The Phish 52: Prince Caspian 8/20/2015

I’ve seen a lot of discussion of this being Tweezpian or some such mash up and I won’t disagree.  I do think, however, the Prince Caspian can also stand alone and vise-versa.  A couple of opening notes on this jam as well.  So far, I’ve only review stuff from the 1990s, so it feels good to get to something more recent.  In this case very recent!  It is, yet again, a jam that I was witness to.  Truth is, I don’t own a lot of stuff that I didn’t also attend, but I hope to branch out a bit more as I do this project. Speaking of this project, and one post for each week of the year…um yeah about that… Well, I’m giving it my best shot.  Even if it takes 70 actual weeks to get to 52, I’m doing 52 reviews.  Just read them once a week :-) On to Caspian!

caspian

When Prince Caspian came out of Tweezer, I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting much.  We were just treated to a very good Tweezer and Caspian seemed to signal a coda to end the set, or at least a lead in to the final closer of the set. I remember when people would collectively groan when this song was played and some on the old rec.music.phish referred to it as Prince Poopy Pants.  While that wave of negativity has subsided (pretty much in general, really) I don’t think I’ve ever seen people react with great joy when Caspian was played.  It might be time to rethink that reaction.

2:30 The lyrics come to an end and it very much feels like they will be playing out to the end of the song, maybe another few minutes.  From about the 2:10 point, I urge you to listen to Page’s playing.  The fills and highlights he is throwing around in the early part of the song are just fantastic.  Trey is playing very well, quite spirited.

4:40 Something is going on. It still sounds like Caspian, but things are changing. At 5:10 Trey is really pushing things away from the Caspian structure and at 6:00 minutes, the last tethers of Caspian are gone.

6:35 After some very heavy playing by Trey, Mike starts to bring back the Tweezer riff. At this point, Page is on the synthesizer and Fish is playing a steady rock beat.

8:05 Things start to move away from the Tweezer riff and it starts to become its own jam.  Around 8:20, Mike comes to the fore. This segment shows off how the band moves around the music. Mike is dominating right now and Page is in a supporting role.  Even though the guitar is the traditional lead instrument, Trey does such a great job of adding to the sound, but not throwing things off.

8:55 Trey is playing around with some effects, getting some great echo sounds. It could start to get spacey, but instead Trey settles into a nice fuzzy groove at about 9:15.  This is were the dance party starts for me. A nice funky feel and about 10:24 Trey starts to solo, with great a great intro from Page.  After that, Fish takes over the breaks, almost mini solos, before the focus goes back on Trey.  At 11:08, Trey starts placing some echoes again, but the groove isn’t lost and they settle back in after a minute or so.

12:20 It sounds like they are getting ready to wrap things up.  If they did pack it in here, it still would be a memorable Caspian and with the Tweezer preceding it would be a classic jam, one of the best of 2015.  Of course it doesn’t end here.  Instead at 12:30 Trey punches it really high and starts to bring it.

13:50 It is the jam that is going to lead to the end, with Mike playing some think, chest thumping notes.  The end that they are working toward here is triumphant, no other word for it.  Everyone, band, crowd know that they have just nailed the last 30 or so minutes of music.  As they start to just pound away for the last minute and a half, it’s like they are fist pumping.  Honestly, I’m pretty sure that was what I was doing as the song came to a close.  It’s for moments like these that I keep going to see this band.  Everyone expects the big moments to come from Tweezer, but it’s in moments like this, in songs that don’t have a history, songs that, let’s be honest, are often seen as breaks or good times to go to the bathroom, that makes every show an adventure.  In the spirit of adventure, next week will finally be a review of a jam I didn’t attend.  Keep on jamming…

 

Phish Song Rankings: As of Riviera Maya 1/15-1/17

What a weekend! I can’t deny that I’m envious of all those that got to Mexico.  I’m not very anti-snow and cold weather, but if you’re going to entice me with a trip to warmer climes, throwing Phish in will seal the deal.  The price tag for Riviera May was just a little too much for my budget.  Maybe next year, if there is a next year.

As far as the set lists are concerned, there wasn’t anything especially significant.  I don’t think that was the point of these shows.  This was Phantasy Island. Days lounging about, being able to splash in the ocean during a Phish show.  That’s why Phish did this.  It wasn’t about epic shows it was about an epic experience.  From what I’ve heard, as with most special events put on by Phish, they delivered.

