Check out Andrew Hill's photos from Telluride
Unlike some Phish shows‚ there's no need to bore you with any tales of the strenuous journeys undertaken to reach the 8750 foot mark of Telluride‚ CO. The limited tickets available‚ the exorbitant e-bay prices‚ the 50 miles from the nearest traffic-light… no matter what the die-hards did to get themselves up the mountain‚ all trials and tribulations were forgotten once you crossed the town line.
Perhaps not as shocking as the Gorge‚ and probably not as monumental as Red Rocks‚ the mountain-top oasis of Telluride‚ with its all-encompassing peaks and sky-high glory was easily the most breath-taking place I have ever seen Phish perform. A town-wide takeover has never felt so welcomed‚ and that sometimes forgotten energy was beaming from within and throughout‚ giving the sense that the magic was inevitable during the two nights of this seemingly private festival Phish threw in the Colorado cloudscape.
A first night "Down With Disease" opener was an appropriate way for both the band and audience to get loose early. Yet with a much shorter jam than those of yesteryear‚ Trey seemed to be reminding us that despite the 22 year hiatus in setting‚ we were still going to get Phish 2010. Early set appearances of "Camel Walk" and the second "Light Up or Leave Me Alone" since Big Cypress however‚ gave signals that spirits of old were circling in the air. After a few first-set throwaways‚ "The Wedge" crept in just as some of the biggest shadows started to fall from the backstage peaks. Trey's new wah-pedal awoke a luminescence in the air during the "Wedge" lofty outro jam‚ during which the silence in the crowd hinted at the collective embrace of the moment's transcendence.
"Sand" opened the second set with a fierce yet direct groove that everyone in the crowd wanted a good ten more minutes of before it moved into "Backwards Down the Number Line." This poppy new-comer still hasn't won me over‚ but as usual the movement out of it was charging. My old nemesis "Prince Caspian" than chose to rear his head‚ but struck at me deeply as the tune moved into one the most gently‚ psychedelic pockets of the two night stand. Then the "Tweezer" came. Slightly unmoved by the previous stab in Berkeley‚ the crowd was more than ready for the "Tweezer" bombs to shake off the mountain walls‚ and electrify the cool‚ night air. Yet just as the pocket began to appear‚ and just as a sinister groove began to awaken‚ the jam was aborted after no more than 45 seconds and it moved into "Boogie on Reggae Woman." Not that I don't love "Boogie On‚" but this was a legendary abortion in Phishtory. The jam out of "Boogie" stretched out nicely‚ but seemed to do so more as an acknowledgement of the Twee-groove that seemingly got away. "Piper" followed‚ and was ferocious. Gripped in a stabbing sway‚ the jam confirmed the rediscovered power the band has found in the song‚ and it draped perfectly into the entirely appropriate "Mountains in the Mist" that came in after. A solid "David Bowie" and a forgettable "Day in the Life" closed out the second set‚ and talk immediately turned to whether the 15th anniversary of Garcia's death would be recognized with one of the Grateful Dead covers the band had sound-checked at the Greek Theatre a few days prior. The first "Quinn the Eskimo" in eleven years was both an awesome choice by the band‚ and a classy nod to the fat-man‚ and as the "Tweezer Reprise" capped the night‚ an eager crowd got ready to sleep late.
Night two opened with an awesomely delicate "Squirming Coil" and things already felt more at place than the night before. A very necessary "Timber Ho" hit early and was followed by the first "Let Me Lie" to finally win me over. What can I say; it was just perfect this night. A highly lauded return of Ween's "Roses are Free" was a little rough around the edges‚ but went into an absurd little loop-jam before Trey put on the brakes with the start to "Limb by Limb." The set closed with a beyond exceptional "Run Like an Antelope" that only continued to erupt just as it seemed it could be pushed no more. At set-break‚ the combination of the open and serene venue and the unbridled excitement of the blissed-out crowd created an atmospheric warmth that seemed somewhat missing the first night‚ and cued the celebratory set that was to follow.
Opening with the designative "Party Time‚" Phish then followed with a set of heavy-hitters' greatest hits. A snarling "Mike's Song" gave nobody a chance to catch their breath as it jumped right into an oddly started "Crosseyed and Painless" that found its lock early and kept its strength throughout. The Telluride "Hydrogen" was again‚ breath-taking‚ and the "Weekapaug" continued to attack in ways it never could last year. The most solid "Destiny Unbound" since the reunion nestled perfectly into the set after‚ and then things became utterly surreal when a truly legendary "Carini" hit the slopes. With all four members of the band absolutely marauding the groove‚ it reached into the darkest‚ psychedelic motions of your Phish dream-jams and there was a town-wide resistance of any wanted escape. A solid "Free" served as the landing pad‚ and after an awkward yet accepted "Heavy Things‚" "You Enjoy Myself" closed the power set with a full spectrum launch. Trey's solo at the end was epic and life-confirming‚ just like it always should be‚ but this one seemed especially heart-gripping. The now rotation-friendly "Shine a Light" was probably the ideal closer for this band as they stand today‚ and if you still haven't caught a version live‚ you need to put it at the top of your most wanted list.
With the Milky Way positively glowing overhead after‚ there was no doubt that the use of our good friend‚ the word "epic‚" was wholeheartedly appropriate for the experience that everyone had in Telluride‚ Colorado.
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