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Review by ColForbin
The traffic: Got up at 5 AM, took a dip in Jake's (of Steam Dream tape covers and stage banter fame) pool instead of a shower, and hit the road around 6.
The Garden State and NJ Turnpike had their moments of stop and go traffic, as always. Damn tolls! Amazingly enough, I got to see Bill (Fonefono) and Marie Marconi on the road. At first, I noticed someone trying to wave at me out of the corner of my eye. I looked away, not wanting to be begged for a miracle for the second time hours away from the venue. As we sped away from the car, I looked back and noticed it was Bill. I told Doug to slow down and Bill and I exchanged waves and I assumed that we would meet up at the show later, so we just drove at our own pace, and Bill at his. Unfortunately, I didn't find them at the show, but I know this isn't the last concert for either of us, so Bill, we'll meet again, I promise. Jake's roommate lives in MD about 25 minutes away from the venue, and we showed up there first, so getting to the show was no problem. We had to park across the street, but we took a cooler to the main lot and enjoyed the pre-show festivities.
The scene: Not that bad, IMO. I'm sure the trash the next day was terrible, but I didn't meet up with that part of the scene. We had a surplus of cheap beer (did anyone else notice that maryland has a terrible beer selection?) and sold it at discount rates. We got into the show kind of late and set up camp near the back of the lawn. I saw Jen Marshall and her boyfriend pre-show and also Devon and Scott, all of whom I had met at Providence.
I was hoping to meet more RMPers, but that will have to wait for the 'wheel. (And for those of you who are keeping score, I WILL be at the rmp gathering. Doug, Ann and I convinced Jake to bag work on Friday, so we'll be in Limestone bright and early).
SET I The drumbeat from THE WEDGE started it off a little bit after 8. It was very similar to the version at the Went. This song is a fun way to start off a show, but this version really wasn't anything special. Just the fact that it was my first live Phish since April was enough to make me love it. NICU came up next, again not venturing into new ground, but very tight. SNEAKING SALLY THROUGH THE ALLEY is definitely one of my my favorite cover songs, because they aren't content to just play it and leave it alone. While the jam wasn't as awe- inspiring as the one at MSG last December, it was the first display of the funk for the evening, and a damn good one at that. The jam slowed into some spacey noodling that led to the opening notes of GYUTE. This was one of the more tight versions of Gyute, with the only noticeable flubs coming from Page, and not Trey. Very dark for the first half of the final verse, as usual, and the triumphant second half of said verse makes for one of my favorite Phish moments. FICUS ("Waterfalls and yellow snakes") followed, and after hearing it for the second time after the webcast, I'll reiterate my belief that this song will be a cool one to hear on the new album. The vocal harmonies are intriguing, and there is a Swept Away style pre-echo of some of the lyrics. This version wasn't considerably different from what I heard on the webcast, except for a lot less static. This song is a short transitional song for the time being, with little room for improvisation. FARMHOUSE was a surprising choice after Ficus, as I expected that it was maybe time for a song with more jamming potential. Farmhouse is a fun song, but with a guitar solo similar in feel to the one in Sample, it doesn't move me too much. I do like the lyrics, however. "Each betrayal begins with trust." Indeed. POSSUM was a welcome choice after Ficus/ Farmhouse. The jam was nowhere near legendary, but rather a fairly typical Possum. This isn't to say I wasn't loving every minute of it and dancing, but I wasn't awestruck. After Possum a very familar guitar riff started up, and I recognized it as the Velvet Underground's SWEET JANE about ten seconds in. This I happily announced to my companions and everyone else in earshot as I enjoyed the vocal stylings of MC Neon Cellgap (Page, for those who don't do anagrams). This is a cover that I would LOVE to become a permanent part of their repitiore (sp?) and a great set closer. I was reminded of the great post a few months ago talking about VU's influence on Phish. Maybe they DO get some ideas from the net. The total time of an hour left me wanting more, but I figured they would make up for it in the second set...
SET II CAVERN started the second set off, this version being about the same as always, without the screaming guitar at the end of some of the lyrics. 2001 was much more to my liking, but it was certainly not an epic 2001 by any means. There was some great funk in there, but it didn't come close to the great jams of the past (MSG for example). TELA followed, and as my first Tela, I was very excited to hear it. Phish doesn't play enough of the old-school ballads anymore IMHO, like FEFY and Tela. I must confess, though, that I've always liked the original version with the fast "Tela was born in a vulgar crooked hut..." section better than the straight-up ballad, but as a new song to me, I was happy. The end of Tela devolved into near silence, from which the opening to PIPER appeared. I have to say, until this show, I've been unimpressed with Piper. The tension and relaese of it just seems so contrived, not natural like in Hood. It's almost as if Trey said, "I'm going to write a song that's ALL tension and release, just to blow the stoner's minds." But THIS Piper was different. Sure, the buildup to the lyrics was fairly typical (and very enjoyable, if I let go of the feeling that my emotions were being toyed with by the band). But AFTER the lyrics, that is where the fun began. This was the only Type II jamming I've heard from a Piper, and the melody that was improvised was truly moving. The hose was spraying left and right, let me tell you, and if they do this with all Pipers from now on, consider me a convert. SEXUAL HEALING brought us all down from the musical high of Piper, and it marked a welcome return of Bob Weaver (or whatever Trey called Fishman). It had people laughing out loud. Watching Fishman's dance on this song was definitely one of the highlights of the show. His easy sway lulls you into a sense of true calm that makes you feel like you just had some Sexual Healing of your own. HARRY HOOD, which I hadn't really gotten into as of late (due to the spectacle of the glowsticks) got to me again and gave me IT. I looked on Ann's face and I could tell she got IT too, and it was a great moment even though neither of us said anything; we didn't have to.
Encore Listen all y'all it's a SABOTAGE! One of my favorite songs to get all riled up to, and there was Phish playing it! In true frat boy style, high tens were traded between Jake, Doug, and I. (Note for frat bashers: I am not in a frat. Note for frat boys: I don't have a problem with frats either.) I was amazed at what Trey did to his voice for this song. I just hope he didn't injure it permanently! An amazing high note to leave the show on, and it was definitely the talk of the crowd as we left.
Springer's Final Thought: A bit short overall, the new covers were GREAT, Piper was amazing, I loved Hood, Ficus is going to make a great album cut, lots of standard songs that didn't do too much for me. On the Scott Jordan Concert Review Scale, where 5.0 is a typically great Phish show, I give this show a 4. I know it's low, and I'd appreciate arguments to the contrary.
[15 year anniversary edit: I have no idea why I gave this a 4. This show was really great and fun, had two awesome debuts and it was definitely above average. I'm keeping the original score there but if I were to re-rate it it would be a 6 at least!]