Happy Tahoe Tweezer anniversary! 7/31 has produced some stellar shows and gems in our past. Once again the band brought the heat on their first night in a southern weekend run of fun. Friday night in Atlanta was easily the best show of the tour so far, and certainly in an elite group of “3.0” shows led by 8/31/12 that also includes 8/7/09, 11/28/09, 8/19/12, 9/1/12, 8/4/13, 10/20/13, 10/27/13, 10/29/13, 11/1/13, 7/13/14, and 10/31/14.
And yet it starts with "Prince Caspian" and ends – not to spoil things – with "Character Zero." Jon Fishman is active and playful from the beginning, laying behind the beat, letting the beat roll back over him. As a result of which this "Caspian" is a perfectly pleasant way to start the evening. Then there's a backwards guitar loop and all of a sudden, boom! An explosion into the greasy Nawlins clavinet groove of "No Men in No Man's Land." A perfect to add some funky energy back into sticky Hotlanta air and really get the dance party started! All four members seemed really locked into a synergistic groove. I sincerely believe this is a good song. My favorite of the new ones. May we enjoy it for years to come. The version from The Forum last week, the best take on the tune so far, had three distinct jams. They would just bring the vocals back, and then go out again with a different jam. You had the sense they could do it five, six times, going out and coming back, each time navigating to a different place. This one won't be that special, since it's the first set and all and there are rules here, man, but it is hella tight and Jon Fishman is at the front of the peloton slicing through the headwind.
Photo © Phish From the Road
A slower start to the tour for Fish I thought, who didn't assert himself on the west coast quite how he's showing up tonight. Then again it was always going to be hard for Fish to match his MVP performance in the 2014 season. The telepathy between Trey's right hand and Fish's snare drum was the thing that initially captivated me about Phish and it is still as strong as ever.
I can't help it, the minute Trey states the "Ghost" riff my immediate thought is "how bad will they clam up the turnaround." This time: they nail it pretty good. Of course this is pitiful small potatoes because the point and strength of "Ghost" has always been the jam. This one is languid, slinky, a little fierce, a sort of gypsy-Latin flavor.
At this point all involved are thinking, already: "this is pretty damn strong for a first set." For those who say first sets don't matter, give a listen to this "Ghost" and get back to me. As this "Ghost" reaches farther than its other first set predecessors, the band reaches a peak in the first set yielding a blissful emotion and a guaranteed big smile on any fan's face.
Then, as Phish will do, they kick "Ghost" into an altogether higher gear, and it's not just a nice first-set treat anymore, it's shredding at a high tempo Osaka-style. And effortlessly back into the "Ghost" head. So confident tonight. Slooooooowing down a la the old-school "Tweezer" ending and it's very swampy and how was that only twelve and a half minutes.
Photo © Phish From the Road
"The Wedge" is always okay by me because I love singing the harmonies, usually to the disappointment of the people immediately around me at shows. I usually do the Page part. Nothing wrong whatsoever with Trey's "Wedge" solo. I don't know but it sure seems possible that Trey's experience this summer being a Dead sideman reminded him of the importance of the structured four-chorus guitar solo, or at least suggested new ways of approaching and structuring such solos. The humidified Austin show aside, he's been telling stories on this tour.
I will be honest with you and say that "Moma Dance" is not something I ever want to hear at a Phish live music concert, but even "Moma" is terrific tonight. Fish continues to lay waste to the tundra before him in the early going, and when the vocals pop up he's also singing his ass off. Between the two vocal segments Trey creates a cool rotating-insect Siket Disk counterpoint guitar loop that injects a cute little psychedelic component into the throb.
There have been no Dead covers this summer as many speculated there would be, but it's nice to see Phish nodding its appreciation for the Dead's practice of taking two- or three- or seven-minute breaks in between songs.
"How Many People Are You?," Mike Gordon's Hard Promises outtake, is a terrific song. If it fades into oblivion like "Say Something" it would be a sad deal indeed. Memo to Phish: please replace all future instances of "555" with "How Many People Are You."
Photo © Phish From the Road
You can complain about "Mike's Groove" not hitting the heights of 1993-97, but you can't reasonably complain about a first-set closing "Mike's Groove," which as the band currently conceives of the sequence is the absolute optimal place for it. The best part of the whole deal is the "Mike's Song" intro, with its hilarious reggaeton drop which is wonderfully loose and confident, but the whole thing is fine, just fine, and a wonderful gift to send the crowd into halftime. Even “Hydrogen” is served with extra mustard… no, really! Trey shreds the climax of "Weekapaug" like he did "Wedge," not quite Garcia-like fanning but not totally uninfluenced by it, either.
Thank you, they'll be back in exactly fifteen minutes. Synchronize your watches. Don't get caught in the bathroom. Because they will be back here playing in exactly fifteen minutes.
In the spirit of historical jamming on this date, the band chose to rip out a very rare type II version of "Kill Devil Falls," which should be on your list of must hear versions of this tune. Quite dark and exploratory, this is the type of Phish jamming that has continued to keep me coming back for more year after year. It's evident almost right away that the band intends to take this "KDF" deep.
The other major noticeable influence on Trey from the Dead shows, apart from his renewed commitment to credent, structured solos, is the use of the Mutron that Jerry Garcia was so fond of during his late 70s salad days. He goes to it early in the jam here and instantly the amphitheater is a spacecraft.
