What a difference a day makes. After performing a dreamlike four-hour marathon for their return, Phish came back with a second set that has started a new “best-ever” list for 3.0. With another four hours of “Recession Phish,” people had plenty of time to forget about their problems, as they lost their minds to the one of the most magnificent sets in memory- while pointing to the sunny pastures of summer and making plenty of people “re-assess” their plans for June.
While the second set was of another universe, the first might as well have been from the early ’90s. The three big jams, “Split,” “Reba,” and “Antelope,” all hallmarks of Lawn Boy, highlighted the set, while other compositions of the era were strewn through it. “Runaway Jim,” “Punch You in the Eye,” “Gumbo,”- with its original Ragtime ending supplanting a funk jam for the first time since 1997-, “Halley’s,” ‘Guelah Papyrus,” “Lawn Boy,” and “It’s Ice”- with a supremely psychedelic subterranean section of the song. With a setlist that again boasted some of the band’s most difficult compositions, the band made a seconded their own motion that they were back and meant business.
The “Split” carried a distinctly ’94 feel, with abstract, dark improv that at times left many gazing at the stage, in awe of what they were hearing. There wasn’t much hardcore groove going on when the jam got underway, more like psychedelic debauchery, in the piece that brought yet more 3.old school to the table. Listening to the “Reba” fugue played so cleanly again was a thing of beauty; wrapped in the precision awaiting the plunge. And when that plunge came, it was like diving back into a crystalline pool that had sat still for years, awaiting our arrival. Taking the lead right away, Trey built the jam with gorgeous and deliberate licks that pushed the groove rather than let it settle. The band was swimming in the those waters with us, channeling the energy they felt in their favorite room into their blissful groove. The classic jam concluded with another tongue-in-cheek Phish joke as they dropped “Mexican Cousin” in place of the end of the song- mixing in a bit of new-school humor in with the old. Everyone in the arena could see oncoming “Antelope” from a mile a way, aligning directly with the vibe of the set. The band tore apart their classic set closer in what was easily the most ferocious improv of the first two nights- up to that point.
Setbreak took on a distinctly different character this evening- people were back in the flow of things, as the band would soon show us that they were too. There were no nerves, only excitement at how sick everything had become. Almost six hours of Phish in three sets-all without any long, flowing, out-of-structure jamming, it seemed like the second set was heading for something big- but how big? We had no idea. Yet, as all enjoyed a setbreak of relative normalcy, the feel of Phish tour had returned- just like that- almost like we had never left. Almost. When lights dropped for frame four, people held their hats tightly, but unless they were crazy glued to their heads, those hats are now gone.
If everything up to this set reminded us of how amazing Phish could be, this set proved to be a magical slap across the face. Reminding us of why Phish are Phish, and why we are who we are, the band unleashed a set that will undoubtedly go down in their illustrious history as the set jump-started Version 3.0. It would be clear to all after this set that it’s on as it’s ever been for Phish- if not more. Using the lyrically poignant “Rock and Roll” to kick off the set that certainly reminded each and every one of us of how our lives have been saved by rock n roll, Phish also worked in an obvious self-reference. Taking the rock textures of the song far beyond, the band entered a far darker psychedelic piece of improv, signaling that the band’s jam engines had been sparked in earnest. Taking the improv to places only the soul could describe, the band took the settled their fascinating journey in a “Limb By Limb” that as the kidz say-“Blew the fuck up.” Bringing unbridled inspiration to the table, the band crafted a tale with other-worldy interplay, bringing the song to heights approached by few versions. Coupled with the dark jam out of “Rock n Roll” the band formed a psychedelic journey from start to finish with only two songs- and the best was yet to come.
Following the climactic opening portion of the set, the band decided to wake up the spirits in the rafters of Hampton using the first incarnation of “Ghost 3.0.” In a dance odyssey turned melodic geyser, this “Ghost” redefined what a Phish jam could be for 2009. In one of the most stunning performances of the song, Phish took us right away on another magnificent tour of their renewed improvisational dimension, and it had never looked so gorgeous. Peaking the jam with every bit of of fervor and intensity that we have ever known from the band, Phish scratched another line on the wall of Hampton’s Green Room under the list entitled “Defining Jams Played In This Building.” And just as the magical dust was about to fall to the floor, a small breeze swept it up and transformed into the beginning of “Piper.” Placing the always-emotional piece of improv after such a monster jam was a decision of mastery.
As the band blew out the jam of the song with an intention that is quickly coming to characterize the new Phish, the band entered some high paced rock, eventually fusing in some distinctly other rhythms that slowly unfolded into a seamless segue into a frantic “Birds of a Feather.” Finalizing a triumvirate that will forever read “Ghost > Piper > Birds,” Phish absolutely crushed the the jam, capping an hour-plus of divine playing. Taking some time for everyone to revel in the musical acrobatics, the band responded to their own silence with the piano intro to “Wolfman’s Brother,” ushering in one of the funkiest jams in recent memory. The band showered The Mothership with an array of dance grooves that kept everyone going on full-tilt, basking in the glow of IT once again.
Following the funk escapade, the band brought us on a phenomenal late-set ride through “Prince Caspian,” whose regal nature matched all the music that preceded it. Listening to Trey take a “Caspian” solo again was, in itself, something to behold as the entire band complimented his heroics with some of their own. As if running on Energizer batteries, instead of dropping a set closing song, the band decided to rev up the next-in-line of historic Hampton “Mike’s Grooves.” The song and venue that were made for each other had quite a raunchy reunion as Trey tore apart the jam with a distinctly uncompressed tone that lent a beautifully evil vibe to the already dark jam. Annihilating the first “Mike’s” back on the scene, the entire band seemed enthralled to dig into the menacing improv once again.
Using the classic form of “Mike’s Groove” to re-inaugurate, “Hydrogen” felt like a breath of the freshest air flowing through the venue, linking up to an all-out “Weekapaug.” This put a lid on what was certain to be a quasi-succinct set-ending “Groove.” Yet, seeming like a joke, Phish dropped into what would be the set closer in earnest in “Character Zero.” Keeping the entire arena raging for the completion of almost the eighth hour of Phish in two days, the venue swayed as one organism to the currents of the Phish.
Having to play one more song for an encore, the band couldn’t have made a classier choice than The Beatles’ “A Day In the Life.” Putting the cap on evening of psychedelic sorcery with a nod to the sonic, and mind, experimentation of the original Fab Four, Phish showed, yet again, why they are the greatest band on the planet.
With playing that flowed organically, the band scripted a piece of Hampton history last night, while giving us glimpse not only into ourselves, but into a new world of musical possibility. Reestablishing what Phish is truly all about, the band stepped to the plate in the second set and hit a towering shot, reminding us of why we all spent some part of the ’90s doing nothing but following Phish. In a building synonymous with the band, Phish awakened the spirits of lore with a set that will not soon be forgotten. Reacquainting themselves with IT on only their second show back, the course is now set for a sparkling summer of musical mayhem. Home at last; and it feels so good.
In what was a touching side note to the show, Phish debuted Page’s song “Beauty of a Broken Heart.” This is a song he wrote for his 2007 solo album, about the break-up of Phish. And with an obvious meaning to the band, it seems that this song may be Page’s first solo contribution to the catalog. (Thanks Lanser!)
NO SPOILERS UPDATE
Everything went smooth for No Spoliers night two, I believe we got both sets up faster, and there were no hitches whatsoever. I hope you enjoyed them for the second go-round, and stay tuned for night three!
Thanks a million to the No Spoilers crew, making this all happen!