Phish’s visit to Asheville, NC turned into something far more than a concert. The small liberal-minded mountain town fully embraced the band’s stop in their community, creating a festival vibe throughout the town all day long. With multiple streets closed down for us to hangout, Asheville was certainly one of coolest scene Phish scenes in memory. And then there was the Phish show. Kicking off their Southern run with the first indoor show of the summer, the Asheville Civic Center- capacity 7,400- was as laid-back, uncrowded, and energetic of an atmosphere as one could ask for in a Phish venue.
The band responded by playing an excellent show that featured one of- if not the best- jam they have played since coming back in March. After a second set opening “Backwards Down the Number Line” which included a portion of improv far greater than either previous version, the band entered “Ghost.” What developed out of this version of “Ghost” is arguably the greatest piece of improvisation we have seen from the band thus far. Move over Camden “Sand” and “Tweezer” and make room for “The Asheville Ghost.” Exploring a divergent groove and moving way out there into deep psychedelia, Phish was flowing at full-force during this epic adventure. Beginning with a different feel to begin with, the jam moved into some of the most exploratory grooves and spiritually triumphant places ever reached by the song. Building to a ridiculous peak that continued rolling for minutes, Trey’s work was simply magnificent. This is one that will live eternally in memories of who experienced it, and deserves its own place in the annals of new-school Phish history.
As the band allowed the jam to come down to earth, they slid into a perfectly juxtaposed “Fast Enough For You.” Played flawlessly and with dripping emotion, this version was the perfect compliment to the psychedelic odyssey that had preceded. Taking their time to decide what was to come next, the decision was unveiled with Mike’s a capella opening of “Halley’s Comet.” Upping the energy in the building with the old-school favorite, the band chose the rock-rather-than-funk route, using the brief jam to lead into the first “Maze” of the summer. Placed squarely in the middle of the second set, Phish attacked the jam with a viscious ferocity, blowing up the second big highlight of the set. Moving beyond the routine rock changes and builds of the song, Phish dug into some dirty exploration at a breakneck pace. It has been a while since we have seen the band focus on “Maze” with such a magnitude; defining the meaning of blistering.
A set that had absolutely smoked up to this point, began to lose steam for the final third of the set. Debuting “Alaska,” one of the band’s lesser interesting new songs, Phish slowed things down with the comical blues number. Ending the set with “Theme,” “Golgi,” and the third “Possum” of the tour, the improvisational quality of the show took a nosedive for the final part of the night. Waiting for something large in the encore- potentially the big “Bowie” that is long overdue- we were greeted with a token “Loving Cup.” Usually reserved for following up a big jam, “Loving Cup” nonetheless concluded the night on a high-energy, feel-good vibe.
In the first frame, the band opened with “Kill Devil Falls” whose jam- closely resembling a “Birds” jam- got the show started with a raging rock jam right away. The centerpiece of the first set was the “Fishman Trilogy.” Trey confided to the audience that he once sneaked a peak at Fish’s college journal, discovering verses that he would develop into “Dog-Faced Boy,” “Gumbo,” and “Tube.” And after the story, the band proceeded to play each- including the second “Tube” in two shows! Loosening up the funk a bit more from the Camden version, Phish brought the house down with the funk. To conclude the Fishman-focused part of the show, he performed “Lengthwise” solo a capella, busting out an old-school rarity. To close the first set Phish unshelved Jimi’s “Bold As Love” for the first time since Shoreline ’00.
All in all, Asheville was another step forward for the band, busting out more songs, and delving deeper into the type of improvisation that we all live to hear. The south is underway, and there is only one more stop before the band’s two highly-anticipated appearances at Bonnaroo. Enjoy the scenic drive to Knoxville tomorrow, I’ll see you there.
I: Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Sample In A Jar, Stash, Dog Faced Boy, Gumbo, Tube, Lengthwise, The Divided Sky, When The Cactus Is In Bloom*, Bold As Love
II: Backwards Down the Number Line, Ghost > Fast Enough For You, Halley’s Comet > Maze, Alaska**, Theme From The Bottom, Golgi Apparatus, Possum
Encore: Loving Cup
* debut, by Bill Monroe ** debutTags: 2009, Summer '09