So rather than bore you with any imparted wisdom about the significance of Phish playing at the site of the original Woodstock and the evolution of the live music scene‚ let me instead just review this killer show. After missing the tour opener the night before and its respective set starters of "Tweezer" and "Carini‚" I hoped the accelerated kick off to the summer would evolve into more open-ended exploration on the second night. And as we all know with the wonder of a live Phish show‚ sometimes things just work out completely right.
With seemingly all parties involved feeling quite cozy in the midst of a 3-night run in lush surroundings and beautiful weather‚ it was almost as if the band snuck onto the stage Saturday night. There was no loud eruption from the crowd as the first notes struck -- the audience at 2011 Phish concerts are over the post-reunion hype of the past couple years‚ and with an extended break on the forefront these are people who are looking to really have something to cheer for. Either way‚ "Theme from the Bottom" was the ideal tune to ease into the evening with; starting gentle before working into its expansive jam‚ and thus prepping everyone fully for the ska-bounce of the subsequent "NICU." A quasi-extended "Cities" came next‚ followed by a fully extended "Halley's Comet" -- easily the most explorative of the 3.0 era. "Gumbo" would open itself to the ether in ideal‚ primal-groove fashion. It warmly found its way into an inescapable "Quinn the Eskimo‚" despite a definite acknowledgement from the band that Mike wasn't going to remember the words. The Quinn grew and began to drip from within itself‚ turning into the psychedelic powerhouse that its simple structure demands it to be. There's a transcendent power in the chorus of that song that was harnessed fully this night as the sun dropped on Bethel. A few more good ole' standards dotted the set before pacing the way for the monstrous "Bathtub Gin" that would close out the first set.
With Bathtub being delegated to a mid-1st set stand alone the past couple years‚ there was an immediate sense that as this one reared its head so late in the set‚ something huge was about to birth from it. Building and peaking in normal huge-Gin fashion‚ the groove soon found itself in the opening of "Golden Age‚" the TV on the Radio cover the band has made their own on two separate occasions. Despite an obvious want by both the band and fans alike to drop into the song‚ the humorous looks from Trey to his bandmates on stage proved that he had no idea what the words to the song were. Knowing that the hordes were now foaming at the mouth for something extraordinary though‚ the lyrics of "Manteca" arose over the Golden Age groove before dropping into Manteca itself and rolling back into Bathtub. It was huge‚ and proof that tour-opening weekends are no longer throw-away shows for the band to get their chops aligned.
Set 2 opened with "Down with Disease" and pumped out the warm rock explosion that this song is known to capture on a beautiful summer's eve. A solid "Free" would arise out of this and move into the still-corny "Backwards Down the Number Line." The pre-jam pee-break seems to be being utilized by more and more folks these days on this one‚ but it did find its way into some cool places before moving into the epic "Makisupa Policeman" that would follow. Sober-Trey 3.0 keeps running out of sly marijuana references to make in Makisupas these days‚ but his confusion this night would cause it to evolve into awesome absurdity in the way that put these guys on the map. Rolling a trail of hilarious 'dub' and 'house' references‚ a call to "Page's house" suddenly found the reggae beat hit on a dreamily evil‚ clav-funk. The place would only continue to explode as Fish rolled it perfectly into the "Harry Hood" intro. A beautiful Hood wound into a dark and heavy "Cavern" that found its way into an even darker and heavier "David Bowie." And yes‚ the entire crowd did presume Cavern was gonna be the closer‚ so this Bowie felt huge right from the high-hat into. "A Day in the Life" encore was beloved by some more than others‚ but was a rock-solid capper to a brilliant night from our friends from Vermont. On the way out‚ my wallet screamed in agony as it realized it might need to fund a few more shows than previously expected this summer.