we saw on the second night at Merriweather can also reach such places. Similar to the legendary Bomb Factory show, Phish wove a single song throughout the majority of the second set. This combination of energetic improvisation not only showed the band exploring their music, but also connecting their songs with hypnotizing fluidity. A fierce “Piper” acted as the improvisational centerpiece of this rare segment.
As oppose to 2009, which saw Trey stepping to the front in many jams, 2010 has brought a noticeable sense of patience. This has allowed the band members to listen more carefully to one another, using each other’s ideas to fuel their own. This divine “Reba” showed Trey sitting back as the jam slowly built toward a hypnotic climax. The whale has begun to lend itself particularly well to melodic songs such as these.
The band continued to push their newest jam vehicle throughout the tour, laying several memorable versions behind. This version enters a section of deep space that seems as though the music is playing the band, rather than the other way around. A rippling wave of energy from an alternate dimension.
“Weekapaug Groove” (6.29.10)
Throughout the entire tour “Weekapaug” consistently stood out as a highlight each time it was played. In the post-hiatus years, the band showed a willingness to explore “Weekapaug” (i.e. 2.22.03). This has carried into the 3.0 era, with the band regularly taking the song outside of its basic structure. In CMAC, the band began to take the song outside, before cutting their excursion short. After a section of rockin’ funk, the jam takes a turn toward a “Free” like theme. Music is being written from thin air…
“Piper” > “Ghost” (7.4.10)
This promising combination reappeared in Alpharetta on the 4th of July. While failing to reach the heights seen in Merriweather, this combination offered one of the highlights from the south. By the final shows of the tour, Trey had seemingly mastered his new style, using the whale with far greater comfort than in Chicago. In this jam, Trey can be heard exploring phrygian licks reminiscent of Miles’ playing in “Sketches of Spain”.
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park
Set 1: Character Zero, Destiny Unbound, Rift, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Bathtub Gin, Mountains in the Mist, NICU, Gumbo, My Sweet One, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Strange Design, Sanity, Run Like an Antelope
Set 2: Rock and Roll, Prince Caspian, Tweezer > Slave to the Traffic Light, Bouncing Around the Room, Possum, Backwards Down the Number Line > Harry Hood > Loving Cup
Encore: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise
Notes: Character Zero opened a show for the first time ever. McGrupp was played by request with Trey taking the sign from the crowd and holding it up before starting the song. Trey forgot the second verse to Sanity, asking “How the hell does the second verse go again?”
DOWNLOAD: 2010.07.03 Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Alpharetta, GA
SOURCE: schoeps mk41(DINa)>KCY>vms5u>SD722 (24/48)
Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
Set 1: Buried Alive > AC/DC Bag, Vultures, Wolfman’s Brother, Back on the Train, The Wedge, Mexican Cousin, Stash, Sparkle, Chalk Dust Torture
Set 2: Drowned > 46 Days > Twenty Years Later, The Lizards, Carini > Fuck Your Face > Also Sprach Zarathustra > You Enjoy Myself -> Proud Mary -> Get Back
Encore: A Day in the Life
 Fuck Your Face and Moving in Stereo teases.
 a cappella.
 Phish debut; a cappella.
Notes: This show featured the first Fuck Your Face since April 29, 1987 (1,413 shows) and the first Proud Mary since March 1, 2003 (113 shows). YEM contained Fuck Your Face and Moving in Stereo (The Cars) teases. Proud Mary and Get Back were performed a cappella during the YEM vocal jam and were interspersed with Dong Work for Yuda (Frank Zappa) and Slow Ride quotes. Get Back was a Phish debut.
DOWNLOAD: 2010.07.02 Verizon Wireless Amphitheater, Charlotte, NC
SOURCE: Schoeps mk4v> KCY> Schoeps VMS02IB> SD 744t (@24bit/96kHz)
Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek
Set 1: Llama, Roses Are Free, Kill Devil Falls, Time Loves a Hero, Alaska, Water in the Sky, Runaway Jim > The Moma Dance > The Divided Sky, Cavern
Set 2: Backwards Down the Number Line > Halley’s Comet -> Light > Fluffhead > Have Mercy, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone -> Free > Wading in the Velvet Sea, The Squirming Coil > Suzy Greenberg
Encore: Boogie On Reggae Woman
 Light Up Or Leave Me Alone teases.
