Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Phish10/12/10 Recap: Off Kilter in Colorado

Phish had an off night and couldn't connect to the crowd -- whether it was one of those group orgies or an intimate mindfuck -- they just couldn't make it happen. Plagued by poor song selection for the entire night, their reception for their last of three shows in Colorado was lukewarm at best and outright nasty on the opposite end of the spectrum. It's one thing to take a piss when you hear a song you don't like, but it's downright disrespectful to throw glowsticks purposely at the band -- and by the band, I mean 99% at Trey who bore the brunt of the aerial bombardment all night.

It's not easy being Phish because no matter what they do, it's going to alienate somebody. If they stick to their greatest hits, someone is gonna bitch that they want to hear something else. If they play new material, someone is gonna whine about missing YEM. And if they ever bust out an old tune that hasn't been performed in the 3.0 era, someone is gonna complain that it was a shitty version.

Phish's setlist are sort of like a lineup in baseball or a sports team in general. If the players don't mesh with each other and lack a cohesive chemistry, then it's going to be tough to win on a consistent basis. Last night's lineup looked like a bunch of bush league ballplayers that might never make it to "the show", who got thrown together with a handful of washed up over-the-hill vets.

On a positive note, 10/12/10 is an important date in Phishtory -- it marked a step forward in the artistic growth of Phish because the band made a clear decision to play new material, including newish songs from Joy that the majority of Phishdom loathes like Time Turns Elastic. If the public wants a nostalgia act (like what happened to the Grateful Dead in the 1990s, and even today with Furthur), then why bother learning new material? But if the fans want the true essence of Phish, then they have to accept the simple fact that Phish offered you the ride -- and you accepted. It wasn't the other way around.

A year and a half into the 3.0 era, Phish is struggling with what all great artists struggle with when the reach the crossroads between commerce and art. People are paying a lot of money in a shitty economy to see Phish, which creates an immense burden for Phish to carry into each show that they play, but at the same time, as musicians and artists they want to grow individually and collectively, but have to made concessions and sacrifices, otherwise they will alienate their entire fan base. It's a prickly situation, and I'm afraid it's going to get worse unless the fans either lower their expectations and give the band more slack to play new material. At the same time, the band is going to have to loosen up a bit and surrender to their own flow, which means allowing some of their jams to develop into behemoths, instead of playing it safe and keeping the song times shorter in order to play more songs per show.

The only way a song will improve is with play time, but therein lies the conundrum -- in order to play new material, older material gets sacrificed. And, in the case this summer, many jams were cut short in order to make time for new tunes. Gone are the days of four song second sets. Trey is no longer hooked on the pharmies, so the 20-minute Oxy Jams are extinct.

So, enough about spoiled Phisheads and the artistic woes of Phish. So how about the show? Was it that bad? At one point in the first set, the Joker sent me a text from the floor, "Is this worse than Deer Creek?"

I told him no. The setlist looks much worse on paper than it sounded. The band's level of musicianship is much better in Colorado than that trainwreck of a set 1 in Deer Creek this summer. Heck, even the TTE was a notch up, and better placed second in the lineup, which almost guaranteed that fewer jaded fans would head to the bathrooms. Jonas said it the best: "I don't have to piss yet."

Set 1's song selection did not bode well with most of my friends, although I found a few gems in the rough. Meat was one of the few bits of protein in the first set. Gordo-infused funk. What's not to like? Timber Ho! contained couple of dark grooves, but stopped before they got anything really cooking. On Your Way Down is one of those classic rock covers that allows Page to stretch out his range a bit (in a better way than the average Phish song, which is why so many of Page's best moments often happen during covers -- Loving Cup, Rock and Roll, Light Up or Leave Me Alone, Oh Sweet Nuthin, etc). Altough the set closer, 46 Days, legitimately saved the set, I wondered if it was that good? Or was it because the first set was that dismal?

