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Thursday, July 12

Bobby Martin's Phishing Trips: SPAC, NY - 7/8/12

I didn’t think I would actually be hitting any of the Saratoga Phish shows due to weddings, lack of cash and the shortness of time. I was wrong, and I’m glad I made it because night 3 was one of my favorite shows of the summer due to a smashing set two and a couple great first set highlights and bust outs.
SPAC’s lot scene was a memorable one with a Shakedown Street that was very alive for a Sunday night. This was expected since there would be no more Phish for over a month, and many who were at SPAC wouldn’t be making the west coast swing anyway. For many, this would be the last Phish of 2012. Those fans were probably not disappointed.
Shakedown had vendors galore, including me hustling waters and trying to pay off various debts, mostly due to this band I love. There were a lot of high fives and so longs to tour buddies, exchanging numbers in hopes that they could meet again somewhere along the line. More than likely they do, and it usually takes place at a random location in the country due to a Phish show.
Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2012
Phish started off the night with AC/DC Bag, one which was only played for the third time this tour. It got the mood started right, with a feeling of vintage Phish in the air. Phish then dropped into My Soul and I got to dancing my tired feet off. However, the first part of this set was fairly standard with no real surprises. A highlight was an extended Party Time, which nearly hit the 9 minute mark. While it is corny and kind of ridiculous, it is fun and has an aura of Phishiness to it.
However, I feel that the show officially took off after a rousing Foam. Things got real dark and murky during the Foam jam, with Page having a field day. After some slower tunes and standard short tunes to start the show, this was exactly what was needed. From here on Phish didn’t let up, and that includes with the fairly rare If I Could. It was fairly short and set up well for Split Open and Melt.
There are a lot of haters out there who say that Phish hasn’t nailed Melt in quite some time. I beg to differ on that because I’ve seen some pretty damn good ones. This one, for example, was quite awesome and continued the dark, almost scary theme that Foam had started two songs earlier. At about 4 minutes there is a slow, sinister build up forming in true SOAM fashion. I could already feel the tension in the air building up and knew this was going to be off the chart.  Right around 7 minutes things fall apart in a good way, with organized chaos happening in all directions from everyone in the band. This goes on until about 9 minutes when Trey takes strange matters into his own hands and goes into utter destruction mode. Note that I mean all this in a good way. A great Melt should completely fall apart in all directions before it is brought back together in a way that only Phish could do. It all comes together for the final push in the song at about 10:30. This was a truly special Split Open and Melt.
I thought for sure that it was set break, but was beyond stoked when I heard the beginning chords of La Grange start. This was a first for me and the first since 1999. It has been the summer of bust outs and organized jams with teases, and this one was one of the bigger best outs to date. Featuring Mike on his weird, low vocals in the intro portion of the song and Trey on raging guitar, it was not only a bust out but also played well. Check for Trey’s serious licks as the song winds down. It was one of the most fun parts of the night and a great way to wrap up the set.  Energy was high during set break with many knowing that we should be getting some serious jams during the second set, and that the show began to take off at the end of the set prior. Those indications that Phish would kill it this set came to life when they opened up with a scorcher of an Axilla I. The jam packed crowd at SPAC went ballistic and the rocker bled right into Light, which has been the most consistent jam vehicle of the year and maybe even since the comeback in ’09.  Light’s jam went over 13 minutes, which has become pretty standard when it comes to Light. It’s funny because like many songs in the Joy repertoire, I don’t exactly enjoy the song’s beginning but end up loving what it becomes as it is played. Light is one that can go any direction and usually does. This was one of the improvisational masterpieces of the night and showed serious Phish jamming from the get go. Just before 6 minutes, Mike drops some heavy laser bombs as Trey lays a nice riff with Page and Fishman building up the groove. The jam blasts off from here, going into outer space from 7 minutes on. For several minutes Phish lays into a deep ambient jam with eerie noises made famous from the Storage jam @ Superball IX. It trails off with a siren into the opening notes of Twist.
While Twist is short and sweet it is anything but boring, with a very interesting intro featuring the siren from Light as the song starts. Trey messes around with his tone and pedals throughout the jam which strangely falls into Kill Devil Falls. While on paper Kill Devil Falls> My Friend My Friend> Swept Away>Steep may look a little suspect, it worked very well. Kill Devil Falls was the jam out of this section, but the ambiance of Swept Away>Steep melted perfectly into what would be the best jam of the night and possibly the summer: Piper.  This Piper was a 15:30 monster that got way out there and made me think of the Piper on 12/30/11. I was there for both and can say that I liked this Piper better. It may have been because Phish was simply playing better this night, or that the jam fit better. Either way, it was improvisational jamming at its finest. The jam has it all: straight forward shredding from Trey, storage jamming, ambiance, a little bit of funk and some general Phishiness. Listen at about 10:30 and you will hear a jam that sounds a bit like Light with elements of Drowned. It isn’t note for note, but listen and you will see what I mean. It isn’t in the show notes, but it’s there.
Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2012

Piper drops into an inspired Free in type 2 fashion, which has Trey as the all star here with him playing with peddles and getting some nice riffs in as Mike drops bombs on the audience. It is only about 7 minutes long until things start to get real weird with the first Kung of the tour. Kung, all spacey and weird out of Free, slams into Harry Hood which was played well through the composed and jam sections. Classically Hood ends with the symbols of Cavern starting immediately. I thought for sure this was the end of the set, but instead the high hats of Bowie start up. David Bowie, like Hood, was played well through all sections. It was no Atlantic City Bowie, but impressive still and topped off a very interesting, well played set.  The night ended with only the second You Enjoy Myself of 2012. This one was better than the first setter in Burgettstown, with Trey getting downright dirty in the jammed section. It topped off one of the top shows of the summer, with my favorite still going to Atlantic City Night 2.
It will be over a month until there are more Phish shows, and even more than that until I get to one. For those who will be in California, expect early fire considering how this tour as gone. For those going to Dick’s, as I am, we know what kind of fire Phish brought to Colorado last year. If the tour so far is any indication on how well they will be playing then, there are great things to come.
Bobby writes for the online site: examiner.com, faithfully known as the Phish Examiner
For more photos from Dave Vann and Phish go HERE
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