Phish kicked off their 2012 summer tour at the DCU Center in Worcester, MA last night. As I arrived to the lot, like many-a-fans, I instantly felt at home. The scene was, as always, very heady. Glow in the dark handmade posters, metal pins and glass pieces for sale on the every corner, good brews available out of rolling coolers…“1 for $3, 2 for $5!”, 1970s VW buses were parked in every other row of the lot, grown men with beards in tye-dye onsies were walking around….OK, maybe there was only one of those! One excited fan approached me and insisted on a double high five. I asked “What do you think they will open with, buddy?” He looked at me nervously and just said, “SHHH!! It’s going to be OK!”
“Oh, boy!” I thought, “It was going to be a GREAT evening, to say the least!”
Though it is cliche (or so some say) to wear a t-shirt of the band you are going to see, the Phish lots are always full of so many threads of tours past. It makes for good random conversation and almost dates that person’s history with the band and the scene. This year, the band announced that during their three-night run in Atlantic City they will open up their Dry Goods vault, AKA: The Freezer, where they will be selling a limited amount of authentic vintage threads, posters, stickers, shows, you name it. I can only envision that this summer there will be much of the past returning to the surface with this special offer!
In arriving pit-side, the management had confirmed that no photographers were allowed in the front pit “due to safety reasons.” The stage, for this arena, was set about 2 feet closer to the GA barrier than normal, giving room for only 1 videographer, Dave Vann (one of Phish’s photographers) and the security guys up front. We photogs were directed to either house left or right for the duration of our 15 minutes of shooting. I voted to be Page-side.
The band had reportedly been practicing leading up to the kick-off of the tour, and as one of our own confirmed earlier, they were starting off in an indoor arena as opposed to under the stars as they have in the past. I don’t think anyone was turned off by that. Plus…makes for a WAY better light show when indoors so no compalints here!
The anticipation to the start of the show was completely exhilarating for everyone in the arena. A young lady named Julia was hanging out along the rail. Turns out it was her first show. She called herself a “Phish Virgin” and was hoping for a “Bathtub Gin”. What she got on this evening instead though: a “Buried Alive” SANDWICH! Oh, that is right. They started the show with a the song and ended the show with a reprise prior to encore! (For Julia’s sake, maybe tonight is where we all “take a bath”).
The crowd was screaming in a frenzy as the band settled on stage. Without much hesitation, Trey ripped into a heavy “Buried Alive” version and continued into “Runaway Jim” to open the show. A friend, and loyal “phan” had said on Facebook just last week that he felt like it is going to be a “Runaway Jim kinda summer” And holy s***, I think he was right!
They slowed it down a bit with “Torn and Frayed” off of Exile on Main Street--during which, we were escorted out of the “pit.”
I was directed to go up an elevator to the main concourse and as the doors to it closed I heard the bass-line to “Funky Bitch.” I could faintly hear the song take off and as I stood alone in said elevator, I shook my little booty a bit. I am a Funky Bitch, after all! The doors opened and I bounced into a sea of dancing fans.
Gordon started the show donning a fashionable plaid scarf and jean vest. Somewhere in the midst of “The Moma Dance” and “Rift” he lost both articles and remained in jeans and a tee for the rest of the evening. Slapping his bass as hard as he was, I can only imagine he worked up quite the sweat just within the first hour. God, I love it when he gets funky!
The next few songs were a bit on the mellow side. After concluding “Rift” by plucking their throats and screaming “ah ah ah ah aaaaaaah” outward to the fans, they sprinkled in something a bit quieter, “Nothing” off their album Undermined. Following that, Page led the band into an outstanding “Ocelot.” At about seven minutes into the song, Trey went off into a jaw-dropping three minute (or so) solo to end it. Page the led the band to sing “Beauty of a Broken Heart,” first track off his ’07 self-titled solo album. Afterwards, I think the boys could sense that we all needed a little pick me up to make it through the rest of the set and into the next. As Trey strummed his guitar, Page followed suite on the keys, Gordo chimed in and Fishman started rapping on his kit all in a slow progression leading up to the breaking point and beginning of “Possum.”
“I come from atop the mountain, baby
Where the people come to pray.”
I bet some could argue that this scene is their “church” and that they come HERE to pray. The fans energy and output of emotion is truly part of the show. There was a guy along the front rail that literally did not stop dancing throughout the entire performance, to even include part of the set break. And across the sea of people, I spied a girl signing all of what she could to her likely hard of hearing friend, who by the way was dancing her ass off! A true testament to the power of great live music!
Phish closed the set with the upbeat “Rocky Top” to include a great piano solo by Leo The lights turned up and the stagehands and security folks proceeded to clean up all the balloons, beach balls and debris from the first set in preparation for what was to come. It is a joke between some of my friends and I that every time I attend a Phish show, I come out saying “THAT was my favorite show to date!” And with a second set like the one I am about to describe, how can I be wrong on this account?!
“Carini” opened up the second set and, yes, he still has a lumpy head! After a few minutes of laying it down pretty heavy, the band trailed off into our heads with a very slow yet long, sci-fi sounding like-jam (if that makes any sense) and as it was coming to an end, the crowd gladly welcomed a now almost 20 year old song, “Taste.” The following half hour consisted of just three songs: a soul-shaking “Ghost” into a funk-filled “Boogie on Reggae Woman” into a slow-jam “If I Could!”
Stevie Wonder would been proud of this one! Everyone was boogie-ing across the floor and they were all screaming for more! Another infamous cover, “Quinn the Eskimo” followed by a MUCH NEEDED “Harry Hood.” I am not usually one to ever call a song, as I am usually ALWAYS wrong, but earlier in the day had posted that I was feeling VERY good about HOOD! They concluded with a strong and classic “Cavern” and finally the other end of “Buried Alive”--hence the sandwich!! The encore was an ever soulful and upbeat “Loving Cup” cover. (That is two Exile covers hits in one show for those counting; NICE!)
Aaron, LMB fellow contributor, provided some great video coverage in the post below. Check the clips out to see for yourself what we all felt last night in Worcester! And we will see you back there again TONIGHT!!! And for those not ready to end the evening when Phish does, head on over to Lucky Dog Music Hall for Dopapod’s Post-Phish Party!