, attached to 2003-08-03

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo The first night at IT was one of the most complete and mandible-unhinging festival shows/nights I have ever listened to. Big Cypress notwithstanding because it's Big Cypress, IT Night 1 as a single night of a festival is up there with 8.22.15 and 8.17.97, and depending on how you take your aci... er, tea, any one of those aforementioned nights has a legit argument to claim, "I am #1, betch." So, it's not like 8.3.03's expectations are high or anything... ahem...

Daniel Saw the Stone was a great way to kick off the finale at Limestone. Fun, sing-along-y, and just the right amount of bustout, even though it was played only a week before (but not since 280+ shows before that!) DSTS immediately kicked off what we would hope to be another non stop discomeltdanceparty. Saw It Again looks good on the setlist, but doesn't sound that good to the ears. The opening was off, the initial volley of refrains was off, the whole thing didn't really click until the last minute or so... it was a little underwhelming, especially since the DSTS/Saw it Again pairing looks so good on paper. Punch You in the Eye drops in next and feels a little apprehensive. I could guess why - probably because of the foul-ups during the previous song - I could imagine the band had imagined the show starting out with a little (read: a lot) more energy and connectivity. Nonetheless, PYITE gets a foot hold and is performed standard-good. Okay, this feels better now! Let's go with............. SURVEY SAYS! ......... Army of One? (loud buzzer noise). Yeah, uh, no one chose Army of One. Swing and a Miss. Now, I am not usually a fan of this song in and of itself (sorry Page), and this version is really uninspiring, even for a song I don't like. HARRUMPH! Okay, so at this point last night we had a smokin Bag, the best Ya Mar ever that segued cleanly into a smoldering Jim. And tonight we have... this. What in the wide wide world of sports is going on here?!? Thankfully Chalkdust came to the rescue! Whew! This Chalk Dust might be one of Phish's most polarizing and baffling jams to date. Clocking in at a solid 25 minutes, you'd say, especially seeing it in the first set of a festival, "ZOMG 25 Min Chalk Dust put all the droogz in my face let's daaaaaaaaaaaaaaance!!!!!!" If that was you, you're not wrong. But, more accurately, you're not right. This Chalk Dust might be the most boringly-good 25-minute version of any song, ever. I mean, I can't hate on it because it is cohesive and strong throughout. ::pendulum swings:: Yet, it oscillates very little - never really getting to type-2 and always kinda sounding like Chalk Dust. It contains very few "WOW!" moments/grooves. ::pendulum swings:: But is always remains kinda interesting, like they're *just about* to break it out of the framework and really go after it! ::pendulum swings:: But, they never do. They toy around with this quasi-CDT groove for, like, 20 minutes. ::pendulum swings:: But it wasn't "bad" by any measurement. It's hard being a Phish fan sometimes. I mean, we need to complain about something, but I don't know if I can complain about this Chalk Dust or not. HARRUMPH! So that happened, and an abbreviated, verse-missing Wilson came next, prompting some fun banter from Trey as well as a Fluffhead chant from the crowd, which spawned the now famous, the infamous, El Guap... wait, no, "Mike says no." (anyone that's playing along at home, how many classic movie reference have I included thus far?). You can hear the crowd go OOOHHHHAAAAAHHHHHHH and essentially say haha lol but "fuckyoutrey". Undaunted, Trey launches into, kinda hilariously, Mike's Song. This version is smokin hot and really rages, especially for a year when Mike's Song had a wide-range of jamming types (see: 7.9.03). Love this "normal" fiery version though... it's how Mike's Song is *supposed* to be played. A well played Hydrogen evaporates into Weekpaug Groove. This bouncy, peppy Weekapaug follows a similar structure to 7.15.03's and 7.9.03's (the latter being my personal favorite). But, it also follows the same dynamic as the Chalk Dust from earlier in the set. That is to say, this Weekapaug is boringly good, and for the same reasons I listed for that CDT. This first set has been a little confusing, a little off-kilter, a little fun, and a little great. Does that even make sense? No? Yeah, I agree.

