Friday, December 27, 2013

Episode 23: Guest Pick - Phish 12.31.93 Worcester, MA


Happy Holidays everyone! For our last episode of 2013, we were approached by our friends Tom and Matt to play 12.31.93 from Worcester, Mass. It's funny because Brad and I actually discussed playing this show, and then we heard from these guys. Serendipity! It's a great 3 set show, of course, and we hope you enjoy. The setlist and Listener Notes are below. 

And one quick appeal from us: please review us on iTunes! Lastly, send comments and feedback to helpingfriendlypodcast at gmail dot com, and follow us on Twitter @hfpod.

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Listener Notes—Episode 23: Phish 12.31.93 Worcester, MA


New Year's Eve shows are celebrations. Phish shows are celebrations. The combination of the two can be explosive. So we're closing out our first year of the podcast on this celebratory note, 20 years ago this week. This may be the most "popular" show we've played, but all 3 sets are worth revisiting.

As many of you probably know, this show was broadcast on radio in the Boston area, so the sound is pristine. The first set of this show has a great moment during the break in "Guelah Papyrus" where Trey asks "Is everybody in yet?" Our guest Matt mentioned that there were storms in the Northeast that night, so people were slow to fill up the arena.

The first set is highlighted are "Stash" and "Run Like an Antelope," both featuring huge energy and their classic jamming approach of tension and release—and the evolution of this jam style has led to everything that we've seen since.

The second set kicks off with a hot "Tweezer." I think we'd argue that 1994 really represents the birth of the modern "Tweezer" jam, but this one is pushing the envelope in that direction. Fishman drives the jam for a while, and Trey begins building it with some groovy rock patterns, and Mike weighs in pretty heavily as well, bringing a little bit of funk to the jam. The peak of the jam has some classic Trey raging from the early 90s. I love this song.

The third set contains one of the truly classic moments in Phish history, when "Auld Lang Syne" rings in the new year and transitions into the jam of "Down with Disease"—a song that had to this point never been heard. Our guest Matt said: "There's no way anyone there would not say it was the greatest thing they'd ever heard." Makes sense given the beauty of that jam—and remarkable that this show introduced us to one of the band's most enduring and adventurous songs.

The band closed out this night with an a capella version of "Amazing Grace," which was a perfect end to a marathon, classic show. We really hope you enjoy revisiting this as much as we did. And Happy New Year!

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Phish 12.31.93, 
Worcester Centrum Centre, Worcester, MA

Set 1: Llama, Guelah Papyrus, Stash, Ginseng Sullivan, Reba, Peaches en Regalia, I Didn't Know, Run Like an Antelope

Set 2: Tweezer > Halley's Comet > Poor Heart > It's Ice > Fee > Possum, Lawn Boy, You Enjoy Myself

Set 3: Auld Lang Syne > Down with Disease Jam > Split Open and Melt, The Lizards, Sparkle > Suzy Greenberg > Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin' Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Harry Hood, Tweezer Reprise

E: Golgi Apparatus, Amazing Grace

Monday, December 16, 2013

Episode 22: Guest Pick - Phish 11.14.97 Set 2 West Valley City, UT

Hello friends! This week we're doing another guest pick, this time from our friend Wally (aka @waxbanks). We had a great conversation about his Phish journey (and his writing, which can be found here), and we discussed and played Set 2 of 11.14.97, from West Valley City, UT. The setlist and Listener Notes are below. 

BTW, Wally wrote THE book on Phish's Fall 1997 tour, A Tiny Space to Move and Breathe, which everyone should check out. 

And one quick appeal from us: please review us on iTunes! As the MSG run approaches, check out cashortrade.org for your face value ticket needs. Lastly, send comments and feedback to helpingfriendlypodcast at gmail dot com, and follow us on Twitter @hfpod.