There wasn’t any change in the top twenty, though a fair representation of those songs was present.  Wolfman’s Brother reached 175 plays and Funky Bitch reached the top 50 with its 195th play.

Much further down the list, a few significant milestones were reached.  Rock and Roll was played for its 75th time and Cities reached 80 plays.  I find the rise of Half Way to the Moon, at 30 plays, to be a pretty fast climb. What’s the Use? reached 25 plays and in just over a year, Martian Monster, a pretty inaccessible song when you think about it, has been played 10 times.

It was quite a year for Phish.  Not only did we get a great summer tour, we had a great festival in New York, another weekend at Dick’s, a return to MSG and to top it all off, a winter getaway in Mexico.  It makes you wonder what can they possibly do in 2016?  Your Top Twenty:

1   You Enjoy Myself – 573

2    Possum – 504

3    Mike’s Song – 483

4    Bouncing Around the Room – 452

4   Weekapaug Groove – 452

6    Golgi Apparatus – 450

7    Chalk Dust Torture – 439

8    David Bowie – 437

9    Cavern – 435

10   Run Like an Antelope – 431

11   Suzy Greenberg – 412

12   Divided Sky – 403

13   Stash – 401

14   Reba – 373

15   Runaway Jim – 371 (24%)

16   Harry Hood – 355

17   Tweezer – 347

18   The Squirming Coil – 345 (22%)

19   Foam – 341 (22%)

20   I Am Hydrogen – 333 (21%)

Phish Song Rankings as of New Year’s Eve Weekend (12/30/15-1/2/16)

So nice to be writing about Phishy things again.  I’ll be back on the 52 shortly, but got swallowed up by a couple of things since the last post, which I’ll comment on in that specific avenue.

But the boys have played some shows this weekend! Which means something, in terms of nothing really important, but fun nonetheless.  Of the biggest headlines I would say that the top ten songs in the Phish cannon were well represented over the four shows, 9 of the 10 were played.  Golgi Apparatus was the one hold out. It demonstrated the falling out of favor that Golgi has had, but it will take a long time for it to fall completely out of the top ten.

As far as milestones go, Down with Disease has reached 250 plays while Rift is at 275. Piper reached 150 plays this past weekend.  Wingsuit hit a modest 20 times played and No Men in No Man’s Land reached a score of plays.

In the rankings, not a lot of movement in the upper reaches, but far afield Halfway to the Moon moved into the Top 200 as did Undermind.  Blaze On reached the Top 275. How Many People Are You reached the Top 350 which basically means it’s been played 4 times as of now.  Though the numbers are low, watching the newer songs jump many places with each new play is part of the fun.  After the Mexico run and that update, I’ll be going back to the font of all knowledge and making sure my numbers jibe with what is the official count.  Also, I’ll be looking at a few different things as well like what song from each studio record is has the highest ranking, what Mike song ranks the highest and things like that.  Stay tuned.  Here is the Top 50 as of 1/2/16:

1   You Enjoy Myself – 573
2    Possum – 503
3    Mike’s Song – 482
4    Bouncing Around the Room – 452
5    Weekapaug Groove – 451
6    Golgi Apparatus – 450
7    Chalk Dust Torture – 438
8    David Bowie – 436
9    Cavern – 435
10   Run Like an Antelope – 431
11   Suzy Greenberg – 412
12   Divided Sky – 403
13   Stash – 401
14   Reba – 372
15   Runaway Jim – 371 (24%)
16   Harry Hood – 354
17   Tweezer – 347
18   The Squirming Coil – 345 (22%)
19   Foam – 341 (22%)
20   I Am Hydrogen – 333 (21%)
21   Sparkle – 314 (20%)
22   The Lizards – 310
23   Split Open and Melt – 309
23  Hold Your Head Up – 309
25   AC/DC Bag – 301
26   Llama – 300
27   Maze – 296
28  Poor Heart – 295 (19%)
29   Sample in a Jar – 278
30   Fee – 275 (18%)
30   Rift – 275
32   Wilson – 261
33   Tweezer Reprise – 259
34   Down with Disease – 250
35   I Didn’t Know – 249
36   Fluffhead – 246 (16%)
37   Bathtub Gin – 243
38   My Sweet One – 241 (15%)
39   It’s Ice – 231
40   Slave to the Traffic Light – 223
41   Good Times Bad Times – 214 (14%)
42   The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony – 212 (13%)
43   Ya Mar – 209
44   Uncle Pen – 207 (13%)
44   The Landlady – 207
44   Julius – 207
47   Also Sprach Zarathustra – 204
48   Guelah Papyrus – 199 (13%)
49   Lawn Boy – 196
50   Rocky Top – 195 (12%)

I finally got my podcast working the way I’d like, so if you’d like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 23 is up! Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!

