, attached to 2010-06-15

Review by parrott56

parrott56 LONG, old-school, nerd-tastic review. You've been warned....

My fifth show, second this tour following Hershey. Living in Northern Virginia, I was able to spend the night between Hershey and Portsmouth in my own bed before driving south around noon the next day in the company of one of my closest friends, Paul (his first Phish show, even though he was the one who introduced me to their studio work back in high school. Funny the monsters we create. Around the same time, I introduced him to the Rolling Stones, and then he spent one memorable summer trying to get his lips to look more like Mick Jagger's). A lovely drive, complete with noms at Arby's and a stunning playlist of virtually everything good I drew up for the occasion. Passed the Mothership, of course, and wondered when I'd get a chance to set foot in there. Beautiful blue skies over the big Hampton Roads bridge.

Managed to snag free parking on the street right next to the venue on the advice of a friendly traffic cop. After slipping a flask of Seagram's gin into my back pocket for the second show running (REALLY hoping for my first Bathtub), we found ourselves in the line for this GA show about half an hour before the gates opened. Stormed the venue and settled into the third row between Mike and Fish—effectively my spot at Hershey. Lots of other young kids around us, lots of excitement and good vibes. One guy (Warwick602, I guess!—it was nice meeting you at the show) kept crying out for "Sgt. Pepper."

The venue itself was beautiful—it felt TINY after Hershey Stadium, and the white awning picked up the breeze off the water and kept everything cool.

SET ONE

TUBE. Well, this doesn't happen at every show. The band comes out and are IMMEDIATELY bombarded with a sign and cries of "Tuuuuube"! Trey smiles in recognition and they all pause and I start to FREAK OUT, because Tube, the opener for the Island Tour and a number of other really killer shows, just might be my favorite opener of all time. I'd been calling a Tube opener since Hampton '09, but to actually catch the show where it happened (for the first in over ten years)…! Anyhow, Trey tells us they're the "all-request band," and the asteroid crashes. I actually have difficulty hearing the first two verses over the roar of the crowd (and this guy near me who's belting along). The jam is good as always, though nothing legendary—more rockin' and Trey-driven than the subsequent Merriweather Tube, which was funkier and a Page showcase. Short but interesting Tube to OPEN THE SHOW—fine by me…!

KDF. Just like at Hershey, what would have been a more predictable, rockin' opener follows an unpredictable, groovier one. Fun to hear, especially for being the first I've caught (after it's had a year to really grow on me, too). Like Chalk Dust at the previous show, nothing extraordinary. I take this opportunity to gently request that the guy still belting tonelessly along to every word desist, and he sportingly obliges. Nice not to have any bad feelings over that.

SLAVE. And like at Hershey, something crazy in the number three slot that usually appears way later in the show! Like Tube, it might have been more remarkable for placement than execution, or maybe I just wasn't fully in the groove of the show yet, but to hear Slave in total daylight... wow.

LAWN BOY. My first, so witnessing Page's lounge-crooner shtick firsthand was fun and brought a few titters. His performance was perfectly outrageous as always. Cheeky bastard....

POOR HEART. I'll never say no to a little Phishgrass, though I never attached to this one the way I did to Ginseng or Old Home Place. Good for a quick country stomp, though....

AC/DC BAG. Really nice to hear. Seemed slower than most of the '09 versions, and for that, the jam started off funkier. They spent the first few minutes dissecting the groove, till it was down to Fish playing a straight rhythm. Fine change of pace, in my book, so till we get 20-minute Bags again, I'll take the odd little variation like this.

MOMA. You know the drill for Moma in 3.0. Still a good song, still a nice dose of dirty funk, but nothing you haven't heard before. Played very well, of course, and nothing I'll ever complain about.

MY FRIEND. This song illustrated, yet again, the vast experience gulf between listening to Phish tapes and being at a Phish show. This never was a song I especially cared for, but in that moment, right up front, with Kuroda going apeshit along with the band at the end, I was a die-hard My Friend partisan (and the experience has probably permanently altered my perception of the song in the future). A great moment in the ongoing saga of this concertgoer.

COLD WATER. In what was to become a defining experience of summer 2010, next to no one knew what the hell Phish was even playing. I didn't. I suspected it might be a new original in the vein of Phish's more Americana 3.0 output. I was wrong. It didn't do all that much for me, but Paul, a big roots rocks fan, really enjoyed this one. But Cold Water was just the first trickle out of the faucet before filling up the...

BATHTUB. The one song everyone was calling by this point, and one of my absolute favorites, finally hit. My flask was out and getting love, raised aloft like a holy relic for the "he carries a martini" line. And the jam... easily one of the best Phish has crafted out of the song since 2003 and one of the biggest mind-fuck moments I've personally experienced at a Phish show. By the time the jam hit its final, glorious peak, I was just absolutely destroyed (and not by the Seagram's). Gone. I had crossed over into some other realm of consciousness. I actually felt numb in the face, as if it were melting. I'm pretty sure my jaw was closer to the floor than to the rest of my face. Truly, this was one of those "price of admission" moments: I didn't need anything else from this show. Everything to come was just the proverbial icing on the cake.

