I think it’s largely true that how much fun you have at a Phish show is up to you and your ability to, if you’ll allow, “surrender to the flow.” But it sure helps when you’ve got a pristine summer day and perfect seats in one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever seen on your side. This was my first trip to Blossom Music Center, the sonic and architectural gem built specifically with the Cleveland Orchestra in mind, and I was floored. Blossom has everything going for it, from the setting in Cuyahoga Valley National Park to the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere (and congrats to the couple that got married in the middle of shakedown), but it’s the sound that knocked me off my feet. I can’t imagine a better spot to allow a person to get good and thoroughly hosed than right in front of Chris Kuroda underneath that wood pavilion last night, so to whatever forces conspired to put me there, thank you.
Photo © Jake Silco
Right from the start, the solo in “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing,” you can hear how confident and relaxed Trey has been all tour. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like to step up and knock it out of the park for Fare Thee Well, but Mr. Anastasio has been riding that wave since Bend, and we are all fortunate enough to get caught in the spray. “My Sweet One” and “Wilson” have each become something of a rarity, and during the “Wilson” chant I was first struck by the enormity of the sound crafted in part by the amphitheatre. Not only is the music of Phish huge, but the sound of the crowd, and therefore the literal energy of the people is reflected back down on them, and it’s breathtaking. This fierce “Wilson” set up a creative song choice, and third straight 20+ show gap, “Timber (Jerry).” There’s been some deliciously dark Phish lately, and “Timber” fits that mold nicely. To cap off a run of songs not heard since fall 2014, we were treated to “Roses Are Free” as well as a plea – well, less a plea than a statement of fact – that it’s time for Gene and Dean Ween to get the band back together.
Photo © @tweeprise
There were flubs in this show. Quite a few of them. And I saw Trey gesticulating emphatically offstage at several points during both sets, looking frustrated with some technical issue or the other. As a result, there were some rough patches, particularly in songs like “Rift” and “It’s Ice.” I mention this not because these perceived imperfections detract from or alter the experience, but only to point out how even when some things aren’t working, this is a band of supremely talented and professional artists who can lay waste to whole regions of the country with a single jam. And that’s pretty much the experience I had last night, so this will be the last mention I make of “flubs.”
When “Moma” kicked in, I was almost startled by the slow pace, and not in a bad way. It seemed like a deliberate attempt to make things as sticky and funky as possible, and as it turns out, foreshadowed the thick, dark, green, molasses grooves to come. The first “Ginseng Sullivan” in almost two years, the night’s biggest bustout, was next, followed by “Wingsuit” and another powerful Trey solo. Please forgive the focus on Trey, who tends to pull my attention anyway, but the man is seriously on fire right now. It’s also Mu-Tron Madness 2015 right now, which I absolutely love, and which brings the funk oozing into “It’s Ice” while Trey sort-of almost teases “For The Love of Money.” This “Ice” melts into “Bathtub Gin,” the relative newcomer to the first-set closer spot that continues to really thrive in that role. The jam here begins slyly, then gets a jolt from CK5’s effervescent light show, peaks once solidly, and then just blows the lid off the joint. It was a tremendous exclamation point to take us to the break.
Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road
A second set “Chalk Dust” opener is an exciting thing, isn’t it? Where will it take you? I had to rush back to my sonic sweet spot and made it back in time for the start of the journey. After a bit of exploration and some serene phrasing from Trey, the jam becomes celebratory in the fashion that 3.0 Phish has become known for. From this “Paradise City” peak, the music becomes contemplative again, then begins to pick up pace before executing the most thrilling segue I’ve seen live.
It was “Tweezer” before I knew it was “Tweezer,” on fire the moment it was born. What I can tell you about this “Tweezer” is that the first several minutes of the jam contain some of the nastiest, filthiest, sickest, stickiest Phish I’ve ever experienced, like a high voltage wire coated in psychedelic honey. The slow electrocution of the funk brought us to a dark realm, where the monsters are and where there’s always just a hint of fear that you may not be able to find the exit. But, as always, Phish brings us back again, and as this “Tweezer” took on gentle, lullaby qualities, I was sure were going from the dark to the “Shade,” but no. “The Lizards” is one of those beloved tunes that, even if you’re not the one who has been chasing it, you can’t help but well up with joy for all those who are finally catching one, and it sounded like there were quite a few of those from the tremendous ovation it received.
Photo © @tweeprise
Following this beautiful and emotional Gamehendge tune, time for a little silliness, and Trey has fun in “Makisupa Policeman,” struggling to find the right terminology for vaping. Or maybe “goop in the top part” is the correct nomenclature, I wouldn’t know. What I do know is that this brief humorous interlude was suddenly possessed by an angry sounding “Ghost” that once again saw Trey shred like he was going to turn Blossom into toothpicks. This jam reaches a blistering peak, flirts with “Psycho Killer,” and breaks into a thousand plinko-y pieces from which “Harry Hood” emerges.
The last two years have been historic for “Harry,” so there’s no shame in this not being one of the best versions of the year. It is a perfect cap for an amazing set… unless, of course, you want to go ahead and “Tweeprise” that Bad Larry right now, in which case, that would really be the perfect cap! Once again, the colossal nature of a “Tweezer Reprise” taken in from dead center of a venue like Blossom is difficult to imagine until you’re there with your sternum rattling. And, to give credit where credit is due, my better half called the “Good Times Bad Times” that Trey then used like a flamethrower to melt any faces left intact, an old-school encore on a night that saw only two songs that debuted in this century.
Photo © @tweeprise
Look, this is the part of my recaps where I always say something about how much I love Phish, how great the show was, and how you should go see Phish this tour. All of that is absolutely true, every time I say it. But, seriously. Seriously. Go see Phish, if you possibly can, this tour. The six years of touring they have under their belt since the breakup, the maturity, the benefits of working with their side projects and being able to balance that with family, it’s all coming together right now. I’m in awe. See you at Watkins, be safe!
Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road
Phish Summer 2015 – Setlists & Recaps
07/21/15 Setlist – Recap – Bend 1
07/22/15 Setlist – Recap – Bend 2
07/24/15 Setlist – Recap, Recap2 – Shoreline
07/25/15 Setlist – Recap – LA Forum
07/28/15 Setlist – Recap – Austin
07/29/15 Setlist – Recap – Grand Prarie
07/31/15 Setlist – Recap – Atlanta 1
08/01/15 Setlist – Recap – Atlanta 2
08/02/15 Setlist – Recap – Tuscaloosa
08/04/15 Setlist – Recap – Nashville
08/05/15 Setlist – Recap – Kansas City
08/07/15 Setlist – Recap – Blossom
08/08/15 Setlist – Recap – Alpine 1
08/09/15 Setlist – Recap – Apline 2
08/11/15 Setlist – Recap – Mann 1
08/12/15 Setlist – Recap – Mann 2
08/14/15 Setlist – Recap – Raleigh
08/15/15 Setlist – Recap – Merriweather 1
08/16/15 Setlist – Recap – Merriweather 2
08/21/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 1
08/22/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 2
08/23/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 3
09/04/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 1
09/05/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 2
09/06/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 3
Blossom Music Center poster by Subject Matter Studio. Edition of 675. 18x24.
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