, attached to 2003-02-22

Review by Anonymous

(Published in the second edition of The Phish Companion...)

I can't begin to put into words how good it felt to wake up this morning. After two long years, I was finally back on the train. I missed out on the NYE show and the Hampton runs due to the mad rush for tickets, and I got shut out of the first night of this Cincy run due to the same reasons. However, I thanked my lucky stars that Phish Tickets By Mail gave me three tickets to at least one of the shows this tour, regardless of their placement behind the stage.
It was raining this morning but my Jeep Cherokee didn't seem to mind the weather. He headed from Erie, PA to Columbus, OH with no problems, then after a quick lunch got back on the road with no grief. However, as we rounded the bend in Cincinnati and could actually see the venue, the truck started giving me beef. Our hotie was just inside Kentucky, about ten minutes from the arena, so we had to make it there first thing. As I rounded the bend the engine in the Jeep started hesitating, and as I got off the highway and into the residential area where our hotie was located, all sorts of things started going wrong. I could smell a burning odor coming through the heating ducts, my windshield wipers began leaving black trails on the windshield, and the Jeep's engine pretty much just wanted to stop.
I pulled into the parking lot at our place of lodging and turned the engine off with a thunk. We checked in and took our stuff to our room, and I spent the rest of my down time before the show driving my Jeep around the parking lot, hoping that it was just tired from being driven for six hours straight. It wasn't cured. However, I wasn't about to miss the show, so we drove the ten minutes back into Cincy with the engine hesitating and all, parked it in a garage and tried to forget about it for awhile.
As we made our way from the garage to the venue, we had to walk up a flight of stairs outside a parking garage that seemed to be attached to the arena and connected by a skywalk above. We climbed the stairs through the freezing rain and in each level of the garage there was a huge lot party going on. Lots of balloons and beers, and lots of "wooks" breathing in car exhaust. All along the way there were people looking hard for tickets, making cash offers of more than $100.
Finally we made it into the venue and found our extremely uncomfortable seats. We were behind the stage at somewhat of an angle, and my companion Nick thought this was terrible. Frankly my girlfriend Jamie and I thought this was great. We were at an angle enough that we were looking at the side of the band's heads, not the backs, and we were really close to the stage. As people filed in, an energy began to build. It was super-positive, as if everyone in the room had been away for too long and was set to have the time of their lives. Security was non-existent, pretty much making it possible to get away with anything you might want to get away with. This relaxed atmosphere really added to the overall scene inside the arena.
As the lights went down the crowd erupted into a deafening roar. In all of my years seeing Phish I have never heard a crowd this loud before. The band took the stage and tore into "The Sloth", driving home some good old-fashioned hard rock for the people. The band then dusted off "Dogs Stole Things", a fun song to hear especially if this was your first show in two years. After that, Trey began to strum the chords to "Piper" and this got the ball really rolling for a night of jamming. The crowd was on their feet and going nuts. The band stretched out quite a bit and really touched on some nice thematic jamming. You could hear the tease from a mile away, and when they finally launched into the first-ever stand alone "Weekapaug Groove" out of "Piper" the roof came off the place.
The segue was executed perfectly and served as a great nod to the night before, when they played "Mike's Song" with no "Weekapaug". As the "Weekapaug" jam came to an end, the band had to wait a minute or two for the insanity to die down before they could continue. Both "Piper" and "Weekapaug" were played as though they were show closers and it was only four songs into the first set. Trey brought the crowd down a notch or two with a beautiful rendition of "Dirt" before they headed into a comical "Scent Of A Mule". "Scent" featured Page's patented klezmer jam, and then Fish pretending to play his drums behind his back, before the band busted into the Hebrew jam section complete with dance steps.
After "Scent", a version of "Walls Of The Cave" from the new album Round Room began. At first I wasn't too keen on this; however, it worked its way into a very tasty extended jam section with lots of inspired noodling and proved that, given time, it would be another wonderful jam springboard. The band brought us down once again with a fantastic "Mist" and then ended the set with a well-placed and well-executed "Sample In A Jar". As the band took its bow the audience went crazy, cheering for quite awhile despite the house lights going on. The crowd spent the setbreak attempting the wave, and it was actually successful more than once.
The band took the stage once again to a warm welcome, and after a touch of noodling slammed into "Tube". Phish seems to save this tune for the really good shows, and this was a really good version with the blues section featuring some nice old school guitar work by Trey. As "Tube" came to an end, the band revved up what was to be one of the best jams of the tour nestled inside a thirty minute long "Bathtub Gin". After the lyric section, the jam began with the typical guitar solo. However, in mid-flight some genius threw a glowstick directly at Trey, who stopped his solo and caught it before it smacked him in the face. He then tossed it back into the audience and began again; however, his next attempt only lasted a few moments as another glowstick almost clocked him one. He picked that one up and tried chucking it back into the audience behind his back but ended up just hitting someone in the face. Anyway, the jam continued and reached places no other version of "Bathtub Gin" had ever reached before. There was ambience, rock grooves, dark noodling, and the works. At one point it was like they were vamping the main theme but each one doing so at a different tempo.
After the jam of the night and by far one of the best jams of the tour, the band completely killed the energy by playing "Friday" from the new album, which has proven itself to be the ultimate throwaway song. The band made a successful dive to bring back the energy by busting into an intense jam-filled "David Bowie" featuring Trey tearing up the intricate guitar lines in this composed masterpiece of progressive rock. After a raging "Bowie", the band decided to end on a low note with an exquisite yet poorly placed "Bug". The band left the stage and came back for the encore, counted off and jumped right into "Suzie Greenberg", much to the glee of the fans. The chorus echoed throughout the venue as everyone and their brother sang along, before Trey settled into a ripping solo that lead into the "Suzie" Funk that had us all getting down to the last song of the night. As the band brought the song to an end with a roar, the audience cheered and cheered and reached decibels of an overwhelming measure.
We left the show and I was so thankful that I drove the six hours for such a great time and that Phish was able to keep my mind off of my Jeep for a few hours. We drove back to the hotie with (surprisingly) no problems, and then woke up that morning and searched the phone book for a garage that was open on Sundays. Luckily the last one I tried was open and I took it there, waited four hours, and then got charged $500 for a tune up and new spark plug wires.
Although I clearly got ripped off, I was treated to a great show and I learned a valuable lesson: if I decide to go on a road trip that is longer than four hours, I'm riding with somebody else.


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