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Sometimes it is hard to write about a Phish show, especially as good as the one played Saturday night. What do you say when you feel like everything has already been said about the band we love? Who knows, but as they say, on with the show!
Like last year, I spent the weekend with my girlfriend and our 2 friends from Knoxville, TN and Saint Marten. Due to the size of the venue, I got in the wristband line to see if I could get on the rail. However, it was not to be this year, but we got a killer spot about 8 rows back from Mike. After 4 years, there is nothing so special as walking into a venue where the stage is located on a beach with the Caribbean Ocean immediatly to the left of Page's side of the stage.
The show starts off with Trey behind Fishman's kit but Fish was nowhere to be found. The band starts playing and within seconds and one of my friends says this is "Willin," a Little Feat cover that had not been played since 10/31/2010. Fishman appears on the stage wearing what can be best described as a pink suit with parrots all over and with donut lapels. "Willin" was obviously chosen for the following lyrics,
"I'll be willin', to be movin'
Well I've been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet
Had my head stoved in, but I'm still on my feet and I'm still, willin'
Now I smuggled some smokes and folks from Mexico
Baked by the sun, every time I go to Mexico, and I'm still..."
This was more of a novelty than anything else but did set the tone for the rest of the evening. When the song ended Fishman had a wardrobe change where he stripped down to his donut underwear to put on his dress.
Next up was "Tube.". This is the kind of version we hope for. The jam in "Tube" starts with Page on the clavinet while Mike and Fishman are locked into a tight groove. At this point Mike is listening so well to Trey. Next up it was Page's turn to lay down the groove. Trey picks up on this and joins Page (who at this time has switched over to the Rhodes). Mike is still listening so well to Trey providing counterpoint to what Trey was playing. Before we know it, Trey dives into some hot Type 1 licks. The only negative thing to say about this "Tube" was that Trey kind of botched the transition back into the final verses.
"Evening Song" is up next. Call me a jaded vet or whatever you like, but I find this song boring and the placement was a terrible idea. Too early in the first set to cool things down.
"Set Your Soul Free" follows, and the dance party beings again. I will never get past the lyrics, especially "we're all here together in the spirit family." That being said the jam that followed started off with some some above average Type 1. Mike and Page lock in during this song, Playing off each other for most of the jam. My notes indicate that the band falls into a Type 2 jam. I also wrote the word "personal." At times there is a grey area as to when someone isn't sure if what Phish are playing is Type 1 or 2. Point is - listen and decide for yourself! Trey starts to set loops while Page moves to his B-3. The jam starts to become disjointed with an abrupt ending.
"You Sexy Thing" kept the hardcore dancing going (there is nothing like the dancing that goes on in the 1st 10-15 rows of a Phish show, none the less on a beautiful beach). Let's be honest, even though this is a novelty song, the fans love it. Smiles all around me.
"46 Days" ensues. I was ready for Trey to rock this song "46 Days" is mostly in the box. Trey got to play "the note" for a long time. Mike is listening and reacting to the band. Band returns to the chorus, and what follows is a great, dark, heavy jam. Even though it was short, it was still "evil Phish," which is one of my favorite things about this band.
Following "46 Days" is "Waste." For me this song is always welcome. It has always been one of my favorites of the Phish ballads and this version did not disappoint. "Come waste your time with me" is a very clever lyric, which sets it above the other ballads in the bands catalog.
"Your Pet Cat" follows. Not much to say was the crowd always goes nuts for the "Thrilling Chilling" material.
And now is where the show really takes off. From this point on, Phish played in a fashion where it all came together. The band and the crowd really became one.
"Tweezer." Now this is what I am talking about, a first set "Tweezer." The jam starts off in very familiar territory. I'm totally digging what Page is playing on the piano. Some really quality type 1 here. Mike and Fish were laying down a sick groove, one that kept the dance party going. Trey starts playing what sounds like the riff to "Manteca." have heard Trey do this many times without singing the lyrics. Much to my delight, the band starts singing and the crowd is right there with them. Sure the lyrics are the type that really have no purpose, and that, for some reason, we all love it and most outsiders can't comprehend it at all. Live Phish contends that the jam after the vocals to be "Manteca" My notes state that they immediately dropped back into "Tweezer," again you decide. This jam goes back and forth from what I felt was still the "Tweezer" jam and "Manteca." This followed by some serious rocking out. I love when Phish does this. How can you not like when this band does this? Everyone around me is smiling ear to ear. Trey is leading the band with teases of "You Sexy Thing," which leads into "Maksupa Policeman" over the groove to "You Sexy Thing." Classic Phish, which transitions into "Twist." Mostly familiar territory, delay chords, Trey holds the note for a very long time over the groove that the rhythm section has set.
