[We would like to thank Alaina Stamatis, user @farmhose (@fad_albert on twitter and instagram), for recapping last night's show. Please note that the opinions expressed by a recapper for a show on this blog are not necessarily those of any volunteer who works on Phish.net. We are all fans with varying opinions, just like you. -Ed.]
When the border agent asked us what our plans were for our trip into Canada, we probably should have just lied to him. It wouldn't have made a difference, however, because we have 57 stickers on our car, including but not limited to an oversized Stealie with two dancing bears on the hood. At the time of our border crossing, we were also, for lack of a better term, dressed like wooks.
"We're seeing a concert."
"Who are you here to see?" the border agent asked in the most serious tone one can conjure while still having a Canadian accent.
"Phish, man, greatest show on earth! If you have the night off you should-"
A couple SWAT-team-type bros in skin-tight black uniforms approached. This was not my bachelorette party and these were definitely not strippers. They dismantled the car. Luckily (intentionally) we brought nothing of interest. "Enjoy the concert, guys."
The show was largely a Canadian audience because American Phish fans come in two varieties: "has to work during the week" (and thus can't skip town for a Tuesday show) and "recently arrested on drug charges" (and thus denied entry into Canada). The only people I recognized and knew in Toronto last night were my fellow sober tour rats. We miracled a woman into her first show.
"Now I can take 'go to a Phish show' off my bucket list," she said.
"Or just change it on your bucket list to be, 'go to thirty Phish shows.'"
Anticipation lingered from the band's good showing at Bonnaroo. Has something rejuvenated Trey's commitment to shredding? Did he make a solemn oath to C. Cot that he would tear it up 'til Kingdom Come? Or was it simply that he kept his fingers active all year between Ghosts of the Forest, TAB and acoustic performances?
The "AC/DC Bag" opener reaffirmed Trey's vows to his guitar. This was quickly followed by "555," then "Ocelot," and then "Sample in a Jar," which begged the question: would Canadian fans be happy with whatever they get? The angelic Canadian voices singing along seemed to suggest, "Yes." This question is a little unfair, however, because in reality these are all good tunes and they were expertly shredded; the latter two had their own mini snow-capped peaks.
"Stash" started. The Canadians were psyched. "Stash" went straight into a major key blissful type 2 jam, that was tasty with good energy, though not as long or as profound as the first set "Stash" in St Louis last Tuesday. Next came "the Wedge," and then "Frost," which was a Canadian debut, "Halley's Comet," and then "Ruby Waves," from GotF, which was a Canadian *and* a Phish debut. "Ruby Waves" went type 1.75 (yanno, just shy of 2) seeking to dissolve the new material into the repertoire by heating it up.
The Canadians screamed for "Lawn Boy." Some of them were wearing "Is This Still Lawn Boy?" shirts. The first set ended with "You Enjoy Myself," which had a good tempo and tight musicianship. When Phish played this same venue in Toronto in 1999 and 2000 they also closed the first set with "YEM" both times. Phish didn't play Toronto again until 2013, when they also played "Halley's," "Stash," and "Ocelot" in the first set.
Phish plays Toronto so infrequently that I saw multiple people with Phish tour shirts from the '90s that were in pristine condition because these fans so rarely get to wear them. Also of note: because Canadians are more environmentally conscious there was a complete and utter lack of glowsticks. Little children were forced to play with regular sticks.
Second set started with "Plasma" (Canadian debut): "I don't think when I depart, I'll be close to where I start," and with that, they left the minor key of the song and went into a major key jam. It's hard to stay in a minor key on such a beautiful night of outdoor Phish with CK5's beams in the trees. They segued into "The Final Hurrah" (Canadian debut), followed by "Wingsuit" (Canadian debut). Transitioning into "Golden Age" (Canadian debut) Phish reached its Mount St. Helen's for the evening, erupting into a molten sonic act of God that for fifteen-and-a-half minutes destroyed everything in its path.
The band made a strong case for "I Always Wanted It This Way" (Canadian debut) with Trey taking a larger role in it than normal. Then they slapped us with a "Prince Caspian," which opened a line of inquiry: did I risk receiving an unlawful cavity search for this? Before they could really lose anyone they moved to, "If I Could," and again the massive choir of Canadian angels sang along and the moment transcended. The band closed out the second set with a raging "46 Days," keeping the memory of Leigh Fordham bright.
For the encore, they performed the three-part "Drift While You're Sleeping," from GotF (Canadian debut), which fuses elements of "Petrichor" and "More" with dubbed-out reggae.
At first glance it was a weird setlist, but overall the night had a good flow. It pulled from 14 individual albums, brought out a lot of comparatively new material, and the band tried their best to sell these odes to joy. They shredded for the memory of their friends, for the dignity of the songs, and for Canada. Trey thanked the audience and told them he'd see them again soon, so perhaps it won't be another six years. As we left the show we were met with the largest culture shock of all: No Nitrous. No carnies hovered over tanks. No hissing, no balloons popping. And no "No deals." Good deal.
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