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


8.1.09 Red Rocks (Photo: Graham Lucas)

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278 Responses to “Going For It”

  1. bcb Says:

    ah, i forgot about the winds sweeping us wilsons way last night

  2. msbjivein Says:

    The Deaf Llama’s were using hand signals to communicate. LOL!!

  3. msbjivein Says:

    Taboot Taboot…………………

  4. RamblinOnMyMind Says:

    ^ Hoof signals

  5. msbjivein Says:

    Ha Ha HA!

  6. RamblinOnMyMind Says:

    Maybe Trey will point to some wookette camel toe if he wants to signal Camel Walk

  7. msbjivein Says:

    Or Trey will just spit on her……..

  8. whole tour! Says:

    what would the hand signal be if they wanted to cover “tush” by ZZ top?

  9. larry bird flu Says:

    what about the hand signal for meat? which btw is my call for tonites bustout

  10. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    last night was probably the best of 2009 IMO. Great jams, plus Bustout City Population Phish. the boys seem really into it so far this leg, moreso than the first leg, and theyre much more confident and willing to take risks. it’s such a relief.

    all i can pray for tonight is one/any of; Forbin> Mockingbird, Llama, Mango, Sloth, Light Up, Tela, Saw It Again.

    but we can EXPECT a Yem, wilson, reba, BOAF, KDF, Slave, Twist, Theme, Taste, Maze.

  11. neemor Says:

    I just cried my eyes out as they rolled out of that Disease. Truly a wonderful, classic, lockdown, dance groove unlike any I’ve heard in ’09. Like a baby.

  12. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    you guys love your bustouts

  13. butter Says:

    4th night, wow!! tryin not to let those expectations climb on top of me.
    Is there anyway they can outdo themselves? Logic says no way. I could take a mellow bring me back down to earth show, and fly back home to san fran and have seen the best 4 night run I’ve ever witnessed. The *evers* are a hard game to play , does time wear off the actual feelings and memories?

    These shows have been EPIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Last night was mind blowing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Pence Says:

    carini bust PLEASE. Im thinkin for sure a Reba, and a 2001 tonight.

  15. neemor Says:

    how Trey backed off the second solo run of Dirt and gave Gordo the chance to shine. Neato. Wish I had seen thehand signal improv.

  16. larry bird flu Says:

    wheres SOAM been today? dont think ive seen him around these parts since early friday iirc

  17. msbjivein Says:

    GORDO OWNS RED ROCKS!!!!! He’s been LOUD and I love IT!!!!! ThankyouMr BROWN!!
    I’ve been BASSED!!!!!!

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    first night was warmup and clearing the decks

    second night improv journey

    third night bustouts

    fourth night will be the feelgood dance party I bet

  19. KRIVRAQ Says:

    Tonight’s “bust outs”:

    DANIEL (Saw the Stone)

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    hey long range forecast for the Gorge is looking super sweet right now! highs in the 80s with some cloud cover – that is SO HUGE in terms of making it easy to rage – even if it bumps up some from there we’d be in good shape

  21. llamalee Says:

    bust out – peaches en regalia and jesus left chicago. both covers but whatever

  22. Summer98 Says:

    Mr. C: I heard an evil rumor that beer is available only in a beer garden area inside the amphitheater at the Gorge. Is that true? I saw Dylan at Key Arena and they didn’t allow booze inside, only in the concession area. Washington State has some strange laws…it is such a mix of wild west and east coast liberal here.

  23. run like a cantaloupe Says:

    n00b question
    So when everyone is talking about whale noise, are you talking about the loops like in jibboo? (like weeeeooooo, weeeeoooo) I just listened the the weekapaug that someone said had a lot of whale and it didnt sound like very much of what I thought everyone was mentioning.

  24. Mitch Says:

    This is gonna be a double post because I was making funny names and now its awaiting moderation. I thought run like a cantaloupe would be funny.

    n00b question
    So when everyone is talking about whale noise, are you talking about the loops like in jibboo? (like weeeeooooo, weeeeoooo) I just listened the the weekapaug that someone said had a lot of whale and it didnt sound like very much of what I thought everyone was mentioning.

  25. llamalee Says:

    no, the weeooo is the whammy bar which me likes. we’re talking about the pitch bending sorta of sound trey has been using, especially on peaks which i am not to fond of

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