A Night for the Ages

8.19.12 – BGCA (Michael Stein)

Perfection is elusive in the realm of improvisational music; a shining light in darkness deep that is strived for but seldom reached. An infinite number of variables must go right within a group dynamic, let alone individual performances, to attain the sacred stride that envelops the consciousness of an entire room. Four minds—rather 7,004 minds—become one, harnessing a power far greater than any of them, speaking to the divine in human existence. Although Phish has played so many shows in their career, only the best of them have rolled off the stage as flawlessly as last night’s performance in The City By the Bay.

Sunday night’s show made me feel like a kid again; like a noob being blown away by four larger-than–life superheroes who could do no wrong. The emotion that shook my being as the band entered “Tweezer Reprise” to close their best show in god knows how many years, was one that I haven’t felt in just as long. It was a cocktail of celebration, exaltation, sheer disbelief, and a deep pride in the band and everyone of us who believes in them with all of our soul. IT was a triumph of incomprehensible proportions.

8.19.12 (Michael Stein)

Over the first two nights in the historic hall of Bill Graham, it felt like Phish had yet to drop a top-tier effort, despite playing three spectacular jams—”Disease,”Tweezer” and “Simple.” But the guys couldn’t leave the intimate Bay Area room without upping things to a level that would have made any of the city’s psychedelic pioneers smile from ear to ear. After a high-energy beginning, the band stepped things up quite a bit with the last three songs of the first set—“Jibboo,” “Roggae,” and “David Bowie.” The band pushed each beyond convention, infusing each with an enhanced creativity. And when the guys pick up momentum in such fashion before the break, it always is a good  omen. But who could possibly have known what lurked around the corner?

At setbreak, a buddy and I left our post upstairs to rejoin our friends in the back of the floor. As fate would have it, for the set of sets, almost all of our friends—30 plus—were together with plenty of dance space in what became a musical sacrament. After such a cathartic live experience, I’m taking a day or so to distance myself before listening back—the memories are just too rich. In short, the band played nearly an hour of seamless, free-form improvisation of which the wildest dreams are made. With the all-time sequence of “Crosseyed > Light -> Sneaking Sally -> Crosseyed > Theme” Phish blew the minds of every person I’ve talked to in attendance. Every. Single. One. Undertaking a musical trek like none we’ve heard in this era, the band left a spiritual legacy in the hallowed concert hall of San Francisco. Original and experimental, cohesive and subconscious, with nuanced peaks and valleys featuring a segue that will make you scream—this was Phish at their absolute finest.

8.19.12 (M.Stein)

The guys dropped a couple of Phishy maneuvers within the second set as well. Punctuating the next-level suite with a blistering run through “Rocky Top” out of the farthest reaches of left field, the band somehow made the Tennessee anthem feel just perfect. How could it not? In addition, they carefully penned their signature on a night of instant legend with the most original “YEM” we’ve heard in eons. Trey didn’t even take a guitar solo in favor of the most lampin’ lounge funk you’ll ever hear, seducing the audience with sultry grooves amidst a minimalist wonderland. A song that represents a celebration of everything Phish each time played, “YEM,” on this night, was a collaboration to behold.

When Phish walked off stage, fans shared hugs and looks of disbelief. Had that just happened? The memory of everyone’s greatest post-show feeling, all of a sudden, had a brand new contender. I had fallen head over heels in love with Phish again, all in the course of a single evening. The knowledge that “Tweezer Reprise”—a build that was teased during the height of “Light’s” drama—waited in the wings sent surges of adrenaline through my veins. Before jumping into the final climax, however,the band gave a musical nod to The City with the bustout of “Ride, Captain, Ride,” a song whose first line references San Francisco Bay. It was the perfect encore to the perfect show, because nobody who made the trip to Bill Graham will ever forget their August weekend in Fog City.

I: Crowd Control, Party Time, Axilla, Reba, Free, Mound, Walk Away, NICU, Back on the Train, Gotta Jibboo, Roggae, David Bowie

II: Crosseyed and Painless > Light -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley -> Crosseyed and Painless > Theme From the Bottom, Rocky Top, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Meatstick, Bug, You Enjoy Myself

E: Ride Captain Ride > Tweezer Reprise


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605 Responses to “A Night for the Ages”

  1. snow Says:

    I really like this one.


    The crowd kind of looks like it is moving in the pic.

