Friday, February 26, 2010

Show #7: SPAC Night 2 (Saratoga NY)

2004 Year-In-Review (A Journey Through the Dark Side)
Show #7: Saratoga Performing Arts Center #2 (Saratoga NY)
Date: June 20, 2004
Tour: Early Summer

Set I:

1) Rift – after last night’s first show here at SPAC which was heavy with late 90s and new Millennium material, a Rift-era tune is a refreshing appetizer for the coming meal. A sprightly song, it lets the band stretch their fingers and warm-up not only their chops but also their voices. Nothing out of the ordinary to speak of. They head straight into …

2) Julius - maybe the voices aren’t warmed up as no one backs Trey during the first intro verse (maybe the mics weren’t turned up?). The music still has a warm-up feel to it – not fully engaged. 3:00 in and as they head into the “big-band”-style jam it still feels a little “standard.” But, hey, it’s early and the night is young.

2) Julius (cont.) – Almost 6:00 in and while they haven’t broken out of their trot, I can definitely feel the foundations begin to rumble a bit. I love Mike’s down-and-back-up bass line – seems to harken back to an older era of rhythm and blues. Vocals return for the outtro and the song feels like its not going to have anything extra to offer.

Just when they were getting started, Page introduces his father, Jack McConnell, who is coming out to sing a “Father’s Day” song.

3) Bill Bailey, Won’t You Come Home – alright, I’ll take this one song, but I hope he doesn’t pull a “Jay-Z” and tell the crowd he’ll do another one if they scream loud enough. Jack adds the “drunken-stupor” slur, for added effect. Or maybe he really is drunk? Probably not. Hmm, now he’s tap dancing. (“Hey Honey, I went to the Vaudeville Show tonight and a bunch of hippies showed up.”) The band is probably enjoying this little bit of fatherly-love. I’m ready for some Phish though.

Alright, Mr. McConnell is leaving the stage. Nice going Jack!

4) Waves – alright. Finally, they open things up a little bit with one of their best post-hiatus songs. The main guitar riff comes at me again and again, as if in wave form, lapping against the shore. Three and half minutes in and it feels like a Phish show now (a “new-millennium Phish show,” that is), with some light interplay among all-four members, although Trey still leading the ship with a directed melody. Nice thing about Waves is it doesn’t take a long time before the “surf” picks up … you don’t have to wait for it here – this song doesn’t have a jam tacked on – it IS a jam – just one with lyrics added at the very beginning. Case-in-point, the lyrics return at seven and half minutes, but only as a springboard for the jam, which at this point begins to morph out of its Type-I skin. At 10:00 I think I hear teases of Maze, but they’re not coming from Fishman, just Page and Trey. OK, definitely not a segue, just a thematic quote. The ship continues to sail on, with nice upbeat tempo.

4) Waves (cont.) – the jam continues but doesn’t take off anywhere particular – just enough to create a wake. And, with no segue/no transition, the sea calms under the gentle breezes and the song ends.

5) Gumbo – simple and fairly direct, with nothing surprising here. I would have liked to see something build out of waves, but no one’s ever complained that they got a Gumbo, and I’m not doing so here.

6) Water In the Sky – (hmm, is there rain in the forecast tonight? Perhaps it’s raining out on the lawn already?) Like Gumbo, nothing surprising to note.

7) Horn – Feeling as if they are trying to “burn off” certain songs for unknown reasons, we get another Rift-era single-shot. And that’s followed by …

8) Poor Heart – don’t want to sound as if I’m complaining, but the second set better kill.

9) Drowned – alright, it either pouring outside the shed, or it’s about to. No way they play Waves, WITS, and Drowned all three otherwise. Nonetheless, I’m glad as Drowned finally lights a small fire in this joint. A song that never disappoints, they tread across the bridge, and I begin to hope that maybe they’ll extend this set a while. My hopes answered, they break out the heavy dose of full-throttle rock-and-roll, finally. Nine minutes in and the unique segments of improv continue one after another. Twelve minutes in and they find a nice little bass groove to ride for a while. 15:00 – Trey leads the charge, with Mike following very closely on his heels, caravan-style. I almost think I hear a little DEG in this. Could it be? Nah – it’s just “one of those riffs that Trey’s been going back to for years.” Regardless, it pushes the envelope further out, allowing Page to fill the extra space. Mike and Fish are locked in the back pocket and actually push it into a higher gear as it heads towards 19:00 and hits the straightaway at mach 3. As they appear to cross the finish line around 20:00, it turns out to be just a head-fake and they push on for a victory lap, or two. As this jam winds down, I’m reminded that it now is truly set-break. After a stop-n-go start, they finished with gusto. Set II will begin in 15 minutes, so stick around.

Set II:

House lights go down and the opening notes reveal

1) Seven Below – Likes Waves, this song debuted the night that Phish returned from hiatus at MSG, and, like Waves, was last seen/heard from on 4/16 in Vegas.

1) Seven Below (cont.) – of all the Round Room-era material, -7 has taken me a while to get used to. It was very un-Phish-like at first listen. However, the early going does yield some nice tag-teaming by Trey and Page, in psychedelic fashion, before returning back to the core groove of the song. The comparisons to Waves continue, as Seven Below is not a song with a jam tacked on to the end … the song itself is a jam. At the 5:00 minute mark, they are already at That Place that years ago would have taken 10 minutes to get to. Post-hiatus Phish seems to be about jams with lyrics, rather than traditionally-styled compositions. It’s a different beast that yields amazing results when laid down correctly. Here at SPAC on night #2, as they cross the 7:00 mark, they’re laying it down like poker players at a high stakes game in Vegas. The groove is locked and loaded and they can get to just about anywhere from here. Almost ten minutes in and a primordial soup is emanating from the stage, with only the slightest form to it, ebbing, flowing, and then reforming itself again. A couple minutes later, things settle down, but the organic nature of what’s happening cannot be denied. The structure is loose but thick. The groove is there, but can’t be easily defined. You can hear the texture. There’s a tease/quote I recognize but can’t identify as they cross 14:00. They build on this down the runway and take flight. Passing the sixteen minute mark, the band is connected eight ways with Trey leading the charge again. These post-hiatus jams are shy on the peaks, but the energy is delivered in massive waves, whose troughs and peaks aren’t easily discerned. 18:00 and Trey is still at the helm. This Seven Below is probably the best jam of 2004 to this point. The tone turns down a bit, opening the door to …

2) Ghost – very slow, open, and space-funky, the tempo feels like its dragging but does allow a few small nuggets to get laced underneath the verses. At 2:30 the synth-funk appears, but only briefly, before they head through the choruses. 4:00 in and this is ghoul doesn’t seem to want to get going. Displacing the usual funky dance rhythms are ambient, mellifluous patterns that, while interesting, are bringing the pace of the show below the sustainability line.

3) Twist – starting with the same drag that Ghost left behind, Twist finally finds its form and offers some of the best stand-alone jams of 2004. It seems like they are on a track running circles, and every time they pass “Go” they start a new jam. At times, I can feel Fishman trying to push forward and faster, but Trey simply won’t follow. Thus, although there’s some unique improvisation going on, it feels slightly repetitive.

4) You Enjoy Myself – Trey’s fat fingers show up again during the intro but once they drop into the Nirvana section, we get as full a dose of true ambient psychedelia as Phish can create. Heading through the Boy/Man/God/Shit, we get a rather typical “tramps jam followed by some really nice build/peaks between 13:00 and 16:00, during which Trey finds his happy place and shreds a few fibers of my soul. Passing the baton after 16:00,
Goreaux takes center-stage for a high-register solo, and then we’re into the vocal jam, which doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. And that’s the second set.

E) Good Times Bad Times – Trey rips the opening riff of this rock classic and then hits it hard with some Page-esque solos. Page does his best Robert Plan emulation, and then Trey takes off Big Red-style for a few minutes. The Zeppelin tune returns to form for final assault on the crowd. GTBT fits into the same category as Loving Cup for stand-alone encores. Nothing else more to say.

