Round Room included a Dixie tease. Mike played electric bagpipes on portions of Halley’s and Guyute. Seven Below included a Third Stone from the Sun tease and the Hood intro included a Seven Below tease.
I give this four stars reluctantly. Three is probably more appropriate, but there are some stellar moments in this show that merit serious attention.
Jim opens with a promising offering, as Trey goes Hendrix during the jam and my eyebrow props up.
As mentioned above, this Carini is outstanding and one of the three best I've heard. My other faves would be 9/14/11 at Essex Junction,VT and the one from the New Year's Run 2012 (I forget which night). Awesome, dark, evil Carini worth many relistens. Dog Faced Boy was a treat. The Round Room was very psychedelic and unique and worth a relisten. I don't like Guyute and this version is particularly grating against the nerves, but whatever.
YEM is average but I'm sure was a blast if you were there, as it always is.
Second set is off the chain. Seven Below is orgasmic and stellar on all levels. Jams like this one make me keep coming back to 2.0 shows to look for more gold like this. I've never been disappointed when I venture into 2.0. I love Trey's growling tone at this time period. Yes, his precision and focus were not always there, but his playing is always free and wild and Mike's bass licks during this period are always chunky and rich.
"Scents and Subtle Sounds" was probably the highlight of the first set for me. After the distinctly Trey orchestration in the beginning, the appropriately subtle, melodious jam began, climbing to heights of tender beauty. It was my first time hearing it, and I was already in the love with the song. This one is nothing too out of the ordinary compared to other versions, but still great. Later in the summer, I had the privilege of witnessing the epic Camden "Scents", currently the best to date.
It was great hearing "Round Room". Quirky but catchy, like much of Mike's material. Had a trippy outro jam that was appreciated, but a little aimless. I'd like to see it jammed out sometime. "Halley's" was fun, as always, but nothing too noteworthy here. The jam never really developed, but it was pleasant nonetheless. Mike's electronic bagpipes were a surprise; I've never seen that instrument before.
My Dad, who's very into sunsets, turned to me and said "great choice for sunset" when they started "YEM" up. As the sky was lit up with purple, pink and red hues of the sun setting behind the canyon, I heartily agreed with him. The composed "YEM" segment was a perfect companion to the natural show unfolding before us. The jam, though, never really got off the ground. Trey noodled around with some nice themes - he even did a little strut back and forth on stage - -but the jam kind of petered out before anything really got going. It was notably lacking the obligatory peak of the post-Hiatus "YEM" routine. I remember wanting more, but still being happy. Hard to be displeased with "YEM", after all.
Just as the stars appeared overhead, Trey walked out and tore into
"Llama". This is generally a good sign to open a set, and the band played with what seemed like even more power than usual. I recall being literally pushed backwards by the force emanating from the stage. It was over in the same blur that it had begun, and we headed into "Wolfman's".
This tread along the relatively conservative lines of most pre-Hiatus versions (see 7/31/03 and especially 12/1/03 for newfound exceptions in which the jam turns into a driving rock powerhouse). The jam got mildly funky, but it was essentially directionless. It petered out with a smooth segue into "Jesus Just Left Chicago".
This is the first since the Hiatus, and a nice version too. As soon as it started, I decided that my spot on the ground was potentially not as enjoyable a place to watch as the lawn hill sloping up behind me, so Faris and I decided to make a quick run to the top of the hill to see if it was better. It was. Towering high above the stage, the top of the hill put us in a perfect position to observe Chris's handiwork in all its glory. And the sound improved drastically, too. If you go to the Gorge, forget trying to get one of the one hundred or so seats, or cramming onto the floor, just head up to the hill and relax. Anyway, the "Jesus Left Chicago" went through its traditional movements, with some nice soloing from Trey and Page, but nothing too out of the ordinary (it was no 11/17/97). But I had an exceedingly pleasant time listening to this mellow, swaggering tune.
