On Friday, Scotty B’s YEMBlog twitter discussion question centered around fan’s first Phish tapes. This spawned an interesting discussion and got me thinking of a way to revisit some of the “classic” Phish tapes. Prior to the spreadsheet and the world of online downloading, tape trading was the central method of sharing and obtaining shows, whether they be Dead or Phish. It was magazines such as Relix, or online discussion groups like rec.music.phish that provided forums for fans to share tapes with one another until around the time of the first hiatus. Over the years, certain tapes gained popularity—either they were particularly good shows, or they had particularly good sound (aka the “Cornell ’77″ effect)—and through this they would become more heavily traded and well-known.
Today, much of that has been forgotten, or is simply unknown, by Phish fans today, as a result of the sheer wealth of shows available online. Many fans today might not have even owned tapes, or might be oblivious to the difference between a cassette and a DAT. So for today’s installment of Ambient Alarm Clock, let’s turn back and revisit a few of these classics from the days of tape trading.
A DAT soundboard recording emerged shortly after 7.21.91 was performed, making it one first high quality tapes to become heavily circulated. This was the first tape for many fans, including YEMBlog’s own Scotty B, and is one of the most famous horn shows to date. This was the second of a two-night stand that really doesn’t require much introduction—or at least it shouldn’t. Scotty was kind enough to share a few words about his very first Phish tape:
“I think starting my live Phish exposure with 7/21/91 was good for me in retrospect as the soundboard source of that show was one of the best tapes out there at the time. Not only was the quality of the recording great, but the band kicked ass that night. Of course, thanks to the Giant Country Horn’s participation at that show, I’ll always hear their horn lines for classics such as Cavern, Suzy and Gumbo in my head when Phish plays those tunes.”
4.16.92 from the Anaconda was the first Phish cassette I ever owned, and one that I have listened to probably close to a million times. Toronto fans will probably be familiar with Edward’s Record World and Vortex Records (which sat above it) both of which used to be run by Phish/Dead fans. I scored my first tape at Ed’s and the rest, as they say, is history…By the time the band arrived at the Anaconda Theatre on their Spring ’92 tour, they were beginning to hit the note from all angles. Starting on 4.16 and spanning the next five nights, the band anhiliated every show with a noticeable determination. Again, this was the first tape for many fans, including myself, and there’s no surprise as to why.
“Split Open and Melt” (4.16.92)
Another landmark performance by the band that eventually became a staple in most fan’s tape collections, 3.14.93 from Gunnison, CO is well-known for it’s standout version of “YEM” that features a medley of various teases and quotes. It’s tapes such as these that are often overlooked these days, but were once fixtures in almost every fan’s listening cycle.
“You Enjoy Myself” (3.14.93)
Buried beneath Jerry Garcia’s endless side projects, guest appearances and solo endeavors is the rarely mentioned Legion of Mary. The LOM lineup consisted of Merl Saunders, JGB bassist John Kahn, Martin Fierro on sax and flute along with Ronnie Tutt on drums (who replaced Paul Humphrey in early ’75). The band was short lived—lasting only from July of ’74 to July ’75—but during the time it lasted the Legion of Mary was a rare force, blending the sounds of jazz, rock and R&B with a touch of psychedelia.
To put things in context, Legion of Mary was in action during a rare downtime in the Dead’s career. Following the famous October 1974 performances by the Dead at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco (immortalized in The Grateful Dead Movie), the band went on a short hiatus, performing only 4 concerts together in 1975. During the hiatus, Jerry worked on the movie relentlessly while also recording Blues for Allah and performing around the Bay Area with Legion of Mary.
The LOM shows contain some of Jerry’s finest playing in the form of long, jazz-inspired improvisations that are stunningly beautiful. Also, a number of these shows were captured by the legendary taping team of Badbob Menke and Louis Falanga who would famously get their mics on stage with the band (literally). There was only one official release by LOM in the form of Legion of Mary: The Jerry Garcia Collection, Vol. 1, but if you seek them out there are some amazing audience recordings that I highly recommend.
I’ll help you begin your search with my personal favorite LOM show recorded by the Menke/Falanga taping team. This one comes from the Keystone in Berkeley, CA on 5.22.75 and features one of my all-time favorite jazz numbers, Freddie Hubbard’s “Little Sunflower” (also recorded by Milt Jackson, which I also highly recommend). If you like audience recordings, you’ll want to check this one out.
