The suspense finally lifted Sunday morning when the Phishbill was finally available. Was it Physical Graffiti? Zappa? Genesis? None of the above–Phish covered Little Feat’s Waiting for Columbus, proving that it was pointless following all the rumors swirling for the past couple of months.
Many of us are familiar with Phish’s cover of the Little Feat song “Time Loves a Hero” (from this album), a rarity that was played at Walnut Creek earlier this year. Waiting for Columbus is a live album that was recorded over four concerts during 1977, released in 1978. The album starts with Cerphe Colwell announcing the band by spelling out “F-E-A-T, Little Feat!”. Along with the Phishbill came an added note for the audience to respond the following way to the announcer last night:
F :: PH!
E :: I!
A :: S!
T :: H!
Phish added a 5-piece horn section and Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion to cover the album. Phish crushed the 70’s rock album that’s injected with a heavy dose of dancable funk. The truly infectious grooving (thanks to Mike, Fish and Giovanni) was very reminiscent of 1996’s cover of the Talking Heads’ Remain in Light cover. The gritty guitar leads that surfaced through the dense grooving added a bit of Exile on Main Street’s swagger. Because of the sense of it being a hybrid album between rock and funk, many are making the uncontroversial claim that this is was the best choice since 1996.
Phish’s playing had been noticably tighter since their return in Austin in early October. Each show after, Phish got tighter and tighter–like the well-oiled machine they were once known to be. Segues were better on Trey’s part and his dexterity was impeccable, yet again. It was obvious that this was all due to practice, likely just practicing whatever album they were practicing at the time. This led me to believe they wouldn’t be doing a classic rock album, but rather a more funk or progressive-rock album; I was thinking King Crimson. After listening to Waiting for Columbus last night, I can see how their playing got as tight as it has the past month. The songs on the album require tight interplay over dense grooves–something that could be ignored with the more loosely composed Exile on Main Street. Judging by how they have been playing this month, this album may influence Phish’s musical style as much as Remain in Light did.
Set 1: Frankenstein, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Ghost -> Spooky, The Divided Sky, Roses Are Free > Funky Bitch, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Stash,Character Zero
Set 2: Fat Man in the Bathtub, All That You Dream, Oh Atlanta, Old Folks Boogie, Time Loves a Hero -> Day or Night, Mercenary Territory, Spanish Moon, Dixie Chicken ->Tripe Face Boogie, Rocket in My Pocket, Willin’, Don’t Bogart That Joint, A Apolitical Blues, Sailin’ Shoes, Feats Don’t Fail Me Now
Set 3: Down with Disease > Back on the Train > Gotta Jibboo, Camel Walk, Suzy Greenberg, Wilson > Harry Hood > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, You Enjoy Myself
Surely, they will bring a song or two from this album to put in a regular rotation of songs, as they have done with Exile, Remain in Light, and The White Album. It will be interesting to see what songs they choose; many have potential for extended jams, considering the open-endedness and pure grooves these songs birth.
The musical costume was book-ended by 2 song-driven sets which went against widespread belief that tonight would bring the jams that the two nights before didn’t spawn. The show started with an exciting four song tribute to the holiday.
Page came to the forefront with his keytar to open the show with “Frankenstein”, rather than close it. “BBFCFM” followed in a raunchy and exciting fashion–in case there was a doubt that the Halloween holiday was upon us, Phish dropped the ever-elusive set one “Ghost” on us next. Here we go!
“Ghost” featured a jam featuring initially very patient playing by Trey; at first it was very similar to Amherst’s “Tweezer”. The groove started picking up and eventually segued into Atlanta Rhythm Section’s “Spooky”. Most of you will be familiar with this cover from the popular “You Enjoy Myselfs” from 3/14 and 4/14/1993. After this initial stanza of music, it seemed certain Phish was here to play.
The rest of the set was a bit less exciting. Song selection was fun, but not many panned out, considering how they had just opened the show. Aside from the impressive combo of “Roses are Free > Funky Bitch”, the rest of the set will probably be forgotten. “Stash” featured a particularly spacey turned tension-filled jam, however, Trey was unable to release that tension yet again and quickly darted into the end of “Stash”–like a little girl running out of a scary haunted house.
The show had a New Year’s Eve feel to it; the third set started at almost mid-night on the dot. The entire show was nearly six hours long from start to finish. Phish wrapped things up just short of 2AM which must have annoyed the hell out of Boardwalk Hall staff but fun for everyone else.
The third set opened with an expected “Down with Disease”. Trey tried to do something different in the intro which threw off Mike and Fish, thinking Trey was aborting the song. As the mistake snow-balled, Fishman stopped and said something to the extent of “and this one’s off our album”. They took it from the top and launched into a searing jam that eventually fluttered away pre-maturely into a fun “Get Back on the Train”.
This third set highlight came out of “GBOTT”–“Gotta Jibboo”. When “Jibboo” started, I commented on how every 3.0 version has been the same–it wasn’t anything to get excited about. However, this version took a turn towards pure hosing. Straight out of the user’s manual for 3.0 “Bathtub Gin”, Trey departed on a guitar-driven affair. He took the entire crowd on a search for musical nirvana as he kept bringing the jam to another level, playing faster and harder as the song went on. While I could have, literally, listened to this jam for another hour, the band entered the end of the song. The way they went back into the end was unusual, though. For once (if I remember correctly), the rest of the band brought the end of the song in with Trey delicately following after his soul wrenching endeavor. Very unique and impressive version.
“Camel Walk” and “Suzy Greenberg” were awkwardly placed in the middle of the set, further squashing hopes of a third-set improvisational throw-down. I was disappointed that they would play “Suzy” without horns when there were 5 horn players back-stage. The “Wilson” that followed contained, surprisingly, the most unique and unexpected jam of the night. After the “blat boom!” section, Trey launched into what has been known as an added “heavy metal jam”. Soon, Page started following Trey’s patterns. The jam reminded me of “Wilson” from 8/14/1996.
“Hood” was just a waste of 12 minutes. “Hood” seems to not be able to leave the first part of the jam, anymore. The first half is supposed to be pretty and quiet before heading into a soaring and inspired second half. We should be flying into the “You can feel gooood, (I feel good), good about Hood” segment. Instead, they never-ever leave the ground anymore and just go into the end. I honestly don’t want to hear this song anymore, not until they play it correctly.
“Horse > Silent” passed by before going into the 100% expected “YEM” closer. The jam reached a completely forced and sloppy peak that was, unfortunately, not even saved by Mike in the bass & drums segment. The vocal jam was short and boring, at least compared to other 3.0 vocal jams. The entire song was another short version, clocking in at only 19 minutes. The band came back on stage with the horns and percussion for “Julius”
I hate to end the review on a less-than-positive note, but “Julius” did not live up to what it should have been. “Julius” sunk down into a sort of drums section with the percussion not totally in sync with Fish (who gets awkward himself when the spotlight is on him). The guitar and horns eventually came back in and Trey never hit any sort of peak before the song ended. After last year’s “Suzy” > “Suzy Reprise”, the bar was set very high for this year’s encore.
Now the arguments will begin: “Was Festival 8 better than this year’s show?”
My thoughts: Festival 8’s Phish sets were better, and while Exile was an awesome cover, Waiting for Columbus was a better set for Phish.
Feel free to argue about this on the new Online Phish Tour Forum