Selection: Harry Hood
Previously on Phish tour…
- 2013’s blazing summer tour climaxes in Tahoe, with a jam that opened 1,000 improvisatory doors and 8,000 woo-ing mouths.
- Bovine dancing reaches a 16 year peak as fall 2013 brings cowfunk back to America.
- The crowd snorts at a new song, causing the singer to cry, turning this jazz-brunch gig into a total disast– oh, fuck, wait, that happened previously on the TV show Girls, not Phish tour. My bad.
- The band sings into hockey sticks on top of a truck in the middle of Madison Square Garden, closing the circle on Phish’s first 30 years.
After 2013’s poetic ending and six months off the road, 2014 was destined to be a year of new beginnings. So let us begin at the beginning of the new beginning: the summer tour opener at Mansfield, MA’s Xfinity Center, which has probably been renamed for a new corporate sponsor since the show, and quite possibly renamed yet again since I started writing this sentence.
Anytime a Phish groove ends, the band’s default move is to throw a bunch of shit against the wall to see what sticks. This is true of jams that groove – if you’re going to keep the jam going, you might need to try a few new ideas out before you find one that works – and it’s also true of the aftermath of tours that hit a groove. My theory on 2014 is that it was a year spent in a state of type II exploration, in search of the big idea that would follow 2013’s groove. The band tried a ton of different approaches, and some of them worked brilliantly, while others… well, the down side of throwing shit is that some of it ends up dribbling down the wall.
Thankfully, the Mansfield Hood is some sticky-ass shit. As the jam begins, Trey hits some muted off-key notes that almost literally sound as if he’s scraping rust off his guitar. Mike holds a sustained low note, opening the field for the rest of the band to play.
The game they chose to play was one where no one’s a ball hog, and every play is executed patiently, with utmost respect for each teammate. It’s an approach that fits Phish: after all, sharing in the groove starts with sharing.
This jam is as noodle-free as a zero-carb diet. The improvisation is focused, deliberate, and thematic. The grilled portobellos of this jam (or, for you non-vegetarians, the meat) shares a good deal of DNA with the Randall’s Chalkdust, even if it would undergo some super-heady mutations over the 12 days and 7 shows that preceded that juggernaut.
Already a Hall of Famer at 12 exploratory minutes, this Hood seems ready to wind down. It doesn’t. Trey grooves it up for a couple minutes, then fires off a piercing lick at 13:40, over Fishman’s wicked foundation, bringing the jam to a peak that reeks of mid-tour polish.
A half-stuck landing later, the band reaches a satisfying (if not 90s-level satisfying) Hood peak. And with that, the first great jam of 2014 is in the history books.
If we’re being honest, 2014 was an uneven year. There were brilliant moments, and many of them, but there were also runs of shows that left fans wondering if the band’s creative energy was sapped. But that’s part of the process of beginning anew, as Phish did last year: progress may be slow, and it may come in fits and starts, but what’s important is that it’s progress. Phish only moves forward when they do what they what they did in the Mansfield Hood, what they do best: make it up as they go along.
From Ben Greenfield:
Ben lives in LA with his fiancee and his pets, all of which are plants, most of which are fake. The fiancee is real, or at least acts that way. He goes by Guy Forget on twitter, but kinda wishes Phish had chosen to write their tennis song about Mardy Fish so he could go by that name instead.
I almost dropped out of this project over to my anxiety at having to choose between the 11-17-97 and 5-22-00 Ghosts. Instead, I’ll go the cop-out route and say that my favorite one I’ve seen live is 8-3-03.
Ben has long been one of my favorite writers I am so happy to have him kick of 25 in 25. Ben is always up for helping others out and helping promote all the great material that circles the Phish web. He participated in a very important subject matter here