Good thing we have two sets left, right? Yup! Mellow Mood gets a great crowd response to open set 2. Totally loose, for some reason this Marley cover jsut fit. No idea how to identify my concrete feelings for this as an opener, but it worked, and worked really well. You could feel the happiness is oozed as the crowd sand along. Good stuff here. No more than one second after it ended, the sneaky intro to Ghost started. Right from the get go, this version had patience and purpose - it was palpable - something was about to happen. Something good. The song itself was laid back, breezy, and soft. It was as if the band themselves were preparing for the journey this version would take us on. And what a journey! That loop Trey creates, that, "Wooooo-WOOooooOOOoooo..." that is the cartilage-based back bone of this jam is eerily beautiful. It sticks around for a solid 10 minutes, over which the band builds and builds. Patient. Hazy. The jam grows. The haze starts to burn off. The sun shines. The tempo picks up. Fishman lays a foundation. Mike anchors the band. Page's piano riffs climb! Trey's guitar starts to scream! Off we go! At about the 11 minute mark things get very serious. A torrent of musical euphoria, Phish builds and builds! They hit a peak! Again and again striking! This Ghost is not the stuff of nightmares, it is the stuff of your very warmest dreams! But wait. The sun starts to set. Darkness calls. Fear broods. The haze returns, with vengeance. And the jam slips into oblivion. Whoa. Are we in space? Are we inside some sort of nuclear reactor? These sounds... these mechanized, pulsing, noises emanating from the loud speakers... Phish is making these? Wow. Then... a beat. Fishman starts back up, Trey starts to lick. Mike pulls us back to Earth with the gravity of his modulus. Page pulls us the other way. Battle! Will good prevail? It will! Softly sprinkling notes here and there, Trey tip toes through the atmosphere, guiding our intrepid band and fans alike on a journey the likes of which were, literally, unheard of until this moment. The Earth is in the window - oceans blue, mountains rise, clouds morph - and we land, right on those mountains in the clouds, right into Mountains in the Mist. Amazing. AMAZING! What a one-two pairing, this Ghost and Mist. What a compliment to the other! Mist was beautifully played, and thankfully, tastefully played so we could put our faces back on... no, never mind, they're gone forever. You;re welcome, space. Pebbles and Marbles was another A+ song selection after Mist and this was a RAGING version! 12 minutes if it was soaking wet, this version is white hot! Trey takes the reigns does not relent! A huge peak at the end and, man, what a set this is shaping up to be. Did Gene Hackman reprise his Hoosiers role and give Phish a pep talk at setbreak? Yes. Yes he did. And now YEM?!? Get outta town! Another perfectly placed, perfectly played song to add to this set. YEM is fast and fierce. The jam is bountiful and ferocious, taking no abbreviations other than in someone's setlist notes. It hits a frenzied, chaotic peak and settles into a syncopated bass and drums which relents into a standard vocal jam which then turns into anything but standard as they started harmonizing the Chariots of Fire theme song. Amazing. These guys are just too cool. Trey announces the winners of the Runaway Jim 5k, the crowd cheers, and Loving Cup puts about 10 exclamation points on the set. Amazing, amazing set of music.

So at this point, we are 5 sets deep. And of those 5, 4 have been all-stars. So now, the finale is upon us. What do we even expect after how brilliant this festival has been? Let us sojourn on to find out.

Well, terror. Pure terror. This 46 Days is terror. Jumped right into that, didn't you Funky? Yes. Yes I did. The jam breaks from the mold, *immediately* and... I mean I can't even say it takes a left turn... it like, leaves this dimension entirely. It travels along the Z axis to who knows where. For as much as I could write about the Ghost from the preceding set because of how cohesive and mind-melting it was, the less I can write about this 46 Days because of how consistently menacing and darkly-psychedelic it was. It. Is. A. Trip. Plain and simple. If you feel like going down the rabbit hole, place yourself alone in a dark room, with headphones, and hope for the best. 38 minutes of WTF. 38 minutes of "Am I die?" 38 minutes of, for someone not in attendance (me), can we go home now? I don't mean this is a boring or condescending way, I mean this in that this jam takes a mental toll on you. You will need a break after it's done.... yet it is only (heh... only) the first song of the set. Julius starts up from the deafening silence (even though the crowd was cheering) that 46 Days left as a void. And this Julius is EXACTLY what the doctor ordered. Up tempo and bright, Trey charged ahead and nailed his solo and peaks during this Julius. Fan or not (generally speaking) of this song, I urge you to seek this version out, as it is tight, fast, and great! Huge peaks and even bigger energy, this Julius filled us back up after 46 Days sapped us dry. So what comes now? What next? How do we deal with this mental tug of war Phish is playing with our brains? Lizards! Are you kidding?! Lizards!!!! I mean... this late in the festival/show/night/set... LIZARDS!!! And it was good. Very, very good. Secret Smile had no business being there, but whatever. Antelope was also played very very good-ly. A jam that ventures into type 1.5 space before climbing the normal frenetic scale, this was about to be a standard-great-plus Antelope, but they really missed the landing... like, badly. Oh well. Trey thanks the crew and sounds... I dunno... relieved, tired, ready to go... all of the above? They really gave it their all during these two nights. Good Times Bad Times shredded - and let me put this into context - GTBT was no where near as common back then as it is today, so this as an encore on THAT night was very special... and Phish knew it, and the crowd knew it, and they CRUSHED it.

IT was something special. Very, very special. It blended the deepest, darkest psychedelic elements of Phish homogeneously with the happiest, peakiest moments. There was humor. There was looseness. There was cohesion. There was always non-stop, balls-to-the-wall, let's-take-ALL-the-chances type of improvisation that is so utterly unique to 2003. The IT Festival is 2003. IT is it, and it is IT. What a wonderous two days this must have been for those of you lucky enough to be there.

Must-hear jams: Chalk Dust Torture (I think?), Ghost -> Mist, Pebbles and Marbles, 46 Days, Julius
Probably-should-listen-to-jams: Mike's Song, YEM


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