There is a common, widespread belief that hippies and socialites are like Rasheed Wallace and the NBA Personal Conduct Code – they just don’t mix. I challenged that stereotype this past weekend with a trip to the West Coast that featured one of the more memorable musical experiences of my life: Phish at the Gorge Amphitheatre. The days of Woodstock and the golden era of rock may belong to our parents, but there was certainly no shortage of flawlessly played, focused, and beautiful music as Phish tore down the scenic stage set on the Columbia River.
Before I get into the details of one of the phinest two-day runs I have ever had the pleasure to listen to, let me pay full respects to the city of Seattle – the gem of the Pacific Northwest. Between the fish throwing in the public market, devouring the nation’s best mac n’ cheese, seeing Safeco and Qwest Field, throwing a rose on the SuperSonic franchise’s grave, and meeting Phish bassist Mike Gordon at one of the city’s 56 Starbucks, the Emerald City was a blast.
Onto to the concerts. The atmosphere alone at the Gorge makes it arguably the best outdoor venue in the nation and one of the few places where nature meets music in perfect unison. Although I did some thorough warming up in the VIP parking lot (it’s good to know hippies in high places), nothing could have prepared me for my first view of the concert grounds. My goosebumps had goosebumps of their own as my friends and I descended upon God’s gift to rock. The people, the sights, the stage, the sun, the clouds… everything was perfect. In all seriousness, if you were in attendance at either Friday or Saturday night’s show and had a problem with your surroundings then I suggest you find the number of a good proctologist because you likely have something jammed up your ass.
And now for the meat of the experience: the music. Since their reunion in March, many have said Phish was working to get their sea legs back and shake off the rust of nearly five year long hiatus. Even though the music was great when I saw them at Virginia’s Hampton Coliseum in March and at Jones Beach in June, it was clear that the boys were holding back and erring on the side of caution at times during those shows. Things were a whole lot different at the Gorge as the band threw off the kiddie gloves and collectively pissed into the wind with four sets of deep, enthralling improv that conjured up fond memories of the funky mid-’90s Phish sound that swept the nation.
With a catalogue of songs featuring new jams, old classics, and a variety of fan favorite covers including Velvet Underground’s Rock & Roll and Led Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times, it was made abundantly clear that Trey, Mike, Page, and Fish are four musicians who were born to play together. Although they played for over three hours on both nights, it felt as though the concerts lasted mere minutes as the crowd of Phish faithful were swept into a melodious blur of delight, surprise, camaraderie, and most of all, happiness.
The 40-year anniversary of the monumental Woodstock Festival just happens to be this coming weekend; I believe I speak for music fans everywhere when I say we are fortunate to still have a band as gifted as Phish to keep the spirit of the ‘60s alive and well.
Phish :: Gorge Amphitheatre :: George, WA
Set I: Down With Disease, Ocelot, Pebbles and Marbles, Possum, Sleep, Destiny Unbound, Stash, Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley > Gorge Jam, Cavern
Set II: Moma Dance, Light, Taste, Fluffhead, Joy, Bathtub Gin, Harry Hood
Encore: Slave to The Traffic Light
Set I: The Mango Song, Chalk Dust Torture, Middle Of The Road, Tweezer, Driver, Twenty Years Later, Ya Mar, It’s Ice, Wolfman’s Brother, Character Zero > Run Like An Antelope
Set II: Rock & Roll > Makisupa Policeman, Alaska, The Wedge, You Enjoy Myself, Backwards Down the Number Line > Piper, Grind
Encore: Good Times Bad Times, Tweezer Reprise