, attached to 2003-08-03

Review by Anonymous

(Published in the second edition of The Phish Companion...)

"Good times, bad times," is probably the best way to sum IT all up. The only qualifying point I would make is that the greater the contrast of highs and lows, the more rewarding the experience. IT had its problems on all fronts, from ungodly traffic (you don't want to know), to miles of mud (we're talking knee deep, get your foot stuck, this doesn't smell like mud, mud), to the occasional jam that went nowhere, and all the tunes that didn't get played. But its a waste of time talking about all that, because when IT was good, it was really really good, and when it was, IT was AWESOME. I promise I'm telling IT like IT was.
Sunk city, 96.1 the Bunny, and the Runaway Jim 5k Memorial were all non-show elements of IT to be incredibly proud to be a part of, even if you were just laughing at the 16, 000 balls, spacing out to the soundcheck in traffic and rocking to Kevin's always amazing archive show (anyone else remember the 11/11/98 “Halley’s” being that good?), or cheering on the runners. All of the festivals have had these kinds of moments (I've yet to miss one), and they never cease to make me feel proud of Phish scene, despite its faults.
The music? Anyone who expected Phish to not stay with some of the tour's trends still has a little to learn. There was an increasing sense towards the end of this tour that the band wanted to make it clear that yes, they know what they are playing, what they haven't played, and that you know what?: they're in charge. ("Everybody knows it's not the tune that counts, but IT".) Sure there were moments when I would have liked to hear a different tune, a longer jam, but isn't that always the case? If I gloss over a song here, assume that its par for the course in terms of post-Hiatus Phish. I'm going to mention the good stuff so you'll know what to hear first.
I've got “Ya Mar” -> “jam” -> “Jim” written down. Full on exploratory jam out of the end of “Ya Mar” to get things going after the rocking Bag ("let's get the show on the road") opener. Intricate, original, soaring, and as slick a slide into “Jim” as I've ever heard. The first set was actually perfect in the early goings. “Reba” was absolutely gorgeous, with Trey going out away from the standard “Reba” jam on numerous occasions. The band appeared to have ended the song and to be deciding what else to play, only to come back with the whistle minutes later. Some of you might have noticed that they've been doing some wicked stuff to “Birds” lately, and this version will knock you on your ass, guaranteed. Never a dull moment in it.
Now I'm fairly certain the bunch of us in the first three or four rows weren't the only ones responsible for the “Meatstick”. There was a sign somewhere as well (alas, my “Psycho Killer” sign will have to make another appearance, but I didn't really expect them to play it.) I guess a lot of us wanted to hear “Meatstick”. And rightly so! I love the “Meatstick”, you see, plain and simple. I love the lyrics, I love the song, I love the jam potential (check out 7/15/99). Another long pause ended with Trey coming up to the mic and saying "We'd like to honor your request because ...". He was cut off by massive cheers, and started to chuckle, so I guess we'll never know why. But no matter. A beautiful version, complete with Japanese lyrics (and no teaching of the dance to get in the way). I taught the dance to as many people as I could, by example, as I went. Mike and Page were taking off when Trey seemed to want to end the jam. Still a fantastic version, and made my set. Standard fare from there on.
Set II saw a “Disease” with lots of potential go nowhere too special, and an “NICU” that was sloppy until Mike took it over in full force. Highlight of the set was probably the tiny jam out of “NICU” into “Brother”. Yes, they played it in Starlake. But it rocks, I loved it, and hadn't seen it since the Clifford Ball, so I was happy. “Waves” ended and slid into a very long and nice spacey jam that turned into a short “Bowie” intro. “2001” was on the tip of it (all weekend, it seemed). “Bowie” was the short and sweet one they've been doing. Trey would seem like he was about to take things up and out, and then deliberately return back to the “Bowie”. Ending nailed. Average set.
I need to hear Set III again. A few times. First thing I'll say is they didn't stop once, with perfect segues all the way through. “Rock n' Roll” was just that (at its best) for a while, then elaborate and bouncy, then “Seven Below”ish, then rocking again, then slid into “Seven Below” nicely a la Alpine. The rocking jam had “Can't Your Hear Me Knocking”-esque moments. “Scents” was great (again, a flawless segues) and then came back to the “Seven Below” theme again for another nice jam segment. I love “Bug”, but it didn't work for me as a closer here.
The old school encore made everyone happy, after three new "S" songs dominated Set III. It was a nice nod to the past. Trey got a little chatty while they were deciding what to play, and made a few comments about the old, the new, and something about "pissing on the present", if I'm not mistaken. At this point I had had a good time, but between the traffic and the mud, and with Nassau having been the last show I had seen, I wanted more. A lot more. (Don't worry, I got it...)
A late night set anyone? After five festivals and three late night jams, and never a trip to Limestone without one, I was ready at 2 to find IT. It wasn't hard. I don't think it makes too much sense to describe IT. Visually, let me just say that I have seen a spaceship, and aliens, and that more importantly, I was completely sober when I did. Oh, and the hour long jam was f — ing amazing. I loved the ambient jam from Lemonwheel (I think its one of the best things they've done) and this was like an original sequel that just took things one step further. The average show was more than compensated for between 2am and 3 am on Saturday night.
Andrew Rose


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