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Listener Notes—Episode 22: Phish 11.14.97 West Valley City, UT


This week's Listener Notes are drawn directly from Wally's review of this set on Phish.net
 

The second set really is what it looks like: Wolfman's > Piper > Twist > Slave, blending together the ethereal delicacy and enveloping darkness of late 1997 before a tiny, attentive crowd. Wolfman's Brother clonks back and for for a while before developing a spacey echt-'97 groove, all hazy atmospherics and feathery drumbeats; as the jam opens up a welcoming major-chord pattern evolves, and Piper bubbles up in its own time. It's a lovely Piper, building slowly to a midtempo climax - the song hadn't yet turned into a musical greyhound race in those days. After the late lamented Piper coda, Trey starts up the haunting original Twist arrangement...

...and (surprise surprise) Fall '97 was a good time for Twist too. Trey keeps things mellow with his guitar comping, Mike lets some weird dissonant chords loose from his bass, Page plays some tricks on the piano, Fishman is his usual larking-gnome self behind the drumkit, and the groove involutes and complicates into a gorgeous full-band statement - a futuristic precursor to 11/22's 'space jam' out of Halley's Comet. Trey hangs out in the ionosphere, soloing for several minutes, as the other players drop out. This is the template: between this Twist jam and the ambient Stash from the previous night in Vegas you can discern the outline of the whole tour's weeks-long subterranean melody. It's a powerfully emotional moment wholly distinct from, say, Trey's digital delay loop jams from Back in the Day (e.g. 12/31/95, 5/7/94).

The opening chords of Slave coalesce out of the mist, and the next 15 minutes are sublime. It's a short set (less than an hour!), but the music flows so effortlessly that it seems like one long song. This is dream-music - musical psychedelia in the truest sense of the word.

Phish just didn't play bad music in Fall '97; this show doesn't get the same attention as Denver or Hampton or Dayton, but it's every bit as good as the rest of the tour - a single cohesive musical statement to reward a tiny out-of-the-way audience. Other shows can claim to be Greater in some sense, but this is the deep stuff right here. The purest essence. 


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Phish 11.14.97, The "E" Center, West Valley City, UT


Set 2: Wolfman's Brother -> Piper > Twist > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Bold As Love

Thursday, December 12, 2013

HF Pod Chat: Bitches Love Phishes Edition



Hey friends: Once again we were pleased to host an HF Pod Chat, this time the "Bitches Love Phishes" edition (named by our guests, not me!). We had 4 great female fans on to talk Phish past, present and future. Some great insights from 4 very knowledgeable fans. Our guests were Jen (@nycjamgal), Felicia (@feliciafied), Missy (@missypoo586) and Allie (@alliedise). Check it out here or in the video below.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Episode 21: Guest Pick - Phish 11.16.91 Washington, DC

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. This week we have another guest pick, this time from our friend Scott. We had a great conversation, and we discussed and played Phish 11.16.91, from Washington, DC. The setlist and Listener Notes are below. 

One quick appeal: please review us on iTunes

Scott tweets from @TourTweet. He started listening to Phish in the late '80s/early '90s, and he has a really interesting and unique perspective on the band, its history and the music. Although this show we discussed was his first official show, Scott mentioned his first "IT" Phish moment, from this "Harry Hood," Charlottesville, VA in July of 1992.

As the YEMSG run approaches, check out cashortrade.org for your face value ticket needs. Lastly, send comments and feedback to helpingfriendlypodcast at gmail dot com, and follow us on Twitter @hfpod.

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Listener Notes—Episode 21: Phish 11.16.91 Washington, DC

When we were discussing this show with Scott, the first word that came to his mind when describing Phish's music in 1991 was "relentless." Brad and I feel like that's a perfect word to describe their playing from 1990-1993. 


The first four songs are just absolute fire: from the opening "The Landlady" through "Uncle Pen," "Wilson" and into "Runaway Jim," you can hear how aggressively Trey is playing and how proficient he's becoming with this style of guitar. This show is worth listening to just to hear the shredding that some people argue is missing from 2013 Trey. 

1991 was also a year of debuts and early tinkering with Phish songs that eventually became classics. In this show, 13 of the 23 songs played debuted in either 1990 or 1991. Check out this show for early versions of "It's Ice," "Stash," "Tube," "Chalk Dust Torture" and "Horn."

