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Alpharetta 2 Recap

Posted 3 years ago by J_D_G - 165 comments Link: http://phi.sh/b/4df98721

Samba in the Rain

Wednesday night in Georgia, Phish played like a nostalgia act—a band older than its years, still possessing sharp technical skills but almost utterly disinterested creatively. Like a great boxer who tours the country knocking out pretenders in exhibition bouts, or a veteran stage actor who spends 15 years playing the same part in a hit show, Phish this night seemed to be a band with great powers that was fully satisfied with pleasant mediocrity.

After fans gritted out a 50-minute mid-first-set delay due to an extreme storm, the band rewarded them with a string of greatest hits, each version essentially interchangeable with any other recent version. If not for a stellar version of "Timber" in which Trey totally raged, the most interesting part of tonight's first set was when Trey started talking over "Mound" to inform the crowd of the impending weather delay. It was spontaneous, it was unexpected, it was different. it was interesting.

A close reading reveals exceptions—a particularly raucous Page solo in "Suzy Greenberg," during a tour when each and every "Suzy" features a raucous solo; a "Tweezer" that jumped right into a murky jam before taking the first available exit in favor of a tossed-off "Julius"; a "David Bowie" with some nice, dark interplay between Trey and Mike before jarringly skipping ahead to the closing crescendo; a "Gotta Jibboo" with a particularly fiery, if short, Trey solo--but this is cold comfort to fans who got into Phish because of the sense of wild improvisational abandon with which it frequently played in 1993 through 2000, plus 2003 and 2004. Sure, perhaps it's unfair to take this one ten-year period of the band's work and consider that the norm. But at the time it sure felt like everything was gradually building, improving, getting more exciting and more important. For fans who go further back, who were first hooked by the tight execution of complicated, prog-rock inspired compositions, or the wacky sense of anti-showbiz humor, post-Breakup Phish might go down a lot easier. I wonder if the members of Phish 3.0 would enjoy listening to Phish from 1993 through 2004.

Taken completely in isolation and out of context, it's nice to hear the band Phish play songs like "Foam," and the others mentioned in this recap. If you haven't heard this show yet, it would probably serve as capable background music for a long drive. It's got a lot of great songs in it, and it doesn't require much work on the part of the listener. If your mind drifts for a few minutes, you won't really miss anything that you needed to hear. If it's all I had to introduce the band to someone living on the Moon, I'd be fine with that. If it's all I had to listen to on a desert island, I'd have fun with it. If it was the only evidence of this band in existence, it would make a strong case for a group of four musicians with excellent chops, strong, eclectic material, and great energy. They're really good.

But these shows do not happen in isolation and out of context. In fact, Phish has made every show they've played since 2003 available for instant purchase. Before that, they encouraged fans to collect live tapes and go to multiple shows and have made much of the intensely special band/audience relationship that grew out of that special set of circumstances. It granted them a level of freedom (artistically and economically) that is rarely achieved in this business. They are not a typical band. And so we have choices. It's completely appropriate to compare tonight against previous Phish shows, rather than against, say, some random hipster band or Britney Spears. And given the choice of other Phish shows to listen to, there's almost nothing here you need to seek out in order to continue to have a fully up-to-date and informed view on contemporary Phish.

Thankfully, a show like tonight is frustrating precisely because we know the band can deliver something much fresher than the stuff of 6/15/11. If I had written the recap for several shows earlier this tour, they would have been raves. I just happen to have been on tap for the recap the night of an uninspiring show. Perhaps the rest of this tour will be outstanding. By 3.0 standards, this tour has been particularly free with its periodic glimpses of improvisational gumption—Bethel2 with its "Haley's," "Runaway Jim" and "Bathtub Gin"; the Blossom "Sneakin' Sally," the Clarkston "Down With Disease," even the Great Woods "Rock and Roll." It's been a very encouraging tour. They're getting it done with improvisational muscle, rather than pre-arranged wacky bustouts. I can't wait for Tahoe.

What makes a night like this so frustrating is that they're still so good. Page, who sounded completely uninterested at times during 3.0, is possibly at the peak of his career. MIke seems game for anything. Trey's chops are at their highest point in years. And they all seem lively, healthy, having fun and into it. I think they're accomplishing what they want to accomplish, and walked offstage tonight feeling they nailed it.

It's not that they can't do it. It's just that, far too often, they don't seem to want to. Of course, the "it" in this case is just what I, and many other fans, want—which is, in short, an advancement beyond what the band had accomplished circa, say, 1992. When you capably re-create something you've been doing for 30 years, with no attempt at advancement, that is the definition of nostalgia. It's not what Phish does every night. But it's what they do plenty of nights. Like tonight.

Of course the "Birdwatcher" -> "Kung" was awesome. It was funny and lively and in-the-moment and unpredictable and Phishy. It was probably the best thing all night.

Is that enough?

Not for me. Your mileage may vary. And Phish's does as well.

Comments

vindaloo Reply
spot on
Score: 1
HarryHerring Reply
HarryHerring What a night. great song selection and wonderful energy from the crowd and after the break, from the band. I took my 6 yr old son tonight, his first show, and he swears that Phish couldn't play a better show if they tried. We all know this ain't true but i've always felt that a Phish show is just a matter of perspective. So many folks swear by so many different gigs and song versions that clearly their can no longer be a right and a wrong. These dudes are a quarter of a century (!) into one of the most creative, interactive and inspirational careers ever and even on "bad" night nobody leaves a gig unsastified. Well tonight wasn't bad by any measure of the word, it was spontaneous and chock full of energy. When the band appears to be having fun and the songs are smoking it doesn't matter if they are knee deep in nostalgia or knee deep in mud there doing what THEY want to be doing just like they always have and for me personally thats why I feel in love with phish. They do what they feel, sometimes they probably feel bad and so goes the gig but mostly, even if their bored or distracted, they can still make asses shake. Along both sides of the stage the Lightning tore holes in the sky, people were soaked and the band added to the electricity of the gods. Shit was right, the boys came correct, they'll go deep with jams when they want to and when they don't they'll show how they are total masters of ALL styles of music. A more eclectic group of tunes you will not find and these guys play them all with the verve and know how of old masters. Keep it comin' lets go to tahoe....
Score: 8
OnlinePhishTour Reply
OnlinePhishTour i agree with this review -- well done
Score: 0
deBebbler Reply
deBebbler Birdwatcher was a disaster, painful to listen to.
Score: 1
J_D_G Phish.net Staff Reply
J_D_G @HarryHerring said: [quote] I took my 6 yr old son tonight, his first show, and he swears that Phish couldn't play a better show if they tried. We all know this ain't true but i've always felt that a Phish show is just a matter of perspective.

