Saturday 07/27/2013 by bertoletdown

GORGE 1 RECAP

1900 miles separate Chicago and George, WA, home of The Gorge Amphitheatre. That’s already a long way to schlepp a band the size of Phish, but the plan was there’d be nearly a week to do it. Then the Toronto show got flooded out, forcing the band to jog eastward another 500 miles for a Monday makeup gig – instead of westward toward Washington at what one imagines would have been a leisurely pace. Like the forces majeures that plagued the first half of summer tour, it’s the kind of unforeseen circumstance that demands teamwork and improvisation. A test of the band’s mettle.

So what’s the verdict? Will we see a road-weary Phish tonight, or a battle-hardened unit that takes the stage at The Gorge with clear heads, full hearts, and a shared desire to win their westward campaign? Let’s find out.

AC/DC Bag” is in a typically heavy rotation this summer, but the version that leads off tonight feels good and mean, and less perfunctory than the Chicago version from last Sunday. The first “Timber” in 26 shows is on deck, and it pops nicely too. I love this strange, mysterious cover with all of my fan’s true heart and wish it were played more, but its rarity makes it that much more special.

Wolfman’s” closely follows the trajectory that nearly all recent versions do: an early first set stretch that gives the band a chance to gather some smolder. After working to a respectable peak, they tumble headlong into a fast and free “Funky Bitch." Fishman drops out during Page’s organ solo to wonderful effect and it’s suddenly apparent that tonight’s show has a whole mess of potential (and we’re just getting started).

Trey leads a soulful take on “Happy Birthday” for Chris Kuroda – who richly deserves the sentiment – then the rhythm section teases “Satisfaction” while Trey executes a wardrobe change behind Page’s rig. Now Trey saddles up and starts “Wilson." The audible makes perfect sense, as he’s wearing a fan-supplied tee-shirt that references his recent gambit to get Seattle Seahawks fans to perform the “Wilson” chant when phenom QB Russell Wilson takes the home field this season (the team just started training camp two days ago). It’s a powerful “Wilson” with a healthy dose of loose stage banter, and by the time it’s over, Trey has managed to enlist an army of PNW fans in his bid. Get on it, Seattle!

A standard “Possum” follows, and then a short but ferocious “Tube." Wait, let me take that back. Every “Tube” is short these days, and it’ll be news when they’re not again, so I’ll just leave it at “ferocious” and be done, lest I seem dispirited and prickly about it.

The first “Secret Smile” since the Festival 8 acoustic set cools things down with delicate melodies and lyrics acknowledging the setting of the sun, giving the audience a moment to pause and appreciate the day – and their arrival at this astonishingly beautiful place. Next up is a nightfall “McGrupp," another song that benefits from light rotation and feels special every time. Tonight’s version is crisp and well-rehearsed with only a few minor hiccups, and Trey sticks the climactic solo with dexterity and confidence. The expected set closer is forestalled a few moments for the first reading of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Curtis Loew” since last summer in Kansas City. It’s a lovely garnish, for sure, but this first course wouldn’t be complete without something melty...

The band hooks up early in this “Split Open and Melt," stripping it down to parts before building it back up again. The players take turns kneading and poking at the song’s amoeba-like membrane with no apparent destination in mind, but that’s always been the point of this song to me: stop worrying about where you’re going, and lose yourself in where you are. Fishman delivers a handful of breathtaking fills at the peak, bringing home a rock solid first half that offers at least a pinch of something for everybody.

The set breaks this tour feel uncommonly short, and tonight is no exception. As a result, it’s safe to say that the “Crosseyed and Painless” that opens the second set is enjoyed by many from the bathroom lines.

The PNC “Crosseyed” set a tall summer bar for this song, and the whole band comes out swinging here. The first five minutes of the jam deliver a relentless blast of high-octane cock rock, followed by the briefest of retreats to consider the next theme. Trey takes the helm and steers the band through a series of twists, dark tunnels, and barrel rolls before emerging into an open space that sounds pregnant with another song – perhaps “Golden Age”? But Trey isn’t done with this one yet, and instigates a delicate instrumental conversation with Page.