And on "Horn." Scott made a compelling argument for why he loved this version of the song. He talked about how the show was so small and so intimate that during "Horn" you could hear the vibration of Trey's solo notes off of Fishman's snare drum. It's almost unconscionable that Phish was a bar band of this level of talent and potential 1991—and as Scott said, everyone knew it then. 

You can hear this level of potential in the "You Enjoy Myself" jam—it's groovy, funky, and well-executed. A song and a band well ahead of its time. 

Lastly, Scott pointed out that a lot of friends and family of the band were present at this show. You can tell that's the case through all of the joking, banter and, we think, the song selection. This band was on a serious upward trajectory in 1991. We hope you enjoy this show—relentless musically, but intimate and humorous too.

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Phish 11.16.91, The Bayou, Washington, DC


Set 1: The Landlady, Uncle Pen, Wilson > Runaway Jim, It's Ice > Sparkle > Fluffhead, Foam, Stash, Ya Mar, Cavern

Set 2: Tube > My Sweet One > Bathtub Gin, Brother, You Enjoy Myself, Horn > Chalk Dust Torture, Hold Your Head Up > Terrapin > Hold Your Head Up, Llama


E: Glide, Rocky Top

Friday, November 29, 2013

10 Fall Phish Shows To Be Thankful For

This blog post was co-written with Nate from @Phish_Forum

In celebration of the week of Thanksgiving, we wanted to look back and share our thoughts about 10 Fall Phish shows that we’re thankful for. For us, the fall is always about a few things: leaves turning, the weather getting colder, and awesome indoor Phish shows. We wanted to share a few of the shows that bring to mind the classic Fall Tour Phish we all love. Hope you enjoy, and let us know what you think. 

10.26.89, The Wetlands, New York, NY
1989 represents the first real Phish “Fall Tour.” This show from the Wetlands was among the first shows I ever had on tape, which was a nice SBD copy. This is vintage early Phish. Songs like Fluffhead were still being re-worked at this time, as we see “Who Do We Do” and “The Chase” portions played standalone here. Check out the early first set “You Enjoy Myself,” and a “Mike’s Groove” first set closer that just showcase great interplay between Trey, Mike and Page. Check out the second set “Punch You In The Eye” too, which was shelved two shows later for 414 shows. This version of PYITE smokes any ‘93 and most ‘94 versions.  The show ends with a long, winding “David Bowie” that definitely goes “Type II” and features the classic tension and release that means “Phish.” If you haven’t heard a lot of Fall ‘89, start here.

11.4.90, Fort Ram, Fort Collins, CO
At the end of October 1990, Phish played a 5-show run in Colorado. This was actually their 2nd run in the state that year, and we know that the band has always progressed when getting out of their “element,” first in Colorado and later in Europe and Japan. This 1990 show shows a marked improvement from 1989 in terms of improvisation, technical ability and breadth of playing. Bowie fans will not want to miss this 11.4.90 version, which is overshadowed by the 11.2.90 version. The “Harry Hood” and “Mike’s > Hydrogen > Weekapaug” are great examples of the development of opposite ends of the spectrum (blissful vs. raging rock). This spectrum of possibility in their playing was just starting to develop, and this show offers a nice preview of where things are going.

12.5.92, The Vic Theater, Chicago, IL
1992 holds a special place in my heart. It was the first year I sat down and listened to every show consecutively with the intent to “learn” Phish—whatever that means. In 12.5.92 we hear a nice rocking first set, with strong versions of “Rift,” “Melt” and “Divided Sky.” But this show is anchored by its remarkable second set. Boundless energy and creativity pervade this set. “Tweezer,” “Reba > I Walk The Line > Reba” and “Mike’s Groove” all see nice segments of improvisation. And “Maze,” still in its infancy, shines here too. The now highly sought after “Whipping Post” gets the Fishman treatment, and the “Tweeprise” to close the set ties it all down. 1992 shows often find Phish high on their own virtuosity, and we all know what happened as ‘92 progressed into ‘93 and then ‘94 and so on. Check this show out and hear Phish on the cusp of a major breakthrough.