I think that is fantastic! Congrats to your son for his first show, and thanks for your very thoughtful reply.
Score: 2
tmwsiy Phish.net Staff Reply
tmwsiy Jeremy, you make some fantastic points. Page never been better? Agreed. Mike ready to take on the world (and win!)? Agreed. Trey absolutely SHREDDING, ATTACKING, and DESTROYING his guitar? Agreed. (Fish too has had quite a tour). So where's the disconnect? Why am I leaving tonight bitter that I dropped short change on a stream? Poor connection and communication amongst the band members- that's why.

Having the live stream has been illuminating. It's easier to realize that it is not always Trey's fault when a jam sequence is not realized. The look on Mike's face a few times that last couple of nights has been one of utter confusion and WTF are we doing here? Maybe, despite the "premature endjamulations", it was actually Trey rescuing the band from embarrassing themselves further.

In any event, the last couple of nights have been bittersweet to listen to. Technology seems poised to march on into the future while the band seems willing to stagnate in the past. I was very excited early in the tour with some incredible, legendary, and timeless Phish, but the last few shows have not given me that feeling at all. Maybe the band needs to sequester themselves and do their old exercises of the hey-hole and other listening exercises, because clearly they are not listening to each other now.

As zany & fun as the Birdwatcher -> Kung was, I thought it was completely embarrassing- forgotten words, missed pitch, overall "who gives a fuck" attitude. No damn surprise they take the stage for the encore and "play something we know". I'm all for taking risks and failing, but that's not what that was. That was just failing- period.

With still a bunch of shows that are on my radar to attend, the decision to stay home is becoming easier and easier.

And the silver lining to the cloud: Yes, the Timber was extraordinary.
Score: 8
aquaman44 Reply
Timber was BY FAR the highlight of the show... Fabulous.

I was definitely surprised that utter experimental debauchery didn't ensue after the lightning storm. First time getting a Mound at a gig was great and then the Tweezer got off to a great start but didn't get dirty before an abrupt turn into Julius. From there on it was greatest hits-ville—any one of which could have been fertile ground for some raunchy/filthy improvisation but alas remained in the box(es). Page's Suzy solo was a bright note.

As for the Birdwatcher...the fuck-ups and everything didn't bother me...The song is a joke in the first place so sometimes it's even funnier if the joke is botched. Good call taking it into Kung.

Trey's solo in Funky Bitch was impressive. Reprise was reprise. Show over...An overall observation is (playing off the above review) that despite amazing chops across the board, the communication and spontaneity was a bit spotty tonight...(again save for Timber...MORE of this please.)

Score: 2
nichobert Reply
nichobert "Maybe, despite the "premature endjamulations", it was actually Trey rescuing the band from embarrassing themselves further."

Although I have a feeling that Trey may see it the same way you do, this band is playing entirely too locked in for Trey to be rushing to save every jam just because of temporary miscommunication. Hell, this band built their entire career on being able to push past a small hiccup & turn jams into something transcendant. Not only that, but for every jam where someone else seems lost, there's another one where the band comes out firing on all cylinders yet Trey still feels the need to fire up a "Twist" or "Piper" overtop of a groove in such a rush that he doesn't bother to mold it to the surrounding music melodically or rhythmically.

Truly perplexing. Considering how much ground they can cover within a few short minutes of improv lately, it baffles me that Trey is in such a rush to get out of these improvsational segments. The only set of the last week that really brought some hope to my heart was the 2nd set of MPP II. Not much changed from an improvsational standpoint, but at least the band put together a cohesive set of music without depending on the same dozen standby 'greatest hits'. A show like Bethel (I,II) shows just how much that Phish can do with short jamlets that bridge one song to the next- it's a shame that they aren't exploring that avenue more. They might not want to jam for extended periods of time, but I can't quite comprehend the purpose behind jamming for 2.5 measures and then 1 member starting up the next song completely untethered to the music.
The "Trey Ripcord" just seems totally at odd with the mastery that they're displaying with the rest of their music these days. Trey's playing striking a perfect balance between orgasmic release & fluidly lyrical minimalism, Mike unleashing endless torrents of interesting melodic counterpoint, Fishman and Page playing with more aggression than they've displayed since 1995. I think we'll see the improv become more and more prominent as they continue to round into the home stretch of their career- they're simply playing with too much passion to stay content banging out near-identical versions night after night. They'll eventually bring their newfound precision into the deep end of the pool and start reeling off a string of Nassau Tweezer-esque jams that effortlessly move from one thematic movement to the next. The future looms in my dreams.
Score: 0
starchadstar Reply
ppfffftttttt.
stick to reviews of the music and song style, not what you think the band is feeling.
Score: 5
needlewithaprune Reply
There's something missing here. A point which aches to be made. None of these reviews doubt how technically proficient these guys are, yet convey a strong feeling of disappointment; disappointment both with this show, save a few short, bright moments, and on which path the band is taking us down. Let's not forget who we're dealing with here! This band has hundreds of songs in its arsenal. Think about just how many Phish songs you love. How deep of a list do you think their "greatest hits" can really go? Just because 6/15/11 was your 420th Phish show doesn't make Tweezer suck by default. Now, I do understand how frustrating it is listening to and watching them explore an area of a song I've already experienced with them many times before. I get that. I know the gray place from which your disappointment stems. We all can get disheartened when we see how good these individual members are ever-waiting to witness how great <i> Phish<i> can be. But it just ain't gonna happen every night. And that is part of what makes them the most incredible live show around; if everything was perfect, we'd look for nothing new. It's what makes something like the soon-to-be legendary 6/3/11 Clarkston DWD with its gorgeous, seamless and seemingly effortless segue into Fluffhead just that much more mind-blowing. All I'm saying is that if the worst thing that can be said about a disappointing show is "I wished they had explored more in places I haven't been to yet but they are really good", that's not a problem; that's fucking great!
Score: 14
BonusCup99 Reply
Listening to, or god forbid watching the video of them doing The Birdwatcher, I feel embarassed for them. I would argue against the idea they've become complacent about their act if it wasn't for this song. It pretty much proves it irrefutably.
Score: -1
lizardkind Reply
The first set looked to be on its way to a great show, and then the chaos...
I would lay odds all 4 of them went back stage and agreed on the greatest hits finale. I'm surprised birdwatcher kung was even played at that point and would be very interested to see the original setlist.
I would also say for any first time concert goer it was a great experience despite the onslaught from mum nature.
Score: 1
zzyzx Phish.net Staff Reply
zzyzx "the sense of wild improvisational abandon with which it frequently played in 1993 through 2000, plus 2003 and 2004. Sure, perhaps it's unfair to take this one ten-year period of the band's work and consider that the norm. "

