, attached to 2003-08-02

Review by n00b100

n00b100 Set 1: It only takes 2 songs into the 1st set for the band to show they mean business, as Ya Mar drops into a hazy, buzzing jam totally unlike the usually peppy island rhythms of the original song before blooming into some bright (for 3.0) hose and building to a nice up-tempo finish. Lest you think that's the only improv we're getting, though, there are still great versions of Reba (with a beautiful non-Reba groove halfway through), Birds (which never quite breaks free of its usual structure but is full of passionate playing), and LxL to come. The first set is nearly two hours (!), and has a ridiculous amount of great jams to chew on.

Set 2: Swap out a few mid-set songs with #L, 20YL, and, um, Birds, and you could very easily mistake this 2nd set for a 3.0 2nd set. DWD leads the charge, and they crank out the usual powerful DWD jam before mellowing out into a slower groove, Page switching over to piano for a more dramatic feel, and then get down and dirty, Trey's weird guitar tone really adding to the proceedings. Then Trey and Page start building an ugly, hypnotic wall of sound, Mike holding everything together, Fish doing what he does, before things build to a heavy metal finish. I should note that I just described 18 minutes of jamming; it's very much of a piece, so if you're coming into this from either other era of Phish you may be a bit put off, but that's what 2.0 is all about, and with that in mind this is a very enjoyable and powerful jam.

NICU, the ever-rare Brother, and Lawn Boy (!) come up next, then super-rarity Discern (which is fine, but seems more an excuse for Trey to really abuse the hell out of his guitar), but all this is mere prelude to The Most Famous Waves Ever Played (this or the 5/26/11 soundcheck). The actual Waves has a decent mid-song jam, but (much like 8/15/11's also-beloved version), it's what comes afterwards that counts. The band immediately dives into an ambient haze, Page atonally plunking away, Mike firing off some bombs, Trey's playing sparse and contemplative. Everyone pretty much fires off every effect at their disposal (poor Fish has to just rattle his cymbals), building up a particularly torrid horror show on stage. Describing it entirely pointless; it's something that needs to be heard to be believed. This (somehow) naturally leads into Bowie, which is a very nice version that occasionally breaks into major-key bliss, closing out a very fine set.

Set 3: My choice for the best set of 2.0 - better than 6/19/04 II, better than 2/28/03 II or 2/26/03 II, better than 7/30/03 II. Rock & Roll makes its way into a relaxed jam, Trey plugging away (and playing something that sounds like Undermind?) as Fish plays a snappy beat and Page tickles the ivories. It doesn't necessarily explore a ton of ground, but it's catnip for 2.0 lovers, and it segues very neatly into Seven Below, which I will never say no to in a set. -7 drops into a quiet jamming space (some of Mike's best work all show is here), then neatly returns to the main -7 theme, then surprisingly winds into crashing dissonant rocking out before returning to booty-shaking bump-&-grind territory. They then segue gloriously into the old Scents and Subtle Sounds intro (we all agree that we miss this intro and want it back, right?), and Scents itself is exceptionally fiery and charged for a third-set jam, with a return to -7 in the middle for funsies, eventually leading to a massive hose jam that goes into a quicksilver groove and makes a nifty segue into Spread It 'Round. Spread It 'Round is energetic and fun, and then dissolves into another wicked ambient space, from which Bug makes a rather apropos appearance to end the set. If you're a 2.0 connoisseur, this set is manna from the gods - insane song selection, killer jamming, great band connectivity in the segues, and the occasional leap into the void.

Tower Jam: C'mon, like I'm going to do PBP on this. It's an essential jam, everyone needs to hear it, the end.

Final thoughts: For my money, this is the best show Phish played between Fukuoka and 8/15/11. Maybe it's cheating to throw a festival show into the mix, but everything you could ask for from this band is contained in these three sets (and lots of things you'd never think to ask for are contained in the Tower Jam). Exceptional from top to bottom, and Set III is essential for any era.


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