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Link Saturday, 10/31/2009
Empire Polo Club, Indio, CA

Set 1: SampleSample in a Jar, DividedDivided Sky, Lawn Boy, KDFKill Devil Falls, GinBathtub Gin, CoilThe Squirming Coil, Runaway Jim > Possum, AntelopeRun Like an Antelope[1]

Set 2: Rocks Off[2] > Rip This Joint[2], Shake Your Hips[2], Casino Boogie[3], Tumbling Dice[4], Sweet Virginia[5], Torn and Frayed[3], Sweet Black Angel[2], Loving Cup[5], Happy[4], Turd on the Run[4], Ventilator Blues[4] -> I Just Want To See His Face[6] > Let It Loose[4], All Down the Line[4], Stop Breaking Down[4], Shine a Light[4], Soul Survivor[4]

Set 3: BDTNLBackwards Down the Number Line > Fluffhead > Ghost, CircusWhen the Circus Comes, YEMYou Enjoy Myself

Encore: SuzySuzy Greenberg[5]

[1] Lyrics changed to "Been you to have any Coil?"
[2] Phish debut; Dave Guy on trumpet, David Smith on trombone, and Tony Jarvis on saxophone.
[3] Phish debut.
[4] Phish debut; Sharon Jones and Saundra Williams on backup vocals, Dave Guy on trumpet, David Smith on trombone, and Tony Jarvis on saxophone.
[5] Sharon Jones and Saundra Williams on backup vocals, Dave Guy on trumpet, David Smith on trombone, and Tony Jarvis on saxophone.
[6] Phish debut; Sharon Jones and Saundra Williams on backup vocals.

Noteworthy Jams: Backwards Down the Number Line, Suzy Greenberg

Average Song Gap: 14.94

Performers: Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, Dave Guy (Guest), David Smith (Guest), Tony Jarvis (Guest), Sharon Jones (Guest), Saundra Williams (Guest)

Notes: This show was part of the three-show Festival 8. Playbills were distributed on-site (beginning at 12:30 p.m., 8 hours in advance) confirming that the second set (the band's "musical costume") would be the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main St. After Divided Sky, Trey acknowledged the beauty of the venue and announced that Page would now play a love song to the lawn since it was the first time they had played on grass in a long time. Antelope's lyrics were changed to  "Been you to have any Coil, man?" (The Coil was an art installation on the venue grounds.) Set 2 began with a video highlighting selections of the 99 classic albums displayed and then systematically eliminated on the phish.com web site leading up to the festival. Selections in the montage included snippets from Michael Jackson's Thriller, T.Rex's Electric Warrior, Metallica's Master of Puppets, Miles Davis's A Tribute to Jack Johnson, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours and The Doors (self titled), among others. All of the Exile on Main St songs were Phish debuts, except for Loving Cup and Sweet Virginia. All songs in the second set except for Casino Boogie, Torn and Frayed, and I Just Want To See His Face featured Dave Guy on trumpet, David Smith on trombone, and Tony Jarvis on saxophone. Tumbling Dice, Sweet Virginia, and Loving Cup through Soul Survivor also featured Sharon Jones and Saundra Williams on backup vocals. Trey introduced the horn section after Tumbling Dice and again after the completion of the costume, before saying "We are the Rolling Stones. See you later." Suzy Greenberg was played with Jones, Williams, and the horns. This show featured the first Sweet Virginia since September 26, 1999 (173 shows).

Links:
LivePhish Download LivePhish Download

Song Distribution:
4 Lawn Boy
3 Junta
3 The White Tape
2 Joy
2 Stash
1 The Story of the Ghost
1 Hoist
1 The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday

Songs by Debut Year:

paulj , attached to 2009-10-31 Permalink
paulj Sometime during the third set, a guy with a couple of beers in his hands joins a group of folks behind us, one of whom is dressed as a gorilla. One of the folks says, "Where have you been, man, you've been gone for almost an hour!" To which beer guy says, "Dude, I followed the wrong gorilla."
Score: 10
jackl Phish.net Staff , attached to 2009-10-31 Permalink
jackl I've seen about six random shows this year so far before Indio (Hamptons, Jones Beach 1, SPAC, Indio 1) and can say without a doubt that the second and third sets last night were the first I've seen since the breakup that rocked out and sounded like the "old" Phish of the 90's that we all loved.

