Alpine Valley Music Theatre, East Troy, WI
 No intro.
Average Song Gap: 8.36
Notes: This show marked the debut of Access Me. Scents did not contain the intro. During an especially long break before Stash, Trey joked that if they take longer between songs, but play the same amount of songs, the show would last longer.
Songs by Debut Year:
Plus side: The second set is like a glorious hazy dance-a-thon, going to the usual June '04 places, hitting the usual high notes, occasionally shattering into crazy processed digital lunacy, climaxing in a scintillating Hood.
Minus side: Narcotized vibe flattens out Stash et al., entire month tends to blend into a single wondrous jam (which isn't nearly as excellent as you'd think (unsurprising since Phish's ludicrous brain-on-sleeve virtuosity has long been a big part of their appeal)); also, scintillating Hood has none of the all-arriving-at-once gallop that was a hallmark of the Old Days.
Plus side take 2: When I say 'glorious hazy dance-a-thon' *I am not kidding.* Boogie On > Ghost is one of the best moments of 2004, even if it's a lot like some of the other best moments of 2004. Dig?
Bottom line: Get it, but understand that Phish's 6/04 shows were very much of a piece, and miles away from the demon-acupuncturist precision and throwaway genius of the band's mid-90's coming of age.
anyway, this one is one of my favorite alpine shows. the first set is a little flat. access me and scents, especially without the nifty intro, were kind of a bland opener. stash never really seemed to "go there." things pick up a little with moma dance. fishman/gordon appeared to be in sync on this one. the divided sky was good, but still, like stash, just never really soared like it normally does. the wilson>funky bitch combo really picked things up. zero is not my favorite tune, but at least, it was played with some passion and energy.
now, in the second set, the boys turned it up a huge notch, especially gordon and fishman. this is my all time favorite boogie on. trey is back in the game on this one and has some good playing in this one. page has some nice fills too, but the real heroes in this jam are gordon and fishman. like the tube and the cross eyed at deer creek, gordon is just all over this one. after a scorching hot funk jam, they find their way into a nice long ghost. there is some very nice dark funky exploration in this one. granted, this does not hit the peaks they were hitting from 98-00, but it is still well-played. this one works nicely into a good funky free. trey keeps up the good playing, but once again, the other 3 members really play nicely on this free. friday provides everyone with an ice breather and it wanders nicely into a very inspired piper. this is one of those songs that i never really want to hear until it really starts smoking. this one rocks pretty hard before finding some funkier realms. eventually, fishman leads the charge into a very good alpine harry hood. this song works so well at this massive venue, and this is no exception. like ghost, it does not soar as high as it used to, but it is still a strong version worth hearing. at the time, i thought this encore was going to be the last thing i would ever hear phish play together, i skipped the east coast shows in august. well, possum was a good way to go out. sure, i would've loved harpua, forbin's, camel walk, etc, but they played possum at my first 2 shows, so i should hear at my last!! good version too.
overall, i would say this is a good show. as mentioned, the first set was a little flat, but the first half of the second set is just pure gravy!. in my opinion, this is the last really interesting set that phish played before 2009. the east coast leg that came a couple of months later was just god awful. i'm sure emotions were running high, but they were not running as "high" as trey was. i feel like every east coast show almost got proggressively worse until the big suck fest that was coventry. anyway, the boogie>ghost>free alone was worth the price of admission.
Let me give a little background. I had been dating my gf for a little over a year when she asked me if I'd ever want to go to a Phish show. Very early on in our relationship, with her influence, I started listening to the band and didn't really get it. I moved on and it wasn't until I heard Slip, Stitch and Pass before Phish really clicked for me. And I was hooked!
So she asked me about going to Alpine. Her sister, brother in law and mom had toured together for the last several years and were hitting up the Creek-Alpine run that year (and were also going to Coventry). So we scored some tix for second night Alpine and joined up with them.
Not only was this my first Phish show, but my first outdoor show as well. Needless to say I was pumped to jam out! I won't go into any detail really about how each song went, as I wasn't really familiar with most of them anyway, but I was having a great time.
The communal energy and positivity were phenomenal and like nothing I had experienced before. Really great time.