10.31.94, Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY
This is a pretty obvious one, mostly because of the historic second set cover of the “White Album” in its entirety. But we always go back to this show’s first set. Maybe it’s because we had a VHS video of the show? Maybe it’s the all-time versions “Reba” and “Divided Sky?” Maybe it’s Fishman starting up the beat to “Simple” after the segue from “Sparkle.” Whatever IT is, this show is always worth listening to, front to back. The band was so energized going into this first ever album cover show, you can hear it throughout. The third set opens with an almost perfect “David Bowie,” contains a stellar “Run Like an Antelope,” and the “Squirming Coil” encore is a lovely end to what is a truly wonderful show.

11.9.95, Fox Theater, Atlanta, GA
What can we say about Fall ‘95 that Phish themselves have not with their choices for official releases? 10.21.95, 11.14.95, 12.1.95, 12.14.95 and most recently 12.7.95 grace our ears in fully remastered soundboard glory. Clearly this is a rich period in Phish’s history that finds fresh creativity and improvisation night after night. Truly wondrous.

And 11.9.95 is no different. The rare “Tweeprise” opener lets us know from the start that this will be no ordinary show. A standout version of “Divided Sky” follows, and we hear very nice first set jamming in both “Simple” and “Reba.” But it is the “Bathtub Gin" in the second set that raises this show from ordinary to extraordinary. Perhaps (rightly) overshadowed by the 12.5.95 and 12.29.95 versions, this version is no slouch. The “Gin” jam progresses through several themes before a light as air denouement signals the “Gin” coda—top notch Phish, not too long winded and fresh ideas throughout. Follow that up with the always welcome “TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY” and you have a set for the ages. Well played, Phish. Well played.

11.2.96, Coral Sky Amphitheater, West Palm Beach, FL
Afterglow—the elated feeling that remains after a pleasant experience. After an especially moving Phish show I glow very brightly, radiating a powerful blend of pure energy and emotion. On 11.2.96 Phish was still basked in a powerful afterglow from their monumental Halloween show in which they covered the Talking Heads’ “Remain In Light.”

You can hear it in Trey’s raspy voice. You can hear it in every single song in the first set. You can hear it especially in the monster “Crosseyed and Painless” that opens the second set. The afterglow brightens and starts to spark, igniting a fire within the band that would fuel the most creative period in their history, 1997-2000.

“Antelope,” “Waste,” “Hood.” Every song thereafter is imbued with the wondrous glow. We’re so thankful Phish made this show an official release in both audio and video formats, because you can feel good over and over and over again.

12.6.97, The Palace, Auburn Hills, MI & 12.7.97, Nutter Center, Dayton, OH
As our friend Andy suggested, these two shows just go together, and one ends where the next begins. Much like this entire tour, where segues and song combinations were perfect and seamless—well represented in these two shows.

The Palace show’s first set is highlighted by a high-energy, rocking “Bathtub Gin” that flows beautifully into “Foam.” As we all know, the band was firing on all cylinders during this tour and were in the process of destroying America. The second set opening combination of “Tweezer > Izabella > Twist > Piper” is, for lack of a better term, brilliant. Sometimes a second set “Tweezer” opener means life will never be the same. After a fairly standard ‘97 funky jam, at about 12 minutes in Trey starts the upbeat, blissful jam. This builds and builds until Trey takes it into a decidedly dirty, classic rock direction. The “Izabella” that followed scorched the Palace. Fans have been hoping for a “Tweezabella” ever since.

The next day, on a cold Sunday morning, we traveled from The Palace to the Nutter Center. Although we had been treated to what was maybe the best second set we’d ever seen on Saturday night, expectations were high, because it was the Fall of 1997 and we knew that the band was connected in a way that we hadn’t ever heard before. The opener of “AC/DC Bag” into “Psycho Killer” was perfect for that night, and we knew we were in for it again. To end the first set, there’s a “Tube” that immediately develops into a deep funk jam. They ended “Tube,” and Trey says, audibly, “let’s start that jam again.” They take the funk jam from Tube for another 6 minutes before landing into “Slave to the Traffic Light,” which melted the arena. That was just the first set. The second set didn’t even really matter, but a nice “Reba” and incredibly fun “Possum” closed it out. These two shows were the best 2 in a row I’ve ever seen, and are worth listening to back to back.