Short review: best Suzy Greenberg, EVER. Best Loving Cup EVER (in versions that are unlikely to be topped because of the onstage presence of the guests Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings horns). Great, jammed out, spooky Ghost for Halloween. All best versions. Get this recording, you will not be disappointed.

Extremely satisfied. Got my money's worth last night. The band does not seem to be practicing or warming up or "phoning it in" any more. Phish is back.

Sorry this is not a terribly articulate review, but I'm shaking off the sunday morning cobwebs and waiting to shower and get back to the polo field for coffee, commemorative donuts and the acoustic set and just wanted to get my 0.02 on this show since it seems YMMV.

The trainwreck at Coventry has at last been redeemed.
Score: 6
kflinn1 , attached to 2009-10-31 Permalink
When I think of the Empire Polo Field, home of the Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival, my mind conjures up images of legions of hipsters patrolling the field, smoking Marlboro reds and trying to decide whether to spend their time yearning for the Cure or lining up a few hundred deep for Daft Punk.

I directly recall the moment I first set foot on the Polo Field's heavenly green grass in May 2004 - I turned to my longtime tour buddy and said, "This place would be perfect for Phish."

You see, even though I'm a veteran of five Coachellas (and three Stagecoaches), I've also seen Phish 52 times (counting Saturday). That includes three of the band's previous seven festivals, New Year's Eve 1998 and, perhaps most importantly, the last time Phish played on Halloween (also in `98, when the quartet played the Velvet Underground's Loaded in its entirety as its "musical costume").

I honestly never thought I'd actually get to see Phish at the Coachella site; it was mostly just wishful thinking. After braving the elements and withstanding the band's so-called final festival - the super-sloppy (both weather and music) Coventry, in August 2004 - I was skeptical that Phish would ever throw another multi-day bash, let alone throw one in my proverbial backyard.

But when rumors about a Halloween festival in Indio began circulating towards the end of June, I couldn't help but get excited. Here was a band on which I'd spent thousands of dollars over the past 13 years, and the possibility that it was going to set up shop some 120 miles from my front door (as opposed to the 2,500 miles I traveled to see Phish's reunion shows in Hampton, Va., this past March) was simply too good to pass up.

You can imagine my delight when the whole thing eventually came to fruition, and as I strolled onto the same grassy lawn where I saw my second Radiohead show in 2004, I could hardly believe how different the site looked - instead of two main stages and three smaller tents, one big stage stood in the northeast corner of the property (where Coachella's Outdoor Stage usually resides) and a series of oil-rig light stanchions stood guard a few hundred yards away.

Phish's Festival 8 - the band's eighth major festival - kicked off Friday with a delightfully crowd-pleasing pair of sets, highlighting material from the band's September release, Joy, as well as a bevy of fan favorites. It was an enjoyable way to kick-start the weekend, but the real treat was Saturday: sandwiched between two sets of Phish would be this year's musical costume, the Rolling Stones' 1972 classic Exile on Main St.

Joining Phish in tackling Exile were a three-piece horn section and two backup singers, the more notable of whom was Sharon Jones, who performed at Coachella 2008 with her funk/soul outfit, the Dap-Kings. Augmenting Phish's usual lineup, the extra five members made the band appear not altogether different from guitarist Trey Anastasio's various solo projects of the past decade, the most notable of which was the nonet with which he recorded his eponymous debut in 2002.

As a precursor to my review of the costume set, it should be noted that Exile on Main St. is undoubtedly my favorite Stones record - influenced greatly by the fact that before Saturday evening, Phish had performed the album's side-two closer, "Loving Cup," 80-odd times since 1993. It was "Loving Cup" that led me to Exile, which led me to Let It Bleed, Sticky Fingers, Some Girls - you could say I owe my Stones fandom to Phish.

