Phish will officially kick off their Summer Tour today at the “venue formerly known as Great Woods” in Mansfield, MA. This is the first Summer since 2004’s Undermind that Phish will be heading out on the road supporting a new album. 2009’s Joy was released in September so we can’t count that. Undermind’s release on June 14, 2004 was a little more subdued and felt like a final-hurrah rather than Fuego’s creative rebirth. Ten years separates both releases and the energy and spirit has quite the juxtaposition. Things seem a little more positive heading into Massachusetts and the July 4th weekend at SPAC. With a strong tune-up at the Ed Sullivan Theatre last week already in the bag, what should we expect at some of the Summer sheds this year?
1. Lots of “Fuego”
Safe bet, but the song itself should receive a fair amount of plays in the 25-date tour. It has 2nd Set jam written all over it and once the lead track gets paired with “Tweezer”, “Ghost”, or “Carini”, all bets are off. I’d expect at least three to four top-shelf versions to be debated on heading into Labor Day weekend. If 2009 had “Light”, 2014 will have “Fuego.”
2. Fans bitching about all the Fuego repeats
With a new album comes a band excited to play it — and often. I can already see the upset tweets at fans on tour seeing the fifth version of “The Line” and “Devotion to a Dream” in ten shows. Hopefully Mike Gordon’s “555” and Page’s “Halfway to the Moon” get similar airtime.
3. A second jam in “Mikes Song”
Although fans have been clamoring for this nonstop, Summer ’14 may be our best chance yet. Jon Fishman was asked about the second jam during a recent interview with Maine’s WRFR and explained how he and the band don’t even remember jamming the song but assured us he’d talk to the rest of the guys about it. JamBase later updated the story with Fishman elaborating more on what he suspects fans are talking about. If a second jam in Mike’s takes place this summer it would send shockwaves throughout the Phish community. #FOMO doesn’t even begin to describe it.
4. New prints to collect
We can expect at least 13 new artist designs considering the multiple night runs. Nothing like waking up each morning to Phish’s update on their Facebook wall showing off that evening’s print.
Headcount.org has already announced a #GoVote Pollock Postcard giveaway at their booth this summer.
5. “A lot less covers” – Trey Anastasio
There’s only been one played in the last five shows (six if you count the Letterman appearance) — Son Seal’s “Funky Bitch” at Jazz Fest earlier this year. Billy Joel inspired or not, it’s something to keep an eye on. Will we not get a “Rock and Roll” or “Crosseyed and Painless” until the second or third week of tour? The Twitterverse would be ablaze with each song played if that were the case. In an interview recently with NPR, Page alluded to the fact that the band may skip the Halloween tradition and try something else besides the usual “all covers” musical costume set. And Trey told Rolling Stone that we’re probably going to see “a lot less covers” this time around. I’m all for it. The Wingsuit experiment was a gut check not only for them but for the fans too. “No more promises no more keeping score.”
6. Creative new lot merch
Phish fans are some of the most creative and inspired. With an entire winter to create and new Phish song material to play off of, expect a plethora of fresh lot merch. Some of our favorite items include Isadora Bullock’s “Inside My Fuego” print, Party Time pins’ SPAC pack and a Peanuts themed pin from PhanArt. And nothing quite says summer like a Jon Fishman Bikini.
7. “Standard” first sets
Phish’s first sets, although fun, have usually been safely played. Except for the rare gem like 10/26/10 and 8/15/11, it’s usually just a warm-up for “the goods” coming after set break. I hope they change it up this time around but I won’t be holding my breath.
It did a number on concert-goers last year with cancellations affecting Toronto and the Northerly Island shows. If you’re heading to Saratoga Springs, NY for the July 4th weekend, bring a poncho and several pairs of socks because CNN is already predicting a soggy affair.
I’d much rather this “Prince of guitar” than “Prince Caspian” any day. I keep going back to the studio version again and again. It fits perfect as Trey’s lone ballad and following “Halfway to the Moon” it works even better. This should fit perfectly in the first set but don’t be surprised if it’s used as a landing pad after a blissed out “Light” jam.
10. Fans talking about an unannounced tour before the current tour is even over
Although many of Phish’s songs talk about enjoying the moment, we sure do talk about the future a lot. A Halloween in Vegas sounds like a foregone conclusion for 10/31-11/2, but it’s the dates beforehand that seem completely up in the air at the moment. If history serves correct, a late July announcement should be coming around the Merriweather Post shows — but that’s just a best guess based on The Barn Presents Announcement Infogaphic.
Will Phish continue where they left off? During Fall ’13 and again during the New Year’s Eve run, the band was improvising with fresh ideas and carving out at least one buzzed-about-jam per show. If the plinked-up “Twist” at the Ed Sullivan Theatre is any indication, the boys are naturally tinkering with old classics without hesitation. Selecting which new song will harness the most improv onstage is part of the fun and the top reason Summer ’14 has so much promise. “Waiting All Night” and “Wingsuit” could and should produce some really dreamy jams but who knows if Phish will start by playing it safe and just keep tearing up “Carini?” We win either way.
12. Of sunlight dancing through the Steam
Some fans like myself were hoping this was going to be included on Fuego as it really fit the mood and flow of the Wingsuit material and was the central song at their 2011 New Year’s Eve stunt. I don’t mind it being left off Fuego as long as it’s kept in regular rotation. The most recent version of Steam is one of the best (12/28/13.)
13. The Freezer
Phish announced their festival store dubbed “The Freezer” will be back in 2014 at Randall’s Island and will feature of few rare items. Most importantly, a 2-LP Deluxe Vinyl of the band’s third album, A Picture of Nectar. As happy as I am about the chance to hear “The Mango Song” and “Guelah Papyrus” on vinyl, a part of me is looking ahead because it means Rift is on deck for Black Friday in November now! The Freezer also promised merchandise from 1996-2002 that will be made available again for the first time including some Pollocks.
With new material on the [Spock’s] brain this could be a sparse summer for dusting off songs. @YEMBlog is campaigning for “Lushington” and we aren’t going to disagree with that request. “Walfredo” hasn’t seen action in 133 shows so that late July weekend at Merriweather Post certainly has a chance.
15. New songs not on Fuego
More wish than expectation but I hope a few ‘B-list’ songs either make a second appearance (“You Never Know) or — better yet — debut for the first time. Those “Wingsuit” sessions last year included more than just 12 tracks; Page said in the NPR interview that they had something close to 40 songs in consideration when they first met with Bob Ezrin. I hope a few of them even though they weren’t picked see the light of day. That would certainly keep people on their toes.
Don’t forget to register your Phantasy Tour picks, especially the tour opener. I’m going with a safe pick in “Devotion to a Dream” but I’ve never picked right so I don’t see that changing.
Finally, remember what it is about Phish that always seems to defy expectations — no matter what — because we all try to predict what’s going to happen and often times we don’t exactly get it right. No one likes a know-it-all so Phish is helping you out and you don’t even know it. Like a co-worker once told me and I’ve since applied it to the negativity that sometimes surrounds Phish tour and the jaded vet syndrome:
Every show you’re at is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.
Cheesy yes, but also true. Happy Summer Phishmas everyone!