As my car creeped along in line I decided this would be the right time to munch on some party supplies, thinking I would surely be parked before it kicked in. Alas, as i turned into the sprawling green field that was the parking lot, shit was getting pretty weird. After the initial rush of the mda wore off, a subtle roll set in and i forgot i had even taken anything the rest of the night. I felt like I was sober at a Phish show and it was fine. Simply knowing IM GOING TO SEE PHISH the day-of makes me so happy its almost ineffable. I'm going to participate in the birth of a brand new Phish show.
A giant smile on my face, knowing I'd made it to Blossom and I had to do was chill, I strode triumphantly over the grass toward thin gravel path that was Shakedown. The first thing i heard was a dude going on abut the recent OSU football scandal and asking who wants to talk about it to everyone who passed by. Im a student at ohio state, and though i dont care about football, i love walking around and talking to new people at Phish shows. I happily hobnobbed about Tressel with this fellow and then went on my way. I proceeded to spend the next hour or more before the show walking up and down shakedown- seeing, meeting, smelling, eating, something new each time.
As everyone began to make their way down the paved path toward the gate, the group excitement was ever increasing. There was nothing standing in our way of experiencing these masters of musical art in a matter of minutes. Once on the lawn, I marveled at its breadth. Blossom looked like a secluded woodland paradise for we happy few who know get "IT". I positioned myself dead center on the lawn, took off my shoes, waited. I looked to my left and introduced myself to the guy next to me. His name is Drew and we quickly got to talking about, what else, Phish. I shared that my guilty Phish secret is that the Dayton '97 Tube is so good that I don't like listening to any other versions, and thus it was the one song i didn't want to hear tonight. He confided that he saw Slave at his first show, and he has the exact same problem of being unsatisfied with any other version.
The the lights when down, and we stood up, my heart pounding like the intro to Llama. What will they play, what will they play?!
KDF: Not the most excited opener i could have hoped for but i can't complain! The jam was smoooth, and it seemed better than any other version i could remember of the top of my head. As the band sang the last verse, Page's piano sounded like my mental idea of summer's perfection.
Guyute:This never even occured to me as a second song and I was giddy as a schoolboy as the bouncy number began. Trey was slightly off time in the beginning but otherwise it was a nicely executed Guyute, and it was nice to see the band do a complex composition so early in the show.
Fuck Your Face: I hadn't listened to this song in forever but after the first two notes, my dumbfoundedly suprised brain subconsciously had me utter "Fuck Your Face!" outloud. I felt a twinge of 3.0 noob pride when an older fan next to me asked what the title was. Anyways, for two glorious minutes we basked in FYF's rarity, musical angst, and comedy.
Foam: The first couple seconds of this song are my favorite moment of the night as recorded on tape. Foam started with just makes bass and it took the crowd a collective split second to recognize and then the cheer will joyfully wild. I was grateful to see yet another song for the first time live. Ocelot: This Ocelot had a really pleasant, strong, Type 1 jam with a very focused build that had me already impressed.
Rocket in my Pocket: Waiting for Columbus is one of my favorite live albums, so I was pumped to see the band play something from their latest musical costume.
Back on the Train: Time for some much welcome funk. This is where the dancing started to transition from swaying gently along with kdf and ocelot to some serious boogying. Our area had a nice clearing so that was ample room to dance around. My bare feet were born to dance on that grass.
Geulah Papyrus: I was mostly excited to see this song because I love the fugal Asse Festival in the middle.
I figured there would be one more song first set. My hopes for Bowie had been dashed by its appearance in Clarkston the night before. And then it happened. 1,2,3, AN ASTEROID CRASHED!
Tube: Despite what I'd said to Drew preshow about not wanting a Tube, that though never even crossed my mind as the song began. I just somehow knew, deep down, that this was the right song for the moment. and it was. The sun was starting to go down, making Kuroda's lights more intense. The place was turned within a minute into Page's House- a full on raging dance party throwdown for everyone there. I could feel the whole crowd being urged on harder and harder by the chairman, feel my own dance moves being molded by the strokes of his keys. Several times during the jam, Drew and I exchanged smiles and nods because we knew it was so good. Throughout the last verse of the song, my mind was completely blown from the sum of the first set plus the radical possibilty that I had indeed witnessed the greatest Tube ever.