“Little Sunflower” (5.22.75)
DOWNLOAD: Legion of Mary 1975-05-22 Keystone, Berkeley, CA [Torrent]
Source: (FOB) Sony ECM-270 and ECM-250 [Positioned Onstage] > Sony TC-152 > MAC
Tore Up Over You
I Feel Like Dynamite
Every Word You Say
He Ain’t Give You None
Boogie On Reggae Woman
When I Die
Going, Going, Gone
(I’m A) Road Runner
Today’s edition Ambient Alarm Clock turns a stone that is all too often forgotten, or otherwise overlooked. While there are surely aspects of 2.0 that I (any many others) don’t like, to take a line from Trey “there’s aspects of Boston that I don’t like.” So for today, we dig back into the “2.0″ years to pull out some of these gems that deserve far more attention than they normally receive. Do enjoy.
Our first stop today is the “Bathtub Gin” from 2.22.03 from the US Bank Center in Cincinnati, OH. This version has remained among my favorite moments from the 2.0 era for some time. Typifying the type of jamming that was the norm in 2.0, this version of “Gin” is sloppy as hell through the composed section, but once the jam emerges it’s off to the races from there on out—30 minutes of pure psychedelic madness.
“Bathtub Gin” (2.22.03)
Up next, we’ll visit the amazing version of “Theme From the Bottom” from 2.25.03 in Philly. This is one of a handful of versions of the song where the jam was aimed straight for the cosmos. As with so many versions of songs from the 2.0 period, the band seems to use the song are a mere launchpad for a psychedelic journey that holds no boundaries. This is one of those versions that likely brought a few fans who were in attendance that night to tears. Enchanting music at its finest.
“Theme From the Bottom” (2.25.03)
This is one of my favorite 2.0 shows, and one that seems to have a small segment of fan’s who consider it to be one of the finest from that period. Frequent readers will know that “Simple” is one of my favorite songs in the Phish catalog, and in this version it is given the full treatment. This is one of those collective jams that sees the entire band working together as a single unit to create a much larger sound. Prior to “Simple”, the band takes “Waves” for a soaring jam typical of the stacatto Round Room style.
“Waves” > “Simple” (2.20.03)
Trey once called The Anne LaBrusciano show “the greatest radio show ever, of all time.” But unless you lived in Burlington, VT during the early 80′s, or attended Phish’s fourth show ever, chances are the name Anne LaBrusciano doesn’t ring a bell. Maybe if you attended the Clifford Ball and listened to The Bunny while you waited in miles of traffic, then you might have heard her broadcast. But otherwise, for the most part, this special piece of Phish lore has become a forgotten relic form the past, rarely mentioned, if at all. That will hopefully change today, as we will take a trip back to Phish’s early days in Burlington and rediscover the genius of The Anne LaBrusciano Show.
Anne was the host of a show on WRUV-FM, Burlington, VT 90.1 called “Two Heads are Better than Four Legs,” that ran between 1984-1985. During this time Anne became an inspirational figure in the Burlington radio and arts community and was seen as a pioneer of weird radio. On the air, Anne never spoke a word, and there were no programmers or narrators either. Instead, her show was a free-form sound collage composed of various audio sources: music, poetry, instructional records, audio drama, and incidental noise—much like an acid-test. On her broadcasts, Anne would also use sound clips recorded by Trey (through some very 80′s effects) specifically for her show.
Phish’s connection to The Anne LaBrusciano Show runs deep—she sat-in with the band on their fourth gig ever (11.3.84), on what was the first of many performances at Slade Hall on the UVM campus (click here to download). This is rarely mentioned, if at all, although she can clearly be heard on the recording. As the show begins you can hear Anne mixing her unique blend of sounds beneath an “ignition sequence” which then leads into “In the Midnight Hour.” Later on, during some of the jams, Anne can be heard adding her sound collages under the band, although the poor audio quality makes it somewhat difficult to hear. For example, also listen at the end of the “Bertha” jam as Anne adds some of her trademark sounds before the band leads into “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’.” For now, check out Anne’s intro on 11.3.84:
“Ignition Sequence” > “In the Midnight Hour” (11.3.84)
From Phish.com: This was the band’s 4th show, their 2nd gig as Phish and the first of many shows at UVM’s Slade Hall. The tape is labeled ”Wall of Sound” and featured Anne Labrusciano mixing 6 stereo speakers and 3 turntables live during the show. The price on the flyer is $00.00.
