The conclusion of Phish’s 7th set of shows at the Gorge brought more heat, reverence for the beauty, and some serious exploration and jams. I am not one to try and pigeon-hole a show as “best of 3.0” or “best start to finish show of the year” but it’s hard to argue with the playing on both nights of this run, and night 2 has some pretty goosebump-inducing moments and a second set that should stand the test of time.
George, Washington is about as close to the middle of nowhere that you can find, and an odd but beautiful place for a music venue. The dramatic scenery surrounding the stage is awe-inspiring and humbling. Contrast that with the nearly inhospitable heat and dryness of the high desert summer landscape, and you have the tension and release that mirrors what a lot of Phish music attempts to achieve. It is a must-see venue for Phish fans, and this year many finally checked it off their bucket list.
“Architect” is a welcome new addition to the Phish catalog and I hope it stays in rotation. I thought it was an odd choice for a first set opener and feel it is a better late second set song but it was well executed. With a nearby wildfire sending its odor and haze to the venue, it seemed almost a nod to the majesty of whatever cosmic architect designed this dangerous and beautiful place. Some discussion ensues after Architect and it appears a fan request is granted with a solid version of “Golgi Apparatus,” the first of 2013. To my ears they sound very relaxed and certainly on-point.
After Golgi there is more discussion and hand signaling with Trey spreading his arms apart, as if peering through windows or perhaps...a curtain! “The Curtain With,” this reviewer’s favorite Phish song, delights with some thoughtful and soaring soloing from Trey and crisp and tight fills from Fishman. The “With” portion of this song is one of those Phish spaces where you really get to hear the interplay between the four members and you can hear Trey and Page musically talking to each other throughout this version.
“Kill Devil Falls” finally kicks off the dance party and Trey lays down a solid solo with plenty of throw your arms up and dance energy. Without a pause at the end of the song, they drop right into "The Moma Dance," and Fishman just absolutely crushes it. The intro is loaded with quality Fishman fills that inspire the other band members to take chances that result in a well above average start to the song. The solo is short and to the point, and the song ends with an immediate segue into “Maze.” Page gets his first opportunity of the night to shine and shine he does! With Trey facing him, locked in to what he’s playing, this version takes off to its usual bombastic peaks with a spattering of machine gun Trey. End first quarter.
Taking it down a notch after the previous 3 dance numbers, “Beauty Of A Broken Heart” leads off the second quarter with a sweet Page balad and a tiny trainwreck after the first verse and chorus. Trey continues the couples dance portion of the evening with “Roses Are Free.” I know a lot of fans really enjoy this song but for me, it is a bathroom break tune. I love Ween and I love Phish but I don’t personally like this combo of the two. YMMV. This version is pretty straightforward and solidly played.
Next up we get a rare new song debut with the Mike Gordon/Scott Murawski-penned “Say Something.” A funky beat with a bit of a Little Feat vibe and some sweet 70’s vocals, I think it’s a great tune and look forward to its return. More new songs please, Mike!
“Ocelot” drops in next, keeping the vibe somewhat mellow. This is an above average version, Mike leading the way with his bouncy bass lines. The Trey and Fish interplay yields some really great moments here and the end takes off to an apex that would make Jerry proud of this Tennessee Jed knock off. I kid!
As a tribute to the great JJ Cale, who passed away the day before from a heart attack, set one ends with “After Midnight.” For whatever reason they play it in a completely different key than its last three appearances, taking it back to the same key it was played in at Big Cypress. Trey’s solo is filled with some cool vamping and rhythmic chord strumming, but not much more. Not exactly a strong finish to the quieter second half of set one, but a fitting and expected memorial to JJ Cale.
Those watching the webcast got treated to the comedy stylings of a mystery writer (Mike?) after set one finished, and it is always a pleasure to watch and giggle at the silly jokes. Chupacabra!
Set two jumps off to a predictable but strong start with “Down With Disease.” It has found a its home as a second set opener and that is just fine! The jam develops into a nice conversation between all four members, with Page spending a lot of time on his orange mini Wurlitzer piano, aka Lil’ Punkin. Seemingly out of nowhere but probably planned, Trey begins the “Undermind” theme and the rest of the band immediately follows with little to no transition. DWD>Undermind is a great combo and as the first jam opens up, Page returns to Lil’ Punkin for some really tasty soloing and one of the highlights of the show. Returning to the song, Trey adds a little delay to his chords for a great effect. The second jam instantly drops into exploratory territory that gets dark and fuzzy with plenty of meatball Mike, changes gears a few more times and eventually gets quiet and really spacey. Kuroda’s more subdued lighting rig turns into a vision from Close Encounters and we find ourselves in deep interstellar space, with a brief visit to the Marimba Lumina by Fish. Top notch version on par with the Dick’s Undermind.
Exiting the dark matter of the Undermind jam, the band attempts the jump into hyperspace with “Light.” Expectations of this song have become deservedly high, but this version is comparatively brief and uneventful compared to other recent renditions.Type I all the way and some nice work by Trey but nothing that really stands out. As the jam fades, the crowd is treated to the first “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley” since last year’s San Francisco show. Coincidently that Sally came out of Light as well. A funky vocal jam pause then full on meatball Mike-led funk dance party. Trey makes some pretty strong statements in this one and takes the jam to a satisfying, extended peak, after which the song levels off and fades into “Also Sprach Zarathustra.”
Much like recent versions of Tube, 2001 doesn’t have long legs but this one has some really creative playing led by Page and his assortment of keyboards. The middle jam has what sounds like a musical quote of some sort but I have yet to see it identified as anything other than something cool they fell into. A unique version well worth a listen!
“Walls Of The Cave” is up next, a song that saw lots of play in 2011, only once in 2012, and once this year already at SPAC. This version does not disappoint, each movement presented masterfully and turning into quite the shred fest for Trey, then slowly dissolving into a “Fluffhead” that I don’t think anyone saw coming. The composed section was a bit of a mess but the rest of the song was nailed, although the solo by Trey was a little disjointed and lacking.
“Run Like An Antelope” closes out set two, having done the same thing in Chicago the weekend prior. Often a first set closer it’s great to see this song in the second set end slot. The jam starts quietly as usual but quickly turns into a plentiful dose of Trey, hitting the double time peak with verve. As second sets go, this one is filled with a lot to love. Trey thanks everyone for an incredible two days and gives expressions of love for the venue.
That same expression of love kicks off the encore with “Show Of Life.” Love it or hate it, Trey is going to use this song to send a message of gratitude and we should all be thankful. Also we should be glad they didn’t end the show with it! Instead we get one more rocker in “Good Times Bad Times.” To me it feels a little out of place here but we get to end the show on a high note.
The west coast leg of the 2013 tour kicked off with two really high quality shows from four guys who are locked in tight and obviously loving every minute of being on stage together. Let’s see if they can keep the energy up for the rest of the west. Next stop, more amazing beauty at Lake Tahoe, with two shows in a parking lot behind a casino. Quite different from the Gorge! See you there!
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March 27, 1993
25 years ago
Set 2: Buried Alive > Halley's Comet > It's Ice > Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin' Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Poor Heart > Golgi Apparatus
 Beginning featured Trey on acoustic guitar.
 Fish on trombone.
 All Fall Down signal in intro.
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