Friends and readers know that I’ve been on the road for the past week or so, and I appreciate the break from regular posting to get some major miles in on my Summer of Justin Funemployment Tour 2009. I’m at about 2200 miles so far and have a few more thousand miles before all is said and done, and I have about two hours this morning to reflect on the best Phish shows of 2009 so far, the four-night run at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO. I’m not going to go all phishthoughts.com on you and analyze every single note with my thesaurus in hand, because doing so would be an injustice to the simple pleasure that was the first four-night run for me at Red Rocks ever. My first notes in that venue were front-row shooting the band rip their way through “Divided Sky” and it’s moments like this that only come once in a lifetime. I know I bitched about my little photography mishap that occurred when I thought I’d be able to be in-and-out of the venue in quick time to not miss too much of the set — rookie mistake — and it’s clear to me that it’s a lot more fun to stop critiquing and just take it all in with open ears and an open mind. Sure enough, the venue staff reported that I was “rude” to to the media contact on site and that it’s clear she didn’t deserve to receive the brunt of my grumpy attitude. I was just pissed at myself and I reacted perhaps prematurely and immaturely, but seriously — who the hell makes the PHOTO-PASS access limited to the first 15 minutes and then nothing more? I’ve never heard of that, and apparently people are correcting me for how wrong I am about that. So whatever, I’m likely leaving my passes at the door of the next three shows so that I can enjoy myself and not worry about fulfilling some media commitment. But I digress.
Follow me on my journey through all four nights after the jump. I’m leaving in an hour or so for Shoreline and I hope to see you in the lots!
The first night of the run seemed straightforward at the time, but still ripping. Fans were overheard commented “not bad for a warmup show” and other similar sentiments on the ramp down to the South Lot when the show was over. Here are all my shots from the first night.
07/30/09 Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO
1: The Divided Sky, Ocelot, The Wedge, Poor Heart, The Moma Dance, Horn, Stash, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Possum
2*: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Ghost**, Wolfman’s Brother, Limb By Limb, Billy Breathes, The Squirming Coil, David Bowie
E: Loving Cup
Notes: * Trey introduced Mike twice prior to the second set. ** with “Praise You” (Fat Boy Slim) tease.
The opener was nice and called by my buddy Pete early on the in the car ride out there. I could hear “Ocelot” and “The Wedge” while I was still on my way to the car, so I was bummed to miss both of those. I got back at the end of “Horn” and saw the highlight of the set, a digusting “Stash” with a jam that got nice and scary. I like the “scary” Phish more than anything else. “Possum” was fun fun fun. Second set started with a relaxed Mike Gordon strolling out on stage and taking his time, enough for Trey to introduce him in rockstar fashion (not once, but twice). The Mike’s Groove that followed was 100% straightforward and well-played, and I got “I Am Hydrogen” at Red Rocks, something I really felt that venue needed to hear. “Ghost” got long and awesome and ended with Page leading a solo into “Wolfman’s;” such a smoothly sonic transition. “Wolfman’s” was one of the better ones I’ve seen, but I still need to go back and listen to both of those to get a sense for what really went down. We all thought the set was going to be done with “The Squirming Coil” and I was psyched to see Page get so much play time. But sure enough, the band had some room left and ended with a moderately confident “Bowie” to close it out. My buddy Patrick got his first “Loving Cup” as an encore, and we left in retarded glee and headed to Old Chicago to get some half-priced appetizers. This was the start of a routine for us.
The second night of the run started with three classics that felt awesome together. Then the new song that apparently nobody likes. Then a downpour during “Melt” that easily melted my face.
07/31/09 Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO
1: Runaway Jim, Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Time Turns Elastic, Lawn Boy, Water In The Sky, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Split Open and Melt*
2: Drowned* > Crosseyed and Painless > Joy, Tweezer > Backwards Down The Numberline > Fluffhead > Piper > A Day in the Life
E: Suzy Greenberg > Tweezer Reprise
Notes: * Heavy rain.
