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”

  1. Robear Says:

    Kb, supreme Hood! I missed all June.

  2. halcyon Says:

    Robear…..were you at A Mock Show yesterday? I saw the waterwheel booth, stopped by and talked with a couple of guys there.

  3. Robear Says:

    Teases during R and R of Crosseyed. A little Moby Dick tease during DWD, a Free rift early in the Hood, lots of fun throughout.

  4. Robear Says:

    Halycon, I was at the lower WW booth on Fishman’s side. Stop by tonight!

  5. kb Says:

    the Hood is good. im starting to realize that Jones Beach Hood is going to go down as one of the best, not only of 09, but ever!

  6. butter Says:

    @kb – Hood was done very well, a beautiful emotional release. After Curtian with, Mound, and Esther the Hood is not what we will gush about after that show. The Jiboo after Mound was an all out dance party, my calves are so sore.

  7. whole tour! Says:

    there was also a ‘taste’ tease in the free intro!

  8. butter Says:

    ^^heard that as well

  9. whole tour! Says:

    listening to the 7.30 stash again.
    sick does not begin to describe it.
    best stash since miami 03.

  10. Selector J Says:

    part-gypsy wife strikes again! Wanted 5 songs at the start of Red Rocks: WotC, Strange Design, Lizards, Mound!, and Esther!!. Would have never guessed 3 nights in that she would have those 2 out of those 5…

  11. phatty mcgee Says:

    I’m looking for a Mango Song tonite. It’s been way too long!

  12. butter Says:

    @Selector J – if you would have told me we would get a Mound and Esther in the same show before this started i would have had to tell ya to get off the stuff.

  13. Robear Says:

    My lady friend loved last night the best out of the three. I think it’s because the mix was so balanced. Either Trey was lowered, or Mike and Paige were raised, or both. Kudo’s to the new sound crew. They’re getting it and it shows. Halycon, what’s a “mock show”?

    I gave someone from this site a big hug at the Waterwheel Booth last night. Sorry, forgot who. You were, “Yeah, we’re looking for the Mr. Miner guy”. I’m gonna call the ex today and see if there’s any way I can hit the Gorge. The boys are in my sleep, my dreams, they are so on right now. An amalgamation of everything they’ve done.

  14. pebbles Says:

    @phatty: that is definitely one of the very few songs on the “not yet played in 3.0” list.

    There could be something like a Haley’s –> Mango, then an “Inlaw Josie Wales” to close the first set tonight (See the first night of Meadows from 2000). After the ruckus the band has been bringing, the audience and the band have earned a quiet interlude.

    A couple of songs not yet busted out in 3.0 that seem possible for tonight:

    Sneaking Sally
    Roggae

    My personal wishlist for tonight:

    Undermind
    Theme
    Funky Bitch

    My call for tonight

    A very chunky, respectable YEM (frankly, I would like to be wrong about this– a kick-ass 4-show run without YEM can only be a good sign).

    It is killing me to watch this develop from afar. The 14th can’t get here fast enough.

  15. butter Says:

    just checked phististics and that was my first second set Esther, and only the 13th Curtain With ever!

  16. Robear Says:

    Haven’t seen an Esther since my first show. IMO, it was an excellent version. Clear vocals, strong interplay.

    Butter, come by the Waterwheel booth on Fishman’s side. It’s down the steps.

  17. halcyon Says:

    Robear…….A Mock Show was an art show featuring many of today’s top artists on the rock art poster scene….They also showed American Artifact: The Rise of the American Rock Art Poster Scene Documentary and had a Q & A with Pollock and Lindsay Kuhn. It also served as a benefit for the Mockingbird Foundation. It was a good time.

  18. butter Says:

    Robear i went to the top Waterwheel booth looking for you last nite. Trey told me you were at the other 1. I want to make it down there tonite. I’ve been hangin on Page side the whole time so far. Those stairs are kickin my ass. I’m tryin to keep up with my 19 year old bro who just flies up and down them.

    on a side note: my bro is handling all this like a champ. He has 3 under his belt now. boy has he entered this Phish world at a high level. What a run to get your cherry popped, He was grooving out as hard as anyone last nite from the first note of Bag to the last funky note of First tube.

  19. Robear Says:

    Oh yeah, haly, all the other Waterwheel crew went. I’m a lower level volunteer. I heard it was a real success! Butter, it’s my lady’s first three shows as well. She really got it last night. The nasty bass lines grabbed her soul!

  20. EL Duderino Says:

    It’s obvious to me that the first set was IT. The second set however doesn’t really jump out at me. I was never a real big fan of Rock and Roll after the 15 times or so that I’ve seen them do it. This IMO is a cover that should be shelved for awhile!

  21. timd Says:

    where’s the tip of the cap to ol’ jer bear?

    where’s the ‘alaska’ review?

  22. ColonelJoy Says:

    tonight will obviously see a Wilson opener…..then hopefully a Sand somewhere….maybe a 2001>Sand or vice versa……..YEM should be the biggest one we’ve heard in awhile.

  23. Robear Says:

    timd, no tip for Jer Bear. I loved the ‘Alaska’. Trey did a ‘mushing’ signal to start the song. Strong lyrics, soulful, and a great outro jam. It was my first time seeing / hearing and I give ‘er two thumbs up!

    Did I mention it was a “Mike’s Show” last night? What a rare treat!!

  24. Robear Says:

    ColJoy, big ups to you! Mike is LOUD in the mix now. The soundman adjusted all three nights, and hit the homerun last night. LMAO at your post. My friend, who got shut out last night, and belly moaned about missing Mound, Curtain and Esther, followed by complaining that he doesn’t want to see Wilson, YEM, or Kill Devil Falls, which we’ll probably get all three tonight. He said he was overloaded on those three during June.

    Me, I’m game for everything! The boys are in a special place right now.

  25. whole tour! Says:

    last night’s “alaska” had a “rainy day women” feel to it fo sho!

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