Of course he is so amused by this. "Twist" closed the set and let's just say that the up front Mike's side crew were elated.
The usual thoughts enter my mind as we get closer to set 2 starting. Will Phish pick up where they left off at the end of the first set or play a pretty standard second set like they did on Friday night?
"Energy" kicks off the first set. So unexpected, and the huge dance party is kicked off once again. This is definitely a song wherein I find the Phish version superior to the original. We quickly enter type 2 territory. Space age sounds from Page. Trey starts up some thematic licks (as he is wont to do). Page moves to the Rhodes and Mike and Fish are laying down a serious groove. Band starts to rock and a little faster than before. Sadly a killer type 2 section was abruptly ended for "Soul Planet."
Now here was the make or break point for me. Would a song that I am not super fond of go to a place musically that would make me forget that it was "Soul Planet?" That being said, it is a really fun song to dance to and is slightly infectious. Trey immediately steers the band into a dark place. Yes, EVIL PHISH. Such an immediate 180 from the happiness and joy of "Soul Planet." Band is playing heavier and heavier, which eventually settles into a bliss section, leading us to THE HIGHLIGHT of the night, "Waves."
We come to the point of the evening where my being so engaged by Phish that my show notes become less and less detailed. The Phish I still follow around since 1991 still surprises me and all I can do is listen and dance. So forgive me if I go astray. Obviously I could go back and listen, take copious notes, but I think these recaps should be done based on your experience at the show more than listening back to every note at a later time.
Why is "Waves" the highlight of the set, it's everything you want in a Phish jam. Smart, focused and dare I say "surrending to the flow.". The jam starts out in familiar territory but that's to be expected as most Phish improvisation starts this way. But soon enough Mike just takes over and leads the band into a different groove. This is a total band effort. Mike was dropping some serious bombs that due to my proximity to Mike's bass rig and the PA's subwoofers caused my whole body to vibrate. All I can say is listen to this version and you will be far from disappointed
Trey starts up "Carini" and like so many others it's a stellar version. Crowd explodes, and the serious dance party continues. I cannot help but join in. Band settles into a minor groove and evil Phish has returned for the 3rd time this evening. Much like "Waves," listen to this and if you are a fan of evil Phish will not be let down.
"Chalk Dust Torture" starts up with a super hot Type 1 jam which goes back into the lyrics followed by a solid type 2 jam. Before you know it Trey strikes up "Have Mercy." Perfect song to play on a beach, due to it being a reggae song. Mike takes control and eventually we get back to some more Type 2 which leads us to a "Chalk Dust" jam.
Up next is "A Life Beyond the Dream." Now I agree we were due for a cool down, but this song just doesn't work with Phish. TAB does a much better version of this song, especially with Jen and Natalie providing the back up vocals.
"Harry Hood" closes the set on a very high note. Much like various 3.0 "Harrys," the jam goes into yet another Type 2 segment. Page starts out on the Rhodes laying down a foundation for Trey to start soloing over. The peak was tremendous. Phish played this "Harry" like it was meant to be played. Did it rage like 12/31/1993, no, but what we got was as good as "Harry" could be in 3.0. A perfect ending to the set.
Encore time and what we got was "Sweet Jane!" I was fortunate to be at the first one at 8/8/1998, and hearing it live again was a blast. Total sing along. Finally it was time for the show closer, "Tweezer Reprise." While the "Reprise" is obligatory, it always brings that certain energy that most other Phish songs have.
Additionally, Mike was the MVP of the night, and probably the whole weekend.
All and all, close to as good as a show that there can be in 3.0. Maybe it was because I was upfront every night, but I haven't seen quite a dance party as the one this evening in a while. So a special shout out to all the Mike's side crew. It was a blast hanging and dancing with you all, of you and hope to see you all next year.
Finally, I want to point out that one of the best parts of the Moon Palace is the golf carts that will take you anywhere on the property. The golf cart drivers are maniacs. Who knew that the pedestrian walk ways doubled as the "road" for the golf carts. After the show was something to behold. Golf carts driving as fast as they can, taking turns without breaking and almost running over every wasted Phish head on the path. It's too bad Phish did "Kung" the year before because this was a runaway golf cart marathon.
Essentially, this was a killer Phish show in any era, with 2 huge highlights, "Tweezer">"Twist" and "Waves">"Carini." The show was so full of joy and happiness but we still got some evil Phish. So turn it up and dance around to this show. You will be rewarded.
Until next year.
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