Last week, the Fader premiered the latest video from Real Estate bassist Alex Bleeker and his band of Freaks. Set to the lyrically revealing “Step Right Up,” the video was filmed on location at a Phish concert on their 2013 Summer Tour (can you tell which venue?). About the location choice, Bleeker says “It is my opinion that Phish has the most enthusiastic concert-going music fans in the world. The choice to shoot this video in the parking lot of one of their shows this summer was simple. This was the only large crowd I could think of that would lovingly embrace and interact with a man in an antler helmet without a moment’s pause. ” “Step Right Up” comes off Alex Bleeker & the Freaks 2013 release How Far Away, available via the good folks at Woodsist.
Catch Alex Bleeker and the Freaks live when they perform our post-Phish late-show at Mercury Lounge on December 30.
Friends of the North! We’re psyched to announce the details of our next Toronto show. On July 9, we’ll be hosting Toronto shoegazy-psychsters The Auras along with Tess Parks & The Good People at the Shop at Parts and Labour—-a great subterranean spot with good sound and a wide selection of drinks/grub taboot.
Since returning to The Great North in March, we’ve discovered so much great music and these are two bands that we are most excited to share with you. It also just so happens that a certain Vermont Quartet will be in town that evening, so we welcome those attending that show to come after it’s over as we’ll be getting started rather late.
We’re giving away a number of tickets to DGB readers so tuned for contest details! Thanks to Justin Gabbard for the beautiful poster design.
As many of you already know, last Tuesday, the Phish vaults opened, unearthing for the first time a series of high quality recordings that rank among the greatest treasures in the Vermont quartet’s live catalog. Say what you will about Phish, but until you’ve heard (or attended) performances such as these—taken from the storied and transitional Fall ’97 Tour—it’s difficult to form an opinion of a band that’s true potential has always been reserved for the live setting.
Phish: Hampton/Winston-Salem ’97 presents a run of three entire concerts from November 21 & 22, 1997 at Hampton Coliseum Hampton, VA and November 23, 1997 at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Winston-Salem, NC. The recordings, taken from sound engineer/guitar luthier Paul Languedoc’s stereo soundboard mix and remastered by sound guru Fred Kevorkian, pay justice to these coveted tapes with 7 great-sounding CDs that also include unreleased soundchecks from both venues.
But what separates Hampton/Winston-Salem ’97 from the band’s previous live output, is the release of three consecutive shows from one of the most loved periods in Phish history. As lore will tell, the fall of 1997 is not only a consensus milestone of the bands touring career, but also one of the most unique and experimental. For, in this time, the transition of Phish’s sound toward a more groove-oriented approach had come full circle—akin to that of Miles’ band from the late ’60s to early ’70s—propelling the band into one of their greatest creative high points. While this period defines itself on its own, it also acts as the catalyst to what would occur in the years the followed.
Set between the abstract psychedelia that stretched from 1994-1996 and the cosmic rock that formed between 1998 and 2000, this phase marked the largest upending in Phish’s career since they graduated from playing Grateful Dead and Wilson Pickett tunes in the 80s. The inspiration for this transition came while performing the entirety of Talking Heads’ Remain in Light on Halloween ’96, gradually taking hold over the following year, and finally coming to fruition during the fall of ’97.
In Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception, he notes than an enlightened individual will be drawn to subtle patterns and tones, as oppose to things presented more elaborately. During this tour, Phish embarked on a path representative of this philosophy. Guided by the collective group ethos of African artists such as King Sunny Aide and Manu Dibango, the transition resulted in the presence of groove-based jams and a greater use of effects and looping techniques. For a change, bassist Mike Gordon, who is much higher in the mix than usual, can often be heard leading the band while guitarist Trey Anastasio reverts to wah-laden karate chops in place of his usual chow-mein solos (although there are still plenty of those).
On Novemeber 21 at Hampton Coliseum, the opener—an ambitious debut cover of the Stones’ “Emotional Rescue”—catches an early glimpse of Anastasio’s recently added looping rig with decaying sirens peaking out from beneath the groove-based improv, carefully crafted layers of sound and colorful textural tones present in the undercurrent. Drummer Jon Fishman keeps a riding jazz beat as Gordon lays out coiling, high ended lead phrases and McConnell adds synthy washes of sound beneath. The jam carries away from the loose “cow funk” label into a four part space journey that ranks as one of the highlights of the entire box set, largely setting the tone for the next three nights. And that’s just the opening cut (of the first night).
During the second set, on “Ghost”—a staple of the tour—Anastasio and McConnell lead the rhythm at the start of the jam as Gordon throws out trebly bass leads, experimenting with his arsenal of effects (a hint at the direction he would take in the years following). Anastasio begins a simple melody that raises the tempo, and then continues to gradually fall before the jam transports into a charging, cosmic sound quest. McConnel remains on piano for the first several measures, providing a haunting eeriness to this particularly dark segment of improv. But after a while, Anastasio reconfigures the jam with some bright major chords and trills, jumping into one of the first lengthy version of “ACDC Bag” on the tour. It’s another juggernaut from this performance depicting the improvisational fluidity of the band, while also marking the period’s shortened setlists in favor of more lengthy jams.