11.11.98, Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI
I am a major proponent of this show becoming an official release. The Midwest leg of the ‘98 Fall Tour had some very strong shows, and Van Andel Arena is a standout among standouts. In the first set we hear full-on space jamming in “Gumbo,” an emotional “Tela” and the set-closing medley of “Birds of a Feather > Theme from the Bottom > Julius” is wide open rocking.

The second set though—whoa buddy the second set. The set-opening “Halley’s Comet” is the stronger, angrier cousin of the Hampton ‘97 “Halley’s.” And when coupled to the following “Simple > Walk Away > Limb by Limb,” we have nearly an hour of brilliant improvisation.  The mellow lull of “When The Circus Comes” provides a launch pad for the set-closing “Ghost.”

This “Ghost” is the absolute fire, and is an improvisational highlight perhaps even beyond that of the “Halley’s.” The opening loops pique our interest after “When the Circus Comes,” and the band begins ever so lightly, exuding confidence. The lyrics come in and they slide effortlessly into a loping funk groove. Fish pushes up the tempo and “Ghost” just builds and builds into pure rock fury. Page, Mike, Fish and Trey all take the lead at points and make this “Ghost” a shared highlight. Huge show for Phish. Bravo.

11.28.09, Times Union Center, Albany, NY
When Phish came back in 2009. we were so happy that we were back, we didn’t (at first) think much about how much they were jamming songs or how much they were pushing the envelope. That lasted about 3 shows, and people started getting antsy. The band executed some nice jams in the summer and fall, including the “Ghost” from Red Rocks, the “Light” from the Gorge, and the “Down with Disease” from Detroit. 

But this second set opening combination of “Seven Below > Ghost” is something for the ages. The 24-minute “Seven Below” contains what I consider to be the best improvisational playing of 2009—it spans funk, bliss, rock—but the real key is that they’re completely locked in, together. This is the hose, and it’s beautiful. The "Ghost" continues this journey, and it's something to behold. This is the first "3.0" show I saw where I thought: “Phish is back.”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

HF Pod & Friends: November Phish Chat

Last night we hosted another live Phish chat, with Q&A from Twitter and YouTube. This was a conversation with RJ, Zac (@zacharycohen & @thebabysmouth) and Brian (@sufferingjuke). You can access the video here: http://hfpod.blogspot.com/2013/11/hf-pod-friends-november-phish-chat_21.html

We hope you enjoy. Please send thoughts and feedback! 




Sunday, November 10, 2013

HF Pod & Friends Fall 2013 Recap

This weekend we had the pleasure of hosting 2 great Fall Tour Recap chats. We hope you enjoy. Please send thoughts and feedback! 

The first is a conversation with Zac & Andy from @thebabysmouth and PleaseMeHaveNoRegrets.com; Myke from @LawnMemo & LawnMemo.com and Pat from @pbshaughnessy about Fall Tour 2013.




We also talked with James Kaminsky who tweets from @jameskam17, Stu Kelly from @sbkelly9 and our great friend Patrick, who is not on Twitter (yet) but who makes some great mixes at MixCloud.



Saturday, November 2, 2013

No Pressure: Phish Destroys AC

On the train from AC to Philly on Saturday morning, I'm confused, exhausted and inspired by what this band did the first two nights. Is it possible that they keep getting better?

You'd think Phish would feel the pressure of having to please a sold out crowd and an insanely critical fanbase on a weekend when expectations were sky high. Instead, they sat back, loosened up and delivered 2 of the best shows I've ever seen. When they went into the full on "Under Pressure" jam during Twist on Friday night, I think the band was telling us something: they feel no pressure. 

Back to Thursday. Before the show, we all saw the playbill, and the mood was split. There were people who were clearly bummed that they weren't going to get a cover album. But there were plenty of people fired up for new music and a break from tradition. We expect Phish to go to 1972, and they go to the future. Typical.

