, attached to 2018-07-31

Review by mattybweston

mattybweston Howdy All!

Long time lurker on .net with hundreds of shows across the country under my belt since 1991 (11/15/91 "Mrs. Pizza Shit" show at Trax's in Charlottesville, VA, anyone?). I am proud to report that both the Shakedown in the lot and the venue itself at COTA has matured into a really welcoming stop on the tour, balloon busting cops and our Not-Safe-For-East-Or-West-Coasters heat not withstanding. As a 25 year resident of the ATX, this was one of the most engaged crowds I've ever seen in these parts and it helped elevate an average-good show by the boys into an average-great vibe if you were there.

Also, I'd like to thank all of the kind folks both on the lawn and in the pit who helped make my 6 and 9 year old's first Phish show magical. Tons of kind words, encouragement, hugs and nasty dance moves from friends and strangers alike. The sweaty rail riders on Page Side/Rage Side even welcomed my kids into that swirling mass of joy for 46 Days (it helps that all of us, even the young un's, love to get down). Indoctrination complete!

As for the show itself, I found it thrillingly uneven. A bit of Taoist perspective if you will- you cannot appreciate the highs without some lows. The first set opens with a standard Sample, followed by a Light that, even with unique placement, fails to catch fire in the way that Light can. However, the tide quickly turns and the next 17 minutes is pure hip grinding cow funk- a good to great MOMA with a nicely built peak on the back end and a blistering Funky Bitch. While Trey is building the peaks it is Page who is really shining in the first set, with his solos on Bitch, Heavy Things and Halfway forcing some filthy moves on Rage Side. A beautifully dark Theme is next and it is well executed, similar in tone and texture to night 1 at Dick's 2017.

And then?......Well - if you're just going to look at the setlist you should probably move on to the second set. Don't. Do. It. Every song is nearly flub free and each one reaches a tidy Type 1 peak. IDK got the band laughing, squawking about Mike's calves in his shorts, and ends with this resonating, rumbling vacuum bass note that shook the whole venue for an entire verse. And the 46 Days that follows is straight fire. Filthy filth.

During the setbreak a sign unfurled that read "20 years since the last Texas Tweezer" but, alas, it wasn't meant to be. Instead the second set opens with the TAB newbie Everything's Right. And everything is. I believe that this song is destined to become a tentpole jam for the foreseeable future (let's agree to set aside its overtly positive, direct lyrics which some find a bit too on the nose for this band but I love). Things are straightforward until about 12 minutes in when Page and Trey settle on a beautiful major key phrase as the foundation for a patient, positive, uplifting and massive peak that validates why we chase this band around. It gets a bit raggedy finding its way back into the chorus to close out the song but the nearly 5 minute climb to the top is why are all here. This is followed by Cactus Calves' DWD bassline and off we go! Things get weird quickly as Trey attempts a variety of tricks in the early part of the jam, starting with the Leslie (do we need two keyboards in the band Trey?) and then some wild delays with his multiple Supa Puss (I think there are 3 on the rig now) setup. Things then get dark.....and darker.....and then straight ambient.....and then like the soundtrack to a 70's Sci-Fi B movie played underwater. Deep, deep, deep ambient delay trails and Mike dropping a couple of sustained bombs.

And out of the depths comes Steam. Man, I just absolutely love that riff. I find myself walking around and quietly, but audibly, singing it all the time. Maybe it's just me and my constant mental soundtrack- I think there is a diagnosis for that. Anyway, the Steam that follows is standard but never reaches the seriously dissonant heights it is capable of. The third quarter drops with Seven Below, a real treat and with a beautiful melody, but played a bit sleepily. The boys have lost the momentum and it seems that the choice of Dirt to follow is yet another downshift. Are we really grinding down into second gear? And yet...… the crowd goes bonkers as soon as it starts. It's as odd a reaction as I've ever seen, both for an Austin audience, and for any Phish audience with this song. The band seems to notice and the version it plays is tight, emotional and lively.

The fourth quarter is a greatest hits medley consisting of a well played, Type 1 Wedge, an oddly placed but always fun Wilson and a set closing Antelope. This type of fourth quarter feels like a "thanks ya'll for being patient with some of the newer stuff" 4th that we are seeing a lot of recently. The Antelope clocks in at just over 10 minutes and, much like DWD, it gets dark and claws it's way upward for a single scalding peak. Trey's phrasing "issues", of which much has been written lately, are on display for some of the early parts of the jam, but he rights the ship and offers a little machine gun hose for good measure. Loving Cup lands for the encore, and an amazing moment transpires about 4 minutes. Trey seems to lose the threat entirely for about 24 bars and then just as suddenly comes roaring back with 45 seconds of hose. What a beautiful buzzzzzz.

Overall the entirety of the show is absolutely worth a listen, with highlights aplenty in atypical songs and no straight duds or misfires with the exception of Trey's ripcording of Heavy Things that caught the whole band off guard. A professional effort from the boys and a welcome uptick to the last few Texas shows (which is odd as the various incarnations of TAB have been killing it in Texas).

And finally- a word on our fearless leader's tone. As a gear junky it seems that perhaps Treys new Custom Audio switcher has too many options. He is constantly on and off the board, particularly trying to find a fit for that Leslie speaker. While it packed a huge punch in the Trey Trio (no keyboard player), that tone gets absolutely lost in the mud as it steps all over, around and through Page's keys. I think the shear number of effect options is making organic communication with the band more difficult as Red seems pre-occupied with effects, particularly the delays and the Leslie. Once Trey has satisfied his curiosity with his rig early into jams he comes back to his searing lead tone (sometimes with that x3 Mutron as the cherry on top of a very delicious sundae- God Bless You Mike Beigel) and things seem to take off immediately. Just my two cents- for more info. on Red's Rig a trip to treysguitarrig.com can be helpful.

Thanks for reading, for the great vibes and for this great community of music nerds!

We love this band. And we love you too.

Matty, Michelle, Bodhi and Avery in Austin


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