Phish performs in different places around the country to convince their fans to move there. No doubt that the luxury housing development atop the mountain range behind Chula Vista’s North Island Credit Union Amphitheater was able to advertise breathtaking views *and* the opportunity to listen to a live Phish concert while laying on your deck, totally nude, spun out of gourd without any LiveNation employees to hassle you.
The beauty of the late fall outdoor show is that the concert begins in the dark so the light show is in full force. Palm trees lined the back of the lawn, which was not overpacked like most of the lawns were this summer. A pamphlet from the Twelve Tribes somehow ends up on our blanket.
Phish opens with a very-well-executed “Fluffhead.” After the composition is nailed, a man holds a baby into the air. “Fluffhead!” We are offering you this fluffy-fluffy-fluffy-headed child as a sacrifice to ensure that this is a good show! And it works - approximately four minutes of jamming are added to the tune; the second Type II Fluff ever. The folks at home who haven’t ordered the webcast but tuned in for the first-song-free are getting out their credit cards.
Second is “NICU.” Duh! D’oh! In case you forgot where you are, which we had momentarily. Some people start running to the bathroom (old habits die hard!) but most revel in the energy. If ever there was a show to wear your *hiss* Cactus-printed gear! Cheers when the venue name is sung; who cares if it’s the naming rights purchased by a credit union that’ll be changed by the next time we’re here! “NICU” goes type 1.5! The sacrifice is paying off! And then Type II! Kuroda’s lights bathe the palm trees in teals and purples. “NICU” explores several interesting zones and tones and one little “yeah” sample from Fishman.
“Bye Bye Foot” busts out, which they had sound checked, from an awesome segue. Doncha just love when they do that? This is a better bust than the "BBF" in Providence in 2019 because that one was from a cold start. (Authors note: as I was typing this on my phone, I fat-fingered “cold shart” but autocorrect swooped in and changed it to “cold shirt.” Phew!)
All right enough of that angelic Fishman chanson! “Tube!” It was like we were at a dance party and a Phish concert broke out! Didn’t they jam out “Tube” the last time I was here? Good thing we sacrificed that baby! (Sorry to keep bringing the baby up. In truth I brought the baby to the show, and he wasn’t really sacrificed, he was just sleeping with noise canceling headphones in a Baby Bjorn on my chest). “On a Freeway in Los Angeles!” Wait a minute! That’s where I’ll be, tomorrow morning! But until then... it’s 9pm and they start playing “Slave to the Traffic Light.” My husband gives a thoughtful look: “this is not the set closer.” See the city, see the ZOO: the San Diego zoo, where like many landmarks in Southern California, peacocks roam freely. I love it when the songs double as tourism suggestions.
And my husband was right! But isn’t he always ;) Slow “Llama” - or as I mentioned in my last review when they last played Slow “Llama” - Llama where you can “understand” the lyrics. “How sick would it be if they played fast Llama after it?” my husband asks. To which Phish replies, “Best I can do is ‘Rise/Come Together.’” Trey’s vocal embellishments on this tune get me every time. “NICU” teases abound, dare we call it a fest?
Set break is weird.
Second set opens with the first “No Men in No Man's Land” since the summer. Trey plays one big sustained note and we think we know where this is going. But bliss turns to spacey synth and watery effects. Fishman, for lack of a better phrase, starts going insane. Page sounds like the howling wind. Trey sounds like a ship cracking in half. They cool it down. They spread it around. They drop into “Free.” The people at home who still haven’t bought the webcast but are tuning in for the second free song of the night are in the palm of Phish’s hand! Mike starts slapping the bass. What’s with these guys? They won’t quit! An “NICU” fest! And so much more.
Oh no, they’re playing “Joy.” WoRsT ShOw eVEr. They want us to be happy? Get outta here with all that. Juuuuust kidding. I love “Joy” and I appreciate that Trey shreds several songs in memory of his wonderful sister. But if we can add a bit of audience participation: when Trey sings, “When we were young we thought life was a Game,” we can all yell, “-Hendge!”
Alright, enough sentimentality, it’s time to get SEXY with “Sand.” Crazy loops start going off. Jackets slide off arms and onto the wet grass. A woman is whipping her sparkly feather boa around. “Sand” grooves its way over to “Piper.”
In “Piper” they find the foundation to build up to the biggest blissed out sustain of the night and then a majorly delayed out vehicle with Fish going 90 in a 55. This is only the tip of the iceberg because as they dive deeper they are generating insane amounts of tension as a blurred together and wholly sinister family and then release it in a cataclysmic anti-peak of the wompa-wompa-womp-womp variety. All pretenses of reality are quickly stripped away to reveal a bad ass noise jam with loops, harshness, blue jagged lights, throbbing, whirring, menacing klaxons, and other things that generally melt the human brain. It was such a wild time that they forgot to tease “NICU.”
If you only have eighteen minutes to appreciate Phish today then I must recommend this rendition of “Piper.”
“Scents and Subtle Sounds” was a hilarious call to follow so many overt sounds. This version is adorned in “NICU” quotes and lots of healing sustained notes. We appreciate this sound bath to hose us down with rainbow lights courtesy of one of the most inventive bands ever. In lieu of a traditional big white-light climax, the peaks and white lights pulsate as a siren as U-know-what teases are sprayed everywhere.
Phish leaves the stage, get a green juice and a shoulder rub, and then return to treat us to an encore of the dreamy toilet-paper-and-hand-sanitizer shuffle, “Lonely Trip.” Although the trip we all just shared was anything but lonely.
Trey tells the audience that he loves us and then let’s everyone know he "NICU’s" them.
Some encore song choices mean “thanks for coming” or “sorry we didn’t jam”, while others mean “follow us to the next town and the town after that and give us all your money and scare your friends and family!” In the encore slot “First Tube” is definitely the latter. We all drag our soggy shit-asses up for one more bop. By chance my friend Phunk has been handing out holographic stickers of Trey holding up his guitar in ovation as he does at the end of “First Tube,” and we realize maybe the real child sacrifices were the friends we made along the way.
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