Two down, two to go. Busy times in the city so we’ll get right to the action from Sunday night at MSG. I’m joined by a few friends with whom I spent the gig on the back of the floor to talk about what went down...
PZ: The first half of the first set was typical of recent vintage first sets – enjoyable, well-played, but mostly safe and uneventful. The opening segment of “Moma Dance,” “Rift” allowed everyone to settle in and get cozy. “Roggae,” “Sparkle” and the second performance of Wingsuit’s “The Line” keep the vibe warm and expectant. A slippery and bright “Stash” turns the corner on the set that would offer a wealth of riches going forward. “555” was an instant fan favorite among the Wingsuit songs and is perfect in this spot; the juxtaposition of Trey riding hard and dissonant leads over the dripping sexy funk is pregnant with great potential to go huge in a bigger improvisational role. “It’s Ice” takes a delicious late turn with Page leading a left turn to the get down lane, and Page continues the extended dominant in the subsequent “Gumbo” that – atypical of in the last few years – also tacked on a nice little jam to the end. “Walls of the Cave” made it’s third New York appearance (the debut on 12/31/02 + 1/1/11) to close the a fun, enjoyable set of mostly compulsory exercises but with just enough spice to keep things interesting.
Lily G. Morton: To my ears set one opened and and started with basic straightforward songs. There were no early surprises and or exploratory jams in the first half of this set. I would describe it as the comfortable, familiar delivered with subtle ambiguity. It seemed as if the band had not found the unison zone just yet. By unison zone I mean.... that space that happens when a band syncs with the audience most completely and the vibe becomes one thing. We were treated to some wonderful familiar older songs with “Moma Dance,” “Rift,” “Roggae,” “Sparkle”... old friends and new friends, let's enjoy the fact that we are here. A new friend, “The Line,” a pleasant ballad about about Darius Washington Jr. missing two free throws in an important playoff game. I am loving the Wingsuit songs as they are rolling out slowly over this four day run. Phish seems to be saving a couple of real wingsuit winners for sets yet to come... I know we will not be disappointed. Then we go into “Stash” which just fun to listen to in any case and at any time... and then things get interesting. “555,” another new friend via Wingsuit with very groovy, danceable, jam potential. This is the moment in the concert where The Phish From Vermont seemed to start getting the groove on because “555” is beginning to lead us to the essence of a hot, hot, hotness yet to come.
Blanca Myers: “It’s Ice” was the nasty of the set. Like most, I love when Mike hits that super low tone – it reminds me of the underground “denim denim denim” part of the Super Mario Bros video game. For a minute, “Gumbo” turned into a sort of psychedelic fugue after the second breakdown. I heard Jon and Trey pair off and slow their tempo while Page stuck to his funky clav groove. Then Trey picked up Page’s tone and it got really interesting. The jam had a minimalist, intergalactic sound that was not about sounding cohesive, like many of their 3.0 jams. This was about collisions. Like a good orchestra, it sounded like twenty parts and two parts, all at once. This brought to mind time-lapse footage of different organisms colliding in one frame; not necessarily moving at the same speed or on any discernable paths, but moving together in time.
Steve Paolini: Last night was one of the oddest Phish experiences I've ever had, as circumstances conspired to have the Eagles/Cowboys game for the NFC East crown conflict with what is, of course, one of the biggest Phish nights of the year. With my two biggest obsessions competing for my attention, Phish naturally won, but it was a show where I wasn't focused entirely on the music. Like the Eagles, I had a gameplan and I stuck to it. Try to keep phone checks to a minimum. Only go into the concourse to check on the game if absolutely necessary and only during certain songs. And it largely worked.
While the game was generally close, the Eagles remained ahead pretty much throughout. As did Phish, because Phish always wins. The "Carini" was so mind-bendingly good, I didn't so much as reach for my phone the entire song. As the end of the game drew near, a friend was able to dial up the live stream on his phone, where I saw the Eagles seal the game on a Brandon Boykin interception that occurred about eight or so minutes into the "Bowie." My roar of approval may be audible on the tapes.
Lily G Morton: Set two was an overall winner of most excellent throwdown party in the rock and roll experience of bliss. There were many highlights of excellence and explorations of sound throughout. The 20-minute “Disease”... a most stunning beginning to what unfolded as fantastic all out very intense jam-filled second set.