Antelope: Out of Tube's debris an antelope was gently springing to life. but my mind was so blown by the preceding Tube that it could barely handlde te current song. "what song is this, I know I've heard it a million times, a million different versions" then feeling foolished I laughed to myself, knowing we were about to end the set with Run Like an Antelope. This antelope jam was like celebration for the whole crowd and the band- we all knew we had made it, it was good, and it was about to get a whole lot crazier second set. The ending of Antelope was unique and quite funny as well.
At set break, Drew and I shared some tasty lemon g and discussed the set. We were both in concurrence that something special was afoot; no matter what happened second set, the momentum was the first was going to create a masterpeice. Of that I was sure. I stopped hoping for Divided Sky, Harpua, ATR, anything and completely opened myself up to whatever the band wanted to play, knowing it would be the right decision.
Birds of a Feather: The dramatic intro notes Birds were something I had not even considered and the boogying began in force yet again.
Possum: This one of those Phish songs that I would probably be OK with them playing every show...it's just so fun feeling the the build and release of crowd energy during the refrain. The jam of the song turned the whole place into a giant country dance house. I swear myself and everyone around me, including two beautiful girls dancing with me n drew was doing the twist. i felt like i was at a prom in the 1950s or something. Unfortunately the ladies moved on after that song, but fortunately they left their water bottle behind. i was getting pretty dehydrated by this point and that pretty much saved my life.
This Possum had some great lead work by Trey and a descending melody in the refrain that really mixed up this frequently played tune.
Steam: A vibrating wall of sound from Page. A sneaky riff trey. A smooth groove from Mike and Fish. Everyone around me started figgeting and looking around awkwardly, clearly not recognizing the song but not wanting to be too quick to ask, lest they betray their ignorance of an obscure tune. As soon as the lyrics began, there was no doubt this was classic Tom Marshall writing. Snapping my fingers, I danced downhill sideways through the crowd and back up to where I began. I love that the Phish community allows complete freedom of dancing. When the song went into the guitar solo, it took on more of a floating, somewhat major mode sounding feel to it. It was enjoyable but i gazed in my crystal jam ball and foresaw dark dirty funk jamming in the future.
Piper: A blissfull tune, truly one of my Phish favorites. 12/6/97 is one of my favorite Phish moments. This Piper was not quite of that caliber but energetic, intriacitely layed, and frenetic-yet still under their control. Everything a good Piper should be.
The Lizards: It was a priviledge to hear the debut of a new tune, Steam, but also a priviledge to hear this now-rarity emerge out of Piper. I didn't think about it as a rarity at the time, i guess because they played it so damn much in the 90s. It ended up being the only Lizards of 2011, was as tight and beautifully uplifting as always, but was no match for what was about to go down.
Sneaking Sally: The band was firing on all cylinders, reminding us all that they can play good old fashioned rock n roll with best of them during the beginning of the song. I remembered, "oh shit doesnt this song usually have a vocal jam?", just as the band began adding vocalizations on top of their instruments. The groove was deeeep- they were al essentially jamming on multiple instruments at the same time! eventually it was just vocals before the return of the bass, drums, guitar, and keys. The sally vocal jam groove began to stretch as it page added some new keyboards and everyone settled into their seats. we were departing for serious jam territory and everyone knew it. Not that we stopped dancing for a moment though. Page began adding heavy washes of a loud synth in the background and the other band members seized onto Fishman quarterbeats on his china cymbal. it was at this point that i realized with a shock that this was still Sally. As it took a turn down an ominous ambient passage, i thought, "they will probably call this 'cuyahoga jam' or something on the .net setlist cuz this shit was so crazy it merits its own separate name from Sally. The next day on lot in Cincy, i heard talk of last night's Sally coming from all directions.
