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Published: 2010/12/13
by Charlie Dirksen

Phish’s October Tour In Review

10/20 UTICA

I wrote plenty about this Guyutica show back in October, a show where “Guyute” teases show up all over the place, and it can be found here in the Forum. I still stand by every word. This is one of the best shows of 2009-2010, and it would probably — though not definitely — make my Top 200 Phish Shows were I to bother compiling such a thing. Download with extreme prejudice. If you haven’t heard this show yet, I can’t believe you’ve read this far into my two cents on this tour. Your time would have been much better spent downloading and listening to this gig. You should be ashamed of yourself. Seriously, though, don’t go into it expecting hear the best-version-ever of anything — except perhaps “Have Mercy” (compare only with the also must-hear 11/12/94 Kent State version). I love the entrancing jam segment of this “Have Mercy” and, although short, consider it one of the musical highlights of recent years. It is certainly one of the peak jams of October.


The first set is through the motions (musically speaking, of course, which is all I can speak to since I wasn’t there), but it’s still fun and well-played. The jams in the “Rock and Roll” and “Carini” to open the second set, however, are quite good (I love Fish’s “Tweezer-esque” rhythm at the end of the jam segment of “Carini”). This set also features what is the only known “Type 2” version of “Sanity,” because it contains a “jam segment” so-to-speak, with a lot of sustained chording from Trey and some funking-around from Mike and Fish for a bit. There’s a good “Weekapaug” in this set, but I dislike the version of “Light” that comes soon thereafter (following “Suzy”) — I think Trey sounds awful at times. (If you’re a fan of this “Light,” what Phish don’t you like!?) But whatever, the show closes strongly with “Character Zero > 2001 > Loving Cup” and “First Tube.” An above-average show, but not by much.


What can I say, this is a very fun Phish show, what with “Meatstick” and “Party Time” openers, a mid-first-set “Tweezer” and a “TweePrise” to close the FIRST set, “Down with Disease > My Friend” to open the second set, and a second-set-closing “YEM” and “Shine A Light” encore. It’s well-played with a very entertaining setlist (take a look!), but there are no versions I’d recommend listening to. Average-great at best, which is an odious and cowardly way of saying “below-average, but I don’t want you Amherst-loving noobs to flame the crap out of me.” I kid, I kid. If you’re inspired by this setlist, definitely check it out, but please don’t ask me to listen to it again.


I am a sucker for “Camel Walk” and “Ride Captain Ride,” and I even like “Time Turns Elastic.” (Really, I like it — just not at a show, unless it is perfectly played.) But this first set does little for me. The “Stash” is a mixed-bag, with a few misses from Trey, but it’s beautiful overall and one of the best versions of the last few years (and Trey even briefly teases “Dave’s Energy Guide” in it at 8:32-8:40 of the LivePhish version). I also really like Mike’s, Page’s and Fish’s accompaniment. “Stash” fans should check it out, especially if you haven’t been very happy with versions of “Stash” since the bewilderingly insane Coventry version, even though I prefer the 10/31/10 version to this one by a long shot. On the other hand, the second set has a lot of good energy (which Phish sets typically do, on average), not just in the “Seven Below” opener, but throughout. And I can’t complain too loudly about a set with back-to-back songs like “Roggae” and “Brother” in it (two of my favorite songs, even though these are not above-average versions). The show closes very well with “Bowie” and then a “Quinn the Eskimo, Chalk Dust” encore. Nevertheless, no recommended versions. “Average-great at best,” he said, while making the sign of the cross and sighing.


WOW! Check out the setlist! Opens with “After Midnight, Sloth, Alumni > Letter > Alumni,” which made me wonder whether Trey had discovered the random fantasy setlist generator on and started putting it to its Greatest and Most Inspiring Use. A sure-fire way to a veteran Phish fan’s heart is to surprise him or her with set-openers like these (and a “Runaway Jim” or “Chalk Dust” set opener will never be a surprise, unless you go back in time to Hampton 8/9/04 in the case of “Chalk Dust” or Walnut Creek 6/16/95 in the case of “Jim,” both of which are must-hear).

The music of this show is usually, though not always, well-played (the obviously unrehearsed “Access Me” is quite enjoyable nevertheless), and I love the “Curtain With” in the first, but this show’s strength lies in the second set, which is up there with the best sets of the year. It’s played expertly well, and features electrifying improv in the “Light” in particular. “Night Nurse” shows up in the “Makisupa,” no doubt in homage to Gregory Isaacs, who sadly had just died on October 25. The “Ghost” is short but pretty damn sweet, with very few mishits from Trey. The “Weekapaug” in this set is also the most appealing version since 6/29/10 Canandaigua, with a “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” jam, lyrics from “Ghost” and “Night Nurse,” and a real segue -> into a “Llama Reprise,” taboot. Whatever you think about the merit of “Show of Life” (I enjoy it), encoring with it still took the fire out of this show, given the power of the second set. So, notwithstanding the poor encore call, this is still one of the best shows of the last two years, and I recommend checking it out. (And I bet I’m not the first to recommend this show to you!)


