This was the first show of the IT festival. Ya Mar, DWD, and Seven Below were unfinished. Birds was followed by a “Meatstick” chant from the crowd, prompting Trey to note that the band would “like to honor” the request. After a long pause, Trey commented, “We’re taking our sweet time up here because…we have no place to go for two days.” DWD contained a San-Ho-Zay tease from Trey and multiple Scents and Subtle Sounds teases. NICU ended with a bass solo from Mike at Trey’s request (“Play it, Cactus!”). Seven Below contained an On Your Way Down tease, Scents and Subtle Sounds included Seven Below teases. Before Dog Log, Trey remarked that the band couldn’t figure out what to play, and noted how, on this tour, the band made a conscious effort to not think about what songs they were going to play next. The fourth set “Tower Jam” found Phish playing on top the old air traffic control tower near the concert field. The set consisted of roughly an hour’s worth of unscripted jam material, with no notable teases or jams present. While Phish jammed, Chris Kuroda illuminated the tower’s interior and exterior with a light show and dancers suspended by wires around the side of the tower performed on the structure.
Just about every minute of IT is worth hearing; there are tighter (2/16) and grander (2/28) and knottier (2/26) shows in 2003, and better individual jams in late summer, but this the highwater mark for post-hiatus Phish. 8/2 III is the best regular set of the festival, maybe of the whole summer: a blend of old-school thematic reprises, thick ambient noise, razor-sharp collective playing, big rock'n'roll catharsis, and off-kilter Phishiness (the Spread It Round jam is like Trey's take on a Ween song). Not to say the rest of the show isn't strong though. The jam out of Waves is beautiful, Ya Mar is a best-since-hiatus affair, Reba and Birds are strong, the encore is a carnival, and that Tower Jam...
...well, the Tower Jam is the weirdest Phish of 2003, which makes it a strong contender for 'weirdest Phish since that insufferable Heartbreaker jam on 11/30/97.' If you're at all interested in post-hiatus Phish, hear the IT soundcheck and Tower Jam; they're yin and yang and both essential (in different ways). There are 'better' individual jams in other Summer '03 shows, but this one's a little like Big Cypress: with the pressure off and with a full tour's steam behind them, the boys just stretched out and played to the stars.
Set 1: It only takes 2 songs into the 1st set for the band to show they mean business, as Ya Mar drops into a hazy, buzzing jam totally unlike the usually peppy island rhythms of the original song before blooming into some bright (for 3.0) hose and building to a nice up-tempo finish. Lest you think that's the only improv we're getting, though, there are still great versions of Reba (with a beautiful non-Reba groove halfway through), Birds (which never quite breaks free of its usual structure but is full of passionate playing), and LxL to come. The first set is nearly two hours (!), and has a ridiculous amount of great jams to chew on.
Set 2: Swap out a few mid-set songs with #L, 20YL, and, um, Birds, and you could very easily mistake this 2nd set for a 3.0 2nd set. DWD leads the charge, and they crank out the usual powerful DWD jam before mellowing out into a slower groove, Page switching over to piano for a more dramatic feel, and then get down and dirty, Trey's weird guitar tone really adding to the proceedings. Then Trey and Page start building an ugly, hypnotic wall of sound, Mike holding everything together, Fish doing what he does, before things build to a heavy metal finish. I should note that I just described 18 minutes of jamming; it's very much of a piece, so if you're coming into this from either other era of Phish you may be a bit put off, but that's what 2.0 is all about, and with that in mind this is a very enjoyable and powerful jam.
NICU, the ever-rare Brother, and Lawn Boy (!) come up next, then super-rarity Discern (which is fine, but seems more an excuse for Trey to really abuse the hell out of his guitar), but all this is mere prelude to The Most Famous Waves Ever Played (this or the 5/26/11 soundcheck). The actual Waves has a decent mid-song jam, but (much like 8/15/11's also-beloved version), it's what comes afterwards that counts. The band immediately dives into an ambient haze, Page atonally plunking away, Mike firing off some bombs, Trey's playing sparse and contemplative. Everyone pretty much fires off every effect at their disposal (poor Fish has to just rattle his cymbals), building up a particularly torrid horror show on stage. Describing it entirely pointless; it's something that needs to be heard to be believed. This (somehow) naturally leads into Bowie, which is a very nice version that occasionally breaks into major-key bliss, closing out a very fine set.
Set 3: My choice for the best set of 2.0 - better than 6/19/04 II, better than 2/28/03 II or 2/26/03 II, better than 7/30/03 II. Rock & Roll makes its way into a relaxed jam, Trey plugging away (and playing something that sounds like Undermind?) as Fish plays a snappy beat and Page tickles the ivories. It doesn't necessarily explore a ton of ground, but it's catnip for 2.0 lovers, and it segues very neatly into Seven Below, which I will never say no to in a set. -7 drops into a quiet jamming space (some of Mike's best work all show is here), then neatly returns to the main -7 theme, then surprisingly winds into crashing dissonant rocking out before returning to booty-shaking bump-&-grind territory. They then segue gloriously into the old Scents and Subtle Sounds intro (we all agree that we miss this intro and want it back, right?), and Scents itself is exceptionally fiery and charged for a third-set jam, with a return to -7 in the middle for funsies, eventually leading to a massive hose jam that goes into a quicksilver groove and makes a nifty segue into Spread It 'Round. Spread It 'Round is energetic and fun, and then dissolves into another wicked ambient space, from which Bug makes a rather apropos appearance to end the set. If you're a 2.0 connoisseur, this set is manna from the gods - insane song selection, killer jamming, great band connectivity in the segues, and the occasional leap into the void.