This piece of the band’s early career is seemingly known by very few, which is a mystery considering the level of detail many Phish fans desire. Also, when Phish hosted their first festival, The Clifford Ball, they invited Anne to host one of her broadcasts on The Bunny, after her own show had been retired from the air for over a decade. Below, hear Trey introduce Anne’s show on The Bunny.
Today, I’m proud to be able to share with you some highlights from The Anne LaBrusciano Show from the original broadcast on WRUV-FM 90.1. The clips are taken from various shows and provide the listener a sense of what it would have been like to hear her show on the radio. While no two shows were ever alike, the introduction always remained the same. Below you can listen to two clips, the first which includes a typical introduction to The Anne LaBrusciano Show and the second which is taken from various shows over her 14 month tenure at the station. I hope you enjoy these discoveries as much as Trey and I do.
The Anne LaBrusciano Show
We are happy to be able to share some audio samples from the new LivePhish releases from Summer Tour 2010, courtesy of Phish Inc. These audio samples give us a glimpse of Dr. Kevorkian’s magic applied to Jon Altschiller’s original mixes. The result is an auditory gem for any Phish fan, especially the true audiophiles out there, like myself. Check out clips of Meatstick > Saw It Again (6.27.10), Bathtub Gin (7.3.10), and Gotta Jibbo (7.4.10) below. Also included are Phish archivist Kevin Shapiro’s thoughts on each show. Enjoy!
“Meatstick” > “Saw It Again” (6.27.10)
Set two was a seamless affair rooted in the show’s theme song, “Saw It Again” (also played at Merriweather for the first time since IT). This playful set hinged on exploratory playing and transitions like “Meatstick” > “Saw It Again” > “Piper” > “Ghost” which, like the rest of the set included deft teases of “Saw It Again”. Phish sealed the fate of this uncommon set by weaving their debut of the Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” back into “Saw It Again”. The remainder of the show: “Contact”, “You Enjoy Myself” (with teases of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”) and Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” also included multiple nods to “Saw it Again” among its sonic treasures.
“Bathtub Gin” (7.3.10)
Phish had played this exact date in Atlanta eleven years ago in 1999. The band kicked off the show with “Character Zero” and the only “Destiny Unbound” of Leg 1, followed by “Rift”. A request from the audience earned a trip to Gamehendge for “McGrupp And The Watchful Hosemasters” before a concentrated “Bathtub Gin” and the year’s first “Mountains In The Mist”. The combination of “NICU” > “Gumbo” > “My Sweet One” spotlighted Page (aka “Leon”) and Fish, who penned the latter two songs. Set one concluded with “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan”, “Strange Design”, the only “Sanity” of summer and “Run Like An Antelope” to close the set.
“Gotta Jibboo” (7.4.10)
The second show of a two-night stand and the last show of Summer Leg 1 began appropriately with an A capella performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” followed by a return to Gamehendge for “Punch You In The Eye” > “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” > “Fly Famous Mockingbird”(narration-free except for Trey pointing out the Mockingbird). Next came some animal songs in the form of “Camel Walk” and “Ocelot” before a three-song combination of “Heavy Things” > “My Friend, My Friend” > “Lawn Boy” after which the rowdy crowd began to chant “USA, USA.” Set one concluded with “David Bowie” and a fiery “Gotta Jibboo”.
Yesterday, the TAB Winter Tour was officially announced. Beginning on Feb. 18 in Portland, ME the tour will see the Classic Tab lineup visit familiar northeastern venues before heading to the mid-west and then down the west coast to close it out at Oakland’s coveted Fox Theatre. The lineup will be the same as last year featuring Natalie Cressman (trombone and vocals), Jennifer Hartswick (trumpet and vocals), Russ Lawton (drums), Tony Markellis (bass and vocals), Ray Paczkowski (keyboards) and Russell Remington (tenor saxophone and flute). The full list of dates are posted below.