Final thoughts – first set left me wanting more, although Drowned is about as good as it gets; second set is good, but not great, mostly because Ghost let the air out of the balloon. Taken as a double dose, with night 1, SPAC tops the previous tour stops of ‘04. Let’s hope Phish continues the ascent through the coming mid-west shows.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Show #6: SPAC Night 1 (Saratoga NY)

2004 Year-In-Review (A Journey Through the Dark Side)
Show #6: Saratoga Performing Arts Center #1 (Saratoga NY)
Date: June 19, 2004
Tour: Early Summer

Set I:

1) Reba - No warm-up required! Through the composed section, it's not picture perfect, but it's all together. The jam is concise, but hits the right peaks. After two nights in Brooklyn, things seem to be running smoothly.

2) Runaway Jim - Trey's voice seems a little tired again? Otherwise, the tempo is up. Just fifteen minutes into this show and already getting two classic type I jams. This is what I needed after that up/down/back/forth first set last night in Brooklyn.

2) Jim (cont.) – 4:00 – Mike and Fishman have created a nice little pocket. Trey and Page are virtually indistinguishable – the true key-tar players.

3) NICU – nothing like a little ska to keep everyone moving. The chorus sounds like its missing a layer (maybe it’s just difference between SBD and the AUDs I usually listen to). Nice way to spend five minutes. As they close it out, they launch into the intro-less …

4) Scents & Subtle Sounds – debuted not even a year ago, and seeing the light of day for only a month, this delicate monster from Undermind returns back to the stage. [edited]

4) S&SS (cont.) – This song takes a turn down a scenic drive just two minutes in – the kind of slow jam that is just quick enough to keep you moving. And then it begins to pick up, and up, and up, and away. A near perfect balance of four instruments, plus the right amount of effects.

Note: Fishman can be heard during the break of silence saying "What a great song!?!" - and he's right.

I hear Page play a couple of notes that sound like ...

5. Wolfman's Brother - no question about it now, this show is delivering THE GOODS.

5. Wolfman’s (cont) – laid-back, funky, and with enough space for all the small grenades being tossed all over the place; vocals are meshed properly. 3:15 and Page surprises me with some new lyrics. 4:00 in and I’m not sure an engineer with a board and computer could make a mix this openly dope.

5. Wolfman’s (cont.) – 6:00 and following a couple of sly punches to the ribs, they push forward in a familiar, yet not-quite-so much, way. 9:00 and it gets dense and the pace picks up a step. There'll be plenty of time for rest at the set break.
^ Can't imagine anyone at this SPAC show feeling unsatisfied at this moment.

6. Walls of the Cave - time for the mid-set lesson on composition, new Millennium-style. What is it about this song that feels forced. Some people head for the can and a beer. But once the first four minutes are passed, they regret their decision, as there's more to this one than it seems at first pass. But there's still something not quite right? Do there really need to be lyrics at this point? I don't know the answer.

6. Walls (cont.) – this jam is so much better once they decide to lay off the mics. It actually shreds. 12:30 – lyrics again … really? Although, only one line which acts as detour sign for some interesting and unique improve. Mike adds a filter that almost sounds like a human voice. After 16 minutes pass they begin to paint an ambient landscape that didn’t couldn’t be found in 1.0.

Fishman’s hi-hat emerges from the ambient abyss,

7. David Bowie – immediately I’m struck how slow the tempo of this Bowie is, but that opens the doors a little for Mike to get more jiggy wit’ it. The pace picks up. Heading towards the opening verses I ask myself what’s with Trey’s tone? Maybe some of the ambient effects are still turned on, suppressing some of the usual heaviness. Or, are they playing in a different key? As with the Reba it’s not perfection, but it’s glued together nicely.

7. Bowie (cont.) - once they pass the 7:00 mark and head on this becomes a model for Type I jamming, sans machine gun.

And that’s it for Set I of SPAC night #1

2004 Year-In-Review (A Journey Through the Dark Side)
Show #6: Saratoga Performing Arts Center #1 (Saratoga NY)
Date: June 19, 2004
Tour: Early Summer

Set II:

1. A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing – returning for an encore performance after its debut at Keyspan three nights ago. Hauntingly heavy, from the very beginning, ASIHTOS emits a dissonant tone. Tonight’s version is more polished than its summer opener version, not surprisingly, considering Phish delivered a grade-A performance last night. Six minutes in and its obvious that the dark depths of this Ocean are to be explored for the first time (the debut was only 7:00 minutes long). This sequel is sure to cause further angst among fans who still cannot believe that the end of the line is approaching. After 9:00 minutes, I feel like I’m swimming in a viscous ocean of some far-distant planet yet to be discovered. 12:00 mark – progressing further outwards with a steady heartbeat, I’m LOST in a sea of psychedelic sound. Batten down the hatches, boys, it’s gonna be a wild ride tonight.
1. ASIHTOS (cont.) – after continuing the dark, exploratory mission a while longer, the afterburners shut-down to reveal this trip’s first destination:

2. Piper – the doors open on the ship to reveal an almost heavenly landscape, just begging to be discovered. Building slowly, the texture of this repeating riff is revealed one layer after another. Following the lyrical interval, it feels like we’re back on the spaceship again (did we even land or was that just an illusion?) heading out into the cosmos again. No question, as five minutes pass we are in an eerie expanse. For this first time this year, I feel like the band and the audience have collectively reached IT. Kick back and just let it wash over you.

2. Piper (cont.) - 9:00 and Page takes control of the wheel. This time it’s Trey who's providing the canvas, letting Page paint the textures. Within a couple of minutes, the two have melded together into a single amorphous ray of big-bang afterglow. All the while, Mike and Fish are steady as the rain underneath. At 12:30 the ship pauses in what feels like-mid air to examine an unknown object hovering above and below.

2. Piper (cont.) - 15:00 - no hallucinogenics required.

2. Piper (cont.) – 18:00 – suddenly I realize that my legs and torso have been moving without the knowledge or control of my head - must be the raw, pure energy that is being transfused from the stage. I think I might actually be hearing Kuroda’s lights?

2. Piper (cont.) – 22:00 – rising like a tempest, Trey delivers a cacophonous melody that feels like distant cousin to Tweeprise and MELTS faces all around.

2. Piper (cont.) – 25:00 - #$^&*!@$#%&%$^&

2. Piper (cont.) – 27:00 – torn to shreds, the jam comes down, offering everyone a chance to inhale again, but doesn’t stop yet.

2. Piper (cont.) – 29:00 – stipped down now, its Mike and fish just keeping it together. A couple of minutes later it feels like something is around the corner …

3. Gotta Jibboo – after that trip through eternity and back, the pulse increases and a bass-led groove is pushed smoothly into the I.V.

3. Gotta Jibboo – 2:40 – echoing out of the undermath, Page’s tonal “alarm” elevates your senses for a moment. No worries though, as Trey follows closely behind with a mellow solo, keeping things in check.

3. Jibboo (cont.) – 7:00 – like Jacques Cousteau with an axe, Trey dives down deep, revealing more of the almost-familiar lifescape. Don’t stop moving.

A short segue and we're hear the beginning of

4. Limb by Limb - if you were expecting a breather at this point, forget it. The exits have been locked shut. This show isn't even over, but I'm already feeling that elation that tells me that tonight captures the crown thus far.

LxL feels stripped down to its essence in the early going, and at the 3:00 drop, it’s confirmed that this is your only chance tonight to come up for air.

4. LxL (cont.) – as with other nights where IT happens, the only descriptions that make any sense are those conveying how and what the music makes you feel (as opposed to what the music sounds like). The title of this song isn’t lost, as both limbs are connected to the I.V. now.

No loss of energy as this poly-rhythmic gemstone comes to a Fishman close. Damn. [looks around and just shakes head]

With a chance to catch only the shortest of breaths, they launch again with a ferocious:

5. Cavern: the lyrics of this funk-filled set closer seem to describe the journey that this second set has taken. As the second verse comes, it's clear that tonight flightplan was uncharted as Trey flubs the entire verse. As the outtro chorus begins to repeat, Fishman joins in the vocals to ensure the ship doesn't get lost. And almost as soon as this song begins, compared to the other flights tonight, it's over.

