I’m not going to lie: I fucked up.
The “why” isn’t important. I just did. I flat-out forgot I had volunteered for recap duty tonight, and I have been so dually preoccupied with work and a gnarly case of the crud to even realize there was a webcast. Yes, I made it home and dialed in the feed in time to catch the very beginning of “Limb By Limb," but if I tried to pretend I knew what happened before then (apart from what songs were played), I just couldn’t live with myself.
So I asked some other staffers about the first half of the first set, and here’s what they told me:
One replied, “I’m not streaming.”
Another offered, “I had technical difficulties for half the set. Then I got really high off a candy. Now I’m hiding under a Slanket.”
That was pretty much it. But now here I am as “LxL” ends in an unusual a capella outro, with Trey claiming a higher-than-usual part. It’s a shimmering moment that dovetails nicely into “I Didn’t Know," which draws a roar of anticipation from the crowd. Henrietta takes center stage for his vacuum solo as Trey recalls that it was 19 years ago in this very hall that he ran about in his birthday suit, junk akimbo. Trey goads Fish to reprise his moment of testicular freedom, but sadly (or mercifully, depending on your point of view) it is not to be.
A discordant, Whammified, and just-plain-abrasive “Split Open and Melt” sends the band to their halftime repose, and sends me scurrying for some speedy sustenance so I can get the rest of the night right for you good people. You deserve no less.
“Rock and Roll” charges right out of the gates to open set two, and produces five minutes of shred-centric improv before pulling back to consider other possibilities. The centerpiece jams from this tour so far have probed some eerie and even woeful spaces; this one seems poised to move in that direction as well, but is cut short in favor of “Seven Below” (which either intentionally or coincidentally acknowledges the cold snap gripping many of our nation’s northern states).
“Seven Below” comes across at first as if the whole band has a debilitating case of the hiccups, reminding me of the BGCA version I saw a few months ago: unrehearsed and flailing. Once past the challenging part, it lifts gradually and in a straightforward manner toward the same kind of belly-warming climax common to most “Bathtub Gin” jams these days, and then stands aside for “Alaska.” Though I feel personally like “Alaska” belongs in the first set, it’s a spirited reading, and arguably packs more raw oomph than anything in the set thus far.
“Twist” makes a subdued entrance, but soon establishes itself as the beating heart of this set of music. Fishman takes a lead role in the development of several themes, with the trebles restraining themselves to layers and textures. “Piper” is suggested at length, then thought better of, as Mike vibrates the room with a droning root note struck on the power drill. Finally, but not before captivating the audience, this lovely and delicate “Twist” dissipates and yields to a stately and heartfelt “Wading in the Velvet Sea."
[I mean that about “Wading." It was lovely. Quote me!]
It’s been a very good year for “Harry Hood," good enough to re-establish the song’s bona fides as a climactic jaw-dropper. While this “Hood” doesn’t venture out nearly as far as the Hollywood Bowl or Hampton versions, the view from its summit is enormously satisfying. A compact but powerful “Chalk Dust Torture” concludes the second set.
An elegant “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” encore serves to bookend the show in White Album songs, and to punctuate a performance that rightfully stirs nostalgia in the ranks of longtime fans. Tis the season to be grateful for all things Phish.
See you in Woostah!