Rising over the bay and visible from my apartment, the sun came up for the first time in our lives without Phish. The morning after Phish’s final show felt surreal as we watched the dawning of a new age. Gazing out the massive windows, across the Panhandle and up to Haight-Ashbury, where all this madness began – a different post-show vibe than ever before permeated the room. We had Phish to thank for our friendships, but were all about to transition to a life without them – our dreamlike experiences would be deferred, put on “hiatus” indefinitely. Things would be different now.
Phish had just delivered their definitive final statement from Shoreline’s stage, a statement that summed things up perfectly. Flawless from start to finish, and composed with utmost care, the band executed a perfectly scripted curtain call. Beyond the music, this evening celebrated the grandeur of the Phish experience and the mutual love between the band and their fan base- a relationship unparalleled in music to this day.
No time would be wasted in Phish’s last foreseeable performance, as they broke out of the gates with an inspiring “First Tube,” a song that often seemed to exorcise Trey’s inner demons and got everyone into the here and now. Coupled with a classic, concise “Mike’s Groove” the show kicked off with a double-dose of adrenalized Phish grooves, getting things underway in a flash. A nod to the old-school with “Fee,” preceded an emotionally driven “Bathtub Gin” that carried a bittersweet melodic theme and developed into the centerpiece of the smoking first set. Phish passionately crafted a jam that represented a final musical farewell, despite being placed in the opening set. The symbolic “Glide”meant more to the band than we surmised at the time – an homage to their friendships and collective journeys over time. Closing with a randomly placed “My Soul,” the second to last Phish set came to an end. Setbreak adopted an indescribable feeling; one that couldn’t have been predicted. We sat, we puffed, we dreamt, we reveled, and we remembered. The next set would be the last. And it was clear from the band’s opening statement that they would leave us with something to remember.
Opening the final stanza with the late-90’s staple of “Twist”, the band passed through its Latin-sounding grooves into a mellow psychedelia featuring Page on piano and some patient Trey soloing before he started chopping out some rhythm chords. But before too long, “Twist” gracefully stepped aside for the final “2001” of our lives. I distinctly remember gazing over the pavilion, taking it in, knowing that tomorrow would be so drastically different. Following the few minutes of ambient buildup, when the snare hit kicked, Shoreline exploded. Super-charged from the get go, this “2001” carried a dynamic sense of urgency that many contemporary versions left behind in favor of wide open funk-scapes. For 11 minutes, the band led us through a veritable catalog of Phish grooves, satisfying our inner dancer. But as the second theme peaked, the band oozed into the opening of “Tweezer.” Yes, they were most definitely leaving it all on stage.
The final “Tweezer” shied from any overt funk and traveled directly into a guitar-led jam that built in sound and intensity rather quickly, with Trey taking liberty to shred atop the evolving groove. Moving away from its smooth inception, about halfway through, the improv took a turn into a more dissonant, aggressive and dirty place, stylistically resembling a jam from the mid-90s. Phish played their biggest, most poignant songs on this evening, beautifully settling into “Velvet Sea”out of “Tweezer.” Fitting the contour of the set like a glove, “Velvet Sea” had always been a Phishy song to play after some serious music went down. The beautiful composition and crying guitar solo carried extra emotional weight given the somber circumstances.
Just when things seemed the most bittersweet, the beginning of “Meatstick” whispered through the speakers in a classic Phishy maneuver. Finding the perfect place for some comic relief to honor the band’s theme song of their final two years, this show wouldn’t have been complete without “Meatstick” – and nobody would have said that before hand. Ultimately, Phish wound their way to their quintessential show closer, “David Bowie;” boasting a set that flowed impeccably. “Bowie” provided a last introspective journey, one more time to move inward following the band’s sublime musical path; our last guided mediation. Pouring all the momentum from both sets into the likely set closer, the band held nothing back as they tore their way through the dark and intricate improv. Then, instead of saving “Tweezer Reprise” for their encore, the band decided to drop the bombast as a climactic and unexpected set closer. The crowd simply couldn’t have responded more enthusiastically. “YEM” encore – perfection.
I’ve often thought of this show as one of the most consummate shows I ever experienced. Not the best or the craziest – just simply perfect. Sometimes a show flows naturally from beginning to end, without any glitches or slow points, and this was one of them – it had to be.
As the DAT of this second set provided our soundtrack for the surreal San Francisco sunrise, we all felt a sense of thankfulness for having been a part of the Phish experiment. So many tiny factors in life could have pushed out lives in just a slightly different direction, and we would have missed Phish – and all of each other – without even knowing it. It was impossible to imagine who we’d have been without Phish; a powerful moment of realization. It didn’t really matter whether they came back from this “hiatus” or not – we had lived the magic. Someone along the way blessed us with the good fortune of discovery, and we never looked back. Memories lasted forever, and we already had enough of those to carry us through eternity. Regardless of Phish’s destiny, we had befriended some of the greatest people on earth, and discovered ourselves along the way. Phish had given us everything. And they owed us nothing.
Phish provided us a constant portal to the divine and the mysteries of the universe – access to unimaginable realms we never knew existed. Phish provided us a way to experience life’s majesty in a unique way that we couldn’t have found in any other corner of the globe; an indelible and irreplaceable force on the rest of our time. As the post-show selection of “Let It Be” filled the pavilion, The Beatles song delivered a poignant message of tranquility, as many fans stayed – clapping, crying, cheering – emotions swirling. The band left all they had out on the stage that night; a proper exit for an unrivaled career.
So as we reflect on the unsurity that defined the end of Phish 2000, let us not get bogged down in the minutae and remember how lucky we are to be staring down the first Phish festival in five years. If you had told me this nine years ago, I would have chuckled and demurred. Yet here we are – sitting atop the mountain again – and the view could not be finer.
Jams of the Day: 10.7.00
“Bathtub Gin” I
“Twist > 2001 > Tweezer” II
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
8.2.96 Wolf Mountain Amp, Park City, UT < Torrent
8.2.96 Wolf Mountain Amp, Park City, UT < Megaupload
The first show of Phish’s brief US summer run took place at Wolf Mountain in Park City after the a change of venue from the Delta Center in Salt Lake City. Overshadowed by the impending Red Rocks run, Page debuted his theremin on this relatively mellow night of adjustment from Europe’s smaller stages.
I: Somewhere Over the Rainbow*, Ya Mar, Down with Disease, Guelah Papyrus, Poor Heart, Foam, Theme From the Bottom, Golgi Apparatus, Tweezer, Hello My Baby, Possum
II: Runaway Jim, Simple, Taste, Free > Fluffhead, Prince Caspian, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Run Like an Antelope
E: Punch You In the Eye
*Performed solo by Page on theremin.
Source: AKG C568 EB’s > Aerco preampTags: 2000, Culture