Encore: Wading in the Velvet Sea - this amazing trip is over and all that's left is this harmonious finale. No arguments from anyone.

Final thoughts - a champion first set, followed by a near-perfect second set. How do they top this tomorrow night? Is it possible? As fans file out, re-attaching jaws and solidifying faces, one can't help but wonder.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Show #5: Keyspan Park Night 2 (Brooklyn NY)

2004 Year-In-Review (A Journey Through the Dark Side)
Show #5: Keyspan Park Night #2 (Brooklyn NY)
Date: June 18, 2004
Tour: Early Summer

Set I

1. AC/DC Bag – always a welcomed opener (you can’t argue with a song that includes lyrics “let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, let’s get this show on the road!”). In the starter position, you aren’t expecting it to get stretched; just to act as a pace car for the evening. Three minutes in and the pace has been set accordingly. After five minutes, they seemed to be warming up, exercising their chops, and energizing the crowds’ legs and heads. Trey affixes the rousing outtro which dissipates as expected, and immediately they begin:

2. Camel Walk – considered a major “bust-out” for a long time, Camel Walk has seen the light of day at least once every few months for the past few tours. You can’t help but hear the “early years” in this song, with its rather simple, laid-back, funky structure, that includes almost no improvisation. Five minutes and we’re done here.

3. Crowd Control – continuing the two-night run with material off Undermind (although this song was debuted last fall and was also performed this spring in Vegas). Much better placed, early in the first set than it was in Vegas (late second set). It’s lively enough here, situated where a bluegrass tune used to fit.

4. Stash – how well this Stash comes off will, in some ways, depend on what they play after it. If they use it as a catalyst for the rest of the set, then it’s just what the doctor ordered to breathe life into this otherwise “disjointed” selection. Six minutes in and the exploration has begun, although it’s still rather “controlled” – they seem to be holding back tonight (does that mean a monster is coming this way in the second set?). So far, I haven’t heard anything wrong with their playing, but I’m ready for my face to be melted already. At the ten minute mark, I’m enjoying it (lowercase), but there’s another gear there that they aren’t switching into, I just know it. As the song comes to a close, I’m really hoping that they bring out a heavyweight …

5. Cars Trucks Buses – so much for my desires – who wrote this set list? Now I’m really expecting some Heat out of tonight’s second set, because this first set’s delivery is a total mixed-bag that seems to have no direction. It’s like a show on Xanax.

6. Carini - Did I write “mixed-bag” already? [uh, yeah, I did, and now I just wrote it again]. There’re actually a few surprises here, with some unexpected raunch and TONE after the 2:00 mark; Three minutes in and the mood continues to be dark. Around 5:00 Trey throws down a few hot licks and the pace quickens a bit, pulling the crowd closer to IT, but not all the way. Will they launch from here or return to base?

7. My Sweet One – like a mix tape gone wrong. Nothing wrong with the song though.

8. Character Zero – hmm, I don’t feel like the night has even gotten started and here we are facing a possible set closer? WTF? As the song progresses past the verses and choruses, I stop worrying about the clock and let the pure, unadulterated rock flow over me, enjoying the first dose of high-level energy of the night. All the hooks are fastened on this Zero and the crowd is appreciative of the effort. As the crowd and band join in together for the closing chorus, I can’t help but come back to the thought, is this it for set one?

OK – what the hell do I know … as they head straight into

9. Tweezer – jaw on the floor now; gonna stop trying to figure this set out. The guitar riff in Tweezer is another one that is near perfection in its fall-back-on-itself simplicity. Then it begins its dark turn around 3:00 only to clear the decks, recycle and begin again, eventually opening the door to full-scale funk improv by the 5:00 minute mark. Immediately all four members have lined up with Page as the unappointed leader, as he provides a palette on which Trey is able to paint some gritty textures. A few minutes later Trey steps in to lead, forging ahead with a determination to square the edges on this type I jam. Like a Mac truck charging down the highway, I’m wondering what are this Tweezer’s destination and cargo. At the 11 minute mark, I’m informed that round two of the jam is on the waybill. More Type I is served up deliciously for our consumption. Finally, I’m feeling IT. But wait, what’s that, are we at our destination? Yep, it’s a place known as Set Break. I’m told it’s a fifteen minute stop. As with all things tonight, whether that’s the truth or not, I have no idea.

Set II

1. Wilson – the best spot for Wilson is opening the second set, in my opinion. It immediately captures the audience’s attention and contains some nice heavy rock riffs. The audience becomes part of the act (“Wilson!”). Three minutes in and I have to mention the heavy guitar riffs again. Again, the audience and band connect (“Can you still have any fun now?!”). Can you still have fun? Answer: Yes, I can.

As Wilson winds down, I hear those notes from the bottom of the abyss that can only mean …

2. Down With Disease – early on the audience has to help Trey who flubs some lyrics. Just as with Wilson, the audience can help but join in the fun (“this is all been wonderful”). Better yet, DWD can usually be counted on to deliver, and in this second place position should be a pretty good launching pad. Every time I hear the composed jam, I can’t help but think back to that New Years’ Eve long ago when it was premiered for the first time – it’s the model of a Type I jam if there ever was one. Tonight, the energy is in the park and all four band members are firing on 12 cylinders. Nearing the 7:00 mark its turned into a raging inferno of molten rock. One final pass through the lyrically-laced iconic jam again reminds everyone that “this is all been wonderful.”

Bringing the jam to an end, Trey quickly announces that Brooklyn’s own Jay-Z is coming on stage. Jay-Z takes the make and out of the speakers comes

3. 99 Problems – it’s a good thing the show’s in Brooklyn where there are clearly some homeboy fans who know his songs and can join in the rap-along. Mixing rock and roll and rap has always come off to me as novelty. Tonight is not exception. I wonder how long he’ll be on stage, because I came to hear Phish. But this does prove that there’s almost no genre of music that Phish can’t handle. This song is pretty funny because most Phish fans do got 99 problems but the bitch ain’t one.

4. Big Pimpin’ – Jay stays on stage for another song. The beat of this song seems much more Phish-friendly – it’s sounds like something that would be played on a fairground for some reason. OK, it’s two and out for Jay-Z, and they waste not time getting back the point …

5. Chalk Dust Torture – re-launching at full-throttle, the interlude of hip-hop turns out not to interrupt the flow as I’d worried. Again, the good times roll and the audience gets to sing along (“Can’t I live while I’m young?! – although I kind of wish the people near the AUD mics would have keep it down a little). Three minutes in and we’re safely on the Type I bus. As I've mentioned before, a good sign that they are playing well is that I'm having trouble listening "critically." The tempo of the Chak Dust is perfect - no flubs, no hiccups, just pure, unsweetened, shredded wheat.

5. Chak Dust (cont.) – venturing past the 6:00 mark, the band continues to destroy it, but soon after takes an unfamiliar turn. Things slow down as it seems there’s more to this jam than meets the eye. Not knowing what to expect, the crowd settles down for the hard stare, as Phish ventures the neverworld, where never-before-heard ambience and psychedelic riffs that echo and repeat throughout the open air are birthed. This is some seriously heavy Phish. Heavy. A few minutes later and remnants of Chalk Dust's core return to bring it all to powerful yet tight ending. That was awesome.

6. Harry Hood - taking it down a slight notch after that scorching barn-burner that used to be known as Chalkdust, the audience is back on the team with chants of "Hood," and then the band heads out on their own again, playing some of the most loved music they've ever written. The composition is almost perfectly arranged, quiet then loud, shallow then deep, slow then quick, all the while building towards an imminent first-round offering of thanks to the Mister.

