Hey, Another Saturday Night!

The Gorge (G. Lucas)

The Gorge '09 (G. Lucas)

In a more straightforward rocker, Phish closed out their mini-west coast run at The Gorge with a show that couldn’t quite hold up to night one’s triumph.  Thinking The Gorge would be exempt from the “Saturday Night Special”- the more anthemic rock and roll show catering to the weekend crowd- Phish nonetheless came with an upbeat rock episode that had many highlights, but left some majesty to be desired in a venue that defines the word.  Noteworthy jams came in both sets, while the band noticeably left the “2001” that had been looming all weekend long hanging for another day.  While not exactly my style of show, it was nonetheless presented quite well by the now-consistently-firing Phish.

Set I (G. Lucas)

Set I (G. Lucas)

The smoking eleven-song first set spanned the spectrum- from the return of “Mango Song” and the debut of a new Mike song, to an interesting “Tweezer,” a smoking “Wolfmans,” and a wide-open “Antelope.”  As the sun dipped below the gorge, Phish got the show started on a energetic note, opening with the 3.0 bust-out of “Mango Song”- a fitting summertime introduction to the evening.  The Gorge seemed like the ideal place to bust out the elusive favorite, and the song was greeted with open arms.  The band soon unveiled what is presumably called “Middle of the Road,” a new Mike song that brought his usual quirky songwriting into the mix with his second contribution to the new-school catalog.  When the band dropped the “Tweezer” lick for the first time since Red Rocks aural crack-out session, we thought we were stepping into a segment of deep northwest Yeti funk.  But instead of dropping into any heavy rhythm grooves, Trey continued building the jam with direct staccato picking, seemingly leading to a crescendo that would splash into some thicker territory.  His pattern of playing didn’t vary much, however, until he merged with the song’s natural build.  An interesting version- no doubt- but after Red Rocks, it just didn’t compare.  But if it wasn’t a musical masterpiece, it certainly was an experiential keeper.  Taking a “Tweezer” to the dome at dusk with a most psychedelic landscape engulfing your field of vision- well, there’s nothing I’d rather do in the world.

8.7.09 (G.Lucas)

8.7.09 (G.Lucas)

Phish brought back their lyrical tale of “Twenty Years Later” for the first time since it’s Jones Beach debut. An autobiographic tale about the experience of life over time, this song will close their new album of a similar theme.  After a bust-out of “It’s Ice” for the first time since Hampton, Phish played possibly the jam of the set in “Wolfman’s Brother.”  Getting into the dirty dance funk that “Tweezer” had sidestepped, this excursion brought a welcomed dose of thickness that was scarce throughout the show.  The other candidate for jam of the set came in the surprise post-“Zero” “Antelope.”  Taking the jam on a laid back, Gorge-esque path, the band infused some unique melodic work into the dark canvas, riding “Antelope” to its second unique jam in a row.  The band has certainly shot some revitalized energy into their old-school favorite that had long grown stagnant.  Punctuating a high-quality first set with a bang, the band left much for the imagination at setbreak.  With seemingly infinite songs to pull from, what they would bring on night two at The Gorge was anyone’s guess.

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

The Gorge (G.Lucas)

Opening a second-set with “Rock and Roll” for the second time this tour, this one went places the Red Rocks’ version could go only dream of.  Phish transformed the cover into a high-speed chase through the musical universe, taking crazy twists and turns while creating the no-brainer highlight of the show.  In what had to be close to twenty minutes of searing improv, the band moved from straight ahead rock and into several different sections of slower creativity, leaving many jaws firmly resting on the earth below.  When the dust settled on this jam, everyone was bright eyed and bushy tailed as the band drifted into “Makisupa,” which got the full second-set treatment.  Taking their time with the Vermont-style reggae rhythms, the band shaped a nice cool down session that included a Phishy twist at the end.  As the band settled into a basic pattern, Trey and Mike switched guitars for the end of the song and Mike played some great leads while Trey held down the bottom end.  This was but a small detail of the show, but it definitely bears a larger significance to the band’s state of mind and sheer enthusiasm for Phish right now, and with that shared enthusiasm, it was very fun to see.

