Saturday 07/16/2022 by phishnet


[David Goldstein, this recap's author, is a contributor and co-host of the Beyond the Pond podcast on Osiris Media. He usually wears Whalers gear on lot. -Ed.]

It could be nostalgia creeping in, but something about seeing Phish in New England in 2022 just hits a bit differently. This is especially so in Massachusetts, a state so integral to the band’s evolution; The ‘89 Paradise gig! Multiple New Year’s Shows in Boston and Worcester! They did a Gamehendge here once! And now that the nexus of the Phish kingdom has been effectively relocated two and a half hours south, they seem to play Massachusetts far less than they used to (you brahs too fancy for a heady Worcester run now?)

© 2022 PHISH - Rene Huemer
© 2022 PHISH - Rene Huemer

All of which is why we’re more than willing to schlep to a traffic hazard in the middle of the state for a taste of how things used to be. And what the Xfinity Center lacks in creature comforts it makes up for in history; one of the earliest amphitheater gigs in 1993, the aforementioned Gamehendge show, legendary two night runs throughout the 90’s, and uh…..the only time anyone’s ever heard “Dr. Gabel.” None of this makes the food options any less lacking, nor the roof less rusty, and if you don’t make a mad dash for the lots before the encore concludes, you’re probably still there. Great Woods has been here since 1986, and the ol’ girl feels like it. But there’s still some sort of unspoken allure about their first appearance here since 2016, so we press on!

© 2022 PHISH - Scott Marks
© 2022 PHISH - Scott Marks

The first set of this show can be succinctly described as ‘first set warhorses played very well.’ There’s very little not to like about a set one bounty consisting of “Everything’s Right,” “Wolfman’s Brother,” and “Bathtub Gin,” in addition to a perfectly fast version of “Maze” that elicited a shit-eating grin from one Mr. Anastasio, coupled with his cheeky declaration that ‘its back!’ The “Everything’s Right” was a particularly excellent version; modulating to the key of D for a smooth watery jam akin to “Theme From the Bottom,” with Trey being an unselfish compatriot content to play rhythm guitar while Page communed with aliens. This gave way to near-”Manteca” riffage and generous radio rock peaks before segueing somewhat curiously into “Rift.” The “Bathtub Gin,” is both unhurried and pleasantly spacey before Jon Fishman’s double time barbarism in the final three minutes, and the set featured something of a bonus closer in “Rock and Roll,” because why the hell not? The latter brought back memories of the R and R encore at the Great Woods show on 7/12/99, in which my buddy got super excited that Phish was covering Jane’s Addiction (who covered the song on their first album), and I didn’t have the heart to tell him how extremely wrong he was.

© 2022 PHISH - Rene Huemer
© 2022 PHISH - Rene Huemer

When the second set began with “Mike’s Song,” the setlist nerds amongst us got excited at the possibilities of a ‘Paug-less Mike’s, given that it’s near constant companion was played as a stand-alone jam the night before. So the ensuing “I Am Hydrogen” goes into a song other than “Weekapaug Groove” for the first time since 2.0 (if memory serves!), [10/07/1999 -Ed.] thus completing a backwards Mike’s Groove stretched out over the course of two nights; like these guys are taking weird inspiration from the Disco Biscuits. The ensuing “Carini” is punchy as hell, veering from “Landlady”-style calypso to demented funk, eventually seguing into “Blaze On,” albeit with Mike playing an impossibly complex slap-funk bassline having next to nothing to do with a traditional “Blaze On.” An early recurring theme in the jamming on this tour seems to emphasize segues at all costs, sometimes forcing Trey to fit square pegs into round holes, with the result being interesting novelties like an avant-funk “Blaze On.”

Photo used with permission - Scott Marks
Photo used with permission - Scott Marks

And let’s talk about Mr. Gordon a little bit; whether due to new gear, or simply being placed louder in the mix, he displayed levels of rounded thump-age far more akin to vintage Les Claypool or the tones of Geddy Lee on latter day Rush albums than I had ever heard before. It’s the aural equivalent of squishing ripe tomatoes, and was the impetus for the extremely fine 38 minutes of music that comprised the “Carini” > “Blaze On” > “Golden Age” > “The Howling” centerpiece in the second set. The devotion to a single groove throughout, and the band’s willingness to let things marinate was rather impressive, and one of these days I’ll realize that the introduction to “The Howling” isn’t actually “Emotional Rescue” (though I take zero issue with the lithe ‘2001’-style funk of “The Howling”).

