IT appears that many of our site's users were angered by Trey's golden, flowing hair, no... Fish's fierce Lucha libre wrestling mask, no... by @SausageMahoney's recap of the December 29th MSG show. A comment from user @CoryRoc reads: "nothing annoys me more than these reviews, yet i keep reading them to remind myself to never become as jaded as the clowns who write them."
While the 12/29 recap inspired considerable thoughtful commentary, @CoryRoc's comment received more than 80 "upvotes" at its peak, bespeaking its overwhelming popularity. (Regrettably, @CoryRoc has yet to respond to our invitation to him to recap a show, so it may be awhile before we all benefit from his unjaded, non-clownish, POV.)
So on behalf of some, but not all, of the volunteers who manage Phish.Net, I apologize to those who were upset by the 12/29 recap. We have suspended @SausageMahoney from recap duty, and are considering whether to impose various disciplinary measures before he graciously volunteers to write so eloquently for the site again. These measures include, but are not limited to, having to re-listen to and re-review 12/29 MSG in a ten-thousand-word fluff piece.
Appreciation of Phish's music is a wholly subjective endeavor, of course. We know what we like and we like or even love it, and we know what we like less and we love it less, or we hate it and hope we never hear it again at a show, ever, under any circumstances. For no matter how many shows we've listened to or witnessed live, we generally LOVE Phish and its music, or at least really like it, which is why -- for example – you’re bothering to read these words, spending your limited free time to visit this site or other Phishy sites. It is also why some fans donate money and volunteer time to keep this site -- and The Mockingbird Foundation -- running, not only for your Phishy amusement, but also for the benefit of music education for children. Truth be told, @SausageMahoney's recap of 12/29 was not the recap of a jaded clown. Far from it, it was articulate and sincere about the music from his 27-years-of-Phish experience. Yes, it offered critical perspectives, adding color where deserved, if only so you'd know the recap was authored by a vet familiar with Phish's music, and not a noobtarded sycophant. But overall, it was fair and reasonable, and quite unlike the following, which is, in fact, a recap -- of last night's show -- by a jaded clown:
IT was a gorgeous setting: the climate, the beach, the waves, the breeze. It was also among Trey's greatest hair days in Phish history, as it sparkled beautifully, mirroring the dazzling starlight, similar to his well-conditioned hair on 7/31/97 at Shoreline, and of course at Red Rocks on 8/6/96. Imagine seeing a Phish show on a beach, on the greatest hair day for Trey, and with Fish in a zeroman (or donut-themed, if you prefer) Luche libre mask. Last night's show was like that. Or don't imagine it, just google video of the damn webcast. I wasn't there, but I know the vibe was amazing. Why? Because it's a Phish show on a god damn beach, and it was an incredible hair day for Trey! I saw Phish right next to a beach in '95, but who cares, because the vibe at a Phish show is almost always awesome! Even noobs with next to no Phish experience realize this. Here's a thought: if you had a life outside your mom's basement and more professional musical experiences, you wouldn't get butthurt over someone’s two cents about an average-GREAT (at best) fun Phish show with its average-great fun "vibe."
And JFC is it even worth attending or hearing the first set by a band that doesn't rehearse much and purportedly doesn't even criticize each other's playing? What kind of musician doesn't want honest criticism from his trusted colleagues to improve his art!?! Like the Grateful Dead before them after decades of shows, Phish seems to perform first sets often as if they're just coloring-in a coloring book. They typically don't give it their "all," or try to perform at their "best," any more than you do in the bathroom during the opening "Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan."
But you probably don’t give a shit about that. And I guess I don’t really either. But I would like to hear one of my favorite bands play songs I love at least well enough to justify the $75 ticket price, ideally with some spectacular improv, too. And while I may never need to hear some songs again (e.g., ones that I grew weary of over 20 years ago, especially if Trey's going to slop through them), I'd sure as hell rather hear those songs -- even as background as I get more beers -- than no Phish at all. It isn't a cliche that we should be grateful that Phish is still playing, IT IS THE TRUTH! But that doesn't mean their shits won't eventually fill a BIG BOAT.
Pretty good show last night, an easy 6/10, arguably even a 6.5 or 7/10, on the Scott Jordan Concert Review Poll Scale (where a 5/10 is an average, typically great, Phish show, a 10/10 is like 12/31/95, or even arguably 2/28/03 or your favorite Dick’s show, and a 1/10 is Trey -- even if his hair is great -- literally taking a shit on stage (even a cancelled show that ends with a hilarious "Fuckerpants" gets at least a 2/10), and an 11/10 is Big Cypress of course).
