Next up, @SufferingJuke looks back to the 2018 Fall Tour.
Summer 2018 was an uneven affair with Phish. The highs included the final night at The Gorge, the Alpharetta Run, the wacky show in Raleigh and night two at Merriweather Post. However, the tour showcased a band trying to figure out how to distance itself from the Baker’s Dozen one year earlier, as well as an overhaul of Trey’s rig which inserted new styles and sounds into the band’s jamming, sometimes leading to stalled conversations.
It also featured the cancellation of the Curveball Festival, which reminded far too many of feelings surrounding Coventry some fourteen years earlier. A standout night one at Dick’s could only do so much to reassure the fanbase before the bottom fell out in the final two shows. On the one hand the band was jamming, yet to many it sounded like a transitional state, much like 2014 or Summer 2016.
Whether it be the weather cooling to fall, the historically familiar venues they toured in, or the Halloween surprise the band had up their sleeves, Fall 2018 immediately established itself as a higher quality version of 2018 Phish. Night one in Albany featured standout jamming in Everything’s Right and Twenty Years Later, as many heard the band in a far more communicative and unified fashion than just two months prior. Stylistically they were all over the map, with blissful guitar-led soaring jams in the Albany Chalk Dust and Vegas Everything’s Right rubbing shoulders with the demented Hampton Golden Age and Chicago No Men In No Man’s Land.
A tell-tale sign of 3.0 excellency, there isn’t a single style you can point to where the band is thriving, instead the band seemed to channel all they’ve learned and listened to into a variety of jams which work as a kaleidoscope on their historical improvisation.
What ultimately defined Fall 2018 was the experimental risk taken on October 31, where the band imagined a quartet from Norway who’s creative brilliance came about from a Cold War bunker in Greenland, and brought the album back from the proverbial dead, thus showcasing their own limitless creativity and the unending potential for their own career going forward. The two weeks had been a standout affair already, but the Kasvot Vaxt experiment made the tour all the better in hindsight. Suddenly the Hampton Simple and Nashville Ghost and Chicago Mercury sounded all the more alive and insightful as they now represented a band on the cusp of another breakthrough.
As Phish nears its fourth active decade, there is a continued pattern within the band and the fanbase of looking for signs of prolonged drive and creativity. Will this become a nostalgic act, or will the band continue to press forward into the unknown? Fall 2018 was as sure a sign as any that the band isn’t slowing down, not just in their live output, but in their creative drive into the future.