Heading into last night's summer finale at Dick's, it's safe to say there was a sense of collective unease. The first two shows of the run were solid, but decidedly unspectacular. Phish is currently playing at a high level, so by no means were Friday and Saturday nights bad shows. They just felt a little... ordinary. The Friday spelling tradition was seemingly put to rest and there was little acknowledgment that we were at DICK'S. It was understandable. Magnaball was such a smashing success, that it was going to be nearly impossible for this run not to feel a little anti-climactic.
"The Landlady" – Photo © @tweeprise
Saturday night at Dick’s started somewhat ominously – as the early crew assembled around the stage, dark clouds and stiffer breezes were of enough concern that the stage crew was forced to scramble and lower the Page-side PA stack, which was swaying precariously from the rafters. The storm clouds passed... and this minor non-event was the only real thing that went “wrong” all night. The rest was all win.
There would be an abundance of Peak Phish performed this evening, but it didn’t come early. The new summer dance machine vehicle “No Men In No Man's Land” opened a show for the second time this summer. Showing such early promise upon which fans have rightly heaped considerable praise, this version didn’t sniff the peaks of the Forum, Mann, or MagnaBall versions from earlier in the tour, but set an upbeat tone that carried into a compact but excellent “Martian Monster.” The set then settled in to stock footage with a mostly forgettable sequence of “NICU,” “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan,” “Bouncing Around the Room” and “555.”
Photo by Patrick Jordan © Phish From the Road
Night one of Dick’s. Home to some of the most storied shows of Phish 3.0, with all sorts of setlist shenanigans. The “S” show. “Fuck Your Face.” “Most Shows Spell Something.” The “Lushington” fakeout. What would tonight bring?
A short but sweet “Tube” opened the show, but the fun thing about first night Dick’s is that even when songs stay within the song’s usual confines, the mind starts racing in crossword puzzle mode: “What could they be spelling?” During Page’s initial clavinet solo, Trey and Mike turned to each other and stood close (as they have several times this summer, notably during the Magnaball “Twist"), holding down the rhythm. “Ghost” followed, sending fans scrambling for their Scrabble dictionaries and coming up empty, “tg” not being found at the beginning nor “gt” at the end of many words. Trey's solo during “Ghost" was delicate and patient, and – simply because it wouldn’t be a summer 2015 recap without this statement – seemingly influenced by his time preparing for and playing at the Fare Thee Well shows.
Photo by Patrick Jordan © Phish From the Road
Phish has announced a three concert run in Mexico's Riviera Maya at the The Barceló Maya resort on January 15-17, 2016. This unique series of three shows on the beach will be sold as part of an all-inclusive resort vacation, with food, drinks, concert tickets and lodging included in the price. Airfare is not included, but transportation to and from the resorts is. A choice of four resorts is available; no concert tickets will be sold outside of the all-inclusive resort packages. There are three and four night packages available, with a variety of rates (ranging from $1349 pp -$3149 pp) depending on occupancy, room size, length of stay and resort. Reduced rates for children are available.
Tickets go on sale September 10th at 11AM EDT and can be purchased only via the web here: http://cidphishrivieramaya.shop.ticketstoday.com.
Today's guest blogger is Professor Paul Jakus, of the Department of Applied Economics at Utah State University. We are honored to share his writing and research, and welcome other academics to contribute scholarly analysis of the band's history, as well.
Before the 2015 tour kicked off, @Lemuria analyzed where Phish has played over the years using Census divisions. He argued that not only does the west coast not get screwed; it gets more than its fair share of shows, while New England — the band’s home turf — is the region that gets shafted.
But analysis by Census divisions didn’t seem right to me. Census Divisions in the east are much smaller than those in the west, potentially distorting the analysis. Instead, why not calculate the geography of Phish shows the same way the Census Bureau determines the geographic center of the population?
What is a geographic population center? Think of a map of the U.S. as a table to be balanced on a single leg. Each person is a weight placed on the table where they live: In 1790, more Americans lived on or near the Atlantic coast; so, the leg on which the table is to be balanced must be placed very far to the east. (In 1790, this was in Kent County, MD.) To maintain the balance as Americans migrated west, the leg was moved further and further to the west. This Census Bureau map shows the westward movement of Americans with every Census since 1790:
Just How Good Was the Music at Magnaball?
Before we begin, I want to say upfront that I did not attend Magnaball. Due to other vacations and obligations this summer, I was forced to choose between Magnaball and Dick’s. I chose Dick’s because of the low risk of impacting rain, zero risk of crippling heat and humidity, preference for Colorado over upstate New York, and Dick’s stellar batting average. Along with Star Lake, Dick’s likely has the highest percentage of great shows out of any current venue. As we know now, I may have made a poor choice: Magnaball was blessed with perfect weather, and the band played three shows for the ages.
But were these three shows simply great for an era when the band members are in their fifties? Or, did Magnaball stack up to the great festivals of the 90s? Now, you may be saying to yourself, “How can someone who didn’t attend Magnaball properly rate it?” My response is that is precisely why I’m well-suited to write this. I’m basing this list on the replay value of the music alone – announced sets only – so no Storage Jam, Tower Jam, etc. It has nothing to do with the vibe, weather, traffic, your pimp RV, coming of age moments, or any other factors that can't be captured on the recording. It’s all about how well the music holds up after the festival is long over. Now that we’ve laid the ground rules, let’s run the numbers.
How good of Phish to throw another ball!
The first one, of the Clifford variety, was at the time the biggest marker in the band’s development as a cultural juggernaut. Now comes the tenth, at a time when the band seems to be looking back and looking forward. More than six years into the post-Coventry comeback, barging toward the finale of a tour that’s one of the best of this era (it jousts with fall 2013 for the distinction of best tour in 3.0), it was time for a family gathering of the sort that Phish hadn’t hosted since Superball IX in 2011.
Photo © Aaron Stein