In case you haven’t heard or weren’t there, this show opened with our nation’s “Star Spangled Banner” presumably because of the ENORMOUS AMERICAN FLAG above the crowd on the venue’s wall straight out from the stage and the band. HUGE flag. In any event, while I love this opener, the first set of this show wasn’t that sharp overall. (“Solid,” in the parlance of our time.) It was played fine, but the only musical highlight was the mighty “Light Up or Leave Me Alone” jam segment (the composed section of the version wasn’t clean, though). For example, the “Cities” jam could have been something stellar, and I was hoping for a gorgeous groove at least half as sweet as the Greek’s “Cities” jam from August. Nope. It just meandered around, but I still enjoyed dancing to it, and I love this cover, and wouldn’t be upset if I got it at every show I saw. And of course I still enjoyed the set, because that’s what we do at Phish shows — we enjoy ourselves. And even a below-average Phish set is “great”, like the first set-closing “46 Days.”

I’d like to say that the second set of this show was “one for the ages,” or “a must-hear, trail-blazing barn-burner,” but it was not. It was just well-played, typically-awesome Phish, with no versions to recommend. Well, ok. Check out the “Carini,” because while it arguably isn’t as moving as the other versions in October, it’s still pretty cool when compared with those in Phish history. And christ, the show ended with “Slave,” “Fluffhead” and “Loving Cup.” This may not mean much to you, but it sure as hell meant a lot to me. It’s a sensational show-closing triumvirate. So I have no trouble calling this a “somewhat above-average great” Phish show. And as always, if you look at this show’s setlist and like it a lot, then check it out. If you’re a vet, you won’t hear anything especially new (except in “Carini”), but it’s hard to be too disappointed hearing Phish play your favorite songs again, and play them well, in a new venue.

And THANK YOU ATLANTIC CITY, for making us feel welcome! I really hope Phish plays there again. And I am not just saying this so Cameron Parker has a chance to defend his hold ‘em poker victory at the Tropicana — a victory that occurred Halloween weekend in the first-ever Phamily Poker Classic poker tournament. You can read the names of the other fans who made the final table here. These names include Robert Goad, who finished in second, and promptly made a large cash donation to The Mockingbird Foundation. How cool is that?


Although well-intentioned, a lot of fans have probably overrated this show. Yes, you and I had a blast at the show. That’s what we do at Phish shows. And the “Zeppeleezer” madness — or whatever you want to call the Zeppelin-Tweezer (5/7/94 Bomb-Factory-Tweezeresque-ish) medley in the second set — was extraordinary to behold. I LOVED this show and am so thankful I was there. But musically? It’s a mixed-bag. I’m sure some @jadedvet‘s who weren’t present at the show saw the “MonkeyPrise” encore (which I am embarrassed to admit that I called) in the setlist and thought, “Well, it couldn’t have been THAT great a show.”

Seriously, though, the “Chalk Dust Torture -> Whole Lotta Love -> Chalk Dust Torture” in the first set is wonderful, to be sure, and I really like the “Wolfman’s Brother -> Undermind” combo, because their spellbinding jams do IT for me. (And a few measures of this “Wolfman’s” reminded me of the Greek “Cities” jam from August.) The “Gin” may also be the most sublime version of October, tough to say. So, I think this first set is at least as good as any other first set in October, musically speaking. ( Guyutica’s first set is excellent, too, of course, but I prefer the music of this one.) However, the second set was a mixed-bag musically. I can appreciate why some folks have been relatively unimpressed upon hearing the music of this show, particularly the Zeppelin covers, which I do not think were rehearsed that, uhm, much (as the released, partial 10/30 soundcheck seems to attest). But don’t forget all of the pre-show hype about Phish covering Led Zeppelin for their “costume” on Halloween. I thought it was hysterical that they ransacked several Zeppelin tunes in and out of “Tweezer” the night before Halloween.

So, in sum, Phish played one of the best first sets of the year, and a bunch of Zeppelin tunes in a half-assed, highly entertaining way (“Heartbreaker,” “Ramble On,” “Thank you,” “Stairway”) in and out of “Tweezer” in the second set, and if you were there you had a phenomenal time. And the “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (aka “2001”) at this show is glorious! Not only is it the finest version since 6/25/10 Camden (which paid homage to Michael Jackson), but “2001” is also the cover that helped give me IT with Phish back in ‘93 at Wolf Trap. “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” as performed by Deodata, is also the background music during a pivotal point in a remarkable film, Being There, starring Peter Sellers (a “must-rent“). And geeesh, listen to the goofiness in the “Bowie” hi-hat opening segment in this set! Oh yeah, and a “GTBT” second set closer!? So, it’s a no-brainer. I’m going to overrate this show, too, ok? “Well above ‘average-great.’ Hear at all costs. Download with extreme prejudice.”

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