They didn't "frequently" have improvisational abandon in 93... it happened in like a dozen shows, tops. I defy you to find many interesting jams between the Backyard in Austin (day after the Bomb Factory) and 5/26/94 - a stretch as long as this tour has been. Hell even in 95, I saw 5 shows on the fall tour (the NW run) and the only interesting jams were a slightly different arrangement of Slave in Seattle and a very good Harry Hood in Spokane, but probably not much better than last night. With the exceptions of 97 and 03-04, the big improvisational highlights were always in the exceptional shows, the ones we talked about after the tour, not something to expect night after night after night. It's just that no one listens to 6/13/94 or 11/23/96 or 10/5/95 so we forget that they exist.
Score: 17
CLLARO Reply
I agree with some points in here; especially after surviving near-death lightning experiences, I had to tell my 8-year-old that they would FOR SURE give us an INCREDIBLE show once they came back. I had to believe it to make it bearable. But to toss us a standards set after finishing Mound was not very kind. There were a few great moments, but not a spectacular set. But "Gotta Jibboo", you're seriously gonna play that not-even-Phish-song after that crazy storm? The rest was OK, but that one really pissed me off.

but as for "It's not that they can't do it. It's just that, far too often, they don't seem to want to.", I think that is completely incorrect. I just read zzyzx's post, and I absolutely agree, the incredibly inspired jams are not "the norm". I'm sure the band, as much as the phans, are ALWAYS in search of THE JAM; but if it's not present, it will not be manifest; wanting to or trying to certainly isn't enough to make it happen. In fact, trying to make it happen is usually disasterous. And perhaps with all the drama of Mother Nature last night, no one was able to really hone in on the potential jams that were perhaps present.
Score: 1
SloppyPhan Reply
Agreed . . .It's a great show, but I've heard it at least 3 times this tour already.
Score: -1
pzerbo Phish.net Staff Reply
pzerbo This tour is genuinely perplexing. The first week was uneven, but in a good way: Bethel1&2, Pine Knob and Blossom were totally legit very good/great shows, containing every bit of the strength of, say, the peaks of last fall (Augusta/Utica/Manchester et al), interspersed with some total head-scratchers (PNC). While almost every show since that first week has contained something to stick on the iPod and none have been in any way clunkers of the Coventry variety, this tour is retreating into a shell of almost shockingly predictable and safe play. What we have here is June '09 in replay; it is a full-on regression.

Speculating on what is happening "behind the scenes" is silly at best and stupid at worst, but the up-close look provided by the stream suggests that what we have here is a failure to communicate. As others have noted, everyone seems to be playing well... on paper, in isolation. Phish shows don't take place in your TV in isolation; they take place between four guys on stage, a process that works when listening and in-moment interaction propel them to a higher plane. They are currently just not hooking up beyond "we can do this in our sleep" stock selections from the jukebox.

Panic button time? Absolutely not. Whatever it is that is "off" seems very slight, clearly reparable, and there is no reason to believe that they won't turn things around as early as Friday in Charlotte. The underlying components for great shows are available for use when the motivation is there.

This all comes from a place of genuine love and appreciation for what these guys have provided us for decades, but last night was straight-up, by-the-numbers nostalgia act. Maybe that is enough for some fans, and it would probably be enough for me to go to see them two or three times a year, indefinitely. Must-see TV? Hop in the car and make a last-minute distant weekday show, or fork over big bucks to haul across the country, compelling drama? Not currently. Let's hope the weekend shows break out of this mold. Gotta love The Phish From Vermont and everybody has an off-day, they just happened to pick one in a high-exposure slot. No worries, get 'em next time.
Score: 8
Undermind Reply
I think the Tweezer ripcord was so frustrating that it was hard to get into the rest of the set for me. It's frustrating because we know what they are capable of and Trey just
seems uninterested in pushing boundaries there at all. They are playing better technically than they have since '99 right now imo but the ripcord makes me extremely uninterested in listening to this show again.
Score: 0
Tjay22 Reply
Tjay22 I agree for the most part, however...most people want what happened between 1993-2000 to happen everynight, but let's not think there were no bad shows in that range. There were many shows much worse than last nights between 93-00 and let's not forget that.
Score: 3
J_D_G Phish.net Staff Reply
J_D_G @zzyzx said:
"They didn't "frequently" have improvisational abandon in 93... iIt's just that no one listens to 6/13/94 or 11/23/96 or 10/5/95 so we forget that they exist.
David, you make a worthwhile point, but that's a ten-year performance period over which, in general, Phish frequently played with improvisational abandon, and there's no amount of forest-through-the-tree statistical analysis that will undo that.