^ 7. Hood (cont.) – following the gratuitousness, it’s nothing but sheer bliss – like swimming in an ethereal ocean of sound. And more bliss after that, followed by even more bliss, followed by the first hints that there's nirvana up ahead.
^ 7. Hood (cont.) - out of the bliss, around the 9:00 mark, Trey throws a dark and brooding solo into the pot, causing things to boil immediately. It eventually settles down, consumed by some polyrhythmic drumming by Fishman and the song ends WITHOUT a finish (I guess the audience has sung enough already?) and transitions into

8. Taste - this song was one of the gems from Vegas. The polyrhythms found late in Hood make sense now. Listening to Taste, I'm reminded that there are certain types of music that Phish generates that cannot be found anywhere else; Taste is the poster child for this uniqueness.

8. Taste (cont.) – putting behind me the feeling that I was cheated out of my Hood outtro, the band departs the central core of Taste, layering Type I after Type I on top of the Fishman’s multi-tiered foundation that would chart like an MC Escher drawing. Ten minutes in and the Taste theme is brought back in full form, driving onward towards a machine-gun-laden peak of combustible goodness. And, with a final drum beat, it appears that I’ve not checked the clock in a while, but this second set is over. Catch your breath for three minutes.

Encore: Back on stage now … Bug comes out from behind the refrigerator for the first time in ‘04. That’s cool. I like the way this song starts out slow and never exceeds the speed limit, but generates some nice intensity nonetheless. Plus, they’re bound to put the bookend on first set’s Tweezer, so this is really just a way-station to everyone’s favorite show closer anyway. No complaints out of me.
As expected, after some wailing and flailing the Bug is squashed and Tweeprise wipes the floor clean, sending the audience into one final journey into the freezer.

Final thoughts: Keyspan Night 2 is the little brother to the movie-star that was Night 1, but set II is worth keeping around, if not for the novelty that was Jay-Z, then for the novelty that was an unexpected ChalkDust Torture. If you want to check this one out, try the SBDs, because the Brooklyn crowd didn’t respect the mic-stands at all. Next stop, SPAC for two nights.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Show #4: Keyspan Park Night 1 (Brooklyn NY)

2004 Year-in-Review (aka Journey Through the Dark Side)
Show #4: Keyspan Park, Brooklyn NY (night #1)
Breakup has been announced, so this summer's tour will be IT forever.
Set 1:

1. A Song I heard the Ocean Sing – outta the gate Phish drops a BOMB new song from the new album Undermind, released just two days before the show. So, this is how Phish plans to go out. ASIHTOS has some beautiful lyrical accompaniment by Page and Mike; Trey takes no time before shredding things. This song is heavy! Only seven minutes, but it's got so much potential to be stretched.

2. Dinner and a Movie – sweet. Vegas was light on older classics; glad to see that they've pulled this back out for summer. Two minutes in and Trey's fingers are not fat tonight; composed sections are tight. Short and sweet. Well don.

Ok, I think I heard Trey signal ...
3. The Curtain – another song heavy on composition requiring skill and dexterity, the band has no trouble driving right through the first section leading up to the opening lyrical chant. Perfect! Go Phish. No hiccups from Vegas here. And, thankfully Trey's voice is fine; I guess they've been resting and practicing leading up to summer tour. 3:40 – heading into the composed core jam now; not a beat out off place. OK, it's actually The Curtain With. Sweet. Love that pre-Rift wail as much as anything they ever play. Hard to believe they wrote this song almost 20 years ago and it still sounds completely relevant today in 2004. Trey's solo just digs into your soul. 8:45 in now and the jam departs the station; Page, Mike, and Trey are in melodical synchronicity. Fishman underneath it all. Again, whatever dust there might have been at the beginning of Vegas, it's gone.

4. Sample – its a party in Brooklyn tonight; they break out a sing along for the white cap portion of the crowd. They don't just love the guys in the front row and the wooks; frat boys get love too. Jokes aside, it's as well played as any version I've heard; tempo is right, vocals fugue. I actually kind of like the placement of this song in the middle of the first set; better than being a set closer IMO. Hitting the 3:00 minute mark an the band plays the jam as if it were straight off Hoist. The builds are emphatic enough to raise the energy level though; that's the point of this song, I guess, it's got just enough to it to satisfy.

5. The Moma Dance – taking the energy boost from Sample's short jam and parlaying this show into a party. Again, all the band's chops are intact tonight; very solid. This song makes me move as much as any can, especially at they enter the second leg of the intro nearing the 2:00 mark. I love a song that's got a jam at the beginning. Fishman nails the opening lyrics. I'm always surprised that he can sing. And that he can play drums :) We've hit the chorus now and the groove is intact. Nearing 5:00 and it gets a little spacey thanks to either Page or Trey, I can't tell. I can definitely feel “winds” and everyone is doing a moma dance at this point. So far a first set that is delivering as promised. Fishman lyrical wail! OK, this IT is HOT and not letting up. Ten minutes and I think this one's got some legs; Trey and Page break out the psychedelia; Page especially! I think I see Hampton Coliseum in the sky. Nice delay effect that moves up and down and around. The band feels it and follows into space. And, this is just first set. Perfect time to as its getting dark enough outside for Kuroda's lights to have an effect. 14 minutes … transitioning out of a very trippy jam into …

6. Free – well done Trey, nice segue. I'm liking this stepped up pace a lot. Wanted it in Vegas; got it in Brooklyn finally. Lyrics begin – nice to hear's Trey's voice sound the way it should.

6. Free (cont.) - as they enter the jam, Mike's turned on a filter or an effect that keeps the spacey-theme in effect. Anything that highlights his playing and lets me hear it more is a good thing. Trey's tone seems to match the effect on Mike's bass. Nearing 6:00 mark and they've found a way to build on what Mike laid down. A fresh jam that makes me feel good about Phish. 6:45 – hells yes – just Mike and Trey for a bit – I just got funktifried. 8:00 in now and the effects are off now; the ship is returning to Earth and it's got the flag waving high. Well done boys. Well done.

Time for a breather. Not gonna argue with that decision … another debut from Undermind
7. Nothing – already I'm liking what I hear from this new batch of songs more than just about everything from Round Room. Why have they decided to break up again? Are we really expected to get this new dose of material and only get to hear them play each song a couple of times. Really? Really? What a damn shame because Nothing is actually something, something that works. Its a breather that lets you catch your breath but doesn't make you want to hit the pisser or the beer lines.

its completely dark outside and they've entered the
8. Maze – in constrast to Vegas, the mix of songs tonight is spanning the catalog. And, the tempo is up and the chops are honed. Much appreciated, boys. After a nice, somewhat typical jam, things heat up around 7:00. Trey's brought the machine gun with him tonight and they are hitting the Maze peaks as they are supposed to. Faces getting melted all around. Oh, did I mention … it's also raining pretty heavily. We may never get out of this maze, but I bet the band’s about to get out of this weather. But not before, killing it with …

9. Frankenstein – better than Vegas’s version, which is still fresh in my mind. You can just tell that the band has got the energy they need to shred. 4:00 – Page littering some more space into the mix before they close out the first set in true rock-n-roll fashion.

2004 Year-in-Review (aka Journey Through the Dark Side)
Show #4: Keyspan Park, Brooklyn NY (night #1)
Set II

1. 46 Days – A song that took me a while to appreciate, but which has grown on me. It's not the same type of song they used to write; it's Phish 2.0, exemplified – less aggressive, not as composed, but providing ample room for extensive exploration, that at the heart is Type I, but less so because they structure of the core is essentially a jam in itself, as opposed to a composition. As the 6:00 mark approaches, the jamming reaches a medium boil, then simmers down a minute later into prototypical type II, undefined extension. It's a game of follow the leader at this point, in what feels like four-bar segments. 8:00 in and it's quiet with some brief hints of psychedelia peppered here and there. I've never listened to “trance” music before, but believe it's considered a genre, and this is what I think would qualify. As the clock continues, I'm reluctant to say the jam progresses; I'd almost say it meanders, drifting from here to there, but with no distinct driving force – a few bars of this, then onto a few bars of that (I think you get the point). All the players are melding nicely, forming a cohesive union; but I can't help but want for a little more intentional direction and conciseness (maybe this is something a future Phish could have achieved). 14 minutes in and the jam is as steady as the rain; somewhere between “I can't stop moving” and “I can't stop staring.” After slow-playing this hand to fourth street, Trey finally decides to go all in, putting a nice lead into the pot, which eventually lands us at

2. Possum – early second set Possums? Not something I have a lot of experience with; most of mine have usually been found later. Should I expect more than the usual type I out of this one? We'll see.

