Saturday, August 29, 2015

Magnaball Friday 22 August 2015 @ Watkins Glen, NY

MAGNABALL.
It's not an experience if you don't bring someone along, so how about we go together? Follow my steps:

1) Arrive in idyllic Western NY on Thursday afternoon. Effortlessly fly through check-in and security, because people are nice and everyone's here for the love. Throw your shitcarefully curated necessities into the tent. Grab a bag of free stuff, VIP style: 

2) Wander to the concert field; explore the Glurt Institute. Spot the glurt, pop the bubbles, and peer down the tube. Spill secrets into the big green ears.
A video posted by @baynetrain812 on

3)  Enter Club M and shake your tail feather to selections to anything from David Bowie to Bow-Wow. Sip on some Coconuts & Chloroform.
4) Salute the sun with hundreds of your closest Phishy yoga friends. Seriously pwn n00bs with extensive Phish trivia knowledge via Studio X.

video

5) Throw back a lemon-ginger wellness shot from one of the vegan vendors (make sure to put the frat boys to shame). Savor a Dirt Burger (gluten free veggie) at LoFo, the Syracuse-based pop-up restaurant specializing in locally-sourced fare. Charge your phone and extensive collection of portable batteries via solar power. Meet new friends while you wait.


6) Vaguely recall that everyone is all here for 7 (and probably 8) sets of music (wait, this isn't my new home?) Realize the party's right here.

No time was wasted on Friday as a 12-minute Simple kicked off the first set of the weekend. It was the perfect beginning: We've got it simple, 'cause we've got a band. I felt the same way. Trey led the group through an agile and melodic jam that was a little dark around the edges. Appropriate, considering The Dogs came next. It felt surreal to let myself get creeped out in the middle of a field on a hot summer night, but there I was. I love that the band has incorporated some of their new material from the Halloween album into this summer's shows. Throughout the tour, the songs have provided a catchy, instrumental base from which to launch an energetic jam. After the first few sound bites, I felt like I had landed in the middle of a heavy second-set jam.

Science Bunnies measuring our auras. Mine's green.
Free was particularly well-placed after the beautiful, nostalgic magic of TMWSIY (fugues have a way of doing that to you.) Mike's bass grounded as as we floated away through the progression of a bright, moving major chords. Free is such a powerful song, and I always feel a special blend of joy, freedom, and inspiration when I hear it. I must not be the only one...

After a warm welcome from Trey, he asked us as a crowd of a 35,000 to sing happy birthday to his daughter Eliza, who turned twenty that day. He told us that she is the oldest of the eleven band children and has been at every Phish festival! Afterward, she stepped onstage and hugged her dad. The whole thing was very heartwarming and made me realize that Phish is not just a band for hippies and drug-addled deadbeats anymore. Magnaball's crowd was considerably mellow and good-natured, and really it seemed like everyone was there to have fun. Maybe the vibe was because of the festival setting; only devoted fans would want to see 8 sets of Phish over three days.

An unexpected highlight of the first set was Mock Song, a slow, melodic Mike song off of Round Room. I had not been familiar with the song before that night, but have not managed to get it out of my head since. I wonder what the original intention behind the line "Clifford, Super, MagnaBall" was. The song was released in 2002, and the Clifford Ball, which was practically held in my grandmother's backyard in 1996, was far behind at that point. I doubt Phish had the foresight to name future festivals ten years in advance, but what do I know?

Then there was that soul-igniting Bathtub Gin. 23 minutes of unadulterated bliss. The jam soared and sang in certain places, totally enrapturing everyone. Phish took their time exploring what they could find within the song, and the patience and teamwork paid off. There are discernible sections where instrument effects and supporting rhythms turn a corner and take off in another direction, like when Mike starts dropping bass bombs and the crowd roars. Ultimately it's a cohesive, dynamic piece with focal points and melody (and, if you ask me, a foreshadowing of some of the musical elements of Saturday's Drive-In jam).

After it was over, I looked around and realize WE HAD JUST FINISHED THE FIRST SET. There were NO wasted warm ups or throwaways; this band had it IN for us. That juicy realization put a big smile on my face. 

The second set opened with Chalkdust Torture, which included a What's The Use? tease. The quietness that hits the music about 8 mins into the song is remarkable; for a moment, the silence becomes an instrument, letting the colors of the rolling drums and dark guitar tones fade away for a moment. Then, in the matter of a few seconds, Trey turns a musical corner by switching to the major key, swapping dark, sullen tones for light, nimble ones. We go with him. The move is decisive and quick, but not jarring. It's a novel way to watch the jam morph and flow. The band revisits this idea in the days to come...

