Feeling Vermont

10/19/2008 Higher Ground, South Burlington, VT
I. Gotta Jibboo, Peggy, Dark and Down, Push On Til The Day, Sweet Dreams Melinda, Sand

II. Burlap Sack and Pumps, Money Love and Change, Last Tube, Let Me Lie, Drifting, Alive Again, Tube Top Flop, Windora Bug > Ruby Waves*, Moesha, Dragonfly

E: A Case Of Ice And Snow, First Tube   * debut

Higher Ground

In his first show in Phish’s hometown since 2005, Trey greeted the tiny audience at Higher Ground with an electrifying performance that challenged, if not exceeded, any of the first three shows of tour.  An event that was larger than the concert itself, the entire evening was a benefit for Trey’s Seven Below Arts Initiative.  In conjunction with Burlington City Arts, Trey offers local visual artists grants for their work as eight-week residencies in The Barn to create uninterruptedly. Additionally, the program provides outreach arts education programs, and is looking to expand their work with children.  With a silent auction featuring Trey’s CD catalog, tickets (not for Hampton!), some old-school TAB posters and his personal artwork, every dollar- including ticket revenue- went directly to Seven Below.  With an incredibly friendly and local vibe, the crowded club was also host to quite a concert!

Higher Ground – Set One

In a show where Trey was particularly warm and chatty all night long, the night carried a greater sense of intimacy than any Trey related event in a long time.  With a first set constructed out of some of his best played songs of tour, the night took no time to get moving.  Opening with the tour highlight of Jibboo, the show was spinning quickly as Trey opened the vault and initiated his show with a solo in his now characteristic ’08 sound.  Deep, distorted and dirty, he began the jam layering his thoughts over a classic siren-esque loop.  While staying relatively compressed as the first song, there was no shortage of sizzling improv.  Throughout the set, each song seemed as well played as the next, remained within their thematic jam structures.  Sweet Dreams Melinda, a song that has stood out all tour for its tightly improvised melodies, again brought the smooth delight of the first set, but the no-doubt highlight was perhaps the best Sand played this week.  With scorching improvisation, Trey led the band in a high-speed chase though a post-apocalyptic wonderland.  Closing the set on the highest of notes, the crowd quickly funneled into the bar and auction room to watch the triumph of Tampa Bay Rays in Game Seven of the ALCS amidst a densely populated crowd of Red Sox fans.

A Phish family feel pervaded the set break, as well as the evening, with the number of old familiar faces multiplying from the larger venues of the run.  In a show clearly meant for Vermont locals, tickets were only sold at the Higher Ground box office after the small allotment vanished from pre-sale in less than a minute.  With nary a broker ticket to be found on the entire internet within the last few days, this one was an incredibly tough ticket to come by.

The second set was one flowing highlight, as the improvisation was some of the greatest of the run.  Opening with his new favorite song, Trey re-introduced Burlap Sack and Pumps to his hometown in shiny psychedelic fashion.  A song, that with Jibboo, has become a central vehicle of the tour, had yet another dark ambient-to-groove jam that provided one of the most exciting points of the night.  Yet, outdoing the hot set opener were the next two songs, and another deeper in.

The subsequent songs, Money, Love and Change and Last Tube absolutely blew up.  With some of hottest improv of the tour, these two songs kept the audience completely engaged for quite a long time time.  From the extended addictive funk rhythms of the former to the more aggressive Antelope-esque grooves of the latter, this combination served up some of the heartiest meat of the evening.  With the Last Tube climaxing the first three songs of the set, the crowd responded enthusiastically to the twisting adventure that their guitar hero had led them through.

All Points West

The second half of the set got very interesting with some first appearances of the tour and another debut. Arguably the jam of the night, Alive Again saw Trey improvising ferociously in a seemingly sub-conscious state.  With the apropos refrain of “The time has come for you to be alive again!”, this rendition in Phish’s hometown took on significant meaning, and everyone seemed to understand.  Following up the fierce jam, was the welcome return of the slow funky intsrumental Tube Top Flop.  In past years, always paired with Push On Til the Day, its welcome breeze of slow grooves cooled down the fired up room.

As the set continued to mellow out with Windora Bug, Trey led the band in a segue into the debut of “Ruby Waves.”  With a classic Anastaio pop sensibility and with lush beautiful melodies, this song could be a preview of something to come in the near and not so near future.  As Trey was about to finish his set, he instead took a request of Moesha, a song the band hadn’t played “in five years,”  or 148 TAB shows.  The fun old school treat gave way to a rocking set ending Dragonfly.

All Points West

The emotional encore combined A Case of Ice and Snow and First Tube.  Throughout the first four nights of, First Tube has transformed into a piece where Trey no longer simply plays screeching walls of sound, but improvises consistently in what now can truly be called a jam at the end of the song.  With each being distinct, no longer just set ending fire, but a piece that can be looked to for diversity.  The night ended far later than normal due to a later 9:20 start and a longer than usual second set, but everyone went off into the brisk Burlington darkness not wishing they had been anywhere else.

Check out Seven Below Arts Intiatiative website and think about donating even a little to Trey’s personal mission, as he has given so much to ours.

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