, attached to 2015-08-22

Review by argonbunnies

argonbunnies I have not listened to a recording yet, so I'm not sure what translated best to digital, but I want to share what it was like to be there.

If this is post is too long for your taste, I recommend just reading about the songs in Set 2.

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Set 1: Maybe 30 or so rows back, off to the side Mike-side. I was there with my best Phish buddy, a guy I introduced the band to in 1995. A few of the people around us were a little chatty, but most were paying attention, even if not moving much. Way too many cigarettes made for difficult breathing.

Divided Sky brought out the sun, was well played, had a jam that was more energetic than pretty, and Page beat the heck out of the keys at the very end. Great way to start.

Moma Dance was Fishman at his best. He actually nailed the vocals for once, and seemed to sense that we all know the song and could handle some pretty wild fills and breakdowns instead of all the usual transitions. As opposed to the slow, funky, patient, repetitive Momas I've seen before, this one was fast and furious. More great energy.

Mound! Nice treat. Not flawless, but fun.

Army of One. I always liked the way Trey's arpeggios come in for the chorus. Page mostly sang it quite well, really belting out some lines. Enjoyably unexpected for me.

Scabbard was fun, I like how the composed beginning recalls early Phish. My memory is fuzzy of where the jam went, but I do remember the flow into Sample being good.

Sample in a Jar rocked. The instrumental ending thumped and wailed a teeny bit harder than usual. Totally got me thrashing. I never go to a show thinking, "I hope they play Sample," but every time they do, it's been great.

Tube had a short jam that, like Moma, beat on the usual funk with a hard rock stick. Maybe it was the mix where I was standing or something, but it really felt like Mike was punching his notes and Fish was crushing the snare. I felt the same way about the Halfway to the Moon jam, which continued the trend from Divided Sky of Trey not really building lyrical journeys but rather blending in with the band as part of an overall charge.

The end of Moon had me jumping around like crazy, so Camel Walk was a nice chance to rest and crouch down below the smoke.

How Many People...? was fun, Circus Comes was nice, but I never really got back up to the energy level the set had through Halfway to the Moon. Not a bad thing in the first of 3 sets. When Undermind began, I thought we were going to launch into our first long, crazy, exploratory jam of the day, but nope, nothing crazy happened before Antelope.

I've seen Antelope a bunch. This one didn't stand out to me. It was predictably excellent. Great way to end a Set 1, as always.

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Set 2: My friend pulled a calf muscle going after a frisbee and decided to chill in the back rather than make it worse dancing. I, being smaller and bolder, slid my way up to about 15 rows in front of Mike. The girl next to me was a super fun dancer, lots of twisting and undulating arm motions, which reminded me of what I did when I first started going to shows. I jumped on board and it felt great. Everyone in my area was dancing and the energy was fantastic. No chatter during songs! Thank you! And more weed than tobacco, which was nice for my allergies.

To the short woman behind me, I apologize if I hit you with my backpack before I took it off. I thought you were simply bumping into my pack as you danced, but if I was wrong, my bad. I know my own dancing definitely got pretty manic out there.

Wolfman's Brother had more of that energetic funk. The glory that followed later in the set has blurred my memory of this tune, but I remember it rocking a bit harder than usual, much like many of the funky tunes in Set 1.

Halley's Comet was a minor letdown. In a day of otherwise excellent flow and energy carrying from song to song, I found the extended repetitions in Halley's frustrating. Once they finished the composed part, though, we were back in business. A jam I vaguely remember enjoying transitioned sharply into...

46 Days. Again, I'm not sure if it was the mix, or the way Fish and Mike were playing, or just the whole band energized by 30,000 fans, but the guys just tore into this and only brought the energy up from there. All the transitions were explosions. Every section was a launching pad for for a headbanging attack. When the jam really got going, it carried with it all the energy that had been building since the Halley's jam. There was no wandering, no searching, no band members getting surprised by Trey and playing catch-up, no breakdown in the rhythm to halt the thrashing and twirling crowd. This jam raged until it couldn't rage anymore, and then...

(Well, my memory is fuzzy, so what I'm about to say MIGHT actually be from Tweezer, but I THINK it was 46, so onward...)

It quickly and gracefully got quiet and pretty and melodic, just like they'd scripted it that way. No screwing around with effects pedals and sound washes to buy time for the next melodic idea. Just, boom, pretty new song from nothing. The perfect coda to a roaring jam. And then, this new piece, it grew, smoothly, inexorably, without sidetracks, getting us back to that place we'd just been. The energy could rest for a bit, but it wouldn't die. Another epic climax, and then...

