26 in 26 #4 07/07/2013 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY (Jackson Richards, @gladgladglide)
Selection: “Down with Disease>Ghost>Piper”
From Jackson Richards:
SPAC 2013 Night Three: Disease>Ghost>Piper Jam Trifecta
It’s now the general consensus within the Phish fan community that 2013 was a highlight year for the band. With the straightforward tour opener in Bangor already in the books, it was during the three night run at SPAC on July 5-7 that we saw the first glimpses of the musical adventure and cohesion that would unfold over the course of the rest of the summer and fall.
By the time the thunderclouds rolled in just before the third and final show at SPAC, Phish had already laid down some special jams over the course of the weekend in the wooded Saratoga State Park: the Cities>David Bowie, Light, and 46 Days>Steam from Friday night, the exploratory first set Split Open and Melt, the first ever SPAC Tweezer, and the criminally under appreciated (in my opinion) Carini on Saturday night. Knowing that the band was hitting their stride so early in the tour, the crowd was buzzing heading into Sunday night’s show, as it often is heading into a Sunday show.
After a very solid first set featuring a groovy Limb By Limb that briefly veered outside the standard progression, I turned to my good friend and touring buddy Andrew to discuss which big hitting songs were still on the table for the second set. Immediately we listed Down with Disease, Ghost, and Piper as the most likely candidates to be the big jam vehicle of the night. At the time, it felt like “Of COURSE we got all 3 of these, in order, to kick off the final set of the weekend.”
While these are three distinct songs, I want to attempt to illustrate how Disease>Ghost>Piper effectively serve as one jam musical movement. This set opening Disease certainly has some exciting moments of its own, but when considering the Disease>Ghost>Piper segment as a whole, it becomes clear that this Disease’s primary role is to set the stage for the Ghost and Piper jams.
Disease starts innocently enough. After a rather brief Mike intro, the band tightly whisks through the composed section of the song. The classic Disease jam begins with Trey playing his typically beautiful mixolydian leads and some nice sustained notes. This continues to build until Trey’s beautiful cathartic licks around the 6:15 minute mark bring this section to a peak. Trey continues on lead, now employing his Whammy pedal. Around the 8:45 minute mark, Trey briefly takes the jam into a minor section before Fishman quiets things down with some great playing on his ride cymbal while Page switches over to the Rhodes for a peaceful major interlude.
Around 10:50 into Disease, Trey gets percussive with low strikes on the guitar that bring the jam to a heavy full-band groove in half-time, that alludes to the Ghost lurking in the shadows. After establishing the minor groove, Trey comes in with slimy, moaning leads. This A minor jam section sets the stage for the segue into Ghost, which is also in A minor.
The groove that was just getting started at the end of Disease fully manifests itself right after the composed section of Ghost. I should mention that about 18:20 and 18:45 into Ghost, Trey plays a few licks that are very reminiscent of his part in Fuego, a song that the audience wouldn’t be aware of until 6 months later.
Early in the Ghost jam, Trey and Mike are weaving entangled melodies while Fishman drives the beat and Page adds color and texture. At about 21:20, Page switches over to his organ, and when Trey begins to mimic Page’s staccato playing, things get seriously funky.
Towards the end of Ghost, the band shifts into a soft major drone, with Mike’s submarine bass lines bubbling through the surface.
To this point, Disease has sent us floating away and landing in a minor groove which Ghost expands on, igniting a 20,000 person dance party in the park. But we still haven’t received the big payoff. Enter the Red Red Worm.
There is no slow build here. The lyrics come in less than a minute into Piper, and the band is suddenly dashing off into an energetic groove. Trey comes out of the gate with beautiful melodic leads that are more reminiscent of 1999 and 2000 Pipers than versions in recent history.
This is some of my favorite playing of the summer. Check out 29:10-29:20 for some gorgeous guitar work. At 30:15, Page and Trey fleetingly connect telekinetically on a chord change in the way only they can. Check out 8:00-8:10 in the previous night’s Carini for another example of Page and Trey connecting in this exact same way (Timing reflects the file on Phishtracks.com). With Phish, it’s often the most subtle things that are the most awe-inspiring.
The band keeps pushing this Piper, whipping the crowd into a frenzy with incendiary guitar licks and pounding drums during the climax at 32:20-33:00.
The denouement is led by the Chairman of the Boards on piano, winding down these first 35 minutes of the set by delicately sliding the band into a perfectly placed Wading in the Velvet Sea.
Disease>Ghost>Piper is the meat and potatoes of the show, but the rest of the set is no slouch, either. We got quintessential Phish hijinks in the Antelope/Meatstick mashup, and the summer’s first You Enjoy Myself.
After the show, everyone hugged and high-fived their friends in celebration of the weekend’s festivities and in anticipation of the summer tour ahead of us. SPAC was when 2013 Phish started to be 2013 Phish.
From Jackson Richards:
Jackson Richards lives a double life in NYC as both a data analyst and digital media researcher, and as the drummer in The Schooley Mountain Band, an NYC-based rock/blues/psychedelic band. You can check out their music here.
He’s been hooked on Phish ever since his favorite camp counselor gave him a cassette of Red Rocks ’93.
Jackson actively tweets from @GladGladGlide frequently about all things Phish, and from @SmokeyJacks about other miscellaneous musings.
SmokeyJacks’s favorite Ghost: So hard to choose just one, but today I’ll go with 11/17/97. Boring answer. Incredible jam.
I barely know Jackson but what a great piece! Great job!