Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Jambands dot com: Phish’s Summer Tour 2010, Continued: Great Songs, Less Jamming, But Does It Matter
IT has been said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. Dancing about photographs of architecture, or writing about a live musical performance, is perhaps even more absurd, when you have not experienced that performance or that architecture in the multi-dimensional world, with your eyes and ears wide open and your senses fully engaged. But sometimes that’s the best one can do, and whether you’re a fan of architecture, dancing or writing, Phish’s music this tour — with its focus on songs more than jams — may nevertheless feed your soul.
Phish continued their Summer Tour in August after a month-long hiatus with three shows at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, California, followed by pairs of shows in Telluride, Colorado (Telluride Town Hall), Noblesville, Indiana (Deer Creek, now known as the “Verizon Wireless Music Center”), East Troy, Wisconsin (Alpine Valley), and Wantagh, New York (Jones Beach). Although this “second leg” of the tour contained far fewer bustouts and far more repeats than the first leg of the tour in June and early July, which is discussed here, Phish continued to deliver the goods to its fans this month. But those “goods” typically contained less improvisation than Phish has performed in most of its shows in the last 20 years. Whether you think that’s good, or bad, please read on. Judging a Phish show by the length of its songs makes as much sense as judging a website by the scheme of its colors. As informative as limited information may be, being somewhat ignorant is still ignorant, and anything less than a shrewd perspective is ill-advised. That said, the claims by some that Phish outdid themselves yet again on this tour are adorable, but readicculus.
|photo courtesy of abby fox|
Set two charged to life with “The Sloth” (for us über-geeks, completing a quadruple nipple between tonight and night one of Deer Creek…yeah, I guess that doesn’t count), an auspiciously menacing opener to whet our appetites. Chances are, if you’re taking the time to read this well after the event, you’ve already heard about what happened next. For me, “Down With Disease”>“What’s The Use?” represented the answer to a fundamental question that had plagued me right up until that moment: will Phish ever again play a jam that satisfies the cravings of this diehard mid-90s head? I’m talking about the kind of jam where if you just walked in, you’d have no idea what song it is, but the music has purpose, weight, theme after glorious, spontaneous theme, and then before you even realize there was a segue, you’re inside another song. It was total musical gratification of the kind only Phish can deliver.
A fantastic write-up from the folks over at Online Phish Tour today, complete with audio samples.
|photo courtesy abby fox|
I feel people must be reminded about this aspect of Trey that made Phish who they are. It's not just one specific era of Phish, it spanned the shorter songs of early days, the blazing rock of 93-96 and the funk of 97-98, arguably all the way until the hiatus. So, when people say "this is just how he plays now, he plays differently in each era and year", you can say, "no, I'm talking about a core attribute to Trey's playing--not his tone, effects or length of jams". This is far more important than any of those three things.
I am going to provide a few clips from the past that highlight Trey attacking songs and creating patterns for the rest of the band to build off of. It was a blast editing these clips. None are longer than 3:00, most being between 45 seconds and 1.5 minutes. Each one is worth listening to the entire clip, I cut it so everything in the clip is important. I hope you enjoy analyzing this as much as I do. Show downloads will be provided under each sound clip
I’ll never forget the calls I got about Umphrey’s McGee’s performance at The Tabernacle in Atlanta back on February 6th telling me what a special show had taken place and that I needed to hear the show pronto. While the music holds up on tape, it’s tough to get a feel from the audio of the band/audience interaction that made this night so incredible. Thanks to the band and longtime friend of HT and UM LD Jefferson Waful we can finally see the inside story of that magical evening in the ATL.
|photo courtesy of abby fox|
Each time Phish took “Number Line” outside the box before Jones Beach, they made distinct musical shifts, stepping away from the song’s feel-good textures into something wholly different. But when Phish drove their modern anthem on a tour-ending trek, they took the song’s theme and rhythm into the ether with a more fluid start-to-finish excursion than ever before. The band played through the initial composed jam with a more relaxed feel than many of their routine, shreddier versions. While trotting this linear path, Phish began to peel away layers, forming a variant musical plane while keeping one foot in the song. Trey wove an original melody that pulled the band with him, beginning to drift from structure; but it wasn’t until he cut through the music with power-rhythm chords that knew we knew were in for a ride.
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