, attached to 2003-07-15

Review by n00b100

n00b100 It's entirely possible that 2003 is an even more divisive year than 1996. There's a compilation of 2.0 jams called "The Oxy Yearz", and the name is significant on two levels - both the insane drug use that permeated the band and the scene during 2003-2004, and the (obviously related) dark, unsettling jamming style the band adopted during the time. Anybody that thinks 2.0 isn't worth listening to is missing out on a LOT, obviously, but they may need a stronger constitution than required for most Phish shows to handle how dark Phish could get (see: 7/30/03's Twist). The IT festival is pretty much the definitive 2.0 show(s) for that reason - an entire year compacted into 6 sets chock full of nasty, gnarly jamming all throughout, the nobody's-looking-right? haze of the soundcheck (black sheep brother to the fabled 5/26/11 Waves soundcheck), and the pure insanity of the Tower Jam. In a way, it can be an easy year to appreciate, but a hard one to love.

And then there's 7/15/03, which...

But let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet. The first set starts off with a fine triptych of songs, then...well, let's just say none of the songs I play are exactly my favorites, but it's a first set, so that's no big deal, and the first review posted here explains the balladry pretty well. But there's still time left in the set, and Phish use it well by giving us a very good, if not top notch, Mike's Groove. Mike's locks into a mid-tempo jam that might be considered prototypical 2.0, never heading for the stratosphere but still plenty full of dynamic Trey playing (and Page really going elbows-on-keys flashy style on the organs). Hydrogen is just fine, and Weekapaug also delivers a fine jam that stays in low throttle but delivers some thrills. You won't reach for this the way you would 7/17/98 or NYE '95 or any of the great Mike's Grooves, but it certainly helps raise the level of this first set.

Then comes the second set, and one of the best one-offs ever: TAB mainstay Mr. Completely, a quite good rock number that deserved more than one outing from Phish. And from that Mr. Completely comes 30 minutes of high class jamming, Trey wringing some outright fugly notes out of his guitar as the band keeps pace with all the noise, picking up and slowing down the tempo at will, Mike & Page in particular doing some real work in the middle section as a hypnotic, claustrophobic funk(!) groove emerges, not as razor-sharp as '97 (though what is?), but compelling all the same (and eminently danceable). Trey starts throwing in some sharp, stabbing guitar lines, and the jam opens back up nicely for some sweet rock heroics.

Then things get weird. From out of nowhere the group rolls into a deliberate, grungy Low Rider, Trey working his effects pedals, the group churning out a very cool instrumental version. The jam peters out, and the band charges into BBFCM, Phish's goofy version of a hardcore song (to me, at least), before segueing into a weird, too-fast Buried Alive (managing to make it sound just as ugly as BBFCM, in a good way, of course), then jumping right back into BBFCM, which leads to Ha Ha Ha for a grand total of 30 seconds, then *jumping right back into BBFCM*, from which out of the muck Mr. Completely triumphantly returns for a nice mini-jam that leads into Spread It 'Round. Then comes a very strong Walls of the Cave, Mike dropping bombs aplenty, Page giving us even more sweet organ work in a particularly busy jam. Golgi > Slave is a nice way to close one of 2003's best sets, a segue-fest on the level of any of the crazed 1994 Tweezers, but with a darker, less goofball innocent feel.

Which then puts this show in a weird spot. In a way, it's almost a man without a country, a big goofy show in a year where goofiness was in short supply, that has little to do with the style of playing that surrounds it. If you want a show that shows you what 2.0 is all about, you'd best look elsewhere (I point you again in the direction of IT). If you want a great, thoroughly enjoyable show, you've come to the right place.


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