, attached to 2003-07-21

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo The tour now has a feel of direction. Phish seems to be locked in and prepared/eager/wanting to jam, and the onstage cohesion is starting to show more consistency, rather than sporadic flashes of brilliance. I had never listened to 7.21.03 before this past weekend (but I did peak at the setlist), and in doing so was left with nothing but "What the hell is this going to sound like?" If you are wondering the same thing, good for you, because this show takes us on a journey...

The storied venue pairings of Alpine and Deer Creek always give us something to look forward to - some variation of "all time" shows or jams which we have come to anticipate - and with how the two nights at Alpine shaped up, although not "all time" shows perhaps, but definitely containing some all time jams, the level of stoke was high for THREE nights at Deer Creek.

Cities funkifies things out of the starting blocks and the crowd goes wild! A statement opener with abbreviated funk but overflowing with energy, a tone was set that this night, and maybe this run, would be one of lore. A fiery, straightforward Runaway Jim drops into the two slot and keeps the momentum surge flowing through the venue. Trey kept cycling back, repeating the peak and crushing this "normal but great" version of the fan favorite. A dirty little Meat comes next and continues the funk. A great opening trio! Energy abound! The band was a little off in the start/stop portion of the closing segment, but it was comical rather than grating. It was like they wanted to keep toying with the outro funk, but just... quite... couldn't... make... it... click. No complaints here though. Water in the Sky comes next and continues to pattern of fast-paced, psychedelic jamgrass with Page and Trey trading solos at a blistering pace. Good stuff in here. Stash swirls in next, and this is probably a Stash you've never listened to, and NEED TO .... RIGHT NOW. I was blown away by the tonal shifts and near-major-key jamming this Stash morphs into. When Fish takes over on the woodblock - wowza - they are locked in. This isn't quite Type 2, but not exactly Type 1, but it is most definitely Type 1.68. Stash swoops back into its close after all sorts of creative segments and man, what a jam! Old Home Place provides a nice dance respite before a sloppy Vultures comes and goes. Next up, a smoldering Birds of a Feather! WOW! This thing, along with Stash, goes out there... without really getting out there. It is not Type 1, not Type 2, but encompasses creativity and passion and direction within a 10+ minute framework. They kinda misfire on the ending, but play if off nicely into a mellow outro jam before Mike's Song growls into the mix. At this point, Mike's was a TOTAL surprise. The set was already along and amazing at this point, and to close with a Mike's Groove?!? Mike's was perfunctory awesome, and really who even cares if it was or was not an all time version. There was some confusion at the ending, and, well, it hurt to listen to. They eventually made their way into Hydrogen which was performed well enough. And then we get the bouncey, peppy, spunky, totally dancey Weekapaug Groove! This version in particular features some AWESOME Fish/Mike interplay. The middle groove "Slap Your Monkey Around" (or whatever they're saying) this just too much fun. Then remember this is the first set!!! Bass! Drums! Back and forth! Bounce! Pop! Funk and roll! This Paug has it all. What a way to close a pretty smokin set.

Set 2 starts out where Set 1 left off. A funkier-than-thou Suzy set a great tone for what would hopefully be another great set. Taste takes on a harder edge - a solid version that loses traction in the end - it still provides a boost early in set 2. With all due respect, I still firmly believe 2.14.03's Taste is the creme d'la creme (I made up that spelling - I am not sorry French people) of Tastes in 2003. All the others, while energetic in their own right, all seem to kind of fall apart in the end. This one, although rocking to start out, loses cohesion at the end. Oh well. Taste fades into a really bluesy, soft intro of 46 Days. 46 Days can start out like power rock song, a funky dance party, or in this case, a little bluesy number. How intriguing! Right from the get go, this 46 Days is going places. I thought to myself NUMEROUS times during the jam, "This is the harbinger of IT Ghost and IT 46 Days." That deeply gritty, insanely trippy, caustically gnarly sound that envelopes you in equals parts awe and fear. It takes you places. It takes you deep down the rabbit hole. And you think to yourself, "Tell my wife I love her very much (she knows!)" What a musical excursion this is. You will not dance your face off, but you will stop what you're doing and lose yourself in the abyss that this jam becomes. Really cool stuff. It slinks into Tweezer, eventually, welcome-ly, and hopefully this is when the real dance party starts. Unfortunately, the all-star on-paper trio of Tweezer > 2001 > Limb by Limb falls flat. As individual songs and as 1-2-3 punch, the set looks great (on paper) but sounds directionless and lost. Who knows, maybe the band freaked themselves out after that 46 Days. Good Times Bad Times had a bit of a false start, capping off the formless closing segment of the show. A pedestrian Loving Cup > Tweeprise closed out the evening with a mixed bag of emotions.

This show has many bright spots and a few shadowy areas. The first set is unequivocally better than the second, for starters. The first set has energy and bounce, the second set has a quagmire of psychedelia. The second set has an mind bending jam in 46 Days, the first set has inspiring, fun jams in Weekapaug and Stash. An interesting show, to say the least. One that represents some of the best and some of the not-so-great elements of 2003 Phish. There is much to hang their hats on though, so let's forget some of the weirdness and see if this momentum carries onward to the next two nights at Deer Creek.

Must-hear jams: Stash, Weekapaug Groove, 46 Days
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Birds of a Feather, Suzy Greenburg, Taste


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