, attached to 2016-07-15

Review by BestBandEver

BestBandEver Okay. It has taken me a while to organize my thoughts on this. First, as I mentioned in my review of the official .net review of the show, I agree that the Gorge is one of those venues where you really do have to be there to truly understand where the music is coming from. I am just as much of a re-listen dork as anyone else, and there are certainly some shows where I leave ranting about how "next level" it was only to realize after listening that there were really only some standout moments but that my on-the-ground psyche level was more influenced by my friends and "mindframe," if you will.

The Gorge is a different can of red, red worms, however. The place is just fucking insane. A wise man put it succinctly (prior to aping out in a man-dress): "Wow. This. Place. Is. Awesome." Fish really nailed it with that one. The place is quite literally the most awe-inspiring venue in the country, and would still stand high on the list of most awe-inspiring landscapes in the U.S. in general. Being a person for whom Nature and Phish are pretty much my two forms of "Church," so to speak, the thing that I found so incredible about the Gorge (and this was my third time there for the Band, having been in '03 and '09 as well) is that it combines my two forms of spirituality into one mega-experience wherein one becomes lost in both the awe of the Columbia River Basin AND the awe of Phish until it becomes almost impossible to differentiate between the two. On a side note, one of my and my wife's guilty pleasures is to occasionally watch an episode of "Planet Earth" on mute with a favorite Phish show/ jam on (psychedelics optional but encouraged) - when you get it right it can be really insane. After Night 2 (which I will review separately), my wife and I turned to each other and instantly said, "We were just in Phish Planet Earth. Holy Shit." But Night 1 was where it started.

Anyways, onto the review. The Tweezer opener caught me off guard in the same way that the 2012 Dick's Undermind did - I was all like, "whoa, it's business time!" and was then forced to find my game face in a hurry. I thought the jam was incredibly high energy, and a clear message that the boys were there to kick some ass. Message received.

The rest of set 1 was great (yea sure I may have chosen some other songs at points but whatever), and began to create a theme in my mind of Phish trying to "play like the Columbia." Hear me out: rivers ebb and flow, they crash and they calmly swirl, they run over rocks and they fly through the air in waterfalls, they can inspire awe, fear, joy and longing. Rivers embody the passage of time, the inevitability of change, and, as part of the greater hydrologic cycle, they are a part of the never-ending, cyclical journey of all water on earth. Water is the great creator and the great destroyer. I highly recommend listening to Water (Ain't Got No Enemy) by Fela Kuti for more on that topic.

While on paper the first set may appear to have some "ups and downs," when you are there staring at the Gorge behind the band (the back of the stage was open on night 1, whereas it was blocked off on night 2...why?) it all fit perfectly. A river does not choose how it flows from one moment to the next, it just flows. And that's what Phish did (with, of course, a few obvious "shout outs" to water, rocks, and chasms to end the set, i.e., Tide Turns (which I like more and more due to the similarity of the end jam with "Looks Like Rain"), Rift and Walls of the Cave).

Okay. Set 2. Wow. First off, I would like to make a formal proposal for .netters from here on out. If you don't like it, just throw it right back. My proposal is to create a "Type 3" category. Allow me to explain: We all know what Type 1 and Type 2 mean, but what do you call a series of Type 1 songs/ themes that are woven together throughout the course of a set to create a unified "braid" of music that can only really be listened to as one cohesive piece of music? Type 3. The official review mentioned a couple of similar shows ('93 Roxy and '14 MMP2), and I would agree that those two could be categorized as Type 3 as well. You just can't pick a "song" to listen to and get it. It's all or nothing. I can't think of any more off the top of my head, but I know there have been others. The second set of Night 1 of the Gorge was fully Type 3, made even more so by the aforementioned combination of "nature-awe" and "Phish-awe." To me, it felt like Phish had fully adopted the river mindset, wherein each log, branch, or piece of detritus that enters the river stays in the river, emerging from the water now and then in no particular order as it makes it's way toward the ocean. Also, let's look at the lyrics of the three songs that became the bobbing logs, if you will.

In "Crosseyed," the chorus of "Still Waiting" represents what? The passage of time...the endlessness of things...In "NMINML," which is chock full of references to the natural world and the unknown, one line that particularly stood out for me was "You see us as a window. You're happy that we're here, exposed to all the elements, when inside all is clear..." Yes, Phish, at that time and in that place you were literally acting as a window and we were ALL very aware of the elemental exposure...we were all No Men in No Man's Land...and then there was the "What's The Use?" which was by far the favorite version I have ever seen. Holy shit. You wanna talk about a song that captures the feeling of looking into the great beyond? Beyond yourself and into the endless void? That's it. I'm getting goose bumps just writing about it. That WTU was EPIC. It felt like what the Gorge would be singing to us if it could.

And then they just braided those 3 songs into the river of the rest of the set, combining them with mastery into several other great choices that kept the energy high and the dance moves funky, all while making it seem as if it couldn't be more natural for those three songs to bob on up into the flow whenever the river told them to. It's as if Phish was not only acknowledging the mighty power and chaos of the Columbia, but also reminding us of how insignificant we all are in the face of millions of years of geologic history by asking "What's the Use of Still Waiting When We're All in No Men's Land Anyways?" Strong Magic. A Type 3 set that will always bring me back to that time and that place in a very special way.

And then the encore, which one could view as containing shout outs to WA's legal weed in Makisupa and Seahawks in Wilson...if one was so inclined. And then a final face melt with GTBT. Straight Gorged. All-Time.


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