© 2022 PHISH - Rene Huemer
© 2022 PHISH - Rene Huemer

The set ending “Harry Hood,” was emblematic of the show as a whole; being an old standard played very well, but short of mindblowing. The second night of Great Woods showcased a version of Phish playing at a very high level with plenty of ‘good’ scattered throughout, and yet it remains clear to me that they’re still getting warmed up, and I can’t help but think this show will likely end up a footnote by the time Labor Day weekend rolls around, which speaks volumes as to the highs they’re capable of reaching in 4.0. And an encore of “Bouncin,” “NICU,” and an elegant “Slave” is to be celebrated, though determined to be in bed no later than 12:30, we admittedly heard the opening “Slave” chords from the inside of our car. Call it paying the Great Woods tax.

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, comment by mikec
mikec Man, to care more about traffic rather than staying for the entire encore. That must be a strange existence. But hey, you do you! It’s not like you could hang out with friends, enjoy a cold beverage, and just come back down to earth all while the traffic thins out. Nah, then what would you put in your “review”!?!?
, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 Whoa man, haters gonna hate, eh? No need to go for the throat on that comment MikeC. The good news is that the lawn at great woods and the parking lot get the some amplification, LOL…so hearing the encore from the lot is akin to hearing from the lawn. Hunkering down in middle Mass post a great woods show certainly does mean you aren’t getting back to the hotel until dawn!!

Anyway, enough about a small anecdote, I thought the review was solid, great little lead in story to set the stage and loved the commentary on the music. I was confused by the reverse mikes comment. Reverse mikes would be them playing Weekapaug, then hydrogen then mikes right. I get the order part but not the reverse.

Anyway thanks for taking time to share in the groove (had to drop that one in there). I won’t knock you for heading out early, I too have caught a slave in the lot, and have lived to tell the tale.

Mahalo Nui,
, comment by wilson69
wilson69 Great Woods is a New England legend. Saw them there twice in '00 (ROADRUNNER and I remember liking the Disease and Whats the Use), '09 (that slick Jibbo, Taste>Makisupa>Caspian to close out the first set, and nothing more fun than a Fluffhead and Mule), '10, (a very loud Golgi sing along and yes enjoyed the Gabel>Antelope a lot), and most of all '11 show (on rail right in front of Page for Instant Karma, particularly good Divided Sky, that whole R&R>Mango>Bug run, Lets Go Bruins chant before Pebbles, and super teasy Antelope)
, comment by Bogotafee5514
Bogotafee5514 Great review from someone that knows their history and their specific home region of Phish. Haters gonna hate. I love this new Mike you speak of. Right now I’m picturing the sound of tomatoes wilting in 110 degree heat. Always turn Mike up in the mix has been a truism throughout most of my adult life. Ain’t nothing I can say, ain’t nothing I can do…
, comment by petestick
petestick Great review. I loved this show from Page-side in section 3 and I'd put it near the top of the pile of shows that I've seen at Great Woods. However, I'd agree with you that from an objective standpoint it's probably average-great. I also would've liked to see some deeper jams in the second set, but the flow, energy and tones were phenomenal, and I couldn't complain at all about the song choices despite some Trey-DHD (and I tend to complain). What sets this show apart for a fairly jaded old like me is that the newer songs I hadn't seen (Howling, Wave of Hope) were well placed and well played and flowed perfectly with the set. There was also a noticeable lack of energy-killing band conferences and quasi-spiritual ballads. No bathroom breaks. No filler, all killer. To paraphrase Lisa Simpson discussing jazz, sometimes its the notes they don't play (looking in your direction Rise/Come Together, ALBTD, etc).

Great Woods tax is perfect and I plan to steal it next time they come around, hopefully 2023. I custied up for the $75 white lot because I needed to be able to get out immediately in case my wife went into labor. Worth it for the piece of mind and to enjoy the catharsis of a perfectly placed Slave before heading back to the default world. Enjoy summer tour everyone! I plan to couch tour a few shows, might let the baby come if he promises not to talk during the music.
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