If you hear someone say that last night's first set was strong, don't laugh in their face. Actually, do laugh in their face, but still have a listen for yourself if you haven't already. It's easy Phish listening. Good background music while dancing in an ocean, or running errands. If you're a fan of Trey's tone as I sometimes am, it seemed super-rich and syrupy during the opening "Free" and throughout most of the show last night (except "Theme,” where the pitch shifter was sometimes crudely employed). And even if Trey did horribly flub "Yarmouth Road" in only its second (!) measure, his playing was excellent most of the night, unsurprising I suppose given his professionalism and genius...and given the kickass soundcheck from Thursday that you may have heard.
Importantly, there are several stand-out versions in last night’s first set that are worth hearing more than once: "Sand" (an apt call given the venue, of course, and although not a long version, Trey's solo has a bit of extra relish and heat); "Undermind" (the full band interplay is punchier and somehow more groovetastic and funkalicious than usual, with Mike Fish and Page playing exceptionally well, and oh hell every version of this song is worth hearing again it's a GREAT SONG FFS); and the set-closing "Wolfman's" (the jam built very, very slowly and patiently to a MAGNIFICENT PEAK after ten mins in, and then another sweet peak before it concluded, making for a HUGE arguably must-hear setcloser).
I LOVE "A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing," and how charming that they opened the second set with a meek-at-first, and then kinda perfunctory, version of it since, coincidentally, they were right next to the ocean. Not content to let the ocean do the singing, though, the band continued with the 3367th version of "Wedge" in 3.0. “Wedge” is among my favorites and I love it in the second set. Although it was a mixed-bag musically, Page, Mike and Fish consistently killed it beneath Trey's sometimes aimless riffing, but whatever, Trey's hair continued to be marvelous, and at least he didn't choose to play a ballad that should never be performed again under any circumstances at all whatsoever, like this POS.
The next fifty or so minutes of Phish was for the most part, and in a word, BEAUTIFUL. And I mean beautiful in an "above-average" sense, of course, since no Phish show fails to have at least some beauty in it (YES, EVEN COVENTRY). The improv in "Fuego" was competitive with the most divinely-inspired versions, involving several movements akin to the most legendary masterpieces in music history, its soaring majesty at times invigorating the spirits of even the most jaded of vets. Am I overrating it? Of course I am. But hear it for yourself.
"Fuego" segued delicately into "Prince Caspian," the floaty jam of which conjured images of waves, and floating on and in them, lots of waves, and then turds, yes turds, floating in a toilet, lots and lots of turds, but then more of the floating and the waves, and a BEDAZZLING CLIMAX TO THE JAM, that then oddly exploded into one million turds that were jettisoned diarrheatorically across an exponentially expanding sea of toilets, and then a kinda meh segue into "Twist." A highly entertaining version, which even contained a jam on "Tequila" for several measures, this "Twist" is worth your time to check out. Trey and Fish and Mike and Page all channel Carlos Santana even more so than usual in it, and its jam could have busted-into "Oye Como Va" at almost any time. Some really siiiiiick offerings from all in this version, but Mike's use of effects throughout it is particularly cool. Hear it. And it also segues smoothly, arguably even masterfully, into "Seven Below." And although Trey certainly isn't as clean in the composed section as he usually is, the jam is gorgeous.
"Golgi" was butchered way too much by Trey (who appeared to laugh about it), and probably should be shelved for eternity unless Trey decides to learn how to play it again. "Antelope" ALWAYS makes for a thrilling set closer, and since it was odd that it wasn't played on the NYE run, it was unsurprising to get it here. This average-great version cooked as it always does to close a set; no more, and no less, than usual.
Having had way, way too much fun, the band encored with "Contact," which is among the most spectacular, ingenious works in Phish's canon. This version featured even more laughter and giddiness from Trey in it than usual. Trey, however, seeing how overjoyed the song had made all of us (his adoring fans), then ABUSED HIS AWESOME POWER, leading the band in a rote "Bug" to conclude a wonderful and magical and musically-somewhat-better-than-average-great Phish show.
If you've read or skimmed this far, you've almost certainly heard the awe-inspiring 12/30/16 second set's “Tweezer->Sparks>Ghost->Light->Party Time” by now. Last night’s second set wasn’t as musically powerful as that, but it was still quite good and augurs well for this weekend’s shows. And if this recap of last night's show disappoints you in any way, don't frown. You'll get stronger shows (and recaps) later this year, perhaps at MSG, or even this weekend... be you noob, vet, or jaded clown.
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Warren Haynes: December 09, 2017
2 days ago
U.S. Cellular Center
 Trey on guitar.
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