My wife and I made the trek to Chula Vista from Texas and came back with memories of our very first Phish gig.
I've been to hundreds of live shows in my time, dating back to KISS in 1979 when I was six years old! Thanks to my Mom and Dad for that one. I've seen them all... from Cheap Trick to U2 to Pavement to ZZ Top to Smashing Pumpkins to Wilco to Air Supply (true story). But I haven't seen Phish, and seeing them minutes away from Mexico was really special.
This would be a night to remember. There was a truly awesome backdrop. The sunset was brilliant and the warm air was just cool enough for a SoCal summer. Because this was our first live Phish experience, we didn't know what to expect, but we had a good idea. We have the entire Phish studio and live catalog and own the DVDs. So, in many ways, we have experienced Live Phish, but we knew that we had to witness it to tell this story. We appreciate this band and we know that seeing them live is something to experience... more than once. I've been a fan for years and I couldn't wait to see what the boys were going to do.
First things first. The parking lot at the Coors Amphitheater was more like hard dirt and hay. No biggie. The scene was alive with colorful folks who were ready for the summer tour that had begun the night before in Phoenix. We chilled with some dudes and scored a few slices of homemade pizza (made in the back of someone's truck). We washed it all down with good beer. Impressive. The Phish fans travel with solid beer choices. No weak beers allowed. Total score.
After an hour of witnessing this cultural phenomenon, we made our way to the amphitheater. By the way, its landscaped beautifully and I really dig the fact that it's an open-air facility. No covered pavilion. We had solid seats a few sections from the stage and we were stoked for the show. The “Guyute” opener was just what I needed. It happens to be one of my wife's favorite Phish originals. As the sun started to go down, the short but sweet “Horn” and “MSO” followed. It was on now.
“Tweezer” and “Limb By Limb” combined for a twenty five minute plus jamfest. Then things settled down. It's as if Phish felt the ambient atmosphere around them, because we were really in the middle of nowhere and the stars were slightly visible. I really do think that they read the laid back scene and mirrored it with the remaining songs. “Fast Enough For You” (breathtaking), “Frankie Says” (ethereal and majestic), and finally, “Taste” (gorgeous). I just witnessed my first Phish set. Huge.
Set II offered some real gems. “DWD” opened it all up like a freight train out of control. Twenty minutes (and two beers) later, we were treated with a stellar “Vultures” and then a new one, “Secret Smile”, which will rival the greatness of “Strange Design” and “Brian and Robert” very soon.
Okay, here we go... two of my favorite tunes were about to take over. As soon as I heard the opening notes of “Harry Hood”, I went nuts and grabbed my wife. I hugged and kissed her like it was St. Valentine's Day! I was all over the place and could not stand still. Then the arena rock buzz saw-like opening riff to “Carini” came blazing out like a cannonball to my gut. It was electric bliss, really. This song really jams out loud. It was totally sick and now, we were out of control. These guys really know how to go for the jugular! Just as I was catching my breath, another new tune debuted. “Discern” was cool, in a “Waves”/”Walls of the Cave” way. Ten minutes later, “Waste” crept in like a long-lost friend. It was moving and, in my opinion, an appropriate set closer. Trey really made that song his own on this night.
I knew that “Tweezer Reprise” had to be around the corner and I was right. The boys came back out and played a safe and efficient “Bouncing” which scored mixed reviews from the fans around us. I was cool with this choice, but I could have gone for a famous cover. Beatles anyone? Then “Tweeprise” saved the encore and minutes later, it was over.
They were mellow when they needed to be and jammed out when appropriate. They didn't do much talking. Their tunes did it for them. Like professional hitmen with a task to complete. This particular mission was a success. A truly magical night.
I know that was basically a tour opener, but it was my tour opener, my very own memory with my wife by my side. I know that certain people would have preferred a “Mike's Groove” or some Gamehendge love, but that will come with time. I'll see them again. And again! Come back to Texas, guys... I was dumb enough to miss you over the years. Texas needs you. I promise... see you soon.