What’s particularly interesting about this announcement is that Trey will also perform a solo acoustic set each night as he did on his first solo tour in ’99. Much like the JGB format, Trey begins the night with the acoustic performance followed by a full band electric set. The tour in ’99 that featured these acoustic sets is one of my favorites and so I am very happy to see him revisit this format.
A limited number of tickets for all shows will be available through a real-time ticket presale beginning Friday January 14th at 10:00 AM EST and ending Thursday January 20th at 5:00 PM EST through Trey’s online ticketing system at http://treytickets.rlc.net . For complete venue and general public onsale information please visit http://trey.com/tours/.
Leading into these acoustic performances, chances are Trey will be performing much of his newer material mixed in with some old classics, as he did recently in Princeton. However, my hope is that he will be creative and bring out some of his shelved acoustic originals and covers like “Kissed by Mist” or “Snowflakes In the Sand”. I think it is also likely that he will bring a piano along.
Looking back, here are a few special acoustic moments from that lone acoustic/electric tour back in the Spring of ’99.
“Aftermath” feat. Roger Holloway (1999.5.7)
“Snowflakes in the Sand” (1999.5.10)
“Kissed by Mist” (1999.5.10)
TAB Winter Tour Dates
2/18 State Theatre – Portland, ME
2/19 Palace Theatre – Albany, NY
2/20 House of Blues – Boston, MA
2/22 Terminal 5 – New York, NY
2/23 Electric Factory – Philadelphia, PA
2/25 StageAE – Pittsburgh, PA
2/26 Lifestyle Communities Pavilion – Columbus, OH
2/27 Riviera Theatre – Chicago, IL
3/1 Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO
3/2 Ogden Theatre – Denver, CO
3/4 The Music Box – Los Angeles, CA
3/5 Fox Theater – Oakland, CA
I recently sat down for a conversation with Marc Kimelman, the associate-choreographer of Phish’s “Meatstick” dance routine on NYE. Check out the full interview over at Jambands.com or read an excerpt below:
Much like myself, Marc Kimelman grew up a listening to Phish in his hometown of Toronto. After attending university for psychology and business Marc decided to move to New York to pursue his dreams of working in the Theatre. Marc has worked with artists such as Neil Young, Chakka Kahn, Katy Perry and, most recently, he was picked as the associate choreographer for Phish’s NYE“Meatstick” gag. Yesterday, Marc took time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about how the idea for the gag started, the planning and rehearsal process, and what it’s like to be given the opportunity to work with the group.
How did you get involved with the band and when did they first approach you about working with them on the NYE gag?
About a month ago I got a call from a choreographer friend of mine who I’d met two years ago at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. I hadn’t heard from her in about a year and a half and randomly I get an e-mail asking if I wanted to work with her on a gig, but I wasn’t allowed to know what it was until I signed a confidentiality agreement because they wanted to keep everything hush-hush. I really wanted to work with her so I said yes to whatever it was. And then the producers called me and had me go to their office and signed all of these confidentiality waivers. Then I flipped to the next page where it said “Phish New Years Eve Madison Square Garden,” which I was trying to get a ticket for anyway. So it was pretty crazy.
Then we started working right away. I didn’t meet the band until a week before the show, we had worked with the dancers and just spoken to the band, but I hadn’t met them personally yet. They came in a week before and checked out what we had done, and we were off to the right start. Then we started seeing Trey every day and collaborating with him on the project.
Were you a fan when you first started working on the project? You mentioned you were already trying to score tickets. Were you familiar with the band’s NYE tradition?
Yeah, I had grown up on Phish and saw a bunch of shows in my high school and university days. I’m from Toronto and all my friends were big into Phish. I’ve probably seen a handful of show. I’m not a huge Phish fan but I definitely appreciate them. I’ve never been to a New Year’s show, and I live in New York now so I was trying to make it happen this year. Obviously I know what they do on New Year’s, and it’s the same production company that worked on their gig last year when they shot Fishman out of a cannonball. So yeah, it was just really exciting to not only being on a Phish show, but a New Year’s show.
What was the timeline like with the rehearsals and preparation? When did you first start working on it and how long did it take to come together?
