[We would like to thank user @ObviousFool (@Nice_Shades on IG), Silas Cole, for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]
Two weeks ago, we couldn’t believe that our first Phish shows in a year and a half were almost upon us; one week ago, we were uncertain if they would even happen, as we watched the Caldor Fire explode toward the shores of Lake Tahoe. But that was far from our primary concern, as we knew thousands of people were in danger of losing everything. As of this writing, officials are “cautiously optimistic” about improving conditions, but the threat remains very high. I urge you to donate whatever you can through The Waterwheel Foundation today. All funds will be donated to the Caldor Fire Fund through the El Dorado County Community Foundation.
And so, it was nothing short of a miracle, made possible by some consummate professionals within the Phish organization, that the shows were relocated to Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, CA. We are beyond grateful.
While Shoreline is brimming with history, it is far from my favorite venue. The lawn is as precipitous as it is vast, and from the back you can hear the freeway over the music. The traffic in and out can be atrocious, as can the lines to get into the venue. The beer prices make baseball stadiums seem reasonable. But because these shows had been relocated, and perhaps because they were midweek, they were far less crowded than previous times that Phish has played. By some accounts, attendance was capped at 12,500, well below the 22,500 that it can fit.
It took virtually no time to park, and less time to get out. The lines to go in were long but moved quickly and smoothly. It was easy to get a spot in the pavilion, or on the very front of the lawn. Beer was free! (just kidding, it was still a $17 tall can). Instead of just making the entire venue a free-for-all GA fiasco, there were wristbands for the 100s and the 200s. We got in line with our crew about 3:30 and got the 100 level wristbands and staked out a lovely spot in the middle of section 102.
The preshow energy was buzzing, and nobody could stop talking about the unbelievable performance we’d gotten to witness the previous night. How could they possibly follow up a show of that magnitude? Were we in for another historic night or would the band be fatigued? Honestly, after the brilliance of 8/31, as my accomplice @cuddlyandmuscular kept saying, we were playing with house money.
After some technical difficulties with Page’s rig, Phish takes the stage about 7:50 and opens with a stellar “Mike’s Song." It doesn’t take long for us to see that the band is locked in right where they left off the night before. Trey plays inspired leads while Page lays down the funky clavinet vibes and Mike and Fish drive a very heavy groove.
Next we are treated to the rare treat of “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday,” a lovely choice for the middle section of this groove. It’s not perfect, but few things are these days, and this is a beautiful rendition of TMWSIY.
The traditional “Avenu Malkenu” follows and, at this point, the energy level is through the roof. But at the end, instead of returning to TMWSIY, in comes “Weekapaug Groove” in a blaze of glory. This is a standard 'paug, never really stretching out but containing plenty of high energy interplay between Trey and Mike.
“Brian And Robert” follows and provides a welcome breather after nearly 30 minutes of high-octane rock and/or roll. A well-played version all around, and the harmonies between Page and Trey are beautiful.
Next up is “Thread," one of my favorite tunes off Sigma Oasis. The song’s odd time signature (15/16) and minor chord progression lead to a wonderfully dark and swampy jam driven by Fish’s rhythmic sludge and accented by Trey’s reverse reverb swells.
“The Wedge” follows, and then it drops seamlessly into “Cities,” the first of the year and the highlight of the first set. Fish and Page lay down a funky soundscape, and it leads to some nice back-and-forth between Trey and Mike. The jam drives forward into a dreamy section as Fish keeps increasing the energy and the whole band reaches a lovely blissful peak. The segue into “Passing Through” is seamless, and the crowd shows their appreciation and approval for the first Kasvot Växt tune of the evening.
“Fluffhead” shows up to close out the first frame, and it's a standard great version, though it does sound like Trey’s been practicing this one more than in recent years. As the band bows and leaves the stage, it’s clear that the Phish from Vermont are locked in and firing on all cylinders.
After the break, we are treated to “The Lizards," taking the opening slot for the first time since 03/01/90 and only the 3rd time that “The Lizards” has ever opened a set. It is indeed a special time to be a Phish fan: anything can happen at any time! “Tweezer” comes next, much to the delight of the crowd, and is a spectacular rendition.
A funky jam builds out of the song proper and features some exploratory playing from Trey, as the groove evolves into a more blissful zone. Page brings in some ethereal synth tones, reminiscent of his work on Maybe We’re the Visitors that shift the jam into a minor rock section that almost sounds like the “Stash” jam from the previous night. After a nice little peak, the whole band backs off and opens up the space, but as they did with 8/31’s girthy “Soul Planet," they clearly avoid taking any exit routes and opt instead to continue exploring. This builds into a dissonant and murky jam that is weird and dark and awesome––quintessential Phish right here. This resolves into another blissful section, before finally transitioning into “Miss You” to give us a chance to collect our thoughts, and our faces off the floor, after 34 minutes of glory.
“Piper” comes next and wastes no time getting to business. Trey shreds like Oroku Saki while Fishman just hammers the kit. Mike holds down the low end while Page fills in the other half of the conversation with Trey. “Twenty Years Later” follows and reopens the murky swamp that we first visited during “Thread".
A short but sweet version of “Twist” sneaks in and gets the crowd dancing again. A nice jam evolves, which features lovely interplay between all four members, and is highlighted by Fishman’s rhythmic mastery. “Backwards Down The Number Line” appears as the set closer, and I am certainly grateful to once again be surrounded by all my friends.
“Life Beyond A Dream” comes in the first encore slot, the first Ghosts of the Forest song of the show. I would’ve been disappointed in the encore selection if I didn’t know that “Tweezer Repirse” was a near-certain follow-up. “Life Beyond a Dream” was quite well played though, and sure enough, “Tweeprise” closed the show, though it might’ve been the shortest version I’ve ever seen.
In the end, for a show where we were playing with house money, Phish delivered the goods. Not every show can have the third longest jam of all time, but a 34 minute Tweezer will cure what ails ya. After the monster they played on 8/31, it would’ve been easy to mail it in and play an average show, but that is not what they decided to do. Instead they ended up delivering what may be the best 2-night run since 6/19-20/04.
It’s been a long year and a half without concerts. While my legs are certainly screaming (through space), and my face hurts from smiling so much, my heart is full. I am grateful for a necessary day of rest before we get back on the train tomorrow in Denver.
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