Tower Jam: C'mon, like I'm going to do PBP on this. It's an essential jam, everyone needs to hear it, the end.
Final thoughts: For my money, this is the best show Phish played between Fukuoka and 8/15/11. Maybe it's cheating to throw a festival show into the mix, but everything you could ask for from this band is contained in these three sets (and lots of things you'd never think to ask for are contained in the Tower Jam). Exceptional from top to bottom, and Set III is essential for any era.
We had been sitting on Route 1 for hours, but it was still daylight and I was sure we would be in soon. Despite the protest of the jocks on 96.1 FM (The Bunny), everyone was out of their cars and mingling as only Phisheads can. I noticed a local standing on the edge of his lawn just taking in the scene. One of the many wandering Heads struck up a conversation him, and tried to apologize for the commotion going on right in front of the guy's home. Finally, the Head just shrugged at the guy and said, "Hey man, it's six sets!" Welcome to Limestone, Maine. This is IT, and you can come in tomorrow!
I sat in the rented Montero I shared with family and friends from 11:30 AM Friday until 4:30 AM Saturday morning. That's 17 hours sitting in traffic. I had heard horror stories of Big Cypress, so I was as mentally prepared as possible. A little while after midnight the band played an hour sound check that was carried live on The Bunny. A loose jam with Mike singing something in the middle, the check was a thoroughly enjoyable way to begin the festival and a mere taste of what was to come over the weekend.
For those who have no idea, IT was part rock festival, part interactive art project, an outdoor shopping bazaar, a mudfest and the second largest city in Maine for the weekend. It was also a religious experience for the faithful. This was my first Phish festival, and the scope and size alone was enough to make my head spin. There was so much to discover, but I knew I had to get some sleep. At 6:30 AM I finally crashed in my tent, sleeping out of necessity rather then want.
Up at 9:30 AM. The excitement of finally being at IT would not allow me to sleep. All the travel hassles and months of waiting were now behind me. I had arrived! After a quick search for food, coffee and glass (all easily obtained from lot merchants), a mellow Saturday morning was had by all around me in Lot F. Shortly after noon, a decision was made to head towards the heart of the campgrounds, and I started out with my campmates for the concert field.
As luck would have it Lot F was only a 15 minute walk from the center of everything. With each step the excitement built. "Look. The house of Live Phish!" "They have Pizza and Chinese food down here!" Everywhere there was something interesting waiting to be seen. The carnival rides, Dry Goods tent and misting walkway all got the once over, and it was unfortunate that I had to constantly stare at the ground to avoid losing a shoe in the mud.
The long stretch between the first entrance to the concert field and the actual gates was one large mud patch. Some relief could be found on the very sides, but getting in was rough. Of course, I had been stupid enough to bring my lawn chair, a forbidden item at the concert field. After walking back to camp and then back to the concert field, I was pretty close to collapse. IT had been pretty cool since we arrived, but now, as I lay on a blanket, the sun was beating straight down upon me and I could not sleep. There I waited"...for three hours. Arriving extremely early was pretty absurd in retrospect. A clear case of showing up at an event early to make the wait seem shorter. This never works.
Finally, around 6:00 PM and after many false alarms, the band appeared on the giant video screens walking from backstage to their instruments. A few random notes from Trey, and IT was underway and rocking to "AC/DC Bag". After heartily getting down to the nitty gritty, "Ya Mar" provided IT's first musical highlight. Running over 17 minutes, "Ya Mar" stretched in ways I had not heard before, and I could sense that Phish was really going to push it this weekend. Trey seemed especially excited, his smile beaming down at us throughout the show.
"Ya Mar" jammed straight into "Runaway Jim", which succeeded in both pleasing the crowd and advertising Sunday's 1st Annual Runaway Jim 5K. A stellar "Reba" followed "Jim". Before the whistling, Trey went around like he was asking the other band members what to play next. When he returned to the microphone, it seemed like he was about to start a new song. When he went into the whistling instead of a new song the crowd erupted with cheers. That tricky Trey.
After "Reba", a jammed out "Birds of a Feather" continued building an inspired communion between the audience and the band. After "Birds", the crowd demanded "Meatstick" and when Trey announced the granting of our request, excitement swept the concert field. IT had reached a frenzy of joy and it was only Set I! "Two Versions of Me" calmed things down a bit, and was the first of a sizable amount of new material performed at IT. "Vultures" kept the cool vibe going, but "Limb by Limb" rebuilt the energy for a nice set-closing "Cavern". Set I was in the books, and I was thirsty for more.
