, attached to 2021-08-06

Review by waxbanks

waxbanks It's tempting just to talk about the two monumental second-set jams on which this show's reputation'll inevitably stand or fall, but there was something in the air from the very first note: Carini / Wolfman's / Sand is one of the strongest openings since Coventry. It's not experimental Phish by any stretch, and I can imagine a non-initiate finding the whole thing repetitive -- but the band's communication is smooth and immediate and the detail is there. A sign of what's to come, not to mention 36+ minutes of pure groovy pleasure. (Note: the repeated minor > major shift of those opening jams will be darkly mirrored in set 2 by the Space Madness out of Simple...)

My favourite moment of the opening set might be when the Wolfgroove shifts subtly after 7ish minutes, with Page hopping from clav to piano-stomp for a long climb, Trey and Mike surrounding him with echoes as minor fall goes major lift. Fishman's beat gets elastic (Fish is on a tear this tour, Big Divorce Energy I bet), Trey leslies out, Page pushes the cart across the finish line, just awesome. And look, Sand is no great piece of music but this is a rare Sand jam that in Olden Days would've been an 'instant must-hear version' -- take a minute to appreciate that this is now Phish's baseline.

Blaze On is smoooooth: watch Page drift from chunky clav to groovy Rhodes with Trey's Mu-tron(?) tone thickening things underneath, then out come the Galactica synths for interstellar passage, signature sound of Phish 2021 and the first opportunity for your Phish-curious date to turn to you like 'Is this still the weed-dad song?' Hearing Page's alien dance underneath Trey's spry moves around the 13 minute mark, with Mike rolling those big bass bubbles across the cornfields and Fish marking punctuation -- and then finally a discrete pattern/progression in the 15th minute, just effortless union -- I get that old paradoxical excitement, like there's this familiar feeling of newness, the joy that's always animated them is finding fluent expression and so it's experienced (anyway I experience it) as a brand new thing somehow.

And that's less than 2/3 of the jam; on the other side of the bliss-peak is another 10+ minutes of music, another sweet sunny old-school 'Type II' progression emerging (check out Page's passing minor colours once Trey starts soloing, and of course Trey's into it, 'into it' one of the things he's best at), plus a revved-up CHARGE!! to the finish, sudden flashback to the Bomb Factory '94, Trey-guns aimed right at the crowd (just kidding folks, it's only rock music, relax and enjoy the show) -- after which a proper cooldown song is earned and called for...

...just kidding, it's goddamn Wilson next. And simpleton than I am, I'm fond of the next tune, called 'Simple' --

OK, as a 42-year-old man I can't help but find the domestication and commercialization of space flight to be the contemptible sullying of a shared species-dream, even if space-tourism will be rad someday. Based on what happens 10ish minutes into this version of Simple, I suspect the lads in Phish, children of the space race after all, agree... I can only interpret the synth-countdown madness that emerges as a deliberate reinjection of pulse-pounding sci-fi horror into the increasingly banal world of space flight. The band rides a fishbeat that might put CERTAIN wishful old farts in mind of, say, 12/6/97 (or indeed 'Everybody Wants to Rule the World,' fitting given the galactoconquistador vibe of the thing), and then the support staff fills the tank with some Floyd-juice or whatever weird fluids were to hand and we're racing off to the stars. LETO II OF HOUSE ATREIDES, YOUR GOLDEN PATH IS FULLFILLED.

I was never into Primus but perhaps this is also what Primus sounds like? It's what their album covers LOOK like they sound like, to me.

Someone (Mike? Trey?) starts moaning. The vibe gets extremely Tower Jammy for a hot minute. Easygoing drifty trips turn DARK real fast. They start singing the fucking Simple lyrics over this pounding groove! And Phish are doing, without question, the exact thing that for years after 2009 I was bummed that they weren't really doing: going weird and staying there, in deliberate spite of Trey's/their(?) tendency toward ocean-of-love uplift, to see how far a groupmind can bend before it permanently creases. Imagine an actually enjoyable version of the last 10 minutes of the 11/30/97 Wolfman's jam, or if the climactic stretch of the Hampton '13 Tweezer kept going. A good look on them: Technicolor black.

Hood > Never Needed to close (the latter tune seems to function a bit like GXBX, if you ask me -- I like a huge set-closing Hood myself but this was a pretty good call), surprise triple encore that starts with a sloppy Sanity. Sheer enthusiasm and energy pouring off the stage, even as flubs and repetitions tend to pile up.

The verdict, of course, is that this is both a sublime rock'n'roll show and one of the best Phish shows since the Obama administration, if not the Bush administration.


The band sounds REBORN right now -- Fish is bringing huge energy, Mike and Page are totally energized by the sounds they're making, and as for Trey...

Trey came into this tour totally warmed up and ready for action in today-Trey's technical terms, obviously shy of perfect in that first show but increasingly hungry and confident. That said, we have to accept that he's entering his late 50s, y'know? 'Approaching retirement age.' They all are.

So I encourage everyone to take this music for what it is -- the work of once-a-generation (collective) genius that's lost a step and gained something in return, music that seeks peace rather than chasing prey, music that defies age -- and to marvel at the fact that our favourite band, much the best improvisatory rock band ever, is playing (what the kids call) KING SHIT like this.


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