2. Possum (cont.) - nothing out of the ordinary. Possum rarely doesn't meet expectations and this one is no different.

3. Oh Ke Pa – see #2 above.

4. Suzy Greenberg – sticking with old favorites, this set feels like a freshman-level course for the uninitiated, Phish 101.

4. Suzy (cont.) - when it honestly sounded as if they were closing it out with nothing extra, they relaunch from an almost compete-stop around 6:15, bringing something totally new and fresh to Suzy. Some delicate interplay between Page on synth and Trey working the staccato notes keep it light and lively, giving Fishman a chance to sprinkle some nice jazzy drumming. Around 9:00, they formulate something based on the suzy melody, but stripped down. I can feel this one wanting to go somewhere (t's got a pulse to it that increasing). Closing in on 11:00 and it transforms and extends, then speeds up to evolve into a rolling, traversing jam reminiscent of many Split jams. Just as soon as it seems to take off, the pocket loosens and it takes on a different face altogether, reforming as a layered, ambient, psychedelic passenger train. This one drives, twists, turns, and falls back on itself, perhaps giving the audience a “WTF song is this again” moment. 18 minutes in and we are either in space or about to transition to ...

5. Axilla – it doesn't get any heavier than Axilla, with it's punk-like rhythms and anthemic, repeating chorus.

With no segue, they drop straight into

6. 2001 – coming on the heels of a straight-forward rocker, there’s plenty of spring left in their steps, and they waste little time heading straight into the meat of this dance-gem, populating its foundation with trance-funk rhythms, which hint at another pass of the mothership that took flight during first set’s Free.

6. 2001 (cont.) - having stretched this space-funk opera to its short-term limits, they steer the ship towards the final “verse” around 7:30, and then segue real smooth-like into

7. Birds – as the birds core proceeds, I realize that I haven't heard much to criticize in this set; I'm not blown away, but there's no sloppy playing anywhere to be found. The band is together, playing off one another seamlessly, improvising as if it were charted. In other words, they are doing what they do best. We're in a baseball stadium and they are playing home-run derby. If Vegas was spring training, then Phish is on a mid-summer winning streak right now.

Birds closes and Trey tells the audience they'll play a song dedicated to the golfers in the nearby-US Open

8. Kung - "stage a runaway golf cart marathon" - touche. Thankfully, this one is not extended.

Saying they'd "like to slow it down a bit," they launch into

9. Mike's - which, they do, in fact, play a little slow during the initial verses and chorus, picking up the pace only once they reach the initial stage one jam.

9. Mike's (cont.) - I'm finding it hard to listen "critically" to this Mike's because I'm simply enjoying it so much. Mike's jam, in its pure form, is honestly so perfect that what I can possibly write about it that would make it any better for you? Nothing. Nice, simple transition into

10. I am Hydrogen - not typical - a little livelier than normal, with Page working the keys a little more than normal. You get the feeling they are enjoying this moment on stage together (how could they not?). Feeling the approaching Paug, but there's always that bit of uncertainty ... and on to

11. Weekapaug Groove - wasting no time at all Mike lights his bass on FIYA. I wonder who'll be the first phan to break a hip to this song. Finally, I hear the real lyrics ("trying to make a woman that you move"), even though I like what I thought they were bette ("match your move"). As they head into the outtro, Trey just teased something but I must confess I don't know what it was. 3:00 in they are holding this one back, allowing it time to build into the imminent crescendo. 4:30 now and it's got a quick pulse - the only bad thing about it, is you know in your heart that the set it likely nearing its end (damn, why do I let my mind get in the way of a good jam?!). 5:30 and Trey's seems to be taking this one home, but not before Page gets his fills in. 6:00 and the waves are hitting you in the face; they come in Paug one after another, so watch out for the next one.

Following the encore break, they begins a rather-slow Divided Sky. DS is affected by tempo as much as any Phish song I know. It can be blistering, or, as is the case tonight, it can feel a little geriatric. The slow tempo exposes some sloppy chops leading up the part where Mike and Trey bounce in place. Once they song progresses, things get closer to normal; Fishman drives the pace a little faster, but it all sounds rather ... pedestrian. Could I have jinxed the band when I went mental during the end of 'Paug? The "moment of statuesque silence" passes and Trey nails every note of the composed solo, albeit everything is still a little lagging. But, as the solo's melody progresses, you can't help but grin, knowing what's to come when Page beings banging those keys on top Trey's sustain. This is Phish's wheelhouse and it doesn't matter how they get there (everything that comes before is just progress), it's the outtro that keeps the cold-blood running through their veins. Tonight, they take their sweet time getting the diesel engine running, but once primed, it takes off for the finish line at around 12:20, letting the slowly built-up tension fuel the the last lap. 14 minutes pass and I think this must be a restrictor plate race (how many analogies can I fit into one paragraph?), cause they don't hit full speed until the very end. I'm going to chalk it up to "first night of a two night run" and they don't want to blow all their load tonight.

Final thoughts: so far in 2004, show #1 sucked; the other two nights of Vegas were huge improvements; This summer season opener was a different Phish altogether than what we saw in the spring. It should be a good summer ( ;) ) if they can keep this up. See you at tomorrow night's show, back here at Coney Island.

Show #3: Thomas & Mack Center Night 3 (Vegas)

2004 Year –in-Review (aka “journey through the dark side”)
Show #3 – Night 3 @ Thomas & Mack Center (Las Vegas), part of Spring Vegas Run


1. After the great show last night (show #2), following the hiccup that was night #1, the boys have busted out Soul Shakedown Party out of the gate. When you hear this, you know that it’s gonna be a dank night in the arena. Phish reserves this song for special nights, and you can feel it – Phish is in the house! It gets smokey in the arena real quick-like, and the mineral water vapor machines aren’t yet running. Vocals are still not quite right, but we learned last night that Trey’s voice is gone.

2. Halley’s freakin’ Comet! They are wasting no time getting right down to it. Expecting this one to stretch out a little bit with a no. 2 placement in the batting order. Energy level is pretty laid back – they are just warming up, yes.? Three minutes in and the tempo and energy level haven’t increased much; but they did open with Soul Shakedown, so maybe they’re just taking their sweet time. Four minutes in, I’m starting to move a little. Five minute mark – Trey goes on a little trek into type I jam-land. Pace is picking up. I’m feeling it. Six minutes in … ok, they are going to stretch this out. Hellz yeah! Fenton Williams looks like he’s finally gotten control of the lighting rig (‘bout time you wannabe). As the jam stretches its legs, it’s nice but controlled, like a lot of early first set jams are. Ten minutes and it feels like they are heading somewhere else now … into, yes, it sounds like
3. Tweezer - hold on boys; it’s gonna get hot in heere.

3. Tweezer (cont.) – I wish they would pick it up a little bit. As I wrote last night, my inability to move with perfect rhythm gets exposed with the metronome ticks this slowly. Four minutes: the core is over and the jam is on. Lot’s of air in the funk – thick but foamy. Five minutes: I think I just got cool whipped. Page takes the reins to lead this railroad for a while. If you think about it, the slower the funk, the more impressive it is that they can stay glued together. First set Tweezers – you have got to love it. Mike throwing some sparse nuggets into the mix. Reeeeeeal low down. Man, that’s low-down. The extra space lets Fishman throw in some quick-stick handiwork, but its still “held-back.” They are intentionally keeping the fuse from lighting on this rocket. The pot is simmering and has been. Ten minutes in and its getting pretty psychedelic now (still type I). Trey is finally taking over the jam and lets it loose a little, inspiring the pace to quicken; the train is chugging along now at a good clip … on the downhill.

3. Tweezer (cont.) – Twelve minutes in and the shredding has begun. Faces are starting to look a little shiny. Terror threat level orange.