Fish suggests a new tempo that’s slow and syncopated, much like “Roggae," but “Twist” prevails instead, and spirals quickly into alien realms laced with fear and expressions of suffering. It’s a thoroughly arresting moment that ends too soon, as “Steam” bubbles up through the hellscape. “Steam” remains within its scripted form, but serves as a smart companion piece to the “Twist." The effect is akin to hearing one continuous song instead of two.

An up-tempo “Waves” arrives next in perfect counterpoint, rinsing off the darkness in favor of day-glo trebles and bouncing bass. Trey takes a chord-based approach to his solo, and quickly initiates the second “Twenty Years Later” of the tour. I love what this song has to say about how perils and trials shape us as people, and I love the heaviness of the outro jam. This is a powerful reading of the song, and very well placed.

Mango Song” is perhaps less well placed. While it has historically split time between the first and second sets, I think it’s a hard sell in the fourth quarter of a Phish show. Still, this version sounds a lot more controlled and purposeful than the SPAC version from a few weeks ago, and its misplacement is hardly enough to deflate the set. I’ll take it.

A standard lovely “Bug” occupies its familiar “Jerry ballad” slot, and then Trey quotes “Bug” again in the hi-hat intro to “Bowie” (the birthday boy’s favorite Phish tune, and arguably the comeback kid of summer tour). Like “Twist” and “Tube” from earlier tonight, it’s a zero show gap for “Bowie," which the band thoroughly demolished in Toronto. No such Godzilla waste tonight, but another fine version with dazzling work from Fish at the peak.

The band could take a bow at this point and leave the stage, but they push things into Bonus-ville with an apropos “Rocky Top” and a spectacular “Character Zero” that quiets the haters with a fistful of STFU. Trey asks Kuroda to turn off the lights – this will never get old or tired at The Gorge – and engages his bandmates and crowd in an unchained “howl at the moon” jam that culminates in 3-4 minutes of molten feedback. It’s a bit that could have fallen flat on its face were the playing beneath it not so fiery and assured, but instead it delivers a statement: this band has pushed its Master Reset button, and stands ready to stir things up out west.

The “Hood” encore conjures personal memories of 8/2/97 at the Gorge (hear it!), and features some tasty talk-box lines from Page in the first instrumental verse. A somewhat abrupt ending gives way to more feedback and space, and then “Fire” gives a nod to the Mile Marker 28 blaze along State Rte. 97 that caused delays for northbound fans over the past several days. “Move over, Rover,” exhorts Trey, “And let Jon Fishman take over!” – acknowledging the drummer’s remarkable work from start to finish this night.

By the time this “Fire” is extinguished, the band has been on stage for nearly two hours, dropping the second set of a show that is very easy to love and very hard to poke holes in, even if I wanted to. It could be the only show of this tour so far that demands an attentive listen from start to finish, and it bodes awfully well for what lies ahead.

Stay cool out there, campers, and we’ll see you tonight!

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Comments

, comment by PisoMojado
PisoMojado Great recap. Loved the show last night from the couch!
, comment by InsectEffect
InsectEffect
Thanks, excellent recap! Especially the poetic flair invested in describing the 'feel' of 2nd set jams.

Also: "The band could take a bow at this point and leave the stage, but they push things into Bonus-ville..." -- I felt exactly the same way listening to the great PNC show's Rocky Top > Cavern icing to close the 2nd. Extra mustard for the sets themselves.

Very excited to see/hear this west coast tour unfold enroute to Dick's!
, comment by frankstallone
frankstallone Great Review as usual @bertoletdown. I Posted this in the forum but wanted to get people's take here

first off amazing show last night, really thought they killed it

But I found this one segment pretty strange. After that awesome C&P jam Fish and Mike had made a buttery smooth transition -> Roggae. Seems like they had been playing the drums/bass for roggae for at least a minute or two and were waiting on Trey to come in with the opening chords. Fish had even saddled up to his mic and was ready to sing his opening verse

Trey seemed like he was just playing a cool roggae intro and I kept waiting for him to drop into the opening chords. Then all the sudden he starts the chords to twist, and it was really jarring as fish had to pretty much stop playing roggae and get on board for twist. Pretty priceless look on Fish's face. Something similar happened 3rd night Chicago out of the Light Jam when Fish/Mike had found their way to Timber, but Trey never got on board and started up Harry Hood instead

Anyone else notice this? The only thing I can think of is that maybe they hadn't rehearsed those songs yet and Trey wasn't comfortable winging it. Not trying to nitpick as last night was an amazing show, but that C&P -> Roggae was setting up to be the smoothest segue of the summer. Also, I f***ing LOVE roggae

, comment by mgouker
mgouker Agree 100%. It was an extremely solid show and a very generous outing taboot. The tour just seems to be getting better and better!