I like it when a guitar sounds like the player is chipping ice and melting it at the same time. Trey does this at times. There are hints of it in the “Carini. I was psyched in conjunction with a couple of people I met while they were standing behind me. Everyone around in my area was on fire. I notice in recent appearances this now older song seems to be something the band is getting very inspired with as late. I don't know if it is my imagination but there seems to be a lot of healthy angst/attitude bordering on good anger with the sing-shouting of the words “Carini has a Lumpy Head!” They sang last night with such intensity that I laughed happily at the absurdity of the words as I considered what the MSG security staff / vendors might think of our wonderful world of understood nonsense. Cheers to the “Carini!”
But here I am going to say something constructively critical. This is just one poet's opinion but any time a large audience spontaneously claps in unison or says “woo” in unison during a jam, there is a problem. For one thing, it foils the perfection of the recording for later enjoyment. I wish the prompted “woo” would just stop now that we are nearing 2014. Who am I to judge for everyone… maybe somebody likes the sound of it in the middle of a jam, but I feel like I was in flight and just got knocked out of the sky by someone throwing rocks at my ears. I had the same experience on the third night of Atlantic city when the “woo” happened during “Piper.” There is this amazing jam and all of the sudden it is haunted by some wooing nonsense. And then I can't enjoy the recordings in retrospect. "Woo” should be a random shout out here and there as expressed by individuals, not a crowd. If I happened to run into Trey Anastasio on a New York sidewalk I would probably just say, “woo” and so I have said enough on that.
Oh my my my the waves... a wonderful much needed gentle shift into pleasant space of calm happy recovery and energy gathering. It was most welcome in my little group of friends in our dance circle party zone. So I will say the twist was a happy happy highlight of jam funk joyous bliss right there. I love love the twist last night. Sweet!
I enjoyed everything and onward, the “Golgi” and the amazing “Bowie.” I was surprised when both sets ended. I wasn't anticipating an end at either set. I guess I was just ready for more and more each time and having a wonderful time of it. The “Possum” was as always most fun and again I laugh at our collective understanding of nonsense and humor.
Cheers to two more nights. Looking forward to more and more....
PZ: “Down with Disease” starts with a little pre-jamlet with Trey humorously offering “Thank you, we wrote that!” before the “Disease” intro started in earnest. This “Disease” does everything it is designed to do in this traditional second-set opening slot: pushing the crowd to exalt in the energy and celebrate the familiar before jumping off the cliff into the unknown. The beginning of the jam sees Trey with the open, airy ease that was evident throughout the fall (e.g. Worcester “Drowned”) before Mike and Fish go for the deep and dissonant and bring Trey and Page along for a darker yet soaring ride through space and time before the jam finds a balanced, quiet center that fuses the dark and light to drive this spectacular improvisation to a driving, thrilling major key release before hitting the concluding theme.
“Carini” has in the last few years solidified itself among the top tier or Phish’s improvisational vehicles and, rare among even the most storied of those songs, delivers in unexpected and diverse ways. Every. Single. Time. In this instance “Carini” manifested in a delightfully nasty dance explosion of pure joy, reminiscent in some ways of the Atlantic City “Taste.” The fire is doused by an outbreak of the “Woo,” but no complaints here; if this 35-minute “DwD” > “Carini” one-two punch doesn’t get your Phish motors running, it’s perhaps time to recalibrate as this is all money. “Waves” brings the tempo down a few notches but was far from a let-down, rather a delightful and uplifting interlude that brought a calming balance to the proceedings. “Twist” saunters, it shimmies, it grooves along in a tapestry of light and joyous sound. “Woo” – The Right Way! “Golgi” set up the perfectly placed set closer, “David Bowie.” Your favorite marsupial and mine, the “Possum” encore rocks us out into the midtown night sated, yet ready for so much more.
Consistently entertaining and engaging with zero down time (even if you consider “Golgi” ‘down time’ we’re talking about five minutes of a 75-minute set), another pure-Phish/no-cover gig with a second set spread out over only six songs, Phish offered a brilliant display balancing power and finesse, dark and light, comfortable and scary, all in an elegantly constructed set that flowed organically and gracefully.
2013 has been a critically important year in the history of Phish, one that has delivered an embarrassment of riches – an entire batch of new songs, epic jamming that rivals the best the band has ever delivered at any point in their storied thirty year history, the further development of a sound that is so distinctively “theirs,” transcending the broad diversity of their influences and further cemented their place as one of history’s most important original contributors to improvisational rock and roll. We’re so incredibly lucky to have what we have. The future is bright, yet the moment is here and now… let’s celebrate all that we have as we enter 2014. I’m so deeply thankful for this band, for my amazing, loving, supportive, delightfully quirky friends, for the opportunity to celebrate it all in the greatest town the world has ever known, and for the priviledge to share in some of the thoughts that occur along this ride with phish.net on behalf of The Mockingbird Foundation. Much love to all.