At the beginning of the "Wingsuit" set, a lot of the crowd was quiet. I was one of the quiet, confused ones. It's really challenging to fully take in 12 brand new songs, so I spent more time concentrating on hearing the music, as opposed to jumping up and down and karate chopping the air, of which there was plenty in the other sets.

At first, I was a bit disappointed about Wingsuit. But that's why we always say "check your expectations at the door." To be fully engulfed in the Phish experience, you have to go in with an open mind. The disappointment was short-lived in person—ended while walking into the building—and upon relistening, it's clear that the band is rejuvenated by recording music together. And I think it's the recording of new music that gives them the confidence to open it up and take things into outer space. 

On that, the 3rd set Thursday and 2nd set Friday contained some of the most energized, loose, exploratory jamming that I've heard in years. 

The last set of Thursday felt different. When they came back on, it was a party. We all needed to blow off a little steam, and that Ghost and Carini combo was an excellent backdrop for a full-on blowout. 

Those 2 songs come out to about 35 minutes, and there's not a break in there. The Ghost got straight down to business, with some great interplay among all 4 band members. Then came Carini, which might be the song with the most jam potential this year. It had a few breakdowns, an excellent blissful peak and a graceful landing. We also got a beautiful Harry Hood and an intense Antelope. That was one set.

The 1st set Friday was very solid and well-played, ending with a very nice Bowie that this fan was calling all set. But the 2nd set was just on another planet. 

From the bluesy start of Twist, we knew we were in for it. They kept the rock jam going for a while, and then it took off. They fell briefly into a dark little jam, then brought it back to a blissful build with Get Back teases from Trey. Then, it kept going, building, peaking, all bliss all the way. They were giving it to us and we were giving it back. This is the hose. Welcome.

Next up was Gotta Jibboo, amazingly only 10 minutes long. Another loose, fun song that paid off. They went into a Makisupa with Trey talking about smoking kush under a bush, then they took Light into the stratosphere. Oh, did you know they encored with Sneakin' Sally? It was that kind of night.

Tonight will round out what has been another excellent tour. The low points have been few and far between, and the high points keep getting higher. I can't help but compare this tour to Fall '97, when Phish famously destroyed America. But this is even better: they've introduced us to a ton of new music, and they're loose, comfortable and feeling no pressure--and that's a great place to be.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wading in the Velvet Sea: Past, Present, Future

During the Hampton webcast on Friday night, I had the pleasure of watching the band play "Wading in the Velvet Sea" with my wife (while our 5 week old slept nearby) in the 2nd set. This was the 3rd time my wife and I have "seen" this song together, the other two being at crucial points in my life—and in the evolution of the band. The 3rd time may prove to be just as crucial.

The first time my wife and I saw "Wading" was in Coventry, in August of 2004. We were dating, but things were not good for us. I was living in Florida and working on a campaign, she was still in DC. We were broken up, but in the way that we were still interested in spending a weekend together (with lots of other friends) at the "last Phish shows."

We weren't in a good place, and neither was Phish. Page cried just trying to sing the first lines to "Wading." So did we. The emotional intensity of that weekend for us (and so many others) wasn't so much because Phish was over—it's how it ended that really hurt.

Nobody felt good walking out of Coventry. We were saying goodbye to an era we loved, but we also all knew that we were leaving things in a disastrous state. We knew Mike disagreed with the breakup. We knew that their last show was a disaster, we knew that Trey was not well—exemplified by the fact that he told the same story 3 times (not in typical ironic Phish fashion), among other things.

The song's lyrics are about missed opportunities and moving on. They sing "time leaks out my life leaks in." They're telling us not to count on things being the same, and that time always marches on. Move forward. Progress. But where does it take us?

Fast-forward almost 6 years from Coventry, to June 18, 2010. We were seeing Phish at the Comcast Theater in Hartford. This wasn't the first 3.0 show we saw (we had been eating up 3.0 Phish since Hampton '09). In the 2nd set, they started up "Wading." My wife and I—now happily married after our 2004 breakup, having moved around the country and now living an amazing life together—went down into the aisles in the pavilion and danced together to the song.

