It was the third night of Phish at the Gorge for the first time ever AND a Sunday show. This one just had to be great right? That question should be answered with an emphatic YES!! The extra day of play gave Phish the opportunity to really get their shit together, which resulted in the first solid from end to end movement of the tour. Sunday night cannot be rebuked for either second set song selection or any inability of certain members of the band to play their own compositions with the dexterity and precision displayed in more inspired and/or inspiring times. Gorge 3 had it all: great song selection, well crafted flow, some deep dark jams, and a general absence of clams. However, before we dig a little deeper, I have to ask one question. The same one that spread like any one of the wildfires that are currently raging throughout the West. What the fuck is up with NAZIS getting arrested for slinging nitrous on Thunder Road and (perhaps unrelated?) some dude getting smashed in the skull with a rock during the show on Saturday? What with the Tahoe PD putting Phish on Twitter blast for their fans trashing their pristine bucolic mountain hideaway and the ugly shit that just happened at the Gorge, this tour is starting to take on a real Grateful Dead 1995 vibe. I guess if I have to point a finger anywhere, it will be the middle one, and it would go in Trumplestiltskin’s Mango hued fart sniffer for continuing to be the instigator. But ultimately, we are doing this to ourselves by subscribing to the madness that continues to ooze out of the oval office. Seriously people, this IS the time for us to rise up and come together. But I digress.
The first set opens to the drawing of a "Curtain With" as the blistering heat of the sun finally drops beneath the thick stack of basalt that lies to the west of the amphitheater across the stretch of the Columbia River known as Wanapum Lake. The band is nimble and cohesive, twisting and turning as one unit following the lines of the river flowing South. The ensuing pairing of "The Birds" with "Birds of a Feather" kept the energy high, while simultaneously perhaps addressing the lowness of the previous night. I’ve always seen "Birds of a Feather" as a song about our flock, an anthem about the crowd in motion before the stage. Never did I expect to hear that there had been a seemingly unprovoked bird on bird ATTACK during a Phish show. Usually the worst thing that happens is somebody blowing smoke in your face or perhaps spilling a beer on your back. But actual skull smashing violence? I thought I left that behind on the 1992 Faith No More, Metallica, and Guns N' Roses tour. To lighten the mood, "The Birds" did feature some new squawks from Page, and inspired a far less violent tortilla war on the Mike side lawn and terrace. "Birds of a Feather," as it should, featured some "The Birds" quotes then gave way to "Waiting All Night." This nebulous undulating apology of a song was the only place I heard anything bump off key during the night and was itself a cheeky foreshadowing of what was to follow in the second frame.
"Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan" provides a snarling counterbalance to the sweet sublimity of the "Reba" which follows. "Reba" is the song that set the hook on my Phish fandom; the first one I heard (7/10/92 Empire Court) brought me to tears. It takes a lot to get me to cry these days. This one had no chance to cause such an effect, since the heat of the Columbia Plateau had sucked most of the fluid from my head over the course of the past two days. Next up was the BEST "WOMBAT" EVER, notwithstanding the Abe Vigoda dance bit featured in the original. Deep purple splash jelly (because a jam don’t shake like that). Want that. Had that. As the orange azurescens of the western sky deepened in color and Venus descended toward the Wenatchee Heights, "Tela" rode forth with an elegant force, much like the wind from beyond the mountains that had buckled the legs of my EZ-Up Shade tent while I was riding the Freedom Express the previous evening. The set concludes with a typically fiery "Walls of the Cave" and the half time whistle. Setbreak begs the question, why isn’t the multi-stall piss trough at the entrance to Johnny on the Spot alley? There could be a separate line for boys and girls. No traffic jam.
Although the prevailing wisdom was calling for a "Crosseyed and Painless" to open set 2, I was hoping for "Drowned." The hive mind won out, which was a mild disappointment owing in no small part to the fact that they did that whole "Crosseyed" basket weaving thing the last time they played the Gorge, but that soon passed. Completely unrelated to being volatilized through the Mantis portal of course. After Fish the Little Drummer Boy is done singing, this jam goes deep and dark, filled with swirling pixelated fractal mandalas, the all-seeing, all-knowing eye of the universe, and the nightly overpass of the International Space Station. Far out man. "Twist" was something I had been expecting when mapping out the potential setlist for the show earlier in the day. Avoiding the common "Oye Como Va" vamp, this version allegedly features teases of "Heartbreaker," "Crosseyed," and "Time Loves a Hero." Although the "C&P" licks were obvious, I’m going to have to do some relistening once I’ve unpacked all my gear to mine out the other two golden nuggets. Not like that will be a chore. "Waves" follows "Twist" and precedes "Miss You" for the second time in 365 days (see 7/23/17 Red Velvet night). Great song selection. Great vibe. Hat tip to all the friends who couldn’t make it to the Gorge this year, #MISSYOU! "Fluffhead" was to my ears flawless and left me quite ecstatic. If you want to point out a timing on a missed note anywhere, let me know. Nailed it. Page was busting passion buckets like an allstar. Staying true to the strong song selection format for the night, the set closes with a rich and powerful "Split Open and Melt," which ultimately cascades through sleight of hand into a "Crosseyed" reprise. "Wilson" encore seals the deal. All money, no whammies for night three.
This show served as a heat advisory forecast for the remainder of the tour. It is undoubtedly going to get hotter before the end of summer, but the heat may cause tempers to flare. So try to be cool... but punch all Nazis in the eye.
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