Not Messin’ with Texas – Phish in Austin

ACL - Nick Richter

Last night Phish headlined the Austin City Music festival in Austin, TX. They played one single 2 hour set with an encore. In expected fashion for a festival show, they stuck to their “greatest hits”, moving from one big song to another without much improvisation at all. On top of it being a festival show, it was also their Fall Tour opener.

Before we go on, let me say that the Live Phish recording might be the best quality recording from them I have ever heard. It’s truly impressive.

Like they started their Summer Tour, Phish came out with Mike pounding on his bass to get the opening sounds of Down with Disease; no complaints there. Trey immediately answered all the fans’ questions from over the month and a half long break: is he going to master the Ocedoc even further? The answer was a shredding “yes”. While the opening song kept to the boundries the band usually sets for it when they use it as a show opener, Trey sounded immaculate — the recording is certainly helping convey that message from him. He rips through some break-neck guitar work before winding into the end of the song, dropping the jaws of all the people that had never seen Phish before.

Speaking of the crowd, most of the crowd were general music fans with a lot of real young Phish fans. The rail scene did not contain the usual characters, however, that’s not to say it was easy to get on rail. Lots of people were fighting to get up there, young Phish fans and general music fans alike. Phish really ignited a spark under the concert grounds on this pristine Austin night–weather could not have been better.

ACL - Nick Richter

Out of the ending of Down with Disease came Cities. It was no Greek Cities, it was quite short and jamless; however, get the Live Phish recording. Mike’s bass sounds unbelievably crisp in it. Mike is thumping away from the get-go in this version, other than that, there is not much to say.

The Possum that followed kept to Down with Disease’s script by being short and high-intensity. For being so short, it’s impressive that Trey is able to hit the clean peak that he does in this version. Quickly out of the end Page started up Wolfman’s Brother, preventing any of the festival-goes from catching their breath. A lot of people unfamiliar with Phish were saying things like “wow, they really go for it.”

Wolfman’s, again, kept to it’s usual format and only clocking in at seven minutes. However, Trey was seemingly going for a pattern in the short lived jam. If you remember my post about how Trey used to attack his guitar, playing and building off patterns are a huge part of why he became such a good improvisational guitarist. It’s apparent for at least 30 seconds that Big Red is going after something to build off of, albeit it being a flash in the pan. Keep going for it, Trey.

Phish at ACL
Phish's Austin City Limits Poster, by Micah Smith. © Phish 2010.
Chalk Dust Torture was oddly placed, but it fit with the set so far perfectly. Trey was enjoying showcasing his newfound control over his new guitar, easily an improvement from the last time he was on stage. The band was enjoying showcasing their perfect musical lock they were attaining in every song. Usually I am critical over these “greatest hits” shows, but this one is a blast from beginning to end–if you take it for what it’s worth of course, a rundown of their best songs and playing them near flawlessly. Ok, let’s take a step back, Chalk Dust was awesome. I feel that a lot of 3.0 CDTs come off as flat, with a manufactured peak before going into the end. This version contained a true organic energy, it might be my favorite Chalk Dust of 3.0 (other than Camden’s, of course). Trey naturally came into a rolling peak and Fishman got Trey’s cue perfectly to end the song. It was apparent they had been practicing even more and they came to conquer, not as improvisational masters, but rather, ROCK GODS.

My friend joked when Rock and Roll started, “oh, looks like it’s the start of the second set now”. This Rock an Roll is intense–Page was belting out the lyrics with more soul than ever before. The last time Trey played the song, in Jones Beach, he executed an intense jam, but botched the composed section. This time Trey nails everything, and I prefer this intensity to the Jones Beach version–it seems to be directed better than JB’s. The song sinks down into a black hole. Fans were unsure if another song would be coming or if this was going into a creepy jam. Soon, it was apparent what would be coming next…then Fish confirmed it.

2001; here we go, time to dance under the stars. What a blast–this is one of the funny songs to see people react to when they know nothing about Phish, “are they seriously playing this?” The version is nothing special, completely standard 2010 version.

The Number Line was particularly joyous. Trey was all over the song, coming to a thrilling finish–something a lot of the 2010 Number Lines (ones that finished normally) lacked. The song moved into the opening drum roll or Harry Hood. A lot of people are already saying “was the Harry Hood really only 9 minutes?”

ACL - Nick Richter

Yes, the Hood was only nine minutes, but it’s because it was unfinished and went into Light. Unfinished Hood? Kinda cool, I think.

Light was kinda noodly and dull. I still don’t understand why they play this “jam” song if they aren’t really going to jam in it. It eventually snaps into Suzy after Trey counts it off. It’s short but features some nice and dense playing when Fish switches over to the wood block, Mike starts slapping and Page takes over the baby grand.

You Enjoy Myself, predictably, closed out the large set. Aside from a small hiccup from Trey starting the song, it was well executed and thick. The jam starts out with Mike thumping and Trey attempting to build a pattern over him that doesn’t go very far before Trey starts coming up prematurely to end it and comes to an artificial peak to quickly go into bass & drums. They probably should not have played YEM if they didn’t have enough time for it. Bass & drums is short and heavy with Mike’s synthed bass.

They encored with Cavern and First Tube. This show did two things: produced a lot of fun at ACL and show cased Trey’s ever improving dexterity on his new axe. It was a great rock show.

Set I: Down with Disease > Cities > Possum, Wolfman’s Brother, Chalkdust Torture, Rock and Roll > 2001 > Backwards Down the Number Line > Harry Hood, Light > Suzy Greenberg, You Enjoy Myself

Encore: Cavern, First Tube

Broomfield is when things really start. See you there.