Set break was long and we entertained ourselves watching the rippling moon and other psychedelic images on the screens. Just before 9:00 PM, the band re-emerged. "Down With Disease" opened up Set II and showcased a more aggressive Mike then in the first set. A nice segue from "Disease" into "NICU" followed, the latter featuring both "Play it again, Leo!" and "Play it Cactus!" calls. The single most electrifying moment of Set II followed as "NICU" segued into "Brother" and Mike completely took over, throwing out a bass line of pure pogo stick funk. Trey responded with a ripping solo, and we needed "Lawn Boy" and "Discern" to calm the insanity.
"Waves" "David Bowie" arrived to close out Set II in style. I must admit to sitting at the beginning of "Wave"s. This was more out of exhaustion then any kind of dislike of the song, but by the midway point I had to stand back up. The band had wound the song down into the most ambient jam of the weekend to that point, and upon standing I was greeted by a scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The band was deep into replicating machine noise, and Kuroda's lights provided a mothership transporting us to another dimension. Fishman begin his "Maze"/"Bowie" intro, and after a suitable build, "Bowie" emerged to close out Set II. Relaxing during set break, I wondered what the band could possibly do in Set III to match the first two sets.
Set III turned out to be my second favorite set of the festival. More like one giant song then a series of songs, it opened with an extended "Rock and Roll". The band seemed to be gaining steam through the jam and "Seven Below" emerged straight out of "Rock and Roll". My favorite song off of Round Room, this version did not disappoint! Jam heaven had arrived, and I was a prisoner of the groove. From "Seven Below", the band moved into two new songs, "Scents and Subtle Sounds" and then "Spread It Round". A lot has been written about "Scents and Subtle Sounds" being the best of the new crop of songs. This was a very good, if not superb, version. "Spread It Round" contained an admittedly corny lyric about spreading love around. My ironically detached side bristles at the sentiment. Of course, the jam out of the song and back into "Seven Below" was supremely intense and made my ironic detachment seem small-minded at best. By the time "Bug" arrived riding Mike's reverberating bass my mind had been blown. The band's collective mind must have been blown as well, since upon reemerging for the encore they did not know what to play. After some funny banter from Trey, "Dog Log" "Mango Song" put day one to bed.
After leaving the show, I managed to get lost on the way back to lot F. All the tents do look alike after a while. I finally got back to the campsite and was able to relax for a few minutes. Everyone was rehashing the show we had just seen as the post show buzz lingered into the evening. At about 2:00 AM the strangest alarm-like sound began emanating from every radio tuned to The Bunny. The sound was coming from everywhere. Something was going on, and I wandered back out to the runway to have a look. In the distance I could see the most amazing air traffic control tower conceived of by man. Bathed in purple light, with rotating red lights on top, it served as a kaleidoscopic night light for the camp. I quickly realized I would never get over to the tower before the music ended, so I settled into a sleeping bag and listened to Phish play the most amazing hour of music of the festival. Day one was closed out in grand fashion. Day two was almost at hand.
There's a lot to dig into with IT. The band definitely did their best to go deep, and keep things interesting, to varying effect. If I was going to make a highlight reel of the weekend, though, I'd definitely start it off with the first 6 songs of the first set on the first day. The only straight-ahead element of that sequence is the AC/DC Bag, which here appears in its old school tight rocking opener incarnation. But they busted the mold with this Ya Mar, which is perhaps my favourite jam of the weekend. Hearing Mike sing "Remember all them times" early on, all of us again congregating in Limestone, was pretty perfect, and I think the spirit of the song in that sense got the band going right off the bat, as they dove in almost right away. (They were also doing this often in 2003, ala 97--diving hungrily into jams, regardless of the song; see Deer Creek's Gumbo for a shining example). It clocks in just under twenty minutes, with a perfect segue into Runaway Jim, and deserves to be at least considered as the best version of the song to-date. The Reba also gets pretty atypical in its jam (but stays typical in its ethereal beauty), one of the best versions of 2.0. Birds goes buckwild for 15 minutes, and then Meatstick brings things to a kind of climax insofar as it was played as a response to a crowd chant/request. I was part of this crew in the first few rows (and was a bit Meatstick fan ever since witnessing its 20-minute jaunt on 7/15/99), so that put a smile on my face. I kind of wish they had kept the exploration going and just ended the set with a lonnnng Meatstick instead of what followed, but hey, take those first six songs to the bank.
Oh and that Tower Jam was the craziest thing I've ever seen Phish do, I think. That's saying something.
How do you talk about your first show? 13 years ago today, after a few years of waiting through a hiatus and striking out on NYE and other closer shows, I finally got it. Every year on the anniversary of both shows I listen back and try to remember what it was like to be 19 again for a little bit. To have the freedom of no knowing what my future was. Being a sophomore in college and only be concerned about where the party was going to be that weekend and who was in charge of the music. It was a lighter time.
Musically, of course, IT is spectacular. And every set of August 2nd is special. The first set opening Bag, Ya Mar, Jim, and Reba is a perfect start to a summer concert. They promise hope. The second set is dark and brooding led by the opening DWD and phenomenal Waves. It may be the most on point representation of the 2.0 sound. But then the third set brings an exultant joy that yields a pledge of better times to come. Which, as we all know with retrospect, didn't quite come to fruition. Still, the Rock and Roll -> Seven Below -> Scents is just an enticing wall of sound that even to this day makes me smile. The encore and tower jam are just icing on the already thick and delicous cake.
