Friday, July 31, 2009

Phish-Day I

A lot of emotional baggage got opened and the colorful contents of that baggage flew up into the air in a plume of pungent excitement when Phish walked onto the stage at Red Rocks for the first time in 14 years. The audience was noticeably older than the last time, indiciating that it is still the same folks following the band. They were a bit kinder and gentler too. Less in-your-facedness about the whole scene. Like the later-period Grateful Dead audiences however, the chemical enhancement has reached new and heroic proportions. It was a party, and like I said, when the band hit the stage it was pandemonium. The first set was solid, but didn’t catch fire until midway when a long, hynotic “Moma Dance” got the crowd really going. It was followed in short order by a pretty “Silent In The Morning” and crowd pleasing set enders “Stash” and “Possom.” Second set was another matter. The band came out firing on all cylinders and performed a solid 40 minutes of brilliance before stopping to take a breath. “Mike’s Song,” “I am Hydrogen,” “Weekapug Groove,” “Story Of The Ghost” and “Wolfman’s Brother” all proved to be perfect forums for Trey Anastasio’s tight, ballsy soloing. Clearly sober and totally focused he played as well as I’ve seen him play since their early 90’s heyday. The entire band seemed completely focused and serious about it all, but played with abandon. Frontmen Anastasio and Mike Gordon in particular impressed me. Page looked a little tired and drummer Fish also looked like he didn’t fully have his touring legs yet, but these are quibbles, the entire band performed admirably. Finishing the set with one of their hardest to perform songs “David Bowie” left the crowd screaming and the encore of The Stones’ “Loving Cup” was the cherry on the cake. A great opening night! Nothing wildly unexpected or experimental, just a solid, fully-packed can of Phish.

A few other things worth noting about the experience;
1) Not a drop of rain fell. Amazingly, it was a perfect Red Rocks night.
2) Lighting Designer Chris Kuroda remains, in my opinion, the fifth member of the band, and the most impressive artist in his field. His lights are spectacular, moody, exciting, subtle and over-the top all at the same time.
3) The show was as crowded as I’ve ever seen Red Rocks. Either a lot of people snuck in, or it was over sold. It wasn’t a problem though, because as stated the crowd was incredibly cool.
4) Parking was another issue. As part of the agreement with the town of Morrison, all Phish fans- those with and without tickets were given equal access to the park. I get it actually: to avoid a repeat of the problems of 1996 (which were totally media driven and over-stated) you corral all the Phish in one pond. Fine. BUT-the ticketless were allowed to grab all the real parking spaces and those who actually had paid for tickets found themselves in triple auxiliary secret hidden parking lots almost a half mile from the venue. That was totally insane and absolutely the wrong thing to do.

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