The second performance from Hampton Coliseum contains many exceptional moments of improv, including the unexpected “Mike’s Groove” opener and, especially, the much-loved second set “Halley’s Comet.” The latter of these is another extended sound quest, beginning with a typical (for the period) journey into the world of space funk before carving out a segment of calm, spontaneous compositional beauty. This is why “cow funk”, as this type of jamming is often labeled, is often misrepresentative of the period. Many, if not most, of the strongest moments on Hampton/Winston-Salem ‘97 are also the mellowest. However, the tight groove-based experiments act as a launch pad for these moments, allowing the band to travel deeper through the pulsing beats and layered soundscapes.
All three concerts here have their own rewards and the way to fully enjoy this box set is to sit and listen to each in its entirety, seeing the evolution of the sound play out over the three shows. Each night is another experiment. You can hear the band’s excitement to explore, such as with Anastasio calling out “Stay on ‘F’” to Gordon before the “Halley’s jam” ensues, or with the emergence of the funk instrumental “Black Eyed Katy”—the only song to appear twice on the box set.
On the third night, the band switches venues, but the move fails to impede their creative flow. Fueled by the previous two performances, the November 23 show from Winston-Salem carries a distinct energy that seems almost tappable. The first set gets the full treatment with a one of the furthest explorations of “Black Eyed Katy,” and a far reaching krautrock jam on “Stash.” But, as with the many shows on this tour, there is a central highlight of the night, and in Winston-Salem that highlight is the 30 minute second set “Bathtub Gin.” Anastasio’s midrangey, wah-heavy guitar riffs lead the jam through a wailing solo for several minutes out of the gate, but eventually, as with the funk, the music reaches for the cosmos and a near-ambient space groove emerges. A different launch pad is used to reach a similar place, and before long another segment of spontaneous composition emerges with the band riffing off Anastasio’s octave-dropped melody, while setting the coarse for the astral trails. The level of interconnectedness shows Phish at one of its tightest points, and it’s clear by now that the transformation has fully taken hold.
This is why Hampton/Winston-Salem ’97 is an essential piece of not only Phish history, but recorded improvisational music: adventures as far-reaching as these have rarely been seen on the rock stage. They were still operating with the same vision of the past, but were realizing it in an entirely new way and seeing how far they could push it each and every night. Before a year would pass, the band would be exploring a new sound built off the foundations of this one, and with these three consecutive performances we see this transitional phase at its peak. An understanding of Phish can only be known through the heights reached in their greatest live concerts, and Hamton/Salem ’97, for many fans, represents the apex of that.
The version of “Bathtub Gin” performed by Phish on December 7, 1999 at the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland, Maine, is not one that follows the typical grain. Instead, the jam charts a course built upon a celestial, ambient undercurrent that glides beneath the minimalist playing from each of the members. It’s a lesson in patience and communication. But, what stands out most about this version, as is so often the case with Phish, is the almost impossible combination of Fishman’s calypso drum beat paired with the psychedelic direction of the jam. It’s almost soca-like, yet Fish maintains a delicate groove that carries a sense of motion, directing the band through a sort of musical journey. Atop Page’s sheets of synth-y sound, Trey adds subtle, repetitive trills that gradually build until the jam organically slips into the welcoming arms of “Simple.” Enjoy the weekend, folks.
“Bathtub Gin” > “Simple” (12/7/99)
Tonight, Phish will host a benefit to help Vermont recover from the recent devastation caused by hurricane Irene. As many are aware, tonight’s show is also a major homecoming as this is Phish’s first concert in their homestate since Coventry in 2004. To accompany those heading out on the road or for those watching from home, I’ve prepared an hour long playlist of Phish jams from the state of Vermont. The intro you will hear takes a clip played at the opening of the very first show the band played with the name Phish and combines it with a segment from the Coventry soundcheck. Safe travels to all.
See you in Vermont!
2. Wilson > Peaches en Regalia (9/13/88)
3. David Bowie (2/3/91)
4. Clod (8/29/87)
5. Tweezer > Walk Away (7/22/93)
6. Divided Sky (11/19/92)
7. Harry Hood (8/21/87)
It was two years ago today that I launched this blog. To celebrate, I’ve assembled a playlist featuring some jams that I’ve been listening to lately. Thanks to everyone for reading and supporting the blog!
2. The Slip – Broke the Promised Land (7.14.11)
3. Phish – Tweezer (6.29.94)
4. Grateful Dead – Playin’ in the Band [excerpt] (5.13.73)
5. Woods – To Have in the Home (6.17.11)
6. Phish – Storage Jam [excerpt] (7.2.11)
7. Phish – Piper (10.2.99)
8. Grateful Dead – Mountains of the Moon > Dark Star (2.22.69)
[Psych art by Max Capacity]
Phish’s festival soundchecks have, over time, become something of lore. Starting back in ’96 at The Clifford Ball, the band used these coveted soundcheck slots as somewhat of a primer for the following days’ musical happenings. Free to explore, Phish is able to stretch out as they would have in the endless days and nights spent practicing above Languedoc’s garage in Winooski, VT. With ample time to set dials and knobs to their suited positions, they become more like extended jam sessions displaying Phish’s sound and direction-du-jour. In short, Phish gets to be Phish. And we get to listen.
So when the quartet took to the stage to test their equipment on Thursday afternoon at Watkins Glen, fans quickly gathered around radios and nearby fences surrounding the concert grounds. Situated on the very site of the Grateful Dead’s legendary 1973 soundcheck, the music carried an added significance, especially for your humble narrator. And adding to the excitement was the not so distant memory of Phish’s soundcheck at Festival 8—arguably one of the finest pieces of music since the band’s return. All factors combined, this was a special moment and Phish rose to the occasion.
