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Columns > Dan Alford - Audio Files

Published: 2001/05/21
by Dan Alford

Phil & Friends

Business stuff:
Big news this month comes from the Phish camp. Page
and John Siket are hard at work putting together the
first six releases from the new archival series "Live
Phish." The series will feature full show releases,
including some sound check material, that will be
re-mastered in the case of multi-tracks and released
as is in the case of two tracks. In both cases, shows
will be complete and unedited. The first six shows
will be released beginning in July, although no
specific dates are set as of yet. I genuinely hope
that much of the series will focus on the post 95 era,
since HQ recordings from before then abound. It is
the later years, however, that are mired in a glut of
poor-quality recordings. Certainly I’ve got a bunch,
but I have had to endure a sea of mediocrity to get
them. In any case, kudos to Phish for finally doing
what they should have done long ago.

Remember to send me any reviews, questions or
comments; I always look forward to hearing from you.
This month’s focus is on soundboards from Phil and
Friends’ recent fall tour. Since these are
technically official releases, I am going to skip the
"It’s Official" segment this month.
Music:
Bands often make gestures of kindness to their
respective fan bases. Those gestures range from
simply thanking an audience, saying, "We had a great
time tonight," to answering fan mail, to under-selling
a venue so there will be ample room to boogie.
Without question one of the coolest gestures of recent
months has been Phil Lesh’s release of uncut
soundboard recordings from Phil and Friends’
barn-burning fall 2000 tour. Not only has he ensured
that fans will have top-notch recordings of some
seriously intense psychedelia, but he’s done so at no
charge to you, the music junkie! Any one of the Phil
boards would’ve made a great three-disc set and I
would have been first on line to hand over my hard-earned dough. But instead, each show in the series is
available for loss-less audio download at
www.philzone.com.. Not only that, but Phil continues
to add extra shows to the original four that were
planned for release. At this point there are eight full
shows available, each one featuring the devastating
lineup of Molo, Lesh, Barraco, Haynes and Herring.
Phil Lesh and Friends @ HOB, Las Vegas, NV 10-27-00
Disc 1: Jam > Dear Mr. Fantasy > Deal > FOTD > Casey
Jones, Soulshine
Disc 2: Foolish Heart, Built to Last, NFA > Eyes,
Strawberry Fields > Doin’ That Rag
Disc 3: GDTRFB > Scarlet > Just a Little Light,
Sugaree, Cold Rain and Snow
The opening jam begins sounding more like sound check
noodling than anything else. It staggers and wobbles,
Jimmy tossing in a line or five from Sunshine, but the
sound is far too awkward to actually matriculate. As
is usually the case, the pair of Molo and Phil pushes
things into line. A nice, mellow strut – Phil seems
particularly bouncy. Jimmy hits Sunshine again about
seven minutes in but the transition is heavy and loud
and Warren steps up for Mr. Fantasy. Rob moves to the
organ, tracing long lines under the vocals. It’s
obvious from the restraint in Warren’s voice that this
one’s gonna explode. Jimmy starts the first jam but
Warren pulls it down for an intense bit of picking
accentuated by the organ. The music hangs low for a
long time, like iridescent plant life on a darkened
ocean floor. Molo lightly taps the high hat as the
guitars begin to grow.
It’s a longer process of focused growth than Phil and
Friends usually take — they are much more likely to
touch on a myriad of ideas than to stay with one, but
it pays off here. A fantastic jam surfaces in the
third verse. Warren begins to growl. The restraint
and intent in this performance speak volumes.
The improv that precedes Deal has a
Beatles-through-the-lens-of-Warren-Haynes feel: just
slightly goofy. Rob is ever willing to indulge. A
rollicking good time with nice vocals at the end.
A gentle, well-wrought piece of playing segues into
FOTD. The true skill of Phil and Friends is the
ability to take any song and crack it wide open,
finding a universe that could have remained forever
hidden. But here again they also show a fantastic
ability to roll within a song’s structure. There is