Thinking back, I guess I didn't really know what I was getting in to. I knew that I liked Phish. I'd seen TAB in 2002. But this festival was literally life changing. Seeing shows for 13 years now and that's longer than most people do most things. IT, chronolgically, is closer to the beginning of the first Gulf War than it is to today. But if I think about it I can still see the Marx glasses on that water tower. I can feel the grass under my feet in the concert grounds. I can hear the majestic Reba. I can taste the Sam Adams Summer lager's we had for breakfast every morning. I hope that those memories never fade.
This was the first show for me, and it was no turning back from here!
The combination of energy from the crowd and music from the band was unlike anything I had experienced before. It was surreal, and I couldn't believe that I had not found Phish before this date in time. The traffic in and out of IT was brutal, but man, nothing could interfere with how amazing that weekend went off.
Much of the weekend is hazy, but I do recall several things:
My mind was f'ing blown by the musical abilities of the band.
Phish fans are crazy as fuck, and man did I love it and finally felt like I was at home in this world!
Some crazy guy was singing karaoke in his underwear with a handle of Jose in his non-mic hand.
I'm still chasing Mango Song!!
IT was my first road trip too. I made it with a friend entirely by BUS (as in Greyhound) from New York City. Oh boy, what a lot of travel, but it was well worth the trip and the long wait in line. The bus from Portland to Limestone was all heads (about 13 folks total) and ganja was smoked on board. Both of these shows really encapsulate everything that was great about Phish in 2.0 (as the kids are calling it these days). Phish jams were edgier and darker during this period than during any other in their history and much of it had to do with Trey's new guitar tone, but also with the great new material they were debuting. Honestly it makes the slightly tired Farmhouse era material and the Dad Rock of Joy seem so lame, though I know people were complaining about some of the debuts of 2003. I actually haven't listened to this show for years, but I have a strong memory of the Reba being particularly sublime.
This was my first real road trip. I was 16 at the time and was excited that for the first time I'd be on my own. I live in Glens Falls, NY, and was ready to take on the ten hour drive to Limestone. I (and four other friends, traveled up to Limestone on Thursday and caught moe. in Portland. We arrived at IT at 3 am, right before the huge traffic jam. I had never experienced anything like this and my mind was blown away from the size of it all so far, and the day hadn't even started yet. My friends and I decided to get the few hours of sleep that we could.
That morning, they let everyone in the parking lot go in first. We were in the back of the line so we had to wait three hours to get into the camping grounds. Once inside, we got everything together and set up camp on the wet ground. Those few days were really muggy and the grounds were muddy and soft. That Friday night was crazy. The atmosphere of the area was buzzing and it was just one huge party. Bands were playing and people were dancing and the party never stopped.
The next morning we got up and went to the grounds at 2:00 or 3:00, before anyone really showed up. We went right next to the stage on Page's side. During the wait, my friend Tim and I played war while people watched. It was just an amusing experience. At 5 or so, the band came on. I felt a rush of energy fly through my body, and for the first time I was experiencing what people have been talking about.
“AC/DC Bag” seemed to be the perfect opener. That first set, in my opinion, was a great way to start the weekend off. The highlights were “Ya Mar” -> “Runaway Jim” (with an amazing “Ya Mar” jam), “Reba”, and “Meatstick” just because of the crowd cheering for it.
The second set is where things went downhill. Before the set, my stomach was bothering me. I had sharp pains on occasion, but I didn't think anything of it. So the band came on and played a raging “Down With Disease” which went into “NICU” > “Brother”. I personally enjoyed “Brother” even though it was a little sloppy. Then “Lawn Boy”.
Oh, that “Lawn Boy”. Right at the end of the song, I basically fell onto my knees and passed out. My friends had no idea what was happening, I had no idea what was happening, no one knew. Tim grabbed me and led me through the crowd, which was a huge task on itself. I fell over bodies and heard some people say, "Watch out!" and others say, "Can I help?". At that instant, I had no idea what was occurring. I had done nothing, even when people persisted in saying that I must have done something. Basically, it was dehydration. Tim brought me back to the tent where I was able to listen to the third set. I completely missed “Bowie” and “Waves”. Even though I heard them, I didn't actually hear them.
After the 7/31/2003 show in Camden, my wife and I drove straight out of the hood and followed the north star all night long to Maine. We were both very excited for IT, having seen both Camden shows and Burgettstown on this tour. We were meeting friends and family, including my father, either outside the festival in the car line or inside the grounds. We made it to Limestone in the late morning/early afternoon of 8/1. My cell phone had fluctuating reception, so locating everyone was not as easy as we had expected it to be. My dad, being from New Jersey, was in Maine for a few days visiting my aunt, so we were trying to find him first. He had seen his first show at Hershey Park on 9/15/2000 and had also gone to the first Bonaroo with our whole crew the summer before. He wasn't a huge fan of Phish, but he was definitely excited to have a good time with his aging kids.
