At the end of the day, what really matters to me is that they’re back. After a five-year hiatus, there are most definitely going to be some kinks to work out, nonetheless they’re back on the road. Having seen a decent chunk of the early summer tour, I think they’re moving in the right direction and I’m excited for my west coast adventure in August. Overall, I’ve enjoyed my experience and I don’t want to dwell on the negatives, but there were a few things that stood out during the four shows I attended.
They’re playing new songs. Which is cool, but the problem they’re having is fitting them into the set. At Fenway and Jones beach (Thursday) I felt that the sets were sculpted around Ocelot and Time Turns Elastic, I don’t think that a single song should define the overall vibe of the show, but rather the set should find it’s way into the new songs. I also couldn’t have cared less about opening with Sample In a Jar, but they pulled through for me in the end at Fenway. They were getting it going w/ Bathtub Gin and Bowie, but the TTE felt way too forced. The free set me exactly that, and they cruised through the rest of the night. I wasn’t happy with how the new songs felt jammed into the sets and they really threw off the vibe and changed the energy in the entire venue. It was that aspect which made me feel more like I was at a ‘rock concert’ not a ‘Phish show’. That was a vibe I picked up on at all of the four shows I went to and I could see how that’s a real problem for fans.
Thursday at Jones Beach was a similar vibe. I was looking around and I saw a lot of young faces that seemed to be first timers. I had the feeling at times that some of these kids were on that “Mom, can I have 20$ for a t-shirt? Thanks Ma, I’ll see you at 11” tip. That was amplified by what seemed to be a mad rush to get out of the lot. I’m thinking, where the hell is everyone going, why don’t you sit down and have a couple beers before you hit the road? Again, they jammed the new songs into the set and changed the flow and vibe of everything that was going on in a way that did not sound like Phish.
I felt a lot better on Friday night at Jones Beach, it was pouring rain and we all poured our hearts out, the band included. I heard Wilson opener and knew I was going to have a great night. They left Ocelot and TTE at home, and brought one of the funkiest Boogie’s I’ve ever seen. Split Open and Melt, DWD, Twist, Piper, Free, 2001 and Slave all did it for me. The Day In The Life encore felt like a very fitting way to end the night. The set didn’t feel sculpted around the new songs. It felt like the show took on a little more of its own direction, and that energy definitely fed the band.
At Mansfield, the first two songs were nothing to remember, but what I like about that is that they got them out of the way. This was way better than try to jam them into an unfamiliar mid set, starting out with those songs allowed them to focus on the rest of their set. Mansfield was a throw-down…and for me it was a complete continuation of the night before. As soon as Back On The Train kicked off, everyone knew we were in for a good one, and they delivered. Musically, I felt like they were starting to find their groove again and after listening to Camden…I was ready to quit my job and hit the road!
That’s what Phish does, they make you wish you were at the next show, and I’m down with the disease. Even though the patrons are not the same patchwork hippies we all remember, grownup Phish is still growing and for the better. The lot isn’t as hopping at the end of the night, but I still got what I wanted during the set and out on lot at the end of the night.
It’s great to have them back and I can’t wait until the next time I can slip out of reality and back into some Phish. My next stop is Shoreline and I getting goose bumps thinking about it. I’m so happy you’re back Phish, thank you!