, attached to 2015-07-22

Review by Trey_Talks

Trey_Talks This is my first review. I don't consider myself the best person to review phish, let alone any musical act. It was a generic email from phish.net that beckoned me to review this show, so I decided "why the hell not" and took the opportunity to share a few thoughts.

My girlfriend and I raced to the show in a rented Prius, intent on entering the venue at doors so that we could ride the rail and be as close to Trey&co as possible. We almost killed ourselves a couple times navigating the winding roads through the forest of central OR.

Alas, the confounding roundabouts of Bend proved our undoing. Practically convulsing with pre-show jitters, we kept exiting each circle the same way we had entered... several times. We at last entered the amphitheater at 4:30. That proved too late to get on the rail itself. We nosed forward hopefully toward an empty space, but some ornery (and quite old) fans angrily shooed us away, saying it was "their" spot and that they had been there first. We settled down in the center of the concrete "pit" instead, and I quietly asked my girlfriend to please kill me if she ever saw me at age 50 desperately defending a scrap of frontline territory against college age phans. In retrospect, they did have the right. Early birds and all that.

The 2 hour wait in the direct sunlight took a toll. By showtime, we were a bit exhausted, dehydrated, and sunburned... but as the band took the stage our spirits soared.

The first thing I noticed about the concussive blasts of Stash's opening phrase was that Fishman was beginning the show at full throttle with a broad grin on his face. What followed was a clean and "by the book" Stash. it was a bit subdued. I have no problem with that. I like hearing classic songs get a "standard" treatment while the band warms up, and I like first sets. I will avoid making a trite analogy to sex and foreplay to explain why I like 'em, but it's there in my mind. While they worked through Stash, my mind buzzed with anticipation for what was in store for us. I worried a bit that the brutal heat and dry conditions might cause the splendor to dim as happened later in Austin.

No such thing. HMPAY is a raging song, and its debut performance was laden with shock and awe. The pulse of this one is incredible. Once Page, Mike, and Fish are all locked into the groove, your body is twisting and jerking along to Fish's mechanical precision like a clockwork ninja. You are raging WITH the machine. Their debut of this song was masterful: early in the set and not missing a beat. My girlfriend doesn't know all phish songs and even mixes up their names on occasion, but she remembered this song and knew its title without asking. She's been singing it in the shower for weeks afterword. This is how new phans are created, when new material is introduced with confidence and enthusiasm, and crusted old heads can only remain speechless when asked "which song is this?"

The energy carried directly over to Winterqueen. After Waiting All Night, Winterqueen is easily my favorite Fuego song. I had listened intently to all prior versions, always feeling like there was so much room for this song to grow great, but always a little disappointed as it ended after five or six minutes. The version in Bend was 11 minutes long, with a beautiful, patiently built peak. Fans all around were gazing with sharpened longing and appreciation for the brilliant sky and water encapsulating us. This won't be glossed as "noteworthy" by the powers that be, and that's too bad. This is one you can't miss, especially if you've been eagerly awaiting new jams out of Fuego songs.

Heavy Rotation was the next debut. A punchy and uplifting page workout. I can't emphasize enough how potent this double debut combo of Mike's fury with Page's finesse was for this show. Again, using my girlfriend as the barometer of "the outsider" (although she's at 2 shows now and claimed to have been "converted" at Eugene last year), this was the other song of the night that she knew the name of without having to ask. This was what stuck with her and made her want to see it again. I can't agree more. I feel like it took at least a year for much of the Fuego material to really light up, but these new tunes are roaring out of the gate.

BOTT was rocking, high energy, and endowed with a certain hypnotic playfulness by Fishman's perpetual motion drumsticks. However this version was utterly "normal," as if it were being played with the Sheet music in front of them. BOTT is one of my favorite Phish standards and it would take a lot to not leave me wanting more...

but before I had a chance to catch my breath, we were on to another debut. For the record, I think Scabbard is a lame song. The lyrics to me sound as if Trey sat down in a room one day, beset with writer's-block, and said to himself "I'm going to write lyrics to this fucking song in the next hour and I don't care how bad they are." Once the singing stops however, a mellow melody unfurls. The musical dialogue between Trey and Page in this part is tremendously moving, and I know one day we will see great things come out of this. As an aside, nothing captures Phish's "musical maturity" better than this.

The band then pushes off from the watery depths and up into a ferocious Maze. I was quite surprised to be getting a Maze in broad daylight in the first set, as this spooky tune is best suited to cooler, indoor spaces with lazer lights tracing maze patterns on darkened walls. This Maze is all peak. Fans of shredding insanity will want to check it out. I was at the time hoping for more spacey and experimental fare and was left feeling a tad restless.

