, attached to 2022-07-22

Review by andrewrose

andrewrose Angels Blowing Horns - I Saw You (Again)

Welcome to Woodstock! Well, technically Bethel Woods is not in Woodstock, but as the story goes, the site of the historic 69 festival wasn’t in Woodstock either—it was here. Either way, Woodstock’s angels weren’t far away on this night. I made the drive down to Woodstock proper from Montreal a couple days prior for work, and then over through the mountains to a friends place 15 minutes north of the venue. With all the chaos and the border closures that Covid has wrought these last few years this as my first post-pandemic show, and it did not disappoint.

The venue is lovely and way more intimate that I anticipated. No pit, small pavilion, nice looking lawn, and friendly easy going staff. I was in the upper pavilion and had great sight lines and sound. I don’t know why the band hasn’t been back since those first shows in 2011, but I hope it becomes a more regular stop going forward.

The crowd was abuzz from the get go, the band settling into that familiar Northeast home-turf energy. And Trey put us on notice early with the out-of-the gates Golgi. A welcome old-school opener to welcome all of us with ticket stubs—or, er, printouts—in our hands. At about the four minute mark where Trey usually leads the band quickly to the shuffling finale, he took a nimble detour into Spanish-jam territory, dancing with Mike through dark and light tones and hitting some sweet highs before bringing it back around to the finale. “I saw you!” And I saw what you did there. We like it.

It didn’t take long in Sample to realize that would be the rule, not the exception tonight. Again at the 4 minute mark, Trey signals he’s not really feeling like staying in the box, and they side-step. Things mellow, they lilt, and Mike and Page add some beautiful colour. It doesn’t last long, but the very first stretch of the jam has a gentleness and phrasing that reminds me a bit of the 8/1/15 Tweezer. Beautiful stuff.

Meanwhile Mike is grabbing as much space as he can get. I had opted to dust off my 1.0 Air Gordon T on this night. It’s pretty worn now but has been given new life recently after my girlfriend cut the sleeves off to make it more of a basketball tank that 90s Mike would no doubt approve of. It could not have been a more apt choice. I recall wearing that shirt to 2/26/03, which is probably the last show I saw that had Mike lifting the band up so beautifully with melodic muscle through both sets.

So Sample goes out for 15 minutes, the first (and only?) time they’ve done this other than Jam night at the Baker’s Dozen. (Speaking of which, this show had bit of a Baker’s Dozen feel, with the extra push, crowd energy, and was easily the best I’ve seen since the three I caught from 8/4-8/6 five year ago (!) now.) The jam builds up a for a moment and sounds like it’s going to go into Walk Away (that would happen later, instead), and then comes back around to Sample to close. Ok, they mean business tonight.

My Soul shows up in the three spot—one slot after where it appeared 25 years earlier to the day in Raleigh on 7/22/97 coming out of Runaway Jim. But if this was 7/22/22, I was fast forgetting; the ease and enthusiasm was straight-up 90s, and that would continue with entirely 1.0 selections through the rest of the set. Giving Trey a chance to sit back and chord change with Mike just walking that bass was welcome. If I was forced to air any (very minor) complaints on this night, it would be that Trey still seems sometimes like he’s in a hurry to get somewhere. The best moments were when he just dropped that urgency and gave room for the band to swell up in unison. Fortunately there were plenty of those. Anyway, the My Soul is worth hearing.

So is the Gumbo. Don’t be fooled by the shorter run times here. The Gumbo>Saw it Again>Timber>Meat combo is almost 30-minute nasty 98-style throw-down. By four minutes we’re in jam territory again and Trey and Page trade fun riffs and various effects, and suddenly we’re in one of those disco-calypso grooves (the Blossom Birds from 2019 comes to mind here) that’s flirting with Manteca. Instead Trey hints at Saw it Again and he and Fish kind of clumsily make their way into it for what (I think?) was the first repeat of the tour. “I saw it again!” I saw it again what you did there. Still liking it.

In no time we’re back in Timber, in what felt like an appropriate nod to the heavily wooded region. This one has a lot of gnarly, cool rumble from the outset. Another spot where Mike is able to take up lots of room. We’re in Type II territory at around 4:30, with Trey laying down quick riffs leaving room for Fish and Mike to lock up. Page starts layering nice too; he’d get better as the show went on and that starts to show up here. Back to Timber and then into a chunky Meat full of Fish-sample flavor. They have a lot of fun with this one and it’s worth hearing as they all trade off solos.

The My Friend, My Friend, Guelah Papyrus combo is decidedly old-school, with the latter’s “exponentially expanding virus” appearing for the first time in the post-Covid era. Both songs and their complexity could have offered plenty of opportunity for 2022 Trey to stumble (and he’s had a few rough moments this year), but I’m happy to report that was not the case here. This set also closed big song gaps for me personally, with 4 songs not seen since 99, including this Guelah (not seen since Oswego), and My Soul (since Big Cypress). The other two closed out the set, with Brian and Robert offering a touching breather before Walk Away brought the house down. This one went big for the set closer, almost Tweeprise-like, Trey channeling Jimi’s Woodstock ghost. And that was just Set 1.

Mr. Completely launches quickly into space-play, Trey with his repeating echo effect egging Page out into techno-territory before settling into ambient space and landing in YEM. (Side note, but noticing the trend with the short second set openers so far this tour … they’re not .. keeping them short for the set opener previews on the Live Phish stream, are they? Say it ain’t so.) This is a fantastic YEM and Mike absolutely slays the drum and bass section in a way I haven’t heard him do since the aforementioned 2/26/03. Back in the day I would have labelled this YEM->jam, as the band wraps the vocal jam (that felt like it was flirting with Clone for a second), and then just decides to ... keep jamming. It sounded like they were going to go in No Men in No Man’s Land, but Trey just pulls it into one his big major peaks for a 25 minute run time. It hits some of its most beautiful moments right before the Fuego.

Fuego, by the way, felt full of heavy purpose. Maybe it’s the undeniable heat that’s been gripping the world, but the first non 1.0 offering of the night landed differently than it usually does for me, which is a little goofy. Not tonight. “I see guilty people, angels blowing horns” felt serious and commanding and the jam mostly followed suit, with Page highlighting its best moments.

Joy brought the breather and some pretty soulful playing from Trey that Mike wasn’t shy about getting in on with melodic interplay. As if it was his song too..? In any case that seemed to beg the Boogie On, which though short, seemed like an inevitability given Mike’s dominance on this night.

Scents and Subtle Sounds offered the last late-set jam vehicle, the back half of which on second listen now might be my highlight of the show. Trey sounds patient and sure of himself here and the band emotionally in-step with nothing to prove. Tear-jerking stuff, if you’re into that kind of thing.

What is there to say about a Wilson>Possum>Cavern trio close the set? It might not call back to 1969, but that’s still a pretty nostalgic nod to this band’s roots, and I enjoyed ever minute of it. Oh, and yeah Mike dropped some big bombs in Cavern to close that you’ll probably want to hear, too.

A Life Beyond a Dream felt apt somehow, on a night that at times didn’t feel like it was of this era, like the world wasn’t on fire, and the ticket stub in your hand was all that mattered. I slipped out a couple minutes before the close and managed to beat the traffic, in bed just after midnight. Old guy’s got to get a good night’s sleep when you’re expected to do it again tomorrow. See you tonight for a big Waves?
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