SET 1: Grind, Cars Trucks Buses > Blaze On, Yarmouth Road, Kill Devil Falls, The Sloth, Billy Breathes > My Friend, My Friend, Heavy Things, 555, Things People Do, The Line, Stash
SET 2: First Tube > Tweezer > Guyute, Mike's Song > Tide Turns > Devotion To a Dream, Wingsuit > Bittersweet Motel > Fluffhead > Weekapaug Groove
ENCORE: Contact > Tweezer Reprise
Photo © Derek Gregory
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Review by Franklin
The pizza was probably cooked in an oven, but it could have just as well been cooked in last night's arena. It was -real- hot in there from the get-go. Body heat was rampant. From ten rows back, dancing room was somewhat limited, but the energy in the place was incredible.
The first set, top to bottom, was a bucket of fun. The Grind opener was probably a nod to the 300th show of 3.0 and was pretty cool to hear. Cars Trucks Buses was a real treat.
Kill Devil Falls got the energy to the next level. Trey was smearing mustard all over it like it was something you put mustard on. I don't really know what that would be. I don't like mustard that much. Maybe a hot dog? A big pretzel? Anyway, pretzel or no pretzel, the place was ecstatic throughout the entire song, and then The Sloth dropped out of nowhere. Yes please.
Other big highlights were MFMF (again, energy!!!!!), The Line (seriously. I got really pumped during this song. If you get over the stigma it can be really exciting, esp. in a first set that's all about fun) and Stash, which got taken out just long enough to serve as a fitting capstone for this groove-heavy set.
Speaking of grooves, throughout the SPAC run the second set had opened with a high-ish energy dance number to get things going -- Sand, NMINML, SSP. Here, First Tube was given the responsibility, and it did not disappoint. Small indoor show + a high energy first set led to a lot of excitement during this opener. And then Tweezer? Yes please!
Admittedly, this Tweezer was, let us say, truncated. Still, it covered a fair amount of ground in its short duration, like a pirate that sails the seven seas and then dies of scurvy by age twenty-eight.
Into Guyute! There were some struggles during the barblarblarlblarlblarlblarlvslr part (you know which part) from Trey, but the whole thing was still exciting. Into Mike's.
At this point in our program, it became clear that this was just not going to be a show rife with improvisation. Once you get that idea out of your noggin and you think about the whole thing as an energy experience, the show becomes so fun. The whole band really built up during Mike's, with the rhythm section in particular locking in nicely.
I love slow Phish. I would argue that the average Phish show does not have enough "stand still close your eyes and listen" moments. As such, the Hydrogen slot here was great for me. If you're looking for a thirty-minute Ghost you were probably bummed, but I thought this whole thing was outstanding (see if you can hear anyone shout "YAY" at the beginning of Wingsuit -- that's me).
(Devotion to a Dream, to be fair, is just not that great of a song though. If I had to cut anything of this show, it would be that.)
The solo on Wingsuit was exquisite. The solo on Wingsuit is always exquisite, but as part of this extended cool-down section (in that sweaty arena) and all the passion we'd seen from Trey all night, the whole tune was nothing short of gorgeous. Bittersweet Motel is also a favorite of mine, and I never thought I'd get to hear it live. Changing things up and giving the solo to Page was a nice touch. After the long Wingsuit solo, it was nice to hear someone else take the lead.
Fluffhead was a treat as well, with the whole place really thrilled to hear it and even a brief sit in by a guest percussionist!
Something to note about this set is that, with the decision to not improvise so much, we did end up with two long composed pieces. It would have been easy to mail it in with a bunch of three-chord songs, but the group decided instead to spend their time on some fan favorites that take a lot of focus. That, in my opinion, is really respecting the audience. You may not be doing the number one thing they want, but you're filling the void with something that requires a different kind of effort.
The Weekapaug ending, of course, tied the whole thing together really well.
So, let's think of this set like this:
High-energy opener > short improv adventure > Composed masterpiece 1, Mike's Groove with an extended but still very beautiful mellow middle (except as noted DTAD) and composed masterpiece #2.
My point is that I see this show acquiring a 2.8ish rating as I write this. This show was a unit. It had structure in the same way that my review has tense agreement issues. The setlist was obviously improvised and they churned out something that flows really well. It might not have as grand of a replay value as say Magnaball (esp. If you weren't in the room), but to write it off as directionless is, in my opinion, the result of very narrow expectations.
I would expect, out of the shows I saw this summer so far (this + SPAC) I will replay this one the most.
Blah blah blah noob, blah blah blah fluffing, blah blah blah attendance bias. To hell with it, I had a great time. I look forward to revisiting this special night in Portland for a long time to come.