33 in 33 #20 07/08/2012 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY (Zachary Adam Cohen, Andy Greenberg @TheBabysMouth)
Memo’s “Other Jams” Memo: Top Tier “Party Time”, Awesome set closing “SOAMelt>La Grange”, Excellent “Kill Devil Falls”, well placed “Swept Away>Steep”
From Zachary Adam Cohen and Andy Greenberg:
SPAC 3 PIPER “The Sound of the Storm” #33in33
At the tail end of a long holiday weekend run, nestled deep in the woods of Saratoga State Park, Phish closed the first half of their 2012 Summer Tour with a powerful night of musical experimentation. Punctuating an already potent weekend, Sunday evening in Saratoga possessed that certain special quality that longtime fans of the band know so well. Having had their fun, the weekend warriors returned from whence they came, leaving only the heads behind stocked, locked and ready to rock this picturesque hamlet one last time. Magic and mystery were in the air for family night.
Through Friday and Saturday evening, Phish had offered up a grab bag of solid funk grooves, bust-outs, wicked improvisation, “blistering” rock and roll, some intriguingly honest and off-the-cuff commentary from Trey and a heady dose of pranks from Friar Tuck, the Dude of Life and Tom Marshall. But on Sunday, Phish opted instead to open up their own “Pandora’s Box,” liberating all manner of mystical particles into the midsummer eve; “The foam was getting thicker.”
After a roaring first set that closed with a ferocious “Split Open and Melt > La Grange,” the band galloped out of the 2nd-set gate with “Axilla > Light.” Now this “Light,” like almost every version they played in 2012, is an important and stunning jam and we nearly elected to write about it for its “Mind Left Body” section alone. But smack dab in the middle of a nearly 2-hour set of music Phish majestically coalesced into something far more raw.
In producing SPAC ‘12’s stunning “Piper,” Phish not only summarized their tour to date, but previewed a level of creativity that would last through the second leg of tour and carry them to New Years.
In a set containing such heavy-hitters as the aforementioned “Light, Twist, Kung, Harry Hood and David Bowie,” not to mention the inevitable “You Enjoy Myself” encore, this 15-minute “Piper” not only demands investigation but rewards close listening and re-listening.
The level of creative ideation on display in this “Piper” is staggering. Not only are the raw musical ideas worthy of explication, but how those ideas fermented and became enveloped into the jam. What one hears is a band capable of producing well curated, tasteful ideas one after another.
Furthermore, at this point in the tour, Phish was already well aware of just how well things were going. They had solidified 2011’s gains and begun eclipsing them. On Saturday, Phish fulfilled Page’s public promise, printed in Rolling Stone, that the band would play 200 songs on their Summer Tour. That they did, halfway through.
Not only was Phish once again capable of producing raw ideas at a steady clip, they now had the maturity, confidence and trust in one another to fully develop them. What started on June 7th in Worcester was sustained all year long.
This may be the biggest difference between contemporary Phish and the band’s previous iterations. When it is said that Phish is less exploratory than they used to be, one could answer that they simply don’t need to explore as much. They already know where everything is. Now it is merely a matter of knowing what to do with what they know.
But rather than writing a play by play of this “Piper,” we’ve decided instead to provide our method for understanding the dynamics at work within the jam. SPAC ‘12’s “Piper” takes the listener on a journey; Where that journey takes you is up to you, we ask only that you consider our framework upon listening.
As we investigated this jam, and relived the weekend through three nights of music (we were both in attendance for all three shows), what ended up revealing itself to us was how astutely Trey assumed a “repository” role during this “Piper.” Throughout this beautiful, cleanly segmented artwork, Trey envelops the musical contributions of his bandmates. There is no delay. There is no navel gazing or lateral noodling; No #SlowBuild. Just real-time conversation and construction. It’s stunning to hear, even more so once you know what to listen for; How Trey plucks only the ripest fruit from Mike, Page and Fish. And then focus on what he does with them. Pay particular attention to how Page’s phrasing on the piano in the 5th minute piques Trey’s interest, who instantly latches onto it, embellishing it, sussing out the melody into a fully formed thought, into a statement of pure style.
This initial conversation drives the jam for the next several minutes and just as that thought reaches fruition, Mike suggests a descending, rhythmic-focused pattern and Phish quickly settles into another groove.
Trey begins to chop away, doubling Mike’s undulations, allowing this new idea to wash over him, ego-lessly. As the music congeals, Trey begins to soar above the music with his exuberant shred-based tone and attack.
Indeed, for Trey to engage in this way, he has to be fully-invested in what the others are doing around, and for, him. These men know exactly how to talk to one another. Think about that.
In fact, Trey was knee deep all weekend long, and was probably the most jazzed up person in the State Park on Sunday. This was already the the most consistent tour since Phish reformed. They knew it. We knew it.
And as ferocious as Mike and Page were playing on Sunday evening, Trey was somewhere else entirely, in a special place, completely locked in, eager to both shred wildly and sculpt with a masters touch. His exuberance on Sunday, and in fact, through the whole of the weekend was palpable to everyone inside.
He didn’t play “Blister in the Sun” for the heck of it. He didn’t dispense career advice during “Hold Your Head Up” advising “If there are any young kids out there looking for a career path, I recommend this” as he pointed at the spot beneath his own feet. A telling remark out of someone who followed his own dreams, carried them out, only to watch himself nearly destroy it all. His resurrection is nothing short of a miracle. Phish is breaking every rule there is, again.
Trey’s energy, love and happiness were the only things he needed to be “high as a kite” off of on this special weekend. And he would reach his ultimate release during “Piper.” An hour later, during “YEM,” he came down, shedding his skin and his guitar, handing the reins over to Mike who thumped out a beat, giving Trey a chance to dance alongside us, the fans, HIS fans. There is nothing, nothing, like a good Trey dance. The man can boogie. Think about it.
@TheBabysMouth once broke a record by tweeting 30 times in 30 seconds. Incredible feat. In all seriousness, they work hard and have a serious passion for Phish. Always up for helping out, and giving me a ton of support. I appreciate it!
PleaseMeHaveNoRegrets.com is written by Andy Greenberg and Zac Cohen, best friends since a surreptitious meeting at Tulane University in New Orleans over 15 years ago. They’ve been geeking out on Phish together ever since. You can follow them on Twitter @TheBabysMouth
Andy is a dentist and musician in Charleston, South Carolina whose Phish cover band “The Buddhist Prodigies” tours throughout the South. Zac Cohen runs a boutique digital strategy firm in New York City, called, humbly, ZAC, Digital. They are covering the entire Summer Tour on their blog and Zac will be writing Hunter Thompson-inspired daily dispatches about the people, places and experiences that can occur only on tour at Medium.
Andy’s favorite “Ghost” is Lakewood ‘97. Zac doesn’t play favorites since he says they change day to day depending on the tides or something, but IF pressed he might mumble something or other about Portland Meadows ‘99.