Finally, we get to the funky, organ-heavy Ghost. Hate to say it, but the jam never really found its legs. There was a lot of resting on a single musical idea without much motion or melody. Am I going to be burned at the stake for saying that?


Things picked up during Rock & Roll, which was a welcome repeat from Merriweather the weekend before. Harry Hood provided good glowstick cues and a solid, rhythmically diverse jam. The recapitulation afterwards was particularly rich and moving, and provided the perfect segue into Waste. 

Waste was only one of the many soulful tunes Phish played this weekend (others include When the Circus Comes, Wading in the Velvet Sea, & Dirt). I have to imagine there was some sentimentality that came with playing Festival Number Ten, which was nicely captured with Waste. I always thought it was written for a person, but I get the feeling this version was intended for all of us.


We were all snapped out of sentimentality during No Men in No Man's Land, a 2015 debut.  The upbeat, funky song has become a hit with fans especially after the Mann shows, where a remarkable version was played. I am excited by the new material from this tour (also Blaze On, Shade, How Many People Are You?), which has proven itself to be versatile, catchy, and lyrically sound.

I really like one of the last phrases of NMINML:

but if you hold a mirror and you turn it to one side
the depth you see within at first, will find a place to hide

Slave to the Traffic Light closed the set. I always think of this song as a perfect set closer: it's meditative and gentle, guiding gently you into the silence that follows. The back-to-back organ and bass solos are so beautiful in this version. I also find the song similar to Free musically, and think the two should always be played together because they compliment each other so nicely.

Farmhouse served as the band's official welcome to us as the first encore of the night. Then First Tube brought up the energy as we all prepared ourselves for a spirited weekend.

Overall, Phish played a cohesive show nicely blended with both sentiment and meat. Re-listening to the show made me realize the music flowed continuously throughout the night, using the structure of the songs as mere placeholders and/or turning points. It was the telling of one musical epic poem, and the songs served as anchoring chapter titles.

Or...just call me crazy.

(Hi, Crazy!)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Phish @ Randall's Island, Friday July 11th, 2014: Quick Recap

For the city that never sleeps, Phish capped a fantastic show before 11 PM last night. 
 
They seem to consistently play remarkable shows in the quasi-festival atmospheres they set up, like at Bader Field (Atlantic City 2012) and SuperBall XI (Watkins Glen 2011 - which was a real festival).  My thought is that a special type of creative energy lends itself to the band when Phish & co. has creative control over the venue: sculptures, signs, and specialty tents speckle the lush green field.  It's more of a playground than a venue like an outdoor pavilion or Madison Square Garden.  A playful spirit surrounds us there that infects the band too.

Plus, there's nothing better than free Ben & Jerry's.
Last night, I felt like I had time traveled to late August; could the band I was hearing be the same one that played three fun but unremarkable shows at SPAC just a week ago?  (What happened in Philly that I don't know about?  SPAC was great but certainly does not standout compared to the creations we heard from the Type II Machine last night.

To me, it seemed like the entire show was highlight after highlight.  
 
The first set was a solid conglomeration of fun and funkiness (see setlist below).  The Bathtub Gin far surpassed the one at SPAC, and I love 555.  I still manage to groan every time a song from Joy is played, but I sing a very different tune when it comes to the material from Fuego.  Some of the new songs impart a beauty that washes over a moment very nicely when placed well, which I think Waiting all Night was. 
 
Set 1
Moma Dance
KDF
Ya Mar
Bathtub Gin
555
Rift
Sample 
Wedge
Waiting all Night
Stash 

My brother turned to me last night and goes, "why isn't Steam on Fuego?"  I didn't know the answer.  Anyone have input?  Was that a single?  Did it get ~scrapped~? 
 
The switch to the Type II Machine was flipped last night, and managed to generate a second set that never stopped... except when it did, at 10:50 P.M.  I'm not complaining (yes I am).
 
The DWD>Golden Age combo seems like a classic nowadays.  Is that just me?  The only song on Fuego that I get a little fed up with is... Fuego, because it seems like a glorified Time Turns Elastic, but it managed to stay hot and fresh and feisty last night.

Set 2
Steam >
DWD >
Golden Age >
LxL >
Fuego >
Bowie >
Cavern
E: Character Zero
 
Was there something in that Ben & Jerry's?  Because last night, I felt like I was drinking the Kool-Aid.  Everything seemed flawless.
 
If so, I am totally about the Kool-Aid. 
 
See ya tonight!
 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Le1f's launch into mainstream



A dance major at Wesleyan University in CT and a big name in the NYC underground rap scene, Le1f is a movement artist.  Throughout his release of three original mixtapes and his most recent EP called Hey, his beats remain rhythmic and dance-able fit for ~*any*~ respectable kiki.