 Get Your History On

In Praise Of Anthony Trollope

I wish I could say I happened upon the example of Anthony Trollope all on my own, but I can’t.  I first came across his name reading Stephen King’s book On Writing. The basic gist of Trollope’s story is that every morning from 5-8 or thereabouts, he would get up and write and then off to work for the post office of the United Kingdom.  He is credited with creating the octagonal mailbox famous throughout Britain and he had quite a career rising up through the ranks of the service.
mailbox

He was also a very successful  and prolific writer.  He published over forty novels, numerous short stories, works of non-fiction and even articles for the magazines of the day.  He was so productive that no matter what, he wrote every morning without fail, until it was time to go to work.  As King recounts, if he finished a story within the writing window he’d type “the end” and immediately start the next one.

I have no designs on being as productive as Trollope.  For the better part of his writing window, I’m trying to get children out of bed, off to school and then myself to work.  I do, however, get to work early (like now!) and instead of popping open Twitter and my other news sources, I get to work.

Since the end of March until last week, pretty much every work day, I’ve written.  The goal was three pages.  I rarely made it over that number and I often fell below.  However, I kept on working.  The result? a 245 page screenplay.  Yes, that is twice and then some the size that is recommended for a screenplay.  I’ve got some serious editing to do.  The feeling of accomplishment is striking though.  Honestly, I didn’t think I would feel this…good.  I fully realize that the odds of this project getting much further than a recycle bin in an office somewhere are unbelievably high. But it’s finished, at least the first draft and the odds of getting it made have improved greatly from when it was just an idea.

Of course something crazy like 95% of screenplays submitted get turned down, but during this break I get to dream a little.  I can start casting roles, prepare my award acceptance speech, start budgeting the payment I’ll be receiving soon.  Come the turn of the year and a return to the routine, I’ll be back to my routine, perhaps my least favorite part of the writing process, editing.  But for now it’s a time to relax and celebrate both the holidays and my progress on this project.  Oh, and give thanks to Anthony Trollope. I couldn’t have done it without you, Tony!

The Phish 52: 12/5/97 Slave To The Traffic Light

Another personal show, another hidden gem if you ask me.  This entire show is a bit uneven, no doubt and when compared to some of the monster shows from 1997, especially the night that followed, it is an easy show to overlook.  I would however, recommend that you give it a listen, especially this Slave.  It is not what we have grown to expect from Slaves.  When I hear this tune at a show, it almost always signals the end is nigh.  A nice mellow jam is on the way to ease us to the end of the show and stick around for the encore if you’d like.

On this winter’s night in Cleveland (and it was winter, the weather was terrible) Slave came in during the middle of the set, following another underrated jam, Julius.  It starts out like any other Slave you’ve heard, but as we approach the build up and quick break that defines the song, things are different. At 2:54 the feedback and distortion that Trey uses is much more present than normal.
At 4:13 things seem to be back to normal and the mellow, blissful sounds of Slave are back.
5:44 More light soloing from Trey, he is definitely taking the forefront on the song at this point.
7:33 Just some beautiful stuff in hear.  Page and Fish are keeping a steady rhythm while Trey just is playing wonderfully over them.  Mike is very subtle.
8:04 Trey starts to rumble and Fish makes a greater impression as well.  By the nine minute make a definite rise in the tension can be felt. It is still well within the Slave structure and the high point of the jam feels like it is about to present itself.
10:16 The peak is reached and Trey just shreds and rises to the occasion. If the song relaxed and worked its way to its conclusion, it would have been a good, but not exactly memorable Slave.
10:27 Trey just pounds back into the song.  The whole band just gets to another level of intensity.  By the 11 minute mark, the light, airy, angelic Slave that is custom, is going away and something much darker is rising.  A wall of noise just explodes.
11:30 Or there abouts.  I can’t precisely mark it, but Mike gets into a fantastic groove that carries the song into an even darker place.  It is at this point I wish I had a better music vocabulary and understanding.  I can hear what he is pounding out, but I can’t convey it properly in words.  All the while, Trey is bringing his best Jimi Hendrix-type sound.  I know we say Rage Side Page Side, but Trey is raging at this point.
14:30 Page starts to bring in the synthesizer, adding an excellent touch of space. At this point all real structure has left the song and the jam.  I would call it spacey, but that conjures up ideas of something ethereal, something weightless.  We are not in that territory.  Or better said, it is not that kind of space, the space of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  No, this is the space of Alien, a dark, we are going to get eaten kind of space.