Many wonder why the band chooses not to stretch out as often in the live setting as they used to. It’s an issue Mike Gordon recently addressed in one of his hotline messages, and one that has followed the band ever since the first shows of 3.0 were played at Hampton in ’09. But during the soundcheck, Phish opened the doors to its current sound, or direction—or whatever you want to call it—and for a short time, we heard what it was like for the band to simply…jam. What followed were two of the most prolonged and transcendent pieces of music in recent history.
The first segment opened the soundcheck, growing out of a section of spacey noodling before giving way to a groove that could have come straight off the rarely mentioned Victor Disc. This jam opened the eye on Phish’s recently explored psych-jazz sound—Trey taking more of a rhythmic role, Page’s organ way up in the mix, Mike digging in on a near-walking bass line (Jon was already a jazz drummer)—and for over 10 minutes, they grooved on this sound exploring its tunnels and arroyos.
“Soundcheck Jam I” (6.30.11)
But the true magic came after the quartet had warmed up, tested their instruments and ran through a few typical soundcheck numbers. Perhaps in preparation for Saturday night’s secret set, Phish shot straight for the cosmos, treating us to the special soundcheck we had all hoped and wished for (some of us maybe have even dreamt of it).
Channeling the energy from the Dead’s soundcheck “jam,” Phish patiently brought us into their world showing that nothing is missing from the band in this day and age. No lack of drugs, no lack of intent, no lack of ideas. Comparable to previous festival soundchecks, albeit different, this was a section of music that—and I hate to call it this—was purely 3.0.
The jam breaks into several sections over the course of 20 minutes, each exploring a distinctly different sound. The first starts as a gentle, melodic section with Trey playing some outside, phrygian patterns (avec whale-call). It noodles around, eventually flowing into a dark, Krautrock-like jam with Page hammering it out on Rhodes and Trey looping and reversing drones atop. Several measures of ambient space follow, before the second, Fishman-led, segment emerges.
Without hesitation, Mike immediately latches onto one of Fish’s trademark odd-time signatures and, before long, a new song, somewhat reminiscent of a blusier “Ghost,” comes to life. This second jam, which could have been plucked from an fusion-era Little Feat groove, would be considered, by most, to be more of a “Type I” jam with Trey soloing above a chord progression. But without a song to depart from, it was simply Phish showing one of its many faces, and one that they seem to enjoy wearing more frequently at this stage in their career. For the next portion of the jam, it was a literal bliss-out with Trey soaring above the ultra-tight groove until it came to a somewhat abrupt finish.
For many of us (Deadheads), the moment the Watkins Glen rumor came on the Phish radar, our minds immediately turned to the soundcheck. While it may not have counted for “stats purposes” we were able to sit as the band openly improvised without any limitations or restraints. The festival soundchecks are the full moon to Phish’s inner wolf, and each time they rise to the calling. This time around, it was no different.
“Soundcheck Jam II” (6.30.11)
Download the Watkins Glen Soundcheck via the Phish Spreadsheet here.
[Psych art via Max Capacity. Click the picture for full effect]
Pulling into Watkins Glen last Thursday, our car went into deep silence when the sounds of some unknown band graced our ears over The Bunny’s airwaves. The Ducktails-like guitar tone combined with the spacey psych effects sounded to us like the work of Matt Mondanile—but actually turned out to be a late ’90s group from Vermont. Before DJ Rubes could identify the song, Phish took to the stage for their soundcheck and all we heard was “I’m fading out…I’m fading out…Phish is soundchecking.” Determined to find the source of this music I had heard, I went to the Bunny Radio’s facebook page and discovered it to be “Summersong” by a group called Wide Wail. The song comes off an album called Like It Never Was, released in ’98, but now seems to have fallen into relative obscurity. Numerous searches later and all I can find is this single song, which I ripped from the Bunny broadcasts. Wide Wail – “Summersong” If you have any Wide Wail in your collection, or know more about them, please share! I am eager to know more about this band.
Pulling into Watkins Glen last Thursday, our car went into deep silence when the sounds of some unknown band graced our ears over The Bunny’s airwaves. The Ducktails-like guitar tone combined with the spacey psych effects sounded to us like the work of Matt Mondanile—but actually turned out to be a late ’90s group from Vermont. Before DJ Rubes could identify the song, Phish took to the stage for their soundcheck and all we heard was “I’m fading out…I’m fading out…Phish is soundchecking.”
Determined to find the source of this music I had heard, I went to the Bunny Radio’s facebook page and discovered it to be “Summersong” by a group called Wide Wail. The song comes off an album called Like It Never Was, released in ’98, but now seems to have fallen into relative obscurity. Numerous searches later and all I can find is this single song, which I ripped from the Bunny broadcasts.
Wide Wail – “Summersong”
If you have any Wide Wail in your collection, or know more about them, please share! I am eager to know more about this band.
