An entire nation turned it's eyes on Phish last night as the band embarked on their second official stream. First, a couple notes on the stream itself....
Phish doesn't do anything poorly. Ever. They are meticulous in their planning and building their own streaming platform with nugs.net is an absolute win. People in the past have calmored for a partnership with iclips or spoken highly of the recent VEVO offerings, but Phish have maintained complete control and produced a great result. As far as the technical side of things goes, last night seemed to be even more rock solid than the shows over NYE. It's the internet, you're sure to encounter a few hiccups, but last night was well exectued and much appreciated. BTW, if you were one of the scumbags who was watching via a re-stream, seriously?
On to the music.
Continuing the recent trend of choosing the opener from a sign in the audience, Trey zeroed in on someone not up front, but seemingly further back with a song far outside the rotation in Dinner and a Movie. The odd song is propelled by the fact that it's not being played every other night and hearing something "new" is a wondeful treat. Keep the signs coming, and be creative. If I see someone with a Possum sign, I will tackle them. Speaking of Possum, it wouldn't be 2011 if we didn't get another version. Preceeded by a MOMA Dance that found Trey stretching his legs on the solo a little, we had yet another Possum. This song must die. Why? There are two theories. Holdsworth needs the royalty checks or there's some inside joke. A perfunctory Cities led into Fluffhead. While it is easy to criticize the band's repetitiveness and unwillingness to go far off the expected path with more frequency, you can not criticize the work they have done inside the main themes of the individual songs. Trey especially, has found amazing jam spaces in the oldest of songs. Divided, Fluffhead, Curtain, they all have featured tremendously unique and amazing performances. Tuesday night was no different. Highlighted by amazing Clod section, Trey breathed new life into one of the oldest songs. These moments are becoming more frequent and should be commended. Fluff seemed to light a fire under the band as they launched into a very groovy Ocelot (a song that is sneaky good) and continued the bluegrass trend with the peppy Ginseng Sullivan. The final strecth of the stanza would bring the heat though. While Kill Devil Falls didn't push as far as some previous versions, like Ocelot, it excelled inside its own skin. The second Bathtub Gin in as many nights, the first time since 11-15/16-91, a compact but powerful jam erupted. One that would have been a great moment to leave the stage and rest for Set 2. But Trey had other ideas, conversing with Page and Mike they launched into Light Up Or Leave Me Alone. In what may be the best "Pound for Pound" jam of the entire tour, Light Up went so far and so deep in such a short amount of time. Honestly it caught me by surprise. One minute, we're singing the chorus and then BAM! All of the sudden we're in shredsville (population Trey). Truly amazing, not Light Up for sure...more like Walk Away with more fire. Despite the last two songs the band pressed even further with the de facto set closer Cavern. Great first set. I heard mixed reviews, but I can't hear that. Outside of Possum and Cities, it's top notch.
Second set began with the now heavy rotation Carini. In 2010 the song morphed into a tremendous jam vehicle with major jam sequences that were unique and amazing. In 2011, it's standard at best. The jam started to push a little and then tried to orchestrate a full segue into Sand, but through the magic of the live video you could see Trey try to clue Mike into what he was doing, but alas it was no use. Mike didn't get the message and Carini ended in a loud thud. GuyForget from OnlinePhishTour referred to it as a ->| transition. The Sand that followed was once again powerful, but well within the confines of the song. DWD however pushed into the magnificent territory we found in Michigan. With a similar jam structure, the song began at 100mph and slowly worked its way down into a dark dissonant space that was held for quite a while as they loaded up for Maze. Pure power, Maze was the kind of song that blows the roof off the joints. A four song segment that didn't push any boundaries but was high energy and well executed (minus the segue out of Carini). The remainder of the set followed in the footsteps of so many second sets this tour. Predictable and uninspired. Only Trey's solo in Bug stood out amongst the Meatstick > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Bug > A Day in the Life > Run Like an Antelope stretch. The Antelope being the worst offender, it was lifeless and boring lacking even the, equally predictable, teasing of previous songs in the set. Yet another run out the clock situation for my ears. Any song other a song that closes every other set would have been a welcomed change. Even my prediction of Shine A Light would have been better.
The encore however was an embodiment of all that is right with Phish. A blistering version of Quinn The Eskimo that found a slight off path jam segment that more like Loving Cup than a Bob Dylan tune, was a great ending to the show.
Unless you are a hockey fan, we'll see you again tonight!