PHISH FRIDAY: Night Three in The Bay Reset the 3.0 Bar

Comparisons within the Phish community are common. We sometimes judge a show based on the previous night’s performance, or sometimes we’ll judge a show based on the previous year’s performance, or maybe we’ll even reach back and compare a song within that show to that same song that may have been played 10 years before — like comparing a top-notch version of Piper in ’97 against one in 2004, or comparing runs like the two nights at The Gorge Amphitheatre in 2009 vs. the four nights at Red Rocks in 2009, or even sitting with a Page-side view vs. a view straight back from Chris Kuroda’s light rig. A burning question remains from this weekend’s three night run in San Francisco: Would you give up your attendance at -insert your favorite show here- for Sunday’s grand finale in San Francisco? Jaded Vets need not answer.

I’m leaning toward comparing that Sunday grand finale, affectionately hereby known as 8/19/12, to the entire first leg of 2012…all 19 shows. Although the shows through June and July were the most consistent in 3.0, there wasn’t a GO-TO show you could unequivocally say was the best of the bunch. And yet there were a few shows that answered plenty of burning questions that came up as first leg was happening: Worcester’s opener, Starlake, SPAC Night One, etc.

In contrast, by the fourth show of the still young second leg in San Francisco, Phish delivered a show that’ll be compared to some of the greats. Coming off Long Beach’s scorching opener where the band performed the longest jam of 2012 with the 24 minute, 57 second “Rock and Roll,” energy and growing expectations were taken up the coast from SoCal to San Francisco and were beyond palpable in the shows that began last Friday night.

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This would be Phish’s first proper show in the city since 1998, where the band played a never-formally announced show at the Fillmore for some very lucky fans.

Let’s run through the weekend a bit. On Friday the 17th, the band kicked off the run with the classic “AC/DC Bag,” actually symbolizing what would take place over the first two nights. “Standard opener, meet standard closer…I’m your friend, Standard Phish.” The highlights are easy to name, as there weren’t many to start off the three-night run. No bustouts, No ‘first time played this summer’ songs to speak of except “Sugar Shack” on Saturday night. The Cactus penned tune hadn’t been played since 2010 in Atlantic City as part of Phish’s Halloween run. And if I were to make a playlist from the first two nights, it would read something like:

Highlights: Corrina, Down with Disease, Tweezer, First Tube, Wolfman’s Brother, Split Open and Melt, Simple

Let’s heavily emphasize that last choice — the “Bill Graham Simple” is a must-hear piece of Phish and saved Saturday from being a total A.D.D. let-down. I’d expect “Simple” to be the Official LivePhish Video for 8/18 once they get around to it. But really, you can see that the list from the first two nights is not all that exhaustive.

Here’s that “Mike’s > Simple” I mentioned…

Now, on to this 8/19/12 Finale, the close of Phish’s first ever run at Bill Graham’s Civic Auditorium. The stuff dreams are made of — then written down on notebooks upon waking up. Dare I say one of my personal favorite Phish shows? Having rows of friends in my section helped for sure, but this show will be remembered and recommended by me for awhile because the music stands up big time. After the show and while at Toronado Pub over a post-show Pliny, I was ranking it up there with my Top 15 concert experiences, especially that second set. I try not to boast after at least hearing it twice post-show but I was pretty positive. I had the same after-show feeling I forgot in the parking lot of the Nassau Coliseum on 2/28/03.

And at this point, there really isn’t much left to be said about the show. It was top-shelf Phish. Nobody was questioning ANYTHING about this band after seeing a show like that, except maybe “why don’t they do this every night?”

Sunday has already been broken down song for song, and analyzed by most writers within the Phish scene (as good shows should be). Tim Wade of Phish.net titling it “BGCA 3: Bestest Webcasted Show Ever” in an obvious nudge to Mr. Miner calling all shows set to be webcasted bad before they even begin. Poor Oak Mountain, Alabama…

Pauly of Coventry Music may have hit the nail on the head in saying “Phish tapped into the vortex and they sucked us all in for a while. Shiiiit. Too bad they don’t do that every night, right?”. RIGHT.

My playlist for Friday and Saturday’s shows has a total of seven songs, but for Sunday’s awesome affair, the highlight playlist reads:

Highlights: Reba, Mound, Walk Away, Back on the Train, Gotta Jibboo, Roggae, David Bowie, ENTIRE SECOND SET

Phish’s second frame of music on 8/19 has no flaws unless you really hate “Bug”. BUT…It Doesn’t Matter. If I absolutely, positively had to find a gripe with the set, I’d say Trey should have agreed with Mike and kept the funk in “Boogie On Reggae Woman” alive instead of the transition into “Meatstick.” But to say that is really pushing the jaded vet agenda. The music that developed from just after 10pm until just before midnight was some of the best Phish I’ve seen.

Crosseyed, Light, Sneakin’ Sally, Theme…all contain impressive Type II communication between all four members. Each member playing off the other, taking their time in weaving some of the most majestic music this writer has heard. Several points during the jam in “Light” I thought I heard familiar teases. Upon re-listen I still can’t put my finger on them. It’s almost like “What’s The Use” has a long lost cousin. That second set is now the new benchmark for 3.0 Phish. The bar has been raised. It’s up there with UIC’s first night in Chicago and Denver’s finale in 2011 to these ears.

Putting it into more perspective: I’ve already burned the entire show to CD just so I can listen on the drive to and from work. I can’t remember the last time I did that immediately after the show. Maybe last September after 9/4/12? (Oh, and stop laughing at me for still using CDRs and not getting a direct iPod connection…)

Capping off the show was a nod to San Francisco in “Ride Captain Ride,” which @PeteLikesPhish has been trying to predict for years at any and all Phish shows within 50 miles of the Bay. Then the final bow of “Tweezer Reprise” which had gone missing since Friday. Phish put a stamp on their letter to Mr. Bill Graham. I have a hunch the band will be playing that “central part of town” venue again. After all the pre-tour complaints, Phish’s run at the venue was a success: the rig sounded above average in the Auditorium, the security entry was not a problem, bathroom lines were manageable, and water access was a breeze compared to The Greek Theatre in 2010.

“We had a lot of fun tonight. Thank you guys. I hope we can come back here and play again.”- Page McConnell, 8/19/12

Enjoy the webcast tonight from Oak Mountain, Alabama! See you in Denver for the second round of Dicks!

Thanks to LazyLightning55 for the YouTubes from the shows…