Then, "Seven Below". It. This was it. The highlight of both shows. A jarring masterpiece of post-Hiatus jamming, this space rock behemoth crushed any fears that post-Hiatus Phish improv could not reach the same lofty heights of earlier years. Moreover, this powerhouse showed the new Phish improvisation machine smoothly molding a groundbreaking, astoundingly creative, and altogether thrilling jam. This, folks, was post-Hiatus Phish at its best: a pinch of Fall `95, a dash of `99, some hard rock, a good measure of flowing space, and pulsating energy to spare. It felt fresh and new, even though an evolution from pre-Hiatus jams. Here we go.
There was a standard intro segment, with the notes hit perfectly. We get to the traditional spot of more open space, and Trey starts his pleasant "Seven Below" noodling regime, returning to variations of the main theme intermittently. Mike begins laying down a driving groove, it circles around and moves up and down, propelling the jam forward. Trey and Page are locked in, playfully bouncing off each other. Then Trey takes it up a notch, playing quicker and then backs off with several sustained melodious notes, Page laying out the perfect accompaniment. Then Trey hits a groove, repeats, repeats, repeats, morphs, repeats, repeats, compacts, then begins anew. Building upon itself higher and higher, Page banging out trying to keep up, running up and down the board, then Fishman nails the exclamation as Trey's licks build to a mini-climax. Trey backs off, retreating to the swirling space engulfing the band.
Now Trey begins a more distorted, space playing, locked in with Fishman who is laying down a steady beat amidst the whirlwind. Fishman gets quieter and quieter, Trey plays subtle riffs. Fishman, unable to resist, bursts back into the mix, but then hangs back, returning to his basic guiding beat. Trey continues playing the space noodling, Page begins making thick, dark synthesizer sounds, further deepening the already waist deep space groove, now letting the sound just hang there and vibrate at the core of the jam. Trey begins playing very soft, slow notes, merging with the beautiful "Hood"-like notes Page is now playing over dark space. And here we are. Deep space. Trey's playing gets progressively darker. We pass Mars, and are now floating in a black expanse, as stars hang silently and comets pass by.
Then BAM! HOLY SHIT FISHMAN! Fishman starts banging out an intense rock tempo beat and the Phish spaceship, drifting along the edge of a black hole, suddenly propels into light speed. The whole tenor of the jam changes. Phish is now locked into a much quicker rockish groove, Trey has begun quick, powerful soloing, soaring higher and higher. Mike lays down the driving bass, moving quickly toward a rock explosion. Trey begins tearing up his guitar, playing incendiary rhythm. Fishman bangs his cymbal faster and faster. Trey and Fishman are running, sprinting now, adding fuel to an impending explosion... here we go, here we GO! HOLD ON!
TREY WAILS! Fishman bangs his cymbals with infectious intensity, Trey hangs back, then EXLODES! Oh my LORD! Mike is hitting power chords! Out of space, back to earth, in the fucking Albert Hall with Jimmy Page grinning with approval. Then suddenly, as Trey is hit in the head with a glowstick by some idiot in the audience, the brake is hit, the ship veers to a screeching, grinding halt, almost careening out of control, and faintly, in seconds flat, the "Seven Below" chorus emerges out of the chaos. And we're back where we started. Like getting off a ride.
The audience and band need a minute to recover from the trance. I remember needing a few minutes to get my mouth shut, after it had hung open in awe for what seemed like hours. I will always remember dancing above the Gorge during that journey. After a minute or two to regain composure, we head into a mellow, soothing "Harry Hood".
This "Hood" was much more relaxed and chilled than most; it never really reached a peak, but just hung back, providing the beauty and calm after the raging storm. Perfect. "Chalk Dust" was standard and rocking, to get everyone dancing as Phish wound up another voyage. "First Tube" was flawless. Incredible energy and precision.
We left the show with that special mix of giddy excitement, wonder, and appreciation which only the great performances can inspire. A special night.
Overall, although the performances were mostly average, the special moments were extraordinary enough to make up for all the less inspired parts. If you're in the continental United States the next time Phish plays the Gorge"....be there.
