This show was part of the three-show Festival 8. Stash contained an L.A. Woman tease. During I Didn't Know, Trey announced that Henrietta would, for the first time in human history, suck and blow at the same time, in the shape of a figure 8. Disease was unfinished. During Bowie, Trey said, "I'm gonna give you a little hint about the Halloween album now."
I'm writing this midafternoon on Halloween - meaning only these two of the weekend's eight(!!) sets have been played. People are dismissively calling these 'warmup' sets; if that's the case then festivalgoers need to be prepared to have their insides liquefied, because this is a *hot* show. There's a dramatic LxL-inflected Stash in the first set, along with (this is a weird thing to say) the best-ever performance of Time Turns Elastic, which finally got played in the same tight-loose fashion as tunes like Fluffhead and Hood. Swell take on Page's 'Beauty of a Broken Heart' to boot.
As for Set II, it's strong all the way through. Wolfman-lovers will want to pay particular attention to this thrilling version, which plays funny games with the song's chord progression, climaxes with some oxygen-deprivation psychedelia, and segues into the best Piper of 2009. Piper recalls the transcendent Light from this summer at the Gorge - high praise.
Disease dissipates just when it's achieving liftoff; typical '09 Disease in that regard. And this fine Bowie nonetheless does nothing to dispel the sense that the best Bowies mostly happened 15 years ago. But the set climaxes powerfully with Hood. We've had some interesting times with Harry Hood this year, and the Indio jam magically transforms into something new, reminiscent of the classic Jones Beach Hood from this summer yet possessed of its own unique energy. Following the song's recent trend, this Hood ends a little oddly, with a weirdly tentative approach to the closing chords in place of the trilling guitar heroics of old. But by that point you won't be complaining. The jam is just that good.
Phish's first day of its weekend-long Festival 8 was perfect for those who were either new to the band's material or seeing Phish for the first time. The night's two sets together played like a combination primer and greatest-hits package, as the quartet sprinkled liberal doses of its trademark quirky humor ("I Didn't Know," "Poor Heart") with material from its solid new album Joy ("Ocelot," "Time Turns Elastic") and heavy-hitting, tried-and-true jam vehicles ("Piper," "David Bowie").
Which isn't to say there wasn't plenty for the tour-heads and 100-show veterans to enjoy. But Friday wasn't the optimal experience for the longtime fan chasing that rare song that has eluded him since seeing the band in the early '90s. It was simply a marvelous introduction, with no apologies for the lack of rarities or super-extended jams.
Phish fittingly kicked off its 8th festival with the funky, jubilant "Party Time" before tearing into one of its trademark set openers, the anthemic "Chalk Dust Torture," whose jam portion grew discordant before rising to a fierce, fiery peak. It was a perfect example of Phish's dichotomous nature: the band can launch from dissonant to dazzling in the span of a few bars, proving the importance of patience and communication between its members.
After "Moma Dance" and "NICU," the band trotted out the jazzy "Stash" - and as hundreds of fan-brought balloons bounced above the crowd, drummer Jon Fishman and bassist Mike Gordon orchestrated a bouncy groove. Over that, keyboardist Page McConnell and guitarist Trey Anastasio followed each other from a dark, minor-key vamp to a bright, major-key lilt, turning the "Stash" jam on its proverbial ear.
Once again, they're proving that whatever die-hard Phish fans might expect from a particular song on a particular night, predictability has never been the band's strong suit.
While Phish's first set was a crowd-pleasing mix of new and old, short and long, easy and difficult, it was the second set - of eight scheduled for the weekend, including a "musical costume" set tonight, during which the band will cover another artist's album in its entirety - that truly affirmed the group's dedication to proving worthy of having fans travel from far and wide to its first festival in five years.
Beginning with the calypso-funk of "Punch You in the Eye" and segueing into a superb "Down with Disease," Phish's second set showcased a fan-fed glow-ring throw-a-thon, as Anastasio chomped on meaty chords, Gordon thumped, Fishman splashed and McConnell moved from dusky organ chords to choppy clavinet slaps, breathing consistent life into the 16-year-old composition.
After a stellar run through "Prince Caspian," Gordon gouged out slaphappy, effect-drenched bass runs in "Wolfman's Brother," leading Phish from a triumphant, sunny crescendo into atmospheric Radiohead-esque weirdness - perhaps hinting that Kid A will be the Halloween cover? From there, Anastasio guided the band into the steady build of "Piper," featuring the night's most beautiful, euphonic playing.
As Phish transitioned into one of its oldest (and most muscular) compositions - the twisty, turny "David Bowie" - Anastasio hinted that the song might be "a hint about the Halloween album." (One of the eight festival campgrounds is named after Bowie's Hunky Dory, fueling the rumor that Bowie may join the ranks of the Beatles, the Who, Talking Heads and the Velvet Underground as bands whose albums Phish has covered in the past.) Gordon again drove the group through the "Bowie" jam, feeding the bottom end while spurring Anastasio on to more ecstatic heights.