We had already been in line for about an hour and a half before I had a signal and got a hold of my dad. As we were trying to figure out our spots in line in relation to each other, an ambulance drove by with the sirens blaring. He said that ambulance had just passed him a moment before and we were able to find each other a minute or two later. He was only about twenty cars behind me. The two infamous guys from Massachusetts featured in the film Bittersweet Motel that talk about schwag and chicks that don't shave their pits were parked in front of my dad. He was talking with them and their crew for a while and he introduced me to them. I found it to be very amusing.
I pulled over, let my dad catch up, and we followed each other into the search line. My dad diligently took various vitamins everyday and for some reason had his trunk filled with all kinds of vitamins. This did not go over well with the security at the gates. After explaining himself for a few intense minutes with "the man," we all got through and everything was fine. The sun was still out and the time had come to find my sisters and everyone else. To make a long story short, everyone was found.
I watched the first set of 8/2/2003 from a grassy knoll towards the back center of the concert field. AC/DC Bag opened things up nicely, followed by Ya Mar. The entire front area towards the stage was a big mud pit, so it struck me right away with the line, "Remember all them times in the bog." Yes I do! The rest of the set was well played and a lot of fun, featuring a really good Runaway Jim and Reba.
At set break, some of us ventured off through the muddy paths to where the RV's were parked. One of my sisters was staying with friends from New Brunswick, NJ in their rented RV, so we hung with them and had some beers between sets. Somehow we all ended up with Groucho Marx mustache glasses, exactly like the one on the water tower. Someone was well prepared.
We made our way back to the field for set two, just in time for the Down with Disease opener. NICU emerged from Disease, followed by my second Brother of the week! After the Bowie set closer, we perused the enchanted forest area, with the tape in the trees, half-buried Big Boy, rock garden, and "ball art."
We caught the third set from the same spot as the second set. Rock and Roll>Seven Below>Scents and Subtle Sounds lasted for about forty-five minutes, going all over the place. I needed some wine from all of the cheese of Spread It Round. Bug closed down the set.
The encore of Dog Log>Mango song was one of my favorite moments from the whole festival. The night ended for me in the wee hours after I laid on the ground and watched the crazy tower jam happen above me. It was a quiet walk back to the tent after a fun and exciting day in Vacationland.
Like others here, IT was my first show. I got turned onto Phish during the hiatus and saw TAB a couple of times. When the guys came back, I never pulled the trigger on going to a show until IT came around. Go big or go home! From upstate NY I journeyed to Maine with a couple of friends. We drove all night on the back roads of VT and NH. Ran into the traffic jam on the main route to the base and everyone was out of their cars drinking and mingling like only Phish fans do. At some point, a local in an old blue Chevy rolls up and informs us that if we take a different way we will bypass most of the traffic. Lots of fans overhear, and there is a brief group discussion on if we should ty it. Why not! So we and a handful of other new friends all take off down a single lane back road until we end up meeting up with another line of traffic. Accepting the situation we hop out and enjoy the nice day and a couple of beers. Did we save any time? Doubt it, but the back road was a blast!
Once we get to the gate, I remember the guy that looked in our car asked me if we had anything besides weed.. "um, no." "Ok, you are good to go." As 20 something college kids, this was hilarious to us. Once inside my mind was blown! I was surrounded by 60k other fans that all trekked to the top of the Main for Phish! This wasn't just a music festival. Art installations, vendors, shake down. IT had everything.
You could tell from the 1st set that this was going to be a non-stop ride. Ya Mar and Reba both set the tone for the next 6 sets to come.
Set 3 was something of magic! Non-stop musical genius came out of the band. The highlight was Seven Below, Scents and Subtle Sounds, Seven Below. Towards the end of the set, Trey talked about the band never thinking about what they were going to play ahead of time. It sure worked with this set!
I wish I had a great story about the tower jam. I remember hearing a strange noise and seeing some lights around the tower. Our camp site was on the opposite side of the base and we couldn't tell what was going on. No one rallied to go check it out. Next day we regretted it.
In the end, I find it funny that the first song I think of when IT comes to mind, Dog Log.