So "... my favorite band playing one of my favorite albums in one of the most beautiful concert venues in the United States "... you'd be right to assume that my excitement (as well as that of the other tens of thousands of attendees) ran at an all-time high when the band released its Broadway-spoofing Phishbill (announcing that Exile would indeed comprise the second set) as fans entered the venue Saturday.

This wasn't like 1998, when I walked into UNLV's Thomas & Mack Arena and read about Loaded, thinking, "I know `Sweet Jane,' but that's about it." (I'd come to love Loaded, and Phish would introduce "Rock and Roll" into its repertoire, where it remains a second-set juggernaut to this day).

No, this time I'd know every song, every word, every brassy blast. This was peanut butter and jelly, a perfect musical marriage. Really, the only way Phish could've done any better by me would've been to play the Clash's London Calling or Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (both of which were eliminated from the running during the month-long lead-up to Halloween on the band's site).

But Exile it was meant to be, and as Phish launched into the opener "Rocks Off," it became clear the band would show due diligence to an album that all four members have repeatedly cited as a major influence. Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell shared vocal duties on most of the songs, with bassist Mike Gordon taking over on "Shake Your Hips" and "All Down the Line" and drummer Jon Fishman stepping outside his usual jokester role for genuine readings of "Sweet Virginia" and "Happy."

While Jones and the horn section lent authenticity (and a great deal more soul) to Phish's rendering of Exile (most notably their subtle, delicate accents on "Sweet Black Angel" and show-stealing, spine-tingling moments in "I Just Want to See His Face"), it was the Phish-only moments that truly stole the show, or at least the set.

During the few songs unadorned by additional personnel, Phish stayed within its comfort zone but stretched the Stones' bluesy song structures, making "Casino Boogie" and "Torn and Frayed" sound like songs that the Vermont foursome could have written at any point its 25-year career - they escalated the Stones' simplicity into shimmering, glorious peaks while maintaining the originals' feel, which is no small task, especially considering Exile's notoriety.

Three songs in particular, however, defined the Exile set:

* The aforementioned "Loving Cup," in which the audience fired thousands of glow-rings in the air and the horn section added a punchy layer to a song that Phish mastered 15 years prior, when McConnell first brought a grand piano on tour. Watching Anastasio's ear-to-ear grin as he bounced back and forth was a revelation. "What a beautiful buzz" indeed.
* "I Just Want to See His Face," which segued out of "Ventilator Blues" (as it does on the album) and sounded like it could've been the tail end of a drawn-out "Piper" jam, featured Anastasio and Jones in a call-and-response mantra: "Let this music relax your mind." The gospel-tinged number caused more than one member of the audience to throw his hands up and shout a "hallelujah" to the nearly-full October moon. (Note: this song has never been played live by the Stones, who would do well to give Phish's reading their full attention.)
* Exile's penultimate song, the shout-along "Shine a Light," was nothing less than an exercise in redemptive glory for Phish. "May the good Lord / Shine a light on you / Make every song you sing / Your favorite tune," the guitarist sang, and we could almost see the exorcism take place, the personal demons plaguing Anastasio (and the band) since before Phish's 2004 breakup dissipating from his shoulders as he shook off Fishman's attempt to end the song, uncorking a searing solo that served as a proper exclamation point on a personal and professional triumph.

Did I love Phish's Halloween reading of Exile on Main St.? You bet. Am I biased? Certainly. While I would've been happy to see the band take a stab at David Bowie's Hunky Dory or Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland, I feel incredibly lucky to have had the good fortune to see my musical heroes take on a monumental challenge and conquer it with flying colors.

When I step onto the familiar green grass next April, I won't recall Bright Eyes or Belle & Sebastian. My memory will undoubtedly harken back to Halloween 2009, when the proverbial stars aligned and every song was indeed my favorite tune.

In many ways the albums Phish has chosen to cover over the years have reflected the band's mindset and direction at the time. For example "...