very nice rhythm work from Jimmy throughout the song
and Warren has his say too. Their playing complements
Molo’s kit-riding perfectly.
Phil works over a series of descending lines that help
a neat jamlet a few minutes out of Friend. Warren and
Rob trade a couple of lines and Jimmy jumps in for a
fine layering that topples at Casey Jones. More
rhythm work from Jimmy. The clackety-clack is
established without being too explicit — and can’t help
devolving at the end. The tune is short.
Soulshine gets a nice reggae treatment. It’s the
manifestation of a playfulness that has hung over the
set so far, just beyond recognition. Rob lays down in
the organ for the first solo and slips behind Warren
as he speaks out. The middle jam is very nice, Molo
and Phil digging a trench so it does not lose focus.
Rob, Jimmy and Warren all push the same bright point.
A great way to end a disc.
The second disc begins with a Foolish Heart, Phil
firmly in control. Warren solos on the crest of the
bass wave, right up to the first verse. Interplay
between him and Jimmy percolates a foaming brew.
After the fourth verse, Warren tears in on the wa for
the first time, slicing left and right before settling
back into his vibrating sound. Jimmy plays a clean,
peaked solo.
In the same vein, Built to Last. A nice coupling in
concert and even better as the opener for a disc.
This version is short and very straightforward.
Big swingin’ drums call out Not Fade Away. Jimmy
grates out the intro solo, playing distance statements
every other bar. The mid section stretches way out,
bending the parameters in a way that the rest of the
set hasn’t, settling into a long, low space there is
ample room to cast about. Molo moves briefly to jazz
mode and Phil angles the vibe back to NFA.
Eyes rises up nicely at Phil’s behest. Rob’s piano
embodies the spaciousness of the song, drifting.
While each solo and jamlet is full, they are not
aggressive — simply making use of the area provided.
About ten minutes in, a long-steeped theme appears and
climbs to a beautiful climax. It drops away and Phil
and Molo start a heavier groove that could go Spanish,
or even to Dirt (!), but the leads disconnect. It
drifts away.
Strawberry Fields has pipe organ and precise drumming
to make it excel. Rob’s vocals are distant, dreaming
and accentuated by the backup voices. Midi bubbles
greet a new zone. The music winds around in spirals,
flares up and cools into smooth sounds. Phil and Molo
shake a slick region of discordant riffing into life.
Bent notes droop, heavy with their own weight.
The only way to pull out of that Technicolor dream is
with a bit of the old Rag. Again Phil and Molo shine
as a singular beacon. You can wade in there and never
get wet if you keep on doin’ that rag.
GDTRFB starts fast and groovy, releasing the pent-up
energy from the spacey wanderings that preceded it.
Rob has a great boogie about six minutes in, dancing
up and down the eighty-eight. At the end Sunshine
surfaces again and this time it could be real. But
instead it visibly morphs into Sunshine, with a change
of rhythm structure followed by Rob with the lead.
The mid-song jam shines, Warren closing it with the
wa. The same effect appears later on the meandering
path. It’s fluid and constant, vibrating a line
rather than blowing in huge gusts. Jimmy undermines
it with gentle notes that clam and smooth. In the
blink of an eye the sounds are transmitting once again
from the far side of the galaxy. The transition to
Just a Little Light is abrupt.
Warren’s singing hard and the mood is heavy. The
spacey interlude is pensive, nice organ and drumming.
Warren and Jimmy slice through and spill a wild jam.
A textured fifteen-minute Sugaree closes the set. It
runs the gamut of emotions and ends, as one would
expect, by going way beyond the point of ridiculous.
To outdo themselves, Phil and Friends plow
through a monster Cold Rain and Snow for the encore.
Phil gives the lyrics a Jorma treatment, slurring and
bending and tweaking. THE way to finish.
This show is characterized by a real fine song focus
on the first disc, a decent into-the-outer-reaches
throughout most of the second, and a blending of the
two for the third. Its a great show but with this
lineup, what’d‘ya expect?

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