Wouldn't you agree the salient point here is that you are, in fact, quite easy to please when it comes to Phish? You mentioned elsewhere that the end of the set--presumably Birdwatcher-> Kung--saved the show for you because you like silly Phish. Isn't it from that place that you fashion this argument?
Score: 0
CaptChaos Reply
Fantastic assessment, spot on, I'd say.
Score: 0
Alumni Reply
@zzyzx said:
"the sense of wild improvisational abandon with which it frequently played in 1993 through 2000, plus 2003 and 2004. Sure, perhaps it's unfair to take this one ten-year period of the band's work and consider that the norm. "

They didn't "frequently" have improvisational abandon in 93... it happened in like a dozen shows, tops. I defy you to find many interesting jams between the Backyard in Austin (day after the Bomb Factory) and 5/26/94 - a stretch as long as this tour has been. Hell even in 95, I saw 5 shows on the fall tour (the NW run) and the only interesting jams were a slightly different arrangement of Slave in Seattle and a very good Harry Hood in Spokane, but probably not much better than last night. With the exceptions of 97 and 03-04, the big improvisational highlights were always in the exceptional shows, the ones we talked about after the tour, not something to expect night after night after night. It's just that no one listens to 6/13/94 or 11/23/96 or 10/5/95 so we forget that they exist.
6/13/94 destroys -- utterly destroys -- anything Phish has played in 3.0. The reason we're so keyed in on improvisational abandon is that the "standard" Phish experience has been so degraded. Look, I'm no hater. I don't take any pleasure in pointing it out. But facts are facts.
Score: 0
zzyzx Phish.net Staff Reply
zzyzx
David, you make a worthwhile point, but that's a ten-year performance period over which, in general, Phish frequently played with improvisational abandon, and there's no amount of forest-through-the-tree statistical analysis that will undo that.

Wouldn't you agree the salient point here is that you are, in fact, quite easy to please when it comes to Phish? You mentioned elsewhere that the end of the set--presumably Birdwatcher-> Kung--saved the show for you because you like silly Phish. Isn't it from that place that you fashion this argument?
I need a definition of "frequently." I saw Phish 56 times in 93-94. "Improvisational abandon" was probably present to some degree in 11 of them 3/14/93, 8/20/93, 5/7/94, 6/17-18/94, 6/22/94, 12/9/94, and 12/28-31/94, but even in those, that's mostly defined by having a good Tweezer or something. It was there, yes, but it was there in the great shows but there were a ton of shows, a TON that didn't have that.

So yes, I am somewhat easy to please when it comes to Phish, although I should say that, "saved" was meant in the sense that it would have been something fun to remember, something worth waiting in the rain for, not as in, "Let's run to LivePhish and download it and listen to it again and again." I like the silly stuff, I like the subtle improv they've been doing, I like a well played Slave or Divided Sky, I like a hot Type I jam. If I didn't, I would have given up on this band well before 1997 rolled around.
Score: 8
_rrot_ Reply
This review really tears me up. I think I actually agree with you in tone and in spirit, but I disagree on the facts of the show.

I thought Set I up to the weather break was outstanding, as good as any so far this tour, better than many. I thought the Jim was as interesting as Bethel's, or almost so. The Timber (Jerry) was really very strong (as you note). The other songs in the set were as tight as you could want and flowed together as a set of music quite nicely.

The return set of "greatest hits" probably does deserve some of the stick it's getting. But I'm not hearing anyone saying "x" really killed the energy, one of the top complaints about second sets heretofore. That can't be an accident. There was definitely a conscious decision to keep a high energy level after the storm break. That affected the songs called, clearly. I don't think it was a bad decision. You call these songs interchangeable -- I disagree. Julius, far from feeling "tossed-off," easily beats the others we've gotten recently. It absolutely smoked. I think you've underrated the Bowie as well.

The main beef seems to be with the relative absence of experimentation, outside jamming, Type II. And that's where you've got a point. There wasn't a whole lot of that in evidence last night. The question is, can there be an above-average Phish show without it? I think that there can be and I think this show brought it. My only complaints about this show are the mis-steps in the end of Suzy and in the a cappella numbers, both of which problems I thought were mitigated by other factors: the fact that Page killed Suzy outright (Fish knew!) and that the Birdwatcher/Kung was sidesplitting.

I had thought before this morning that Camden would go down as the underrated show of the tour. Now I know it's Alpharetta 2.
Score: 2
zzyzx Phish.net Staff Reply
zzyzx "6/13/94 destroys -- utterly destroys -- anything Phish has played in 3.0."

No way. Just in the last show I saw - Mansfield, not exactly considered the best of the tour, the Divided Sky, the Rock and Roll jam (it would have freaked me out to hear Phish playing the VU in 1994, so it would have had to come out of another song obviously), or the high energy banteriffic Suzie would have been considered the highlight of 6/13/94.

Maybe I should listen to it again. What would be your highlight of the show? The Slave?
Score: 2
Poster_Nutbag Reply
@zzyzx said:
They didn't "frequently" have improvisational abandon in 93... it happened in like a dozen shows, tops. I defy you to find many interesting jams between the Backyard in Austin (day after the Bomb Factory) and 5/26/94 - a stretch as long as this tour has been. Hell even in 95, I saw 5 shows on the fall tour (the NW run) and the only interesting jams were a slightly different arrangement of Slave in Seattle and a very good Harry Hood in Spokane, but probably not much better than last night. With the exceptions of 97 and 03-04, the big improvisational highlights were always in the exceptional shows, the ones we talked about after the tour, not something to expect night after night after night. It's just that no one listens to 6/13/94 or 11/23/96 or 10/5/95 so we forget that they exist.
i have been making this point over on OPT for a while now. see the discussion over the camden tube on my review...short tubes used to be the norm and jammed out tubes were the exception. that being said, i am a little perplexed as to why the song rotation has been shortened so this summer. i would expect that all the advances in technology (livephish & webcast) would have pushed the band in the other direction towards more spontaneity and rarities in order to keep interest high and purchases coming in. what motivation does any fan have to see multiple shows and purchase multiple LP downloads if all shows are mostly the same and musical excursions few and far between?
Score: -1
bertoletdown Phish.net Staff Reply
bertoletdown Agree with the review. As many have said it's spot on.

