, attached to 2003-07-30

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo After listening to my favorite show of the summer, so far (7.29), I was pretty stoked to queue up the next two shows in New Jersey. In all honesty, I was familiar with their setlists and the lore behind them, but I had never really given either of them any sort of extended attention. So, I listened to the 30th and 31st back-to-back (this review will only cover the 30th, the next the 31st) but I figured they were on a roll after the 29th, and I was genuinely curious to see how the momentum would build leading up to the famous, the infamous El Guap... uhm, IT. What's amazing, not that this is news to any fan, is that Phish can be a shining ray of light one night, and ecliptic psychedelic black hole the next. The 30th is the latter, juxtaposed against the former. So if you like "dark Phish" strap yourself to an ACME rocket, channel your inner WILE E. COYOTE, and prepare for blastoff.

A menacing (and bust-out) My Friend My Friend sets the opaque tone for the evening in dramatic fashion. The crowd exploded, and how could they not? A mere 20 hours removed from the still-smoldering wreckage left behind in Pennsylvania, the latent energy was palpable. MFMF channeled that into a furiously dark show opener. And then just like that, the lights went on. A goofy AF Lonesome Cowboy Bill, the first in about a billion shows, drops into the two slot and at this point everyone has got to be thinking, "Another bust out set!! JUST LIKE LAST NIGHT!!!" Well, at least I was thinking that. Sure enough, Phish proves that there is no point prognosticating their style, angle, whathaveyou and proceed to drop a thirty (30) as in 3-0 minute Scents and Subtle Sounds. Oh nothing to see here folks. ::ahem:: But here is what is interesting. I went back and listened to this jam not once, not twice, but three times. Now, you must be thinking, "Dang Funky, it is THAT good eh?" Well, yes... but no. I went back and listened to 90 more minutes of Scents and Subtle Sounds because, well, I forgot what this jam offered... again... and again. Some jams *stick* with you, you know? Nassau Tweezer. Utah Mr. Completely. Burgettstown Crosseyed. Forum Gin (I had to). But this one... just didn't. I wasn't high. Not drunk. Not anything. But this jam never settled in me. Ths SASS, for as long as it is, is almost boringly good. Is it bad? No way. Dark and dissonant? Not so much, no. Upbeat and bouncey? Kinda, but no. Shreddy? Definitely not. So what is it? It's a mix of foggy tropical; bright clouds; black lava. Think of two mental images, one bright and one dark, then mash them up, and that's what this jam is. It is captivating, yet forgettable. Oddly weird. To add to the weirdness, Phish premiers Dylan's You Aint Goin Nowhere after this Odyessian Scents, referencing very clearly the "IT" line, and the weirdness continues. Spock's Brain. See??? Phish must have said preshow, "Let's try the "random setlist generator" on phish.net and see what happens!" Spock's Brain was a real treat (a song I have personally been chasing since forever). An extended Chalk Dust comes in next and gets real dark, real fast. Unlike the extended shiny, peppy first set version from Charlotte, this one goes down the rabbit hole. Filled with distortion and terror, this is primal jaunt through your nightmares. Well no it's not that bad, but it is a gritty, gnarly version (we shall discuss the stuff of nightmares when we get to IT ... ahhh foreshadowing). A super groooooovy On Your Way Down brings us back to some sort of "sanity" and this set already feels like it is 2 hours long. It is a mental trip, that's for sure. Heavy, heavy set... and we're not done yet. Fast Enough For You is the next song performed and when you see it on the setlist, you think, "Oh, pretty!" Nah uh, not this one. Trey grinds his guitar and kinda butchers this version. It's not what FEFY is "supposed" to sound like (dreamy and fluttery and pretty) ... it is dark, and scary. Thankfully a really smokin Taste closes the set and, dang, what a journey this has been. Taste is very very strong (2003 was a great year for Taste) and this one is no different. As a whole, this set is crazy, demented, weird Phish. Not bad Phish, not by a long shot, but just.... weird. Oh, and the second set is 4 songs...

Uh huh. So I am sure you can put the pieces together. A dystopian first set followed up by 4 song second set. DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE WE GO! Please bring lots of carrots, we may never get out. This 23 minute Twist follows almost verbatim the same pattern as that first set Scents. Except this is darker. Much darker. For me, I am not a fan, it's a little *too* mental for me. If I was on heavy substances, I would have asked security to escort me to the nearest beer stand and get me a warm blanket (you know the feeling). Pure. Terror. But again, this might as well be a My Little Pony dream since we haven't reached IT yet. The jam settles into Bug which was a sobering placement. Bug was played with inspiration and triumph, a nice little reprieve from the depths of this show. But even then, given the mid-second set placement (heh... it is the second song, so "mid" feels wrong, but it isn't) the set (and show) still has this dark cloud over it. YEM does a fantastic job of letting in some sunlight and this is a sparkling version. Great Fishman work propels this jam to some good peaks. Not on par with 2.26.03, 12.1.03, or 7.19.03, this version still brings some heat. Especially since Trey keeps striking again and again at the peak...wish he'd do that now... siiiiiiiggggghhhhh. Anyways. YEM finally relents (after some especially tribal bass and drums and TERRIFYING vocal jam) and we get a perfunctory (said tongue in cheek) smokin hot, raging Walls of the Cave. This version might just singe your ear drums. It is fantastic! Great show closer! A great way to make us feel happy and upbeat after a deep, menacing psychedelic show. A Secret Smile encore was underwhelming. Pretty song, no doubt, but as a standalone encore, well, it left a little to be desired. No *real* complaints though, as this show packed in two shows worth of "whoa." Whether that's good whoa or bad whoa, I shall leave up to you.

Must-hear jams: Scents and Subtle Sounds (I think?), Twist (if you're into super dark Phish)
Probably-should-listen-to-jams: Chalk Dust Torture, Taste, You Enjoy Myself, Walls of the Cave
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