As they come out of the other side of the Tweezer jam, a segue can be felt in the dark depths … but instead it ends. Okay, catch your breath and smile. It’s still early.

4. Ginseng Sullivan – that’s cool. It is first set after all and hitting the brakes is their option. Let’s Page warm up his chops on the keys. Also not surprising that we’ve got another song without Trey vocals.

5. Horn – treading water. But I do like the heavy guitar riffs and I’ll air-guitar to each one of them.

Ok the breather is over now and ...

6. Sample - ironically, the pace car picked up a little bit ... with Sample? Really? alright. It's their party. Need a Bowie set closer to light this candle.

7. Piper – oooh, didn’t see this coming. Sweet. Looks like this set has got some legs.

7. Piper (cont.) – launched IT. As the jam takes off, Trey jumps in at the top and starts working his way down to the stratosphere. Four minute mark – can feel the tension wound up; wondering where this will end up. Every time they get to the part Trey plays at 5:00, I always say to myself … “self – here comes Birds,” but I’m always wrong. It settles into a nice little shuffle, a groove I can share in. Six minute mark – I swear I hear Birds, but again, I’m wrong.

7. Piper (cont.) - ambient, spacey undertones and overtones. Feels like I'm deeper in a second set; but I know this one will end in a little while. Page's keys sound like guitar, making them blend even more with Trey's lead riffs.

8. Holy First-set Frankenstein! Damn boys.

9. Bowie – don’t want to say I called it; but I called it. Is the machine gun in the house?

Felt like the Frankenstein would close it, but ...

9. Bowie – don’t want to say I called it; but I called it. Is there a machine gun in the house? I hope so.

10. Bowie – the shortest hi-hat intro I’ve heard in a while. Composed sections are together, but the dynamics are a bit compressed. As the first intro-peak finishes, it gets a little sloppy during the “UB40” section, or maybe that’s extra funk I’m hearing. Nah, that’s a little dirt in there. But it’s not terrible as I have been lead to expect on this run. First composed section is over and it’s into psychedelia now: and it’s got a whole lot of air, again. I can’t find a lot wrong with this and I’m trying. It’s not blowing me away; it doesn’t really have IT as an ingredient. I like the what I'm hearing at 6:50 - whether I'm there or not, they've found a space to exist in and, maybe even, launch a finish from. They're in the red-zone, where some teams have trouble scoring. Will they succeed this time?

10. Bowie (cont.) – 10 minutes in and they aren’t pushing for the goal line yet; but there’s also no time clock running and no down marker. The tension builds pretty quickly but instead of holding it, trey hits the release valve and begins the push forward. Machine gun spurts. Again, the dynamics feel a bit compressed. I wonder if it has anything to do with the 5th member not being here? You’ve got to figure just as they play off each other and the crowd, they certainly play off the lights. The outtro is on, with lower case letters. Time to close this one and get a 15 minute break.

2004 Year –in-Review (aka “journey through the dark side”)
Show #3 – Night 3 @ Thomas & Mack Center (Las Vegas), part of Spring Vegas Run
Set II:

1. Meatstick: kicking off Set II not very different than set one got kicked off – with a slow, funky groove. I know comparing Meatstick to Soul Shakedown may not make much sense, but they’ve got similar vibes. Indicative of things to follow.

Page playing some psycho-synth; now some Jap lyrics; now some Jap lyrics, and now a Fishman lyrical solo. [note: I've personally never seen a meatstick live]

Need a catalyst to blow this set open, what’s it going to be?....
^ 2. Pebbles and Marbles. Another song I’ve never had much experience with (other than the stellar version from IT). Didn’t love this song when I first encountered it, but like S&SS it grew on me with time. A lot of the 2.0 material is like a red wine, just needs to breathe a little to open up. Trey's voice - it's got to be hurting him at this point. I really dig the primary guitar riff from this song.

3. Nice ending of P&M segueing into Caspian. Yeah, there’s the Caspian Love/Hate thing, but I always like the outtro. Surprised that they played this song with Trey’s voice so gone.

3. Caspian (cont.) - 'cept this one doesn't really have any gusto to it; like so many other songs, it's laying back on its heels a bit. There's just so much air in it. I need a few of the voids filled in. Picking up around 4:00 though; but if I could kick Fishman right now to make him force the band to pick up a notch, I would.
And just like that Caspian goes nowhere but a nice segue into:
4. Simple – come on! p i c k u p t h e p a c e! Maybe its just me, but some songs need to be played faster. Also, Trey, what happend to the little solo lead-ups to each verse? it’s like the crushed red pepper is missing from the pizza
Simple goes nowhere, and we’re on to

5. Friday. Page, It may be Friday today, but damn. Buzz freakin’ kill.

5. Friday (cont.) - Do I really need an extended Friday. NO! No one wants their Fri-day to be longer than it must; Friday night though, that's different.
Someone put this song out of its misery, please.
Third night of a three night stand and there are some big hitter that haven't come out of the dugout - it's time for ... I think it might be, yes it is ... I feel like ...

6. Ghost. 'bout damn time!

6. Ghost (cont.) - ironically, after all the air and space in most tunes tonight, this Ghost is being playing a little too straightforward - some of the pocket funk is stripped out. It's more of a straight 4/4 kind of thing. Six minutes in and its not that hot; but we'll see where it goes.

6. Ghost (cont.) – passing the 7:15 mark, the heartbeat quickens a little; there’s a light at the end of this long tunnel and Trey’s riding it out nicely on top of Mike’s liquid foundation. Sometimes, like now Page’s playing is so artistic that I can’t pick it out; it’s just there highlighting everything else.

6. Ghost (cont.) – like what I’m hearing around 12-13 minutes. Almost like a jam from another song.

Very slow reprise of the main Ghost theme to finish it off. Nice.

7. You Enjoy Myself. The Clean-up hitter's in the box.

7. YEM (cont.) - the "nirvana" section (the long psychedelic intro with lots of hi-hat) is nice; I like the extended ones where they venture out into space a little. I just hope Fenton Williams understood his role here. Page started to come in, then backed off, then returns for the lead-out; Page really taking the lead here, with Trey highlighting instead. Mike laying a mellow funk before the build up to hysteria. Trey not really nailing it; sort of like what Fake Trey would sound like maybe; HIGH NOTE PEAK, but I like it when he holds it. Aggressive Tone - getting mean now into the second HIGH NOTE PEAK.

7. YEM (cont.) – AHhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Boy! Trey’s tone is gritty. God. I like the tone; Shit. Washu fizzi. Laying the bluesey riffs down on top of the underhanded funk. This one is loose, but its not hurtin’. What is hurtin’ is Trey’s voice; he should just stop singing. Give it a rest. Tramps. Page paid for Coach only it seems. Trey brings in the heavy heavy tone! Robear, you hearing this Tone (your a tone guy)? I’m down with this YEM. You hear a million and they can sound the same; this one doesn’t.

7. YEM (cont.) - Fishman drum solo. I'm so down with that - now a meatstick chant from the audience?? Again I never saw the meatstick dance, so I don't know what would be happening here, but Fishman is ROCKIN' the Hizouse.

7. YEM - I only hear bass and piano now - no drums no guitar - wait drums and guitar are back now. This YEM is def different. Page solo on synth now. Waaaay different. Ok, now Trey is teasing Meatstick heavily during the jam. This is 2.0 for ya, I guess. Some reaaaaally low Mike lasers, offset by Trey lasers on the high side; with some Page vibra-synth to make it freaky. Maybe this is in lieu of a vocal jam (not sure Trey could do it tonight.


8. Tweeprise - man, Trey's tone is aggressive. It's got meatstick teases by Page. doesn't sound practiced but I'm sure you dug it if you were there. Take this set home, Trey!

Wolfman's Brother - don't think I've ever heard of WB being the encore. Funk it up and out! Page throws some nice synth into the jam and Fishman rocks the cowbell. Plenty of air in there still, but it doesn't leak.
Squirming Coil finishes the three nighter with Page by himself for almost four minutes (respek!).