Harry Hood: Out of aforementioned ominous ambience came the opening drum cue for Harry Hood. The compositional half of the song was tight and the jam began in its usual beautiful way. God i love a good hood. And this hood had all the making of a good hood... listening back to the band gently improvise this amazing music i can smell the air that night, remember distinctly my hungry stomach, feel my tired feet on the patch of grass I had matted down. I can see Drew dancing next to me, a new friend I had met that night. the suddenly something started to get weird in it....
Have Mercy:Seemingly out of nowhere in the hood jam began bouncing around on some entirely different groove, clearly segueing out of hood. Any other song than that Hood and i would have been happy. My first instinct was actually, embarrassingly, anger at the band for robbing me of the uphoric "You can feel good about Hood" climax. This was one of the last times I ever second guessed Phish's mastery. In the reggae classic Have Mercy the band pulled off some good harmonies, something which i think we all know isn't their strong suit. Then, as I should have known, we were right back were we left off.
Harry Hood: Have Mercy smoothly transitioned right back to where the boys left off, building the uplifting groove of Hood. Every band member was absolutely tearing it up and we were all feeling very good about Hood.
Character 0: What can I say? It's character zero, it rocked,etc.
Something to note here: During and after Character 0, and during Slave, kids about my age or perhaps younger, in high school, were streaming up the hill out of the venue. it was fucking crazy, this amazing music was happening and here were these board looking hoards leaving. I assumed they were like other in my age group i now of who know of Phish only for the partying. I like to party but foremost is the music; perhaps this is hypocritical coming down on these people but I am a young with with good intent and don't want others lumping me in with those rapscallions.
Slave to the Traffic Light: This slave really tied it all together for me. The day had confirmed everything i thought i knew about Phish. It was the first show I attended where I knew i would know every song because i had fallen deep down the rabbit hole since deer creek '10. The phish community was so warm and friendly like always...i talked to so many random people briefly and felt how were all there because of a shared inside knowledge of the great band. Consequently, i remember realized at the time that that Slave was far and away the most powerful musical experience I had ever been apart of where i wasn't one of the musicians. The music rose and swirled with my emotions and I stood entranced staring at the stage, I felt as if my bare feet were one with the ground beneath them.
After Slave, Drew and I briefly talked about this potentially being the best 3.0 show yet, it was definitely a special show. We laughed about the irony of me getting my Tube and he his Slave and them both being good. Then we shook hands and departed our separate ways into the night, perhaps never to meet again.
As i entered the packed mass of humanity trying to squeeze out of the gates i felt incredibly grateful not to be tripping at that moment. It would have been hella uncomfortable. I looked to my left and an old man with a beard and a young child said, "Well, that sure beats a Wednesday night bowling league, huh?". that one definitely took me off guard; not only was it not even Wednesday, OF COURSE seeing phish is better than bowling. wtf?! A wook trying to drum up some sketchy business was introducing himself to passerby as "Joey Coke"...the ever present "ive got onions peppers and sausages" guy rolled by. I was shaken by the magnitude of the musical performance i just witnessed and i finally made it back to my car, feeling alone for the first time during the day as everyone went to their respective cars. There were no rules on that grass parking lot, so it quickly turned to vehicular anarchy to get out. I was in no hurry so climbed aboard the hood of my car, and relaxed watching the people in the next car over send chinese lanterns high into the sky. When i finally made it to the exit, 6 kids came up to my car saying they needed a lift to their hotel down the road and they they would pay me. They offered 10 bucks a head and invited me to party at the hotel, which i refused for some much needed rest. Half spun, half drunk, these guys were college students elsewhere in Ohio-so basically doin the same shit in life as me. We all raved about the show as i drove them the 1.5 miles down the road, the same direction i was already headed and dropped them off. This gas money would come in handy as i got horribly lost on my way to riverbend the next day.
I made it to a rest area outside of cleveland and parked. Every single car at the stop was from the Phish show. Excitement about meeting up with my friends and seeing Phish the next day began anew...and as i fell asleep, a gentle rain just like the one before the show began to fall, the perfect coda to the perfect day.