Starting strong right out of the gate with a solid PYITE…always a good show opener. Nothing particularly special about this one, but it gets the energy flowing right away. When I’m at a show and I hear the opening of PYITE, I tend to wish I’d get something else, but then I quickly realize that it really is a great set/show opener.
An early Reba sets a very nice tone for what was to come throughout set one. I’ve always really loved this version, but then again, I don’t know of one I don’t like a ton. With this one in particular, Fishman’s work really stands out. A lot of the time when listening to Reba, I tend to focus on Trey, Mike or Page, with Fishman getting sort of relegated to the back burner. He’s quite strong here, and I’m thankful I have picked up on it this go-round.
Albuquerque is always a great addition to a set, and a really underappreciated cover in my opinion. I think this is a fantastic set one breather, and I think its juxtaposition next to Reba here was very well placed, even though Reba’s not the most high-energy song in their repertoire. “I’ve been flying down the road, and I’ve been starving to be alone, independent from the scene that I’ve known.” I wonder how true these lyrics rang with Trey. He really makes his guitar cry at certain times throughout the song, almost (almost) reminiscent to some of Jerry’s work. It makes me wonder what it would have been like if they really extended it in those parts and let the ‘doc gently weep for a while.
Ah, Carini – right back atcha with the high energy! I think this is really one of those songs that is great to hear recorded, but just a completely different - much more powerful - experience live.
Oh Kee Pah is fun, and back before 3.0, always welcome, as it most usually would lead into Suzy, which I’m a little burnt out on right now. If I could, I would take it with horns every single time. I still love it, but it just seems to be on the same schedule I am on, in terms of which shows they play it at. This particular Suzy, simply put, is the shit; quite possibly the greatest non-horn version they have ever played. Page is the MVP of this one, at least at the outset. Trey comes in with some nice little licks about 2 minutes in, and the melody is so fun, so bubbly, so upbeat. Then in comes Fishman, of course, and he just continues to shine as he has all throughout set one. About 4 minutes in Mike gets his chance to show off, with Fish’s encouragement, and yeah, we’re just about off to the races here, with a nice laid-back melodic grove. About 6-7 minutes in, and Fishman is crushing it. It’s his song right now, simple as that. A couple of minutes later, Trey wants a piece of the action again and a nice little trade-off ensues before the lyrics return. When the ‘regular’ jam of the song ends, before they take it into “Darien Jam #1” I would have considered it a really tight version. But then the jam extends and I feel like I want to hug my speakers. I still remember the first time I heard this show, hearing that they had jammed it out, but not knowing how. I remember sitting with my eyes bulging out of my head, lapping up every note. Suzy was one of my first favorite Phish songs ever, and it had remained that way for quite some time. So this was a real treat, indeed. I really love how they keep the skeleton of the song around the entire jam…always there, just lurking behind the playing. The jam isn’t rushed at all, just nice relaxed playing, all completely in sync with one another, with Trey maybe taking the lead just a tiny, tiny bit, but really all for one and one for all. Again, listening to it right now, for the first time in quite some time, Fishman just demands my attention. And again, Trey wants some of the action. They’re all challenging each other, it seems. To use a far too heavily relied upon baseball analogy, they’re each stepping up to the plate and simply knocking the ball all over the damn place. It’s not like it’s homer after homer, but more like an offensive onslaught with doubles following doubles, triples thrown in and players circling the bases like a merry-go-round. So much fun. I can only imagine the buzz during the intermission.
Set two begins with an honest-to-goodness, bona-fide preview of 3.0 Phish … Go give it a listen right now if you haven’t in a while… As the band is tuning up, Trey starts noodling a little and plays a little something that is clearly a tease of “Summer of ‘89” which debuted in 2010 – roughly 10 years after this particular show. How can that be, you ask? The answer is pretty simple. Trey used to have a song called “Andre the Giant” that he'd play with his solo band ('99/'00-ish). This is not to be confused with an entirely different song also called “Andre the Giant” which appears on Trey’s solo album “Seis de Mayo.” The original Andre was apparently scrapped, but would later resurface and be reworked to some degree as “Summer of ’89.”