What better way to the weekend started than AC/DC Bag. Purposefully placed, the "Let's get this show on the road line" drew a true volcanic eruption from the crowd. The jam lifted into a frenzied, inspired peak. A great WHAMMO! to start the show! Ahh Ya Mar. Those opening licks are the sound of sunshine. Please hand me a Mai Tai with an umbrella and allow me to remove my pants. Wait. Ok the pants stay on. This time. The breezy cover is the perfect song to follow up AC/DC Bag in this daytime set. Assumptions make an ASS out of U and ME (did I do that right? ... no). To assume this would be a normal, breezy Ya Mar to easy us int the weekend would be a fair and I'd say, popular assumption. Ha! How silly we are. We fans are as about as good at predicting Phish as the Cleveland Browns are at winning football games (don't act like it's not true). This Ya Mar is absolutely fantastic. A 5-tiered jam that jumps instantaneously into type-2 within seconds of the chorus winding down, this Ya Mar morphs from woodblock-driven darkness (ironic in the daytime set) into an almost EDM sounding, pulsing groove, into a high-flying Trey-led burst, into a Mike-anchored, thumping wind-down. and slides right into Runaway Jim... SAFE! Jim keeps the popping grooves rolling with a standard-great, rocking version. Right away, three songs in, one could tell that IT was it. IT was the place to be. This Ya Mar, I cannot say enough, how complete, strong, organic, and wildly original and improvisational this version is. Reba drops in next (after Jim) and holy cow, what a start! If you are cheating and looking ahead, you will see this Reba has extraordinary length (hehe... that's what she said). However, this Reba jam kinda drifts along, unable to find an identity. It is not entirely blissful as it dips into some typical-2003-quasi-darkness (yet not scary darkness), it doesn't quite soar like we are accustomed to hearing (but it is not stagnant) and it doesn't peak. So, it is hard Reba to really be able to enjoy, for me at least, because it doesn't have the "typical" Reba markings. Still, am I disappointed with a 16+ minute Reba? No way. Birds of a Feather picks up where Ya Mar left off. A careening, ferocious jam breaks out of BOAF proper and into a somewhat dissonant, yet cohesive, firing jam. It loses some muster in the middle portion before rocketing skyward in a climaxing, exciting finish! Wow! This thing has energy! One of the most impressive BOAF I have listened to, this thing is a monster of type 1.5 style jamming. Not fully out of the box, but one foot is definitely over the line. A Meatstick chant inspires Trey to "honor your request" because Phish is cool and loves us like seriously big time. Standard Meatstick goofiness was just what the doctor ordered to allow our shoes to cool to responsible temperature - as excessive dancing is a fire hazard punishable by nominal community service in the state of Vermont. Two Versions of Me comes in next and although I don't particularly care for the song itself, it's kinda whiny, the mini jam is pretty enough and fluttery enough to regain my attention. A standard, pretty-well-executed Vultures gives the set a much-needed dose of "Ohhh reallllly? Vultures in the first set of the festival eh? I like where this is going," as the set, as a unit, is clearly unstoppable. Speaking of which, an incendiary (Hey, I'm incendiary too man) Limb By Limb explodes with energy and gusto. Trey really kicks ass in this version - 2003 was really good to Limb By Limb - and we can see Trey sink his teeth into this extended version while Fishman, good god, morphs into an octopus for these 11-minutes of mayhem. Cavern is an bold exclamation point to a set filled with exclamation points and bold-faced type. That was not one of my better analogies... Tom Robbins would be ashamed.
Set starts off with a ferocious Down with Disease. I don't know how long the setbreak was, but you can feel the energy streaming through the band and crowd alike. They. Mean. Business. Had I been there, there is no doubt I would have 1) Been incarcerated and 2) Broken out of jail, both because of my dance moves as this DWD got rolling. Th monster slays from the get go. The first seven minutes feature wave after wave of Trey swells breaking over the crowd. Awash in fury, the band slinks into a drippy, secret-agent-y jam that is equal parts giggle-Phish (you know, when the jam gets so slinky and dirty you just kinda giggle to yourself at how awesome it is) and equals parts psychedelic-Phish (you know, when the jam gets so slinky and dirty you just kinda stare out into the distance wondering if 2 hours or 2 minutes has passed). DWD fades out and NICU fades in. A fun crowd-pleaser, this NICU actually features some really good Mike work. Hammering at the bass, the jam never swing back into NICU, instead, it segues almost perfectly into Brother! I had been 100% unfamiliar with this segue, and somewhere on .net there is a "greatest segue thread" and I do believe this NICU -> Brother deserves a mention. Super good stuff. Brother absolutely rips. Honestly, not much else can be said. It's a straight up rocker. Lawn Boy was perfectly placed, a la Meatstick in the first set, for some much needed fire-extinguishing and breath-catching. Discern... hmm... well, I kinda like the song portion of the song... and I kinda dislike the jam portion of the song. The song is pretty and soft, very Round Room-y... but the jam is disjointed and lost. Not the biggest fan of this placement. Then, Waves. I am sure just about 98% of you have heard this Waves, and for good reason. I hadn't listened to this Waves in quite some time. Years probably. So I was quite excited when it started after Discern came to a full-stop. At this point, it was late Saturday night, Mrs Funky was in the bedroom reading, and I was pantless in the living room on my 3rd margarita of the evening. Needless to say, I was ready. The Waves itself (as in, before the weeeeirrrrrddddness happens) was really fantastic. Waves, one of my all-time favorite Phish songs, rarely misses, but sometimes it does indeed miss - becoming too dissonant and not fluid in its jamming. This version is not one of those misses. It is a direct hit, even before the final 10 minutes. It soars and climbs! Rides barrels of warmth and gets dropped into a spray of sunshine. A truly fantastic version of Waves. But then ... then it gets scary. A 20-minute version that is split in half, the second 10 minutes are as deep, heavy, and terrifying as Phish gets. No words of mine can relate what this jam sounds like. It is something you must experience by yourself, in a dark room, with no other distractions. The one mental image that sticks with me from this Waves is from the IT DVD. During the terror-portion of the jam, the camera pans over the crowd, as in directly overhead, as the crowd is awash in light. There is one guy in particular amidst the crowd of motionless souls, who is standing with his hands clasped behind his head in a very obvious, very anxious pose. You just might find yourself doing that, and that's perfectly okay. The jam settles back to Earth, thankfully, as there were moments, even in my living room, where I had thought 15-20-25 minutes had passed and I was like, "Man I do NOT remember it going on this long." It one of *those* kind of jams. The Bowie high-hat starts and all is well. Thank god. A song. ANY SONG! Just get me outta that abyss! Bowie is a smoke-show. I mean it really, really hits. Phish is on fire from start to finish, and all throughout, this Bowie. Ending with peak after peak, each one completely, flawlessly nailed, this Bowie for me at least, is the best of 2.0 (granted there is not a big sample size, but this one is IT!). The set felt like it was two sets... that DWD > NICU combo seemed like it was ages ago. That's what we want out of Phish, time-travel. And that's exactly what we got.
