, attached to 2015-07-24

Review by JMart

JMart FIRST, I'm sure we've all had this experience: Leaving the venue having just had your head BLOWN OFF by what, you are sure, was one of the greatest Phish shows ever. Then you listen to the recording a while later and think, "Geez, I mean, it was good, but not nearly as good as I remember." And that's fine. The whole reason we go to shows is to experience the extra wattage that goes along with seeing something go down in person. And if that makes us a little overgiddy in our assessment of how great the music was at the time of its playing, then that is a fair cost to pay. Still, it can be a little deflating. Like you were tricked or something.
And so it's weird that I find myself writing this sentence: This is the first time I've ever relistened to a show I attended and thought it was better than I remembered. I say this specifically about Reba and the entire second set. Three of the six songs played in the second set had monster jams which were thematically and (I'm sure) quite intentionally linked. More on that later.

SECOND, I'm also sure that anyone who bothers to find and read reviews of phish shows on this website does not need any sort of primer on the relationship of Phish to the Grateful Dead or how those two bands (or parts of them) have interacted, especially recently. A central tenant of listening to either band is as follows: if you want to hear a tease, then you're going to hear a tease. That having been said, if you don't hear the fingerprints of the Grateful Dead all over this second set, then either you're not listening or you have some sort of agenda. While I wouldn't go as far as Samsarra did in the review above, more or less insisting that a correct labeling of the show include a Wheel jam or a Rider jam (I think "tease" is more appropriate), those elements are clearly present, especially the latter. The China/Rider break shows up in Blaze on and again, even more prominently, in Twist; the Wheel is also in Twist; and a more straight-ahead Rider sound happens on the back end of Light. To my ear, it's Page who is leading these attacks.
Twist is probably the jam of the night for me, but one could make an argument for any of the songs in the second set, save Joy. Light features some really great interplay by everyone, especially Page and Trey. They break out in a very positive, uplifting jam and then switch to something darker, back and forth, back and forth. Around 9 minutes, Trey switches things to solidly major key and seems content to have things stay there for a minute, only to change his mind at about 11 minutes. Here he tries really hard to push things back into a darker minor key, but Page simply isn't having it. Mike seems content to listen to them battle it out. Around 13 minutes Page finally wins and things settle into the key of D major. And it's at this point that Rider sound is most complete and present, before finally drifting off. Beautiful music.
With all of the ballyhoo surrounding Trey's appearance at Fare The Well, and all of the speculation about what this might mean for Phish's summer tour, especially starting a mere two weeks after the final FTW show, I would say Phish did things in as Phish a way as possible: They paid solid homage to a band who was clearly a big influence, at that band's home venue (or one of them). And yet, they stopped *just* short of a true jam or a whole song. I'm sure they were quite aware of the speculation. You can almost hear them talking backstage, being like, "Listen, bros. Everyone is expecting us to do some Dead shit, so what we're going to do is, we're going to do it, but we're going to fuck with them. We're going to walk right up to the very absolute edge of the cliff, so close they can taste it, and then we're going to turn around. And then everyone is going to argue about it after the show and on the Internet."
And so here we are. I personally loved it. I thought they honored the Dead while still keeping the show solidly about Phish music, which is what I paid to see. Very skillfully executed. Very Phish.

FINALLY, to the extent that you believe the term "ripcord" made its way into the Phish 3.0 lexicon at the hands of one Ernest Joseph Anastasio III, then to the same extent do you need to vote that man the MVP of pretty much every recent show. Trey's the leader. It's his renewed patience that is allowing the jams on Blaze On, Twist, Light, and Hood to develop and not be squashed because he got nervous or bored or confused or whatever.

This is Phish 3.0 at its best: you're not going to get your brain ripped out of your skull anymore, but when things are clicking you're going to hear some very inspired music that will take you some great places. If you let it. If you're on the fence, go see a show. You're going to miss them when they're gone.


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