Backwards Down the Number Line. "That's fine," I thought. "If that jam was the pinnacle of the set, and Number Line closes it out, I'm perfectly content with that." That's how great the energy was all night, and that's how satisfying 46 Days was. But Number Line didn't end it; not even close.

Tweezer. I've seen a lot of Tweezers. My favorite was probably 2/28/03, which still takes the cake for seamlessness in a Type II jam with impressive breadth. But this one from Magnaball might crush it just for sheer intensity. The hard rocked-out funk from Moma and Wolfman's reached another level here, veering from anthem to anthem. This jam was perfectly paced -- just enough repetition to latch onto a groove and rock out to it, but never playing out a segment past exhaustion of its vital energy. Basically, the kind of music that could keep you dancing even if you went blind and your leg fell off and you started sweating acid. Fatigue was a mere theoretical concept.

The intensity died down a bit before Caspian, and I can't remember exactly what happened there, which is why I thought I might have misremembered the 2nd jam out of 46 Days. Regardless of exactly what preceded it, Caspian was the perfect choice to let us breathe a bit without ever entering subdued territory. This set never, ever let up for more than a necessary breather. "Can't handle any more 8-to-10 intensity? Fine, we'll bring it down to 6. But there is NO chance we're playing Lawn Boy here."

Caspian was nicely rockin', and the jam was good for a bit, but then started to peter out, and I couldn't help but feel that it was a bit of an anticlimactic way to end a set like that, and if they were going to do that, please don't draw it out... And then they started up from scratch. They built a brand new jam out of nothing, and this one matched the 46 Days and the Tweezer in its fierce, powerful drive, and gave us all the climax this set deserved.

Boom. Done. Time to go find my friend and stare at him with my jaw slack and know that, "Anything else that happens this weekend is just a bonus."

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Set 3: I was a bit late getting back to the front and couldn't wriggle into as nice a spot, but I managed to find a good patch of grooving fans near the base of the camera crane Page-side that was filming the show.

Meatstick and Blaze On got everyone dancing happily. I know the Blaze jam went somewhere, but I don't recall where.

Possum didn't tease us with much intro, Mike sang it well, and I was looking forward to the good ol' Possum Trey soloing, when Trey reminded me that this wasn't that kind of show. He looked at Page... and Page just went on the attack! He bashed away at that jam for a good bit, then dialed it back enough to trade lines with Trey, Mule Duel-style. Then they layered on each other, we had another good full-band build without Trey show-stealing, and the whole thing roared to a great climax. Best early-in-the-set Possum I've ever heard, no question. Maybe best Possum period.

Cities and Light were not as ambitious as they sometimes are on the jam front. No awkwardness, no letdown, nothing boring, but for me this part was actually a bit of a rest.

555 was solid, but Page or Trey really needs to join Fish on the backing vocals because there's a key note that absolutely disappears when he sings it. Anyway, this song ended well, because there was definitely a feeling of intensity going into...

Wading in the Velvet Sea. I settled into the heartfelt prettiness for some head-bobbing and arm-twirling as the captivated-looking woman next to me did the same. Nice time to just bliss out. But then Trey reminded us that he was not playing slow, pretty solos today. It STARTED slow and pretty but then quickly got loud and dramatic. I never knew Velvet Sea could rock like that! Very cool to see Phish really hit us hard with a slow tune -- there was something vaguely Pink Floyd about that. The end of Velvet Sea was a fantastic climax -- would it lead into something quiet, or a rocking show closer?

Both! Walls of the Cave! The first half fit the sincere, emotional tone of Velvet Sea perfectly, and the second half was just an onslaught. It was still a full-band build, but this was some aggressive shredding by Trey. No screeching, just meaty blasting away. More perfect pacing, more sustained intensity without repetition or muddle. Epic climax, boom, crash, goodnight. Waugh!!!

Perfect way to end a show -- perfectly exhausted and satisfied. Phish had just shaped two sets the way they shaped their best songs -- with the energy building throughout and the climax at the end, rather than somewhere around the 3/4 mark -- and I could not have been happier.

Of course, I knew Tweeprise was coming, and I used the break and the Boogie On to regain my thrash batteries. I often find the predictability of a Tweezer Reprise encore to be a let down -- in that spot I'm often hoping for one last surprise or jam -- but in this case I'd already had all I could want, so it was more of an appropriately brief (and rockin'!) send-off.

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I'm a guy who never gives a show a perfect score in my head, but after 21 years I can finally give this one an unabashed 5 out of 5 stars.

Thank you Phish, and thank you to all the fans who were as moved by the music as I was.


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