Distinct "Manteca" riffing by Trey around the twelve minute mark. Does he state the melody exactly? Look, buddy, I'm not going to chart it out. It's the thought that counts. Fifteen minutes in and it seems like someone hit the accelerator although you didn't really feel it, and the spacecraft is surging between asteroids and the stars in the heavens are getting blurry.
Photo © @tweeprise
19:45 and the "Manteca" feel is back. But then Trey drops into basically a straight-up "Tweezer Reprise" jam. For a minute or so Fish sticks with the Latin "Manteca" feel but soon he's pounding four on the floor with the rest of them. At 22:12 Trey hits the eject button. The explosive bolts instantly rupture the cabin, sending flames and pressure outward, dotting the night sky with shards of guitar and rotating embers of piano.
Let's not get crazy here, but it seems to me that this "KDF" emphatically displaces the Bend "Simple" as the best jam of tour and is competitive with recent titans such as the Randall's "Chalk Dust" and Reading "Disease." Maybe not quite the Reading "Disease."
When we land it's time for our spaceship to blast off again. All available evidence suggests that "Martian Monster" is the band's favorite of the Haunted House songs, much to the chagrin of us partisans of "The Very Long Fuse" or "The Unsafe Bridge."
It's no wonder. Your trip is short!
Photo © @tweeprise
There ensues a peripatetic interlude where Trey fiddles with Page's keyboards, then Fish's drums, then takes over on drums while Fish sort of plays guitar. We've discussed this and it's not truly a "rotation" given that Page stays put. Back into "Martian Monster," easy as pie, smooth as the drop back out of the "Ghost" jam a couple of hours ago. This is fun.
A sweet “Twist” with the natural "woo" made me think of how many woo's we chanted in 2013 with the fond memories of the "Tahoe Tweezer". This is an ideal spot for "Twist" to work its magic. And the jam quickly heads for the blustery seaside with a margarita, driving sensibly with the top down. Because eventually, once you get to the seaside, you'll want to get freaky, "Twist" takes you there eventually, throwing down a provocatively surging and melodic two-chord jam that takes us all the way into the station.
Apparently Trey has this all figured out. As "Twist" is winding down he cranks up "Back on the Train," which is as raging and concise as you'd expect it to be in the context of this great and purposeful show, and then as "BOTT" is ending he launches the "Reba" riff. A second set "Reba," guys. It's a tight "Reba" too, with 2015 Trey effectively navigating the minefields laid by his 1989 former self. And then there's the bliss of the "Reba" jam, blowing like the warm Caribbean breeze across my nude ass. Best "Reba" since Augusta 2010?
And then "Bathtub Gin"? This song hasn't been seen this deep in the second set since the Gorge in 2009, and almost never in its history. Trey sort of does part of the "Reba" whistling ending during the "Gin" intro, and at this point it's like, sure, fuck it, whatever. We'll buy whatever you're selling. A panda playing keyboards? Sure. There's nothing in the rule book that says we can't have a Dog President.
Photo © @tweeprise
Every single song played in this set has been excellent. There's no reason to think "Gin" will be any different and it isn't. It's not that long, and it won’t rank with the Riverports and Winston-Salems and Nassaus in the final historical analysis, but boy does it bring home the bacon. In fact the real jumping-off point for the excellent jam is Trey catching the riff from Frank Zappa's "Apostrophe" about 6:10 in.
There's more Garcia influence in the fanning right before the band reenters the head of the tune and closes it out and leaves the crowd yelling for more under blue lights. Fish chants and howls something under the closing "Gin" vamp and my solemn pledge to you is that the Phish.net staff will not rest until we determine what, exactly, he said. I can't imagine it's super important.
When he comes back out for the encore, Trey starts picking out an arpeggio and for all the world it sounds like they're going to do the long awaited "Prince Caspian Reprise," or as we call it "Fuckerprise." But alas no: Fish climbs astride the woodblock for "Farmhouse." It doesn't matter what they play at this point, you can rest assured it will be wonderfully tasteful and patient. Trey and Page husband the tune skyward in tandem and it's extremely pretty. Then "Character Zero," about which no more will be said.
All in all, this show was a great start to the southern weekend. This show had excellent flow, jams, antics, and was just pure fun Phish. Keep having a blast on tour my friends! Remember, your trip is short, and dance while you can! You guys don't need any more encouragement to get out and see Phish. They do not usually deliver on this rarefied level. But on any given night they might.
Phish Summer 2015 – Setlists & Recaps
07/21/15 Setlist – Recap – Bend 1
07/22/15 Setlist – Recap – Bend 2
07/24/15 Setlist – Recap, Recap2 – Shoreline
07/25/15 Setlist – Recap – LA Forum
07/28/15 Setlist – Recap – Austin
07/29/15 Setlist – Recap – Grand Prarie
07/31/15 Setlist – Recap – Atlanta 1
08/01/15 Setlist – Recap – Atlanta 2
08/02/15 Setlist – Recap – Tuscaloosa
08/04/15 Setlist – Recap – Nashville
08/05/15 Setlist – Recap – Kansas City
08/07/15 Setlist – Recap – Blossom
08/08/15 Setlist – Recap – Alpine 1
08/09/15 Setlist – Recap – Apline 2
08/11/15 Setlist – Recap – Mann 1
08/12/15 Setlist – Recap – Mann 2
08/14/15 Setlist – Recap – Raleigh
08/15/15 Setlist – Recap – Merriweather 1
08/16/15 Setlist – Recap – Merriweather 2
08/21/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 1
08/22/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 2
08/23/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 3
09/04/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 1
09/05/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 2
09/06/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 3
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