Peace from Florida,

Michael
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown Thanks, frankstallone.

I love Roggae too but if Trey isn't feeling any given tune at any given time, it's not happening. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it popped up tonight, even if I hope it's saved for Tahoe.
, comment by frankstallone
frankstallone @bertoletdown said:
Thanks, frankstallone.

I love Roggae too but if Trey isn't feeling any given tune at any given time, it's not happening. I wouldn't be at all surprised if it popped up tonight, even if I hope it's saved for Tahoe.
That's kind of what I was thinking. I bet they run through it backstage or at soundcheck a couple of times and it makes its tour debut in the next couple of shows. Still, it would have been perfect coming out of that crosseyed jam. That Twist turned out pretty sick though so all is forgiven
, comment by coilacl
coilacl I'm curious why the setlist says, "Happy Birthday was played for Chris Kuroda (last played March 8, 2009, or 186 shows)."

March 8th isn't Kuroda's birthday, and Happy Birthday was sung for Fish's father Leonard, not Kuroda at that show. (I was there and remember the entire Hampton Coliseum crowd singing to Fish's dad.)

In fact, when you visit the setlist for 3-8-2009 here on Phish.net there is no mention of Kuroda's birthday. In fact, the 3-8-2009 setlist here says, "...the band and audience sang Happy Birthday to Fish’s Dad..."

This seems to be a minor error that I was hoping could possibly get corrected please. Thanks, great site and thanks for the updates throughout the years.
, comment by MikeD4398
MikeD4398 @coilacl it's not an error; it just means that happy birthday (the song itself) was last played on that date, not that it was for Chris on that date.
, comment by theresoundingecho
theresoundingecho Dear Parking Lot Vendors / NFL,

I have money burning a hole in my pocket for a "Duh-Duh...Duh-Duh." shirt. Make this happen. Great recap and I loved the webcast.

, comment by coilacl
coilacl @MikeD4398 said:
@coilacl it's not an error; it just means that happy birthday (the song itself) was last played on that date, not that it was for Chris on that date.
Cool, thanks. I was more confused than I even realized. Sorry about that :D
, comment by beckettrb
beckettrb Great review!! i thoroughly enjoyed it! I am soooo broke and wasn't even able to get the webscast last night and worked a double today so I'm getting ready to listen to last nights show right now and will listen to tonight's show in the morning I guess. That sucks i know but I am broke and that's my options for now anyway. Your review gave me goosebumps and I can't wait to give it a listen. When i looked at the setlist this morning I thought..."wow...they brought the heat...best show of the tour so far" so let's see about that! you all have a goodnight. Peace and love from TN
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown Beckett -- thank you sincerely. I hope that your situation improves soon and your attitude stays positive!
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS "A standard lovely Bug occupies its familiar "Jerry-ballad" spot..."

Not to nit-pick you excellent review....but are we really still comparing Phish at this point to the Dead's tired old format of playing shows? It's been 18 years now....Does Trey know that he's fulfilling prophecy by filling "Jerry-ballad spots" or is he just playing a song he likes there?

Just thought someone should let him know in case he wasn't aware.

Thoroughly enjoyed the writeup and I look forward to hearing the show even more after reading it. Thanks.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS "...that quiets the haters with a fistful of STFU."

Now THAT'S a comment that I'm putting on my fridge. Nice.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown @FACTSAREUSELESS said:
"A standard lovely Bug occupies its familiar "Jerry-ballad" spot..."

Not to nit-pick you excellent review....but are we really still comparing Phish at this point to the Dead's tired old format of playing shows?
Yes, I was. For a few reasons.

First, it's a touchstone for me personally because the Dead were my first love, and while my love for Phish is different it's still similar in many ways.

