IT has been said that one should know one's audience before addressing them. After you have said your piece, ideally, your audience will appreciate your words -- assuming you still have an audience at all. But when offering up $0.02 on a rock concert, particularly one attended by tens of thousands of people, many of whom were seeing or hearing the band for the first time, your words will disappoint someone. Phish, fortunately, did not disappoint many last night. They rocked Golden Gate Park in a way that few (now legendary) bands have ever done. In deference to the variety of perspectives of fans who witnessed Phish’s two-set headlining show at the Outside Lands Festival, though, I offer you three "recaps."
FOR THE NOOB:
While the Polo Fields of Golden Gate Park may have been overcast last night, your point of view was clear and bright. And I thank you, because if it were not for you, Phish history would have ended a very long time ago.
Your vibe was INFECTIOUS, permeating the Polo Fields with warmth, despite the chilly August San Francisco night. My guess is that you heard at least several songs you had always wanted to hear Phish play, and you could not have been more overjoyed to finally see them LIVE. Cover songs, perhaps, like Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia,” or Ween’s “Roses are Free,” or Phish originals like “Mound,” “Axilla” and a second-set-closing “Chalk Dust Torture.” Though I have not been a noob in many years, I’m still one when it comes to a song like “Steam,” which was played last night for only the third time since Phish debuted it in early June at Blossom Music Center in Ohio. A sultry and somewhat funky number, all the fog (“steam”) unleashed from the stage during it gave Phish’s amazing lighting designer, Chris Kuroda, quite a canvas.
If you enjoyed last night’s version of “Steam,” or any other song Phish played last night, please buy the LivePhish download, and indirectly support the nonprofit Mockingbird Foundation whose volunteers manage this site. Or, check out versions Phish has performed live in the past, such as via The Spreadsheet. I bet you’ll find other versions of those songs that will impress you at least as much. (Check out the song histories and jam charts on this site for guidance to so-called "top versions.") But, regardless, you know that only your opinion about the music matters. I thank you for reading this far, and be sure to disregard what I say below, with extreme prejudice.
FOR THE VET:
So, quite a change in scene from Tahoe, eh? A tiny venue in a god-awful small gambling town surrounded by some of the most spectacularly beautiful landscape in the world, under clear blue – and clear starry night – skies, to an overcast park thronged by tens of thousands in the middle of the city by the bay. Yeah, I know, Golden Gate Park ain’t Tahoe (or the Gorge!), but it also ain’t shabby. We are incredibly blessed that Phish is playing venues like this – and playing at all.
While last night’s scene may not have improved from Tahoe, the music arguably did, in part, assuming you like to dance. Last night’s first set seemed more consistently danceable overall than the Bowl and Tahoe first sets. “Tweezer” (albeit short) peaked quite well, for example, and “Mound” was the slowest tune of the set -- and it’s unfair to call it slow. Sure, last night’s “Funky Bitch,” repeated from Tahoe, arguably was not as punchy as the Tahoe version, but it is hard not to be smitten by last night’s first set, which featured the first time since April 3, 1991, at the Britt Ballroom of Southern Oregon State College, that “Tweezer” and “Mike’s Groove” were played in the first set. "Mike’s Groove” closed that Britt Ballroom set just as it did last night (assuming this ancient setlist is even accurate). While “Tweezer” and “Mike’s Groove” have been performed together in second sets on numerous occasions, they were only played together in a handful of first sets of pre-1992 shows (such as 6/9/90 Georgia Theater). Accordingly, while nothing in last night’s first set is “must hear,” or anywhere close to it, the set nevertheless rocked from “Kill Devil Falls” through “Weekapaug Groove,” and those present were glad glad glad that it did.
Last night’s second set, though mostly well-played, does not hold up musically to the best second sets on the “Second Leg” to date. (For those keeping score, the last five or so minutes of Gorge1’s “Rock and Roll,” as it masterfully segues into “Meatstick,” still contains Phish’s most thrilling, must-hear improvisation of August.) The second set last night rocked out, to be sure, involving very little exploratory, risky, “type II” improvisation, such as that in Tahoe1’s “Light,” which is customary for that song, as it is basically more of a jam segment than a song in any event. The transition from “Rock and Roll” into “Steam” was brilliant, and there was plenty of fierce action from the full band consistently throughout the set. But such passionate playing from Phish, as in the “Piper -> Roses, Julius” trio, is par for the course. It is what typically great Phish shows are all about. The “Life on Mars?” call, presumably a tip of the hat to the recent discovery of flowing water on mars, was no upper decker, but demonstrably eviscerated energy from the crowd. My favorite part of this Bowie cover is Trey’s line in the final ten or so seconds, and Trey botched it. Also, honestly, Phish has so many wonderful original ballads that I had wanted to hear one of them. Many folks present, including me, weren’t in a “Life on Mars?” mood, despite the “big deal” it involves.