Hey serves as a preview of Le1f's upcoming album release with Terrible Records/XL Records, who boast big names like Adele, Solange Knowles, and Radiohead.  A dance-laden rendition of Wut was performed on David Letterman on Thursday night.  Always challenging the norm, Le1f sports an outfit off of 


Le1f has the talent to embrace art, music, and himself and combines them together in a meaningful way.  The bitch-I'm-flawless, no-apologies attitude that is exuded through his performances and lyrics is powerful and fun.  (Personally, I'm thinking BeyoncĂ© may have taken a page or two from his book for inspiration for her newest album.)  His work is a welcome replacement to rap's usual obsession with misogyny, violence, and money.
 
Turn on any song off of Hey and prepare to be greeted by one-liners saturated with sass and the sudden urge to dance like a foo'.  (Blame it on those lush, bouncy beats.)  If you're into that, then you're welcome.

I'm butter like cocoa; lolololol, I'm loco.

Elizabeth

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mike Gordon on soy milk, foam raves, & the story of Thomas the croissant

Today, Mike Gordon and Scott Murawski spent some time on Reddit to field fan questions to promote the release of their new album, Overstep, which dropped today.  The following are a few highlights, including...

the world of Phish:

 Mike on Leo:

soy milk baths:
 telepathy:

Python:

on creation of something great:

 Thomas the croissant:

the possibility of more Phish to come:

AND FINALLY THE STUNNING REVELATION THAT MIKE IN FACT DID NOT SAY NO; IT WAS TREY.


Click here for the full interview.

Peace, love, cuddly, but muscular,

Elizabeth

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Overstep: Full Album Review

Mike Gordon is at it again. This prolific songwriter/soundmaker/noisecatcher has recently released his newest album, Overstep, available for free stream on the Rolling Stone website.  The tone of the album follows closely on the heels of The Green Sparrow (2008), sidestepping from the ethereal, spacy tone of Moss (2010) and Inside In (2003).  Lots of upbeat, funky bass and guitar abound, which is captured nicely by the cover art.

The album begins with the slow groove Ether, which seems to ease a listener into the weird world of MG. Featuring interesting chord progressions and trademark inscrutable lyrics, the song lays down a nice foundation of what's to come.

 The second tune, Tiny Little World, is the first time on the album we hear that bomb-droppin' bass that Phish fans know and love.  I really like the counterpoint it provides to the upbeat, sunny melody of the lyrics.  This song is, to me, the catchiest and most danceable one on the album.  The line It's the sauce that makes the dish makes me think that the Soulfood Man had a hand in writing the lyrics for this one.

Jumping is the first time we hear Scott Murawski sing on the album.  The driving acoustic guitar and the duo's vocal harmonies are notable.  Murawski's electrifying guitar solo remains whimsical.

So far so good. 

I'm pleased to report that I was present at Phish's debut of Yarmouth Road at SPAC on 7/5/13.  This song is most likely the most well known among Phish fans who stay current; the band played it eight times in 2013.  The placement of this song is excellent; it's a nice place to slow down, both lyrically and in tempo.  The verses remain characteristically poetic, but the prominence of the chorus makes it seem like a good platform to dive into a ~sweet jam~ ... as Phish began to explore last year.  I can't wait to hear the Mike Gordon Band's take on it.

The following tune, Say Something brings about a background of bouncing guitar and vocal lines.  The subtle dialogue that occurs between the two is engaging and energetic; I predict that this tune, along with the following tune, Face, will launch some serious disco jams this spring.  Breath: baited.

Face features an exposed bass and syncopated guitar line, making it feel spacey sequined funky.  I find myself caught up on this one because the song structure seems unique; I love the stripped down passage At first I heard the bass... it's unexpected and brings a renewed energy to the song... and it's super meta.  We're all about that here in the liberal arts.
A Different World features a guitar riff that's simple yet infectious; I love how independent it is while still interacting with the rest of the music.  It's earnest but still somehow distant... how do they do that?

The soaring solo in Long Black Line, the penultimate song on the album, brings the musical momentum through to the very end.  In this tune, it's the real star.

The album closes with the song Surface, which is saturated with lyrics and some spacey vocal effects sung by Scott Murawski.  The faded quality of the sound serves as a fitting outro to an impressive next album.

I can't wait to see what tricks the dudes in the MGB have up their sleeves for their spring tour.....!  I'll be at the show in North Adams, MA on April 5th.  If you're there too, come say hi!  I'll probably give you a glowstick.

Peace, love, and sequins,

Elizabeth