This weekend Phish will continue their 2011 summer tour at the aptly named Gorge(ous) Ampitheatre in George, Washington. With a first leg down and a festival that surpassed most people’s expectations, the band looks to continue the good fight with nine shows in August at some historic venues in the West and Midwest.
8/5-8/6 ~ The Gorge Ampitheatre
It’s called breath-taking for a reason. Walk over the hill, shed a tear, then let Phish take you on a journey amongst the cosmos. Never has a venue evoked such a strong reception from this author. In 2009 at the Gorge, Phish played arguably the best jams of their return year. There aren’t many replay-value (RV) shows from 2009 but the “Bathtub Gin,” “Sneakin’ Sally,” “Light,” and “Rock and Roll” from 2009 all evoke the “This is what I follow the band for” reaction. It had the same quality of 2003 and earlier gems in ’97 and ’98. I’ll take another stretched out “2001″ second set opener! With the band at peak form, and most likely rehearsing as they did for the Bethel run (some of which contained the best jams of the first leg), I wouldn’t bet against these shows taking on a different feel than your average “opener.” There are very few things one can count on — Death, Taxes and Phish at the Gorge. How about another “Hood” in the dark or maybe a fog machine “Steam” for it’s West Coast debut?
8/8 ~ Hollywood Bowl
Wait, really? After years and years of off and on again rumors…Phish will make their long awaited debut at the Hollywood Bowl in 2011 — one of the venues you can’t help but admire for it’s location and history. The stage’s architecture is the outspoken gem and obvious allure of this venue. One person who will hopefully utilize the “shell”, a set of concentric off-white arches is Phish’s lighting director, Chris Kuroda (Happy Belated Birthday!). After the “same-old” in stage architecture at most outdoor amphitheaters, there is a little more room for creativity on the 2nd leg. The Hollywood Bowl is unfortunately the ‘skip show’ for some since it’s a big leap down south, on a Monday, and then no off-day before Phish rolls into Stateline, Nevada. Bottom line, the audience will know once they set foot inside, take the escalator up into a hillside…this won’t be “just another show.” Situated in the Hollywood hills for the first shows in the proper Los Angeles area since 2003 (Goodbye Forum!) fans are ready to go! Either the band plays it safe and pops off the classics for the tinsel town agents or we get something special, “Tube” opener or not…
8/9-8/10 ~ Lake Tahoe
Ironically this destination is one of the smaller places they’ll play in 2011 but has been maligned with the fact that it is situated in a casino “parking lot”. I don’t know about you but if you told me Phish was playing for 7,000 fans in Lake Tahoe on flat ground, I’d still circle it as a place I’d want to be. Tahoe has also been infected with the Jaded Vet Syndrome (JVS), something that was first exposed at Telluride. So much hype and not much musical pay-off are what some are expecting. With the band already three shows in at this point, these two nights could hold the make or break music for the “they better not repeat anything” fan base. Amongst the silent trees and a just announced webcast reaching thousands more, lets see how Phish treats Tahoe. Keep it Blue & Type II.
8/12 ~ Outside Lands
If there were ever two sets of music in 2011 that most fans are completely overlooking, no buzz, no “what will they play”… it’s these. Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park is the setting for Phish’s return to San Francisco. They headline the first night of a 3-day festival with two sets (6:30-10pm) of music on the Main Stage. Phish’s multi-band festival sets get a bad wrap as “throw-aways”…but if we’ve learned a few things with Phish, once you count them out of a certain situation they usually make you regret it. With MGMT somewhat “opening” for Phish on the Main Stage, I wouldn’t put it past Trey Anastasio to tip his cap with a cover of “Kids”. Turn the hipsters on their heads, then play “Fuck Your Face > Ride Captain Ride.”
8/15-8/17 ~ UIC Pavilion
The unofficial “fall tour”. It’s an interesting way to end a Summer 2nd leg — inside the sweaty confines of the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. These three shows have “tour closer” written all over them yet the band plays to a Colorado soccer-stadium sized crowd just two weeks later. Nothing sounds better than Phish indoors so if you are craving some Cactus I’d make these shows a top priority. Six sets of CK5′s lighting rig doesn’t hurt either. I love the outdoors but we don’t get to fully enjoy Chris Kuroda until 8:30pm, usually well into the 1st set…Not so with UIC. With 6/18/94 dancing in our heads we can only hope the band conjures up something like that UB40>Mind Left Body>UB40 mid-west masterpiece.
With such a short second leg the band doesn’t have much time to waste. As they did with Bethel, my opinion is that they’ll come out swinging with a “You Enjoy Myself” Gorge opener (oddly absent at SuperBall) and then it’s off to the races. The bust-out list is getting shorter with each tour but some interesting ones do still exist in the form of “All Things Reconsidered” (last played in 1997), and my personal favorites “Shafty” and “Spock’s Brain” (Last played in 2003). It’ll also be interesting to see if new covers like “No Quarter” or Undermind favorites, “Scents & Subtle Sounds” (w/ intro) and “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” stay in the rotation. The @LiveMusicBlog crew will be present at each one of these shindigs so come buy us a drink. Before 1pm — Bloody Mary, After 1pm — Whiskey/Ginger or Pliny the Elder. 2 days, 4 hours, 42 minutes….but who’s counting right?
Follow me (@phortin) starting tomorrow for my coverage from the trip. Off to pack some more…