When Brian (happycat!) asked me to blog a bit about the first two Phish shows for this site, I was all gung-ho about it right away – sounds like a total blast, right? But as I began to think about what I was really going to say, I gotta admit I was kinda apprehensive. I didn’t want to gush about Phish or simply give you guys the facts – we have Surrender to the Flow for that. And I definitely didn’t want to start analyzing the music and get all critical – we have PhantasyTour.com for that. So what am I gonna say? Like so many other phans, I’ve been listening to these guys since I was young hippie kid, and I’ve schlepped all over the country to see them. I love Phish. And most of the time they leave me pretty much speechless after a good show. I guess the best I can do is give you guys a bit of my experience from the road.
Back on Super Bowl Sunday, a few Phish-head friends and I made a pact – we would all go to the first show of the year, no matter where it was going to be. So on March 15, when the Summer Tour Announcement Video (featuring a bunch of synchronized swimmers and a very graceful Jon Fishman set to the jammy outro of “Taste”) blasted on to the front page of Phish.com, we were beyond pumped. CHICAGO, HERE WE COME!
Click here to see Phish’s 2010 Summer Tour Announcement Video:
Phish, June 11, 2010 Toyota Park – Bridgeview, IL
When we think back on all the beautiful locations Phish has played: The Gorge, Red Rocks, Big Cypress… Toyota Park is, in all honesty, a pretty anti-climatic tour-opening venue for a show. It’s an open-air soccer field (or “pitch”, as you footballers would like me to say), home to the MLS’ Chicago Fire, with 28,000 seats and God knows how many kids cramming down onto the field. The venue staff had covered the expensive turf with huge aluminum pallets and let me tell you, it was HOT down on the field. But as the sun set and the band floated into “Boogie on Reggae Woman”, the smiles came out, the dancing shoes were tied and people seemed to start ignoring the heat or whatever else they felt like complaining about.
At Toyota Park you pretty much have to be right in front of the soundboard for optimum sound quality. Everywhere else in the Park, the audio sounds “just OK”.
Musically though, the show was awesome.
The band sounded every bit as tight as they did at Madison Square Garden and Miami last year. In bold 3.0 fashion, they started the night off with some of their super-jams ("Disease", "Wolfman’s"). The setlist was chock-full of classics, especially the first. “Reba”, with all its intricacies & layers, was fantastic.
And the highlight of my night was most definitely Set II’s ridiculously funky “Story of the Ghost” (Thanks Page). We got a really cool verison of "Light", with some interesting fake-outs and strong vocals and a really nice "Limb by Limb" with a sick afro beat vocal jam at the end. During the Limb jam, we wandered to the outskirts of the crowd and watched a girl with an LED hoop display some mad skills (video to come).
We were also blessed with a brand-spanking-new tune entitled “Show of Life”. When the band started to play it, everyone turned to a buddy and asked “What is this?” to which the buddy replied, “It’s a Trey song.” Ha…
Anyway, over the next few days I took some time to ask a few phriends what they thought about this new PHISH song, “Show of Life”. Most people seemed to like it, but nobody expressed a whole lot of excitement. Zach from Chicago described it as a “typical Phish ballad” that reminded him of The Band’s “I Shall Be Released”. Mike from Colorado told me that he liked it, and it was “along the same vein as Let Me Lie” which by the way, has really grown on me over the past year. And its also worth mentioning that Phish played "Show of Life" again in Saratoga 6/19, and its really taking a cool form, so I think we can be hopeful about this new tune.
On Saturday, as we drove through Indiana en route to Ohio, my good friend Chris (also from Southern Cal – going for his 100th show this year) said he was really stoked that on this tour, Phish is testing the waters with a handful of new tunes. They’re taking the time to play them live, check out the audience reactions, and really feel the songs out before recording another album. It shows how much the guys care about their fans. So keep your ears open (and your mind too) for some new songs on this tour. And remember, just because you don’t recognize it right away, it may not just be “another Trey song.”
I’m kind of equal parts audio and visual, so Chris Kuroda – the lighting designer for Phish – is in my book the 5th member of the band. I think a lot of phans would agree that the lights at a Phish show are almost as important as the music and can really take the experience to a whole other level (substances aside). Last year, he implemented three white circular panels that hovered above the band, bouncing multi-colored beams and spirals across and through them. The discs are still there on this tour, but talking to a lot of different people throughout the night, we had noticed some new bits of eye candy in his designs – new color combinations, and different sequences of movement to flow with the music. All in all, it was a great night.
The air was filled with plenty of good energy and lots of anticipation for this summer’s tour. Aft
er Toyota, we were ready to get on the road, destiny unbound, to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio – 7 hours due east.
Ed. Note: thanks Cece and we look forward to your next report from the Phield!