Phish headlined the Outside Lands Music Festival at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco Friday night with a two-set outing that, as expected, was song-driven and high-energy.
Like their appearance at the Austin City Limits festival last year, Phish constructed a show that showcased happy rock, little improv, and pure energy. On top of not playing a single slow song the entire show, Phish established their dominance of the other acts appearing at the fest by showing non-phans just how a real rock concert is played: explosive song after explosive song, a handful of covers, joining the end of one song into the beginning of another, psychedelic lights, and a sea of fans that don’t ever stop dancing.
I personally like Friday’s outing, along with the ACL appearance, because the songs are played really tightly–it’s perfect listening when you want to enjoy Phish with someone that isn’t into them (let’s say, for instance, a girlfriend). Shows like this are great for hooking new phans too.
Phish took the stage under overcast skies to open up with Kill Devil Falls–I’m still trying to cope with how abrasive the opening to KDF is, like I mentioned last week, it sounds a lot like Chalkboard Torture to me. Drop the intro please–when fans of other bands hear that, it’s embarrassing. Nevertheless, the song accomplished what it was there for and Wilson jumped out of the end.
Set 1: Kill Devil Falls, Wilson, Funky Bitch > The Moma Dance > Peaches en Regalia > Sample in a Jar, Possum, Tweezer > Mound, Suzy Greenberg > Axilla > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove
Set 2: Rock and Roll -> Steam -> Piper -> Roses Are Free, Julius, Life on Mars?, Birds of a Feather > Fluffhead > Backwards Down the Number Line > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Chalk Dust Torture
Funky Bitch showcased Trey’s 2011 blues/rock guitar playing before popping into Moma Dance. Peaches appeared randomly in the middle of the first set after the standard Moma–I think it’s cute that now that ever since Trey nailed it at SBIX, it’s falling into regular rotation–I suppose I can’t complain, it sounds great again.
The highlight of the first set, and the most improvisation of the night, emerged within the Tweezer > Mound combo. I think this Tweezer is awesome–it’s certainly more impressive than the Gorge’s. Trey finds a niche inside of Fish’s pulsating beat and works from there. The seemingly-innocent noodling transforms into, for lack of better words, pure psychedelic rock. It’s a series of waterfalls of notes and mini-peak after mini-peak. Towards the end, Trey uses the style that he’s used in a few other jams this leg (including the peak in the Tahoe Ghost) where Trey makes a series of mini-bends in his strings to give his notes a sort of eerie/ghostly sound, or siren if you will. It’s difficult to explain. What I can say for certain is that This 11-minute jaunt is perfect for getting a new fan into the scene. There are no dull parts, it’s only high-energy guitar, and it’s not obscenely long. Out of the ending sonic quagmire came the drumbeat to Mound, although every version of the song is going to disappoint me after SBIX’s.
The first set came to a head with a short Mike’s Groove that packed an impressive punch. The Mike’s Song from Hollywood Bowl featured some of the best guitar we’ve seen in the song since 1.0, and Friday’s version comes near to that. Trey got loose with the intro licks to the song before launching into the guitar-driven jam. Weekapaug finished where Mike’s Song left off.
The second set opened up with what has to be the shortest, open-ended, Rock and Roll they’ve played. The jam immediately dissolves into the beginning of Steam. I find the fact that they played Steam at the fest particularly disappointing. We have all been waiting for this song to surface on leg two, and the likely chance is that it won’t be played until Dick’s at the earliest. UIC would be perfect for Steam; of course, it could still easily appear in Chicago–it’s just not likely. But in a show packed with fan-favorites, why play a song that most people aren’t going to recognize? Steam is a song that we’re patiently waiting for them to stretch out, but Friday’s version was a bit step backwards from where it was heading at Blossom and Merriweather.
The outro to Steam was awkwardly cut short for a segue by Trey into Piper. The Roses that followed was played well, but felt awkward in a second set after the three jammy songs that preceded it.
Despite many claiming that the highlight of the second set was the first three songs, mine is Julius. Julius is a song I’ve been getting kinda sick of in 3.0; Outside Lands’ was gorgeous–I’d argue that it’s the best version of 3.0. In an era with peak-less versions, Trey’s trilling into the ending fireworks was a breath of fresh air.
After a rushed Birds > Fluff came a rather-patient an pretty rendition of Number Line before dripping into a horribly-rushed 2001. It’s almost like they play 2001 at festivals just because the lights are so impressive for festival venues–why not extend it past four minutes though? This version contained, literally, almost NO jam (whiny reader: but OPT, in the early 90’s, 2001 never contained a jam! OPT: stfu).
To bookending the two sets with high-octane rockers, Phish paired the KDF opener with the CDT closer; however, this CDT proved to be far more impressive, Trey built a pattern of a series of trills–it’s fucking nuts. I have not heard a version of CDT rock so hard in this era. Great job Trey, great job.
Yes, the festival show has come and gone, while I expected the show to change nothing (for better or worse) about the direction of Phish on this leg, it has made me even more excited to for UIC. Trey’s playing in Tweezer, Julius, and CDT have shown us that he has moved to yet another level in his guitar playing this year. While, overall, Friday’s show will be largely forgotten about (as it should be), all eyes in our community are on UIC.
Hyped shows make me nervous. It’s almost as if Phish drops the ball for shows that the community is excited for; see: Fox Theater, Telluride, F8, SBIX (I’m not going to argue about that one again)–however, on the contrary, we have Red Rocks ’09, NYE ’09, NYE ’10, and Gorge ’11. All I’m saying is that the dominoes are perfectly stacked for a three-night blowout at the UIC Pavilion. If Trey combines the playing he boasted during San Fran’s Tweezer, Julius, and CDT with the creativity and improvisation we saw at Gorge and Hollywood Bowl, we are in for a real fucking treat.
See you guys Monday in the Windy City.