Rock and Roll opened set three with the same energy that DWD opened set 2. They sprinted out of the break and follow the same 7-minutes-of-rage pattern before slipping into a sexy, sassy, oh-so-playful groove that made me shake my funky bad self so funkily that it wouldn't have warranted a single look from James Brown, although he would have scoffed when he heard about it. That's how good I was dancing. James Brown would have scoffed. Wow. Anyways, the Rock and Roll jam is yet another one of these "giggle-Phish" anthems that is non-stop energy and playfulness. I really love this jam. It slinks right into Seven Below in the first of many, purely sexy segues that tied the entire set together as one, non-stop piece of music. Seven Below, for me, fell just a little flat. I went back and reslitened on Sunday to figure out what I wasn't so impressed with and I can't quite put my finger on it. I like Seven Below as a song, and I like the jams it usually delves into, and I love the flow of the set (at IT)... but this one never really registered for me... yet I don't have a reason to back that up... you might really enjoy it! Nonetheless, the jams breaks down and sashays confidently into the TRUE INTRO of Scents and Subtle Sounds. Oh how I love MIke's bassline in the intro. It reminds me of spelunking, though I have never been. Good story, Funky. Ahem. The Scents jam swoops into the darkness of the night with understated energy but focused playing. It follows a similar structure to the Rock and Roll, but replaces some of the playfulness with some more trippiness. The jam swings right back into Seven Below proper for a couple measures before jamming right back out of it, eventually (crash) landing into Spread it Round. Even though I say (crash) landing, the segue is indeed executed pretty well... even though it is very, very unexpected. Spread it Round is like Sparkle that goes on for 4 minutes too long. Not really a fan of this placement. Bug is a note-perfect closer to the show. Heartfelt, passionate, and positive, this version envelopes us in warmth and love, even though it doesn't matter. It's a fantastic version. Normally I don't save much writing for encores, but when those opening bass note of Dog Log came through my speakers I let out an audible, "OH SHIT!" I had completely forgotten this was played (I was anticipating Mango Song). So I can only imagine how rad it must have been to been there in attendance when Dog Log rumbles through the PA system. I freakin love this song, and it was played as I would want to hear it. A very cool treat. Mango Song starts immediately after Dog Log ends and is a really, really tight, fresh, great version. This Dog Log/Mango pairing might be one of my favorite encores of all time. It works really, really well!
So there you have it! Three sets, each set containing at least 2 all-time caliber jams, and all-time caliber flow. And we still have three. wait, FOUR sets to go!
Must-hear jams: Ya Mar, Birds of a Feather, Down with Disease, Waves, David Bowie, Rock and Roll, Dog Log/Mango Song (just bc it's so cool in the encore)
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Limb by Limb, NICU -> Brother, Scents and Subtle Sounds
I've been revisiting the IT festival a bunch lately, which is deservedly considered a high water mark for 2.0 (&Phish as a whole).
The festival gives you a glimpse into what 2.0 could have been, had the band not been derailed by er "lack of focus on the music" perhaps.
In the context of other Phish festivals, this one remains in the top tier.
AC/DC Bag opens up in fine albeit standard form.
Ya Mar is massive and may be the best version ever (although I think based on preference for different styles people might choose others). It's a huge version that opens up into an excellent jam. What a start! This is a must-hear.
->Runaway Jim is nice and keeps the set flowing perfectly.
Reba is a favorite of mine for it's dissonant spacey middle section. It's a unique one. I remember watching this version in the LivePhish tent at SuperBall and being really inspired (and it's nice they graced us with a similarly outstanding version the next day in Watkins Glenn). I know people that don't love this one - but I love it, and you should too.
Birds of a Feather has yet another outstanding jam. It's plenty long, but also very focused. It doesn't truly deviate from the song structure a whole lot, but is really really great.
Meatstick, Two Versions of Me, an Vultures is a very interesting run of songs, with Vultures being a nice treat. Limb By Limb is one more nice shot of jamming before Cavern rocks us home in style.
Overall an incredible set I. I think it certainly compares to any opening frame from any festival. Is it perhaps the best?
Set II is also quite sumptuous and has some more interesting song selection with plenty of jamming.
Down with Disease rears it's head and snarls and growls with a ferocious opening jam segment. They eventually slow it down into a bubbling cauldron of effects and haunting playing in the 2.0 vein. It's very good stuff (and about 25 minutes) and they manage to find a nice little > NICU, which plays a wonderful peppy, upbeat counterpoint to the chilling jam that preceded it.
