In the most surreal moment of Phish’s career- and many of our own lives- they opened with “Fluffhead.” Who’d have thunk it? After months of rampant speculation as to how Phish would start round three, they took it back to where it all began. I couldn’t help but seeing this as a new beginning. I thought immediately back to the opening of Boston’s 20th anniversary montage that started with four funny looking kids in a dorm room playing the open chords of “Fluffhead”. Symbolic for so many reasons, the opener was like a lucid dream- it couldn’t be happening, but you were seeing it with your own eyes. Chapter three could not have started with a more stunning introduction.
People were a bit awed by merely being inside of Hampton once again, and the pre-show feeling was one of excitement, yet overwhelming anticipation bordering on anxiety. We had all been brought back to The Mothership to bear witness to these events, and the impending reality was overpowering. On pins and needles, people mingled, chatted and found ways to kill time; everyone awaiting the moment. Gazing around the circular portal, the feelings that flooded were of surreal disbelief.
As it usually does, the moment the venue went dark took everyone by complete surprise. Much closer to 8 pm than the band used to take the stage, the venue turned to black with a pristine turquoise cloud of smoke on stage. As the band emerged from the left corner of the stage, everyone’s emotions overflowed into a massive ongoing roar. As if out of a fairy tale, the members emerged from this cloud of smoke and back into our lives.
Awaiting the first notes like a five-year old on his first truly conscious Christmas morning, five months of intrigue had built to this moment. After Trey and Mike briefly exchanged words, the members stepped into position. Through raucous cheers and floating dreams, the last notes one thought they’d hear emanated from the stage- they were playing “Fluffhead!”
“They’d never open with “Fluffhead.” It’s too hard for their first song and they’ll be too nervous”- so the theories went. A handful of empty years made people forget who they were talking about- this was Phish- masters of the universe. And as they hit the opening rhythms of the song, as loud as everyone felt inside, a more focused silence overtook the room as everyone wanted to hear the song’s first performance in over eight years (9.29.00, Las Vegas.) And just like that, Phish restarted.
Knowing that the band put extensive thought into these setlists, a “Fluffhead” opener carried so much meaning. After ignoring the compositional opus during the less precise but improvisationally heavy period of Phish 2.0, starting out with “Fluffhead” was a powerful statement of intent. Having practiced for months before Hampton, the band immediately let us know that this time would be different. Recomitting to the drill-bit precision that helped carve their legacy, the band used one of their most complex song’s to deliver this message. If people had any trouble receiving that message, the band soon sent a PS. in the form of a “Divided Sky.”
Starting round three with one of their oldest and most hallowed pieces, the band also reconnected to their Phishy roots that had been diluted during ’03 and ’04. While the band certainly created lots of amazing music during the post-hiatus period, their fun-loving, old-school prankster spirit wasn’t always there- a spirit that “Fluffhead” virtually embodies. The smile on their faces as they opened up Hampton spoke volumes to this reinvigorated gusto. Phish was back- and they meant business- things couldn’t have been better.
Listening to the band work though the methodical composition was like watching a miracle happen. Phish resurrected themselves after five years and the first song they played was the song everyone wanted to hear. The majesty of the moment was undeniable, and the resulting emotions were like a tidal wave of goosebumps, adrenaline, tears, disbelief, and ultimate gratitude. Just hearing any Phish, let alone the intricate patterns of “Fluffhead,” would have been the fulfillment of our dreams, and this elevated the experience to a whole different level.
As Phish progressed through the six-part epic, everything crystallized when they reached “Bundle of Joy.” Considering all of the bumps, hurdles and obstacles we all had to overcome to reach this moment in time, the melodic affirmation that “Life is just a bundle of joy,” reminded us of how simple it can be if we just allow it to. As the climbing refrain spiraled towards “The Arrival,” we felt emotions that hadn’t touched us for half a decade. Awakening spirits, the band built towards the massive release…and then it came- “FLUFF-HEAD!!”
Shot like a human cannonball into heaven, a rejoicing flooded the room; we had collectively arrived. It was really happening, and we were all a part of it, whether standing in Hampton, listening with friends across the nation, or listening with headphones by yourself- and we knew it. “Fluffy, Fluffy, Fluffy, Fluffy, Fluffy, Fluffy Head!!” We made it! We had all been transported to a place where dreams come true and music reigns divine. We were back on Phish tour.
LISTEN TO 3.6’s “FLUFFHEAD” NOW! < LINK (Roll over link & press play)
The Moment the Lights Went Out – (Justin Ciandra)
More Extensive Footage – (stormchasingmonkey)
“The Arrival” – EPIC !! (Wendy Rogell)
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
Though it seems impossible to stop listening to the three Hampton shows, I thought I’d start this section going again. Due to the old-school vibe that permeated the weekend at Hampton, I figured we’d go back to a nice 1993 SBD. You’ll notice more than a few similarities in the setlists. Enjoy this old school nugget as we prepare for the new.
I: Llama, Foam, Bouncing Around the Room, Stash, It’s Ice, Glide, My Friend My Friend, All Things Reconsidered, Golgi Apparatus, Run Like an Antelope
II: Wilson, Reba, The Landlady, Halley’s Comet > You Enjoy Myself, Lifeboy, Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg, Big Ball Jam, The Squirming Coil
E: Sweet Adeline, Big Black Furry Creature From MarsTags: 2009, Comeback, Hampton, Jams