Final thoughts: night one's a bagger; nights two and three have some very good moments (Taste,Gotta Jibbo,Twist from night 2; P&M, YEM); Trey's voice is crap, but these two shows aren't.

Show #2: Thomas & Mack Center Night 2 (Vegas)

Spinning 2004 Show #2 (Vegas) already.
The opening -7 is way better than anything I heard from night 1.
-7 > Rock and Roll, Boogie On – not a bad start to night #2. (This Boogie on doesn’t compare to Miami ‘09 though).

This Boogie On from Vegas ‘04 is not bad; it’s just not real good. Mike didn’t have that extra envelope filter or whatever it is in his current rig that sends laser blasts throughout the trash compactor, I mean, arena.

Keeping the boogie going with Back on the Train.
So far, I’d have to say that Night Two of Vegas ‘04 (Show #2 of 17 in ‘04) is pretty decent. A big improvement over night one.
> Possum – keeping the energy level high. With this high level of energy, I’m a lot less likely to notice the flubs unless they are super sloppy.

Although – this Possum does has a slight “rough edge” to it. Not as rockin’ as the Possum from Asheville ‘09 was.

Typical Strange Design, but then a good Gumbo.
So far, I’d call this a good show, as a stand alone.
Taste closed out Set I in style. Set I was honestly about as good as I expect a first set to be.
Set II – so far I’ve been in set II for a while now and they are still on Twist. Gotta Jibboo and Twist have both been Grade A USDA Choice Phish, IMO.
More to come, but so far, I think this show holds up very well. Waaaay better than night #1
^ seriously, this Twist from Vegas ‘04 is about as good a Twist as I’ve ever heard. No joke.

set II
Camel Walk – for the first time I can clearly hear how gone Trey’s voice is. SHOT! Ordinary CW hindered by Treys vox issues. Transition to Wilson could be heard at end of CW but they don’t pull it off, instead finishing the song and then beginning Wilson fresh. The Wilson is sick in a good way, affirming my opinion that this show is actually first rate (if you can give Trey’s vox a medical pass) > Little Drummer Boy? Really? I guess this is when Fishman dons the dress that makes sound – or maybe just a hint of what is to come (turns out the finish Wilson). HYHU – fishman musical suit.
Gonna forego reviewing Fishman’s antics because they never define a show as good or bad, just merely Phishy. Will pick up after he’s done. I will say that these stage antics killed what was othewisw a stellar performance (Jibboo, monster Twist). I know it’s trademark Phish, but it brings the party to a halt.

now that Fishma is done we can get back to serious b’ness. How to relaunch? Ahh. Waves. Yes. Way to ease into it real smooth-like.

Trey’s voice can support Waves. The song doesn’t have a lot of lyrics anyway. Good choice! (hope they play Waves more in 2010).

Waves ends prematurely for Lifeboy. Would have like a longer jam, but that will come later in the summer I guess. Don’t think Lifeboy should appear this late in a second set; not after the fishman interlude.

I can see Trey’s voice being shot after a tour, but these Vegas shows are happening after a three month break. Not sure what gives.

Lifeboy is well-played though. Love the interplay between the keys and guitar. Really is a beautiful song, music-wise.
The Horse > Silent. Man they’ve really decided to put the kibosh on this set. It started do strong, with 40 minutes of dance grooves only to be upended by this disjointed collection.
I do like Page’s vocals in Silent though.
The irony “you’ve found your voice, it brings me to” when Trey had lost his.

Loving Cup! This will close the set surely, likely in even better style than Taste did the first. Page helping fill out the vox. This rockin’ anthem never fails. Wonder what the encore will bring.
Still liking this show. I think it holds it’s own. Where night one failed, night two has delivered (even with the shotty vox).
Hood encore. Good choice – not heavy on the vocals and delivers a knockout punch usually.
Interesting, dark, intro before the opening lyrics. Crowd erupts once the song kicks in – I guess Fenton Willians finally delivered something to see.
They nail the odd-time part with the time change.
I think I’m done with the review. Anyone looking for a 2004 show that delivers, night 2 of Vegas will fill that slot nicely. If I were walking out of the arena I would be saying, in the words of Robear, “another win for the home team!”. Looking forward to the third night.
This Hood is way different than what I’m used to hearing. I just had a “what song is this again?” moment. Always a good sign that there’s sone nice type II going on.

20 minute HHood encore. Who can argue with that? Not I.

Show #1: Thomas & Mack Center Night 1 (Vegas)

I think it’s time I tackled ‘04 in its entirety, front to back. They only played 18 shows (not counting Letterman)and I’ve only heard the two SPAC shows.

OK – here we go … 4/15/04 – Thomas & Mack. Buried Alive opener.

A dark winter makes that first Spring day all the more enjoyable. :) Not going to spin anything else ’til I’ve heard all of ‘04 (I’ve never heard anything but the SPAC shows I’ve had for years).I will lean on you guys as I go through this trial by fire.

2004: Show No. 1
Set I -

Buried Alive – nice bust-out opener, sort of; should get the crowd going;
AC/DC Bag – a little slow and haggard; scary ending;
LxL – “loose” – a song that requires a high degree of synchronization; also a song with a some hard to hit vocal notes that someone isn’t hitting; at the drop, the song just doesn’t take off – it stays in the same exact tempo that it had been in before the drop – which when you are expecting it to blast off and doesn’t, feels like a let down; as the jam progresses, Fishman starts working the hi-hat aggressively as if trying to pull the band forward and faster, but to no avail. I can’t hear Mike in this AUD at all! Around the 7 minute mark, I felt like it was just going to die a slow death, but Trey recovers it with some aggressive playing, keeping people from turning this into a bathroom break at least. But the peaks were missing completely. As Fishman closes it out without any solo vocals, I’m glad its over.

4. Moma Dance – WTF was with that opening? Doesn’t sound like an Moma I’ve ever heard. If I’d been there, I might not be moving more than my head. If Fenton Williams’ work on lighting isn’t up to snuff, I’d probably be sitting down at this point. Mid-way through opening Jam, the beat picks up a little, but it all still feels like its dragging. Who’s driving this train? Intro jam is actually kinda alright at the 3:30 mark and unexpected – maybe there’s hope? Verses begin now and things feel and sound ok again. Answer: Fishman is at the wheel, but his vocals are too high in the mix. I really hope they nail the peak that should be coming up in a minute (where Fishman has the vocal howl). Answer: they don’t. And I don’t hear any crowd either. But, Page seems to want to get into the drivers seat following the “peak,” and does so for a sec, before Trey’s back at the wheel. I don’t know if I’d be getting my groove on; probably would just be moving my head and staring at the stage. Again, Trey pulls out some “scary” notes in the outtro jam, and hits the machine gun for a brief moment. Nearing the 12 minute mark and things are finally breaking out as they are supposed to. More machine gun Trey, but its not as cohesive as it ought to be. As the outtro melody plays, I’m beginning to wonder.

Old Home Place playing now – surely this will set things right … right, Mike?

6. Roggae – another song where Fishman sings (did someone say Trey was sick?). Things seem to be on-track now after that nice little dose of Kentucky Bluegrass. Vocals are key to this song – someone is off … sounds like its Page. No problems with tempo here – it’s supposed to be slow. But, the vocals are awful. Maybe they should play What’s the Use? followed by CTB next. At least give me a nice build to a peak in the jam please. Did someone turn on the dynamic compression? – they seem stuck in a “trading range” and can’t break above the “moving 50 day average.” Build starting to happen finally around the 6:20 mark, but it doesn’t go anywhere. I can feel this one starting to head out without any paying. Well, ok, Trey drops a dime on the counter first, but the bill was for more than that. The slower a song is the more important synchronization is because you can hear the misses in the empty spaces. Well, this is the tour opener and a multi-day run, so maybe they’re just getting their sea legs underneath them.

7. Water in the Sky – another breather. Do I really need a breather at this point. Don’t think so. But, at least the vocals seems a little more in tune. Overall, this WITS is not bad. The increased tempo seems to help (take note boys!). At 2:30 I finally am starting to move more than my head. Maybe there’s some hope left, after all. Crowd is starting to feel it a little. (Since when has it taken WITS to “get this show on the road”?). Now, let’s keep it going after that nice warm-up.

