, attached to 2017-07-30

Review by 3twenty6

3twenty6 Nothing is better, nothing is best
Take heed of this, get plenty of rest.

Bob Dylan said that back when he was hanging out in a basement with some guys who were once called the Hawks but were eventually The Band. When looking at these Baker's Dozen shows, it's hard to say what's better and what's best and it makes perfectly good sense to heed Dylan's advice. On paper (and on tape) this could be the best show of the run. But then again, the same could be said about night 1 or 2 or 3 or... you get the picture. It all depends on your perspective. But this was my very first Phish show, so if you ask me, this was, without question, the best show of the run, maybe the best show ever by anyone. But I'll be hitting my second show later this week, so my perspective is likely to change. I'm like that.

While this was my first Phish show in-person, I've been couch touring for a couple of years now and spending a lot of time diving into the music of a band I'd just ignored for a long time. For my efforts, I've befriended a slew of really awesome people and come to know a thing or two about the best damned band on the planet.

But my hours poring over the Phish Companion, watching dozens of live streams, and listening to hundreds of shows proved to be ill preparation for my first real live encounter with the Phish from Vermont.

[p] [/p]
As I said before, on paper, this is one helluva show. For it to be my first show? I can't even begin to put it into words. Those who've followed this band much longer and invested more hours than I can attest to the quality of the performance and make more better-informed observations on the sheer magnificence of it all. So I won't go into some long song-by-song analysis of the show, but I will tell you what my virgin eyes and ear took in...

To open a show with a complicated piece like "The Curtain With" is a statement unto itself. To mix a metaphor or three, if "The Curtain" is the cake (or donut), then the "With" is the icing. To follow it up immediately with "Runaway Jim"? Well that's just the sprinkles on top (or "jimmies", if you prefer). Speaking of donuts, mine had a TON of Jimmies on it. I mean, so many that surface of the donut itself was entirely obscured by Jimmies... but i digress. Where was I? Oh yeah, 2 songs in and we've already got a donut with icing and jimmies. And this is still my first Phish show and the rest of the set is yet to come, and when it does, whoo-weee! what a set it is! A pair of new tunes ("Home" being especially well done), perfectly executed versions of complicated classics "Esther" and "Colonel Forbin's Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird"? And there was this whole "name game" component to the first set. In addition to a car-driving dog named Jim and Esther and the good Colonel (and the monarch named Wilson and the walrus named Jimmy) and Nellie Kane and Brian and Robert they were all there... And if you're gonna have a set that takes names, ya gotta have the intense build-release-repeat that is "David Bowie".

And then there was the second set. Writing about music, something something, dancing about architecture, right? Yeah. That's pretty much the first 40 minutes of the second set. Group improvisation at its finest, the band relaxing and letting the music take control.

Oom-pa-pa, oom-pa-pa, oom-pa-pa, oom-pa-pa.
Not even a little bit improvised, and even less unexpected (the theme was Jimmies after all), Harpua came along, returning to the first set's theme of calling names, and it was Harpua. This was my first show. Okay. Of course I'm gonna say it was amazing. Of course I'm gonna drop superlatives. Of course I'm gonna say there are lumps in the cosmic gravy and that the universe is shaped like a donut. Of course I'm still ecstatic about getting a Harpua. To get it at my first show? Yeah. Insert superlatives here.

Speaking of cosmic gravy, 2001 was just that, groovy cosmic dance party gravy. And Zarathustra is a name, so the name game is still going on.... and then there's Golgi Apparatus, which bears the name of some scientist guy. And it was great. It was Golgi and it rocked. And "In the Good Old Summertime" was a nice touch, something to bring us back to earth.

Oh, and lest we forget... the theme was Jimmies (or Jimis). So to wrap it all up, one more name was called, or cried, as it were.. Mary. It was short and sweet and not at all jammed out. Trey wasn't trying to be Hendrix. The band wasn't going over the top. Just a reverent reading of the best song ever.

So we wandered out into the New York City night. Me, I was a changed man, a different person than the guy who walked into the building. As we walked out, I ran into some of my friends from the online world who I'd never met in person before. We greeted one another exchanged hugs and talked very briefly about the show. But I couldn't really say a whole lot... I went on my way, incapable of carrying on anything that remotely resembled a normal conversation. My Phish cherry was popped, but it was more complicated than that. It wasn't just the loss of virginity, it was something bigger, more profound, but I can't put a name on it. All I know is that I'll be back for more.


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