Tonight, Oak Mountain Amphitheatre hosts the 21st and second-to-last show of Phish’s 2014 summer season. Tomorrow’s capper in Alpharetta will close the books on a tour that has left smoking craters in its wake and paid off with a consistency that rivals fall 2013. With one or two minor exceptions that are probably better left unnamed, the band has played with purpose, patience, and fire at every stop this summer, spinning ideas into moments and moments into grand, cathedral proclamations.
On a few of these nights (like the second night of Merriweather, which is by now a shopworn reference) it has seemed as if Phish could do no wrong. The band’s own social media stream suggests that they are doing a whole mess of rehearsing out there on the road (as distinguished from sound-checking), which would certainly explain in part the confidence and surefooted execution we have seen so far.
Friday night’s Phish gig at The Amphitheater at the Wharf in Orange Beach, AL began an increasingly rare three night, three city run. The first such run since 2012 also presents relatively modest driving distances (three to four hours) between shows, almost like we’re back in the 90s.
The Wharf itself is an interesting venue. Only a few miles from the site of the Hangout Festival (and the BP oil spill of 2010), the amphitheater is situated among a complex of high-end condos, mediocre restaurants and overpriced retail stores. Like Oak Mountain, the venue has no covered pavilion and no lawn. The reserved seats are just metal bleachers, behind a not-oversold GA pit area. Despite a seemingly tolerant atmosphere (the other Richard and I got to-go cups from Ginny Lane), there wasn’t much of a lot scene. Tickets seemed plentiful, with both pit and reserved seats available for face value or less – even free.
IT thrills you, IT inspires you, IT enthralls you, IT fulfills you! IT flowns your balls! When a Phish show does IT for you, you experience a joy so profound that most if not all of your life's most significant events seem small by comparison. You may even consider changing your life to prioritize music, or at least your love of it.
Phish's music had this power for many fans in Portsmouth, and it continues to have this power right now, even after several decades and over 1600 performances—particularly as those of you fortunate enough to be at MPP four days ago know! For those whose love of Phish includes an appreciation of Phish’s most widely-acclaimed shows, and an interest in why one seemingly-amazing show gets more praise (or less praise) from some fans than another seemingly-amazing show, this post’s $0.02 are for you. Because in light of your 100+ wonderful comments to Jeremy Goodwin’s excellent MPP2 post, it’s apparent that many of you aren’t too upset when “recaps” are about more than just last night’s show.
PORTSMOUTH, VA – On Tuesday night Phish’s summer tour juggernaut found its exhale point at nTelos Pavilion on the shores of Virginia’s Hampton Roads. Following a pair of powerhouse performances and packed house, frenzied big summer weekend vibes at Merriweather Post Pavilion – with the intensity, innovation and fearlessness of Sunday’s “Tweezerfest” that landed from outer space, instantly slotting that gig as the 23rd highest rated show among fans in all of Phish’s illustrious 30-year history – it was clear that we were due for a return to earth. Given the context of the band playing at a sustained career peak, even a decompression show was bound to produce gems.
This is one of several items we're hosting at Phish.net today to engage with students in Stephanie Jenkins' Philosophy class. Here, I attempt to answer questions submitted by her students – about the band, its management, its fans, changes in them, and how that relates to community (this week's topic in the course)...
I was fortunate enough to have attended this past Sunday's Merriweather show. Clearly this show was "different" from everything else done this summer (to date). Do you think the band makes conscious decisions to attempt a performance like this or -- as my friend put it on the ride home - "does it just happen?". How much does the bands relationship with its community effect this kind of unique performance.
Every factor – decision, intention, community, happenstance, flatulence, etc. – matters at least a little bit for every show. How much any one mattered for any particular show (that is, how much of the variance in show quality or improv or excitement, is explained by any one of those factors), perhaps not even the band members know for certain. (Mike didn't even know that he teased "The Cave"!) But there have certainly been lackluster crowds, mediocre locations, and darker times (It's not all good, brah); and Sunday was a hot crowd in a storied venue when the band is (by most accounts) trending up.
Do you think Phish -- and bands in general -- choose fan friendly venues that foster community? Is music + community a "magic formula" for band success?
Ah, yet another Monday. Yet another workweek to plow ourselves through. Yet another stellar Sunday Phish show's afterglow in which to bask. And yet another Mystery Jam to solve!
Yet another winner will receive an MP3 download courtesy of our friends at LivePhish.com / Nugs.Net. To win, be the first person to identify the song and date of the mystery jam clip. Each person gets one guess per day, with the second “day” starting after I post the hint. A hint will be posted on Tuesday if necessary, with the answer to follow on Wednesday. Yet another chance for me to wish you all good luck!
Answer: This week's clip was taken from the 12/5/99 Meatstick, which @PersnicketyJim identified to win the MP3 DL and pick up his fourth MJM victory, all impressively occurring in the last thirteen contests. Additional kudos to @ucpete for his reverse-engineering efforts, noting that the 12/5/99 Rochester show featured the debut of Sunday's noteworthy bustout, Jennifer Dances. For his efforts, he wins unlimited access to the LivePhish.com MP3 preview clip of his choice. Check in next Monday for MJM #182.
When, in the course of human events, your favorite band plays a show that is just stupid-good—and historically important, in the context of an already rich and well-documented history—and, by chance, you have volunteered in advance to write a recap of that show for Phish.net…well, sometimes the best thing you can do is just shut up about it.