Never a group to disappoint when all eyes are watching, Phish displayed its penchant for showmanship during the set-closing "Harry Hood," launching a giant collection of helium-filled balloons packed with lights and sensors. The balloons' colors changed and pulsated with the rise and fall of "Hood," climaxing as the band yelled "You can feel good!"
Judging from the reaction of the 30,000-plus devotees who made the trek to the Coachella site's first one-off, single-band performance in 16 years, the balloons' iridescence, the site's beauty and the band's exuberance truly made them feel as good as the band felt, if not better. The fans don't have to worry about pulling off a major feat like playing an entire album's worth of someone else's songs (Exile on Main St., anyone?) as well as two sets of its own material on Saturday.
If anyone's up to the self-imposed challenge, though, it's Phish, a band that for decades has prided itself on taking everyone's expectations - those of its fans, the media, even its own members - and surpassing them with flying colors.
The opener of Festival 8, Party Time, was a fitting song for the mentality of throwing a giant party and having a great time. This performance was the second time this Fishman-penned tune had been played. The psychedelic Chalkdust that followed was a great moment of improvisation with the fact that it was a departure from the typical bluesy Chalkdust jam. After the funk of Moma Dance and the island-flavor of NICU, Trey led the band through a great jam of Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan; one of the best performances of this song during the whole 09 tour. The highlight of set one, Stash, featured a beautiful, major-key jam that included an L.A. Woman tease. I Didn't Know featured Trey announcing that this would be the first time that Fish would blow and suck on the vacuum at the same time. After standard versions of Poor Heart, Cavern, and the Page-penned Beauty of a Broken Heart, Phish jammed out Ocelot for a while and played a gorgeous version of Time Turns Elastic to end the set.
To begin the second set, Phish played a decent Punch followed by an awesome Down With Disease that rivaled the DWD from seven months earlier at Hampton. A segue from Prince Caspian into an incredibly spacy and psychedelic Wolfman's (featuring a Light jam), led into the best Piper of 2009. The segue into Joy, a song that has grown on me a lot since the release of the album, was a brilliant moment of the second set. During the high-hat tinkling of David Bowie, Trey said that this was a hint of the Halloween album that would be played the next night. After a rocking Bowie jam, a beautiful Harry Hood flowed into a set-closing Golgi Apparatus. A standard Character Zero ended the wonderful first show of Festival 8.
Highlights: Party Time, Chalkdust Torture, Stealing Time, Stash, Ocelot, Down with Disease, Wolfman's, Piper, David Bowie
Every time Page McConnell, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon, and Trey Anastasio are on a stage together, it is the best live musical performance I have ever seen. This show was no different. I will not get into setlist specifics, anybody can read the setlist and listen to the recording.
What I will tell you is that I was at this show. I experienced the magic. The air was electric, and I felt like a stripper pole in the middle of a lightning storm on Page side. I was receiving high voltage shocks from the music squirming into my ears from above, as well as from the other organisms who were flailing in pleasure around me.
As my mind began to meld more deeply with the sacred vibrations being created by Phish, what can only be described as tubes of orange ectoplasm began to float towards me over the crowd from the stage.
Some of the smaller more spaghetti-like orange tubes began to slide into my head through my ears. As each one entered my body I shivered in delight. The orange ectotubes would then go directly to my core and wrap around my spine, causing my body to begin to gyrate violently to the music.
It has been 7 years and the musculature of my face has still not healed from the semi evil funk grin that overtook it at some point during the end of Bowie and the beginning of Hood.
This was not my last encounter with Phish's swimming orange audio ectopleasure tubes.
We headed out to Indio on Friday afternoon. Quickly set up camp and it was "Party Time"!!! First set was lot's of fun, nice and lengthy yet conservative. Loved Moma Dance as always and was surprised with the 1st set 1st night Stash... My first Ocelot (perhaps a guilty pleasure). Time Turns Elastic was the bathroom song of the century even though the second half of that song rally jams.
Second set PYITE opener was a great way to kick off one of the best overall set of the weekend. DWD got us really grooving as this would be Mikes set to let the bass bombs drop. Wolfman's got crazy, Piper was fast, Joy sucks, Bowie, Hood and Golgi rounded off a great night. The Character Zero encore was a fitting end to the first day of an epic festival.
After checking out some art installations and fire shows we headed back to camp feeling great with smiles for miles to find that some mother fucking piece of shit cock sucking son of a bitch douche bag cunt whore ass clown STOLE MY COOLER!!! Thanks...
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