There’s nothing quite like a three night SPAC run during summer tour. SPAC seems to be a favorite for both the band and fans alike because not only is Saratoga absolutely gorgeous in the summer but also the venue itself has hosted so much of the band’s phenomenal musical history. In 3.0 alone, Phish have developed a solid resume at the venue and they’ve never been shy about going above and beyond to deliver with such high stakes. This is where they’ve debuted new material, liberated covers, taken songs off the shelf, stretched songs well out outside of their usual dimensions, even covered Katy Perry and it can all be tied back to SPAC. Lets not forget this was also the birthplace of Fish as Friar Tuck, so I think it’s safe to say the walls radiate a special source of inspiration. There’s something intrinsically beautiful about SPAC and whatever you want to call it – it’s always reflected through the music.
You could feel the anticipation in the air that night while walking around the lot, especially coming off such an incredible show the night before on the 4th. There were plenty of highlights scattered through the show including a rocking “Carini” to open the second set, a beautiful version of “Slave” to close out the second set and a “You Enjoy Myself” that really hit home.
However, collectively the show lacked any real consistency and the energy was sporadic. The band was still capable of finding peaks and pushing themselves creatively and they hit a nice stride with two of their classic numbers. The best combination of energy and consistency surfaced in the second set with a funk fueled “Piper” > “Fluffhead.”
Right out of the gates the band was strictly business and before the music hits the five-minute mark, Trey and Mike were already pushing each other to play faster and pump the song full of energy. This was foreshadowing for what would eventually clock in at just about over thirteen minutes of meandering improvisation for the books. The band held the crowd firmly in control and took the song to places unknown. Trey was using his wah peddle to lock in with the rest of the band, finding a pocket groove of rhythm to let the other band members take over. A series of delays and effects from Trey subsequently inspired Page and Mike to take turns at the helm where they each put a unique twist into the jam. Creeping up on the eleven-minute mark it was Fishman who notably shifted gears and his ability to keep up with Trey never ceases to amaze me.
The band was firing from all cylinders as they hit a series of peaks overflowing with power. Fishman’s ability to create space in the jam inspired the other three to take more risks since they knew they’ll never be worried about leaving their drummer behind. The band demonstrated their sheer discipline as they stopped the music on a dime and dropped into what can only be described as something similar to a sop-go jam. The transition between songs took the air out of the crowd, but the opening notes of “Fluffhead” were welcomed with what felt like a collective sigh of relief. I love “Fluffhead” and this version was full of energy. Some “Fluffhead” connoisseurs could argue that some of the composed parts of the song were sloppy, but none of that matters when the band still finds the peaks and lays down the funk thickness in the jam. Page shined bright on this version and overall the band knocked this one out of the park, clocking in at over fourteen minuets. 2014 was a great year for Phish and they fully delivered an incredible three-night SPAC run that will surely be remembered for a long time to come.