25 in 25 of 2015 #20 08/21/2015 Magnaball-Watkins Glen International, Watkins Glen, NY (Eamonn Kress, @i_shred_pow)
Though this project is meant to highlight 25 jams in the 25 shows from 2015’s summer tour, it is hard to write up one of these and not mention some of the other moments from the respective shows. Being that this is Magnaball, the 20th of the 25 shows, and night 1 of it, the pistons were truly firing on all cylinders at full bore – it was time to rock, and rock we shall! This night popped my Phish festival cherry and it was certainly one for the books. Before I get into talking about “Bathtub Gin,” I want to give honorable mentions to the “Simple > The Dogs,” “Chalk Dust Torture > Ghost,” “Harry Hood,” and “No Men In No Man’s Land.” Those tunes all melted faces, made us dance our asses off and were all in the running for this piece. It’s also worth noting that the 1st set of this show was just straight Phishy goodness and got me my personal debut of “TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY” (124 show gap) and “Mock Song” (320 show gap), which pushed the average song gap for the whole show up to a whopping 38.25, if you’re into that sort of thing…
Now, let’s get this show on the road – “Rift” had ended and there was a pause before the Trey struck the first chord of “Gin.” The crowd was absolutely having it, even if it meant set one was ending, we knew there was a wild ride still to be had and we were pumped! The first couple minutes are pretty standard chorus and lyrics with Mike and Fish sounding nice and tight in the mix. Page interjects at his normal refrains with thunderous ginny piano notes. At 2:10 we are all reminded by the boys that despite the popular opinion of non-heads, we do in fact, “love to take a bath”. Time for Trey to grace us with the meandering “Gin” riff that we all know and love and open this jam up. Things get going nice and patiently. The next section is loosely played over the “Gin” theme and flows nicely into a vocal jam. I believe it was just around this point that CK5 decided it was a good time to try out those side lights along the trees – those things were bonkers!
Right at about 4:20, heh, the vocal jam ends and the real jam starts. Trey kicks off this jam with some nasty licks that foreshadow some serious shredding. First, his tone is dirty and slight reminiscent of the tone in “Camel Walk” to me. Second, Trey’s attack gets Mike and Fish to break away from “Gin” at around 5:20 and Page reminds us that, “hey, this is “Gin” with a couple of delicately laden chords. Page hones in on this melody and keeps it going which feeds Trey for more shredding! By 6 minutes in Trey is sliding and bending and starting to really rock out. It continues in the “Gin” structure a bit longer until Trey modulates his tone (I think with his trusty echoplex) and gets dark and evil with it. The jam starts to really distance itself here and get more drawn out, that patience I mentioned pays off and Mike and Page both throw this beast into a higher gear. By 8 minutes in we are have shifted into the highest gear of the night so far, and we are all blasting away together with a thick evil funky dance party in Watkins Glen. Add CK5’s lights into the mix and the entire crowd was silent, grooving their asses off and captivated by the improvisation in front of us.
While deep in a funky groove being driven by Fish and Mike, Trey and Page get some nice interplay going for the next minute and a half or so. Then things take a turn to bliss land with Mike holding down heavy bass notes and Trey and Page changing their tones and modes to a much more uplifting, euphoric and elevating groove. I remember thinking to myself at this point (about 11 minutes in) of how similar this progression was to parts of the infamous Tahoe “Tweezer.”
As the upbeat jam starts to pick up, Trey noodles some beautiful uptempo notes and starts to show us that he has hose in different area codes, this time in Watkins Glen, NY. With some signature Trey licks thrown in there, he paves way for Page and Mike to blow us all off our feet around 12:30. Man that circular riff that Trey finds makes my neck hair stand on end. It’s probably NSFW for me to be writing this in my office desk chair…
They keep this vehicle blasting towards the cosmos with Trey really channeling the energy of the crowd and we are surging up to the peak. Page hops on the Moog/Clavinet to funkify us for a brief minute. At 14:48 Fish changes up the beat significantly and shifts the jam with the help of Page and Trey to a syncopated evil funk jam that reminds me of Psycho Killer at 15:17 for a second. Aaaaaaaand then at 15:31 Mike drops bombs with his envelope filter and crashes down on the crowd with deep warm bass notes. He stays with this tone for some time, allowing Fish to keep his inner James Brown funky drums alive. Mike is all over the fretboard while Trey hammers out some echo-y funk chords and Page rips it up on the clavinet. At 16:43 we’ve done it, we’ve exited our solar system and are in deep jam space. The beast is yelling, the mountain is erupting and we are all at it’s mercy.
Fish keeps up such a sick beat here on the snare and cymbal. The patience here is uncanny, Mike kicks back in with his wet bass and you can hear the crowd’s opinion on that. He and Fish take this jam and build the gravity that it already has, allowing Trey and Page to space it out a la 2001 with ambient and other worldly sounds. At 18:15 the fantastic four take this thing back into hyperspace. Did someone say something about peaks? From now on, it’s full on jam, the wave has crashed and we’re riding the white water – such incredible interplay – it’s some type II hose. This is why we go to shows! From 19:30 to 20:55 Trey and Page steer this ship back towards Earth, or, well… somewhere. Wherever it is there is “Gin,” that was made in a bathtub. The eagle has landed and I have no fucking clue where the fuck I am, who I am or what the hell just happened – The only thing I do know is that the last 22 minutes of my life were spent experiencing a magical moment of music with 30,000 other people. Oh wait, I remember I’m standing in the middle of a racetrack…
About Me: I was introduced to Phish was attending UVM, I actually remember the very moment when it all clicked during “Mike’s Song > DDLJ” of 1995-12-31 that my friend was playing. Sadly this was during the second hiatus and I was finally able to catch my first show at my beloved Fenway Park – they left quite an impression on me, like many, enough to take me all over the country to see them. I currently reside in Seattle, WA and can’t wait to also welcome many phans back to the PNW and Gorge this summer! When not seeing Phish I hike, climb, snowboard and manage @TThePhishDjs soundcloud page… and can hold my own in Rocket League.