(G.Lucas)Epic (G.Lucas)

The bluesy interlude of “Alaska” led to a high-spirited “Wedge” that was tended to with meticulous care.  At this point in the show, we knew the band was going big, and they decided to showcase a massive Gorge “YEM.”  Laying way back on this jam, the band played some fantastic lounge-like grooves in what was the second sharp and standout version in a row.  Bringing down the house with their quintessential opus, Phish had the crowd in the palm of their hand, manipulating energy like craftsmen.  If they were dropping the much-anticipated Gorge “2001” it was going to be now, but Phish started up “Number Line” instead, seeming to choose the less improvisational path.  Yet little did we know that the band was about to blow-up the song like never before.  Breaking its noodly pattern, the band got psychedelic on this piece for the first time ever, creating some hairy textures out of the usually vanilla jam.  As the band got further and further away from the song, we began wondering where this trip was taking us and that question was answered with a well-executed transition into “Piper” and the full-on, shred-session that followed.  Capping the show with a new combination of songs and two engaging jams, Phish ended their final set at The Gorge in dynamic fashion before stepping to the mic with the comedic a cappella conclusion of “Grind.”


The Gorge '09 (G.Lucas)

A high-energy encore of “Good Times, Bad Times,” “Reprise” seemed to fit the vibe of the show quite well, topping off Saturday’s sundae with a bombastic cherry to complement the rocking affair.  If there is any better place to see a Phish than The Gorge, let me know.  Combining intense surroundings with intense explorations all weekend long, the band left their stamp on the Pacific Northwest mecca this year, reminding us what Phish at The Gorge is all about.  After a life-affirming west coast jaunt, we now have two days off before hitting The Windy City.  If you’re driving it, god bless and be safe, otherwise, enjoy your flights and we’ll meet down on a soccer field for a 30,000 person throwdown on Tuesday night.  Enjoy the much needed rest.

I. The Mango Song, Chalk Dust Torture, Middle of the Road*, Tweezer > Driver, Twenty Years Later, Yamar, It’s Ice, Wolfman’s Brother, Character Zero, Run Like An Antelope

II. Rock and Roll > Makisupa Policeman, Alaska, The Wedge, You Enjoy Myself, Backwards Down the Number Line > Piper, Grind

E: Good Times, Bad Times


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429 Responses to “Hey, Another Saturday Night!”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Wax – nice to hear your reaction!

    I have been holding out on trying to really state how good I think this stuff is on a relative scale until I can get through a few listens and gain some perspective, but maybe my private/subjective reaction isn’t as naive and falsely rose-colored as I have been assuming.

    All the improvisation is just so *interesting*! And they seem to dive into it given any excuse at all!

    And even the songs I *never* would have picked for a setlist have a little special sauce. Case in point: Character Zero, totally and understandably buried in that setlist…but as much pure Fun as you could ever ask for.

  2. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    the gorge was so good no one has even mentioned the pointless moma dance that kicked off set 2, night one. it went absolutely no where.

  3. CJ Says:

    Thats how Moma has been all year though, so I guess we’re used to it. It’s still a badass song no matter how it’s played.

  4. hairy pood Says:

    sititng in on my buddy’s radio show now…. playing some highlights from the weekend.

    Rock & Roll, Sneakin Sally, Gin, Harry Hood, GTBT, Slave….. spreadin the love across the Pacific Northwest airwaves. Have fun in Chi-Town

  5. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    maybe so CJ but there’s a difference between it going nowhere in a first set vs. second set opener

  6. Summer98 Says:

    Whoa!!!! What a venue, what amazing shows, what a great atmosphere, everything was just totally clicking!! I agree wholeheartedly with Miner’s assessment as I loved Sat. but Friday was Phish like I haven’t seen them in years. Truly inspired jams that grew from nothing, devoid of the original songs structure, perfectly crafted, total lift-off material. I walked out Friday night totally joyous. Sneaking was crazy, Bathtub was unreal, Slave encore was perfect. Setlist schmetlist…It doesn’t matter what they play: Right now they kill everything!! Even Alaska was great. Light was outstanding …. what a jam there. They moved into new territory with that.

