Darien Lake is an odd place to see a rock concert. Sure, it's the site of the famous Ken Kesey Bozo show from 1997, but it's still a weird place. You roll into the venue past the nice amusement park lot and down a side road to the venue's back field. You even drive past a barn. Once you get of your car and look at the actual amphitheater you realize that if it's raining and you don't have a pavilion seat, you're screwed. My friends Dick, Kirsten, and myself were screwed.
We found our way through the drizzling rain to the main gate of the venue. The venue holds almost 20,000 people and all of them were trying to squeeze into one gate all at once. If it wasn't so annoying it would have been comical. We finally got into the venue and realized that we were indeed in the pavilion; however, the giant circus tent that served as the roof to the pavilion didn't stretch to cover our section. Thankfully the rain let up and we hoped it would stay like that.
The band took the stage and opened the show with an ultra strong pairing of "PYITE" and "Reba". The band came out firing, and after slowing things down with a nice "Albuquerque" the band launched into a heavy metal version of "Carini" that featured Trey wailing and stomping out some serious power chords. Set I was already looking pretty strong; however, it was just starting to heat up.
The band launched into the rarity that is "Oh Kee Pa Ceremony", which predictably led into "Suzie Greenberg". However, this version of "Suzie" brought the funk so hard that the band drifted into a full-on funk attack that played with the main "Suzie" theme and featured excellent organ work, wailing guitar solos, and Kuroda using the smooth underbelly of the giant tent to project various circular shaped light beams and create a wonderfully unique collage of lights.
As the band left the stage the rain began to pour, drenching everyone outside of the pavilion. At one point everyone in the pavilion turned around and gave the people in the lawn a huge shout out, just to let them know that all was good despite the rain. The band took a very short break and found themselves onstage once again. The first set was rather exploratory and the second set would keep up that theme as Page started out the piano line to "Drowned". This version extended just over thirty minutes and meandered into several different territories far, far away from the original theme. Some thought this was one of the best jams of the tour; however, I thought it was just plain boring. Perhaps on a different occasion I'd think differently, but when its pouring down rain in September and its cold outside, I need something a little heavier than an ambient jam to keep the blood flowing.
"Drowned" found its way into "Crosseyed and Painless", which was much better. The jam was drifted out there for a bit, but this was by no means the greatest version the band had ever played. Kind of disappointing, since "Crosseyed" is such a killer song. Much to my dismay, "Dog Faced Boy" followed. On a normal night I wouldn't mind; however, like I said, it was raining out, we needed to shake our bones, and Phish just wasn't delivering the proper motivation. As the opening tones of "Prince Caspian" began I knew this show was a lost cause. The band gave a valiant attempt to resuscitate the set by hooking up on a great "Loving Cup", but by then it was too late. The band had gone from explosive jamming in the first set to boring the dampened socks off of us in the second. Perhaps they'd come back out for the encore and really deliver something rockin' like "Tube", "Piper", or "First Tube".
No such luck. The band took the stage once again and treated us to an electric version of "Driver" and an acoustic version of "Inlaw Josie Wales". The band had delivered this pairing three other times this summer; however, if they followed what seemed to be the new tradition it would lead into "Guyute" which wouldn't be all that bad. No such luck as Trey began the opening chords to "Sample In A Jar", thus bringing the mediocre set to a close and sending us rain-soaked into the night, giving us overly critical Phish fans something to complain about on the way home.