[Would like to thank user @KipMat Matt Schrag for recapping St. Louis for the blog. Be advised that the opinions offered in a "recap" of a show (or in any post) on Phish.net's blog are not necessarily shared by any of the other many volunteers who work on the site. We would appreciate it if you correct anyone out there ignorant enough to suggest that the "recap" of a show on this site is in any way, shape, or form an "official" view of the show by Phish.net. There is no such thing, and no such thing has ever existed at any time at all whatsoever. Thank you. -Ed.]
“Phish, with a P-H?”
The hotel Valet Attendant both looked and talked like famous twin brother Seth Galifianakis [url: https://youtu.be/sMFwNrAAsDs] - it was uncanny.
“That’s right, they’re the band playing at Chaifetz Arena tonight and tomorrow night.” I braced myself mentally for the inevitable follow-up question.
“What do they sound like?”
“Well, they’re an improvisational rock band…”
“OK, so not Country, then.”
I nodded in affirmation. This is usually the point when the conversation topic is switched, so I was caught slightly off guard by the Attendant’s next question.
“Who’s the opening act?”
“Actually, there’s no opening act, Phish plays the whole show, usually about three hours.”
“Three hours? And no opening act? Who even does that anymore?”
I used to be poorly skilled at recognizing rhetorical questions, and in the past I would have tried to name other jam bands the Attendant likely wouldn’t recognize. Instead, I smiled broadly and said, “I know, right?” and wished him well.
It's practically a cliche, but it happens to be true: My life changed when I first heard the music of Phish in a college dorm room in 1994. At the time, I was studying Jazz Guitar Performance at the University of North Texas, so I was no stranger to musical improvisation. However, I had also grown up on rock, folk, and choral music, and Phish touched on these musical styles as well. And all of it with a goofy, nerdy sense of humor that captured my imagination like no other band before or since (and they’re still at it; e.g. the choreography in the middle of “Turtle In The Clouds”).
I am naturally an obsessive, and like to be considered an expert on certain things, so when I found out there was a website with circulating audience recordings of every Phish show available for download, I had to hear it all. Doing so taught me many things about the band, and a few things about myself; most importantly, I learned that listening to a show "on tape" will always be a completely different experience from attending a show in person. Being there, in the one place that we as Phans [sic] wish we were 365 nights of the year, witnessing first-hand a performance that will never be repeated, is rare. Others were not so fortunate, and had to experience the show at their homes; even less fortunate are those who could only experience the show after the fact, not in real-time.
So the time for evaluating the overall show rating, or whether or not the “Stash” jam should make the .Net Jamming Charts, or critiquing band members’ stage trousers, will come later. For now, please enjoy this attempt to share my experience of Being There.
“I would pay the same amount (of a Phish ticket) just to watch (Chris) Kuroda do the light show to a recorded Phish show,” said Boulder Brewmeister @C_List_Mockingbird. Even if it was cardboard cutouts of Phish on stage? Sure! Holograms? Come on, brah!
After grabbing gyros and beers on lot, and checking out the Little League baseball game next door, we found our seats in section 111, in time to watch Lighting Director Chris Kuroda perform his smudging ritual on the equipment and crew before the house lights went down. This guy has been with the band 30 years now, he’s the Big Kahuna of the Phish Crew, so if he needs to burn some sage to keep the equipment from breaking down during the gig, everybody else lets him do it.
Some folks question why Phish plays indoor venues on Summer Tour; they don’t realize that those shows are specifically for Kuroda, to test out the rig without the distraction of outside light, and it is a special treat to watch the lights make the building look like the rafters are melting, or that shock waves are rolling through the audience. “Bathtub Gin” was IMO the best lighting rig showcase of the evening; CK5 had the mini-trusses tilted at what looked like an impossible angle, at least 70 degrees from the horizon. The light beams were aimed in so many different directions, like a giant light bulb made like a koosh ball.
“We stopped trying so hard in 1997,” said Trey Anastasio in The Phish Book. That seven-word appraisal is both a succinct summation of the radical stylistic change that causes so many fans to point to 1997 as the peak of the band’s career, and an indication of why the band broke-up. I remember listening to Phish during 2003-04 and finding the music enjoyable, but careless. After the reunion a decade ago, the band was certainly trying hard, but the time apart had eroded their skills. Even when I started seeing Phish again in 2015, I was resigned to my Jaded Vet-ness, believing that Phish would never again be as good as they were way back when. (I stopped believing this after the Baker’s Dozen.)
My most significant impression of last night’s performance was how smooth (read: not bumpy) it sounded. Tour openers are rarely “great” shows (although they have happened) and expectations are adjusted accordingly. And although Trey arguably bailed on a few jams in order to segue into another song, each jam was solid, and flubs by any one member of the band did not throw off the other three. Any complaints regarding predictability in the song choices (e.g. “Joy”, the “couples skate” song, as at least one former .netter put it) is overruled by the band’s ability to play a great show, to groove, to play music that makes you feel good and want to dance and smile and laugh and shout and just shake everything in sheer euphoria.
The Phish debut of “Drift While You’re Sleeping” from the Ghosts Of The Forest side project was IMO the highlight of the show. I vastly preferred this performance to those of the past Spring. This band is so freaking awesome.
Our seats were next to a lovely couple from North Carolina, who noticed that I was checking the .net forum before the show, and admitted to being .net “lurkers” (hi there!). They raged from the first notes, and after the band finished “Tube," they stopped to catch their breath and exclaimed, “Wow, that was some workout!”
I emphatically agreed. Phish hasn’t caused me to dance this hard since, well, 1997.
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Excellent work, chomper!!!