, attached to 2013-07-16

Review by mgouker

mgouker Alpharetta - night 1

I really thought that after watching the 3 SPAC webcasts and hearing a couple shows from the tour that I had a pretty good idea of where Phish was at, but they again exceeded my expectations last night. The playing at this point is simply phenomenal and they have incredible reserves of Energy - no question about it, they are pacing themselves because when they want to they can get There just like it is easy. It is joyful to see them in total command of their abilities, playing like this. For a fan like me (the hook goes deep in this one), I am thrilled to be here, now.

Ok, let's talk about the show. In the first set, I thought we had a really generous song selection and there were several surprises (at least for me). I dig Kill Devil Falls, but this one was bittersweet since it is one of Denise's favorite songs and she wasn't with me. This was pretty standard as KDF goes, which is too bad, because the song can be outrageous. Here we get it pretty much in its lines, as they are - a little tease of a jam, a sign that everyone is in attendance, but nothing too spectacular as KDF goes. Mound follows. People that started seeing Phish in 3.0 must think Mound is played all the time. It wasn't for a long time and I dig it every time I hear it, especially when it is played like this. The song is generally a great omen that the show is going to be special, but of course I had no doubt.

I love Gin, but I thought it came out a little bit early, which can either mean that the first set is going to go really deep, really quickly or that we are going to be left with our tongues hanging out. It was kind of the latter for me. I mean, I loved the jam, especially because Mike was changing its shape the whole time (another good omen, btw). I should point out that Page wasn't prominent in the mix where I was standing as the others, which sucks for Gin especially, so you should take that into account, but my overall feeling after the Gin started taking off was that it should be let free a little more to wreak havoc. This one built up very nicely but finished off way too fast. It did show that there was plenty of slack in the line though.

I thought I heard a Roggae tease in the tuning before Army of One, but I don't hear it at all in the tapes, so more than likely I was hallucinating without actually taking psychedelics. I dig this song a lot because I love Page's voice to death and the lyrics are great. It also gives us a chance to hear their vocal arrangements better and Trey can play guitar without worrying about remembering lyrics. It is not usually (or ever) a jamming vehicle though and this one is no different, so it tempers the show's energy a bit, but in a charming way and hey, we can't RAGE every song, right?

I swear I always worry now when they play Rift. Isn't that stupid? "How badly are they going to mess up?" is the subconscious question that I can't suppress. This version is damn near perfect - I think I remember some flubbing of the lyrics (which weirdly I don't hear anymore), but everybody in the audience seemed to falter at the same time, so maybe it was a case of the cosmic glue coming undone and Trey just fell through it together with us. It is more important to me if the music is nailed, though, and this one is good for that. It also turned the levels back up to 10 - frenetic mode this time. Horn - another short song that I love a lot - mellowed us out again and I couldn't help but admire the pace of the show. Was this conscious? I hope so. Possum, entirely expected and always welcome in my book, gave us another ride on the up elevator. No, it wasn't like the Possums of the summer last year, but there really isn't such a thing as a bad Possum and there is a legion of Possums that are so nasty and relentless that you willingly give yourself over to ecstasy. This doesn't hit all the dots, but it's mid-set placement was perfect and the energy went right back up (to 11 this time). Fun, fun, song, and tied perfectly into the mood set in the happy space of the Gin jam. So far, it was a solid first set and I was beaming. I looked over at my fellow rmp-ers that were at the show with me and saw they were sharing the same good feeling. Jeff and Polly were grinning from ear to ear and boogieing. Marsha was dancing her ass off - "It's Possum, Possum" she said when they started it. I was like "yeah, I know, the 1 millionth time, right?" I was just as excited though. I didn't hear the Horn teases at the show.

After a long break where Page remarks about how nice it is that it isn't raining (who says "not yet!"?), they started up Pebbles and Marbles, which is my favorite song from the Round Room album, which in my opinion is one of their best for songs. I have always thought that Pebbles was a jam platform that was waiting to be harvest, even though it is an intricate song with lots of composed parts. When Phish was in a bad way, Pebbles seemed like it was hurt more than others and looked like it was dropped for a while, but every one I've seen has always been eye-opening and this was no different. I love the lyrics, the idea of how temporary everything is and the embedded idea that how we view the world changes reality. It's a deep, deep tune and it floods my head and heart - "to think that someone left it for us". I mean, I've felt that and it feels so good. Anyway, what can you say? They nailed it with a tremendous competence and you can forgive them for not stretching it out too far - they made their point. I hope they keep playing it and it soars even more by the end of the tour, but I can plainly say that I already was a satisfied customer in the middle of the first set, which is not to say that I didn't want more, not at all actually, but I was already fine.

Cue Ocelot. Ocelot, one of my favorites of the Joy box, has grown into a monster - just bludgeoning the living shit out of all the slothy ones that were ever made. Here we have the first really totally satisfying jam of the set and by that I mean, with all due respect to KDF and Gin, this Ocelet was a trained assassin. The jam tonight was at times blistering and melodious in turn and it was VERY satisfying - one of the peaks of the show for me. At the end of Ocelot I took stock. As much as I liked the Gin, I felt like it was pulled back from the edge way too soon - maybe it was just too early? I thought KDF was also a song they could have stretched out more, so that was a little disappointing. Mound was gold of course and they played it well. Army of One is great to hear (still waiting for my Halfway to the Moon though, Mr McConnell - please - and could you do Final Flight maybe one day again?) Rift was better than the other time they played it, but it still isn't what it needs to be. Pebbles and Marbles was juicy and well-played, but nothing beyond my high expectations. Ocelot fucking smoked.