We got some rain in the lot before the show so we knew it was a chance all night. “Jim” through “Gin” was rad to me, and I thought the placement of TTE was perfect to get the new songs working into the four-night run. Sadly Page didn’t get the proper spotlight treatment during “Lawn Boy,” a noticable mistake by Kuroda who’s lighting routines were utterly flawless all weekend. I believe the rain had begun and the band played a nice “Water in the Sky” which went then to “Stealing Time From a Faulty Plan,” my favorite new Phish song and one that I hurt my neck headbanging to. I was also screaming the “got a blank space where my mind should be…” line. So solid. “Split Open and Melt” then closed the set while the rain came down hard, and the crew had to start tarping while the band was mid-face-melt jam that is the SOAM. I’m pretty sure I got this song once before, but this version couldn’t compare to anything I had seen at a Phish show thus far. So much energy in the venue which spilled into the bathroom during the setbreak. By now everyone in the venue is officially soaked. Ziploc baggie for my iPhone – check!
“Drowned” was quite nice and got jamming pretty good before seguing very smoothly into “Crosseyed.” This was a two-song punch that lots of folks wanted to see and it was nailed. “Joy” was fine, not my highlight by any means. “Tweezer” was really hot and the set just flew off the rails after that. “Backwards” > “Fluffhead” > “Piper” > “A Day in the Life” — O RLY?!? The crowd was filled with mania by the end of it all. A solid “Suzy” and “Reprise” show end and we were off to Old Chicago again to recharge our batteries a bit.
Night three and we were up early for the Mock Show. We gots some killer prints, yo. And I’m not lying — I was calling for “The Curtain With” in the months leading up to this show, because I wanted the band to actually, you know, play it correctly and without needing a bump to get through it. Thankfully the band delivered the version they were meant to play, and then they blew my brain with “Mound” immediately following. The whole first set was just insane.
08/01/09 Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO
1: AC/DC Bag, The Curtain With, Mound, Gotta Jibboo, Guyute, Punch You in the Eye, Tube, Alaska, Run Like An Antelope
2: Rock and Roll, Down with Disease > Free, Esther, Dirt, Harry Hood
E: Sleeping Monkey, First Tube
But look at that right above — set one pales in comparison to set two and it was a rager itself. The band was having so much and they were so relaxed, and the whole set just felt fun and relaxed. Everyone was losing their shit when “Esther” started. “Hood” was rad to close it, and I thought that “Monkey” would be the only encore we got. Then the band played the best version of “First Tube” I’ve ever heard. Go back and listen to that one, folks.
The final night of the run had us betting on how many songs from my buddy’s predicted setlist would be played, and he should be a happy man given that they hit 11 songs off his setlist that he called for the night. Not bad. He did not call the “Roses” opener, though and it was a nice way to start things off. The first set was really nicely played and nothing really particularly stood out to me until “Sugar Shack” and “Waste.” I had no complaints, though.
08/02/09 Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO
1: Roses Are Free, Wilson, NICU, Prince Caspian, Back On The Train, Reba, Grind, Beauty Of A Broken Heart, Sample In A Jar, Sugar Shack, Waste, Kill Devil Falls
2: Boogie On Reggae Woman, You Enjoy Myself > Undermind > Drums > Seven Below > 2001 > Waves, Character Zero
E: Bittersweet Motel, Bouncing Around the Room, Slave to the Traffic Light
Notes: “Undermind” through “Character Zero” featured Bill Kreutzman (of the Grateful Dead) on drums.
“Boogie On” may be my favorite second set opener and I was psyched to get a nice long version. “You Enjoy Myself” was pretty solid and the vocal jam featured Fishman standing up to the front of the stage. I could see the crew moving around but then focused my attention back on the band, when all of a sudden a drumbeat started up behind the vocal jam. When it became clear what was happening, the band was well into “Undermind” with Bill Kreutzman on drums. If there was any set of songs that he would have sounded good on, it was what the band played. “Seven Below” > 2001 > “Waves” seemed like they were meant to have two drummers on. And “Zero” closed the set out and brought out a really nice three-song encore to finish off the set of shows. I loved “Bittersweet Motel” and that Trey had to dedicate it to someone else for his daughter, “Bouncin'” was a nice interlude to the solid ender in “Slave to the Traffic Light.” One last night at Old Chicago, then up at 6:15am to drive my crew to the airport while I drove straight through to Vegas. Then I went up $300 at Craps. YEAH BOYEE.
I apologize if this review kinda sucks. I’m running on fumes right now. Glad to be home for a day and see some friends and then off on the lonely drive up to Gorge. Anyone want to cruise with me? I promise I won’t complain about stuff.