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Review by Campster
The creative wave of this tour was unparalleled and this festival, for me, was the high point of the highest point of 3.0.
We rolled in to the Glenn early, but had to hang around Walmart while our ill prepared crew did their shopping. Bummer. This delayed our entrance and we ended up in some serious log jam on the way into the grounds.
Well we made it and set up camp and just cruised through to sunrise enjoying the evening. After a couple hours sleep I was ready for Phish.
Watkins Glenn remains the perfect festival ground, great size, grounds, amenities. Everything close by, but plenty of room to explore. Perfect size as well - it's almost nice they cap it (even though a truly huge festival would be something else).
On to the show.
Set I kicked off with Simple. Great opener and a really great festival tune. Gets the crowd right into it, nice singalong moments and a pretty jam. Oh yea and this one strayed from the typical breakdown/pretty section with Trey and Page just playing off each other. They instead headed for a big old droning jam. It seemed to throb and ebb and flow. Mike was absolutely cranking through the sound system (and just playing unbelievable all night). It was rhythmic and hypnotic but had plenty of direction. What a start! The feeling I forgot indeed.
They wound down and the familiar dog barking and big ol' rock lick of The Dogs. Killer choice and I hadn't heard this one yet. It rocked. Enough said. Perfect choice after that first jam.
TMWSIY >Avenu Malvenu > TMWSIY was an absolute treat. It was also well-played! At this point it already felt like we were in for a legendary weekend. Such a pretty melody.
Free gave us a good shot of Phish rock out and a nice classic tune. As I said, Mike was absolutely cranking (I do feel like they turned him down a bit in subsequent days for some ungodly reason). A standard version, but a perfectly fun rock out. Fit nicely with the Sierra Nevada foams I was enjoying.
Happy Birthday was nice - good family moment - a little insight into how happy the band (and their families!) are to spend a weekend with us faithful. I love the human moments.
The Wedge has always been a favorite of mine, especially in summertime. At a festival? Man it's just such a breezy tune that it reminds you how much Phish time you're going to get. I'll never tire of that amazing drumbeat. Strong, but ordinary version.
Mock Song! Major bust out and took me some time to place it. Nice homage to past festivals in the lyrics from Mike. I had to use the urinals unfortunately here, but it was in and out and I did;t miss much. Stellar!
Roggae has been on a straight hockey stick curve right to the top since 3.0 began. This version was huge, with the band just egging trey on. Just a pristine and peaking climax. Great version - and I've heard some (maybe slightly better ones). This one still gets plenty of spins for me.
Rift was a nice choice, they were doing a good job mixing old and new. This set covered so much history. I really loved that aspect (as a history buff). It was a great insight. They also played Rift pretty well. Sure they usually struggle with it, but it was pretty nice here.
Well Bathtub Gin was up next. I was thinking this would stay within the lines of the big 3.0 peaking versions. Well I was wrong, so wrong, that's why they wrote this song. This is a mammoth version. Yes, I firmly place it among the elite versions. It certainly stands with Went & Riverport as a peer versus a little brother, regardless of your preference for any individual version. They started the jam in just a big open space with some slow and crunchy playing. Just go listen, cuz this one will hit your hard rock, funky dance space, classic blissful vamp up to the hose, and a second glorious peak. It was truly the highest of the highs. All-timer, first ballot Hall of Fame Bathtub Gin.
Overall Set I: Well, that was unreal. They already blew anything from SBIX out of the water (storage jam aside) - and I loved SBIX! Top to bottom you can;t really go wrong here. I guess you could hit next on the Free & Rift?
Highlights: Just get it all - but worship that Bathtub Gin and build a shrine to it.
Well, it was pretty clear this was going to be magic tonight, but you know, there's no guarantees in life. So what did set II hold?
They kicked in with Chalkdust Torture and they let this one breath right away. Well this was big and open and the approach was very unique. They took this sort of relaxed approach that started melodic and went into these middle eastern/halway to the moon esque notes from Trey. Mike was an absolute animal (he was still cranked way up!). This was a really cool jam all in all, without any cliche peak, just totally original and fully connected.
Well they dropped into Ghost - confirming this would be the best Phish show I'd ever seen (until tomorrow). Ghost was really action packed and covered more unique spaces. This wasn't your typical bliss jam, this one was, again, totally original. Lots of effects, lots of good playing by all members. It was a bit short, but man did this move around (in a good way). I heard Trey chording Rock and Roll (which I was certainly not going to complain about). Well they could have pulled off an absolute monster segue with a bit more patience. Instead they pulled off a slightly truncated, but still totally adequate one. I'm really reaching for blemishes, but that was one hell of a Ghost.
Rock and Roll charged in and this was pure high octane Phish. Trey just laid waste to any and all in his path. They slaughtered the peaks and Trey had some cool effects going where rising and falling tones colored the back of his leads. It was like a bomb dropping. After they peaked us into oblivion they dropped into a low key funky jam that was again totally original. It was short lived, but just an awesome, almost reggae vibe that had me thinking of a very slowed down NICU.
Well boom, Fishman sounded off the familiar intro to Harry Hood! Holy moly. Well thank you Mr Miner, this one was a gift from the gods (like the previous tunes). Solid intro, good composed section, and they kicked into the jam in seemingly familiar fashion. Then they just turned left and took us to a swanky, groovy space. Man this was killer. Definite notable Hood. They milked this groovy space for a while and gave us a dance song in an atypical spot. The return to the blissful ending wasn't long or particularly Trey "peaky", but it was just so satisfying and in a way delicate. Another classic.
Well they even tacked on a brief effects jam at the end of Hood (thank you Trey, master of the Boomerang Phrase Sampler). It landed or should I say melted like a pad of butter on a stack of your favorite NY/NJ diner pancakes right into Waste. Normally I'm not looking for that, but this was jut perfect. So perfect here. Trey really took the solo well too. Fine version.
Trey let a little feedback drone as Fishman kicked into the new tune No Man's In No Man's Land. Well maybe it's a disco Dancing' from '77, but this tune skipped the cheesy disco and went straight to the face-melting Phish we no and love. I honestly did;t no this tune could rock so hard. I was absolutely dancing like a fiend. They stretched it out quite a bit too, giving us more multi-peak jamming. They gave us another dose of space at the end. Just enough sort of sound and fog to let us cool off.
They washed over the fog with the delicate introduction to Slave. Well at this point it was high time to soak it all in and reflect. This version was blissful perfection after a very action packed set. They took a nice open and patient approach and let it build organically into a final scintillating peak. Perfection. Smiles all around.
Encore was Farmhouse, which I thought was an ok choice. Something nice and cool and slow to just cool us off.
Well First Tube had me forgetting Farmhouse! Back to camp to keep it going!
Overall set II: Like set I, this is top to bottom Phish. Classic songs new (NMINML, Ghost, R&R, Waste) and old (Hood, Slave, CDT). Don;t skip any of it. Get it all, and enjoy it.
Highlights: Full Set
There's nothing you want to miss from night 1. Until the next night, I considered it the best show I'd seen. Great jamming, perfect song selection, ultimate atmosphere.
4.6/5 This one won't be cycled out of rotation ever.