Wednesday, December 8, 2010

DVD Review: Phish "Live At The Legendary Alpine Valley Music Theatre" August 14th & 15th

On the six-year anniversary of Phish's catastrophic Coventry Festival, Phish returned to the steeping slopes of Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI. While Coventry was a perfect example of a band falling apart at the seams, the band's return to Alpine on August 14th and 15th, 2010 represented the complete opposite. A healthy, humbled, and joyous band playing at the top of their game. Lucky for us, Phish came prepared. Both shows were captured with seven 16:9 widescreen HD cameras and then post-edited in High Definition. The audio was recorded using 57 channels of digital multi-track, which was wonderfully mixed and mastered in 5.1 Dolby surround sound.

The film and accompanying CD focus on the first night of the weekend run with a few highlights from the 15th making the bonus footage. This release is a crystal-clear blend of all seven HD cameras working together to showcase the band immersed in their natural habitat. The smooth, patient camera transitions allow the music to be in the forefront, as it should be. Never being a fan of the quick-nauseating editing work of releases like "Live in Brooklyn" and "IT," the cinematography in Live at the Legendary Alpine Music Theatre provides a breath of fresh air that left me with nothing to complain about.

When Phish opens a show with "Tube" it's a pretty strong indicator that we are in for a ride; and we'd be wise to buckle our safety belts. The crowd fueled the quartet, as they executed first-set highlights such as the “tension and release” masterpiece "Reba,” the latest original to make it back into the rotation after a 23 year break "Fuck Your Face," and the bluesy shuffle of "Back On The Train". The set-closing "Run Like An Antelope" revealed Mike, Page, and Jon laying down a dissonance groove while Trey incorporated melodic licks over their foundation like fresh paint on a canvas.

The second set brings the Wisconsin "Grade A" dairy from start to finish. After opening with "The Sloth" Trey, Mike, Page, and Jon dove into the meat of the set with the improvisational highlight of the night, a Talking Heads esque jam out of "Disease" which effortlessly transitioned into a beautiful chordal jam before melting into the cosmic instrumental "What's The Use". The now rare "Scent Of A Mule" served as a devilishly fun landing pad before taking off with the set ending sequence of "Mike's > Dirt > Sneakin' Sally > Weakapaug." The "Sneakin' Sally" was a perfect example of the quartets current commitment to tightness with a stunning vocal breakdown reminiscent of the early days.

Following the mind-numbing second set Phish graced us with a two-song encore including the power ballad "Bug" and a cover of Bob Dylan’s "Mighty Quinn," which was perhaps a nod to The Grateful Dead who encored with "Mighty Quinn" three years in a row at Alpine from 1987-89.

Each disc is rounded out with "extras" featuring bonus material from August 15th. Highlights on the first disc include Little Feat's "On Your Way Down," a jaw-dropping performance of "Divided Sky" and the arena rock vibe of "Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan." The second disc takes from the second set of August 15th, with the free-flowing opening trio of “Ghost > Theme From The Bottom > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars".  - Justin Wendt

Live At The Legendary Alpine Valley Music Theatre is available via Phish Dry Goods. Check out the pristine editing and cinematography of this film with official previews of "Bug" and "Reba" below:

DVD Disc One
1. Tube
2. The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony
3. Suzy Greenberg
4. Funky Bitch
5. Reba
6. Fuck Your Face
7. Alaska
8. Back On The Train
9. Taste
10. When The Circus Comes
11. Lawn Boy
12. Sparkle
13. Gumbo
14. Run Like An Antelope

1. AC/DC Bag
2. On Your Way Down
3. The Divided Sky
4. Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan
5. David Bowie

DVD Disc Two
1. The Sloth
2. Down With Disease
3. What's The Use
4. Scent Of A Mule
5. Mike's Song
6. Dirt
7. Sneakin' Sally Thru The Alley
8. Weekapaug Groove
9. Bug
10. Quinn the Eskimo
11. Ghost
12. Theme From The Bottom
13. Big Black Furry Creature From Mars

CD Disc One
1. Tube >
2. The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony >
3. Suzy Greenberg
4. Funky Bitch >
5. Reba
6. Fuck Your Face
7. Alaska
8. Back On The Train
9. When The Circus Comes
10. Lawn Boy >
11. Sparkle
12. Gumbo >
13. Run Like An Antelope

CD Disc Two
1. The Sloth
2. Down With Disease >
3. What's The Use >
4. Scent Of A Mule
5. Mike's Song >
6. Dirt >
7. Sneakin' Sally Thru The Alley >
8. Weekapaug Groove
9. Bug
10. Quinn The Eskimo


Type II Episode 9: A December to Remember.


Continuing with our retrospective theme of the last few episodes, we have dedicated Episode 9 to the amazing music and stage antics that took place in December, 1995. Scotty opens by setting the historical context of this highly experimental month, laying the foundation for Tanya, Sam Steve and Scotty to share conversations about specific instances of musical and theatrical innovations that characterize the concluding month of the monster Fall Tour of 1995. The lead clip is Mike’s Song from Hershey, PA 12/1/95. Key points begin with audience participation, which was taken to the next level in ’95. To appreciate the unique relationship between Phish and their audience, 2 clips from the “Dog Log” show of 12/11/95 are played. Then Sam and Scotty engage in a spirited debate over the way Free was played at this time. Sam explains exactly what Trey is doing to create the whooshing sound heard in 2 different Free jams that are shared. This takes us to Scotty’s enthusiastic account of the awe-inspiring performance of You Enjoy Myself from Albany 12/9/95. He plays 2 clips to illustrate what an incredibly cohesive yet exploratory version of YEM went down at the Knick that night. Two more atypical versions of songs are also discussed and shared with clips: Tweezer > Slipknot! and Keyboard Cavalry, both from 12/14/95 (which became Live Phish 1). We wrap up with a final discussion of additional noteworthy moments, and take it out with the Bass Duet > La Grange from 12/29/95. It was certainly a December to Remember!
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