Mercury provided just what I wanted. Of the two "Trey song" debuts, this one made a bigger impression on me. I was glad to see that someone had been paying close attention to the unusually bright points of light of to the lower right of our moon around dawn and dusk recently. They are Venus and Mercury. I don't know much about astronomy, but I'm convinced this song is layered with allusions to the two planets, which (I'm pretty sure) can only be seen together at dusk and dawn. I was also tickled by the line "Your day is longer than your year." Very true. Love those Tom Marshall lines that catch your attention. At least I assume it's Tom Marshall.

Then they played possum, it was awesome, and the set ended.

Set break saw me and my lady rush back to get water, destroyed by the afternoon spent in the fierce heat. Once the Sun had sunk beneath the treeline, I thought: "now I can finally enjoy this show for real!"

the ASIHTOS that opened set two was enthusiastic, and seemed to make clear that the raging fire of the first set would give way to deep waters with sunken treasures to explore. Waves was one such treasure. Pretty and playful, this dreamy-yet-snappy waves was what some might call the first certified "hetty" jam of the night. By that point, I was so feeling so sated and grateful to have heard 4 debuts in set one that they could have segued into "row row row your boat" and I likely would have kept cheering.

Wingsuit was, along with Winterqueen, the other Fuego song that was taken to a new level at Bend. I challenge anyone to point to a Wingsuit with a more patient build or a more soulful climax. Again, it won't be called "noteworthy," but it was in my book. For someone keeping track of the growth of the youngest phish songs, while not particularly concerned if this-or-that older song is "too short," this Wingsuit was a highlight. Up to that point, my rating of this show was a solid 5/5 stars on the strength of the debuts, the Winterqueen, and the Wingsuit.

And then they played farmhouse. I was pretty much like "oh... :-/ ," and I LIKE farmhouse. The placement was terrible for reasons that bear explaining: farmhouse is either a happy song to send people off as a set II closer or encore or possibly an early set icebreaker, to reassure people that "at least we won't get a farmhouse later!" Here it served as a breather song, as the band seemed a bit unsure as to where to go after Wingsuit. This farmhouse was the only real flaw to speak of. However, after a minute I was into it and swaying along happily. Along with first sets, I also like Cute Phish Songs. Just not when they barge in on sick second set jamming.

After the interlude, it was back to mind expanding music. This simple is special. I feel it to be a cousin of the fabulous dick's simple from 8/29 last year. Like that simple, it is patient and innovative in a way unique to the 3.0 Phish sound. Unlike the soaring bliss of last year's however, this one was dark. It tugs the listener, playfully at first, then with gut wrenching insistence as mike strikes the bell at 7:04, into a yawning abyss. I had never known Simple to be capable of sinking to such purple-black depths, but I can't say I was surprised. After hearing the song of the ocean and diving beneath the waves, we had finally arrived at the deepest and most prized sunken chest in this ocean. I felt this Simple was strangled early out of fear that it would grow into an enormous hairy monster. I was not complaining. I think it's fitting that such a dark take on a happy song wasn't extended too long. There will always be a chance to resume this evil experiment in the future...

First tube saw raging intensity from Mike and Fishman and I was immensely happy to see it. I hadn't ever seen it before, and was caught totally off guard. Although I couldn't help feeling that Trey was dragging the tempo ever so slightly and wasn't sure if it was intentional or not. Perhaps it was just my mind racing ahead of the music.

Then the show ended as it began, with a by-the-book take on an old classic. I was hoping for more from this gin, but like most fans I am greedy. I don't really begrudge them of wanting to move away from the older tunes. Improvisation takes tremendous wit, and cannot be forced. They are very wise to save as much space as possible for new songs and new ideas. I and many others in my age cohort see phish for their famed creativity and freshness, rather than in pursuit of re-visited versions of epic Gins, SOAMs and Tweezers from years past (although I would of course give my left nut to attend a show with a jammed out version of any of the above)

If you've read up to this point, I have to congratulate you. This review has been far too long. If I could only write and critique music as well as Phish jams, it might not have been such a chore. It's been fun to write and to recall though, and I hope to improve my reviewing skill with time.

Big thanks to all the Phans who turned out in bend, big thanks to the mockingbird foundation for providing this wonderful website free of charge, and biggest thanks of all to Trey, John, Mike, and Page for putting up with greedy and insatiable fans like myself and continuing to make beautiful music for us all to enjoy.


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