With only a day remaining until we depart for Super Ball IX, I’ve put together a few things to help prepare you for your journey. Also, be sure to check out my previous post on the original Watkins Glen Festival for some background info. Below, you’ll find streams for the Dead’s soundcheck from the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in ’73, a 2 hour playlist to take with you on the road as well as a handful of photos from the original fest. For those travelling from near or far, we wish you safe travels and hope to see you on site this weekend. Every person in attendance at Super Ball IX this weekend should be familiar with the Dead’s famous Watkins Glen soundcheck from 1973. As I’ve previously mentioned, the soundcheck took place on the day prior to the festival, July 27. Legendary concert promoter Bill Graham allowed fans to watch the soundchecks, and by the time the Dead took the stage a sizable crowd of onlookers had gathered. Deciding to treat the fans, the Dead played an impromptu two-set performance featuring an 18 minute “Bird Song” and a 21 minute free-form jam. The latter holds up as one of the band’s finest moments of all time. “Watkins Glen Soundcheck Jam” (7.27.73) In addition, I’ve assembled a 2 hour playlist to take with you to the festival. The selections include a few nods to the original fest and plenty more great jams. I think you’ll find it to be a fine accompaniment for the drive or in the campground between sets. Playlist: To check out more of Grant’s wonderful photos, head to his flicker page here.
1. The Allman Bros. – Revival
2. Dungen – Solen Siger Upp Del1 & Del2
3. White Denim – Burnished
4. CCR – Ramble Tamble
5. Akron/Family – River
6. Megafaun – Carolina Days
7. The Band – We Can talk
8. Boz Scaggs – I’m Easy (feat. Skydog)
9. Rolling Stones – We Love You (feat. Lennon & McCartney)
10. Ducktails – Killin’ the Vibe
11. Telegraph Avenue – Something Going
12. CAN – I Want More
13. Talking Heads – Slipper People
14. The Slip – Get Me With Fuji
15. Yellowbirds – Pulaski Bridge
16. Marco Benevento – Atari (feat. Sam Cohen)
17. Tripsichord Music Box – On the Last Ride
18. Grateful Dead – Eyes of the World (7.28.73)
19. Built to Spill – Else
20. Alex Bleeker and the Freaks – Animal Tracks
21. Phish – Whipping Post (7.25.99)
22. Real Estate – Suburban Beverage
With only a day remaining until we depart for Super Ball IX, I’ve put together a few things to help prepare you for your journey. Also, be sure to check out my previous post on the original Watkins Glen Festival for some background info. Below, you’ll find streams for the Dead’s soundcheck from the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in ’73, a 2 hour playlist to take with you on the road as well as a handful of photos from the original fest. For those travelling from near or far, we wish you safe travels and hope to see you on site this weekend.
Every person in attendance at Super Ball IX this weekend should be familiar with the Dead’s famous Watkins Glen soundcheck from 1973. As I’ve previously mentioned, the soundcheck took place on the day prior to the festival, July 27. Legendary concert promoter Bill Graham allowed fans to watch the soundchecks, and by the time the Dead took the stage a sizable crowd of onlookers had gathered. Deciding to treat the fans, the Dead played an impromptu two-set performance featuring an 18 minute “Bird Song” and a 21 minute free-form jam. The latter holds up as one of the band’s finest moments of all time.
“Watkins Glen Soundcheck Jam” (7.27.73)
In addition, I’ve assembled a 2 hour playlist to take with you to the festival. The selections include a few nods to the original fest and plenty more great jams. I think you’ll find it to be a fine accompaniment for the drive or in the campground between sets.
To check out more of Grant’s wonderful photos, head to his flicker page here.
With the first leg of Phish’s 2011 Summer Tour in the bag, it’s that time to look back on the trail of highlights. This was an interesting tour that saw the band wearing two faces. One was the band we saw in Bethel and again in the Midwest—a fearless improvising machine taking risks at nearly every corner. And then there was the other Phish, one that favored energy over exploration. Without a doubt, the band continues to grow tighter and the jams continue to become more interesting. But what leads to this inconsistency is anybody’s guess.
For your listening pleasure, I’ve assembled a collection of jams (by no means does this include every one) that I felt stood out among the rest on this tour. If I’ve left out any, let me know.
Kill Devil Falls (5.27 Bethel Woods)
The first extended jam on “KDF” came in the first set of the first night at Bethel Woods (lotsa firsts). Early on, Trey locks into a syncopated, stacatto pattern and loops it through his Boomerang. The loop carries on underneath as he guides the band into type II territory with soaring, sustained notes.
Waves (5.27 Bethel Woods)
Right from the “on the wind and under water” refrain, the band dove deep into type-II improv. Page takes the lead early on moving from piano to Rhodes. The rest of the band seems to ebb and flow beneath his playing as the jam develops into an adventurous ambient journey. Nearing the end, a segment emerges similar to a fall ’94-era reverby breakdown (ala the Fox ’94 “Tweezer.”). This remains one of my personal favorite moments of the tour.
Halley’s Comet (5.28 Bethel Woods)
The first jammed out “Halley’s” of 3.0 appeared on the second night of Bethel. As many of us stood wondering if the song would finally go somewhere, our minds were appeased when the band tore into a section of dark type II jamming midway through the first set. And it wasn’t your typical 3.0 jamming—the jam evolved into something completely new and original. This was not only one of the best moments of tour, but one of the most exciting as well.
Ginteca (5.28 Bethel Woods)
Another first-set highlight from night 2 at Bethel Woods. Trey and Page can be heard riffing back and forth at each other before the jam leads into an attempted “Golden Age” segue that becomes a “Manteca” jam instead.