The White Album is an ambitious (arguably, over-ambitious) mash-up of wildly divergent songwriting styles, much as 1993-1994 Phish was akin to a hyperactive child with a shiny new toy, often jumping back and forth between musical genres in their trademark devil-may-care style that earned them early accolades (and early scorn from critics who couldn't stand Phish's attention-deficit swings). The sometimes playful/sometimes serious dichotomy of songs on the Beatles' self-titled 1968 release fit the wildly divergent idiosyncrasies of a 10-year-old band entering its prime.

As the band's audiences grew - in the wake of Jerry Garcia's August '95 passing and the subsequent demise of the Grateful Dead - Phish was suddenly playing bigger rooms (even arenas with some regularity), and while the band hadn't necessarily changed, it sometimes struggled to maintain the club/theater vibe in a huge hockey stadium. The Who's Quadrophenia, about a young Mod with four distinct personalities, suited Phish's growth spurt perfectly, as the band wrestled with inheriting the Dead's longstanding legacy. Ultimately, by December 1995 (quite possibly the best single month of shows in Phish history, leading up to a New Year's show that Rolling Stone dubbed "one of the greatest concerts of the '90s") Phish had grown comfortable wearing the jam band crown.

Talking Heads' Remain in Light, long cited as a major influence on all four band members, would mark a turning point in Phish's career, leading it from a 1996 that saw the band grow more comfortable headlining arenas and outdoor amphitheaters to a 1997 characterized by a complete musical renaissance. David Byrne & Co.'s striated, synthesizer-laden work laid the groundwork for the "cow-funk" that would permeate Phish's '97 outings, leading to more laid-back, patient grooves from a more grown-up and confident band. Remain in Light's impact was felt almost immediately, as a third-set "Simple" on Halloween '96 stretched into undiscovered funky territory, setting the stage for a monstrous 1997.

As in 1996, the band distributed a Broadway-style Phishbill to fans entering the venue. This essentially gave away the second-set surprise and many fans looked at each other quizzically, wondering why Phish chose the Velvet Underground's Loaded over the heavily-rumored (and heavily-favored) Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon. That gesture defined the band at this time - while some of the playfulness that characterized its early years had dissipated, Phish had grown into a group that favored simplicity, and Loaded fits that bill. No horns, no guests, no quirky compositions, just a classic rock record that perfectly reflected the mature, 15-year-old Phish and introduced a number of jam fans to the genius of Lou Reed. (Also of note: three days later, the band performed Dark Side in its entirety to a half-full arena in Salt Lake City, presumably as a make-up gesture for a brilliant-but-bizarre third set on Halloween.)
Score: 4
waxbanks , attached to 2009-10-31 Permalink
waxbanks Perfectly fine first set, but you don't care. The third set goes Solid, Solid, Great, Solid, Great; Ghost is a particularly fine version, though there's no pornofunk in sight. The encore is (yeah) the Best Suzy Ever, Probably. And the costume? After a couple of shaky tunes they did that thing they do where they're nerds from Vermont, nerds, nerds, nerds, then suddenly they're the best band in America. Loving Cup onward is 24K gold. Kudos to Sharon Jones and her band for tearing shit up - and to Phish for topping themselves three nights running.
Score: 3
jadedforbin , attached to 2009-10-31 Permalink
jadedforbin FESTIVAL 8
Review by D.C. Smith (clforbin2001)
Minneapolis, MN 11-5-09

As anyone who knows attended, FESTIVAL 8 was the cap-off of Phish's triumphant return from self imposed exile (hmmm, wonder if they thought this same thing when picking the album).

The festival site is the best EVER...period. Anyone who doesn't believe me wasn't there. No possibility of rain, no 3 foot deep mud, just perfect; warm to hot during the day and cool and beautiful in the evening. Those who honestly complained about the heat must have missed Summer 99, cuz that was ten times worse.

2009-10-30

SET I ("Uno")

Some dismissed this first night a "warm up"; which in some ways, it is. But choice jams like the semi-ambient "Stash" and the best "Time Turns Elastic" yet made even this first set seem special to me. For the (few) folks that don't like the new songs, maybe this set did seem a "warm-up". But I loved that they came right out and played a bunch of new tunes - the lyrics to the "Joy" songs have deeper meaning than most of the band's catalogue, and even if I am in the minority, I nominate "Elastic" as THE new first-set closer.