And then it was over. Coventry just wasn't possible, and I was bummed as hell that I'd probably have to wait another ten years to see Phish again. After hearing the horror stories of Coventry (and witnessing some on-stage horror from the live-cast in movie theaters) I was glad I didn't find a way to make it work.
Fast forward to today, and I have 17 shows under my belt, eagerly awaiting the announcement of Summer '13! I still come back and listen to this show frequently and I've come to recognize how tight a lot of the playing was at my first ever show--the show that without a doubt hooked me for life! Thank you Phish!!!
That is, until you get to June 2004.
I'm not going to say that Phish in June 2004 sounds nothing like what came before, but I *am* going to say that, in my estimation, June 2004 sounds the *least* like everything that came before it, especially in the jamming style. I used this term before, but I'll use it again here - it sounds like Phish's jamming gun, usually so reliable and varied in its settings, is pretty much stuck on "upbeat foggy hose", which they will play for long, loooooooong jams (cf. the famous 6/19 Piper, which is an awesome jam with segments that just stretch on out into the horizon and screw you if you don't like it). Which is totally fine - they did "upbeat foggy hose" pretty darn well, especially over this short tour. But it does mean that you sort of have to temper your expectations, in that you're going to hear music that's very much of a particular style, and either you're going to love it or you're going to hate it. Lots of people hate it, which is why lots of people write off 2004 as a flat disaster. Those that do love it know what treasures this month can contain. I like to think of June '04 as a weird alternate universe where Phish re-invented themselves as a progenitor of modern EDM, where jams were all about finding a specific feeling and riding that feeling for all its worth, damn the torpedoes and all that.*
The first-set Scents and Subtle Sounds is a very good example of this - a jam that may not step outside its usual boundaries, but still climbs and climbs in a way that can't help but fill your heart with joy if you love "hose" jamming. It's essentially all hose from start to finish, if that makes sense. This style of play does mean that Stash, usually a reliable dive into darkness, loses a lot of its usual luster and just sounds like a band searching for a peak, shrugging its shoulders, and saying "hey, all good, man". But this does mean that the more upbeat numbers, like Funky Bitch and Zero, have a little extra pizzazz to them, which helps set the table for a personal favorite second frame.
Boogie On Reggae Woman starts things off, and it's as funky as it always is, before giving way to one of my all-time favorite jam sequences. Mike gets a few seconds to fool around on the bass, then the band slams into a *killer* funk jam, Trey playing fog-laden chords before switching to some nasty soloing, Fish keeping the pace going with some nifty cymbal work, Page hammering away on his piano. The jam never achieves total liftoff or hits any sort of BGCA Light-like peak, but it's ridiculously intense for all 7 minutes and 47 seconds, until the jam flattens out and turns into a quite familiar groove.
That groove, of course, is Ghost (via a superb segue), and while the composed section of Ghost features a nigh-unforgivable botch, the actual Ghost jam is a keeper, starting off deceptively quietly before Mike starts picking things up and Page switches to...um...*something* on his keyboard. The notes he starts spitting out after the 8 minute mark are unlike anything I've heard him play before, and matched with Trey's darker guitar tone and Fish's insistent beat they start building up a hurricane of sound, Trey finds some big-time power chords, and the band builds to a powerful peak.
After a couple minutes of sheer rock nirvana, the jam winds down and they go into Free, which actually steps out and has a cool funk jam (with a really gooey bass tone from Mike) with a stop-start section and some grimy bluesy play from Trey. Friday comes next, then Piper, and this Piper wastes no time in leading into a stripped-down, zippy groove, thanks to Fish going double-time on the toms, and Page & Trey meshing very well together with their clanging chords. The band then alternates between this fast-paced madness and crashing breakdowns, finding jam spaces that would not be out of place in Maze, before coming to a surprisingly funky finish and rolling right into Hood. Hood (which is pretty much built for June '04) is impressively strong (even if it doesn't so much peak and just sorta tiptoe its way into the usual climax), and Possum nicely rounds things out.
6/19 is still definitely the strongest show of this month, but this show has a heck of a lot going for it, and if you have the desire to delve into what Phish was doing in this month, you're going to find this show entirely to your liking.
* I ignored specifically talking about drugs in the main body for a reason - pretty much every other review mentions it. You all know what was going on in 2004.
Funky as hell! Mike bustin' solos. I had a blast!