It was between just me and the choreographer for a couple weeks in the studio just trying to figure out what the movement style should be. Obviously we didn’t want it to be so off the wall that no one was feeling it in the crowd. It had to go with the heavy groove that Phish gives us. It was tricky.
The first stuff that we came up with was just definitely wrong and then slowly but surely we got it right. And once we got it right, which took about a week and a half or two weeks, we cast the dancers. We knew we wanted it to feel like the stage was covered with dancers. We wanted it to look like there were 200 dancers onstage, but we really only had room for about 50. So once we broke it down to how many Rabbis we wanted, and how many mariachis we wanted and all that, then we started casting. And first I reached out to my friends, which was cool to be able to hire them for a Phish gig and be able to pay them. We got the dancers in just a week before the gig. The gig was on Friday and we rehearsed with them on Tuesday and Wednesday. We had our stuff really tight so when they came in on Tuesday we were ready to roll. Then the next day the band came in to see what we had done and they were just blown away. I’ve never seen people laugh so hard for so long. We thought they would come in and just watch it and leave but they hung out for almost two hours. They just wanted to see it time and time again. Then they called their wives to come and see it and they brought all their kids to come see it…they were just so stoked by what we had done. They were really excited.
Where did the idea for the whole dance routine come from and how much creative control were you allowed?
The idea originally came through Trey and the production company I work with called David Gallo Designs. David and Trey have a long history together and the idea came through them brainstorming. They knew they wanted it to be “Meatstick,” they knew they wanted to bring back the hotdog and take it out of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which was tricky. As soon as they took it out there were Phish fans who had noticed that and had started to rumor stuff on the web. So it was hard to keep things confidential. But I think we definitely pulled it off. So the idea originally came from Trey and David. [David] knows Trey the best so any time we had an idea, we would run it by him and he would either say yes or no to that. So we were definitely able to come up with ideas, but we allowed him the right to shut us down because he knows the band the best.
That’s interesting because Trey is actually working on a musical of his own right now. Is there any connection?
Yeah, I don’t know much about it but yeah I heard he’s doing that with this lyricist Amanda Green and I know our music arranger has some part in it as well. His music definitely lends itself to the stage and just seeing what we were able to do with five-part harmonies and stuff…I think it probably just motivated him more to put his stuff on the stage because it’s so theatrical.
Welcome back to Ambient Alarm Clock, I hope your year is off to a good start. Today, we take a short break from analyzing the stellar NYE run to look back on some great jams from years past. Today’s selections span a wide range of years dating all the way back to 1987 at The Ranch. We follow the number line making stops at some particularly memorable jams along the way. Have a great start to your week.
Our first stop today is from 7.31.99 at the Fuji Rock Festival in Niigata Japan, where band was performing their second day on the Field of Heaven stage. This “2001” opens the second set and casts off with an eerie ambiance that paves the way for one of the spaciest versions of “Bowie” to date.
“2001” > ” Bowie” (7.31.99)
The next selection comes from Spartanburg, SC on 10.29.94, the show prior to Phish’s first-ever musical costume. From this show we visit the incredible combination of “Split Open and Melt” > “Buffalo Bill” > “Makisupa Policeman.” After a menacing journey in “Split” the band busts out “Buffalo Bill” for the first time in 225 shows. “Makisupa” contains a segment type-II jamming, typical of the style for ’94.
“Split Open and Melt ” > “Buffalo Bill” > “Makisupa Policeman” (10.29.94)
We now go further down the number line back to October 19, 1991 from The Catalyst Santa Cruz, CA. This was the final night of Phish’s west coast run, and saw them hitting the note from all angles. The recording from this show became a popular tape in trading circles and contains an excellent version of “Harry Hood” that closes the second set.
“Harry Hood” (10.19.91)
Lastly this week, we have “The Curtain (With)” from 8.29.87 in The Living Room at The Ranch in Shelbourne, VT. In this early version, the band can still be heard wearing their influences on their cuff as they break into a heavily Dead-inspired jam section. Notice as Trey locks into some signature cascading Jerry licks, yet to fully develop his own style.