Notes: This show featured the first Time Loves a Hero since December 31, 2002 (127 shows), the first Have Mercy since December 10, 1999 (189 shows), and the first Light Up Or Leave Me Alone since December 30, 1999 (181 shows), which was subsequently teased in Suzy.
DOWNLOAD: 2010.07.01 Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek, Raleigh, NC
SOURCE: Schoeps mk41> KC5> M222> NT222> EAA PSP-2> SD 722 (@24bit/96kHz)
CMAC Performing Arts Center
Set 1: The Connection, Down with Disease > Sample in a Jar, Ocelot, Reba, Horn, Funky Bitch, Undermind, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, David Bowie
Set 2: Possum, Mike’s Song > Simple > I Am the Walrus > Weekapaug Groove > Limb By Limb > Joy, Harry Hood > Golgi Apparatus
Encore: First Tube
 Phish debut.
Notes: This show featured the Phish debut of I Am The Walrus. Weekapaug was unfinished.
DOWNLOAD: 2010.06.29 CMAC, Canandaigua, NY
SOURCE: Schoeps MK41>KC5>CMC6>Sonosax SX-M2>Apogee Mini-me(aes out@24 bit/96khz)>COAX>Edirol R-44
Merriweather Post Pavillion
Set 1: Walfredo, Mellow Mood, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan > The Divided Sky, Tela, My Soul, Ginseng Sullivan, Sample in a Jar, Bathtub Gin, Brian and Robert, Run Like an Antelope
Set 2: Wilson > Meatstick -> Saw It Again -> Piper > Ghost -> Jumpin’ Jack Flash -> Saw It Again > Contact, You Enjoy Myself
 Brian and Robert teases; Lyrics changed to “Michael Esquandolas.”
 Japanese lyrics.
 Saw It Again quotes.
 Phish debut.
 Saw It Again quotes and Jumpin Jack Flash teases; Saw It Again and Surfin’ Bird quotes in vocal jam.
 Saw It Again quotes; Lyrics changed to “Let Jon Fishman take over.”
Notes: This show featured the first Walfredo since September 30, 2000 (131 shows). Antelope contained Brian and Robert teases and an alternate “Michael Esquandolas” lyric. Meatstick contained Japanese lyrics. Jumpin’ Jack Flash was a Phish debut. Piper, Ghost, Contact, YEM and Fire all contained Saw it Again quotes. YEM also contained Jumpin’ Jack Flash teases and, in the vocal jam, quotes of Saw It Again and Surfin’ Bird (The Trashmen). The lyrics to Fire were changed to “Let Jon Fishman take over.”
DOWNLOAD: 2010.06.27 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
SOURCE: Schoeps mk4v> KC5> M222> NT222> Aeta PSP-3> SD 722 (@24bit/96kHz)
Merriweather Post Pavillion
Set 1: Crowd Control, Kill Devil Falls, AC/DC Bag, Sugar Shack, Tube, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea, Stash, Backwards Down the Number Line, NICU > 46 Days, Suzy Greenberg
Set 2: Rock and Roll > Free, Fast Enough for You, Sparkle > Tweezer, The Horse > Silent in the Morning > Wolfman’s Brother > Slave to the Traffic Light > Tweezer Reprise
Encore: Show of Life, Good Times Bad Times
 Phish debut.
 Moby Dick teases.
Notes: Prior to the start of the first set, Mike teased Do You Feel Like We Do. This show featured the Phish debut of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (Neutral Milk Hotel). Rock and Roll contained Moby Dick teases.
DOWNLOAD: 2010.06.26 Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
SOURCE: Schoeps mk4v> KC5> M222> NT222> Aeta PSP-3> SD 722 (@24bit/96kHz)