@ZackTeibloom Phish at ACL is one of those shows I doubt many Phish followers came down to Austin for. A one-off in Austin with no shows nearby and little to no other jam bands on the bill. Sure, I saw a little kid with a hula hoop, but this isn’t a jam festival in the slightest. Having said that, I’m always curious what a hardcore Phish fan wants to read about a Phish show. You know the set list in real time. You’ll have the audio the next morning. I bet you wanna know what it was like there in person from someone who knows the band quite well and was sober as a surgeon for the whole show. I’m glad I’m here.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas, but Phish only had two hours to work with at ACL. How would they maximize their time when playing to a bunch of noobz who had little live Phish experience? They roared through a carefully picked set of staples, let Trey solo a bunch, busted out the usual tricks and gave Texas a nice taste of what Phish 3.0 is about.
There were a few things I noticed last night that I wanted to share since you couldn’t have noticed most of them, even if you were standing right next to me. Andy never even heard The Strokes bros debate, for one. Here we go:
Noobz– A lot of first timers in the crowd. This was mostly obvious because everyone around us told us they were hyped for their first show, but you could just tell. There wasn’t enough recognition cheering when they’d start crowd favorites. Way too many girls kept their glow sticks after just one throw instead of letting a war evolve and too many people seemed perplexed by the trampolines and vocal jam in “Y.E.M.” Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all noobz. Most knew to yell “Hood” right after the first “Harry,” someone brought a bad-ass “Birds” sign made out of feathers and at least there were glow sticks, even if people didn’t know how to use them. You can’t blame them. It’s really hard to travel to see Phish if you live in Texas and with this rare appearance, Phish got some new fans.
Sunchips test- I had a bag of Harvest Cheddar multi-grain Sun chip awesomeness in my cargo pocket, waiting for a dull moment in the show to bust them open. Never happened. Phish really made the most of their time and delivered what I guess isn’t a “best of” setlist, but most of the standards done and done right. So many of my favorite lyrics to sing along to were prevalent in the set: “Can I live while I’m young?!” “This has all been wonderful, but now I’m on my way,” “So with meaningless excitement and smooth atonal sound…” “People sleep. Sleep in the daytime, if they want to!” and “Wash uffizi, drive me to Firenze” just to name a few. “Backwards Down the Number Line” was the only new song, and the lyrics felt especially poignant as Andy and I were finally seeing Phish together, so we felt compelled to throw an arm around each other. “Happy, happy oh my friend,” indeed!
Trey solos- I couldn’t begin to count how many times Andy and I looked at each other with big smiles or jaws dropped as Trey would rip solo after solo. Maybe it’s just because it’s been a year since Andy saw Phish at Festival 8 and longer since I saw them at Bonnaroo ’09, but boy! God! Man! Shit! He was just on fire. I don’t know what he does to get a tone that no one else can come close to matching, but he just has something all kinds of special coming out of that guitar. It sings. Don’t know what else to tell you.
Sign language shadows– First off all, signing during shows is maybe the best job ever. A whole lot of air guitar from the best seat in the house and the occasional signing. The real challenge is not stop and stare at the band. Anyway, the lights below the woman signing created some pretty fantastic shadows on the banners next to the stage. I swear I was sober.
The bros and the geography tripper– We had some real characters near us. Before the show, I enjoyed the three guys who were admittedly on acid and extemely excited about their first Phish experience. One of them had a cool functional necklace and they were funny bros, but as they loudly argued about whether or not to leave for the Strokes for half an hour during the show, and got progressively more drunk, they became insufferable. They decided to not leave for The Strokes and marked this decision with a three-man hug and “Fuck The Strokes” chant that capped off one bros poignant “I don’t want to leave this bullshit for some other bullshit” statement earlier. I don’t think bullshit was the best choice of words for two damn good bands.
Those guys were just your standard bros who decided to trip and think they like Phish now, but the girl tripping balls in front of us was in her own world. She kept shielding her eyes from the light show and had to turn away, giving Andy and I looks that seemed to say “This is so beautiful, but I can’t look anymore, the light, it’s entering my soul!” She was also teetering a lot and trying to dance with us when her boyfriend wasn’t watching. After the show, she insisted on asking where we were from and she turned out to be from the suburb between Andy and I. She asked where we went to school (both IU) and then decided Andy went to Wisconsin and I went to Illinois 30 seconds after we told her. Alrighty then.
You Can’t Feel Good About Hood: You didn’t have to be there for this one. You’ll notice this if you listen to the set, but what happened to the “You can feel good, good, good, good about hood” finale of “Harry Hood” last night? This is one of my all-time favorite build-ups of any song and even though the song stretched towards almost 15 minutes, we never got that climax. I’ve made playlists at work that are just 20+ versions of “Harry Hood” so I can skip to the last couple minutes just for that glorious “You can feel goooood” section. Do they leave this off often? Please, someone tell me. I was so sad to not hear it. Great version anyway, but I wanted to feel good about hood!
Overall: 9.7/10: Couldn’t have imagined a much better set list, everyone was on and there was something pretty cool about seeing Phish through the eyes of a bunch of noobz. Trey was as masterful with his tone and solos as ever, Mike got dirty with his bass solos and gave a standout performance while Page more than held it down on keys, he was a force. I can’t say I noticed much that Fishman did, but they sounded tight, so credit him with that. Texans can only hope we get more Phish soon.
Set list (Via phish.net)
Set 1: Down with Disease, Cities, Possum, Wolfman’s Brother, Chalk Dust Torture,Rock and Roll > Also Sprach Zarathustra, Backwards Down the Number Line, Harry Hood, Light > Suzy Greenberg, You Enjoy Myself