Second, Phish has definitely drifted to a format much closer to the Dead's "tired old format" where first sets are mostly comprised of blues idiom or Americana idiom songs that don't stray far from form in performance and are adorned with solos rather than exploratory jams, and where second sets feature more challenging material and long stretches of improv. The "3rd quarter" at Phish shows are now where you can almost always expect to hear the band's big jam vehicles, just as it was with the Dead, and there's often a "breather song" or a ballad tucked into the late middle of the set, followed by a few danceable rockers to close.

I'm not saying it's a conscious decision on Phish's part or even that it's a strict template, but you can't deny it's gravitated that way over time.
, comment by FACTSAREUSELESS
FACTSAREUSELESS @bertoletdown said:
@FACTSAREUSELESS said:
"A standard lovely Bug occupies its familiar "Jerry-ballad" spot..."

Not to nit-pick you excellent review....but are we really still comparing Phish at this point to the Dead's tired old format of playing shows?
Yes, I was. For a few reasons.

First, it's a touchstone for me personally because the Dead were my first love, and while my love for Phish is different it's still similar in many ways.

Second, Phish has definitely drifted to a format much closer to the Dead's "tired old format" where first sets are mostly comprised of blues idiom or Americana idiom songs that don't stray far from form in performance and are adorned with solos rather than exploratory jams, and where second sets feature more challenging material and long stretches of improv. The "3rd quarter" at Phish shows are now where you can almost always expect to hear the band's big jam vehicles, just as it was with the Dead, and there's often a "breather song" or a ballad tucked into the late middle of the set, followed by a few danceable rockers to close.

I'm not saying it's a conscious decision on Phish's part or even that it's a strict template, but you can't deny it's gravitated that way over time.
Yeah, I have to agree, unfortunately. I know you are right, and knew it before I posted. I guess I'm making a larger point. I feel (and I've said this before on this forum) that we aren't fair with Phish in our criticisms. (Not that you were being remotely critical in your Bug comments), generally speaking if the Dead were held to the same critical standards we hold Phish to, I dare say they would fail to hold up to scrutiny on the whole. I guess I bristle a bit when I hear and see Dead comparisons.

I agree with you on the statement that it may (probably) not be a conscious choice. I think it evolves naturally as part of the ebb and flow that tends to most please the audiences' (and bands') sensitivities.
, comment by tubescreamer
tubescreamer Mango Song was written about/while Trey was bussing tables to make ends meet before the music was their full-time job. I think pairing it after Twenty Years Later is a nod to how far they have come.
, comment by Scott
Scott A nice review of a strong show, however, I must say that the McGrupp was a total disaster for Trey, he simply forgot how to play long stretches of the composition. At the show I thought he had broken a string and was playing alternative chords or something, but no. Also not Page's best McGrupp solo IMO. It's one of my favorite tunes but now that I'm reminded of its mediocre performance I am much less likely to listen to set I start to finish. Need to spend more time with set II.
, comment by ColForbin
ColForbin Finally getting around to listening to this show. Great recap, @bertoletdown - although I think you undersold the Wolfman's a bit. For the second song in a show it was way way more interesting than I expected. If any of you skipped right to the second set (like I usually do) give the Wolfman's a listen 10 minutes of some really fun stuff.
, comment by ColForbin
ColForbin Meant to say third song there re: Wolfman's. Just shows how forgettable the first two songs were. ;-)
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Fun with Setlists

October 20, 2010
7 years ago
Utica Memorial Auditorium

Set 1: My Soul, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Vultures, Wolfman's Brother[1] -> Cities[2] > Guyute, David Bowie, Wilson[3] > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Saw It Again -> Run Like an Antelope[4]

Set 2: Drowned -> Sand > Theme From the Bottom, Axilla > Birds of a Feather, Tela > Split Open and Melt -> Have Mercy > Piper -> Split Open and Melt > Slave to the Traffic Light

Encore: Good Times Bad Times

[1] Vocal jam.
[2] Alternate "Genesee Factory" lyric.
[3] Lyric changed to "I must inquire Guyute."
[4] Trey teased Guyute instead of saying "Marco Esquandolas."

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