Wednesday 08/01/2018 by therealburnham

AUSTIN RECAP: FUN IN THE TEXAS SUN

There's no real denying that, during the 3.0 years, Phish has had a tumultuous relationship with the state of Texas. 2010 had the one-off ACL festival set which, while a good festival set, wasn't anything to write home about. Fast forward five years later and there were two summer shows in 2015, one in Austin and one in Grand Prairie. The first two set shows that Texas had seen since 1999. Expectations were understandably high. Austin was incredibly song-focused, and GP was good but definitely not great. Fall 2016 had two shows, again in Grand Prairie. The first was a fun, high energy show, but the second had, in this attendee's opinion, a travesty of a second set. The old adage for Phish shows -- "At least you had fun"-- still held true for these shows, though. And as a 12-year native of Austin, I attended all of them. And I did have fun for all of them (even during a second set "Friday"!) but to try to paraphrase Orwell, "All shows are fun, but some shows are more fun than others." Enjoying being in the moment and witnessing a band that is still playing well after 35 years of concerts is one thing, but there hadn't been anything truly transcendent in any of these shows. Which set the stage for 2018.

Would the band play another "Texas show," or would the magic --that we all know can occur-- happen?

© 2018 Phish (Huemer)
© 2018 Phish (Huemer)

It was hot in Austin last night. Not hot like it was in 2015, though, when I think show temperature was somewhere between 100 and the temperature of the sun, but still hotter than most out-of-towners likely expected. So the energy in the venue was anxious and ready for release. And as Trey opened up with "Sample in a Jar," I'm sure I wasn't the only one waiting with anticipation. As it was the first "Sample" since the legendary Baker's Dozen version, I found myself holding my breath as the band approached the "the simple smiles and good times seem all wrong" lyric. But, alas, this was a standard "Sample."

Coming into the two hole was a very unexpected "Light" in its earliest placement ever, and only third first set version. In a tour that's been sprinkled so far with some unexpected first set explorations, this seemed promising. A nice little Page-and-Trey-led jam developed but remained firmly within the bounds of "Light." What happened next was a clear indication that this was a first set. A compact "Moma Dance," followed by "Funky Bitch," "Heavy Things," "Theme," "Brian and Robert," and "Halfway to the Moon." Listening to the previous shows on this tour, I thought it seemed like there was a fairly high degree of mixed cues and flubs by Trey and all members of the band. But this stretch of songs, although probably not worthy of future re-listens unless you are a huge fan of any of them in particular, were played pretty well, and without anything too noticeably off. And they all had the requisite "extra mustard" you may be looking for in the first set. There was a half-second where it seemed like "Theme" would take off, but instead it settled-back into its normal form.

Then came "The Line." Probably the current most maligned song in the catalog, woo boy were people a little deflated to hear its opening moments. But I want to bring this version up because Page absolutely kills it on the baby grand after the vocal segment. Now don't get me wrong, it's still "The Line" and still the first set and by this point I was starting to feel like we were heading towards a repeat of (3.0) Texas shows past. "I Didn't Know" came up next, which was only really noteworthy because of Mike taking his pants off mid-song. But with the set closer, there was a strong glimmer of hope that developed. A frenetic "46 Days" sprung up, and elevated itself into a pretty fun and rocking jam that although was short at just over 10 minutes, packed a lot into it. And that hope continued to grow during the setbreak as thoughts of huge Tweezers on the five year anniversary of Tahoe raced through everyone's heads.

© 2018 Phish (Huemer)
© 2018 Phish (Huemer)

Well "Tweezer" never happened. But as the wind picked up just a bit prior to the second set starting, we got a strong message from the band: "Everything's Right." For a song that debuted only in 2017, it certainly has frequently been taken out on extended versions consistently. And this version in particular is, in a few words, simply stellar. Dark and melodious eventually give way to bliss and peaks in this monster 19-minute journey that goes by extremely quick. I'm not a musicologist and have never studied music theory, but I do know when I think something sounds really good. And the segment that develops around 12-minutes in sounds really good. And as an aside, is the theme of 2018 jammed-out TAB songs? "Everything's Right," "Set Your Soul Free," and "Soul Planet" have just been excellent this tour so far (as well as some of the standard heavy hitters as well). I like to imagine the band saying to Trey, "We'll play your song but we're taking it far out too." After a slightly jarring re-entry into "Everything's Right" to finish the version, another surprise song in the two slot happens.

"DWD" is typically considered a set two opener, but for the second time in three shows it began out of a strong second-set jam, in second position, and is simply must-hear. A continuation of some of the jamming heard earlier, it also covers a ton of ground in its relatively short 17-minute frame. An almost mirror of the previous "Everything's Right," its jam explodes into a light and bright section immediately, that eventually snakes itself effortlessly back into an evil and foreboding section that is a must hear and that segues pretty easily into "Steam."