Makisupa Policeman > Harry Hood (5.28 Bethel Woods)
This playful “Makisupa” started the tour long band member “house” references. And upon entering Fishman’s abode, the band treated us to one of the finest “Hoods” in 3.0. Patient, collective improv of the best kind.
No Quarter (6.1 Holmdel)
Phish’s debut of this epic Led Zeppelin tune (check out Phish.net’s excellent song history) came out of nowhere following an ambient “Tweezer” outro. The stage crew came on and switched Page’s vocal mic into his rotary Leslie speaker giving an effect similar to the original.
Down With Disease (6.3 Clarkston)
Many jams in 3.0 have a routine of fading into ambient territory and then trailing off into another song. This outing was different as Fishman picks up on a groove and revives the jam with a second helping of energy. The band eventually finds its way into a jam on John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” A special moment, indeed. (Check out the “Birds of a Feather” from 6.30.00 for another “Love Supreme” jam).
David Bowie (6.3. Clarkston)
One of the more psychedelic “Bowie” intros came out of an atypical “Fluffhead” outro late in the second set at Pine Knob. Almost like a mid-80s “Space” the band eases its way into the song with Trey using a rarely utilized midi-effect. The jam is another display of the increased patience exhibited on the first leg of the tour and sees the quartet making its way through yet another buttery adventure. The jam weaves between dark minor sections and bright modal jamming with standout group interplay.
Sneakin’ Sally Thru The Alley (6.4 Blossom)
The post-vocal jam quickly dips into plinko mode, but with more complexity than others. The band finds comfort in this funky, looped madness eventually departing for a dark drone section that follows. Trey switches on his octave drop effect with a thick fuzz that meshes with Page’s synth with a strange, almost lo-fi sound.
The Curtain (With) (6.10 Camden)
Many have noticed Trey’s increased use of reverb and delay during certain solos. This is the newest pedal in his rig at work—the TCM-Nova Repeater—which gives his tone more of an ethereal, Jerry-like sound. “The Curtain” jam was one of Trey’s finest moments from the tour and one that saw him pouring his heart into a solo like we hadn’t seen in some time. The whole band seems to move as a unit throughout, eventually arriving at a near-telepathic modal shift.
Rock & Roll > Ghost (6.17 Charlotte)
Following a spacey “Rock & Roll” jam, the opening notes of the tour’s second “Ghost” rang out with Trey’s new edgy tone. The jam takes off with more funk than many recent versions and before long Mike and Trey latch onto a pattern that pulls the jam into a bright, major section. Trey’s recent West-Montgomery inspired octave riffs are all over this one.
Split Open and Melt (6.18 Raleigh)
This version of “Split” features another near-telepathic modal shift toward the beginning of the jam. Just as the band seems to be digging into the song’s typically dark structure, all of a sudden some magical queue leads them into a blissful major jam. Another four-part journey that stands out as one of my favorite jams from the entire tour.
Sand (6.19 Portsmouth)
Some of the first stop-start jamming we’ve heard from the band in some time. Easily the top version from the tour with top notch clavinet work from the tour’s clear MVP, Mr. Page McConnell.
Light (6.19 Portsmouth)
This was a last minute addition. I didn’t want to include it, because, to be honest, it’s not all that special. But I feel it’s worthy of inclusion solely based on the four part interplay that goes on throughout part of the jam. Easily some of the best in recent history. It seems Trey tries to jump into “Horse” at one point, but Mike won’t have any of it. There is one spot in particular that is just amazing, and likely the reason it has a place on this list.
After Phish’s second night at Bethel Woods, many fans made the trek over to Equinunk, PA to catch the Marco Benevento Trio’s late night set. On a small stage in the Equinunk campground, Marco, Dave Dreiwitz (Ween) and drummer Andrew Borger delivered a high-energy set loaded with exploratory improv. Here’s a clip of “RISD” from Marco’s recent album Between the Needles and Nightfall. Thanks to our good friends The Royal Potato Family for sharing the clip.
For nearly a year now, I’ve been championing Superhuman Happinness as one of the most promising up and coming acts on the scene. Loaded with a plethora of musical talent and creativity, this Brooklyn-based band is a fearless improvising machine with the tightness of James Brown’s band on a good night. Some of you may have actually seen some of the members this past Halloween when frontman Stuart Bogie (Antibalas, Iron & Wine, TV on the Radio) and trumpet player Eric Biondo (Beyondo, The Monkeys) joined Phish for their cover of Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus.
Last week, the good people at Royal Potato Family records released the band’s brand new 7″ containing the killer summer jam “Needles & Pins.” The song recalls Genesis and MGMT in parts and features what is easily one of the best guitar riffs of 2011 from Antibalas guitarist Luke O’Malley. Below, you can check out the brand new studio sounds of Superhuman Happiness—a band that never fails to live up to its name.
“Needles & Pins“
Phish’s 10th show at Camden, NJ’s Susquehanna Bank Center was a different outing than any we’ve seen from the band in recent memory. For one, the group leaned heavily into its early repertoire throughout the evening. The songs were mostly well played—especially complex composed sections—and it was clear Trey was taking risks with setlist choices.