In the last few moments of the song, things start to lighten up.  One of the most light-hearted songs, Lizards, comes about.  I can’t help but think that it was a direction reaction to what was just going on.  Overall, it was kind of jarring.  Once we got to such an intense spot, leaving felt like a let down.  Sometimes when things get dark, it’s just better to dwell in that place for a while. But that just wasn’t to be on this night.

The Phish 52: 11/16/94 Mike’s ->Simple ->Jam

Pretty much any time someone asks, “what is the most underrated jam by Phish” or “What is your favorite jam” or “what would you like to see released next from the archives” my answer is always the same: 11/16/94, Ann Arbor, Michigan, Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan.  This is the show that hooked me into the band.  I had listened to some tapes and been to two shows previously, but this is THE ONE,  the font of all of my Phish devotion, especially the opening of the second set.

phish-ann-arbor-lansing-94

Set two starts off with my favorite set opener, first, second, other, doesn’t matter, the opening lick from Mike’s Song.  Those first few notes always put a charge into the crowd, but when it opens a set, it gets turned up to 11.  It is impossible not to get pumped up and excited.  Tweezer elicits much of the same response, but for my money, I’ll take Mike’s Song, thank you.

For it’s part, this Mike’s Song isn’t particularly interesting. It is a pretty straight forward version that only lasts for about 7 minutes and then segues beautifully into Simple.  I’m a little bias I suppose, but the Mike’s->Simple transition is a personal favorite as well and, I’m sorry to say, that it is pretty much an artifact at this point.  It was quite common in 1994 and I want to say until 1998 or so, but by 2000 it has becoming increasingly rare.

Around 12:35, after only about 5 minutes, Simple is coming to an end and by 12:50 it is completely gone. As set list classification has evolved, I wonder if this would be listed as Mike’s->Simple, and leave it at that. I think that would be a mistake because what followed wasn’t related to Simple very much and it goes somewhere beyond a Mike’s Groove. In every sense of the word, this was just a Jam.

And what a jam it is.  The timing and track listing from Shapiro’s latest “From The Archives” (finally some 11/16/94 love!)  starts with the Mike’s, thus the title given, but if you want to hear strictly the jam, start at the 12:50 mark.

12:55 Things start to sound like music from The Wall. Trey is playing a low, dark tone while Page rests on top, delicately playing piano. At 14:38, Mike announces his presence with a strong introduction of bass to the mix.  At this point, Mike is playing a strange upright-style of bass that changes notes and tone by bending the neck as Mike strummed.  It has a richness that doesn’t quite get justice on the recordings.

15:11 Trey starts to light things up and at 15:30 the first real groove of the song is reached.  It almost feels like a march, with Fish laying down a fantastic boogie beat. Page and Mike are right there with Fish, holding things down as Trey goes into a riff that could be in just about any classic rock track.  At the 17:00 mark this portion of the jam is hitting it’s peak and at 18:00 it comes to an end with a four count pounding to sort of just sum things up.

18:45 The band stays with that four count structure, but have moved into something more playful, almost child-like. Page just floats on top of everything and the drums start fading in and out.

19:30 Everything almost goes completely quiet and gently comes back. At this point, and it would have been fantastic, they could have moved on to something else. But they don’t, they pick back up and keep going into the second major part of the song.  Trey is playing something spacey and speedy and by 21:00 Mike is playing along.  Page is just teasing some things out. They are definitely looking for that next groove.

22:38 And they find it! For those of us of a certain age, this groove is reminiscent of the theme song from the old TV show, SWAT. Trey leads the SWAT sound and Page has moved on to the clav.  By 23:50 the SWAT jam is gone and at 24:00 another peak is reached and by 24:45 things have gone quiet again.

