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.

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