  2. IrieWalton Says:

    So after listening to that Bowie I wonder if the boys at set break were commenting on how locked in they were and they agreed to kick it up a notch?

    Bring on the Crosseyed Bizness!

    Love it!

  3. Phishm0610 Says:

    or you could expand it to a “group interstellar, metaphysical, physic moment of clarity”.
    Now you got me really thinking. How do you put your finger on what went down.

  4. Phishm0610 Says:

    “puking rainbows”

    Now I can’t stop laughing.

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    pretty sure what went down is not finger sized, so to speak

    good luck trying to unscrew the inscrutable

  6. GhostPhunk Says:

    He’s Gone -> Spoonful is so much win. Set II 11.1.85 is a beast.

  7. Phishm0610 Says:

    Thanks MrC. Thought gone.

  8. IrieWalton Says:

    When they hit the 7 minute mark of that Crosseyed outta set break they are so locked in it’s regardless. Page just laying down the thick groove and everyone just jumps on it.

  9. MrCompletely Says:

    I have so many stories from that show @ghost

    it was a nightmare scene copwise and weatherwise. So many people beaten up, so many busted. Friend missed 2nd half of set 2 in jail from smoking a hash pipe on the floor of the show. Cops were crushing people on the way in with their horses, in the freezing sleet. In response ppl were squirtbottle cops and cop horses. Who the fuck doses a horse?!?!?

    That whole second set with all the ballads in it was the first time I realized what was Really Going On at the show, like we were talking about before, that it was a higher level experience, and they were there with us, they knew perfectly well what was going down and were trying to speak to it directly…it all happened for me during High Time…”Come on in when it’s raining, go on out when it’s gone…”

  10. voopa Says:

    Sure thing snow, I’ll email you tonight, after 8 Pac. time. Anyone else that wants hi-res versions just let me know.

    I like that purple/pink one too…I think those particular lights actually shake around, and the photo seems to catch that. Didn’t notice how those lights moving like that until Sunday, but I seem to have caught it on Saturday anyway!

  11. kayatosh Says:

    this roggae is fat and wide. full melt.

  12. joe Says:

    thanks for sharing your pictures, voopa and DF. really great shots. Also thanks to everyone for sharing your personal stories. Speaks to the fact that when this music is at it’s best, the notes from the instruments are only a part of the equation.

  13. MrCompletely Says:

    11.1 is kind of a weak 1st set, legendary 2nd. 11.2 is a 4 star show all the way through with one of the best & most fun Ikos they ever did and one of the great Dews of the era, if it wasn’t for the night before it’d be considered one of the best of the year for sure

    time to head home and crank up Sunday’s show on the big box. see y’all, peace

  14. kayatosh Says:

    looking at these voopa pics and spinning the sunday gem, is powerful medicine. adding some medicine doesn’t hurt either.

    sunday was one of those shows where i stopped processing and just started feeling.

  15. SillyWilly Says:

    it was great being next to you, Kaya.

    you could see the show flowing through you, man.

  16. GhostPhunk Says:

    @C Sure don’t know what I’m going for, but I’m gonna go for it for sure. Would love to wax about that night sometime. Even 2 decades later in my head space it felt cohesive throughout.

  17. GhostPhunk Says:

    I’m a sucker for Stagger Lee, Brown Eyed, Women, Cold Rain and Snow and Don’t Ease Me In so I was happy. Don’t Ease Me In came at the perfect moment as well.

  18. Kaveh Says:

    Set II 11.1.85 is a beast

    ^YES…and ALLTIME favorite. Set II so mellow, and so good. Hell, I’m spinning it tonight when I get home. And the version of She Belongs To Me, has to be the best.

  19. snow Says:

    A small number of GA Field tickets have been released for Phish’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Labor Day weekend run:

  20. kayatosh Says:

    sounds like i’m right behind you in the sunday spin, iriewalton.

    likewise, silly. felt it big time. twas lovely to be buffered by high qual people.

    and i wouldn’t have been able to feel the brimming goodness of sunday w/o having experienced shows that didn’t quite get there or came no where close.

  21. Kaveh Says:

    Phish’s twitter just put out more re-release of GA floor for Dick’s.

  22. snow Says:


  23. Kaveh Says:

    @Snow…got me…but you all know what to do: #ThrowItDown!

  24. snow Says:

    Inside Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez’s Romantic Concert Date

  25. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    silly, you are attending Denver shows, yes?

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