Phish rolls into New York State tonight to play at the CMAC Performing Arts Center–a beautiful venue that Phish has not played in almost exactly 15 years. This smaller venue will hopefully pack an intense punch tonight–assuming the momentum of the last four shows has not dissolved. This mid-week stand alone show will be their last before going into the NC/GA 4 night stretch that ends the first half of summer tour.
Regardless of what happens tonight, the last four shows, especially the Independence Day shows, are going to be off the hook. It’s obvious Trey is having more fun than ever playing with Phish again. His excitement and energy feel like he is back in 1996 again.
I think Phish have finally realized, after 10 years of questioning it, that they are Phish. Sure, they all have their side projects–but they are a perfect example of how the whole is greater than its parts. After everything they have been through since 2000, they have finally realized that they need to keep what they created healthy and fresh. They have created something that will never happen again, and they are not going to let go of it now.
Trey, who almost singlehandedly took Phish down, has a completely new take on life and Phish. You can see it in his eyes now, when he takes the stage–his fist pumps, his jumping. Probably the best signs to look for that Phish/Trey is having fun on stage is between-song banter or humorous takes on their songs–which has been happening all tour.
Examples: The lyrical changes in Antelope, You Enjoy Myself with I Saw it Again lyrics/chanting with the audience, lyrical changes in Fire, the Water in the Sky from Camden, the four Tweezer Reprises (one of which had Trey jumping, head banging and going down on his knees), the requests (2 Tubes, Meatstick, Sleeping Monkey, etc), the night-after-night new cover songs, the night-after-night new orgininals, Page telling Mike to take [his bass] “for a walk” during Lawn Boys, the “vocal jams” in Sneakin’ Sally/Bathtub Gin/46 Days so, the MJ teases in 2001, the whole Makisupa Policeman from SPAC, Trey saying “Weekapaug in the House!” in Hartford, the Streets of Cairo teases in Hartford, the mini-drum solo during AC/DC Bag at nTelos, the Moby Dick tease during Rock and Roll at Merriweather–and that’s just some of the obvious ones.
After the first night of Camden I wrote a very critical review, both of the show and the tour. I was worried that Trey was going to keep Phish from busting out–everything was in order for pure concert domination again, they are practicing, they have new songs and covers, Trey’s tone is back, Trey is nailing the songs, Mike and Page are the best they have ever been–up until that night, though, it seemed like Trey was forcefully holding the rest of the band back from jamming. I was so frustrated by this–it was obvious that the rest of the band wanted to throw down, how could Trey be so selfish to interrupt them mid-jams to play whatever he likes? I had given him the benefit of the doubt up until that first night of Camden–I knew Trey was the rustiest after 2004 and had the most problems, but after 1.5 years of touring and even more time to prepare, I couldn’t (as my friend says) “hold his hand” any longer like he was a little kid. Then, thankfully, Friday night’s Camden show came. The Chalk Dust Torture and 2001 will be highlights of not only this summer, but this year.
So many people complain that it’s “not like ’97”–it drives me nuts when people say that. Was 1997 Phish amazing? Yes. But Phish has always been a band that evolves–they (and most fans) don’t want the same sounding band year after year. I want to hear new takes on songs and jamming–like Mike’s new powerful synthed out bass pounding, and their new take on funk that we saw in Sneakin’ Sally and Hershey’s Drowned. Or, their new take on overall jamming, like in Blossom’s Number Line or Camden’s CDT.
A lot of people complain about the new songs, too. Are some of them not that exciting? Of course. But we also have not seen what some of these new songs can do. No one expected Down with Disease (people actually hated DwD because of the music video, assuming it was an attempt at a pop song) or Wolfman’s Brother to become what they did in the couple years after they were debuted–same with Backwards Down the Number Line, for that matter. Do you complainers really want your band to play the same songs year after year, allowing non-fans of Phish to laugh at the fact that your band just plays the old favorites like a nostalgic band trying to pad their wallets before they finally retire (for real)? They are writing, they are laughing, they are slaying, they are busting songs out, they are covering, they are practicing, they are being creative and, finally, they are jamming–because they are Phish– they are the best fucking band this planet has ever produced.
I cannot wait for tonight.