Opening with “Rocky Top,” the second bluegrass cover opener in as many shows, Phish brought a different energy from the first note. The group then moved into a charging “Mike’s Groove,” again the second in as many shows, that featured one of the strongest “Weekapaugs” in 3.0. “Stash” went places, moving through dark modal sections with patient, atypical jamming. The highlight of the first set came during a soul stirring version of “The Curtain (With)” that featured a passionate, soaring solo from Trey.
The second set started off with a strong, albeit brief, ”Down with Disease.” While the jam did last, Phish took little time to reach some magical moments. It then segued seamlessly into “Free,” but from this point on the band seemed to lose its footing and the flow went with it. The combination of ”Possum,” “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars,” “Swept Away” > “Steep,” simply did not flow. While the songs were all well played, the energy failed to carry from one to the next and the magic just wasn’t there. It didn’t help that “Fluffhead” into “Joy” closed the show.
But what was different between this set and others that have fallen flat, was the playing. Trey didn’t hijack this show (or at least he didn’t seem to)—instead it seemed more like a full band effort. It was strange to see this following the energy from the first, and surely different from any Phish experience I have known.
Phish has announced a live webcast of the July 14th and 15th sold-out shows from the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater at Encore Park in Alpharetta, GA. The webcast will be offered through Livephish.com with two-day passes going for $24.99 and single day passes at $14.99. Head over to Phish.com for more info.
Wednesday’s Phish show at PNC Bank Arts Center was a major redemption for many fans who were in attendance the night prior. After two consecutive lackluster performances (Bethel 3, PNC 1), many wondered if the magic from those first two nights of tour was just an anomaly.
But last night, the band energized the show from the outset, opening with “First Tube” for the first time since Shorline ’00 (10.7.00). And onward for much of the night, Phish continued to display the willing, adventurous face that we had seen in Bethel. However, due in part to the early curfew, some jams in the second set were not given the chance to come fully into bloom and, thus, potentially great moments were lost. At times, the intent was fully there, and the path was laid for adventure.
I’ve repeatedly said that an obscure opener often leads to good things, and last night was no exception. Throughout the first set, the pace never faltered and we were treated to interesting, well-played versions of “Stealing Time,” “Jibboo” and “7 Below.” The highlight of the set came toward the end in the form of a very outside excursion that emerged from the “Melt” jam. Much of the improv appeared to be led by Fishman as he guided the band through various tempo changes and odd time signatures. Although at times, it seemed more like four musicians soloing at the same time rather than collective improv.
Set two can be summed up quite easily: “‘Tweezer’ into ‘No Quarter.’” ”Tweezer” opened the second and placed Trey’s new tone on display as he let out caterwauling cracks and wails over the groove. While the jam never fully departed, the ending eventually lead into a segment of dark ambience that gave way to the ominous opening notes of Led Zeppelin’s epic “No Quarter.” As usual, Page took on Plant’s vocal duties and even had his mic run through his rotary Leslie organ speaker to capture the effect of the original. Trey nailed Page’s guitar lines, and later teased the lead riff in “Ghost” and “BDTNL.”
But following this segment, Trey again appeared to hijack the jams from his band mates and many songs were cut short. At several points it seemed as though the band was trying to stretch out, but the jam would be aborted for another song rather than venturing further out. “Twist” reached a point of transcendent jamming toward the end, but instead of seeing it through, the opening of “Ghost” emerged. Now, I will say that this segue was smooth and did not seem forced at all, but the lost potential was disappointing. The most frustrating of these came when the long-awaited “Ghost” was aborted for the second “BDTNL” in five shows.
There’s no question Phish has taken the next step, but this inconsistency has left myself and many others wondering.
PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ
Set 1: First Tube, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Camel Walk, Heavy Things, Gotta Jibboo, Wilson > Seven Below > Kill Devil Falls, Axilla > Split Open and Melt, Suzy Greenberg
Set 2: Tweezer > No Quarter, Carini > Piper > Twist > Ghost > Backwards Down the Number Line
Encore: Show of Life > Tweezer Reprise
 Phish debut.
 No Quarter teases from Trey.
Notes: This gig featured the Phish debut of Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter. Trey subsequently teased No Quarter in both Ghost and Number Line.
SOURCE: Busman Bsc1 (Hypers)>HYDRA silver Shorty XLR’s>Fostex FR-2LE(Busman T-mod) @24/96
Tuesday, Phish made their way to Holmdel, NJ for the band’s first performance at the venue since 2000. The intimate, ball-park style venue is a throwback classic summer shed (as oppose to Bethel’s state of the art design that spoiled us this weekend) with terrific sound and a cool flying-saucer like roof in the pavilion. But none of these factors helped to energize last night’s performance, which at times seemed uninspired and choppy. After the final night in Bethel remained somewhat standard, many had expected PNC to “blow up.” But this was not the case at all.
The first set kicked off with a charging version of “Chalkdust” but then quickly changed pace with “Roggae.” This choppy flow continued to run through the first set and prevented the music from fully taking flight. For much of the set, Trey appeared to hijack the jams from his band mates leading them through guitar-driven type I as oppose to the exploratory, group-led improv we witnessed in Bethel.
When Mike would make an attempt to depart from the structure, Trey would lasso the music back into place. This resulted in Mike seeming noticeably frustrated following “Sand,” and I couldn’t blame him. The playing was far from tight at points, and even suffered from a massive flub from Trey at the beginning of “Divided.” This was not the tight group that we saw jamming as a unit in Bethel, and many of us were left scratching our heads at setbreak.