After this cool little bit of info, which obviously would have escaped those in attendance, the band dives head first into Drowned. Yet another instance where – to me – it seems like foreshadowing for 3.0. The way both setlists were constructed to me has the feel of a current show (albeit with a bit more jamming). About 3-4 minutes into it, it sounds as though Trey wants to keep jamming a bit, but Page, like a strong undertow, brings them back. The ‘official’ (read: LivePhish) version isn’t anything too special, but when they stretch it out for the second “Darien Jam” of the night, things take a nice, noodely turn. Another area of the show where Fishman is holding down the fort nicely while everyone sort of spins off on their own. Right before the 5 minute mark, Trey seems to just be making noises in response to Page’s melodic piano rolls. Maybe to go along with the watery title, Trey sounds very aquatic (was it raining during this show, I wonder? The artwork for this album shows some rain, and it almost looks like a hurricane on the mail order ticket…if so, yet more foreshadowing to ‘09’s Deer Creek rain-inspired set II Drowned opener). Around 9 minutes in, the jam turns dramatically, led by Page. It almost sounds as though they wanted to head into Loving Cup, but Trey keeps up the moise-making, and then Mike sounds like he’s possibly half-heartedly trying to lead them toward Catapult. Nothing’s giving, though, and the band marches on with their very deep exploration of Drowned, with notes falling all around like rain. Yes, I’m convinced there was a rainstorm during this show now. Eleven or so minutes in, and the jam has lost almost all melody and is now just maddeningly cacophonic, almost scratchy. I would bet that those in attendance that were not huge Phish fans may have gotten a little bored here. The jam is almost as off-course as many Dead jams I’ve heard, and I know I can sometimes get a little bored with those spacey Dead jams, so I can sympathize. However, I do not find myself bored with this jam at all. In fact, I’m intrigued by it still, regardless of how many times I have heard it. It’s overflowing with notes; an off-beat insanity that isn’t necessarily jarring, but certainly hard to groove along with. Still pleasing nonetheless, and around 17 minutes in, Fishman grabs the reins again and brings back a very energetic beat that has my toes tapping. And through it all to this point, I can still hear it leading to a Page-driven Loving Cup at so many different moments, even as Page moves away from the piano. As the jam winds down, the crowd erupts, feeding off the energy of the band, and vice-versa. Trey hits some notes that I remember him hitting before a “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” I heard and it seems right in tune with the rest of the aquatic feel. However, they don’t go in that direction, and instead segue slowly into Crosseyed and Painless, hinting a little at what sounds like it could have been a segue into “Swept Away” instead.
But Crosseyed is VERY welcome, and a chance for Fishman to showcase some of his better-than-you’d-expect singing. Perhaps a reward for his exceptional performance throughout the show so far? And much like the Drowned that came before it, the ‘official’ Crosseyed and Painless is pretty standard, with nothing too amazing, until we reach our third “Darien Jam” of the night. Pretty straight-ahead, straight-forward jamming, Trey keeping to the C&P melody, with Fishman slamming out the beat behind him. This a great example of all four band members listening to one another and keeping it together as one really tight unit (yet another hallmark of 3.0). This jam never gets quite as experimental as Drowned, but it does venture into some pretty cool, different territory around the 4 minute mark, as it slowly winds down, yet it still constructs a wall of pretty ambience.
This ambience is all but completely broken down by the time we hear Trey begin singing Dog Faced Boy - a rare treat. A nice little number, but aside from the rarity factor, not the most ideal song to hear live. However, as far as breather songs go, this one is nice – rare, sweet and short.
With the Dog Faced Boy notes still fresh in our ears, Trey uses the same vibe to bring about Prince Caspian. With the mention of being afloat upon the waves, a nice touch if indeed a rainy night in Darien; if it wasn’t raining that night, then it should have been, dammit! What’s interesting for me listening to this is that most of the time I listen to this set, I just take disc 2 with me somewhere and listen to the jammed out parts. I honestly have no idea when the last time was that I listened to all of the second set as one entity. Page is sounding very sweet here, once we get past the lyrical section. Trey just about always shines during this song. As we get toward the end, Trey is back to making sound effects, while Page is beautifully winding through some truly melodious pastures. It makes for a nice contradiction in sounds.
Finally we get the long-awaited Loving Cup that I’m positive Page wanted to break into back during Drowned. If Crosseyed and Painless was a reward for Fishman, this here is the same for Page. A great opportunity to be rock stars here. Standard, as far as pre-Festival 8 Loving Cups go (that one shall never be topped, and has ruined me for all others). Again with the straight-ahead rock. Loving Cup and Prince Caspian form a nice little duo, with different feels, different tones, yet both triumphant and emotional. A wonderful way to close out a phenomenal second set.
The band comes back onto the stage to perform Driver, which sounds like it wants to tease “Summer of ‘89”/”Andre the Giant” again. I really like Tom Marshall’s lyrics. It isn’t amazing, but it’s simple and sweet, airy, charming, in a way. And Page does a great job tickling the ivories.
Trey then pulls out the acoustic for The Inlaw Josie Wales, and you get a sense that the band just wants to keep playing, here under this big tent!
Two slower, simple, pretty songs in the encore, and you sense the band might explode with something epic to close out this epic show. They chose Sample in a Jar, a song that I always lump into the ‘frat boys will love it, along with Bouncing Around the Room’ category. I can’t say I have ever used ‘epic’ when describing Sample, and I’m not going to here, either. If I were at the show, undoubtedly I’d have been just a little let down, most likely muttering a wistful “Oh well.” Then again, I hardly ever get the dynamic encores that I’d really like, though there have been a few (Hartford and your crazy double Tweezer Reprises, I’m looking at you!).
A truly great, classic Phish show!