What a weekend! Having had a chance to listen to almost everything at least once, I gotta’ say, the band sounds amazing. So precise, so focused, and playing with such purpose. The energy in the room, from the band and audience, was greater than I’d ever seen, and was certainly the defining memory of the three nights. There were some points that felt like we were on the brink of blasting off into space- if arenas did that sort of thing. Everyone always talks about the energy at a Phish show, but this was a whole different story- it was so tangible. With 13,000 people in such a small building for such a massive event, the combination was ideal. And something I had forgotten about Hampton is just how amazing the sound is in there; straight up crystalline. All of these factors contributed to creating a weekend of pure magic.
Jams like “Foam” and Maze,” or songs like “Character Zero” and “Silent In the Morning” took on whole new character with the band’s mode of attack and the crowd’s response. Another prime example was “My Friend, My Friend,” which sounded so ridiculously menacing with the dynamic in the intimate room. The weekend was a rediscovery for everyone in the building of just how fun Phish can be. The band ran through so much material; a recital of their most revered songs, flooding everyone with memories and emotions from the years shared together.
This weekend was about a new beginning, and as they say, “If you don’t know your past, you don’t know your future.” It was the starting block for 3.0 and Phish got out of the gate rather fast. Running through their history with a glimpse into the future. It wasn’t coincidence that the only new song was about reuniting friends, and has a refrain of “The only rule is it begins.” And begin it did. With mostly old faces all around, this weekend was about reuniting and reigniting the Phish family. While there may be fans of a new generation on summer tour, there were very few in The Mothership.
The entire three-part performance was like a lucid dream. From the “Fluffhead” opener to the “Reprise Closer,” with Kuroda’s masterful light show, things seemed too amazing to be true- we were raging Phish again! Every note of every song sounded like the first time we had heard it, and the feeling was just over the top. Moments like “Tube,” “Gin” or “Free;” the “Antelope” jam, the drop into “Moma” out of “2001,” or the drop into the first “Mike’s” jam- these were priceless moments of euphoria. While most of the improv remained anchored to song structures, the band slayed every single jam with no exceptions. The “Limb By Limb” was sublime, the “Hood” was a revelation, the “Bathtub” was felt like we were running through meadows- it was just the most positive experience; and to have this all happening at this point in our lives makes it so much more special.
And there were some amazing unstructured jams as well. After re-listening to the “Disease,” I was as floored on my couch as I was at the show. It’s only fitting that the biggest jam of the weekend spouted from “Disease.” The “Ghost” is an amazing piece of collaborative work, while the “Twist” > “2001” > “Moma” was straight comic book Phish. The “Spilt” was a piece of abstract, in your face psychedelia. The “Rock and Roll” jumped off into some darker places, while the “Tweezer” opened the floodgates on night one with funkified soundscapes. There is definitely a lot to dig into.
Even the hotels and community helped make the weekend as great as possible. They could not have been more accepting of all the fans, our quirky sense of humor, and ourvarious smoking habits! It was predicted that Hampton’s economy would get a five million dollar boost from these three days; quite a nice symbiotic relationship. It just goes to show what can happen when people work together instead of against each other.
Coming away from this weekend, the message is loud and clear- summer tour is going to kill. Allowing their playing to do the talking, the band told us that they are approaching this time with as much enthusiasm as we are. With twenty demos already recorded for a new album and having played only one, you can be sure that Phish will be coming out with plenty of new material to fuse with their classics come the days of summer. And they can’t come soon enough…
Check out more of Jeff Kravitz’ work at www.insidecelebpics.comTags: 2009, Comeback, Hampton