, attached to 2003-07-23

Review by FunkyCFunkyDo

FunkyCFunkyDo Hmmmmmmmmmm. ::ponders the yonder:: Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

What to make of a show with stratospheric highs and, using the parlance of our times, epic flubs. Do the jams carry the weight? Do the flubs weigh down the jams? Let us explore!

The twinkling, hollow-cave intro to Scents and Subtle Sounds is mesmerizing. Tiptoeing into the song, the intro alone sets a tone of imaginative improvisation. I wish they'd do this more often, the intro, because it so mysterious yet so harmonious. To open this show with SASS (+intro) is amazing. Oh wait. This version is 20 minutes long! Not only is it 20 minutes long, it breaks from its "standard great" euphoria outro jam (at about the 11 minute mark) into a full on high-flying tidal wave of bliss! Wow! For the sake of brevity, I will say this falls firmly into the "Must-hear jam" portion of this review. Then thinking it's a show opener... wow... they just don't make em like that anymore. Off we go! The jam settles into Theme From the Bottom which picks up where Scents left off. A rocket ship full of fireworks, Theme scorches Deer Creek like an asteroid that crashed... except everything burned... it was that hot. Annnnd then the train went off the tracks. An "attempt" at Rift was egregiously bad, with Trey barely playing. What the hell? With how the first half hour of the show went, how is this happening? Who knows. You'd be wise to skip this Rift. Sample in a Jar picks the energy back up, and with the help of short term memory loss (with the help of THC) Rift is forgotten, Scents > Theme is remembered, and Sample serves as a launch pad into a dirrrrrty Sneakin Sally. Good god, Phish, why do you do this to me. Sassy and sultry, this Sally is up there with the all-time greats. It starts off slow, sashaying through Swamp Funk before the pace picks up into Soul Funk (I am making up variations of funk, but I think they do the music justice). Soul Funky gives way to Rocket Funk which drips into Punctuated Funk. Amazing segment of music. The jam ends rather abruptly, but who cares. 15 minutes of xxx-rated funk doesn't require a clean ending (see what I did there.... gross). So now we are really back on track, the energy level couldn't be higher, and wouldn't you know it, the band drops a Billy Breathes on us! WOW!!! Except... sigh. Much like Rift, this version is painful to listen to. Trey is missing notes and passages - it hurts. It hurts so bad. How can the set feature such extremes? Ugh. Exhausting! Billy Breathes limps to the finish line and then, completely outta left field, Seven Below takes the stage. Another "standard great" version of this song allows the energy to swell and our hopes are replenished. A nice little version here. Cavern though follows the pattern of epic jam -> letdown flubs. Dang. So here we are. I typed straight for seven minutes trying to match the manic nature of this set and now I am out of breath and my fingers hurt. This set is something else though, the mixture of GALACTIC HIGHS and chasm lows. Can the second set show more consistency?

Down with Disease growwwwwwls through the speakers and we are off! Other than Tweezer, I can't name a better second set opener. And with the quality of jamming (on the jam vehicles) on this night and in 2003 in general, the set is already showing promise. Disease blisters through its normal structure and departs into a multi-faceted quasi rock groove. Sounding nearly like 2003 Piper jams at times, this gnarly version doesn't reach the pretty harmonies and funk of Scents or Sally, but it does create volcanic, pulsing rock grooves. The jam rummages along, feasting on dissonant licks interspersed between rampaging rock anthems, before finally settling PERFECTLY onto Squirming Coil. Wow. I cannot think of a time where I have heard of seen Coil in the middle of a set. Let me tell you, this was amazingly unexpected. It was a 10/10 choice for the next song of the set. The crowd knew it, I knew it, the cat knew it (he moved from couch to sunpatch on the floor when Coil started). Beautifully played (thank god) this version is a treat. Trey sticks with Page for most of the outro jam to create a melodic dreamscape of music. Purely beautiful, the set was off to an inspiring start. Makisupa was fun and bouncy. Longer than the epic 2.16. Vegas version, but nowhere near as creative or peppy, this was a perfect fit into the set. A clean -> Buffalo Bill continued the near perfect setlist execution thus far (huge jam -> ideal landing pad -> sooper happy fun songs). They could've ended the night here and we would have left happy. But no. There's more, much more. Antelope hops next into the setlist with a shoutout to he-who-shall-not-be-named. This version is jammier than most... especially nowadays. It creeps into Type 2 territory with a playful-seriousness before returning to its smoldering, frenetic structure. The peak was hit with gusto. Although not an all-time version, this version did have a vein of darkness that makes it eerily difficult to turn away from. Thunderhead (swooooooon) comes in next and we are all turned into feathers fluttering on the breeze. Oh how I love this song. With an almost Grateful Dead full-band sound, Thunderhead drifts effortlessly through the venue. It ebbs and flows, recedes and builds ... it is pure beauty. It whispers harmonic melodies and while listening to its own melodic harmonies. Beautiful music, I wish they'd play it today. Slave adds a huge exclamation point to the evening. This version really builds nicely, taking more patience in the Trey/Mike opening segment, swirling in and out of momentum before finally culminating in an affirming (even if not the strongest) peak. Waste sends us off with an inspired, heartfelt version (and solo) from Trey and the band. We forget the lows, we celebrate the highs, and we are left not high-fiving, but rather hugging our friends within the musical journey Phish just took us on. What a journey it was.

Must-hear jams: Scents and Subtle Sounds, Sneakin Sally, Down with Disease > Squirming Coil, Thunderhead
Probably-should-listen-to jams: Theme From the Bottom, Run Like an Antelope


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