If 7.12.03 Set 1 was Ying, tonight's was Yang. Polar opposite sets in terms of any measurable or intangible aspect of Phish. 7.12 was a little lackluster, disjointed, non-fluid. 7.13 was powerful, focused, and low viscosity. Runaway Jim gets things off to a rolling start. A peppy version taking on the traditional linear build to an energetic peak, it was a standard, but standardly-good, show opener. Last night's second song was Mexican Cousin, tonight's is Scents and Subtle Sounds. That juxtaposition alone should tell you the direction we are headed this evening. The deeply psychedelic opening bass and guitar riffs rumble through the Gorge natural amphitheater like thunder. Not quite as dreamy and spacey as Shoreline's (how could it be after that -> from Twist) this version is an all-star in the #2 slot. It has a more "shred" quality to it, compared to Shoreline's bliss, but either way you spin it, this is a top shelf second song of the show. Keeping the energy levels high (and showing NO signs of last night's lack of flow) Axilla rages and screams through the speakers, amplifying and compounding the energy that was created from the first two songs. Great start so far. Carini! Whoa! Did NOT see this coming. I am completely unfamiliar with this show. Literally never have a single song a single listen prior to a couple nights ago. So to have Carini drop into the 4th slot, after an already phenomenal start to the show, man, this is awesome. As I have stated every time Carini pops up in 2003, this is not be compared to the major key Carinis of 2012 onward. These are dark and gritty and gnarly. This version is all of those, and fits a perfect niche to harass energy, evoke emotion, and keep the groove train steaming through the Columbia River Gorge. It's darkness is not scary, but it is uncomfortable. It's grit is not dirty, but it is rough. A fantastic set 1 jam. Dog Faced Boy provides a nice respite, eerie and almost creepily placed, it fits the bill of focused, energized, weird nature of the set. A good break in the intensity for sure. Round Room comes in next and again, is perfectly placed. Some folks like the Vegas version the best, perhaps because it is longest, not me though. This one, of the very small sample size, is my personal favorite. The jam bounces along, not quietly, but not intrusively, it flows just as the Columbia River would before a heavy rain: with purpose, but not violent, a calm before the storm. What a set so far! Halley's Comet in and of itself isn't exactly a storm, but the jam it gets into surely comes into contention for jam of the set. But Funky, it's not even 9 minutes lon-QUIET YOU! Time is not an indicator of quality. This Halley's jam really takes off with a purpose. Two minutes worth of highly focused, inspired, high energy jamming finally relents to quiet space, where... wtf... is... is that.... bagpipes? (runs out to balcony to see if Portland Unicycle Darth Vader Bagpipe Guy is rolling by... he is not). It is bagpipes and a quick stopover on .net confirms Mike is playing electric bagpipes. Weird. And awesome. f***in Cactus. The bagpipe playing spills over into a soft opening of Guyute which eventually flows into full Guyute. The song and/or placement neither excites not deflates me. It is pretty well played though. A TOTALLY unexpected YEM comes next and whoa! YEM to closet set 1!? We're already an hour into the set! NICE! Taking a more placid approach (more 7.9.03 than 2.26.03) this YEM was calm and peaceful. The composed section was nearly flawless. The jam was patient and serene... almost a little lounge-jazzy. No peak on this version, but who cares when it closes set 1. A fantastic set!