During the setbreak, I caught up with the rumor mill (a.k.a. Wildo) and a story involving a wook getting tazed by police for doing a dippy in Shakedown. I love urban lot tales. Despite the gossip, I noticed a rapidly growing sentiment of hostility from the crowd that sprouted with TTE and continued to grow throughout the opening set. Half of the crowd was optimistic and awaiting a raging second set to make up for the first set hiccup, while the rest of the crowd was outright pissed off. I felt bad for my buddy Jesse, or anyone else who flew in just for Tueday's show.

The rager that everyone expected was on pace after a meancing Carini opener and a scorching David Bowie to open Set 2, but they downshifted a gear with Theme. At this juncture, Light has become the best jamming vehicle in 3.0 Phish, but the downside is having to dig through the muck during the first five minutes of the song to get there. They restored the energy level with the Light jam and kept up the momentum with a rocking Free that featured a few chaka-chaka-chaka Trey riffs.

Alas, more song selection woes killed the rest of the show. The boys shot their load with the Carini > Bowie opener. I'm ambivalent about Joy and know that it's getting played in a late second set every fourth show or so. But, piggybacked with Halfway to the Moon, the band took two much of a risk and lost their connection with the crowd at one of the most crucial moments of the show. To compound the fractured relationship, they played Bug, which isn't exactly the best way to whip the crowd in a frenzy, or taking them from 0 to 100 in six seconds, like a dozen or so other songs in their vast repertoire would have easily accomplished. Yeah, I saw a spectacular Bug at Alpine Valley, but that was after a smoking set 1 and set 2. The set up is as important as the execution.

Summer of 89... was the final nail in the coffin. That right there perfectly explained the show -- poor song selection. Wrong time. Wrong place.

Split Open and Melt was dirty, dark, and sloppy to all hell. I had another one of those moments where I couldn't tell if the crowd was genuinely turned on by the song, or if they were happy to hear anything decent after a four song blackhole of Joy-Halfway to the Moon-Bug-Summer 89.

I expected a multi-song encore to make up for the blah evening, but at that point, I dunno if anything could have really saved the show. Meatstick contained Japanese lyrics, but at one point Trey forgot if they were singing the chorus in Japanese or English. The best part of the song happened when the band walked off the stage, and the audience continued to chant the chorus (acapella and in English) a couple of times while Kuroda's white spotlights scanned the crowd. The house lights went up and a few people continued to sing. It wasn't quite the same effect that Trey and Mike had during their duo acoustic set for the Fourmile Benefit show on Sunday, when they finished their set with Bathtub Gin and walked off the stage as the crowd chanted.

We got an off night, but at least I got to hang out with some cool friends, many of whom I would not have seen if Phish were not playing in Colorado. Our theme of the night was Yacht Rock, which was well embraced by our crew. By the way, many thanks to Jonas and Katie for setting up a 20-person party limo for all three nights. And as always, thanks to the Joker for letting me and Change100 crash with him.




Overall, I had a blast in Denver, like I always do, mainly because this is the Joker's backyard and we always have fun with Phish -- even on an off night. After four shows at Red Rocks last summer and two at Telluride this summer, I realize that I'm lucky that I got to see Phish nine times in Colorado.

Three show down. Next stop... Charleston, SC.

28 comments:

Scott Bernstein said...

AMAZING review. You hit upon a number of salient points regarding the current state of Phish and the fanbase. The cries of "nostalgia" from some are met with "don't play the new stuff" from others leaving very little wiggle room for the band to navigate. For instance, look at last night. They played a bunch of new stuff and the reaction was "bad show" from most.


Thanks for the time and effort you put into getting these recaps up so quickly. You have a viewpoint on the music that closely aligns with my own and I love reading your take on the shows.

Much appreciated,
Scotty

Robert said...

No matter whether you fall into the TTE-bathroom break crowd or you're a greatest-hits-hater, don't chuck shit at the band. Grow up.

