21 in 21 of 2017: #5 07/19/2017 Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, PA (Matt Burnham, @therealburnham)
Let’s start at the beginning. Everyone knew that 2017 was going to be a different kind of year. The world was changing. People were changing. Life was changing. I know my life was changing — Right smack-dab in the middle of the Summer of 2017, my second child was born. A daughter. So I knew that the Phish Summer tour, to me at least, was going to take a backseat. Still, I tried to follow along on couch-tour as much as I could. And the summer tour of 2017 was different, too (obviously). Five “warm-up” shows, three of them in one location immediately followed by two shows in smaller, indoor arenas. Then, the Bakers Dozen. 13 shows at Madison Square Garden where no repeats were played. An inspiring run full of highlights, jams, bust-outs, debuts, and tears. Follow that up with the typical Dicks jaunt at Labor Day and that was it.
This is all to set the stage for what I’m writing about. @LawnMemo’s Summer Jam series is always a must-read precursor for Summer tour because of the various fan perspectives on the different shows from the previous year. It’s a fun way to relive the selections and see why people chose the jams they chose. This is my fifth year writing in the series and it’s always a fun time.
Personally, I’ve always been interested in inflection points — Those times and moments when things change from one direction to another. And that’s not to say they always go good to bad or bad to good or anything like that. They can be much more subtle than that. The show that occurred on July 17th at the Petersen Center in Pittsburgh, PA was an inflection point. More specifically, the suite in the second set that started in the 2 hole…
“Punch You in the Eye” was the second set opener and it’s a nice one that sets the stage for greatness. Segueing out of that is a familiar drum riff that hadn’t been heard in over 14 years on a Phish stage…
After a 380 show gap, this “Mr. Completely” that emerges and erupts into a 20-minute monster is full of Type II improvisation, bliss, mode changes, and stellar full band improvisation. I’ve listened to it a multiple of times since the first playing (and many times for the writing of this) and I think to try to break it down into highlights would diminish the impact of how great it is. The sum is much much greater than the parts. Everyone reading this should absolutely find their best pair of headphones, press play up above, and just listen.
Now, in the four shows leading up to this, there were a multitude of new songs debuted. However, this was the first *bust-out* of the tour. In all, 23 songs were busted-out after 50 or greater show gaps at the Dozen. This was the first big hint that Phish wasn’t only looking forward but they were also interested in looking back.
After “Mr. Completely” comes a segue into one of the better songs in 3.0, “Mercury.” This version is fine, but I want to draw attention to the segue that happens out of “Mercury” and into “Rise/Come Together.” Now, R/CT is typical of Trey’s recent songwriting kick which is focused on positivity and harmony (see: “More,” “Everything’s Right,” “Soul Planet,” etc.). And whether or not that’s something you’re into or something that you find to be the most cheesy thing in the world is neither here nor there… However, this segue is something to write home about! This is a full on band segue into a debut of a new song (->!).
This was probably the other main indicator that the Baker’s Dozen was going to be a special occurrence, way beyond the spectacle of the thirteen shows. Soon after this, the themes and the covers and the donuts and the jams (don’t sleep on the “Sample”) would occur, but on July 19th, the stage was set. And all fears should have been allayed. The band, as always, had stepped up and nailed it.
About Matt: I live in Austin, TX with my wife, two kids, and two dogs. You can find me on Twitter at @therealburnham, on the Phish.net Setlists team judging your tease submissions, and at the Austin show and at Curveball (!!!) my first Phish festival since Coventry. Needless to say, after taking a year off from Phish shows, I’m pumped to be back.