Earlier this week, Phish released multi-camera video of the “Chalk Dust Torture” performed on their recent tour in Camden on June 25, 2010. This was the first time that “CDT” had opened a second set since September 11, 2000, at Great Woods (then known as the “Tweeter Center”). While it is common for “CDT” to open first sets, it doesn’t often open second sets, even though it did so at its debut performance on the 1st of February, 1991, in Alumni Hall at Brown University. See the Phish.net song history for more information about “CDT.”
In this June 25th version, immediately after the start of the jam segment at 3:42 (timings based on this video), Trey employs his pitch-shifting, whale-calling whammy pedal obnoxiously. But beginning at 5:15 or so, it becomes clear that Phish intends to take this jam into improvisational territory that it had not explored in “CDT” since the Hampton August 9, 2004 version. Although Trey uses a digital delay device to capture a whale-snagging melodic hook for a few minutes around the 7 minute mark of this jam, as Page, Mike and Fish fiercely and perfectly belt out a fulsomely intense groove, Trey soon dumps the whale calls in favor of MIDI-heavy riffs around the 10:15 point. The jamming in here is spell-binding and gripping, and is why even after twenty years Phish’s music continues to be worth giving a damn about. As the improv coalesces around 11-12 mins, it’s obvious that the band is listening ever-so-closely to each other, as Mike almost teases or quotes (but not quite!) Santana’s Jingo Va around 12:36. It’s at this point that they gear up for what becomes the final section of this jam.
At 12:52 or so, Trey starts comping, expertly using the pitch-shifter not to summon Moby Dick but rather to complement the fantastic, intricate foundation that Mike, Fish and Page are laying down. The jamming around 14 minutes is what the “hose” analogy is all-about in my opinion. Gorgeous improvisation that serenely soars along, sounding like melodious, composed music. Mike is playing SPECTACULAR lead bass in here, as Trey stops repetitively chording and begins soloing with an intention of some sort around 14:30. But the intention is relatively short-lived, and after only a few measures, Trey starts chording again (15:12) in the same fashion that he’d been playing earlier. The jam then saunters into one last melodically enchanting section (around 16 mins), before a somewhat haphazard, not very smooth, transition into a disappointing, whale-orgy-of-a-version of “Prince Fuckerpants” begins.
Whether you enjoy this version of “CDT” or not, this “CDT” jam is nevertheless up there with the most inspired, original, and musically engaging improvisations that Phish has performed during the “3.0” period, which began with Phish’s return in Hampton in March 2009. This type of improvisation, the so-called “Type II,” is not as common nowadays as it once was to be sure. While the tour has been very entertaining in general so far, what with 180 unique songs, including 95 one-timers (see ZZYZX’s stats ), here’s hoping we get more “Type II” improvisation as Phish’s Summer tour continues at the Greek Theater in August!
Charlie Dirksen is an officer and board member of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation, who also works on Phish.Net’s setlists team. He will be “tweeting” from the Greek Theater shows in August, cell-reception and sobriety permitting (http://twitter.com/cdirksen).