8. All of these Dreams? another breather. I’m going to get a beer. OK, I’m gonna chalk this up to night one of a three-night run – they have to be saving the heat for later.

8. All of these dreams – this is Vegas right? Are there any slot machines in this place?

9. Stash – OK, the heat has been opened finally. People are racing back from the bathroom to participate in the group hug, I mean clap. I hope CK5 left FW some good notes on what this song deserves visually. Wow, they’ve almost been playing an hour and only now are breaking out the goods. At the 2:40 mark, I thought the day had been saved, but there’s still a lack of synchronization. Trey’s got fat fingers tonight, huh? again, tempo is dragging; trey’s actually trying to slow it down with the vocals, no kidding. [hey, are you feeling anything?; I don't think it worked; maybe we should take another one?]. What did they do for three months since Miami? Mike looks bored. Nearing the 8 minute mark with nary a peak to be found. Maybe they’ll stretch this out into space, which would be cool.

WTF! – they just skipped out on the jam completely (unless I tracked forward by mistake and I don’t think I did) for …

10. Timber (Jerry), but at least the band finally seems to be into it and it’s making a difference. Maybe they’ll come back to Stash …. wait … is this Stash or Timber. [Dude, what song are they playing?]

^ I think I’m going to write this one down as Stash->Timber (Stash) on my little piece of paper.

^ Or maybe Stash*

* included heavy Timber (Jerry) quotes.

^ OK – back to Timber (Jerry) after some heavy Stash-like jamming. Just not enough of it. More please. More!

That’s the end of the set. Damn. Just when it was starting to get hot. Well, they seem up to the task;

OK – went ahead and started Set II

1. 46 Days – worst start ever. But once things pick up I feel like I’m finally listening to Phish. Nice jamming at the 4 minute mark. They finally picked up the pace (at least where it needs to be, even on a funk-laden song like 46 days). Into…

2. Drowned – hmm, haven’t heard this one in a second set much :)With 46 Days not being the platform for jumping off, Drowned is sure to be. Page’s vocals still seem off (maybe its the recording).

2. Drowned (cont.) – OK, this could be any version from 2009. Page is raging on the keys. Re: vocals from this song, maybe it’s not Page, does Mike sing Drowned? I can’t remember and, strangely, can’t tell from this version.

2. Drowned (cont.) – 9 minutes in, and we’re in spacey territory now. I’m drown with it

3. > 2001 – alright. Set II is shaping up nicely. Got my groove locked and loaded. Trey’s throwing some bluesy riffs into the intro build, letting this one baste a little while. Here comes the funk …. oh shit, Trey missed a note badly during the first lead-up. But, that’s behind me, cause this is live, and the only thing that matter is what’s coming …. first PEAK! Fenton Williams is no CK5.

3. 2001 (cont.) – after that first peak, this tempo is back down to “lounge-level” – I think I need “anything on the rocks” to go with this.

OK – that 2001 was a let-down. No payoff. None. Sounds like DWD is coming

4. DWD – another start/restart sounding start – but it’s Mike, so how can this one fail? At least there are a thousand barefoot children outside dancing on my lawn, and this has all been wonderful. But damn, the singing tonight is terrible. Ok, Trey whoever said it, Trey must have a cold. Let Fishman sing. Does Fishman ever sing second set?

^ other than during a HYHY > something by Syd > HYHU

4. Worst DWD core I’ve ever heard; the outtro is always great, but Trey’s got fat fingers again.

4. DWD (cont.) – we’re into the jam now where chops aren’t as noticeable. I just don’t know what I’m hearing exactly (is it a lack of practice, or sedation?). IT is there, but the mistakes are mixed in like walnuts in brownies.

4. DWD jam (cont.) – 10 min mark – interesting Type II stuff going on, but it’s sporadic … no real direction … at all. Trey’s guitar is so loud in the mix. Where’s Mike? Progressing through the murky waters now, into something that is sonically interesting now during the 13 minute mark, but I feel a segue coming. I guess I’m drown with that. Or, it could just be some spacey ambient playing, or do I hear a Maze, no it’s not maze, its just more type II jamming. No, this is going somewhere …. where? Spacey Mike Bass. What song is this again? Something pretty seems to be coming up from the depths, but I can’t quite lock on to it.

5. Free – not a bad choice, but has that dragging feeling. Did they just restart again? Not completely, but it has that deja vu feeling like they repeated the beginning, or there was a hiccup in there that interrupted the flow. What sort of drug would make the tempo be t h i s s l o w a l l n i g h t?

Damn, Trey’s voice just cracked during “floating.”

5. Free (cont.) – come ON. Funk can be laid back, but speed it up a little bit. My body is getting tired from trying to dance this slow. Plus, I don’t look as stupid when dancing faster because you can’t discern the true lack of rhythm. Maybe I’ll just dance in double time.

This Free jam is undefined.

5. Free (cont.) – a bit of redemption in the latter part of the jam, and a nice build up to the final main theme close.

(Yes, I’ve seen those interview – always wondered why he sounded and looked so bad).

6. Scent of Mule starting …. and seeming to …. restart. WTF? At least Mike will be singing this one. Plus, dancing a jig is an easy task for a white boy.
Standard playing though … even Page’s keys aren’t that spectacular. Did I let the negative bias towards ‘04 affect me?

6. Scent (cont.) – this is the most interesting song played tonight. Some nice chops and some unusual interplay between the band. …. Ok now here’s something I’ve never heard before … a totally different jam for Scent. Trey is rapping now? I’ve seen/heard it all now. Something about “girls girls girls,” and “spanish shit (or chick”)”

7. [girls, girls, girls] – I have no idea what hip-hopper raps this originally, but I could do without it right now. Heading to the bathroom and to get one last beer, if they haven’t stopped selling them (this is Vegas right, do they ever stop selling?).

7. I think there’s a black woman on stage singing right now. Where am I?

8. Scent of a Mule returns – and the world seems set back on its axis, but after that WTF interruption, it’s merely a means to an end at this point. Take it home, Mike!

9. The guy next to me says this song is Secret Smile – I don’t have a clue. The beer line was shut down already. How far is it back to the hotel? The casino? The airport?

9. Secret Smile (cont.) – people have started to leave, sort of like when the home team is getting blown out and the fourth quarter has started. Tomorrow night better be better. I feel like I’m watching that Nic Cage movie about Vegas. But, I’ll stick it out. They can’t end the show like this; there’s gotta be some heat left.

10. Crowd Control – I guess they are trying to reign the crowd back in – a few people who were walking in the corridor have ducked back into the arena. Some people hate this song; I sort of like it … but this late in the night. Did you write a set list Trey?

11. Slave – hmm. glad to hear it. Guess that means that this night is coming to a close soon. Hoping for a few builds and peaks to leave me wanting some more for tomorrow night’s show. Did I mention that Trey’s guitar is way too loud in the mix.

11. Slave (cont.) – I’ve heard better for sure. This one feels like its tired. Arena is only 60% full now.

11. Slave (cont). – they can still drive this one home alright. Those left in the crowd are enjoying it.

E: Sneakin’ Sally – Hell yeah! They are Phish after all and this is their way of punishing those who left during the second set.

4/15/2004 – Thomas & Mack Center, Vegas

Check that one off the list.

But hey, Fishman’s gonna wear a suit tomorrow, that’s a “sound making dress” so I’ve got that to look forward to.

2004 Show #1 – post-game report

As I leave the arena, it occurs to me that there were no clean-up hitters played tonight – no Tweezer, no Mikes, no Bowie, no Reba, no Runaway Jim, No YEM, No Antelope, No Suzy, Still no Fluffhead, No Ghost, No Piper. So many things left on the table. Tonight, the highlight was DWD; but unless its a Disease-fest, DWD can’t carry an entire show. There was simply no centerpiece around which the rest of the night could be fashioned. Thank goodness there are two more shows left during this spring run.