[We would like to thank user @Jmart, Josh Martin, for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]
Here’s the thing: You like Phish. And if you’re reading this, chances are you actually love Phish with a chunk of your heart so large as to baffle most of your family and other acquaintances.
From your love of Phish, we can deduce something further: You love to dance. You have a repertoire of moves to fit any occasion. Imitating someone else’s moves in your crew is valuable social currency.
How do your dance choices reflect your show experience? Let’s discuss.
(For sake of reference, all dancing was observed from the floor, halfway back on Mike’s side)
“The Two-Step Shuffle”--- one of the most versatile Phish dances incorporates a side-to-side sway with accompanying foot movement. Speed and arc vary with user enthusiasm. The “Set Your Soul Free” opener was met with 80% strength, indicative of crowd appreciation of both placement and hope for the accompanying jam.
And jam they did, jamming hard out of the opening slot for 23 minutes. In fact, of the eight openers in 2022, only 4/22 “Suzy Greenberg,” “Twist,” and “Character Zero” were below 17 minutes, and the latter two were 13!
The music itself was dancy and reaching, with Fish and Mike accessorizing Trey’s stabs at the future, and Page almost silent at the keys. During the second major modulation of the jam, back to phish dominant tone happy place, groups of people in two or three began to almost stop dancing entirely with their legs, preferring instead to dance with their mouths. This move is known to all as
“The Chomp” --- and those who use it as “Chompers.” What’s great about this is that the dancer gets to let everyone know how he or she feels about Ukraine right when Page and Trey lock onto some interesting harmony. Your reviewer has found that hugging the defender and pointing to the stage most often diffuses the situation. For a while. Unfortunately the chomp was to be seen and heard again during sections of “Leaves” and “The Squirming Coil,” described below.
“The Sway” --- Friends, the Phish fan base has a few subgenres of characters. The Jaded Vet has seen some shit and he’ll gladly tell you about how phish started off as a quasi-prog rock band. And it wasn’t until '93 or '94 that they started making an effort to jam. What no jaded vet has truly ever figured out, however, is how to dance appropriately to some of the knottier parts of Phish’s early catalog (e.g. “Divided Sky,” “David Bowie,” “Fluffhead”), so they divert to a simple sway attached to whatever rhythm they might find in the music. “My Friend, My Friend” gets the sway going early before being completely abandoned for the simultaneous fist pump/head band that accompanied the outro, which notably powerful this time around. This last combination was also prominently featured during the outro to “Walls of the Cave,” which, again subverted expectations by showing up in the two-slot of the first set.
“Steam” gave the crowd its first opportunity to flash two winners: “the deep knee calisthenics,” in which the dancer bounces side to side with some deep dips,” AND “the drinking chicken,” in which the dancer bends at the hips with his back straight. These moves dovetail nicely with Steam’s bounce and slink, but had to be speeded up a bit or abandoned altogether for something much more profane when Trey poured out several minutes of the nastiest shredding of 2022 thus far. Against all odds, “Ocelot” also got the crowd almost tearing their clothes off over Trey’s vicious minor key solo in what is normally a pleasantly forgettable song.
The set-closing “Squirming Coil” got a lot more straight bouncing during the meat of the song than one might expect, particularly given the fierce bouncing on display in the “Sparkle” earlier in the set and during “Golgi Apparatus” later in the second. A huge ovation for Page was cut short by a collective groan when the lights turned on.
“The Chop” --- Everyone has his or her signature move and longs for the song that requires it. With “Sand” and “Mike’s Song” off the table, your reviewer was a bit concerned he would never get to break out the palm flat double slicer reserved for the sickest, thickest funk jams in the Phish catalog. “Never fear,” the band said, and delivered the piece for which chopping was invented: “2001.” Phish delivered a fantastic version replete with the hard riffing, sparkling organ, and gooey Mike bombs we’ve come to love.
“The Squinter” --- For some, the "2001" or the "SYSF" was the jam of the night and one can’t rightly argue with that, but the “Light” deserves special mention. Every show we wait for that single moment when the band has left the song and no one, not even the people on stage, know what’s going to happen next. This moment elicits "the squinter" ---an almost-motionless bending forward at the waist and a strong stare directly at the stage, as if trying to peer in the future. That quiet moment happened around 10 minutes into the "Light" jam, followed by one of the more impressive melodic builds on this song in recent years. Trey and Page took time to wind together a harmony before Fishman corralled them back into the fold. Each member’s contribution was evident here --- the sound drifting towards 12/29/18’s “Tweezer,” which, in turn, flirted with “I Know You Rider,” a traditional song played so well by that other band.
“Love Beams” --- In truth, when good jams leave good and reach great, our bodies may react of their own accord. Towards the end of "Light," just before Mike’s botched attempt to segue into “Passing Through” (which would have been amazing, Mike!) the joy got so great that the dancer has to gather it up in the space in front of his heart and then throw it back and the crowd. We can only keep what we have by giving it away.
“The Disappointed Dad” --- Hopefully the team isn’t breaking out this one too often, the one in which the dancer stands motionless with arms crossed, possibly glaring at the floor or Trey. The DD represents just that- disappointment in an abrupt transition from Light to “Mountains in the Mist” or following that song with the next. “Meat has its fans for sure, but this placement seriously dampened the flow of the set.
It would be hard to rightly ask for more from Phish in the nascent 4.0 era, especially after the summer and fall tours with so many dazzling moments, scrapping their NYE plans and playing anyway, and then really delivering a great April MSG makeup run. But if one HAD to find fault, it would be that the back halves of the second sets can sometimes come apart in terms of execution and song selection. They played “Slave to the Traffic Light” and “Cavern,” both in perfunctory fashion.
“The Lighthouse” --- what better time to talk about this man and his dance than this really juicy “46 Days” / “Tube” double encore? Come skull-crushing “Antelope,” come slicked-back “Cities,” come tear-jerking “Wading in the Velvet Sea,” this guy never moves. Ever. And this serves an incredibly important service when you (hypothetically) took way too much the last night of Dick’s 2017 and had to go to the bathroom through a sea of people, fearing for your safety and sanity. And another friend (again hypothetically) said, “hey look for that guy on the way back. He’s literally the only person not moving.” A lifesaver. A real hero.
What happened was Phish played a thoroughly competent and enjoyable concert, the best of the four shows on this tour. The band got in its own way with some weird song placements. More importantly, a lot of beautiful people got together to do some really fantastic dancing. You looked great out there. Let’s do it again tonight.
[Editor's Note: Josh's recap reminded me of an article published in the San Francisco Guardian in 1999. I'm going to see if I can dig it up and publish it on the blog in a couple days. It's hilarious in its descriptions of dances at Phish shows. -charlie]
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