STEALING TIME. Pretty sweet icing, too. This one washed over effectively post-orgasm neurons. Balls-out rocking as always, and I couldn't have been more receptive to it. Excellent in the closer spot.

SET ONE RECAP. Hard to rate this set fairly. The set started out with some wonderfully adventurous placement and then fell into more standard fare before ending with just about the biggest bang possible. No song was poorly played or unwelcome, but only one was really transcendent. At the time, I thought it was at least as good as Hershey's first set, though at some remove I'm not sure that's still the case. I'll call it a very respectable 7.2 (though after that Bathtub, you're not going to care about ratings anyway). Highlights were My Friend, BATHTUB, Stealing Time, and SONG PLACEMENT.

SET TWO

WILSON. Okay, they went out rocking, they want to come back on rocking. Fine with me. A Wilson opener always feels like a prologue to the Set Proper, but I don't dislike the song. No real complaints.

SEVEN BELOW. My mind immediately leapt to Albany's version from the fall—a dangerous instinct, because there was almost no chance they were going to rival that. This one stayed strictly type I, and found its way back into the central riff far sooner than I would have liked. Oh, well. At least the flowing C-major jam brought back memories of Bathtub.

46 DAYS. This was pretty cool. Paul and I had listened to the Merriweather '09 version on the drive down, and while this one doesn't take the dive into type-II hose, it was a bold, thrilling performance in its own right. It rocks harder than the band was prepared for, it seems: when Trey tries to bring the lyrics back, he ends up just dropping them again with a powerful scream and resumes shredding. This one bleeds out into a couple minutes of dark, ambient sludge, which is always something these ears are keen on hearing. Now, were they to build a SECOND jam over the sludge, then you've really got a 46 Days for the books... but I was more than content with this version.

IDEA. I've always been a big fan of Mike compositions, especially since he's now most likely the quirkiest/most adventurous songwriter in the band. This was a nice prog-pop/funk hybrid, and even if it wasn't flawlessly delivered... well, Mike writes difficult compositions, and it was certainly smoother than just about every live Sugar Shack. They let the ending space out for a few extra seconds to ease the drop into

2001. Still awkward placement. I'm not a fan of the reduced role this song has been given in 3.0 (Camden being a MAJOR, MOST WELCOME exception), and it was around this point that I put together, with some disappointment, that we probably wouldn't be getting any big jams this set.

SIMPLE. We did get a really pretty Simple, though! Nothing really extraordinary, but probably my favorite version since the breakup. The typically delicate jam really brings out some of the most attentive band interplay. Landed in about a minute of welcome aimlessness before

JOY. I really enjoy this song, but it works better on the heels of deeper jams. Execution-wise, might have been the weak link of the show, too.

TASTE / THEME. Again, I really enjoy both of these songs, but I couldn't fully get into them at the show because I was pretty bummed about the placement. To me, straightforward readings of these songs late in the second set only work if they're preceded by some SERIOUS type-II business. Probably quite well-played, but not at all what I wanted to hear. (Just a purely subjective reflection, of course.)

ADITL. Funny how with Warwick602 shouting for "Sgt. Pepper" I never thought of this song, the one track from the album that's actually in the Phish repertoire! It's an excellent song, as everyone knows. Paul was pleasantly surprised to realize that they played it, and I enjoyed it far more than anything since Simple. Nice to hear.

SET TWO RECAP. Like I said earlier, everything after Bathtub was icing on the cake, so I'm fine with the fact that the icing was a little thinner than it might have been. I'm generally pretty upbeat about Phish performances, but while there was plenty to enjoy about this set, it was definitely below average, especially for a second set, marred by the absence of any really deep jams and some suspect placement. Highlights were 46 Days and Simple. I'm calling it a 3.2.

Heavy Things to kick off the encore actually got me fairly optimistic, as the previous two (MSG and Miami) were pretty zippy versions of the song. This one wasn't as good, but made for a nice Farmhouse-era combo with First Tube, which was complete with Jedi shenanigans. Encores for me typically don't rock the show average, which ends up being 5.2—basically an average Phish show, which, as we all know, is a wonderful thing.

Paul and I both agreed the first set was better, though we talked with other people on the way out of the venue who felt the reverse. All in all, it was a fun show—beautiful venue, relaxed crowd—with one SERIOUS, BIG-TIME highlight (Bathtub, in case your short-term memory is a little patchy) which was probably my favorite moment of either Hershey or Portsmouth. Then it was a week and a half off the tour for me, before everything that happened at Merriweather....


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