Set two, while inhibited by an early curfew, also failed to fully take off. Aside from a seemingly forced jam on “After Midnight” and a patch of ambient type II following “Drowned,” the set had few highlights worthy of mention. Page’s solo on “Maze” is worth your time—his playing has been downright nasty this tour. But aside from that, let this one slip between the cracks. Let’s just hope the band has its landing gear working tonight.
PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ
Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, Roggae, Punch You In the Eye, The Moma Dance > Rock and Roll, Sand, Tube > The Divided Sky, Character Zero
Set 2: After Midnight > Possum, Drowned > Maze, Dirt, Alaska, You Enjoy Myself
Notes: Trey dedicated Sand to “Max.” Fire contained alternate lyrics “move on over, let Cactus take over!”
There’s no denying MGMT’s blatant connection to the jam scene. But did you know that co-founding member Andrew VanWyngarden played in a highscool jamband of his own? While attending White Station High School in Memphis, TN VanWyngarden joined up with Hank Sullivant (of the acclaimed indie band The Whigs as well as a touring guitarist for MGMT and later Kuroma) who was attending Memphis University School at the time. The two formed Accidental Mersh, a funk-inspired jamband that recalls many of the jam scene’s most prominent acts. As VanWyngarden told Relix magazine in the June 2010 cover story:
“My sister got me into Phish and that is pretty much all I listened to to from the time I was 12 through high school.”
In its brief period of existence,—around 2000-2001—Accidental Mersh quickly grew into a popular local act on the Memphis scene releasing two albums during that time. Below you’ll find streams for two of the songs off the band’s debut album Mirror Israeli, along with a link to download the full album. This is a terrific sounding, 2000-era jamband record with killer guitar parts and infectious horn lines. I think many of you will enjoy it.
Listen as “Trailmixx” moves through several measures of Phish-inspired jamming into an unmistakable nod to the Biscuits circa ’99. Also notice the similarity of Sullivant’s solo to the one from “DWD.”
“San Diego Psychocity“
DGB is proud to announce its first giveaway ever. Thanks to the kind people at Phish Inc., we’ll be sending out a copy of Phish’s Live in Utica DVD, which hits stores today, to one of our lucky readers. All you have to do to enter is head over to the DGB Facebook page, “like” us and comment on this post with 5 songs (in order) that you think Phish will open up the summer tour with in Bethel. If one of the songs you pick is chosen by the band as the opener on Friday in Bethel, you will be entered to win. Now, because there will likely be some overlap, your choices will be weighted. So someone who has the correct opener in their #1 spot will win over someone who has it in their #5 spot. Also, the total number of songs you pick that are played in the show will act as the second tie-breaker, so pick wisely. Winners will be announced next week. Best of luck!
Click here to head over to DGB’s Facebook page and post your guess!
Here are in the home stretch of the Phish off-season and, like many of you, I find myself listening to much more of the band’s music. So to go along with the recently released Live Bait vol. 4, I’ve assembled a special 2-hour long Phish playlist for your listening pleasure. You can stream the playlist or download it and take it with you on the road this summer.
For those of you headed to Bethel this weekend, I’ve also posted a message from the venue’s promoters along with some details worth noting. I think you’ll find them to be quite fan-friendly.
“The Home Stretch“
David Bowie > Lifeboy (6.24.95)
Bathtub Gin (9.22.99)
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (7.30.03)
Gumbo > Sanity (8.15.98)
Wolfman’s Brother (11.18.98)
Bethel Woods Details:
Fans are welcome to Bring:
Blankets, backpacks, small soft cooler (cloth/bag style), hand-held umbrellas
Cameras that do not have the capability of multiple lenses are permitted, except when prohibited by the artist
Water – two 20 oz. factory sealed plastic bottles of water per person — water is the only beverage permitted into Bethel Woods Center for the Arts concerts
Food — one 1 gallon clear zip lock bag per person
Strollers or carriages for small children
[via Bethel Woods Center]
To all phans attending Phish @ Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. My name is Andrew Jacobson and I’m a member of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts for the past 2 years. Bethel Woods is one of the most beautiful venues in the country. Alan Gerry, who created Bethel Woods, created an atmosphere that is very friendly, bucolic settings, and maximum fans concert’s experience. Take advantage and check out the Woodstock Museum, it’s one of a kind experience. For all of you music lovers, the museum is a must see! The staff of Bethel Woods are some of the most down to earth people you’ll ever meet. Therefore, I would like to request to all phans to respect the staff of Bethel Woods. Please follow their instructions, as they are trying to create the best concert experience for all fans. If all phans behave and respect the venue, the more likely Phish will be able to come back in the future. Personally, for me, this is a dream come true. Enjoy the weekend and have a safe, pleasant weekend!
Last night, a new Phish discussion forum kicked off on Twitter called Game Tapes Forum. This new version of a classic taper listening party included myself, Scotty B. from YEMBlog, Type II Cast panelist Eric Wyman and DJ Wade “Wyllys” Wilby. For the first trial run, we analyzed and discussed set III of 1991.12.31 over twitter using the hashtag #gametapes to collect all of our tweets in the same spot.
Following each Game Tapes Forum you will be able to find some of the best comments or discoveries here on DGB. This will become a regular thing where we will tackle shows that are less talked about, and aren’t as familiar to our ears. Next time we’ll give more notice and provide a download link for the show well in advance so that anyone who wishes to listen along may do so. I hope many of you will join in as we pioneer this new and exciting concept. Find the comments and the setlist below.
