Going For It

8.1.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

8.1.09 Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

In Phish’s continuing dominance of the Red Rocks stage, they launched a Saturday night show that carried a heavyweight ninety minute first set as well as another second set strewn with risk taking and creativity.  Since coming to Colorado, it seems that the band is making a point to take all of their jams to unique places, a virtual antithesis of June’s contained and directed playing.  Clearly far more musically comfortable together only a month later, Phish seems like they have rekindled their determination and desire of the mid-Nineties, but with all of the musical acumen they have accumulated over the years, resulting in some of the most magnificent music from the band in ages.  2009 is great time to be a Phish fan, and last night delivered several more reasons why.

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

While “AC/DC Bag” opened the show, the moment of truth that so many have awaited came next.  Taking everyone by surprise, and a minute to register, Phish was stepping up to play “The Curtain (With)” for the first time since they finishing their “career” by horribly botching one of their most sacred compositions at Coventry.  We all wondered when the band would confront the piece that left us with the most bittersweet ending possible five years ago.  And last night was the night.  With supreme confidence, the band nailed “The Curtain” and when they entered “With” the mood became reverent.  As a silence drew over the crowd, the band delicately painted the initial, would-be “Rift,” melody through the summer night like a sunset reverie.  Blissfully flowing through the song’s ethereal textures and sublime improvisation, the band played with breathtaking majesty and emotion as a sense of redemption filled the the air.  By far the most significant highlight of the night, all was right in the Phish world again; the past was fully behind us and only the sense of possibility lies ahead.

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

The first set fireworks continued with the bust out of “Mound” for the first time since their first comeback show at MSG in 2002- and before that, 1996.  Played with such precision, and having been absent from setlists for so long, it virtually sounded like we were hearing a new song.  Reminded of the song’s quirky rhythms and melodies, it was like visiting an old friend after almost forgetting they existed.  The most standout first set of Red Rocks continued with a triumphant “Jibboo,” that after “The Curtain (With),” felt like a bursting celebration of Phish’s return to to happiness.  Trey stood out, taking the jam into a quiet beginning before bringing it to a soaring peak in the waning hours of a gorgeous summer day.

7.31.09 (A.King)

7.31.09 (B. Carlson)

It was at this point that Phishy antics reentered the scene for one of the first times this go-round.  Trey announced that this would be the “hand signal” portion of the show, and proceeded to make silly gestures to communicate what the next song would be for the rest of the set. A sure fire sign that the band’s heart is back and in the right place, Trey created a mock pig nose, pretended to punch Mike and Page in the eye, continually stretched an elongated tube to allow Fishman to catch on, mushed a dog sled, and entered a pseudo-antelope trot throughout the rest of the set without talking to his bandmates at all.  Like a mini game show before each song, fans had a chance to guess Trey’s signal before the band busted the next song, bringing the element of fun firmly back to their live show.  And their enthusiasm was infectious, as the Saturday night crowd became giddy with the band’s energy.

The “Tube” was the loosest yet, as Gordon laid down some heavy bass lines to compliment Page’s clav work and Trey’s fiery licks.  Maintaining a serious pace to the funk, the band opened up the song a bit more, but the set’s improvisational highlight certainly came in a scorching set ending “Antelope.” Bringing back memories of Red Rocks “Antelopes” of the ’93 and ’94, the band got creative with the song for the first time in eons.  Taking a left turn out of the song’s aggressive grooves into psychedelic debauchery, the band took the jam into maniacal, abstract darkness before crashing back to earth.

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

Following the first setbreak of the weekend that actually felt like summer, the band stepped out for their sixth set of the run and continued to take daring musical risks.  The anthemic Saturday night set began with the one-two punch of “Rock and Roll > Disease,” both jams entering completely original territory, though not nearly as flowing as Friday night’s spectacle.  After an extended high-energy shred session through the song’s straight ahead rock, thing got more interesting as the music slowed down, moving into some exploratory improv.  Featuring some prominent bass work by Mike and collective stops and starts by band members, Phish was at it again, exercising creativity over safety, putting together a unique, yet somewhat disjointed, jam.  Finally working their way into “Disease” in a less than fluid manner, their classic vehicle took center stage.  Moving into a percussive groove and into some totally original improv, the excursion was both poly-rhythmic and Fishman-centric.  The band wound their way through several innovative segments of non-guitar-led improvisation, and into a completely different vibe than anything we’ve heard so far.  Phish was going for it in what was certainly the most out-there and entertaining jam of the night.

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

8.1.09 (G.Lucas)

The rest of the show, though well-played throughout, was fairly straight forward.  When they segued into “Free,” I thought for sure that the band would let loose within the confines of those massive rocks, but the song was- again- wrapped up quickly, used only as a landing point for “Disease.”  The long-awaited return of “Esther” finally came for the first time since 2000; another reminder of an amazing Phish song we have long forgot about, and continuing the trend of accessing the full range of their catalog.  “Dirt” filled in the second-set ballad slot before the band closed with a gorgeous “Hood” that connected with the summer evening in regal fashion.  Taking the old-school jam on a meticulous path to a show-ending peak, “Hood” left every one feeling good after a very upbeat set.  And the “First Tube” encore would put an exclamation point on the night.