In sum, Trey’s trilling at the end of “Fluffhead” was particularly fierce, and a set highlight, as was the sublime segue into “Steam,” and the above-average “BDTNL” (outstanding Trey solo), but otherwise there were no noteworthy versions of anything performed. (The “2001,” for example, was poor, even when compared to the perfunctory Tahoe version.) All that said, last night’s “Greatest Hits” character made it an ABSOLUTE BLAST to attend, and I hope Phish get the opportunity to headline Outside Lands again in the future. $0.02.
FOR THE JADED VET:
You’re not as jaded as you think if you read this far. Lots of repeats from Monday’s Hollywood Bowl show in particular, and probably at best an “average-great” 5/10 rating on the Scott Jordan Concert Review Poll scale (what with no “top versions,” yet a stellar setlist). But, can you still have any fun, now? If so, see you at the UIC Pav, if not in Denver as well. And bring those tapes you still owe me from Hartford 1997.
If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Phish.net. Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Phish.net is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.
This project serves to compile, preserve, and protect encyclopedic information about Phish and their music.
The Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Phish fans in 1996 to generate charitable proceeds from the Phish community.
And since we're entirely volunteer – with no office, salaries, or paid staff – administrative costs are less than 2% of revenues! So far, we've distributed over $2 million to support music education for children – hundreds of grants in all 50 states, with more on the way.
I have to admit to a little disappointment that the set was so unadventurous, I think their more aggressive experimental stuff would probably have been more likely to win over some of the indie crowd, and I'm such a believer in Phish as a live act that I would have liked to see them win people over who were predisposed against them. Don't think this is the kind of show which could do that. A "safe" show is probably the most likely outcome of a festival appearance like this, but I'll admit to being a little disheartened that the Bonnaroo performance from earlier in the "comeback" produced more adventurous playing than this set over two years into the return.
I just want to know wtf took so long for this great new song (Steam) to reach its third play, when I can't turn around without seeing Possum?
@20YearsLater said: Also very true.
OSL is not a show I would spend $ to download and listen to again. It was fun and generally well executed. I think I've heard 3 BOAF and 3 Julius in 6 shows this summer, all in the 2nd set, I liked them all but I'm ready for a change. Guess it is time to listen to other music for a while... good thing there's a huge music festival to spend the rest of the day at!!
About the audience, I was FOB Page side and by the time Phish was on stage the virtually everyone around was a major fan that would have appreciated a more musically ambitious 2nd set. I was hoping that they wouldn't play festival sets for a festival crowd, especially for set II, given that the half of the audience they might have wanted to market to were over at the Shins no matter what. I'm a bit annoyed at OSL for making me choose, actually, the Shins are a fine little group that I'd like to see again, their show at the Fox was quality. In any case, ~ 3 hours of greatest hits-y phish was a very good time. IMO Gorge II was a show that had just as much appeal for the first time/unfamiliar listener that hit the mark stronger, as was the entire Greek run except for maybe the Simple and the Light -- if we are to concede that laypeople can't keep up and won't like true improv even though they are probably under the influence and that much more likely to surrender to the flow.
Highlights: Tweezer, R&R-Steam-Piper, BDTNL (as mentioned above)
Charlie! It has been too long. Still the king of critics, I see. Good. Good to have some normalcy in this mad world.
so, if i'm counting correctly, outside lands was my 76th show. while i'll probably always prefer my first show, 12-8-95, this might be #2. seriously. yeah, no real type-2 to speak of, but if you are a quality over quantity person, you'd be hard pressed to find more satisfaction from another show than outside lands. they obviously came there to win over the crowd, and i'd say they did that in spades. there was often a palpable sense of "huh, i thought this was going to kind of suck, but it's actually kind of awesome".
roses is probably a great example. a 5:35 roses understandably doesn't elicit any thoughts of "omg, i *have* to hear that", but you could at least debate that this was a best-ever version. sure, 4-3-98's is kind of insurmountable, big cypress's 45min trance-state roses is kind of incomparable, but in terms of nailing the song so much it might make dean ween cry, if you know of a sicker version, let me know!
tweezer, mike's, & r&r were each focused monsters.. mike's was the type that makes you relieved to hear h2o. and even weekapaug & possom had those kinds of moments where you can look around and see all the noobs thinking "huh, *that* was kind of crazy".
it was the kind of show i most like to describe as "ridiculous" (read-icculus?). a friend likened the playing to the princess bride, when they switch from sword-fighting with their weak hand, only to surprise their opponent when they thought they'd blown their wad. i mean, it only takes :20 to take that peak 2 levels higher than you were expecting. classic tension/release & machine-gun trey all over the place.
mound started off promising, with an no-guitar first verse, which was a fun change, but eventually we did arrive at the section-of-many-missed-notes. as such, it was the only one you'd want to skip, if you're not a to-the-grave mound fan, like my sister. but don't skip sample, moma, axilla, wilson, julius, fluffhead and chalkdust - EACH went for the jugular. it was punishing.
and oh yeah, in case you don't know, the coldest winter festival i ever went to was a summer festival in san francisco. an extra treat for the victims of "nature's air conditioning" was so many of the songs had lyrics about cold, freezing, and ice.
and yeah, i didn't mention piper yet, but since the last pipers i've heard are miami09 & merriweather10, i expect nothing less than a debatable top-show-highlight from the song. finally, to put a punctuation mark on the precision craftsmanship we were treated to every moment of the show, phish brought tweezer reprise to a crashing halt, after maybe throwing in a few extra bars here or there, exactly on the advertised festival-end time of 10:00. a non-phan friend thought it might been to the second.
for pure second-to-second enjoyment, this will be a the show i'll be pulling again for a while.
