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Permalink Posted by jwelsh8 on , attached to 2003-07-29
jwelsh8(Published in the second edition of The Phish Companion . . . )

Much can be written about memory, experience, and the need to share it with others. Think of how you feel after seeing a good movie or reading a good book: you want to let all of your friends know so that they can experience the same thing you did, and then you can share and discuss your feelings. Or think of a special moment when you were enjoying yourself, and then you realized that time was passing as you stood there and that you needed to do something so that you could remember it as clearly as possible.

As fans of improvised music, I think a majority of us can relate to this. Part of the reason that people go to show after show is that "each one is different" and you want to continue to experience something new. You hear a unique version of a song and you want to let everyone know about it - why, and what you felt. There is also that part of the human ego that feeds off of the concept of "I was there." By being in attendance, you are somehow elevated in the eyes of others. For just being there.

I experienced all of these feelings at this show. Even during the show I was thinking to myself "How am I going to remember this?". I would look around, trying to catch the eye of those around me, seeing if they were as blown away as I was. Between dancing and jumping up and down, I turned to my wife and brother and tried to explain why I was reacting the way I was and to share in my excitement. I called my sister, who could not join us due to having her wisdom teeth out, and I called my good Phishy friend to let her listen to a bit of “Harpua”. While I am usually one to believe that an "epic" show should only be identified after some time for the excitement and hype to settle, it is hard for me to ignore the complete bliss that I felt this night at Star Lake.

A few minutes before the show started, there was a kid a few rows in front of us who was holding up his pack of cigarettes. I am not sure if he was offering the Camels up for sale, or if he wanted to hear “Camel Walk”. But his actions made me think of that song for the first time in months. Years, maybe. I turned to Josh half-joking and said "Hey, Camel Walk." As I wrote in my book, "F*ckin' A!" I couldn't believe my ears when they broke into “Camel Walk”. It was as chunky and funky as it should have been..."Strut your stuff." Now that's a way to start out the show. Forget “Chalk Dust”, haha.

There was a definite electricity in the air during setbreak. Most of the fans had this awestruck grin on their faces. As I found friends throughout the lawn and walkways, I was greeted with huge smiles and hugs. We shared in a bit of dumbfounded joy with what we had just witnessed. No huge jams, just wonderful surprises one after another. And we still had a set to go!

I was not expecting my excitement from the first set to be matched, but little did I know . . . I should try to remember that Phish is Back, and I can not be caught complacent. So as soon as Trey played those opening notes of “Crosseyed”, I started to whoop and jump up and down like nobody's business. (I can't help but smile as I type this. ) I could not have asked for a better opener.

I should take this time to quickly talk about the lights. It was somewhere in the middle of “Crosseyed” that Laura and I chatted a bit about Kuroda and his amazing rig. The light rig seemed as big as ever, including a few new toys it seems. The ones that really stood out to Laura and I in the middle of the “Crosseyed” jam were these cone-shaped lights. For the most part, they were pointing down and cast this cone-shaped ray down. The inside was transparent but you could see the "side" of the cone (if that makes sense). This shone down through the smoke and haze to cast a wonderful effect. He was on, as always. Never overwhelming (the "running" lights weren't overdone), but always adding to the music.

It takes some effort to analyze this show musically, looking past the novelty. None of the songs were fluff . All were interesting and very well played. The show can also stand out for how tight the songs were. I do not believe Trey used any loops or effects on any of the songs or jams. There wasn't much "space", even in the “Crosseyed” jam. That alone is impressive.

For my only show of the summer, I couldn't have been more pleased. Well, that's an understatement if I ever saw one. I am going to try and refrain from making a claim as to how "epic" or great this show was. I don't want to sound like I am gloating, and want to see how the show will stand up over time. But I will say that I am dealing with a bit of the "I was there" complex. It didn't help when people started writing and calling to say how jealous they were or how happy they were for us. So I will ride that wave for a while. I guess all I can say is Phish is Back. And we should just be prepared for a ride no matter where or when the show happens.

At the show, I could not help but wonder why they had chosen Star Lake for this sort of show. I mean, it has always ended up being a bit of a nice sleeper show, but nothing like this. Then, when I got home and could not sleep, I ventured onto RMP for the first time in months. And I saw the sad news about James Willox (a promoter and friend of Phish who was killed in an accident on-site at IT). I wonder how much of their energy and decision making at the show had something to do with his tragic death.
Score: 3

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