SET II ("Dos")

I don't know why, but they were a little off on PYITE...the intro was pretty sloppy, with Trey even in the wrong key for a bit. After that though, this set gets going quick...anyone who bitches about the list need only look at it on paper - minus "Joy", that's straight Fall-97 song choices, folks. And if you don't like "Joy", consider that it is basically the band's love song to the fans, and maybe you'll change your tune; personally I love it. Wolfman > Piper was spacy but not super-extended; their new sound overall is a bit stripped down from the delay loops of the late 90s, and I don't think they really WANT to do a bunch of 25 minute "alien lazer" jams anymore. Bowie was pretty standard but very tight and energetic. Hood was interesting, as it has been since the "re-return", lacking the old guitar punch at the end but gaining in sentimental value with every performance. It just reminds us again that this is a finite thing. We can feel "good about Hood" right now...no one knows for how long it will last, so enjoy it and savor it.

2009-10-31

SET I ("Tres")

Possibly one of the tightest first sets of all of 2009. Divided was amazing in the hot sun. Mid-set Killdevil, Coil and Gin are nice. The Possum doesn't stand up to 8-2-98 Deer Creek (but I don't think any version since does, if you know one let me know). Then they closed with the classic first set capper, "Antelope", a tight, fairly short, yet fiery version. Hella good. I mentioned to my wife how it was cool how they played the new ("Elastic" on 10-30) vs. the old ("Antelope" on 10-31) for the first two first-set closers of the event.

SET II ("Quatro")

"Exile on Main Street". Not my first choice for the album, yet the band completely MURDERED every lick and vocal on this double LP. I loved it despite it being perhaps my last choice of albums for them to cover. So damn well played. Irresistable. I pick "Torn and Frayed" and "Shine a Light" to appear in future sets (perhaps this fall?)

SET III ("Cinco")

Best set of the phest for me personally. "Number Line" is really turning into a monster set opener. Transition to Fluff is nice, version is tight with some little flubs (find me a post-hiatus Fluff with no fuck-ups, it doesn't exist) and great energy. Ghost is best version of 2009 IMHO, having listened to all the others. Length isn't everything; this one is the grooviest. Circus, to me, is always a throwaway, but w/e it's their show they can play what they like. YEM to close was beast - tight throughout, no noticeable flubs, and perhaps the best version since "Cheesecake" (if you don't know what I'm talking about, I am sorry). If anyone honestly complains about this setlist....check yourself, it's possible you DON'T REALLY LIKE PHISH (Haters take note).

2009-11-01

SET I ("Seis")

The first ever acoustic set for the band and a landmark moment in Phish history. Many nice little tunes that have fallen by the wayside, such as "Mountains in the Mist", "Bri & Rob", the slow version of "Water" to open (SOOO much better than the fast version, guys, keep it up!) "Curtain With" puts the Coventry version to absolute shame (where it frankly belongs). And who would have called "McGrupp", the biggest bustout of the entire fest, to come in the acoustic set? This was my first, and it sounded very natural unamplified. Throw in a TRIPLE ENCORE ON THE FIRST SET OF A THREE SET SHOW and this really is just epic.

SET II ("Siete")

For some reason, I found this to possibly be the most uneven set of the entire weekend. I liked the song choices but to be honest Trey was a little off, and sometimes a lot off. And I love Reba so much, it hurts when they totally nail the composed segment then botch the transition to the jam (which is so much easier than everything they just played lol). Guelah was a nice bustout but semi-flubbed. Melt was nice but semi-tame (as it has been all year).

SET III ("THE OCHO" or just "Ocho" for short)

As with Set II, this last set on 11-1 had some uneven-ness in the playing. Whenever they transition out of Tweezer I'd just prefer for them to keep going at it and really take it out there. That being said, this "Tweezer > Maze" is one of the tightest transitions since the "re-return". For whatever reason, the next four songs all seemed out of place here, and the playing was subpar in both Free and Limb by Limb. Fishman didn't even try to do the drum outtro. But the boys brought it back home in style with the un-callable, unpredictable "Mike's>2001>Light>Sick Alien Hose Jam>Slave". Holy fucking shit. Who would have called Light for the highlight of the entire last two sets? If you don't believe me, listen to it. All the people calling for 97-era space jams can STFU right now.