And if you see someone do that, knock em in the head. With a glowstick.

DogLog1937 said...

harsh review.

can this writer still have any fun???

i think his reviews sucks.
i liked the song selection a lot.

jonas0tt0 said...

I think if you really have read his reviews, you would notice that most of them expand on how much fun he had. Even in this review he states:

"Overall, I had a blast in Denver, like I always do, mainly because this is the Joker's backyard and we always have fun with Phish -- even on an off night."

==============================

"i think his reviews sucks."

But you have to admit, his English is better than yours.

Glad you enjoyed the song selection. And thanks for reading!

Jay Johnston said...

I've been to about 50 shows going back to 1992. I thought last night was better than your review. 46 Days holds up on 2nd listen. Hits hard at the end even if it isn't an exploratory version. Agree that the rest of the set was a little weak. Still good to hear Meat. Also liked Faulty Plan in the opening slot.

2nd Set is another story altogether. I thought it had great flow. Mini ambient jam out of Carini was good and created a killer segue into Bowie. Interplay in Bowie was was intricate. High energy for sure. Loved the Light jam. I thought they went pretty big there in that segment and it worked for me. Also loved the Theme, Free, Joy combination. All were well played with great work from Mike and a soulful solo from Trey in Joy.

Bug and 1989 didn't overwhelm me but I loved the Melt. I thought it unfolded slowly and was more melodic than most. Unique version that was far from sloppy. Was expecting a throw-away in this slot but this Melt really impressed me.

Just my opinion. Usually enjoy your posts but think you're off on this one.

Christopher said...

Worst review ever. Get out of your bubble. Just because a few thousand morons on the internet bash the band does NOT mean that the majority of fans agree. Most of the fans are not so obsessed that they spend their entire day on a Phish message board.

This band is not the property of a bunch of old losers trying to relive their glory days from the early 90s.

Nor the property of the (at most 1000 or so) people who go on tour and see every show.

They play what they want. If you don't like it, get off the ride- someone will be there to buy your ticket.

Dr. Pauly said...

Christopher...are you sure you read this recap?

I don't read PT, so I don't know what you're talking about with your first paragraph.

And I agree with your last three paragraphs, because that's exactly what I said (just more eloquently)...if you actually read my recap.

Paul said...

Pauly, as usual this is awesomely written, but I disagree whole-heartedly. Listening at home is obviously different than being there, but I think this show holds up and I think it was the best of the run. Glad to see some others agree with me. That's why this Phish thing is so fun, we can all come away from the same show (or headphone session at home) with a different experience.

For those with dissenting opinions, Mr. Miner had a great review of last night that's worth a read.

Pauly, keep up the good work. I always love reading your review, agree or disagree.

P.S. I'm halfway through Lost Vegas and it kicks ass.

mitchplease said...

I gotta admit that I agree with about every word in this recap, especially regarding the 2nd set. Excellent script Doc... keep it up.

Barefoot Bob said...

This review is horrible. I have to say that song selection was all over the place, and very random. I saw plenty of shows throughout the 90's, and they tried out all kinds of different shit.

I thought that it was a unique show with a tribute to the Miner's getting rescued and all.

The problem is much larger than I have time to write but this generation of IDIOTS, and every generation has them, feel completely entitled to what they want. It's selfish and immature.

The Dead shows of the 90's were not Greatest Hits - shows either. I was there. Jerry's passing was a direct disconnection that the Band had with the new generation of fans that felt entitled to something.

The same thing, not directly, could happen to Trey and the boys, and we wont have this wonderful music anymore. It took me over ten years to get back to see a show after my "hiatus". I could even listen to them because of the sadness that it ended so quickly.

And, if we are not careful it will end again as quick as it was revived.

Make Love, Not War - not a bad thought that this new generation should embrace. Peace, Karma, Kindness, Positive vibes. These too are just as contagious.