While the jams might not have been as cohesive last night as Friday, nobody can deny that Phish showcased their renewed spirit of discovery once again.  With the band taking copious musical risks, each set won’t turn out to be a masterpiece, but it’s all about the ride- and right now, Phish is a pretty wild ride with mysteries lurking around every corner.  And what more can we ask for from our psychedelic juggernauts but to go for the jugular and see what happens.  It’s inspiring to see them so ready and willing to put their ideas out there for testing.  The unknown adventure is what this is all about, and right now, each set is exactly that.  Stay tuned for Sunday’s conclusion- more intrigue awaits.

I: AC/DC Bag, The Curtain With, Mound, Gotta Jibboo, Guyute, Punch You In the Eye, Tube, Alaska, Run Like an Antelope
II: Rock and Roll > Down with Disease > Free, Esther, Dirt, Harry Hood
E: Sleeping Monkey, First Tube

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8.1.09 Red Rocks (Photo: Graham Lucas)

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278 Responses to “Going For It”

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  1. notkuroda Says:

    damn, almost cried when I read this setlist. Esther is one of my favorites all time, and I only heard it live once(and it took 7 years!!!)Hearing about the signals, what the fuck? Do they think this is 1994 or something? God damn. I really can’t wait till this run is over, it’s depressing. At the same time, I’m SO READY for the gorge

  2. Baxter Says:

    Unbelievable how good they are sounding, and I love the bust outs. Listened to the live hoodstream at home with a big smile. Can’t wait for SPAC and Hartford!!!

  3. ColonelJoy Says:

    Exceeding expectations by wide margins…

    If night 4 is as strong as the first three, we’ll have witnessed the greatest 4 show stretches since the Island and beyond!! Sell the chickens, honey…we’re going on tour!

  4. ColonelJoy Says:

    Curtain With, only slightly superior to the last time they played it:)

  5. ColonelJoy Says:

    At the beginning of Mound, I would’ve been totally like, “Oh Fuck, Friggin’ Dog Stole Things”……I was burnt too many times believing Dog Stole Things was going to be Mound!!

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ but they did the big old school claps to start it 🙂

  7. Shnozberries Says:

    every hair on my body is standing straight up listening to this “with” – – finally some closure to that coventry debacle. they’re baaaaaaack!!

  8. ColonelJoy Says:

    Yes, Miner…there was the clapping!

  9. notkuroda Says:

    just a quick note about sbds, I noticed a little blurb about it last night. You can find the free boards very easily if you want them. But please refrain from posting them here, we don’t want Miner getting in any trouble

  10. ColonelJoy Says:

    Miner…failed to mention the heavy LA Woman teasing in Disease!! Foreshadowing perhaps?

  11. whole tour! Says:

    setlist nirvana!

  12. gus Says:

    yeah i’ve been getting the free sbds but I’ve stopped recently due to the fact that they just don’t sound very good. now im just getting the auds of all the shows, and for me, it sounds a lot better.

  13. whole tour! Says:

    the auds still put the boards to shame.
    the non live aud streams on hoodstream sound incredible.
    i’m sure no spoil does too.

  14. Mr.Miner Says:

    “Exceeding expectations by wide margins…”

    ^ this is for sure….

  15. george de la porge Says:

    wow. phish 3.0. after seeing three shows in the first leg, and streaming/dling these last three, this shit is just getting better and better! im loving treys tone, and it seems like his guitar is finally waking up! im so jealous that im only hitting the chicago show this run, but i know that show will be special in its own right. who knows how deep we’ll be by then?

  16. quazi motto Says:

    how was sleeping monkey. i always liked that song. and it is not that common, right?

  17. quazi motto Says:

    i love that these guys are having fun. phish. that was something that i wanted to see on this next leg. and Alaska? any thoughts

  18. slave2traffic Says:

    Curtain. Mound. Double Tubeage.

    ::slave2traffics’s head explodes::

  19. whole tour! Says:

    lil ole esther too 😉

  20. Phish...Yup Says:

    Superb. Hard to imagine what’s gonna happen tonight after the madness of the past 3 nights.

  21. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    First Set was special.

    I am so glad Free is my potty song.

    Can’t wait to see what tonight holds.

  22. butter Says:

    best first set in years….un fucking believable

  23. Robear Says:

    Best mix at RR so far. Tons of soul thumping bass ColJoy! If you love Cactus, this is your show!!!

  24. kb Says:

    sounds like hood didn’t match the levels of the first leg? i’m DLing now. i assumed when I saw hood that it would be mentioned as supreme!

  25. Robear Says:

    Had to pinch myself a couple times again.

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