->Brother emerges and is a wonderful treat as always.
Lawn Boy is an odd one here, but to me is a nice fun injection. Discern is quite uncommon.
Waves is perhaps the true centerpiece of the set and is rightly held on a pedestal. It's probably the best version ever. The jam proper is very good, with Trey providing some great leads. Eventually like any of the great Waves jams, they break after the last refrain into a haunting soundscape. Whereas some jams tend to go to the light, this one makes it's home in the darker recesses of our consciousness. It's more experience than music. Must Hear.
>David Bowie emerges in surprisingly slick fashion from the ambient noise and is a very nice version as well. Good jamming that is far more interesting than most 3.0 takes on the Phish classic. If they played this one today it would be annotated in the setlist (so I am calling double standard!)
Overall it's an interesting set. The flow is a bit odd in that the BIG jams are bookends, with a bit of randomness in the middle. That uneveness does not take away from the instant classic Waves and the ferocious DWD & Bowie.
Set III, while lacking the most well-known "showstoppers" of the festival, is probably the best set of the whole thing! It is a complete suite of transcendent jamming.
Rock and Roll kicks off the set and sets us into high gear. It finds a nice funky groove with that distinctive chunky rhythmic 2.0 sound. Very good playing and drops perfectly into the -7 Below opening.
->Seven Below segue is perfect and isn't overly long. In spite of it's brevity, it covers tons of ground and finds yet another phenomenal segue into SASS. Another well-jammed version with a magical segue.
SASS is absolutely stellar, with more than capable jamming that slides immaculately back into Seven Below, which provides more incredible improvisation. They build up a great jam and then with equal skill bring the jam down for another -> Spread It 'Round, which is a fun continuation of the continuous music.
Without pause, they make their way into an appropriate Bug conclusion, which I suppose could be one's only chance to gripe about anything in this set, but I would contend is a fine conclusion.
Overall this is the type of set I wish they would play nowadays. It's not a criticism really, it's just that because the sets now tend to be long with many more songs, this type of continuous set which is in essence is a solitary suite of music jut doesn't really exist in the 3.0 style. I can think of a few sets that come close to this, but what's really missing is the unbelievable -> segues they could pull off.
Certainly sets like the UIC elements show, FYF, MagnaBall night I set II, etc. represent a continuous commitment to non-stop improv, but there is just that -> connective tissue missing. All in all this is an absolutely perfect set.
Oh yea, and the Dog Log, Mango encore is superb!!
I won't touch the Tower Jam, just give that one a spin on a dark and stormy night.
IT: Day One. Ya Mar gets to some pretty extraordinary places for an ordinarily Type-I tune. The Reba is one of my top 5, also including 12/31/95, 8/11/98, and 9/14/00. I'm a sucker for Two Versions of Me; it's really a beautiful song whose sentimental yet quintessentially Phishy nature seems to have been carried forward into 3.0, perhaps peaking with Trey's composition of Time Turns Elastic (the parallels are there.) Waves is just an utterly compelling improvisational statement. 2.0 seemed to be very fertile while also very fragile, necessitating (Demand-ing, if you will) a respect on the part of the "scene" that maybe wasn't fully committed to. I don't want to speculate on the breakup, or depending on whether you're a glass-is-half-full person, second hiatus, but IT really shows what we have to lose if we're not carefully kind. Rock and Roll -> Seven Below -> Scents and Subtle Sounds is an amazing near-hour of music, and particularly titillates me because if pressed to declare two favorite songs from 2.0, I'd likely pick Seven Below and Scents and Subtle Sounds, which are here--obviously combined by a patient(!) segue. The Tower Jam is quite more traditionally psychedelic than the Sound Check, although they're comparable in length, consisting primarily of synth palettes and textural ambience that I certainly would have been bummed to have slept through, had I been present. I'm reminded again of @waxbanks' coinage of the term "mycological languor," which leads me to wax philosophical upon whether 1997 and 2003 are somehow more closely related than I had previously pontificated upon. Thank God for Phish.
I got to IT after breaking my car down waiting in line to get in and I just left it there. Walked and immediately started doing drugs. What happened in the second set was the first time I ever was convinced I was Wilson. During that waves ambient jam I had numerous visions of my future. I somehow became able to sync up with Phish in a state of mind that made it seem IT was for the birth of a telepathic character Phish would communicate with and write songs about. This would explain the proximity to the "break up" announcement a few months later which made that era so short. The setlist at Coventry which "ended it all" with a wilson into slave to the traffic light just told me they would be back when they could deal with the fact that wilson was now at their shows and no longer just from the future...
My first show. Changed me forever. Drove up from southern Maine and it still took 24 hours. I was stunned at the outrageous festive atmosphere just waiting in line inching forward all night and into the morning. I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to Phish. I had listened to Hampton Comes Alive and traded tapes but I didn't "get" IT, until IT. The music was just a part of this huge event but it was the reason I was there. Ya Mar during set 1 solidified my comfort level and by the Mango Song encore I was fully hooked. What had I just seen? Why had I never been before? When and where are they playing again?
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