The one positive thing I came away with from the webcast is that Trey and Page seem to be very connected with each other, getting along well, and having fun. Page is the loosest guy up there by a long shot, and clearly glad to be playing Phish music with Phish and with Trey. So that's something.

Mike and Fish, I dunno. The only time those two seem to interact is when Trey calls a tune and Mike relays the call to Fish. Otherwise they appear to be in some sort of bubble. Maybe the four of them need to go do a ropes course, or jump out of an airplane or something, to remind them that their job is to co-create moments. Not sure that ethos is at work of late.
Score: 2
kevinAreHollo Reply
Terrific review, Jeremy. Thanks for taking the time to articulate the frustrations.

@David:

I don't even know where to begin. This is the last thing I'd expect from someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of the band's oeuvre. First off, some of the best (full band) improvisational moments for this band happened in 1991 and 1992 (cf. the David Bowie or AC/DC Bag from 2-15-91, the Weekapaug from 4-16-92). By full band I mean all four guys acting as one cohesive unit, taking a song to a place where it either wasn't "supposed" to go or hadn't gone before. And by 1993, you could find moments of it in almost every show. I spent several weeks pouring through overlooked shows (zero reviews in any of the databases/literature) and in EVERY SHOW I found at least one or two moments of startling improvisation.

For example, the show played on 03-21-1993, in Ventura. Very standard sets by anyone's definition, until they get to Hood. This Hood (like so many other versions of so many other songs, I've already had this conversation with Charlie and Philip) doesn't contain any show notes, but upon listening I found myself knee-deep in what I thought was a Yo La Tengo or Kevin Shields' record. It's terrific stuff.

The Divided Sky is acutely brilliant as well :)

1994 and 1995 are exactly the same way. Every other show (and for whole month long stretches, every single show) contains something of original and pure value (music that did not exist before). And yes, we all know that's what has made this band so very relevant for such a long time, this idea of collective improvisation, the danger of failure, the foiling of expectation that makes the amygdala do backflips in our heads.

I think what even more critical minds like Jeremy's are overlooking (or perhaps ignoring) is the fact that this band has never before declined (a steady loss of power, prowess or ability). If there were periods of stagnancy, you could bet on a convulsive and cathartic seismic shift in tone/attitude/influence that would result in a new direction, an invigorated music.

What we're seeing now is a decline, pure and simple, and it's not fun to watch.

Score: 0
gnosticaspirant Reply
It's too bad they were soft for a paid webcast. Another feeling of getting ripped off by many.
Score: -1
glennw Reply
These are smart guys. They are moving toward something special. Their development may not be linear as they connect the dots between engineering and creativity. In past years they would have had many more opportunities to stretch out and develop in public. Now, with a reduced tour schedule, they are taking a different approach, less large expressive brushstrokes against a chiaroscuro, and more workmanlike, laying in fine detailed brushstrokes again and again until they trust each other more. The outcome will be wondrous; the only question is when. Then hold on to your hats, folks.
Score: 2
zzyzx Phish.net Staff Reply
zzyzx Kevin: if the rain hadn't cut it off though, you could say the same thing about the Timber> Mound section, that it was an interesting interpretation of two songs on an otherwise off night.
Score: 0
pzerbo Phish.net Staff Reply
pzerbo @kevinAreHollo said:
Terrific review, Jeremy. Thanks for taking the time to articulate the frustrations.

<snip>

I think what even more critical minds like Jeremy's are overlooking (or perhaps ignoring) is the fact that this band has never before declined (a steady loss of power, prowess or ability). If there were periods of stagnancy, you could bet on a convulsive and cathartic seismic shift in tone/attitude/influence that would result in a new direction, an invigorated music.

What we're seeing now is a decline, pure and simple, and it's not fun to watch.
Phish has long been compelling, to me at least, because they never stood still. Most of the time it was pushing the rock steadily uphill. Sometimes it was rolling steeply downhill. But it never stood in place. With exceptions for dozens of "we still got it" peaks, they are now and have been since their '09 return... more or less stagnant. The whole notion of "we spent our career learning how to be a great band, and now we want to spend some time BEING a great band" is IMO totally misguided; it is antithetical to the approach that made Phish great. Phish greatness requires hard work that, perhaps, they just aren't willing to invest in, especially given the freshness and vitality of other opportunity costs (a.k.a. Mike's outstanding touring outfit). Maybe you are right: if it isn't progressing, it is declining, because stand-still is... unsatisfying, in a nostalgia-like way.

I'd be thrilled to eat those words, and very much look forward to doing so. As noted earlier, they aren't off by a lot, but the rock is currently stationary. Gotta love The Phish, but love requires honesty.
Score: 0
Harry__Hood95 Reply
Harry__Hood95 Could it be that phish knows most phans are only able to catch a show or 2 now (as opposed to a run of 10 or more), and they want to give people the opportunity hear more songs? I was at pine knob, and while i loved it, some of the guys i was with (people that done download and listen tto every show like a lot of us) were a bit disappointed they didnt get to hear more songs. And these were guys who have been seeing the boys since the early 90s, so its not like they were noobs. Its just their 1 show of the year so they want the most bang for their buck.
Score: 0
Buckeyephan Reply
Great review man, I agree 100% with what you said.
Score: 0
Ernesto_Wan_Kenobi Reply
Ernesto_Wan_Kenobi With all due respect to the seasoned vet, if you can't see the greatness of this tour and happily accept that some shows will be like the band taking a collective fart in the middle of a giant feast, then all I can conclude is that you are blinded by your own vast perspective.

