Phish kept their linear progression forward into the future at the Blossom Music Center Saturday night. The rain held off and the sun even shined through for most of the pre-show partying. Vending was aplenty and security was non-existent--allowing the group of serious fans that seemed to be in attendance to have their way inside and outside of the show.
The beautiful venue is nestled deep in the woods, it's about a 15 minute walk from the parking lot. When inside, you get a feeling that nothing is around you--just the space ship looking wood shed and beautiful lawn in the middle of a forest.
Even though the sun was out, it remained pretty dark under the shed because of the huge and low overhang--this let Kuroda contribute to the show early on. The feel inside was more of a party than anything--very few wooks and very many receptive and serious fans. Phish knows when this is the situation-Trey came out and wished someone named Dan a happy birthday before opening with the first time cover of Look Out Cleavland by The Band. Next was a daytime Ocelot (only time I think it should be played)--Trey missed the powerful intro to the instrumental segment that we are used to, but overall the Ocelot was true to form and provided some nice textures for people to move to while it was still sunny and hot out.
The next song was actually a highlight for me while it was just a piss song to others--Water in the Sky, revisiting it's fast paced format Phish adopted back in summer 98 in Europe, was absolutely stunning. Trey weaved around the musical landscape with Page with complete beauty and ease. Following this came Stash--a solid version. Nothing too stand out in it, however Trey has some direction and seems to follow Mike's lead for a while and then mimics Page's ascending notes before bringing it back up into the ending. Trey doesn't wank around in it like he tends to sometimes when the version isn't that hot. This Stash is full of direction and Trey showcases his super clean tone of 2010 very nicely. Listen for Mike moving up and down his Modulus' neck, though.
What's next? Oh, Curtis Loew for the 2nd time since 1993? Awesome- executed perfectly and sung with compassion, this little number had the crowd drooling to see what Phish was going to treat them to next.
After an energetic and standard version of Sample came what everyone was fearing--everyone's face was just TTE'd. Grumbles are audible both there and on recordings. The people filed out to go to the bathroom and get some snacks. It was still pretty light out when this came on, you have to think Trey notices how no one cares to hear the song. It was executed really well, it's a shame they waste their energy for 18 minutes on it. Someone needs to hand out fliers before a show telling everyone to BOO or sit down when the song comes on next--a la yelling "HOOD" after Harry during the song or clapping during stash. We need to get their attention.
It was obvious that TTE wouldn't be the first set's closer, though because of how much time was left still. Mike's Groove closed the first set--as a lot of you know I have been very critical of 2009 Mike's Songs and Weekapaug Grooves. They often lacked creativity, passion and intensity--Blossom is when that all changed. This Mike's Song came right up from hell in an evil and fierce fashion. Page got so down and filthy for this, the whole crowd knew Phish got up to throw down tonight. By the time the song started nightfall was completely upon us, giving Kuroda free reign over the visuals. He perfectly accented the dirty ferociousness of the song with dark and intense lights. After Phish moved through the well played I am Hydrogen, the expected Weekapaug followed. 2009, and most of post hiatus Phish in general, seemed to forget that Weekapaug is supposed to start with heavy hitting bass slapping on top of drums--they didn't forget at Blossom. Mike took us back to the 90's with a real 'Paug intro, poppin' off with no regard for human life in the amphitheater. For the first time in years, Trey showed direction in this jam. His precise and crisp noodling over Mike's relentless grooving was like taking a refreshing shower. Fish started working his blocks with Mike really digging in and Page on his baby grand when Trey starts bringing his noodling to a faster pace. When Fish kicks it over to the ride, the whole band is on the path to come back up, and they do. Trey comes to a glorious and fast paced peak with Kuroda enhancing it with the rolling white lights before sinking back down into the song. And this is all only the first set.
A lot of people were talking about what they think the second set would open with. People assumed it would be something out of the ordinary--it was about as ordinary as people could have imagined though, reaching back into 2009's bag of ideas they opened with another version of Rock 'n Roll. It's a soulful and good version and Trey enters the jam very nicely, though. It's about a 12 min version before getting more ambient and popping into an oddly, but interesting, placement of Harry Hood. The intro to Hood was playful and fun, with Page going up and down on the keyboards and some fun rolls by Fish. Trey executed the heavy metal segment just fine, which is something I always pay attention to after some of their versions from last year. All of the 2009 Hoods were emotionless and a waste of time, in my opinion, but this one was very pretty. It starts out slow and real quiet and, while there is no real build up to the end, the end is beautiful with the band singing "you can feel good" Trey is using his guitar to punctuate through all the way until the end.
Backwards Down the Number Line was the second set showcase piece for me. It's now apparent that when this song starts you can't be sure if it will be a beautiful standard version like Red Rocks 09 or an improvisational spring board like Toyota Park 09. This night was the latter, when the band moved past when they could unawkwardly go back into the end of the song everyone knew they were in for something special. This Number Line is an evil monster--reaching back to the first set for inspiration from Mike's Song, this bad boy gets dirty and spooky fast. This is the new sound of Phish right here, and I don't mind it at all. It seemed like in 2009 they might have been confused as to what their new sound should be, but not this time around. Instead of using their age as an obstacle, they use their experience as an asset--knowing what sounds good with each other, Trey and Mike get low and scary while Page accents up and down the song with his keyboard. The band directed lights slowly fade, making the stage itself completely dark--Kuroda now has a blank canvass to paint with his lights--and he made a masterpiece. Mike starts doing some work from his dark place on stage by kicking in his effects and destroying the place with his now turned up bass. The only place to land this dark gemstone is into a song that has a naturally dark and heavy sound to it--Twenty Years Later. Phish just merged two new songs together in a way that showed everyone that their music is already evolving, after only 1 year of playing. I think the Blossom Backwards Down the Number Line->Twenty Years Later is going to be listened to again and again for years--a great night time road trip combo tune.
Going the extra mile to impress everyone in attendance, Phish bust into John Lennon's Instant Karma! The crowd obviously just lost it--Page was having a blast belting out the lyrics, and Fish had a blast with the drums. Unlike Look Out Cleavland, I think this cover has some staying power with Phish--let's hope so. Without missing a note, Trey goes right into a version of The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony that would have impressed fans in 1993. His tone and execution was awesome in this tightly wound composed ditty. The Suzie naturally following it is high energy and the jam showcases Page peaking on his baby grand--nothing crazy, but certainly a blast.
The show closes with a beautiful version of Waste and another Character Zero with Trey's murky rock he seemed to adopt for the song in 2009. Squirming Coil was the encore and left Page on stage by himself to thank the audience for coming out at the end of the show.
This show is refreshing in so many ways. Phish is being playful again with the covers they choose to play, they are playing classics like Oh Kee Pa before Suzie, they are playing old school bust outs like Curtis Loew, Mike's Song finally got it's groove back, and Phish showed they can still take us on a psychedelic odyssey--with new songs.
Phish is back, people--and nothing could make me happier.