    I was so drained after each show all I could do was drool.

    Thank you Phish!! Thank you community!! God Damn I love this BAND!!

  7. Lifeboy Says:

    @ Mr. C
    Good to hear that you’re dealing with the Gorge in the same way as me. I just had to listen to it again so to make sure I didn’t greatly hyperbolize my take on what I heard at the shows. But after a second listen to the big jams I agree, some of the best phish music I have heard live – especially night one IMO. It was my first show back since ’03, but I had as much fun as I’ve ever had, and the jamming was so melodic (when it was supposed to be), and dynamic. Miner was right (as usual), 2009 is a great time to be a phish fan.

    On a side note, my friend got me a shirt online to wear to the show – it is a mock obama shirt with trey on it and it says “Yes We Jam” – At Friday night’s setbreak I was so glad to be thinking, “yes they do!”

  8. Leo Weaver Says:

    Well said ’98…sums up my thoughts precisely. Next time out there we need to figure out the bridge thing…on the trail back to the campground. Sure could use a couple of ’em to help shorten that trek. But what an experience that trek is…a shuffling mass of googly-eyed humanity…great shit!

  9. c0wfunk Says:

    don’t have time to read through the posts but a quick reaction after no spoilering all weekend -> SICK .. omg really.. some specifics:

    the sneaking sally vocal jam is like how they did it circa 1988, loved it. And the jam out was beyond words. Truly gorgeous. Set 2 is one of *those* sets…

    Night 2 was rockin, reminded me a lot of alpine 2000 or something like that. Trey is on fire and just tearing apart everything he sees. Lovin hearing it all. I love how the two nights are completely different shows, both great in their own rights..

    and is that a star wars theme I heard Trey teasing in YEM – twice, before the jam gets really rockin and towards the end as they fade off into the bass solo. Something out of the original trilogy, not the main theme, but maybe Luke Skywalker’s mystical gazing out into the sky theme?

  10. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    I feel preety strongly that based upon maturity of the band that no show will be a blow off show.

    They are locked in and firing at will, albeit, there are some inaccurate moments(flubs) but no is getting taken down by friendly fire.

    On a sadder note: after the run at RR my wife has decidedly fallen on the side of not bringing the whole family to F8, curious that on PCs F8 is the save function. The kiddos are on the fence too and to accompanying family is waffling tremendously. I want ot share the event with my girls and feel that this is serendipity in that it is so close. I live in AZ. I have also summarily waived all rights to diversionary intoxicants, not really necessary for me, as I can turn the switch on and off inside the cranium.

    Breathing deeply, building the case for and preparing for the objections.

    RV rented, My ticket and RV secured; deal still in process looking for a Q3 close.

    Who else is bringing their kiddos? I imagine many mature folks in this boat these days.

  11. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    cowfunk right composer, wrong theme. it was harry potter not star wars

  12. billy Says:

    Its probably been mentioned, but I didn’t read all of the 357 posts….

    Middle of the Road is a Leo Kottke Tune, I think Mike and Leo did it together on Clone.

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Lifeboy, I saw that shirt in the show, maybe it was you – a great one

    @f0ol – I would have loved to see it “go somewhere” too, a jammed out Moma is a thing of awesomeness. But it was a great hot start to the set IMO. It’s ok with me if they take a song just to get people going.