“The Curtain (With)” (8.29.87)
In the long and celebrated history of Phish, perhaps no tradition is more firmly established than the annual New Year’s run. The tradition dates back to 1989 when the band played their first New Year’s show in Boston, and has since grown into something of lore with many great shows surrounding the turn of the new year. This year’s New Year’s run followed in this time-honored tradition in the same venue that has hosted many of these great shows in the past. Once again, The Garden came to life and with Phish as our guide, we were shepherded into the new year.
As is usually the case, this year’s run came with very high expectations, heightened by the disastrous travel conditions that crippled much of the North East. With many stranded, and the road conditions severe, the journey became a story itself in getting to Worcester and back to New York. And for those who made this journey, the music surely tasted that much sweeter.
This year, the band practiced for nearly a week at the barn in Vermont before heading to Worcester to play the first two shows. The increased practice could clearly heard in the tightness the band displayed on the first night, and throughout the run. But in terms of jamming they chose to keep things reasonably safe on the first night, and much of the second in Worcester.
On 12.27, the first set was well-played, and had an engaging setlist and a beautiful version of “Roggae.” Trey has, quite obviously, eliminated the whale from his sound, favoring dissonant modal excursions instead. This allowed songs such as “Roggae,” and others like it, far more tasteful jams. While Trey suffered from a cold in both shows in Worcester, his guitar playing was better than we have heard it in quite some time. Every solo he touched saw him fluttering across the fretboard, showing that he has no need to rely on his “safety mechanisms” any longer.
The second set “Mike’s,” saw lots more of this dissonant soloing and several explosive crescendos, and slipped flawlessly into “Mound” (had to be preplanned). “Seven Below” featured several moments of highly transcendent jamming before drifting into “What’s the Use” from a sea of ambiance. “Bowie” saw lots more of Trey’s new dissonant licks but, at times, the jam’s wave seemed to be moving one step ahead of him and it fell flat.
The second night began, again, with a thoroughly engaging setlist highlighted by the appearance of “She Caught the Katy” (last played 7.21.98, 323 shows) the exploratory version “Stash,” and Trey’s Sarah Palin talkbox antics. The band also debuted a new Anastasio/Marshall original called “Pigtail” along with “Birdwatcher,” the latter of which has been performed before by Trey with TAB. During “Stash,” a jam that will surely receive greater focus in coming weeks, Trey’s dissonant playing began to mesh with the rest of the band, and as these two forces met, the music was launched into the cosmos. Highly recommended. “Stealing Time” is also worth checking out if only for Mike and Trey’s killer interweaving playing. The tightness is scary at this point. The second set kicked off with a safe, yet rockin’ version of “Carini” that saw Trey dancing around the “DEG” pattern. The rest of the set took on a mostly mellow vibe, but was rejuvenated with a version of “Hood” that offered us our first glimpse into a new jamming style that would further develop over the remainder of the run. Some have already begun to dub it the “stacatto jamming” style, but what it really comes from is Trey being pushed further back in the mix to allow for a greater collective sound. Page can now be heard much more clearly, allowing him to be an equal part of these African-inspired jams. The “Hood” jam developed a unique sound as Trey’s palm-muted notes mixed in with Mike’s calypso bassline and Page danced around the two on his rhodes. A song that had very much become standardized—the “Whipping Post” of the Phish catalog—came to life once again in a fully revitalized full form.
The day off allowed the band and fans some much needed rest before the run at MSG, and when we all arrived for the first night on the 30th our Red Headed hero could be seen in fine form, seemingly having beaten the illness that had plagued his vocals on the nights prior. Again, the band assembled a very engaging setlist, start to finish, highlighted by an early-set “Quinn the Eskimo,” a blissful “Gin” and the reappearance of Little Feat’s “Fat Man in the Bathtub.” The second set began with Trey jokingly calling for what is widely considered to be the worst original song ever performed by the band, ”Jennifer Dances.” After several jests at the ill-fated tune, Big Red catapaulted us into a “Tweezer” that seemed to have trouble with its landing gear, and failed to fully take off. Rather, the band seemed to sit in the pocket of the groove for too long, without any type of crescendo or climax. That said, the groove held much potential, and was surely engaging while it was happening. And continuing the modern-era trend of segueing into “Light,” the band did just that, but again the jam failed to take off and fell flat at the hands of Trey’s dissonant phrasing. The rest of the set, while engaging throughout, failed to include any jams worth mention but was rather more about song choice.
