I’m sitting here in our hotel room keeping cool with the AC blasting, resting up before what looks to be another scorcher in Deer Creek, and no, I’m not just talking about the weather: Phish is on fire right now, make no bones about it.
Last night was my first show this year, and boy was I lucky to hop on the tour when I did. As the Phish.net review noted, there really was something for everything last night: bust-outs, patient and textured jamming, classic Phishy antics, two trips to Gamehendge, grooving crowd pleasers, and yet even more bust-outs.
Many legendary Phish shows have been crafted at the hands of intense weather: think of wild thunder storms and snow dumping blizzards, but the other natural phenomenon that people tend to forget about from time to time is the heat — unless of course, you were at Oswego. And while the setlist might not have been temperature focused for the majority of the evening, the ready to rage sweat-drenched Deer Creek crowd took care of the rest.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard plenty about the record heats all across the midwest (it’s 110 today in Indianapolis). I can’t comment on the lot scene since I pulled up to the venue right as the show started, but I think it’s safe to say that most of the showgoers took it easy yesterday afternoon. Instead of partying in the lots, most people heeded the severe weather advisories and stayed out of the oppressive sun until showtime. But make no mistake, once the fans got into the venue, it was time to throw down.
And after an uncharacteristic two year break from the cornfields, the band were happy to oblige us. They came to play. If it wasn’t apparent after an uncharacteristic acapella opener “The Birdwatcher” or the precise rendition and soaring jam in “The Curtain With,” the first “Fuck Your Face” since last June certainly put everyone on notice. Not only was the band crafting a solid setlist with eight tour debuts crammed into the first set, but they also seemed locked in from the first note.
Yet there were no references whatsoever to the record heat — until after a solid rendition of a mid-set Wolfman’s, Trey walked over to Mike and Fish and started visibly singing/reminding them how a certain song went. A bustout was clearly at hand…unless Trey was reminding once again reminding Fishman of the opening to Moma Dance after last week’s misstep. Sure enough, Trey’s play calling did not disappoint for once and we were treated to my first “Cool It Down” since Burgettstown 2003 (another bustout laden show). While the song was clearly not rehearsed as well as it could have been, the intent was there and you could tell the band was enjoying themselves. And after this laid back segment, the band brought the tempo right back up and tried to cool us down another way: with a trip into the freezer. With the first real jamming of the night, this solid rendition of “Tweezer” got everyone grooving in stark contrast to last weekends’ antics filled version. The band meant business, with nary a wasted note in this version which seemed almost ready for liftoff into the muggy stratosphere, when they reeled it back in for the classic old school slowed down ending.
Next they dusted off “Tela,” one of the handful of songs I had really been hoping for during this three day mini-run of mine. Many in our section used this as a place to catch a breather after the previous 12 minutes of madness, but Tela is such a rare treat that I could easily wait til setbreak. A concise and rocking “Stealing Time…” closed out the set, and left us all in a soaked daze, not quite sure if we had really witnessed what had just happened. Setbreak was spent resting our legs, grabbing a bite to eat, and calling songs for the second set, but I’m not sure any of us would ever have predicted what was about to happen.
The second set started off innocently enough with “Mike’s Song,” but this Mike’s Groove was anything but typical. After a standard 3.0 compact Mike’s the band landed in the opening notes of the first McGrupp of 2012, and BAM! we were back in Gamehendge. While these eyes have only witnessed a few versions of the song, I can say without question that this was one of the better versions, with only a few bum notes in the composed section, and a nice extended solo from Trey at the end. “Back on the Train” followed, which surprisingly this took the prize for spaciest jam of the night. They quickly descended into the Type II ambient realm, and my buddies and I heard tastes of No Quarter and Psycho Killer emerge from the ether, but they opted for “Hold Your Head Up instead. Despite asking aloud what the hell he was doing up there, Fishman was in good spirits and treated the adoring masses to a seemingly lyric flub free version of Bike. After the vacuum antics, Fish ran a few laps around the stage before tucking his dress into his briefs, and when he was about to assume his place back at the drum kit, Trey started drumming the Weekapaug intro and Mike soon follow suit. With nowhere else to go, Fishman walked over to Trey’s guitar and strapped it on. While Fishman isn’t the most gifted guitar player, this was a fun sight to see. Luckily, Trey & Fish switched back places between verses so we got a healthy taste of Trey’s machine-gun licks and more sweat inducing groove.
An unfinished Caspian gave everyone a much needed breather, before the last clear highlight of the night: the first emergence of Waves since the famed UIC “Element’s set”. After the jam, they drifted back into more ambient soundscapes. Trey applied tastefully small doses of the whale call, while Mike dropped a series of laser precision bombs. Standard versions of Bug and Bowie closed out the end of the set, but there was nary a complaint to be heard. Our buddy’s favorite epic show encore Show of Life was a predictably tame encore call (sorry @phortin), but Tweeprise more than made up for it.
The post show scene seemed a bit subdued, which was to be understood after one of the hottest days on record, but everyone was still amped on such a blistering two sets. Phish is on a roll over these last 5-6 shows, and with 8 more over the next 10 day, they will only be gaining momentum. See a show by any means necessary before leg one ends if you can; they are currently playing the stuff of dreams.
Ominous storm clouds were racing in and the wind gusts were picking up exponentially as I sat down to write this review a few hours ago; about an hour later, the sky has opened up, the rain is coming down in buckets, and pictures of overturned port-a-potties and blown away tents are popping up on the internet. The storm is supposed to be long gone by showtime, but perhaps another Mother Nature fueled monster is at our door. Just as everyone was calling Cool It Down last night, Drowned, Harpua, and A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing are sure to be on many a phantasy setlist tonight. Yet even if those predictions don’t transpire, there will still be a midwest Phish show tonight, and chances are running as high as the temperatures that they will slay everything in their path.