My 25th Phish Show. I’m no longer a noob per my lil’ brother Dr. Pauly. This was the first SPAC Phish run since 2009 that Pauly didn’t come east for. He’ll be picking up tour in Chicago and sometime between the end of Summer Tour and the anticipated fall run he will hit show 300. Needless to say, Pauly knows Phish.
Let’s get some stats out-of-the-way. Night two and show three of Summer Tour offered three repeats in ” Chalk Dust Torture” , “Backwards Down the Number Line” and “Possum”. We heard the first ever SPAC “Tweezer”, one debut in “Architect”. There were a total of 10 songs in the first set and 10 in the second set including the double encore.
I started the day by attending the poster show at the Saratoga Hilton. I met Dave Calarco, aka Mr. Miner, and poster artist John Warner. John is not a Phish-centric artist, doing work for the heavyweights of the jamband scene. I was most drawn to his work as he displayed his art form for many of the artists I love including Govt Mule, Furthur, Phish, Mountain Jam, Warren Haynes and many others. I bought a copy of Mr Miner’s Phish Thoughts and my second Ryan Kerrigan poster.
I gave Friday night’s show a solid B. I was hoping that three shows in, the cobwebs were off and we were in for a sizzling Saturday night. This was the first year I was out on the lawn with the masses. My prior six SPAC Phish shows were from inside the shed. I found a place on the inside of the far right ramp to the balcony at the top of the slope that had a pretty good line of sight and good sound.
Phish took the stage at 8:24 PM. “Crowd Control” kicked things off. Traditionally this song appeared in the second set, but since 3.0 it has moved into the spot of show opener. It’s a light airy tune, a la “Golden Age”. This was a first time live performance for me and I found myself singing it the last few days so it’s a keeper! “Chalk Dust Torture” gets everyone rocking no matter where it appears in the rotation with its defying cry of “Can’t I live while I’m young?!” “The Wedge” had a low tempo, almost reggae beat to it. Dr. Pauly texted me that this song always reminds him of Colorado. The first cover of the night was next with Mike Gordon on lead vocals for “Funky Bitch”. Cactus, looking hipster chic in his scarf, also bared a striking resemblance to chef Anthony Bourdain. “Heavy Things” and “Bug” continued what was appearing to be a fairly mellow first set. “Bug” is one of those songs I enjoy because it invokes philosophical questions like “Is there a God? , and “What is the meaning of life?” “Bouncin’ Round the Room” was the first Phish song I could name because of its frequent radio play, yet I have friends that bail for the bathroom during “Bouncin” but I enjoy it and up on the lawn, I thought that this would be a great song to Prancercise too.
“Tube” brought the funk back into the set. For generation, 3.0 “Tube” performances, it was a longish 6+ minutes. My favorite Tube is the 12/7/97 Dayton Ohio version with its awesome Tube Jam. Listen closely to the SPAC 7/6/13 version and from 5:28 to 5:51, you might hear teases of Booker T’s “Green Onions”. Trey pulled the rip chord on the “Tube” jam and launched into the rocker “Julius”. I heard a young Phish head tell his buddy that the name of the song was “Take Another Step” after the refrain. I chuckled because that was what I originally thought the name of the song was, because why would Tom Marshall and Trey title a song “Julius” when the word doesn’t even appear in the lyrics?
“Julius” could have easily ended the set but what happened next will be talked about for quite a while in Phish circles and deserves a replay. “Split Open and Melt” can be butchered. I heard a great version in Utica in 2010. In this version, Trey and Fishman really locked in and the jam became full of ambient and discordant sounds tempered by the ethereal keyboards of Page McConnell. I went down the rabbit hole to memories of some of Jerry Garcia’s best jamming. At one point I forgot what song was playing and what show I was at. About 15 minutes in, Fishman appeared to be playing bells or a glockenspiel with a very light touch. SOAM definitely is the Set 1 highlight, ending at 9:43 PM.
After a short intermission, “Backwards down the Number Line” opened Set II at 10:13 PM (the second repeat from the Bangor tour opener). Yeah, the Phish play it a lot but I will always like it as it reminds me of my 40+ year friendship with my best friend Kim. Dr. Pauly had texted me that his buddy Fink (who I looked for but didn’t cross paths with) had told him that “Tweezer” had never been played at SPAC and to expect one. Well, we got it as appeared as the second song of the second set and the “Tweezer”, “Sand” and “Carini” trio will be talked about and replayed all summer long. A glowstick war broke out on the lawn during “Tweezer”. This “Sand’ was smooth and sultry the way I like them and the “Carini” that followed I found dark and dirty and rocking. Some folks thought it wasn’t as evil as other Carini’s, but to each their own.
The boys gave us a break with the debut of “Architect” from Trey’s solo album Traveler. I haven’t had a chance to listen to this song again, but like many songs added from the band’s side projects this one will be a tweaked and mature the more it is played. A young phan and I talked about this being about the Matrix (my favorite movie) and free will and cause and effect as the Architect is a character in the second and third of the Matrix series and one of the lyrics in Trey’s song is “You may even see the cause in the machine.” A fairly standard but rocking “Wilson”, a sloppy but fun cover of “Boogie on Reggae Woman” (I think the lyrics were butchered, but all is good) and “Possum” (the third and final repeat of tour to date) closed out set II. Like many others and no matter how many times its played I still love “Possum”, although I can’t say the same for “Kill Devil Falls”, which they got out of the way as the opener on night one.
“Show of Life” was a throw away encore so I started heading to the car. With that veteran move, I lost my noob status. I listened to “Tweezer Reprise” as I headed out of the State Park and back home. Sometimes its good to be a local. I was home in twenty minutes and downloading the show. After Friday’s B performance I gave Saturday night an A-. The only reason it wasn’t a little higher was because of the canoodling on song selection during set I. I was happy but missing my Phishing buddies and was looking forward to Night 3 because as Fink and Dr. Pauly say, ” Never Miss A Sunday Show”.
Set 1: Crowd Control > Chalk Dust Torture, The Wedge, Funky Bitch, Heavy Things, Bug, Bouncing Around the Room, Tube > Julius, Split Open and Melt
Set 2: Backwards Down the Number Line > Tweezer > Sand > Carini 1 -> Architect 2, Wilson > Boogie On Reggae Woman > Possum
Encore: Show of Life > Tweezer Reprise
1 Meatstick tease from Mike.
2 Phish debut.