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Columns > Randy Ray - Peaches En Randalia

Published: 2009/11/30
by Randy Ray

Albany -7

Peaches En Randalia #45
Serving this slogan for nigh onto forty-seven minutes:
When being Tight & Linear is better than Persnickety & Random.

>And it all seemed to come together, didn’t it?

>The band chugs their way into the opening of the second set with the slow buildup of “Seven Below,” and they are off for what appears to be one of their standard 2009 jams—short, sweet, and safe. Uh, pass. And yet…what is going on here?

>Hopefully, one realizes that “they” are Phish. As much as I have drifted away from interest in the band post-Hampton reunion, only appearing at marquee gigs like one last stop before the train permanently leaves my personal station, I still care about their growth. Hell, I still care about their collective and individual artistic development. Most of all, I’m just damned glad they are all still alive, and able to perform their craft, taboot.

>Elsewhere, everywhere—“Seven Below” kicks it up a notch at around the 10-minute mark to start heading into an expanse of space that has been rarely explored in 2009. Suddenly, Trey flicks the wrists, and the band is headed into melodic terrain, but that seems more like a burst of positive energy, rather than a premature end, which has curtailed many a fine jam in this Year of Our Lord, ’09, the Reunion Feast O’ Phish.

>And then there’s Super Mike. Gordon has been steady all year, and willing to stretch songs, and develop his inner Cactus, but sometimes one wonders how engaged he must feel while playing sometimes enhanced versions of solo Trey material—verse, verse, chorus, verse, verse, chorus, Trey whale dementia>fade out. In “Seven Below,” Gordon is patient, diligent, and inventive while moving through miles of audio geography.

>So, yeah…I wanted to give a shout out to 11/28/09 – Albany – Set II – “Seven Below,” returning to the heady music that initially was handed down to me by my timely neighbor across the street, the 1990s, in the form of unbelievably cosmic improvisation that somehow, someway sounds composed. That’s the hook, isn’t it? Play so long, and The Shit elsewhere, everything, EVERYWHERE will follow. They can compose on the spot.

>From those innocent head-exploding origins, I leap forward many minutes, and the Phab Phour are expanding outwards, finally managing to find a way into that primal zone where four musicians are as one, and all is right in the Phish world. This happens in the most natural and organic fashion at around the 17-, or 18-minute mark as everyone is off doing their own thing, and then Trey wraps them all together with a beautiful series of notes that are magnified by an unbelievably coherent jam that is riding the wave underneath. How did THIS happen, and what happens when someone (like they just did) asks me what the best moment of 2009 was? Well, I can name the best, right now.

>Albany -7…until the Four Men of the Improv Apocalypse hits the Garden, of course. Ahhh…the dreaded qualifier!

>Trey Anastasio, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, and Page McConnell have lived a thousand lives, should have been down and out, but they’ve been there, done that, and continue to make vital music that makes you feel something. Me? I’m here to write about music, and give some insight into the evolving improv soundscape while attempting to pull away from Phish, but you know when they’re STILL the best, they make it awfully hard not to stop and smile while the goosebumps pop up on both arms, and that pulse gets racing just one more time, and the Joy? IT is all there, my friend. My friends, indeed.>

>Postscript: The “Ghost” which followed? Oh, crissakes, man. What would I have said back in the day when JD was my best friend? Albany Ghost was FUCKING spectacular. It’s fast and strong and bold and VERY confident, but I don’t think it could have happened without the preceding “Seven Below.” And that may be the ultimate answer right there—Trey needed these three cats, much more than solo sidemen, to produce these transcendent moments, as much as Fish, Gordo, and the Chairman need Big Red. And it may not have always happened in this first year out of the second hiatus gates, but damned if they didn’t hit those peaks often enough to justify this very reunion, taboot.

>Slowly, near the end of “Ghost,” Jon Fishman, on drums, returns to the “Seven Below” theme. And it all seemed to come together, didn’t it?

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