Really was nice to have a recap acknowledge the entire fan-base, and appreciate the differing expectations and perspectives.
Overall a very average show with many repeats from the bowl, only everything played at the bowl was better. This festival show is one to forget about.
Thanks for the kind words, but fwiw, there's no such thing as a "non-judgmental 'jaded vet' review." Jaded vets are necessarily judgmental. As for continuing the "threecap" review style, don't expect it. I am glad (relieved?) that it's been appreciated, but I am not sure of its worth. Honestly, I just wanted to give a little pat on the head to the folks who've been annoyed by the recaps on this site in the past. The bottom line is that you're not going to please everyone when criticizing a rock show, and, frankly, you shouldn't come to Phish.Net expecting noob-recaps. This isn't the place for them. Most of those who run this site have heard most (if not all) of the Phish shows that circulate, and if they haven't, they've seen a ton of shows and have been seeing them for a very long time. You're going to get the perspective of the recapper, and it's not going to be that of a new fan.
@foogregfoo: Thanks, love your comments! A big thumb's up from me! I largely agree with your take, especially your friend's reference to the Princess Bride (incredible film). That said, I do think that everything played last night has been played with more intensity in Phish history on at least some (if not many) occasions ... even "Roses Are Free." It's not fair to compare last night's version of "Roses" to a transcendent monster like Cypress, of course, but revisit the MPP version from June (improvisational ending), for example, or the Polaris 7/15/00 version (which is similar in power to last night's). Two more cents.
@Scott: Thank you, fwiw, I was also FOB Page side, about 20 feet or so directly in front of CK, on a blue tarp. I was the guy in the running clothes who eventually put on a Maker's Mark shirt to get a bit warmer.
i remember being on top of the world when i heard they threw down dark side a week before 98 uic run. back then, if they hit us with a 20 min 1st set tube adventure, the next show would be a half hour ghost or bag. maybe this belongs in the jaded vet category of review, but this sense of them somehow unfathomably topping themselves show after show is not the phish of this era. in 3.0, AND I LOVE THREE POINT ZERO, they're more like an animal stalking its prey waiting to envelop with feigned inertia. could they have dismantled outside lands causing decidedly uncool mind-melting panic among the indie hipsters? yes. easily. was it likely to go down? hardly. and that bodes very, very, well for the bookends to the gorge's exploration--UIC '11.
Things in the Phish universe are starting to feel right again. The band is having fun and the audience is too, with rare exception. Great time to be a Phish fan imo.
My first set favorites were Kill Devil Falls (instantly set the tone for the kind of night that was in store), Mound, Mike's, & Weekapaug. Suzy felt forced following Mound, but rocked out nicely in the end. Axilla I confused a crowd more familiar with Axilla II lyrics.
Set two - I enjoyed hearing Steam for the first time (although it was at this point in the show that my eardrums started to blow - the sound was REALLY loud down in front). I always love Roses, Julius had people in a frenzy, and then Mars came along and brought us all back to Earth. Birds redeemed though, BDTNL rocked and Chalkdust kept the party going. Cavern and Reprise provided the perfect end.
The lighting effects were AMAZING too!
At intermission I was still a little worried that I was going to go home disappointed, but the R&R into Steam (more Steam, please) was fabulous, and the 2nd set ensured a satisfying evening. I think a lot of young folk had to be blown away, and more power to the boys for reaching out to a new audience. Although it's clear that many folks didn't quite know what to think, by observation of the majority, I think Phish ensured themselves many more phans for the future. The downside for we West Coast fans is the already difficult situation in getting tix for limited West Coast shows. I guess the other downside of the evening was the crowded N-Judah line, which made me miss the last train out, costing me plenty for a cab.
I was being facetious, of course. It is exactly this sort of fragility, though, that should be discarded before reading a "recap" on this blog. If you consider yourself a new or newer fan, do not read Phish.Net blog "recaps" looking to have your opinions somehow validated by a vet. It's not fair to yourself or the recapper. Your opinion is all that matters. And it betrays profound ignorance and insecurity simply to flame a recapper with whom you disagree (eg by calling him or her jaded) without explaining the basis for your disagreement with the opinions on the music. That is all I was really getting at. And it isn't about "negativity" or "positivity," either. You may be different, but I rarely find 100% "positive" reviews credible.
With the exception of Big Boi, I noticed this kind of punctuality throughout several of the acts on day 1 & day 2. Something to consider?