"Steam" is its typical good self with a killer Trey solo in the middle portion. A compact "Seven Below" closes out the third quarter to conclude an excellent 55 minutes of Phish. It's unfortunate they couldn't have pushed that out a bit as well, because its groove was bopping right along. In terms of second set ballads, though, "Dirt" really can't be beat. There are few songs I'd like to hear every show, but "Dirt" is on the short list, along with "Horn" and "Pebbles and Marbles." Standard versions of "The Wedge" (making its second consecutive fourth quarter appearance) and "Wilson" follow, with a show-closing standard "Antelope" with good tension/release dynamics, and Kuroda having one last chance to have fun with all his crazy gadgets. An encore of "Loving Cup" made sure everyone was sent off into the night happy.

Putting it all together what did we have? Easily the best show in Texas in 3.0 (with again a pretty low bar to overcome). Two excellent must-hear jams in set two contributed to a stellar third quarter, and the first set closed well. Overall, a fun show. I know I had fun. And I know I'll have more fun at Curveball. See ya'll there.

© 2018 Phish (Huemer)
© 2018 Phish (Huemer)

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Comments

, comment by Texas_TUBE
Texas_TUBE Great, concise review. Coming from someone who attended this show, the two shows in Dallas in 2016, and the ACL festival set, I can say with confidence that this was easily the best Texas show of 3.0. I really enjoyed it and came away with the opinion that Austin, instead of Dallas, seems to be the superior host for Phish shows (for whatever reason). I was disappointed to hear DWD in the second set as they had just played it two shows ago, but luckily for me and everyone else in attendance, it was an unusually strong take on the song. Tweezer would have been awesome to hear, but I can understand why the band seemingly left it for GA. The energy was very strong all night and they appeared to be enjoying themselves. Quick side note - Page was the clear MVP last night and he also seemed to be turned up a bit louder in the mix. Really enjoyable show #15 for me.
, comment by rmplurker
rmplurker Good Review the pit energy during 1st set was very high. I left the pit during break and moved to the lawn. I agree with your assessment this was the best Texas Phish show of 3.0. I have also attended all Texas Phish 3.0 shows. The weather also treated us well Tuesday didn't get over 95 thanks for the clouds. Had a great time hanging in Lot F before the show. Running into to people you usually see at jam shows in Texas. Overall a good time.
, comment by axillapt5000
axillapt5000 Who's the dude Trey's laughing w/in the above photo?
, comment by therealburnham
therealburnham @axillapt5000 said:
Who's the dude Trey's laughing w/in the above photo?
Kuroda
, comment by jsauce
jsauce I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for being thoughtful. The steam was the highlight for me. I've grown to actually enjoy The Wedge, which I think most heads don't. Trey acted like he forgot to solo on the back half of it- strange.
, comment by Rosiebum
Rosiebum Amazing how vacuum solos don’t even get the mention anymore. Remember when that was special?
, comment by axillapt5000
axillapt5000 Thanks @therealburnham.

I like how someone thumbs-downed my question. I apologize, I thought maybe that dude was the bassist Jon Gordon.. Didn't want to make any assumptions though.

While I'm here, I would like to publicly declare my distaste for caption-less photos. Maybe here it's a bit different and acceptable--I guess if I'm spending time here I should be able to quickly visually recognize Kuroda, I do feel badly about that actually--but Jambase drives me nuts in this regard.
, comment by Slice
Slice Spot on review.

I feel the boys have a unique connection with each venue/location and play to that bond. At BGCA, they get spacey in The Dead’s house. They get swept away by the beauty of The Gorge. And in Texas, Trey reminds everyone he’s from Ft. Worth, they play straight-forward Rock n Roll, Mike takes his pants off and they encore with Loving Cup. And I’ll be right back there at the next Texas show.
, comment by Sativar
Sativar Excellent review. I really enjoy your writing style. This was the first show of thid tour I didn't get to stream at least a portion live. I'll definitely download for my flight tomorrow. See y'all in ATL!
, comment by TwiceBitten
TwiceBitten Chiming in with another "best Texas show of 3.0"
, comment by LightsWentOut
LightsWentOut Great review. I am glad that we were able to get a review of the show by someone from ATX who was also actually at the show. I was worried we'd get a write-up by a Texas-hating NE resident who heard the show via a crappy cell phone stream and mainly judged things by what the set list was (which is what I see a lot of in the forums). I, too, was at all of the 3.0 Texas shows and like the reviewer, I enjoyed them all (yes, even THAT show - you know the one). I have appreciated how the band plays something special for us each time. This was indeed the best of the lot and stands up to the high level of playing that we have been seeing here in the post-Baker's Dozen world we all live in.
, comment by NipseySlicer
NipseySlicer I'm glad to hear your take on Page, I concur . He has definitely been louder in the mix the whole tour and stepping up consistently.
, comment by dorz11
dorz11 I'm another Texas veteran and was at all 3.0 Texas shows. This was by far the best of them all. But I'm not complaining about any of them, any Texas show I'm thankful for! My only issue with Austin is why have it at 360 in July? Lets do it in the Erwin center which is indoor and downtown! Thanks Phish for a solid show!
, comment by jsauce
jsauce Srsly man. And why do they have to play the gorge in July? It’s ROASTING.

@dorz11 said:
I'm another Texas veteran and was at all 3.0 Texas shows. This was by far the best of them all. But I'm not complaining about any of them, any Texas show I'm thankful for! My only issue with Austin is why have it at 360 in July? Lets do it in the Erwin center which is indoor and downtown! Thanks Phish for a solid show!
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