Phish’s October Tour In Review
This is a very well played set, which is exactly what an “average-great” Phish set (or show) is from start to finish. The set is bookended well with strong versions of “Down with Disease” to open and “First Tube” to close. However, there is nothing especially noteworthy in the improvisational sections of the songs of this gig. The “Harry,” for example, fizzled out before segueing into a rudimentary “Light.” And the “You Enjoy Myself”? Perfunctory. This just isn’t that strong a set or tour opener — for Phish. Of course, I still would have loved being there — it is a Phish show, after all.
I was very surprised by this one. I thought it would be much tighter, like the ACL opener. The first set is uneventful. Always great for “Mike’s Song” to open the second set, but you’ve basically heard this version before, and Trey is weak in the “Simple” that follows. As good as the “Ghost” is, especially at its end when it gets creepy and weird (and when Fish briefly kicks out the “Bowie” hi-hat intro), it isn’t sufficiently mesmerizing to warrant recommending — though I really like Mike’s playing in it. “Weekapaug” is a bit aimless, but the coda of “Fee” is cool yet again, with the siren (a “N2O” reference?) making an appearance in both it and the subsequent “Makisupa.” This version of “Makisupa” is quite enjoyable, particularly Mike’s playing in it. “My Problem Right There” is catchy and if you’re a completist who needs to hear every new Phish tune, then you’ve probably heard it already. But it doesn’t speak to me, though I’m at a loss to articulate why. (Of the new tunes, my favorites continue to be “Backwards Down the Number Line” and Page’s “Beauty of a Broken Heart” and “Halfway to the Moon,” though I certainly don’t mind the “Chalk Dust”-like rocker, “Kill Devil Falls,” and the use of “Light” as an exciting jamming vehicle.)
The “Slave” at this show is another really good “3.0” version, to be sure. “Strange Design” is fine, and the set-closing “Julius” is ferocious as always, as is the “Loving Cup” encore. (I am always happy with a “Loving Cup” encore!) But this show as a whole is below average, in my view, given what Phish typically does. In fact, this show is probably one of the best examples that I’ve heard of Phish “phoning it in” — which, of course, they never do. Their shows are almost always great. Phish is also “great” when compared to other rock bands, of course. But this show, to me, just seems “below-average” for Phish, given what they typically do night after night. You object? You think I’m wrong? You remember how much you LOVED the “Julius” at this show? Yes, this is one of those songs where every version tends to sound like the best one you’ve ever heard, and it always makes a mind-blowing second set closer, to be sure. But go listen to the 7/19/03 Alpine Valley “Julius.” That version along with spectacular versions of “You Enjoy Myself,” “Piper” and even “Scents and Subtle Sounds” make that 7/19/03 show one of the best Phish shows of the millennium. Download it from LivePhish. The “Julius” is somehow only $0.99, but its jam segment is worth at least whatever the price of admission to that fantastic show was. Don’t be surprised if it (or something else from the show) makes you genuflect.
Maybe a bit better than 10/10, but not by much. First set is played well, and I like the “Reba” and “Tweezer,” even if they’re not noteworthy. There is also some Marco-Polo call-and-response goofiness between Trey and the audience in the short, but tight, “Antelope” set closer. Musically, the highlight was probably the “Golden Age -> Piper -> Camel Walk,” that opened the second set and lasted about 20 minutes or so, but the jamming wasn’t so inventive as to warrant a recommendation. A nice second set “Jibboo,” but it’s tough to find a bad version of this punchy, upbeat, melodic tune. I mean, when was the last time you thought “Jibboo” sucked? A typically fun Phish show, played well, and “average-great” at best.
A short, but pretty fierce at times, “Stealing Time” first set opener, and a recommended “46 Days” first set closer. And check out the awesome bubonic plague “Carini,” and the final few minutes of “Light,” which (although short) ends well with a jam in five time for several measures. The first trapped Chilean miner was rescued at the setbreak of this show, and the second miner emerged during the “Theme” -> “Free” > “Joy,” which could not have been a coincidence. This is a well-played show with a few recommended versions of songs, i.e., an “average-great Phish show.”