Set 2 opens with a bang. Llama. Funk yeah! Screaming into the night, this Peruvian beast gallops through and around the venue with ferocity nothing short of a disgruntled alpaca... don't know what that means, but I'm on a roll right now, go with it. It was a smoking hot version. A thick gooey Wolfman's comes next. So dirty. So x-rated. Wow. deep, slow funk grooves with a couple breakdown sections (and a JJLC fakeout) highlight this fantastic version. The JJLC tease was filthy, and had the segued into JJLC at that initial tease point, it would have been amazing. Instead, the band drops out of the tease (more like Trey does) and jams for another minute before cycling back to the JJLC theme where there is a pretty rough -> the song proper. Jesus swayed and paced through the night, featuring some fantastic Page work. As Page lets off, Trey takes over, slowly, quietly, then builds into a great, cathartic peak. Seven Below comes in next and I have mixed feelings about this jam. It starts off very good. A twinkling, patient full-band ping pong match staying within the framework of the song's theme. Really good stuff for the first ten minutes. Then, Trey starts to take it out, and this is where things, for me at least, start to break down (for better or worse, it appears the populous is split). The jam meanders on before settling into some spacey noise during it, it seems, they are all waiting for someone to find a lick or groove they can lock into. Almost like they're trying to build into a Hood jam or something. It's like they're saying, "No you play something - no you - no you..." and the jam kinda... sits there... for a couple minutes. Fishman finally said, "enough of this crap," and starts a hard rock, kinda metal-y beat that is, in a word, jarring. Comes outta no where. Trey tries to find a lick to play over this and eventually gets there... but the whole thing just feels forced, very inorganic, unlike the rest of the show. They lock into a nice groove for a couple measures then crash into the Seven Below refrain. AN odd version worth listening to, but, I dunno, just doesn't feel complete to me. A nice, welcomed Hood comes in next, and much like YEM, it is soft and patient. It never really reaches *that peak* that most 2003 Hoods do, but hey, the Gorge always, always gives us a quieter, spread out take on classic songs. Thinking this was going to close the set, I was about to take a wizz break before encore and then BAM Chalk Dust! A little on the sloppy side, this version rages nonetheless. Nothing to write home about, but a solid, unexpected, and totally welcomed show closer! The First Tube encore was ferocious. What an exclamation point to put onto this amazing show!
Must-hear jams: Round Room, Halley's Comet, Wolfman's Brother -> Jesus Just Left Chicago
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Carini, You Enjoy Myself, Seven Below
Although the Seven Below is deservedly the heavy hitter and 'must listen' from this night, a special recognition should be made for the Carini in the first set. It starts heavy and just gets heavier with the momentum carrying it through the finish. To my ear, much of the jam is similar in tonality to the electric bagpipes later heard on Halley's. This Carini occupies a special place in my mind and has yet to be matched. (Feel free to PM me if you know of a harder hitting version...).
The ending jam of Wolfman's is also memorable with a slow but deliberate funky start-stop style jam with JJLC/Wolfman back and forth before the ultimate segue which, unfortunately, is more of a drip than a flow into an otherwise solid JJLC.
Shows from 2.0 virtually need to be considered on a different scale than 1.0 or 3.0, which is why that numerological shorthand comes in handy so often, despite its opponents. The music was just not dialed in the way that 1.0 was, or even 3.0 is--although both those eras of Phishtory have their faults, too. The most interesting thing to me in the first set is Mike's electric bagpipes. The second set, though, boasts a rendition of Seven Below that wends through some really pretty, delicate passages before culminating in the kind of full-steam-ahead, Trey-driven heavy rock that so many 2.0 jams succumbed to. I can say that in hindsight because Phish has always been capable of a more nuanced or subtle approach, as well as creating peaks that don't have to depend upon maximum sonic density. It's kind of like how right before the Coventry Split Open and Melt says they just need to blow off some steam. I love the repertoire of 2.0, but I don't prefer its overall tenor to either other era, and a lot of what was going on culturally during the beginning of the 2000s seems to have affected Phish and the entire phan community--along with many civilians--in a way that I can't help but view retroactively as negative.
SASS is a very pretty rendition short and sweet. Axilla is pretty sloppy. Carini is especially peaky and intense. Round room has a nice stretch to it with some great sound textures. Very strong playing in Haileys. YEM is also well played but also has a nice little extended jam section which although is not as big as the one a week or so after is still very cohesive and good.
Set two gets moving with an always welcomed Llama. And then after a very cohesive and funky Wolfman. Seven Below has a very spacy jam with Fish holding down the beat while Trey and Page add layers of texture. Then out of nowhere it picks up speed with Fish smashing drums and Trey messing around with rough. It's a little rough going into the finishing coda but still one of the big Seven Belows from 2003. Harry Hood is especially pretty and fitting for the Gorge. The following CDT is short but a sure ripper.
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