Saturday 08/26/2023 by phishnet


[We would like to thank user Mgolia6 (Matthew Golia) for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]

While I am grateful for the opportunity to recap this show, I would have preferred that Phish not have to perform a benefit concert and that upstate New York and Vermont had not been ravished with storms and flooding. That being said, hats off to Phish, the band and organization, Waterwheel (and by proxy The Mockingbird Foundation and all of the .net volunteers) for their tireless efforts to support their community and the communities on every tour stop. Please, where possible, donate to help uplift and empower others.

235 years ago, in the Spring of 1788, a young Gideon Putnam was driven from his home in Bemis Heights New York by torrential flooding. He was rescued from the floods by his neighbor, Zophar Scidmore, and his sailboat, yes, a sailboat, in the middle of upstate New York. When the flood waters finally receded, the 25-year-old Putnam left Bemis Heights, following an old Native American trail to Saratoga Springs...and the rest, as “THEY” say, is (p)history!

Now, if not for that catastrophic flood, Gideon Putnam may have never come left his Bemis Heights home, taken risks to build hotels, tube the mineral springs, and create the hamlet of a town that is Saratoga Springs. And if it weren’t for the recent floods, Phish would not be in town and I would not be here click clacking away at the ole word processor, sipping on LEMONADE to recap the deluge of sonic brilliance that rained down upon SPAC last night.

© 2023 PHISH Jake Silco
© 2023 PHISH Jake Silco

So as Phish took the stage at 8:05 PM EST, it was equally fitting that we were treated to the familiar opening notes of “Kill Devil Falls”, presumably, as a nod to the myriad of watery themes converging on SPAC: Gideon Putnam, this benefit show, and the rain that dumped all day in the southernmost foothills of the Adirondacks. KDF bled into a sinewy type 1 affair, after the band scraped away the rust, and set the tone for the first set, evaporating and then distilling back into the song proper, complete with a Power Chord outro from Trey.

With little hesitation, the wacka wacka funk licks that introduce “The Moma Dance” erupted with a slightly extended intro, more rust shed, and then as the song grew to its gradual conclusion, Trey signaled for an extension and the moment “not to end” and whole band interplay ensued. At just over 13 minutes, this Moma flirts with ecstasy, signaling that this benefit show is not going to be some “greatest hits affair” and where many “jammed out” Moma’s dissolve into the ether, this one gets the full return to “oz” treatment, the cap tightly placed on this funk bottle.

Ocelot” slinks from the shadows and keeps with the blues-funk-liquid tone the band has eased into. Trey quickly takes hold of this jam and introduces the quintessential tensions and release Type I fire that builds to a semi-climactic crescendo before drawing the song to its conclusion.

After a quick acknowledgement of the evening’s purpose from Trey, “The Wedge” takes the highway about ¾’s of the way to the great divide but doesn’t “build” upon the pyramidal construction of the first quarter of the show. While the tightest of the songs played thus far, Wedge wedged a slight divide in the set-flow, sticking to its usual self, keeping the energy high while not soaring to any great heights.

From the silence, “Mull” jars to life keeping with the seemingly awkward song flow, though any rust had been completely shed at this point. As if the band caught wind of my questioning of the questionable set flow, they made sure to jolt me from that train of thought and a driving rhythm was built, keeping with the “Mull” theme, Fishman primarily on high hat as the band slipped into a groove that was so damn catchy. Fishman sticking with the high hat, little grooves etched and Trey now playing with some effects before Page takes hold, we are not mulling around anymore. Trey goes full dial up modem momentarily before Mull is slightly reprised to its conclusion.

PYITE” erupts from the ashes of “Mull” with a purpose and intensity that can only be resolved by listening to it through a pair of headphones. The bass feels like it is jumping from one ear to the other and though the build is quick, the build is lethal. The "Landlady" is tight and crisp, rust has dissolved, and now all that is resonating from the stage is pure sonic joy.

As the dissolution of PYITE began, the pure BASS fire intro that is “Sand” explodes and I am left thinking that there was an intent and purpose to this entire set. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but I am getting flooded with the felt-sense of its purpose. This is not going to be a throwaway Sand. As we achieve lift off, this Sand gets otherworldly, namely to “Oz” as a somewhat unfamiliar tease begins to take shape. It is so distinct and yet just out of reach, but Trey is playing the shit out of it…(I’ll be the first to admit I had no clue it was “We Welcome you to Munchkinland”) I wouldn’t even call this a tease because, aside from the missing lyrics, we get a good minute of this theme. The little house that is SPAC dropped directly on the wicked witch, ushering in the lollipop guild. It was full blown OZ! Then, full on drop back into Sand…We’re not in toga anymore!?

At this point I am thinking, lets just call this a set, and let me find my brain…but NO…they let “Rock and Roll” rip and I am now floating in the silver lining of cumulus numbus. I am trying to remove felt-sense from objective viewership but I am consumed by Bliss Brain. This RnR doesn’t go distances, it doesn’t hit the 2011-08-05 high water mark, but Type-I it does; full exclamation point on the set.

With Set 1 in the books, the band has made it abundantly clear; this isn’t some charity bit gig, citing multiple moments from set 1 (you find them, I am focused on driving forward…dear lord is it 3AM). I was hoping for a very specific theme to present itself. But one must look forward to see the past.