I think they played Cavern just to make sure that everyone got the message that they were hear to rock, and it was a hot, typical Cavern, but even now today, sixteen hours later, drinking my stout and IPAs that Ocelot was swarmy. What a song!

After Cavern, they just took the lids off. The Antelope crushed - simply put, it overwhelmed the senses with a mix of subtlety and unbridled attack that nobody can withstand. Look, I know that Antelope is a group song and that Mike and Fish and Page are going completely nuts, but for me in Antelope I always find myself focusing on what Trey is doing and here we have Trey Anastasio decimating with tremendous ease - one of the finest guitarists in the world, completely free to wield his implements of construction and in full command of his faculties. Just. RELENTLESS. Look, there are times just to say go listen to it. Go listen to it. Altogether a good first set and the four minstrels from Gamehendge took their bow and departed.

Summary: So, in my mind, an altogether ordinary, wonderfully good first set of a Phish 3.0 show in 2013.

In my mind, the typical Phish 3.0 formula for the second set that has developed is something like this. We get one big song (sometimes there is a tune that leads into it) with a long, crazy-ass jam that leads into a tune or two that stretch. Then there is a calming break and we finish the second set with another couple songs that might aspire to madness and then one closer after another. For a while there, it seemed like they just kept playing closers until everybody gave up. This has happily changed and now the typical Phish 3.0 formula is essentially anything goes, but I am still influenced by that preconception. This caused me, for example, when Chalkdust started up to have a moment of sadness because I thought the jam-part of the show was over. Ha. Ha. Ha.

When they returned and started up with Rock and Roll, it looked very promising. I mean, I like the song a lot of course and the jamming potential is basically infinite. After working through the standard bits, the spells and potions were employed and they found a lovely mellifluous jam. Wrapping this up with some pure rock leads and Page on the clavinet, they dug a little deeper and then they were playing Heartbreaker. This has a full verse and Trey sounds a bit hoarse, but the intent is there and it's a joy to hear. This is just glorious as it melts into Makisupa with Mike and Page and Trey all taking turns, which I figured capped a jam segment that was intense but altogether too short, if that was it, I mean. I am hard to satisfy. I should have been pretty happy now, right?

Makisupa had some great fun about the girl in the front row. I think she is probably grateful that the cameras weren't on in the venue (at least we didn't see them). Policeman come to Alpharetta. Hey, by the way, no problems with cops, none with security, no problem getting in, and no traffic leaving. This was a pretty well-organized event. Kudos to all involved and thanks for leaving me alone. ;-)

Chalkdust was just pure bliss. This was the jam of the night in a night of many, many beautiful jams. I have to say because I'm so clueless that I actually got sad for a moment when Chalkdust started because I figured we were already closing down the fun house - Chalkdust is a good closer - but they had other plans. This jam is another that I would have been perfectly content to listen to for an hour or more, but they pulled in the net and came up with a Wilson. This Wilson was played with pure demonic force. It's really insane how much the tape reveals and how much of the essential experience is missing. I haven't had a chance to download a good aud so I'm listening to the livephish, which is clean and true, but I don't see Trey's shaggy head nor Mike's sneer. When they kick into Heartbreaker again, I do see Fishman laughing though. Can you still have any fun, Wilson?

Tweezer kicked off part II so I guess Makisupa and Chalkdust were the "calming break". This is a tight hard-hitting Tweezer that is a tremendous group effort. Page teases heartbreaker at the short jam before Ebeneezer and Mike is everywhere at once. When Ebeneezer happens, we are back in Hearbreaker again and it shifts into a glorious playful section. This is a sweet jam and you could make the argument that this is as good as Chalkdust before and I wouldn't fight about it - it's a matter of taste. Trey finds a beautiful progression that he latches onto and they follow and then we are in a neat space again that, for what it's worth, didn't have to end this soon. I mean, I know, with an attitude like mine it's hard to be satisfied - but as long as the jam goes on I'm there. Somewhere they decided it was enough though and we drifted into Silent, which I thought was actually Light (I was happy about Light and feel a bit robbed - sorry fellows - if I were easy to please, I'd follow someone else around). I also like my Silents with The Horse so I lose twice with this one, but it was pretty nevertheless.

It also felt like the end for me and I'm terrified of endings. The Birds that came afterwards was rocking but not extraordinary (just averagely excellent). There was a well-placed Joy. Did Trey choke up? I don't know. I was busy choking up myself. We want you to be happy too. Hood was excellent as always and Character Zero was really, really, really a barn-burner.

I didn't expect "A Day in the Life" but Marsha said she heard it earlier on. In any case, it's always well-received, never played enough and I'm sure it couldn't be. Just a great song, right? The overwhelming feeling I had during Tweezer Reprise is that it was so wonderful to see Trey with his shaggy hair having so much fun. I'm so happy you guys are apparently taking care of yourselves and keeping your shit together. I'm looking forward to many years of joy.

And, by the way, thank you. This is why we are here.

Summary: a good first set, an above-average excellent second set.

3.5 stars. ;-)

You raise the bar, we raise ours! LOL


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