, attached to 2003-07-31

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo Interesting how musical moods can change from 24 to 48 hours. Take for instance, conveniently, these last three shows - July 29, 30, and 31. The 29th was everything you could want in a Phish show. Bustouts, long jams, narration, flow - and all played with a pop and tenacity of newly exploded supernovae. It was brilliant; both in construction and execution. Then take a look at the 30th. Dark and brooding. Each song a singularity in and of itself. An introspective psychedelic journey that probably left most in attendance saying, "Am I die?" Then you have the 31st. A near 50/50 combo of the previous two. Allow me to elaborate...

The first set is right up my alley. A rampaging Llama (do llama's rampage normally, maybe frolic, but rampage... ahem, that's neither here nor there, back to the music) ... a rampaging Llama starts the evening off the bold typeface exclamation point. My single favorite opener in Phish's repertoire, this is the *perfect* way to start a show, in my funky opinion. Played with great zeal and gusto, this Llama leaves nothing to be desired. In fact, it's a perfect table setter for the entire set! Moma Dance drips in as soon as Llama closes out and this one follows a similar progression to 7.10.03's. That is to say, after a furious Trey-led guitar explosion, the jam slinks into an organic, Mike-infused deep funk jam. This isn't James Brown funk, no, this is dark funk. Highly danceable, but even moreso trippy. A great combination of attitude and sex appeal. Trey plays textures rather than notes, Mike plays an an engine, rather than a bass, and Page and Fish fill in the tapestry with impeccable space and timing. A near flawless 1-2 opening combo. The jam evaporates into Divided Sky, continuing the perfect flow of the set. The energy levels remain in the red, the needle tilting to plaid, and with one push, off it goes. A fury of notes from Trey turns this Divided Sky jam from ordinary into "Well that was pretty sweet!." A very well-placed Dirt continues the exceptional feel and flow of this set. Heartfelt and empathetic, this Dirt is great release early on in the set. Phish sprinkles in another delightful little jam with Seven Below. Twinkling and tiptoeing, this nimble little Seven Below climbs several peaks in dainty fashion. It is not a smoking hot jam, nor is it boring. It just flutters along with grace and style - a really, really solid first set type 1 jam. Since the Seven Below was lacking a little bit of an edge (not a knock on the jam) Phish decided to pack a punch with The Sloth. Again, the flow of this set is fantastic up to this point. Perfect song selection, perfect disbursement of jams and songs, and very adept playing from compositions to jams. Water in the Sky is the one "Hmmm" choice in the set, but Phish LOVED playing this song in 2003, and generally it features some lightning fast playing from Trey. This one was definitely the weakest version of the year, not really bringing much to the proverbial dinner table (Phish, it's what's for dinner) but undaunted, the band blasts into a standard-great Wolfman's Brother. Nothing mind blowing here, expect that it continues to exceptional energy and flow of the set sans WITS. Groovy grooves, wowy-wahs, and sexy splashing all permeate this hairy beast. As I stated earlier, a fantastic "standard-great" Wolfman's. Speaking of which, as was the norm in 2003, a standard-white-hot Possum closes the set. And I do mean white hot. Possums kind of have lost their luster in the 2009-2016 years, save a few outliers, but 2003 was a year where Possum melted faces EVERY SINGLE. TIME. This one melted my face. Phish should have, at least, a couple volcanoes named after them which how they played Possum in 2003...

So here we are. A really fantastic, bright, flowing, engaging set 1. Just like the 29th, but not quite as "epic." Still following the same pattern of fantastic flow and fantastic energy. Now we are on the eve of the final set before IT.

A Piper opener is promising, especially in the context of 2003. 2003 was a great year for many songs, in some particular order: Bathtub Gin, You Enjoy Myself, Piper, Taste, Possum, Divided Sky, and so on... so when you pull up your playlist and see a "03" next to a "Piper" you know you're about to go on an excursion. However (don't you hate it when I say that? Yeah, me too) this one is, well ... it just kinda drones on. It's not dark and scary and dissonant like the 7.30 show. It's definitely not spritely and motivated like Vegas. It's this quasi spacey, trying-to-find-a-groove-for-20-minute-jam that, for me, doesn't do much of anything. I see the little headphones next to it on the setlist page and I genuinely ask, "Why?" With all the amazing Pipers of 2003, this one, again for me personally, is extremely boring. It comes no where near the deep psychedelic episodes of Shoreline or Atlanta. It doesn't hold a candle to the short but raucous Cinci version. Heck, even the NYE opener has way more bite than this one. Maybe someone saw the length of it and said, "f*** it. Headphones." I digress... as you can tell, I am not a fan of this Piper. But apparently someone is. The jam eventually bleeds out into a standard-dark Mike's Song. This doesn't do anything to up the energy levels, but it doesn't hurt the set either. This Mike's has nothing in particular to write about, so I will leave it at that. Hydrogen is always a treat, ESPECIALLY when Trey hits his notes (he does) and ESPECIALLY when it sets up Weekapaug (it does). Weekapaug itself is two-parter. The first part is standard good Weekapaug. Playful slap-bass intermingling with playful jazzy-drums. A feel-good, fast paced jam gets reeled in at about 9 minutes, including the refrain, and... BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! Someone must have been the lucky #9 caller because Trey immediately threw in the BONUS JAM! Woohoo! The bands sprints off on a up-tempo, extremellllllly dancey groove that is the highlight of the set (to this point). It glides along like a warm sea breeze and eventually settles nicely -> Free. This Free is, stop me if you've heard this before, standard-good. Some sultry Mike work adds some flair to this otherwise normalized version. The next song is the worst song ever written. Let us never speak of it again. The second monster Harry Hood comes in next. This version is much more airy than the heavy, almost orchestral version of the 25th (the better of the two IMO). Still, this version is inspiring. It magnificently glides and meanders (in a good way) through musical meadows. It is not as multi-faceted as the 25th, that is to say, the 25th gets deeply type-2, whereas this one you can usually kinda tell it's still Harry Hood, but that is not said with any sort of malice or complaint for this version - it is truly majestic. It also, fortunately, culminates in a huge peak! Very special Phish in this Hood. Frankenstein encore puts a dramatic exclamation-point-of-continuity brought forth with the Llama opener.

So here we are. Summer tour nearly complete, with only Phish's first festival since Cypress looming a mere 2 nights away. This tour was not nearly as consistently-amazeballs as Winter 03, but it if you look past the obvious gems, you will be quite surprised to find the high-quality improvisational exploration of Phish hidden in shows and sets and songs you might have overlooked. I will do a tour breakdown after IT, so buyer beware, this is an everything-must-go sale! Be prepared to listen to songs you may well have written off, and be prepared to find your shopping list devoid of jams (ahem, tonight's Piper) that some folks might say you simply must splurge for.

Must-hear jams: Weekapaug Groove, Harry Hood
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Moma Dance, Seven Below, Wolfman's Brother, Possum, Piper (I guess)


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