These shows marked a turning point in the fledgling era of 3.0 Phish. Shows before we scatter-shot, and with do cause, as the band was still getting their improvisational bearings and musical foundation set beneath them after five years off the grid. When Down with Disease opened the first night, it had that *feel* ... you know what I'm talking about. The feel where something special was about to happen. It was intangible as much as it was sensory.
They smoked through Down with Disease, played (to my ears) the most unique Possum of 3.0, and dazzled with gems like an elongated Stash, Destiny, and a worthwhile early Ocelot. Phish then opened it all up. Using the Gorge itself as an amplifier, they played a first set, 18 minute Sneakin Sally that, I believe, is a top-10 jam of 3.0 Phish and the very best Sally played to date.
Moma Dance hit and then the glowsticks flew. I remember it so well, it was pure bliss. The fans were in full dance mode after setbreak, again, feeling now more than ever that we were experiencing a crux in the evolution of Phish. We just knew what was happening. We were riding the crest of a new wave, a new light... then Light itself came next. Wow. What a special and so unique calypso jam this evolved into. Island rhythms layered over vocal harmonizing created, much indeed, a light amongst the band and fans. A smooth segue into Taste provided another "wow" moment. Taste fades and Fluffheads hits. For those of you too immersed in more recent tours, it should be noted that Fluffhead was A REALLY BIG DEAL in 2009. At that point, it wasn't in "regular rotation" and after the Hampton run, the song itself embodied the reincarnation of Phish. Perfect placement. Joy followed with a smooth momentum that let us all absorb the feeling we were experiencing, but then, blastoff. Gin. This Gin. Had it not been for Summer of 2014, this Gin is easily the best of 3.0 Phish (and again in my opinion, still the best). Ripping through the normal Gin build, then breaking form into a driving open soundscape before trickling into a cascade of waterfall notes, this Gin has it all. Much the same, the Hood that comes next follows that same soundscape pattern Gin created 15 minutes before. Open space and serenity are thematic in this Gin. It is not fiery. It is peaceful and contemplative... beautiful even. What a combo to close a set... to close a show.
The next night picked up the pace in the first set. I mean Phish came out firing. Chalkdust, MOTR, Tweezer, Ya Mar (a jammed out Ya Mar at that!), 20 Years Later, and an absolutely ripping trifecta of Wolfmans > Zero > Antelope framed one of the best first sets I've ever heard... oh not to mention the Mango opener, first time played since IT. And of course a special Driver, even then the song carried so much weight for me... it was amazing to see live. The first set was complete, it flowed, it jammed, and it rocked. The feeling was growing. The light was getting brighter. The Gorge was opening itself up to the universe in a spectacular of light and sound and energy. When Rock and Roll opened the second set, I smiled beyond compare. The feeling. This song had it. 23 minutes of tension and release that flowed into nimble musical weaving that slinked into a full-band groove-fest that rocketed back into an incendiary 5-minute closing peak all before slowing down so very naturally and dissolving into Makisupa. The Policeman was especially playful that night. A broken down (in a good way) jam left lot of open space for Mike and Fish to do their thang. Then, because they are Phish, Mike and Trey decided to switch instruments - so cool. SO COOL! Wedge and Alaska provided an acceptable respite before a mid-set YEM hit us. To say the energy before the AHHHHH BOY build was volcanic would be an injustice. The band was raging and the crowd was furiousy dancing, Unfortunately, the YEM jam did not go anywhere special and the band seemed to sit back, almost a little *too* patiently for the rest of the show. Number Line and what-the-heck set-closing Piper rounded off the run, complete with Fish teasing that Llama drum beat multiple times, giving me multiple cardiac episodes, before settling down and serenading us with Grind.
Guys, if you want to see not just how far the band has come, but how good they were in 2009, listen to these shows. You too will feel what I am talking about. Some sort of magic that only the Gorge brings out in this amazing band. Enjoy.