Wow! What an amazing four nights. I can’t recall the last time I sat in an airport waiting for a post-Phish flight with such an optimistic glow. Even a two-hour delay couldn’t damper my spirits with all eights sets on my iPod to peruse. All the buildup behind the comeback, along with many jaded doubts and questions of whether the band could recapture their past glory, were put to rest more quickly than anyone could have imagined in Morrison’s live music mecca last weekend. With a stand that will no-doubt go down in band history, Phish’s improvisational prowess returned to the forefront of their game, igniting a passionate fire in the community for the rest of this tour and the future of the band. The mind-bending geological surroundings added a sense of majesty to the surreal affair whose indelible memories- musical, visual, and experiential- will not soon fade.
Not only was the band’s audacious jamming back in play, but they were also incredibly sharp through most complex compositions all weekend, infusing them with an fierce energy only derived from enhanced comfort and collective confidence. The tentative feel that permeated many of June’s jams was gone, and Phish- like years past- improvised on the fly without hesitation. Due to these shifts the entire live experience felt completely different with the band far less calculative and far more in the moment. It genuinely felt that we- band and crowd- were again united in exploring the musical abyss on nightly psychedelic roller-coaster rides. After night one, all we knew to expect was the unexpected, and that is what Phish has always been about.
The overwhelming emotions of the weekend were awe and disbelief as everyone’s expectations were blown out of the water with each successive set. The highlights of the four nights are too many to discuss in any short overview, but suffice it to say that most of June has been rendered irrelevant in the face of Red Rocks’ improvisational greatness. Camden and Deer Creek and some other highlights may sneak their way into the stereo every now and again, but everything else seems quite bland all of a sudden- and this is exactly what we were hoping for. Stepping stones; we knew Phish’s return to prominence would unfold in stages, but the difference between stage two and stage three has been astronomical. Perhaps the band hung out inseparably for five weeks and engaged in some latter-day Oh Kee Pah Ceremonies- who knows- but something crystallized in that time that allowed the band to step on stage this past weekend in a completely different form than we left them in at Alpine Valley.
Both as a band and as individuals, their playing was more open-ended and exploratory, resulting in multi-faceted music that seethed with cohesive energy. Without feeling the need to push their jams in any particular direction, something that seemed prevalent in June, the weekend’s improv was strewn with incomparable creativity and excitement. While all members are playing at a high level, both Mike and Trey certainly stood out. Mike’s one-of-kind bass cushion complemented Trey’s fiery and fluid licks, playing off of each other with renewed originality. And all music aside, the four of them continue to have a blast on stage together, constantly laughing and cracking jokes amongst themselves. The boys are most definitely back in town.
And these were only the first four nights! It was easy to forget that these represented only one third of the shows on tap, as we spent most of a week settled in the mountains. Over the course of the next fortnight, the adventures will continue to intensify as Phish makes stops at some of their most legendary venues. This Wednesday’s Shoreline gig is poised to explode as a mid-week sleeper with many fans heading straight to The Gorge for next weekend. You can mark it down now- The Gorge will transform into one of the lasting highlights of the Summer as the prodigal band returns to their Northwest home. Stopping in the Midway and moving back to the Northeast, it is hard to imagine the level of playing that may develop by the time the band reaches SPAC- not to mention Indio and beyond. As Run-DMC one rhymed in a holiday verse that accurately depicts the current state of the Phish scene,” “The time is now, the place is here and the whole wide world is filled with cheer.” But this year, Christmas came five months early.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
7.30.09 Red Rocks (Matrix) < TORRENT
7.30.09 Red Rocks (Matrix) < MEGAUPLOAD
A great sounding matrix of night one that was passed my way. (I don’t know the actual source and don’t have the FLACS.) Thanks, Mat!
I: The Divided Sky, Ocelot, The Wedge, Poor Heart, The Moma Dance, Horn, Stash, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Possum
II: Mike’s Song > I am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Ghost > Wolfman’s Brother, Limb By Limb, Billy Breathes, The Squirming Coil, David Bowie
E: Loving Cup
—————7.31.09 Red Rocks (Photo: Wendy Rogell)
Tags: 2009, Summer '09, Venues