Who is really knee-deep in nostalgia here? The band (who..God knows what is going through their minds during each show, despite those who think they can tell), or the person who wants them to return to a previous era and play exactly the way they were doing then? This review is full of so many contradictions I don't know what to make of it. They are great. They are killing it. All four are freakin' ON!! I would enjoy this show if it was all I had to listen to on a desert island! But screw those guys they aren't even trying. They don't even WANT to get as intense as they were during MY hey-day.

When I first started seeing Phish, I sure felt like "everything was gradually building, improving, getting more exciting and more important." Hell yeah I did. And do I feel less so now? Yep. That was in '03; and I can only imagine that it is exponentially more so for someone who has been seeing them for over 10 years longer than myself.

But seriously, there have been so many spot-on jams this tour alone that it's a little hasty to call them a nostalgia act after they have a mediocre show during a rain-delayed fiasco where all kinds of things are throwing them out of whack.
Score: 4
kevinAreHollo Reply
Good point, David.

And Philip, for whatever reason, it's really good to hear another old-timer (ha!) share the same sentiments.
Score: 1
lunamoon Reply
I've been following Phish live since 1993. There's no such thing as a bad live show. Period. Just my opinion, and you bet, I was there.
Score: 3
ericwyman Phish.net Staff Reply
ericwyman @zzyzx said:
I need a definition of "frequently." I saw Phish 56 times in 93-94. "Improvisational abandon" was probably present to some degree in 11 of them 3/14/93, 8/20/93, 5/7/94, 6/17-18/94, 6/22/94, 12/9/94, and 12/28-31/94, but even in those, that's mostly defined by having a good Tweezer or something. It was there, yes, but it was there in the great shows but there were a ton of shows, a TON that didn't have that.
I think I need your definition of "Improvisational abandon". 8/93 and you only list 8/20? That might be the only one I wouldn't list.
Score: 0
Alumni Reply
@zzyzx said:
"6/13/94 destroys -- utterly destroys -- anything Phish has played in 3.0."

No way. Just in the last show I saw - Mansfield, not exactly considered the best of the tour, the Divided Sky, the Rock and Roll jam (it would have freaked me out to hear Phish playing the VU in 1994, so it would have had to come out of another song obviously), or the high energy banteriffic Suzie would have been considered the highlight of 6/13/94.

Maybe I should listen to it again. What would be your highlight of the show? The Slave?
I definitely posted in haste. I'm not sure off the top of my head, and my Phish hard drives aren't at my work office. At a glance, I would say that 1994 was one of the best years for Reba. Maybe *the* best year. Even a pedestrian, unremarkable Reba for 1994 would be sublime. It pains me to hear them play it these days. The old dynamics just aren't there. These days, it seems like Phish is either on or off. Seems like Trey is either barely brushing the strings or he's hammering one or two high notes in a 3.0-style "shred." There's very little sense of melody

Again, my issues with this summer are not the repeats. Nobody who was around in 93 would say that. Remember when set II was either Tweezer YEM or Mike's Groove? And it's not the length of jams.

To be fair, it's been a long, long time since Phish has jammed on a blank slate. Even through the early-mid 90s, they (and Trey in particular) seemed to have a lot of stock themes that they used modular-style to build a particular jam. There was little that you'd never heard before, but it was very possible that you hadn't heard this particular way of building up Reba (for example). That element of creativity and originality seems to be gone.

Too long / didn't read version: If I'm honest with myself, maybe my difference of opinion is that I'm not okay with hearing the same "type I" rock-peak jam over and over again.
Score: 0
ericwyman Phish.net Staff Reply
ericwyman @kevinAreHollo said:
What we're seeing now is a decline, pure and simple, and it's not fun to watch.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This is a GROSS over-statement and completely false. Trey and Page are playing far better than they have at any point since the reunion. To say that they are in their decline is way off base.
Score: 8
ericwyman Phish.net Staff Reply
ericwyman @gnosticaspirant said:
It's too bad they were soft for a paid webcast. Another feeling of getting ripped off by many.
This is crap too. You had an entire Phish show, in perfect quality, beamed into your living room/bedroom/kitchen for a 1/3 of the cost of attending the show live, in a city you are nowhere near. You can be disappointed in the show not meeting your expectations, but to lay some feeling of entitlement about being satisfied dollar for dollar is bullshit.

Shame on you.
Score: 10
OnlinePhishTour Reply
OnlinePhishTour Not all shows have "improvisational abandon" from 1993, but the 'standard shows' had musical quirks about them that made them special...whether it's a unique segue, furious, added licks to the beginning of Mike's Song, or a great show-flow. A standard show from 93 didn't sound like other standard shows from 93.

Also, 6/14/94 is absolutely sick. Trey is a musical menace in that Stash. Reba and Slave are a couple of best-ever versions too.
Score: 0
zzyzx Phish.net Staff Reply
zzyzx @ericwyman said:
@zzyzx said:
I need a definition of "frequently." I saw Phish 56 times in 93-94. "Improvisational abandon" was probably present to some degree in 11 of them 3/14/93, 8/20/93, 5/7/94, 6/17-18/94, 6/22/94, 12/9/94, and 12/28-31/94, but even in those, that's mostly defined by having a good Tweezer or something. It was there, yes, but it was there in the great shows but there were a ton of shows, a TON that didn't have that.
I think I need your definition of "Improvisational abandon". 8/93 and you only list 8/20? That might be the only one I wouldn't list.
That was the only show that I saw in 8/93. I saw a whole bunch in July but only one in August. And that's kind of the point. We all focus on the great shows but there were a ton of other shows that were just kind of there.
Score: 0
OnlinePhishTour Reply
OnlinePhishTour @ericwyman said:
@kevinAreHollo said:
What we're seeing now is a decline, pure and simple, and it's not fun to watch.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This is a GROSS over-statement and completely false. Trey and Page are playing far better than they have at any point since the reunion. To say that they are in their decline is way off base.
i agree, this is not a decline--we are on an overall incline now. the creativity has taken a decline since blossom, but it can't be permanent. overall, phish is very healthy right now.
Score: 4
kevinAreHollo Reply
^Settle down, friend. There's no reason to get heated.