Add in "Grind", the ultra-rare "Esther" and Tweeprise, and there you have it. Anyone who says this festival wasn't seriously fucking sick are out of their minds. Or maybe they're just too jaded by memories to enjoy the band anymore. Ah well, more for the rest of us - I see Cinci tickets for 25 bucks on stubhub. I'm fucking going. :)
Score: 3
phishymike , attached to 2009-10-31 Permalink
I am 34 and been a Phan since 93'.

After attending 8 and listening to the Halloween set several times I am ready to give my opinion. Overall, I think the band sounded great and I loved the Exile choice. Yes, the energy was there big time and I could tell the boys were enjoying themselves. I am trying to not sound negative about this review because I was pleased with the set. I just get frustrated when people get all crazy and say it was SICK and the BEST EVER! IMO, Quadrophenia was better and I think I like Loaded more as well. Remember, this is my opinion. I realize that Exile tells a story of the band, but it didn't have the same story feel that Quadrophenia had. IMO, Phish should have chosen an album with more of an overall vibe. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings were awesome and they sound great on the sbd. Loving Cup is for sure SICK! I really enjoyed Fish on the songs he sang, especially Sweet Virginia.

3rd set was tight...great songs.

Suzy sounded amazing, but I found it to be too predictable. Sorry, but I expect more from this band on such a big night.

Go ahead and axe me if you wish!
Score: 2
XavierMudbottom , attached to 2009-10-31 Permalink
XavierMudbottom I'm just going to add what I feel may be missing from the earlier reviews.

First, I enjoyed that there was an afternoon set. It's not the same as showing up, knowing that you'll be standing there for the next several hours. It was also nice to be able to go back to camp, make some dinner, and put on appropriate clothes (or costumes) before regrouping for the evening's festivities.

The concert field was an incredible space, with Kuroda's skills in evidence everywhere. From the highlighted palm trees, to the moving lights traversing the tents in the rear, it was beautiful. Also, the towers, strung with lights and topped by torches added a great element of extravagance.

In general, the playing at Festival 8 was not the most energetic and powerful of 3.0, compared to when I had seen them at The Gorge in August (I heartily recommend those shows). Still great to get together, all the same.

I'm not a huge Stones fan (I really think they're an overrated pop band), but there is no denying the mastery of songcraft exemplified in Exile. The boys did a great job and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings (w/ Saundra Williams) were just what was needed to fully flesh out the tunes.

A note about the Festival as a whole: Overall, it was a great weekend in a great place. Ninety-six songs, more than 13 1/2 hours of music over 8 sets, in 3 days...though to complain. However, it seemed to me that the movie-making had taken over to some degree. In all that time they only covered one song, other than the Exile album, and that was Circus...not really the biggest crowd-pleaser, in my opinion. In fact, I'm a little surprised that no one here has mentioned the glaring omission of Frankenstein from a Halloween show...frankly this hurt me deeply. I kind of felt like the band was sticking to their own catalog because the 3D cameras were rolling, and they wanted to be able to use footage without having to ask permission, or pay royalties, or negotiate those royalties...but maybe I'm reading too much into it. (This sure as hell wasn't a consideration at the Superball! - which coincidentally also had 96 songs, more than 13 1/2 hours of playing, over 8 sets in 3 days)

It was good to be at a festival again (the last one I attended was Oswego '99), but the scene at The Gorge a few months earlier was far less restrictive (and the playing was more unbridled), the scene at The Greek the next summer was far more celebratory, and the overall experience at Superball IX (scene and sound) was simply superior.

One man's opinion.

As I write this, I'm anxiously anticipating the 3-night stand at SPAC this summer. Hope to see you there.
Score: 2
phishhead802 , attached to 2009-10-31 Permalink
saturday night halloween was the best night of my life, trey stole my face and i for the first time got COMPLETELY PHISHED!!
Score: 0

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