    The only songs all weekend that I noticed causing a sudden little crowd energy drop were the first half of Pebbles, Twenty Years Later and Alaska. Pebbles warmed up by the end; people seemed to either really be into 20 Years, or really not, like a Vultures or Saw It Again or something; and Alaska with that same energy would have been perfect late in a first set but just lacked weight for its place in the show, or something…but it ended well too…

    Kiddo now learning to sing the wordless-vocal part of Gin due to repeat listens…”Yaaaaa, yadda dat da da…” @#$! priceless

  14. c0wfunk Says:

    harry potter, ah yes – I need to listen back, I was working today and couldn’t place it. Very nice! Love me some John Williams, though his themes are often similar 😉

  15. Mike Says:

    Don’t have time to read through all 300+ comments, but did anyone else catch the Llama teases (fish straight up playing the intro 4 times through) at the end of piper???

    Hope they save it for SPAC.

    Taboot taboot.

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    I just added a version of “Middle of the Road” by Leo and Mike to my mediafire share – a sbd from 11-15-02 @ Mississippi Nights (great little venue, saw Branford there with Buckshot LeFonque in 95) – pretty fun I think. Leo sings it.

    I’m ripping the rest of the show too, I’ll add it later

  17. Summer98 Says:

    What we really need to design is a new people flow model for post-show exit. I got stuck in a HUGE mess on night 1 and we waited nearly 30 mins before walking out. The path to the campground needs be about twice as wide. A couple small bridges would allow it to be straightened out as well.

  18. Lifeboy Says:

    Anyone know if that’s a tease of something in Antelope at 5:00 – 5:15 and again at about 5:40? Such a cool melody.

  19. Robear Says:

    Looking for some drive time info. / strategy. I’m flying into Buffalo the 13th at 4:45 and driving straight to Darien Center. Is that realistic? I wanted to come in on the 12th but prior engagements prevent it.

    Another high point of these west leg discussions, wow well things have gone for folks bringing their kids! Lots of us have new kids, or kids coming of age since 2004. It’s great to hear the positive stories and little experiences. One highlight of RR for me was the trampoline section of YEM, watching a pack of various age kids jumping on side stage, giving Trey and Mike the thumbs up! That was a blast! Helped confirm for me to bring my kids to Shoreline!

  20. Leo Weaver Says:

    @98…you got it. in my wonderfully weird state of mind on the walk back Sat nite (lost my crew so was walking solo which was cool), the idea of a total circulation redesign rushed thru my head just after I crossed the road – felt like I’d made it out of the maze at that point. and yeah, that path needs to be at least twice as wide or broken into separate “parallel” segments (i.e. ski slopes). more signs/markers too. but how cool would a sleek steel/cable ped bridge system be crossing the swale at a couple of different levels/locations? but it’s a unique experience as it is for sure…only at the gorge…

  21. pebbles Says:

    @Robear: You’ll be close, but you should be alright. Venue is about 25 minutes from the airport, and the worst of the traffic should be over by the time you’re pulling in.

    If you get your luggage and car chop-chop, you could be in the lot before seven.

    Any delays and you’ll be running late.

  22. pebbles Says:

    @Robear: from the looks of it, you just want to hop on 90E (signs from airport) and take the 77S/Allegheny Road exit. I doubt Route 20/Broadway Street would take any less than an hour, even if it weren’t rush hour, but I don’t know for sure– my memories of Buffalo are only from job interviews a few years ago, and I could have it twisted.

  23. Summer98 Says:

    From a former B-Lo resident: That should be doable for Darien. The airport is in the burbs on the east side of the city. Darien is east of B-Lo so you are in the right direction. Traffic in that are can be bad. Traffic getting into Darien is always bad. One suggestion that has served me well on more than one occasion is to go back roads instead of I-90. Only problem with that is the traffic getting out of the burbs on the back roads can suck at that time. The best, IMO, is here (really long Google maps link):

    Have fun pasting that in.

    Hope it helps.

  24. butter Says:

    any hotel suggestions for Darien?

  25. pebbles Says:

    @summer98: I seem to remember driving my rental car down Route 20 at 5pm on a Thursday a couple years back and thinking that it was totally not worth it– but it is your call.

    If it takes less than an hour on Route 20 (the road you mapped out) it would be smart, because everyone and their sister will be approaching the venue from the Interstate side, so the “back way” in could be clear.

    Good luck, Robear!

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