It was the following two nights that would transport us to the place we had all hoped to arrive. The first of three sets kicked off with an energetic romp in “PYITE” > “AC/DC Bag” > “Moma Dance.” Also included was a much welcomed “Weigh,” that drifted into a standout version of “Ocelot,” and a late-set “Gone” afterward.
But it was the second set that saw psychedelics explode as though they had brimmed to the bursting point. What is arguably one of, if not the, most engaging set of 3.0 unfolded before our eyes in a swirling mixture of music and colors. The undisputed highlight of the run, as well as the show, was the version of “Ghost,” catapulting the band and its fans into a rapturous jam that shone a light on the next era of Phish jamming. Songwriting on the spot is the best way to describe it. Chord progressions being pulled from thin air that transcend the energy of the cosmos—transcend the magic that is Phish. In many ways, this jam seemed composed. Pitched in minor key to begin, the jam found its way to a rich aural pasture that soon transformed the long-drawn wailing and galloping arpeggios into a segment of enchanting major-key psychedelia. Following this blissful journey, the band appeased countless sign holders in busting out “Manteca” in the midst of the “YEM” jam. Start to finish, this was a truly compelling experience that will not soon be forgotten. The third set was marked by this year’s “gag” as multicultural dancers and singers joined the band for a fitting Broadway-style version of “Meatstick” and an equally fitting “After Midnight” that followed.
On 1.1, the band picked up where they had left us one night prior, and delivered a show that is already being heralded as one of the top start-to-finish performances of 3.0. It would be hard to disagree. The vibe in the venue was noticeably mellow on 1.1, as everyone dragged themselves through exhaustion and sleep deprivation to catch the band’s first ever show on the first day of the new year. Kicking off with “My Soul” Phish then dove into a series of old-school numbers that included one of the most engaging versions of “Divided Sky” in some time. Trey’s solo was masterful, and soared to the furthest corners of the Garden’s walls. “Round Room” nodded to the shape of these very walls, while acting as a fitting number for the band’s staccato-style jamming. Round Room, the album, contained a very stacatto-like sound from Trey that dominated his playing for much of the 2.0 phase. Although, at the time, his tone was far less gracious and prevented the type of group playing that has spawned out of recent jams. The set continued with one of the finest pieces of arena rock throughout the weekend in “Walk Away,” literally bringing The Garden into what Bob Weir calls “earthquake volcano mode.” “Reba” took time to get going, but once it did, it was rewarding and showed the band exhibiting a noticeable patience.
And then there was the second set. Easily one of the finest, and most engaging, sets of 3.0. 1.1.’s second saw the band slip into a fluid groove from note one of “Crosseyed,” one that they never returned from throughout all six songs in the set. Following in the musical path of the night prior, the band infused “Simple” with their new jamming style, again sculpting a seemingly composed piece of improv from thin air. During these jams, no single member takes a lead. Instead, it is a complete group effort, in the same vein as the funk of ’97 or even the music of King Sunny Aide or Manu Dibango. Perhaps these are chord progressions being explored for a new set of songs, or perhaps they were simply ideas that spontaneously appeared. Either way, the music is some of the finest we have heard in 3.0 and it brings us much hope for 2011. The journey during “Simple” rises out of a segment of peaceful ambiance and blossoms into what could have easily become a brand new song. It will be interesting to see if these spontaneous “compositions” germinate any further ideas and wind up becoming songs. “Sally” featured a short, but tasty jam section and “Makisupa” continued with some playful effect-driven improv. The set closing “Bowie” saw more fluttering licks from Trey, and more of his dissonant builds. Many guitarists out there will know that Trey almost never uses his single-coil pick-up setup. But, throughout this run, he actively engaged in several “single coil” solos that gave him more of a Jerry-like tone. Using this cleaner, thinner sound, he traversed the neck with mile-long Coltrane-like phrasing. Fans of Coltrane will surely notice Trey’s nod to the legendary sax player through his recent modal excursions (something that started, and that I noted, toward the end of the summer). Venturing way outside the mold, Trey’s development as a guitar player has continued with this recent phase of jazzy phrasing. For many, this will serve as a welcome departure from the whale, and an early stage in the next era of Phish.