All this trivial criticism (they don't read the boards) gets even trickier when you start to bring up revenue, earnings, net worth, etc.

Let's not forget for a hot minute that these guys are paid to do a job, albeit perhaps the greatest job in the history of mankind (playing music). But a job is a job. And when you cease to be able to do it well, you either stop earning as much money or your superiors find a "better" place for you. Fortunately for Phish (unfortunately for fans), they have no superiors and seem to be generating as much revenue as in any recent year.
Score: 0
Alumni Reply
@ericwyman said:
@kevinAreHollo said:
What we're seeing now is a decline, pure and simple, and it's not fun to watch.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This is a GROSS over-statement and completely false. Trey and Page are playing far better than they have at any point since the reunion. To say that they are in their decline is way off base.
That wasn't Kevin's point. His point was that a band is more than the sum of its parts, and that the cohesion that developed from practice and repetition is no longer there. That's not a personal attack on any of the bandmembers. It's their prerogative to tour in short bursts. But their ability to finish each others' sentences musically depends on practice and repetition, and they simply don't have that any more. Again, no personal attack. They're pushing 50.

Why am I still on phish.net, if I feel this way? Because the band was that important to me back in the day. And they're still enjoyable in a different sort of way. Don't get me wrong, I have no intention of missing the Summer '11 phish concert.
Score: 3
Sprachtor Reply
Sprachtor @ericwyman said:
@kevinAreHollo said:
What we're seeing now is a decline, pure and simple, and it's not fun to watch.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. This is a GROSS over-statement and completely false. Trey and Page are playing far better than they have at any point since the reunion. To say that they are in their decline is way off base.
The decline of a "band" has more to do with the sum of the parts than any individual component. Once you guys wake up and realize Phish isn't their main concern you will start to make peace with it. Phish didn't climb to the top by participating in "side projects". They are still all great musicians in their 40's. Definitely not over the "music hill".

They are a great band but they are not concerned with getting any better right now. Oh, and after this tour instead of "be back in 15 minutes", it will be I'll see you in 12 months.

Score: 0
barefootbob Reply
barefootbob Completely and respectfully disagree. Three things. (1) How many mounds are we treated with these days? (2) This may read like a greatest hits list to you, I see it as some of the most solid performances with highlights from all four. They are getting tighter and tighter each week since 09. (3) What happened on the lawn was f'n magical. Shows are also about energy. What I witnessed at took part in from Timber thru Mound was a massive rain dance that erupted with a monsoon that I can only barely begin to describe.

Maybe the stoppage gave some a buzzkill....for me, an unbelievable experience to come back to mound - Screaming "Could he find some SHELTER!!!!!!". SO perfect. I'm sorry, but I may not get to see these guys like I used to in 93-98. I have a family and a job. I love that about the Phish experience at every show. Its a family to them and us. Tonights show was epic. Period.

I'm just finishing the second set on my ipod. A show that I dnld this morning from lp before I left for the airport. Could I have done that in 94? So, as I finish this comment in ATLANTA airport typing on my phone wating for my flight, I leave you with this.... Enjoy that we have this. For this thing we have here in Grand, yes Grand. Thank you Phish for everything you have given us, and me personally since 4.10.93.

// signing off ATL > ORD
Score: 5
ericwyman Phish.net Staff Reply
ericwyman @Alumni said:
That wasn't Kevin's point. His point was that a band is more than the sum of its parts, and that the cohesion that developed from practice and repetition is no longer there. That's not a personal attack on any of the bandmembers. It's their prerogative to tour in short bursts. But their ability to finish each others' sentences musically depends on practice and repetition, and they simply don't have that any more. Again, no personal attack. They're pushing 50.
How was that not his point? Feel free to clarify @kevinAreHollo, but I don't see another angle. He even went so far as to characterize his point with (a steady loss of power, prowess or ability)

None of those things are accurate.
Score: 2
kowphish Phish.net Staff Reply
kowphish How much of this type of feeling among veterans is just simple projection?
Score: 1
RobesPierre Reply
please phish... for the love of good music... get your balls back... take some chances, PLEASE...

last fall was so great... now you're just reverting to something far worse than summer 09... dont let yourselves fade away in mediocrity... bring it like fall2010 x10.
Score: 0
ericwyman Phish.net Staff Reply
ericwyman @Sprachtor said:
The decline of a "band" has more to do with the sum of the parts than any individual component. Once you guys wake up and realize Phish isn't their main concern you will start to make peace with it. Phish didn't climb to the top by participating in "side projects". They are still all great musicians in their 40's. Definitely not over the "music hill".

They are a great band but they are not concerned with getting any better right now. Oh, and after this tour instead of "be back in 15 minutes", it will be I'll see you in 12 months.
It's funny how the wind blows around here. I was underwhelmed with the high points of last night's show but side projects, age and focus have nothing to do with the discussion.
Score: 0
pzerbo Phish.net Staff Reply
pzerbo @kowphish said:
How much of this type of feeling among veterans is just simple projection?
I'd say... none. If it were one or two people saying these things, that might be the right call. But there are a lot of people whose opinions I respect and who have no historical tendency to want to agree with each other almost on principle, while not saying exactly the same thing, see current status in a very similar light: great individual play, still able to nail majestic peaks, but as a whole in sort of stand-still mode with some shows in total mail-it-in mode.