(off my soapbox - thx for listening)

Jamie said...

Which of you actually take the time to read the entire fucking recap before commenting? Its mind boggling that the level of hypocrisy is exponentially worse as i scroll down through the comments.

Barefoot Bob - You're kidding.... right? Did you not take the time to read what Dr. Pauly wrote? Or did you "breeze" through it like most of society tends to live today? The points you make are the EXACT SAME ONES that Dr. Pauly touches upon in his review.

For the last time, READ people. Don't close your mind out to one opinion/thought process within the first 5 words of a piece of writing. Its a fucking disgrace.

Scott Bernstein said...

I'm with you, Jamie. Pauly is clearly a guy who loves his Phish, but can't someone who loves the band feel they had an off night? He explained his reasons, he was very even handed and realized his opinion was just one of many. Read his other recaps of this tour and the last and you'll see very little negativity.

Pauly's thoughts on the show, for me, were besides the point. It was the bigger issues of entitlement (ironic considering Barefoot Bob's comment) that hit home. Some fans have set the bar at such a ridiculous level that I wonder why they still see shows.

There's a disconnect between those that say Phish shouldn't be a nostalgia act and those that hate any new material and automatically connect new with bad. I think expectations are out of whack right now.

Gary said...

Thanks for the review. You always give me that sense that I am there, appreciate that. Almost to the point where I can smell it, if you can relate to that.

Per the show, shit happens. I have seen many clunkers. It's bound to happen. Of course, some other person may have liked it.

What are ya gonna do?

inthevoid25 said...

Wow. I must have been at a different show last night. I couldn't disagree with your assessment more. Were you listening to the music or watching how "connected" the crowd was the whole time. An off night?!? That was the most coherent jamming of the Colorado run. Exploratory and adventurous. Not groovy and predictable. The only people Phish may have "lost" last night are those not paying attention.

Phish is moving forward while everyone wants them to stay the same. Setlists are nothing, music is everything.

Expectations? If people still have expectations at this stage of the game, I feel sorry for them. As the classic line says - surrender to the flow. It's ironic how so much of the Phish audience doesn't follow the community's mantra.

Oh well.

Time said...

When it comes to Phish shows, what I hope to hear is usually worlds apart from what I get, yet I'm never disappointed. Tuesday's show wasn't what I would have expected either, but it did have plenty of throw-down dance-a-thon segments, and then faded into weirdness at the end. Nothing wrong with an unpredictable set list mind fuck once in a while. If every show was one you would call epic, you'd likely get bored in short order. I don't disagree with your personal assessment, but I just wasn't disappointed with the show, and heard lots of great, creative, spontaneous musicianship.

Your comment about the Grateful Dead of the '90s being nostalgia, however, is pretty asinine. The Grateful Dead of the '90s were treading exactly the same musical pathway as Phish is today, albeit less well rehearsed. The GD played a few "new" songs per show - just as Phish has the "new" songs from Joy - such as Days Between, So Many Roads, Lazy River Road, Liberty, Corrina, Way To Go Home, Eternity, Easy Answers, Samba In The Rain, If The Shoe Fits, Wave To The Wind, Childhood's End, and others. Just like Phish, the GD added new cover songs such as Broken Arrow, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, I Want To Tell You, Rain, Maggie's Farm, The Last Time, The Weight, Take Me To The River, I Fought The Law, and Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues. They also resurrected long lost songs such as Dark Star, Attics Of My Life, Here Comes Sunshine, New Speedway Boogie, Death Don't Have No Mercy, and Unbroken Chain, to the same response Phish received by playing Fuck Your Face, Alumni Blues, and Destiny Unbound. They also mixed things up by adding Bob Weir's acoustic guitar, MIDI effects, as well as trying different and unexpected song placements. If you compare the number of long time favorites to the number of new songs played (a new stat for ZZYZX perhaps!), Phish would come out ahead easily. Wouldn't that make them more the nostalgia band? Not that that matters, but you brought it up!