Evolve” opens the second frame and I can see shaking heads across the entire pavilion. Not in dissatisfaction, but in the “why isn’t this Tweezer?” kind of way. A few minutes pass and shaking heads turn to bobbing heads as Evolve…well yes, Evolves the mindsets and facial expressions of the audience into grinning fiends. While it does little in the way of exploration, yay, nothing, it gives way to “A Wave of Hope” and fuck me running, this is when shit gets interrasante!

Less than 7 intrepid minutes into AWOH and groggy bass lines mix with synths, pedal effects, alluding to the swampy AF conditions throughout the venue. Blips and bops communicate effectively across the stage as driving bass lines disintegrate into keyboard fills, guided by another ride on the higher register of Fishman’s drum kit. Pure and utter grog permeates the pavilion as a distillation occurs, slowly drawing more silence between each note. Trey throws a few sonic loops and the oft-times lacking, but always desired, whole band PATIENCE lingers as the jam elevates near bliss (but more Allman Brothers-esque) until a muted plinko outro gains hold. A wet-grog electric tone grips bringing the climax to the jam and I am certain no one knows where this bad boy is headed. Until we know…

The critical me says that this transition into Simple could have been smoother. It felt like my 3-year-old seeing a toy excavator and rushing toward it, disregarding anything and everything in his way. So much patience existed leading up to this point, why not just be even more patient? But all is salvaged when one 20+ minute jam EVOLVES into another one. Is it Dick's Simple, the fuck if I know…but how often do we get back to back 20 minute jams of substance? This Simple gets distilled down to basic building blocks of life and, sorry if I am overusing the term, but it gets groggy, muddled, dingy (and I mean these as terms of endearment) before the grog somehow becomes bliss grog: this is a new type of Major Key bliss jam led by Mike’s low bass undertones. Then shit gets downright eerie. Cue me hiding under my seat in section 14 row CC. They could have played the last 30 seconds of this jam on repeat for the entire show and I would have been content…just saying.

As “Fuego” devolves from the electric swamp my mind keeps wandering back to the MSG Fuego but I lose that train of thought in the “Oh Oh” sing along, remembering that “I” said “Judge not lest ye be judged” and I remember that Fuego is just a fucking awesome song regardless of its depth or breadth.

Then Fuego bleeds into a "Chalk Dust Torture" that is a must-listen. What happens in 11 minutes in this Chalkdust is like someone sprinkled a slight dusting of LSD on your average CDT and it somehow transformed into the CDT of your dreams. Call it microdosed, I would venture a guess that we will be reliving this CDT on Phish Radio and LivePhish for lifetimes to come (complete with We Welcome you to Munchkinland tease). The modulation of this song goes from analog CDT to Electric CDT to lysergic CDT and then wavers in this dosed state peaking and repeaking. Did I say FUCK ME RUNNING! And just like that, 2 sets of Phish, wax bled, stamp sealed.

A now elegiac crowd waits heavy hearted until the band saunters back on stage for the encore. Wasting little time, we’re are adrift in the "Velvet Sea" of patient playing, a reminder of the high and low point of Coventry, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but the very subtle band interplay here is unlike any other version I recall; like each bandmate finishing the other’s thoughts in notes, It is slight and maybe I am reading into things, but, man, let them play Velvet Sea!

And it ain’t over. As the tidal wave of Velvet Sea washes over the crowd, we are reminded that we need not take everything seriously, but, we must “Always remember where you were!” We read into a lot of Phish Lyrics. I cling to the fact that Phish tells it to me like it is. Whether it’s a “Cool it Down”, or a “Bug”, or a “Rock and Roll”, or a "SANTOS". I happily lap it up because of nights like these!

As I glided out of SPAC last night, riding the wave of emotion from a next level show, I was reminded that I am so lucky to have this band in my life. I was riding the felt-sense of having experienced (and the chance to recap) an upper echelon Phish show, reminiscing along the way the joy and connections that this band has brought me over the years. See y’all tonight, section 13 row QQ!

If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.


, comment by Henrietta11
Henrietta11 As always Golia, a job well done. Thank you kindly for your insight as somehow you manage to catch some of my exact feelings in writing. You might feel overwhelmed by now wanting to introduce the 3-year old to the Wizard...but, I would hold off for a few years. Enjoy...
, comment by Phishtime
Phishtime Thanks for the great review! Say whatever you want about the rest of it, but the greatness of that Chalkdust alone makes it a great show. (I felt similarly about the MSG Llama.) Another similarity between the two songs is a super, screeching high note that swoops up from Trey near the end of his solo.Is that just feedback, or a pedal? Either way, amazing!

Also, someone with more music theory knowledge than me, please explain this: The whole middle section sounded like it was played in a minor key (or some different key), but it wasn’t a “type II” Chalkdust. It was totally unique to my ears, and so I will definitely be listening again. Have fun Mgolia6!
, comment by davethewall
davethewall Excellent review of an excellent show. I agree with every word!
, comment by pureguava
pureguava Loved your Simple description. Spot on read.
, comment by climberForbin
climberForbin Sometimes Phish prances through a rainy drizzle with us, other times we skip through puddles together. There’s even times when we’re getting hosed down and drenched. But Friday night Set II we got thrown into a Class V whitewater river and joyously road the rapids all the way to a Velvet Sea.
, comment by vermonster802
vermonster802 Alternate review title: This Is What SPAC Smells Like
, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 @vermonster802 said:
Alternate review title: This Is What SPAC Smells Like
This was such an obvious miss, in retrospect, and deserves to be the title, reinforced by the universe, the following night, when I literally saw someone with this shirt. +1 to an excellent call out.
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