Average-great. Seriously, though, an entertaining show with a multitude of well-played songs, including rarities like “Bill Bailey Won’t You Please Come Home?” (with Page’s dad Dr. Jack McConnell on vocals and tap shoes), “Destiny Unbound,” and “Buffalo Bill” in the first set. The first set also had a short but sweet “Bathtub Gin,” but the “Stash” was a mixed-bag, and there’s just nothing I’d recommend listening to from this show. “Down with Disease,” the longest track of the night at 12:32, is a good version, but in light of the incredible history of the song, this one isn’t anything to please write home about. This is just a typically fun, average Phish show (at best), as I hear it.
Really enjoy the “Curtain With” and “Sand” in the first set, but I am admittedly a sucker for even “average” versions of these songs. And as sweet as it is to get “Sand” at all these days, the versions in October aren’t all that powerful when compared with average Phish or Trey Anastasio Band versions in the past. The “Crosseyed and Painless” second set opener — a set opener I will always love — is nevertheless a mixed-bag, since it gets spacey and aimless for a bit, before ending with its (not always played) composed ending. I often enjoy some “spacey” improv, but not this time. Another upbeat, fired-up “2001” shows up in the set, but this “Tweezer” is — like the “C&P” was — a mixed-bag. Trey hits some off-key notes here and there in the jam that just sounded like he wasn’t really sure what to do in this version. This is a “Tweezer” that just never seems to get it together, in my view. But hey, if you dig this, glad to hear it (email me for a list of 50+ versions I can recommend). The “You Enjoy Myself” at this show is an improvement from ACL, to be sure, but is also just similar to other typically-strong 2009-2010 versions. In other words, it still isn’t one I’d recommend in light of its awe-inspiring improvisational history. An encore that contains “Quinn the Eskimo” and “Tweeprise” will always bring a smile to my face, as this encore does. This was a strong way to close this show, which I’d rate “a small nudge, or wee bit, above average-great.”
This was the first inarguably above-average Phish show of the tour. It may be a “Top 10” show of 2009-2010, frankly, as well, though I haven’t done the math. (It is definitely in the Top 20 of 2009-2010.) The first set was well-played, with good versions of “Back on the Train” and “Torn & Frayed” (happy to see it again), a pretty good “Gin,” an awesome “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” and a strong “46 Days > Possum” to close. The second set opened with “Fuck Your Face” (of all things), had a good version of “Mike’s,” a “Light” with fluid, intricate “Type 2” jamming, a badass “20 Years Later” jam segment, a smokin’ short “Weekapaug,” an enchanted “Harry,” and a memorably thrilling encore with a “Type 2,” unusually improvisational “Reba.” This was also the first time “Reba” was played as an encore since September 21, 1999 (231 shows ago). For other spectacularly improvisational versions of “Reba,” check out (for example) 8/16/93 St. Louis, 7/6/94 Montreal, 7/1/97 Amsterdam, and 8/2/03 IT.
What do I mean by “Type 2”? When the jam in a song takes a markedly different course than it ordinarily would. This is usually, though not always, accompanied by at least one time signature change. For example, the jam of “Chalk Dust Torture” is usually “Type 1,” as it was recently on 10/8 at ACL and even on 10/30 in Atlantic City as a “Whole Lotta Love” sandwich, but listen to the versions on 8/3/03 IT, 8/9/94 Hampton and 6/25/10 Camden for “Type 2” jamming. Or, for example, compare any of the October 2010 “Carini” jams, all of which contain at least a few minutes of “Type 2,” with the straight-up “Type 1” of 11/29/09 Portland or 7/2/10 Charlotte.
In any event, if you still haven’t listened to this Augusta show, please download it from LivePhish. It’s well-worth the coin, and a portion of the proceeds from LivePhish downloads support The Mockingbird Foundation — the volunteers of which bring you Phish.net. (Phish.net is free to you, but it isn’t free.)