Holly Bowling stopped in for a show at Cohoes Music Hall this Sunday, September 16. Bowling, hailing from San Francisco, is well known for her solo piano transcription of the infamous 36 minute version of “Tweezer” that Phish played in Tahoe, NV in 2013. She started touring as a solo act soon after, captivating unsuspecting audiences with her soulful renditions of Phish classics. She soon expanded her act to include a vast number of Grateful Dead tunes, which can be heard on her studio release Better Left Unsung.
Bowling opened up the Sunday show with “It’s Ice,” an incredibly intricate Phish composition which she plays with ease. This segued into “McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters,” which featured a “China Cat Sunflower” tease in the section that is typically reserved for McConnell’s solo. Bowling was able to open up this piece as well as any multi-instrumental band could, showing her ingenuity in experimentation, even as a solo artist. She delighted the crowd when the end of “It’s Ice” emerged from deep within the depths of “McGrupp.” After this, she paused to acknowledge her gratitude for her presence here, and explained her love for the building, which was the sight where the name of her band, Ghost Light, was conjured.
The first set continued with the Grateful Dead’s “Lost Sailor” which transitioned into Phish’s “Roggae,” which was played and finished in its entirety. This was followed by a beautiful version of the Dead’s “Mountains of the Moon,” which drifted effortlessly into “Saint of Circumstance,” completing the “Lost Sailor” for any familiar Dead fans.
After a short break, Bowling came back for a nearly continuous second set. A soaring version of “Bird Song” opened the set, which flew beautifully into the first complete part of “Weather Report Suite,” including the prelude. This naturally blossomed into an uplifting rendition of “Let It Grow,” really bringing the energy up in the room.
Bowling seamlessly transitioned from this Dead heavy set into Phish’s “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” which then flowed into a fun version of “Sand.” This was followed by Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter,” which proved to be just as powerful of a song when played by one woman on a grand piano, as it is with four of the greatest rock and roll musicians of all time. Bowling then brought back the Dead by gliding into an impassioned version of “Morning Dew.” After a brief pause, Bowling closed out the set with “Swept Away,” a Phish rarity that is welcome to any diehard fan, and which fits perfectly with Bowling’s style as it reflects her ability to maintain the emotional integrity of the songs that she transcribes. To top it all off, this shifted seamlessly back into the end of “Let it Grow,” which truly completed the second set.
Upon leaving the stage, Bowling came back for an encore. “Slave to the Traffic Light” proved to be a perfect fit, with a warm, uplifting jam that would have left Page himself smiling from ear to ear. Not only was this classic composition executed with perfection, but it also included a “Let it Grow” tease, making it a unique reflection of the performance from that night.
Holly will be returning to Albany on November 14 at Jupiter Hall with her band Ghost Light.
Set 1: It’s Ice > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > It’s Ice*, Lost Sailor > Roggae, Mountains of the Moon > Saint of Circumstance
Set 2: Bird Song > Weather Report Suite Prelude, Weather Report Suite Part 1 > Let It Grow > A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > Sand > No Quarter > Morning Dew, Swept Away > Let It Grow
*w/ China Cat tease
**w/ Let It Grow tease