OK, Phish fans.... we’re almost at the finish line for this leg of summer tour 2013! It has been a wild ride, and we still have the home stretch over the next two nights. Let’s cut to the action from Saturday at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. This recapper ran into a late-night perfect storm of adult socializing that resulted in an inspection of the sunrise, so today we’re going to necessarily be a bit brief.
“Grind” starts off the gig, giving us our first taste of a cappella for the tour. The first “Weigh” since 6/28/12 Deer Creek (45 shows) also offers enough “stop-start” to allow the crowd to exercise some of the hopefully subsiding “woo” energy. In a silly oddball song like “Weigh” this crowd effort doesn’t seem intrusive – as opposed, say, to during the previous evening’s “Reba” – though hopefully we’re all getting this out of our system. The new-to-2013 start rolls on with the always spirited “Alumni Blues” > “Letter to Jimmy Page” > “Alumni Blues,” only the sixth such performance since 1994.
“Lengthwise” was a treat for this fan – my first in nearly twenty-two years of attending Phish gigs. Not quite my long-sought “Icculus” :-) but list-keeping Phish geeks love crossing things off lists, so there it is. Then a fluid segue into its most common pairing over the last twenty years, “Maze.” Stretching almost ten minutes, this fiery “Maze” combined with the packed confines of BGCA kept the heat on full blast. Concise and enjoyable versions of “Sample,” “NICU” and “Mound” settle in to a stable mid-set section before expanding the 2013 repertoire again with “Jesus Just Left Chicago” (first since 7/3/12 Jones Beach, 41 shows).
“Driver” was next, and was a very special tribute to a fan who had passed away last September, Ryan Hoherd. His brother, Pete, had led an online campaign to have “Driver” played at BGCA. As Pete noted, “Ry, a veteran of over 30 shows dating back to 1999, a dancing maniac, an amazing brother, husband, father, and an unbelievably positive spirit always felt deeply connected to Driver – a song which, he felt (and I agree), represented his zest and love for life: always moving forward even if not totally in control and perhaps at times thinking he should be better dressed.” RIP, Ry.
This long (16 song!) set rolls on with “Timber” > “Axilla,” “Bug” and the always mock-hated but mostly loved (common’, admit it) “Possum.” A rocking “First Tube” closes the book on back-to-back first sets at the BGCA that one can actually write home about. Entertaining, diverse, deep-dipping the repertoire, a little something for everyone.
“Rock and Roll” opens and drives down the field for the touchdown in its traditional third-quarter kickoff slot. Clearly the improvisational highlight of this gig, this sixteen-minute version drives hard off the theme, then with Mike offering a decisive curve-meatball, we’re into the zone where we’re all float for the next ten minutes, settling down into a lovely segment where Fish dropped out for all but soft cymbals, painting a luscious dreamscape before cranking the up the tempo into a head-banging yet-melodic dance-a-thon. Great stuff... though this would represent the last time the band would really let out the jamming engines for the balance of the gig. The subsequent “Steam” was excellent, “Backwards Down the Number Line” gives the fans a chance to catch their breath, followed by the first pure Mike’s Groove (“Mike’s Song” > “I Am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug Groove”) since 7/3/12 Jones Beach (41 shows). Both “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug” jams stayed well within their respective “box” but the much-loved “Hydrogen” was well worth the mostly straight-forward reading. The second “Joy” of the tour offers a reflective moment. This song is often cited as damaging the flow of a second set, but if you have a problem with Trey wanting to perform this song, your heart could likely use a little tune-up.
The rest of the set is classic Phish, with excellent-if-standard renditions of fan-favorites “Fluffhead,” “2001” and “Slave to the Traffic Light” rounding out the set. An encore of “Waste” and “Suzy Greenberg” sends the fans home happy.
Gotta run to the gig, but since I haven’t had a chance to write since Tahoe, I wanted to offer just a few quick postscript thoughts on the 7/31/13 gig. This was a really fun day for me, as I had the opportunity to play on behalf of The Mockingbird Foundation at our third annual Phamily Poker Classic charity poker tournament. I ended up finishing second and netting some additional cash ($1,369!) to put toward our efforts to support music education programs for kids. So my day was flying before the first notes – I was, well, jacked up! Then... the Tahoe “Tweezer.” First a little on set and setting, one that I had not experienced at a Phish show in many years: fifty feet in front of Mike, with personal space to extend arms in any direction, with three-deep amazing friends in a 360 around me, a cool breeze... and then, BOOM!
The “Tweezer” was so good, all you could really do was laugh (or cry, or jump up and down like a giddy schoolboy, or hug your friend, and that dude you never saw before in your life, or ‘woo!”) If that 36-minute improvisational masterpiece doesn’t move you, seriously, get a new hobby. I’ve been seeing improvisational live music as my primary form of recreation for over thirty years and have had the humble honor to witness tons of epic moments in the careers of Phish and many other bands; I don’t generally get into the “best ever” debates because, while fun, they kinda give me a headache. But the spontaneous eruption of joy and positive collective energy that took place between everyone in that parking lot was, well, special. Phish has thrown down plenty of single jams every bit the equal of the Tahoe “Tweezer.” But that musical / spiritual / emotional experience was as satisfying and uplifting as any I have ever experienced seeing Phish. That’s all.
Last year, the far-and-away best show of the San Francisco run was the third night. Are we in for a repeat? Stay tuned! Let’s do this!
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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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