But this time it was different. The band was back, happy and healthy—and so were we. This was a cathartic experience, because it felt like we were all back together again, how we were supposed to be. Our relationships were repaired, as were the band's. And the band's relationship with us, the fans, was repaired as well. We were all in a better place.

This past Friday night was the 3rd time. Our baby slept soundly as we danced together, again, to "Wading." And it's even better now than it was 3 years ago. I feel that the same goes for the band. They're happier and playing more cohesively and inventively than they have since the late 1990s. It's a new era—for the band, for the fans, and for the broader Phish community. There's still so much potential.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Summer Tour 2013: Phish Raises the Bar...Again

After listening to every show, watching several, and attending as many as we could, we strongly believe that this Summer Tour represents yet another instance of Phish raising the bar in the 3.0 era. Here's why.

They’re Having Fun. Most importantly, music should be fun. One great thing about the webcasts is that you can see the facial expressions and antics of all the band members throughout the show. We can't remember when we saw more smiling, jumping and dancing (mostly from Trey), and positive interactions between the band members.

A couple examples: on Friday at Dick's, during Silent in the Morning, Page started singing and Trey was watching him and smiling ear to ear. It was a joy to watch. And the Icculus on Friday: Trey was cracking up and they were all having a blast. Lastly, did you see Trey during Tweezer Reprise on Saturday night? You should. (Would we rather be at every show? Sure. But let the Couch Terr contingent have its small victory.)

They're a Better Band Now. As we discussed with Zac & Andy from @TheBabysMouth last week, this band is a better unit now than they have been since the late 90s. Why do we think that?
 
Outside Influences Make Them Better. Partially, at least, they're better because they've all had side projects that have made them better musicians and that have clearly expanded their horizons. Bringing in new Mike, Page and Trey songs is indicative of this broadening, but so is the more engaged and patient playing (we're hearing) from all four of them. 

Every Show Delivers. Another indication of them being a better band: has there been a "dud" show this tour? We don't think so. Have there been sets that didn't deliver everything that us Phish perfectionists wanted? Sure. But to the point above, they're having fun, playing what they want, and delivering, consistently, at EVERY show.

Efficiency. As we discussed with Mr. Miner a few weeks back, Phish has never been more efficient with their jams. We feel like we get more out of a 12-minute 2013 Tweezer than we did out of a 20-minute version from the 2.0 era, for sure. We're all getting more out of less, but with even more patient jamming, which is a good thing (with a few mind-blowing exceptions, i.e. Tahoe's Tweezer & Dick's Chalk Dust Torture).

Energy. Fishman has been absolutely on fire this Summer Tour, and the drums lay the foundation for the rest of the band. Not only are they completely locked in with each other (hence the efficiency), they're all playing more energetically than we've seen since the late 1.0 era.

Sound. This may be a purely technical (and technological) point, but we think that the actual sound has never been better. From Trey's tone to the more egalitarian mix that comes out, the sound is crisp and clear and allows us to hear everyone—the best we've heard since the late 90s.

Sincerity. Phish is playing more sincerely and with more devotion than they have in a long time. Think about where they were in 2009: plenty of money, plenty of musical talent, and presumably more happy and healthy. They could have done anything, but they chose this. It's not like the late 90s, when they were feeding the Phish "machine" and the epic party scene, they’re doing this because they love doing it.

Because Trey Said So. Since when have we listened to anything Trey said? Well, always. Think about his interview in Rolling Stone, when he was asked if he would name any favorite moments or peaks of Phish: "I sincerely would pick right now. Absolutely, without hesitation. And I would not have said that in 2002/2003. It's not like I always think that." We agree.

And his longer than normal "Thank You" at the end of Dick's Suzy on Sunday night. He's telling us something: they're having a blast and we're a key part of that.

I know that we haven't been this excited for a Fall Tour since 1997.

Thanks for reading. You can subscribe to the Helping Friendly Podcast on iTunes.