I think this is healthy discussion, no haters are we.
Score: 4
Alumni Reply
@ericwyman said:
@Alumni said:
That wasn't Kevin's point. His point was that a band is more than the sum of its parts, and that the cohesion that developed from practice and repetition is no longer there. That's not a personal attack on any of the bandmembers. It's their prerogative to tour in short bursts. But their ability to finish each others' sentences musically depends on practice and repetition, and they simply don't have that any more. Again, no personal attack. They're pushing 50.
How was that not his point? Feel free to clarify @kevinAreHollo, but I don't see another angle. He even went so far as to characterize his point with (a steady loss of power, prowess or ability)

None of those things are accurate.
Again, it's more of a collective thing than any individual characteristic. Though I don't see how there's any doubt that Trey has substantially less dexterity these days. I'll keep it short because I'm not angry about it and I have no real wish to insult Trey. But there's no question that his mind is working faster than his fingers. Listen to a summer 11 GTBT and try to count the notes he doesn't play. This is as fair a test as you can use. There are songs where less is more, and you want to "miss" notes to create space. GTBT is not one of those songs. From the energy on stage to CK hitting every grand finale move he's got programmed into his lightboard . . . it's the epitome of a guitar-hero rocker.
Score: 0
bmorris0427 Reply
These comments can't be serious. I think EVERYONE that posted negative comments on this board needs to have their heads examined. I've been going to shows for 15 years now and I've been to over 50 shows since 3.0 came to be. The thing that all of you are forgetting is that there was no Phish from 2004-2009 and it could still easily be that way. You should be glad that there are Phish shows for you to dump all over. Yes, the boys are going to have an off night...do you fire on all cylinders 100% of the time? I didn't think so, its called being human! Would you be happy if they went on permanant hiatus again? You guys call yourselves phans? Doesn't seem that way to me, it only takes one average show for you to say they are in decline. I was not at the show last night and I didn't watch the webcast, but I've seen plenty of average shows in my time and a bad/average Phish show is better than any other jamband's best night. I will, however, be at Charlotte, Raleigh and Portsmouth this weekend. I'll report back on Monday and refute all of the haters yet again.
Score: 3
Alaskanmoma Reply
Alaskanmoma 5th paragraph from the bottom, ("What makes a night like tonight so frustrating..." ;) , doesn't mention Fish. When Joy came out Rolling Stone had a review and the writer noted Page, Trey, and Mike seem to be at peak moments in musical precision but Fish seemed to be very in-the-box. We all know Fish wants to keep it real but he seems bored to me. There might be a piece missing from the puzzle at the moment, Fish's enthusiasm might be it.

Score: 0
tmwsiy Phish.net Staff Reply
tmwsiy @bmorris0427 said:
These comments can't be serious. I think EVERYONE that posted negative comments on this board needs to have their heads examined.
I think you are the one that can't be serious? A negative comment on one show or a run of shows warrants a head examination? Come on...it's healthy to discuss both pros & cons of a show. I thought this was a fair review. Mind you it spoke of "Wednesday night" and "frustrating". While some flaws were pointed out, it actually left me optimistic for the coming shows and hopeful. We get humanity. Teams lose. (Looking at you Vancouver) And you know what? The newspapers in Canada are LOADED with stories this morning not on the Bruins win, but on Vacnouver's loss. And how it could happen. And dissect it from every angle. Same here.

And are Canucks fans no longer worthy of fandom if they question Luongo's goal tending or speak publicly of the cheap-shots, finger biting, acting, or other mis-cues in the series? Hell no. It makes them MORE of fan. And they'll be back next season wanting the Cup even stronger.

Pet peeves of mine, and you've pretty much hit all of them:

> Calling the band "the boys"
> Questioning fandom by publicly speaking opinion
> Saying "a bad Phish show is better than any other band's best night" (just trite and not true)
> Saying we should just be happy Phish is back, some Phish is better than no Phish (yeah, that's also trite and boring)

However, all that being said, I certainly have my fingers crossed that you will be able to report back from Charlotte, Raleigh and Portsmouth and "refute all the haters". Certainly I think there's a great chance that will happen.

Just do us all a favor and don't fall into the trap of my final pet-peeve:

> Over rating shows you were at and failing to believe and being incredulous that anyone not at the show could have the audacity to review it

Score: 8
kevinAreHollo Reply
Ditto on the healthiness of the discussion. Please keep the "you can't be serious stuff" to yourself. I'm pretty sure we're serious.

I've been witnessing and tracking the band's overall decline since Coventry. Seeing Trey up on the big screen (thankfully didn't attend), closeups of his hands, playing Curtain in the wrong key...it was really too much. Yes, things have gotten better, much better in fact. But pointing to Trey's marginal improvements in dexterity or speed belie the elephant (multibeast?) in the room.

And please stop pointing to songs like Bethel's Runaway Jim as evidence of progress or improvement. The cool tribal thing during the breakdown is soiled and eclipsed by Trey's incoherence and sour notes in the culminating jam.

I don't want to insult anybody either but as an active musician, I wouldn't be comfortable charging people to see me play if I was unable to perform adequately.
Score: 0
MrJones Reply
MrJones Great review but I need to get a few things off my chest here.

It seems like a lot of folks are just chasing an epic show they can rest their laurels on. People are looking for a two song set full of reckless abandon or the best of version of a tune. The problem with that is that we can get distracted from one simple reality: that Phish is a kick-ass rock & roll band, plain and simple and they come on stage every night to entertain us.

Also, this was brought up here but I want to emphasize it, saying that Phish Is becoming a nostalgic act now and they should go back to what they were doing is just weird. So they are a nostalgia act and what would make that different would be to go back to the good ol’ days!??!?! That doesn’t even make any sense.

I have heard a lot lately as well that “I already saw this show this tour” or “glad I missed this show because they just played it a few nights ago”. I don’t get this. Sure they have repeated songs, as they ALWAYS have, but that said there is still never an identical version and look at the setlists from this tour and find me a mirror copy. Phish is not in the business these days of creating a vast catalogue of unique live shows for posterity, they are on stage entertaining an audience. Have we (we being the collective Phan) become so jaded that we can’t appreciate going out catching some show and have a good time dancing with good friends? If so than we as an audience have lost our way.

Sure it’s great to be critical of something we all love but we have put the boys on such a high pedestal that we (again, the collective we) are just setting ourselves up to be disappointed. Lets not forget Phish is a rock & roll band and we are a glorified fan club.

I just finished listening to this show and I thought it was good. Not great and mind blowing but good. I wish I could have attended.
Score: 1

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