Regardless, I am highly encouraged by the effort Phish is putting into practicing together, improving both their individual and band playing, which the Grateful Dead, to their detriment, seemed to find unnecessary. Given the similarities in way the make-up of their current set lists has developed as noted above, I have much higher expectations for the future of Phish.

Phishentine said...

Interesting to see all the opinions coming out of the woodworks!

Would live to take a demographic pole.

A job well done, Veteran Pauly.

Gotta love the Dr, and the Phish too.

USA! USA! USA!

Go Phish!

Best blog around. Always on point.

Dr. Pauly said...

In the Void -- Yeah first half of set 2 was smoke, but then things got weird. If you were at the show, how could you miss all those people sitting down in the second part of set 2? Sometimes things are so obvious.

I'm fortunate enough to have caught all three shows in Colorado, and I've seen over 200 shows, but Broomfield's last night stood out because: 1) Never seen so many people sit down (especially so deep into the show), and 2) Never seen so many people of the floor throw glowsticks at Trey with intent to harm.

I had a lot of fun at the show, but my fun factor has nothing to do with what I witnessed from the crowd. I called it like I saw it.

jpotts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jpotts said...

Mr. Miner had me wanting to run out and listen to the 2nd set. Dr. Pauly leaves me wanting to skip it. What to do, what to do. Can you say 'subjective'? I knew you could.

jonas0tt0 said...

lol - this is turning into PT!

KYS n00bs!

IamwhatIam said...

IDKWBIBH

aburtch said...

Great review, very honest.

One thing I think many people forget is that even on an off night Phish is MUCH better than all the bands out there regurgitating the same exact setlist night after night.

Also Phish can't hit those transcendent moments if they don't experiment, grow, and change. And yes, this means some nights where it may not be an "awesome" show.

Lastly, if people didn't like the show, they don't have to attend the next one. No one is forced to go to a show.

We expect a lot from this band because they've shown us they can. Sometimes that leads to unrealistic expectations.

mikey freshh said...

enjoyed your recaps of the colorado run.
time for an epic throwdown in charleston!
phish in the dirty south ALWAYS is the best!
hitting the road and ready to rage!

ReeferMcGee said...

i love reading his blog as well. i haven't been as critical of certain shows but i appreciate and respect anyones opinion about any band. im pretty open minded and i like to hear criticisms and read about how other people liked shows. i personally have loved most shows since the start of summer tour. but thats me. you can tell by the way he writes its honest and i appreciate that. some of my best friends have the opposite opinion about shows with me and i love that. but i really liked the CO run and like someone said it earlier phish even on an off night has sounded great to me since start of summer tour.

zippyhybrid said...

Glad I wasn't the only one who felt this way. At the time I thought maybe it was just me that had run out of steam, being night #4 and all. I disagree about the Melt....I thought it was a great version, but other than that and some other individual highlights, the show never really got there. However, I think it is good for the band to play shows like this and take risks; it's not just the playing of new songs and practicing them that will push the band artistically but where the songs appear in the setlist that is also important. For example, I liked TTE in the mix at this show. Early in the first set is a good place for that song, much better than as a first set closer as it was at Deer Creek.

Chris said...

Dr. Pauly,
Just wanted to say that I dig reading your reviews after every show. We've met a few times on tour and I dig your whole perspective. Keep up the good work, I dig your writing style. You might like to check out my blog sometime:
phishlisteningroom.blogspot.com

I review the various audience sources as they become available so that you can get the best one without wading through them all.

Greg Schwartz said...

Pauly, I'm totally with you on this show. It was uneven throughout and the half-hour from Joy through Summer of '89 was a total buzzkill. There's no question that they lost the crowd there. Doesn't mean there weren't some highlights and that it wasn't better than 98% of concert experiences in general. But, by comparison, it was a pretty weak showing.

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