Set 3: Wilson, The Squirming Coil, Tweezer, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove
Encore: Lawn Boy, Rocky Top, Tweezer Reprise
Nearing the end of Phish’s ’97 Summer Europe Tour, the band rolled into Nuremberg after playing a pair of shows at the legendary Paradiso club in Amsterdam. The shows from the weed capital are well-known, but much less discussed is the following night’s performance which boasts an exploratory 30 minute version of “Ghost” (hereby known as “The Ghost of Nuremberg”).
This tour saw the band riding a wave of new material that included “Ghost,” “Twist,” “Piper,” “Dog Stole Things” and many more.”Ghost’s” minimalist structure and bass-heavy groove lent itself perfectly to the funk transition that was occurring, and it quickly it became a staple in the catalog. Following its genesis in Dublin on 6.13, a distinct spaciness began to appear in the jams indicating a capacity to reach beyond the funk. And after the acid-induced version that opened the show in Amsterdam on 7.1, the doors were pushed wide open for it to become the next major jam vehicle.
The next time the song appeared was on 7.3 in Nuremberg. This was the first version that fully opened up, allowing the band to truly explore its musical offerings. Over the course of 30 minutes, you’ll hear the jam transition from a funk-laden groove to a melodic section of delectable psych rock. You can hear the band’s excitement as they stretch out their new tune and toy with various themes throughout.
This particular version is also a fine example of what my pal Scotty B. from YEMblog would call a “butter jam”—meaning it modulates from minor to major (or vise versa). Listen around [17:00] as the music begins to modulate from one key to the next, leading the jam in a whole new direction above Fishman’s calypso drum beat. At [19:25] you can hear the entire group collectively change the progression as an entirely new song unfolds. Or several new songs, rather. The jam ends with a vocal reprise concluding one of the lengthier and more unique versions of “Ghost.”
Stream the song or download the full show below.
Serenadenhof, Nüremberg, Germany
Set 1: Piper > My Soul > The Divided Sky, Beauty of My Dreams, Taste, Train Song, Theme From the Bottom, Rocky Top
Set 2: Ghost > Cars Trucks Buses, Billy Breathes, Sparkle > Harry Hood > Cavern
Encore: Character Zero
Welcome back to another edition of Ambient Alarm Clock. Today we return to the Phish format, with three great jams to start off your week. All three selections come from the summer tours past, displaying the “outdoor element” at work. Without the kick-back of the indoor arenas, Phish’s music takes on an entirely different form amid the vast, open surroundings. Oh, and we’re now only 18 days away from the kick of to Summer Tour 2011! Here’s some summer jams to help pass the time.
“Runaway Jim” (7.31.97 Shoreline Amphitheater)
It was the eve of Jerry’s birthday when Phish rolled into the Dead’s former home in the summer of ’97. This version of “Runaway” payed tribute, with a 20+ minute adventure into all of the various facets of Phish’s jamming style. Later in the show, the band actually sang “Happy Birthday” during “Weekapaug.”
“Bathtub Gin” (6.23.00 Lakewood Amphitheatre)
On the first of two nights at Lakewood in 2000, Phish dropped this monstrous “Gin” early in the first set. This is a great example of Phish’s wide-open summer jamming style with the “outdoor element” heavily at work—almost went-like. Just sit back and picture the sun going down with the music soaring through the air around you…only 18 days away now.
“Theme From the Bottom” (7.26.99 Deer Creek)
Finally, we close out the day with one of my favorite versions of “Theme” from the second night at Deer Creek in ’99. Another soaring “summer jam,” that takes a turn when Mike starts laying arpeggios under Trey’s howling feedback. I find “Theme” lends itself perfectly to the outdoor setting, this being one of the best examples.
By now, you’ve probably heard of the New Jersey born indie-psych band Real Estate—whether it be through the various videos and statements I’ve posted supporting them, the Pithfork-sized buzz that follows them around or the house music leaving Phish’s performance at DCU Center on November 27, 2010 (listen to “Suburban Dogs” here). But, it’s less likely that you’ve delved some of their side-projects. So allow me to introduce to you, Alex Bleeker and The Freaks.
Alex Bleeker plays bass in Real Estate, but in his side project Alex Bleeker and the Freaks, he is the principal songwriter and rhythm guitarist. The band features a rotating cast of supporting musicians that often includes members of Real Estate, or other closely-related groups. Departing from the indie-psych sound in his primary outfit, Bleeker takes the Freaks into fuzzed out Crazyhorse-ish, Grateful Dead-esque terriroty. As he told me in a recent interview for Jambands.com:
“I think I’m the member of Real Estate that has the biggest jam background. So probably my side project, just by nature of the fact that I’m the lead songwriter, is going to be the most jammy, in a way…I’ve said in multiple other interviews that some of the first psychedelic and most experimental music I’ve ever heard were spacey jams at live Phish shows that taught me to open my ears and be patient and listen to music like that.”
Stream the opening track on The Freaks’ album “Summer” > “Epilogue” (yes, he records studio segues) along with Bleeker’s homage to the Dead, “Dead On,” below. Also, check out a live video of the Freaks performing the above mentioned segue at a show in their home state of New Jersey.
“Summer” > “Epilogue“