As the lights spun to the side of the stage just before the band launched into “Rock and Roll’s” jam, I looked out over the Gorge on a fresh head and thought to myself, “Is this really gonna’ happen?” I wasn’t sure what I meant. It was one of those transient thoughts that flash through your mind as quickly as they leave during an electric night at Phish. The sound was perfect, the weather divine, and on the first night of tour, it felt like the band was on the brink of something huge. Twenty minutes—or a lifetime—later as Phish seamlessly slid into “Meatstick,” bringing me out of an subconscious state, my soul had been wrenched by spiritual aliens, worked over by a funk seductress, and dragged deep into the dark side by a demonic, psychedelic muse. Phish had harnessed IT—that unspeakable power of the universe—in the course of one musical adventure for the ages. And when the dust settled on “Rock and Roll,” let alone “-> Meatstick -> Boogie On,” I had just lived a dream.
This is the type of cosmic escapade that alters lives, moves metaphysical mountains—changes things. Walking up the terraces of the Gorge after the show, I—we—had been forever altered by such a profound evening with the Phish. Wide-eyed and beaming, still trailing stardust behind, I pondered the musical insanity that had just transpired. Phish had been playing unbelievably at Super Ball, but this was a different sort of scene. This was one of those nights where the guys’ playing was so natural and of the stars, it infused a sense of majesty into every unfolding moment. And moments seemed to be around every corner during this sequence. Fusing styles past and present, Phish molded a psychedelic symphony out of “Rock and Roll” that stands up to anything they’ve ever done. Period. (Not to mention one of the most fluid segues in history.)
With improvisation so innovative and engaging, time stood still—or flew out the window. This was an experience that afterwards one looked back on in awe and respect rather that just as a piece of music. Everything flowed with such patience and prowess, and the band committed to taking us to places none of us had seen before—a collective musical discovery amidst the natural world. Building through distinct stages of improv without losing cohesion, Phish hit a sacred stride on this night. Something special happened; something that doesn’t occur at every show. The band created a piece of music that spoke to the very ethos of Phish, a jam that opened up an invisible doorway to a fantasy for which we criss-cross the nation.
Everything over the past two-plus years had built up to this. All the stepping stones of ’09 and ’10—all the sublime highlights and borked jams, missed transitions and musical triumphs—had brought us here; to the Gorge on August 5th, a night when everything changed again. Phish hadn’t dropped something like this before. Not in this context. Not with this palate of sound. Not ever. Throw the era qualifications right into the Columbia River Gorge. And when Mike dropped that bass line deep into the night, bringing the beat back from the netherworld, the Earth shook with delight as skulls shattered across the hillside. IT was real. And IT was good.
In fact, IT was alright.
Jam of the Day:
A musical revelation on the first night of tour.