This time when they come back, it feels like a jazz number.  Page is fiddling around and Fish is barely adding any sound, but it works.  Mike eventually starts to bop along and that is what it reminds me of, just a nice boppy song you might find at the Green Mill after hours.  A few times Trey drops in some feedback, kind of reminding everyone that this is a rock concert after all.  The jazz interlude eventually gives way.

28:00 At this point, we get Trey working the power chords and the riff he is banging out could come from any Led Zeppelin song.  Fish comes in strong on this and you can practically see Jimmy Page’s laser light show. By 30:00, Trey has picked up the pace and Fish and Mike are matching him for intensity.  Page is keeping things grounded, but not holding things back either.

31:00 The music dies off again and by 31:45, it kind of feels like they are trying to figure out where this is going to go.  In future years, I think they would have pulled the plug instead of trying to work their way out, per se.

34:00 The triumphant ending is starting.  As it winds up toward the finish we approach Machine Gun Trey and it almost hints back to Simple.  This final part kind of has a Cream-esque tone to it as well.  It’s not quite Sunshine of Your Love, but it has that vibe.  By the 38th minute, there is a brief coda and things just fade out, preparing the crowd for the mellow sounds of the bluegrass numbers that were to follow.

I have no idea how many times I’ve listened to this show and this jam in the twenty years since I saw it.  I do know that I wore out at least two tapes in the process and I’m so happy for the Archive edition for the better sound quality.  I can only hope the entire show gets released at some point.  Next up, a trip back to my home town.

I finally got my podcast working the way I’d like, so if you’d like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 20 is up! Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!

 Get Your History On

The Phish 52: 8/10/97 Cities

I’ve written about this show in the past.  It was part of my Phish Friday’s idea, that petered out a while back.  Of course this little project has taken a while to even get going, so I’m consistently inconsistent.

1997-08-10mo

It was my first time at the venue and I haven’t been back since 1998, but I still have fond memories and of course the Cities that opened up the second set.  The song starts off as a pretty standard Cities, a cover of the 1979 Talking Heads tune.  It really isn’t until the seventh minute that things start to take on a more jammed out element foreshadowing what is to come.  About 6:45 there is kind of a plinko sound with some great interplay from Trey and Page.

7:30 there is a tempo change and a new groove starts to emerge.  The structure of Cities is still present, but there is a more rhythmic element driving the song at this point.

9:22 Trey starts a new chord progression and it starts to move away from the more funky, syncopated groove that Cities starts in and the song had been resting in, to a more exploratory, spacey feel.  Mike is playing a simple two beat line, that becomes more complex by 10:00.  Page is kind of noodling around on synthesizer, adding a great atmosphere. At 10:30 Fish is more involved as well, really setting a mood with cymbal play.  From this point on, Cities proper is a distant memory.  The entire band has joined in and a great build up ensues. Around the 12:00 mark, things have picked up considerably and around 13:30 Trey is back in the driver’s seat, kind of branching off and the steady rhythm is muted a bit.

14:35 The pounding repetition is back and the intensity is almost at it’s peak. The song has morphed into a very strong rocker.  At 15:40 there is kind of a lull as things seem to be mellowing out, it isn’t the smoothest of transitions, but they recover nicely.

16:25 We reach a fantastic crescendo  and we get to my favorite part of the song. Things positively just soar for the next minute or so.

17:22 Trey is chording  and Page is kind of bouncing around until the sound evolves into an almost Franklin’s Tower kind of sound.  Page keeps adding bounces, which in retrospect seem to be hinting at the theramin solo that will arrive later in the set.

19:00 just a great groove that is simply perfect. Page is dancing around again on the piano, playing very nicely over the rhythm that the others are putting down. Things pretty much stay in this neighborhood, all the while building up toward the finale and the segue into Good Times Bad Times.  You could almost call it a rip chord the way Good Times sort of just pops in, but it’s really hard to say that considering the rip chord comes almost 24 minutes into the song.

This version of Cities is easily my favorite version of the song and doing a little research, it is a pretty rare version.  Very few times have the band launched into an extended jam from Cities, only two appear on the 20+ minute jam chart, but it doesn’t stop me from being hopeful every time I happen to catch one.  According to Phish.net, it is the must-hear version of the song and I can’t disagree.  If you’re a fan of a little more spacey, a little less funky from 1997, you really should check this Cities out.  In fact, you should check out all of this run at Deer Creek.  It’s got some great stuff and somewhere down the road I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the Timber (Jerry) played the next night.  Up next though, the jam that started it all for me, way back in 1994.