There is a theory on how Telluride got it’s name…
It’s mining history and endless tunnels serve the phrase well, To Hell You Ride. Yet Hell is the farthest thing from it, especially when the town is hosting Phish for 9,000 fans and countless others perched on balconies, roofs and mountain tops. Keep this between you and me — you didn’t need a ticket to these shows unless you needed to see the band and wooden stage up close (which many of us did, of course). You just needed ears, some walking shoes, and the effort to get there.
Once dropped into town on the Gondola, a mesmerizing 15 minute ride down into the box canyon, I fully realized what was happening. All the pre-talk and hype was coming to fruition. Phish was taking over a small town for two days, late nights and parties til’ 2:30am (or 4am if you’re Marco Benevento), pre-gaming at condos/houses/bars (Smugglers/Sheridan/BrownDog), and the like!
Most of my crew was ready to rage Telluride ’til it couldn’t rage no more, and we were hopeful that Big Red, Cactus, Fish and Page were also on board with that idea. After three nights at the Greek with some open jamming (“Cities” + “Simple”), the locale of Telluride was sure to bring out the West/best. But looking through some of the “critical” reviews on my flight home, I worried that fans may have a serious case of JVS, otherwise known as Jaded Veteran Syndrome. To take it one step further, even the folks who had seen less than 20 shows were stating “Oh, too many repeats,” or “oh, I’m getting so sick of the Vocal Jam in YEM”. Does every show need to have a 17 minute jam, a bust-out, and a song you hadn’t heard live before? To the sufferers of JVS among us, and there seem to be many — can’t we just enjoy one of (if not THE) best locales a Phish show has ever had to offer and all the music that comes with it? I sure did, but almost felt victim to the seductive JVS mindset nearly costing me my two-nights of pure bliss.
Standing in town on the rivers edge, against one of the security fences with a small group, I got my first taste of Phish in Telluride. The soundcheck (Funky Bitch, Cities > Jam, Ginseng, 46 Days) started around 3:30pm, and we were already off to the races. It was halfway into the “Cities”" when a feeling washed over me like a calming breeze — nothing could stop me from enjoying these shows. I was at first worried the sets couldn’t live up to the hype, but those worries melted away as Gordon’s bass was already echoing off the mountainside during “46 Days.” I gazed up at those very mountains, waterfalls and endless rolling hills and turned to my tour-buddy… “They could play Jennifer Dances > Secret Smile tonight in the first set and I’d be all ears!” In hindsight, maybe that was going a little too far, but you get my point…
To all the JVS sufferers out there, I hope you can seek help for your affliction. Hopefully a trained medical professional will help you mentally step back and realize what we have: a band that will play anything at anytime (except “Walls of the Cave”… Deer Creek second set bust-out maybe?!), a band who will and can play anywhere (except your friend’s basement), and a band who’s notes are NOT the only thing that bring us on tour.
This is important.
As much as we want to see the next “best-ever” jam, shouldn’t we also enjoy the overall experience and not match it up with the song selection, the placement, or why we would expect anything differently. If you gave me the same sets in Telluride song-for-song in Camden, wouldn’t they be damn good? Well, take those sets and put them where they happened — in the picturesque town of T-Ride and you’ve got yourself an EPIC good time.
But that said, even I can fall victim to the mental weariness that is JVS. During the first set of night two, when the “Roses Are Free” was getting dirty (around the 4 minute mark), I yelled out… and thought Telluride was setting sail on the ship to Type II, but no, unfortunately 30 seconds later “Trey said no.” I cringed. I stopped in my dancing tracks and lowered my head. “Okay, I’m done with this band. Stop cutting my Roses off!” My friends laughed, but I was somewhat serious. Then, as I mentioned earlier, a funny thing happened. I looked up, then South, West and East. Mountain and glacial formations abound. The sun was setting, the clouds were purple and pink and the mountains were casting an array of shadows. I had just heard “The Divided Sky” during an actual divided sky, and just witnessed Roses, one of my favorite covers, in my new favorite venue. Who cares how they played it? Because for exactly five minutes, I was on top of the world (well, 9,000 feet above the bottom of the world anyway).
My focus changed over the course of the Telluride run. My JVS symptoms no longer lingered. I wasn’t waiting for a Gamehenge Narration, a bust-out (although “The Mighty Quinn” was a five-star meal on the all-night Bust Out Diner blueplate special menu) or even a set full of segues. I was focused on seeing Phish in one of the most magical places our country has to offer and letting them do their thing. Let’s put it this way — Tuesday’s Divided Sky was my 16th, and it was my favorite version ever, not because it was note-for-note perfect or ’cause the pause was extra extended maaaaaaan… but because Telluride had me by the balls. I even enjoyed that “Prince Caspian” on the first night, and that’s saying something. Well maybe it’s the “Mind Left Body” jam it contained that sent me into orbit unexpectedly.
Every local person I met, every business I dined or drank at loved having THIS community invade THEIR community. I, after experiencing Telluride, had already begun my one-person campaign to get PHISH in Telluride next year.
“Hey, you liked having us here? Please make your voice heard at the next town meeting…we want this to be a tradition!” Everyone shook their head in agreement, even the waitress that had a wristband and was talking to me about that heavy dose of evil “Carini!”
So…you see what I’m saying, right?
Step back, even if you’ve been to 100+ shows, and enjoy what this band has to offer nightly. Maybe we shouldn’t be so critical because they’ve never been about just one thing, and I think the horrible outbreak of JVS in the scene has a lot of us forgetting that. It’s the sum of all the parts — and Phish had one of the best two night stands in their 20+ year history. Ask anyone who was there, except maybe patient zero that started the Jaded Veteran Syndrome outbreak. And maybe Jeff Holdsworth.