There’s a lot to be said about the anticipation a Phish fan holds towards a summer tour opener.
The band was coming off a four-night New Year’s Eve run in New York City that probably didn’t live up to the high expectations of most fans. No one knows what their first show in six months will bring.
But kicking off the summer inside one Phish’s storied arenas, the only two New England shows of the entire summer, the band was clearly ready and prepared to bring the heat to a crowd that was ready to reciprocate the energy.
This was my eight Phish show and it’s the closest I’ve been to the band yet. I planted myself two rows back in the pit on Fishman’s side and was ready to go. One of my favorite things about a Phish show is the anticipation. Since I often go to these shows solo and have no interest in taking part in the pregame drinking and drugging some fans do, I love getting into an empty arena or pavilion early to watch and feel the energy elevate as Phish’s arrival becomes more imminent.
And so at around 8:10 p.m. Phish’s 2012 began. Buried Alive and Runaway Jim, a great one-two punch, started things off to a vintage tune. Song selection in the first set was great, with energetic pieces like Funky Bitch, a very interesting Possum and one of the better Ocelot’s I’ve heard yet supplanting rarities like Nothing and Beauty of a Broken Heart. And only Phish can please its fans by ending a set, or show, with Rocky Top, which is how they closed things off in the first set after a scorching Possum on Thursday night.
But the real meat of the show was the band’s second set. Powerful chords kicked off Carini, a song I’ve been lucky enough to see a good handful of times. But this one was different. The band quickly diverted off the path of most Carini’s they’ve played since returning in 2009. It was at this moment that you really thought the second set would be something special. It was at this moment you realized the band has come to play this summer.
But after a well-done Taste, the band elevated again, slowly launching into a Ghost. Ghost is my favorite Phish tune by far and I had yet to see one live. I finally got it and I’ll never forget what I heard. The slow intro was unique for a Ghost in this era of Phish. The band took a lot of chances during the dark, dirty jam and most of them paid off. Near the end Mike launched a few bombs from his bass which turned into Boogie On Reggae Woman, probably my favorite Phish cover.
The Boogie On I heard in the encore on 12/30/11 was nice enough. This was something else. Every time you thought the tune was going to end, Trey dove right back in with powerful, miraculous playing. The energy in the arena was off the charts at this point. Each person realized how special of a sequence this was and let loose every piece of excitement inside themselves. Luckily, the band busted into If I Could, one of their best ballads. I hadn’t realize how little the band had played this great tune so it was absolutely a calming treat to hear. The nearly one hour sequence of music from Carini through If I Could was probably the best Phish playing I’ve ever seen in person, making set two an already special affair for me.
After another great rendition of Bob Dylan’s Quinn the Eskimo, the band finished things off by launching into Harry Hood. It wasn’t quite as great as the Hood the band played in 2010 in Worcester, but it was a really lovely, beautiful version that fit well in its place. A Cavern and an unexpected but very welcomed Buried Alive reprise ended the second set. A Loving Cup encore (retire this from the encore spot please!) sent very happy fans to the exits.
The first thing that greeted you once you made it to the streets of Worcester was the hissing of the scuzzy nitrous tanks. Disgusting sight and one of the worst sounds on Phish tour. Traffic wasn’t so bad leaving the garage. That’s a great part of Phish shows, especially in a city. A lot of fans hang around in the garage or around the area before leaving. I made a pretty quick escape to head back to Hartford.
As I put the final words into this not so musically descriptive review (I’m not that good at that, okay?), I get ready to head off for night two of Phish in Worcester, which might be my last Phish show of 2012 (depending on if they do a NYE run in New York City again or not). Again, I will value every moment of tonight, which should be another throwdown in Woostah.