26 in 26 #21 08/04/2013 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA (Wade Wilby, @originalwyllys)
Selection: “Energy>Runaway Jim”
From Wade Wilby:
Lawn Memo 26 in 26 8.4.13 Energy>Jim BGCA
California is a planet drifting in it’s own serene nihilism. It is a vast expanse of indulgent beauty from the bitterly dry oasis of Palm Springs to the soaring redwoods of Humboldt. It represents the sadistic freedom of the old west, as well as the new age, juice fad, colonic bar-frequenting, Mr Chow-eating scenester that both entirely represent Americans past and present. Simply put, there’s gold in them thar’ hills and in some way, shape, or form, that lust for whatever lies out there is an intrinsic part of our DNA. California…The Great Wide Oblivion. Dissapear Here.
Having toured with a number of bands as a fan, working personnel, and artist, I can tell you that something happens to a band once they reach the palm-lined paradise of the western world. There is a shift in mentality that effects everyone’s entire being. Life is slower, calmer. Breathing seems easier. The people carry themselves in a way that suggests there is nothing in the galaxy that truly matters, to their credit and detriment. It is the
black sheep of the mosaic puzzle of The States that, given its natural position on lines of fault, will undoubtedly drift to its oceanic death, and its inhabitants seem blissfully aware of this fate, unphased by its finality, and harness the energy of that end in a carefree and detached state an outsider can only admire.
It is this energy that permeates the mentality of artists and musicians from other places, instilling in them a freedom unseen in the rest of the continental US. There is suddenly more space between notes in a measure. Solos start becoming a conversation with the rest of the band as opposed to a free for all for the ego. Compositions that may have only seen 4-6 minutes of life in other states suddenly become these free form exhibitions in patience
and communication. The technology at their fingertips becomes another mode of blending into the landscape, effects never used elsewhere because some unknown inhibitor was holding them back suddenly become a new language to add to the evolving dialect of the moment. This is the
liberation the West Coast can offer if you leave yourself open to it.
Phish is no exception to this geographical abandonment and their jump off point into this mentality is usually The Gorge. George, WA is home to some of Phish’s most gorgeous and unhinged improvisation and is a great example of this observation in motion. A perfect example in recent history is the second set of 8.5.11, most notably the “Rock and Roll>Meatstick>Boogie.”
Then, as they reach the oasis of California, the band recasts itself into the mold of the moment and lets the innate euphoria of freedom do the driving. A great example of this is the “2001>Mike’s>Hydrogen>Weekapaug” from 9.6.99 at Shoreline.
Yes, the west coast transforms our favorite band into a more patient beast indeed. In the most recent trip to California, the boys treated us to an incredible second set on the last night of the run at the historic Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. In a town celebrated for its improvisational roots, the band has never really shown any signs of restlessness or
haste when they visit here and this night would be no exception.
The jam I chose to highlight begins the second set, a slot almost primarily used for an improv launchpad. They open the set with “Energy,” a song that many fans mourned the disappearance of during the fall run. Popular opinion suggested this was the second coming of “Golden Age” from
an improv standpoint, and I have to agree. The potential for this song was first seen in Chicago and absolutely proven on this night in San Fran. They chose to stretch this version out and somehow found their way to “Runaway Jim,” arguably the best version of 3.0. Let’s dissect this opening frame of set 2 by the minute markers and get nerdy with it.
This version is energetic from the onset and tight through the initial structure of the song. The jam starts to take shape around 3:08 with Mike droning and Page comping around both Mike and Trey soloing. This is pretty much how most jams take shape in any of Phish’s incarnations. Trey keeps the solo going till about 6:08. Trey then abandons the solo and begins a much more
funky approach. Page, in turn, heads for the clavinet and we are in Filth City. Fish soon finds the center of the new approach and the groove is established. Fish begins to pick up the tempo to an almost “Birds” like drum and bass shuffle at around 7:20 and they could easily have gone
into “Birds” right here. The 8 min mark we see the band settle in to an atmospheric drum and bass/ funk mode that gives the feel that this jam could go anywhere, the Californiacation of the moment. Page heads to the rhodes and Trey lays out to let Gordo and Fish lead the push.
At about 8:55 Page goes back to the B3 and begins a run that sounds like it could be a “Maze” solo. 9:40, Trey comes up with a nice progression built off of his rhodes riff. The 10 min mark is most certainly a “Birds” tease,
but instead the band opts to slide out of the groove to a very short space reprieve before landing perfectly into the opening chords of “Runaway Jim.”
“Jim” hadn’t seen much improv action in 3.0, but this night would change all of that, and where better than California? The playing is spirited through the structure and the jam starts at about 3:55 with Trey taking the reigns per usual. Around the 5 min mark T Money lays out and we truly
start to see the west coast sinking in here. He goes to the oft-lauded whammy pedal for some volume swells with Page stepping out front. At 5:40 Gordo slinks to the forefront with some gorgeous melodic playing as Trey and Fish set the dynamic tone. Sure, Trey is taking the role
of Orca here, but I am in the group that loves the delay loop in any form and it truly works here as he uses it in severe moderation to accentuate the atmosphere of the jam. This almost GD-like section has a pulse but still somehow drifts at the same time, much like the mentality
of California as a whole. This is the genius of Fishman at work-floating and driving all at once.
At 7:11 Trey emerges from the depths of the loop and begins to trade licks
with Gordo, assuming his role at the helm of the ship, but still comping with the band in a very Team Phish moment. At 8:09 we start flirting with Type II territory as Page begins a very pronounced new theme and the band takes the bait. The jam retains it’s bounce but Trey is now playing off of Page’s new theme soley. At 9:40 Trey begins to “stab” as a signal to Fishman to
start playing some dynamic hits based on the stabs and of course Fish is all over it and at 10:08 Fishman drops the halftime and now we are in Type II. The halftime beat sends Trey into full on filthy blues mode and the crowd responds in kind. This is a truly disgusting turn of events here with the band communicating fluently with one another and Trey, as always, finds
his hole to bring it to the top. Fishman is way behind the beat here, adding even more funk to this section, as if it was possible. The band completely falls in love with this change of pace from Fish and the result is about as good an example of a “Bring it Home” jam as you can get.
At 12:45 the band settles down the dynamics and Fish brings it down as well. Gordo is more pronounced and you can see the band drifting softly, yet again, but still keeping the pulse of the blues jam. Page is now in complete synth mode and at 13:36 Gordo begins his retreat to his effects and we have reached an ambient epilogue of the jam. This often signifies the start
of a new song, but they keep the space going till the end of the piece, with the effects and tone sounding much like the ambient jams of the summer of 98. The band resonates together, vibrating softly and filling the space of the historic San Franciso concert hall, perhaps as a subconscious homage to their predecessors. This is California at work in the spirit of the
playing. This is the Wild West. This is forever and nowhere. Dissapear Here.
From Wady Wilby:
Wade Ellis Wilby @PFAFN
Wade has been attending Phish since age 14 and has been working in the music industry for almost as long as that. His favorite show is 12/29/95. His
favorite venue is Blossom Music Center. His favorite jam is 6.3.11 DWD and If he doesn’t get a Forbin’s narration this summer “everybody dies.”
Favorite Ghost: Though it is without question RCMH, I will say 11.28.97 as my favorite version I witnessed for my own eyes.
Wyllys brings passion to the Phish community. When things are going great, Wyllystwitter feed is a great place to be. When things are a bit rough, he is not afraid to call them out. We can all agree Wyllys is one of a kind