Last night was a special night. For the first time since they sang the national anthem at the 2004 America East Championship game at UVM Phish was on a public stage in the Burlington area collectively making music. The last time they had played an actual song with instruments in the area was in 1999 at the Flynn Theater following a Trey show. And the Flynn Theater was also the site of the last official show in the birthplace of Phish, the famous 3/19/97 Phish Food Release Party show, in which loud speakers were put outside the theater to accommodate the hundreds of phans that had gathered outside originally looking for tickets - or just to soak up the scene. So yeah, it's been essentially 15 years since the boys rocked their "hometown" spot in true style. And although we'd all like to have come together under better circumstances, spirits were high, the energy was amazing, and the music rocked.
The last time I was at the Essex Junction Fairgrounds was for TAB in the summer of 2002, a time when I was desperately searching for a Phish fix in any way possible. The Burlington area show had the best chance for a "reunion", so we went hoping the others would come out and join Trey - no such luck, they were just their for some music and a little support. As least I got to see them as I peeled the fence back just enough to stick my head through the fence before security chased me away. Not literally, but he did ask me what the hell I was doing and told me to leave. So yeah, this time around things would be different. Most - if not all - of the money generated by the show was going to the Vermont flood relief effort, which prompted VT Governor Peter Shumlin to praise the efforts of Phish, their crew and management, and especially the fans for making the relief effort happen (4:29...get it?). He also urged people to keep helping and talked about ways in which that could be accomplished. It was a really special moment and must have made the people of VT in attendance feel good after what they've been through (also apparently available on the MP3...now you get it). Gordon talked about how pumped the boys were to be back in town playing for locals and die-hards (although some of you couldn't make it), and it was clear by the time he walked off stage to prepare to come out, it was going to be a special night musically as well. Although the song list wasn't mind-blowing - almost predictably standard, something we figured on going in - every song was played with about as much passion as I've seen the boys play with all year. Gordon said they were pumped to be there, and it showed. Even the most standard Phish tunes were ripped to the highest order; Cacto especially blew my mind, but then again, I did predict he would be this season's MVP.
Set I: Chalkdust Torture (7:35), Moma Dance (7:07) > NICU (5:03), Funky Bitch (6:15), Sample (5:43), Cavern (4:20...insert lame joke here), Gin (12:52) , Alaska (8:39) > Possum (8:33), Wolfman's (11:12) > Julius (11:00)
The first thing that stands out to me is no theremin, despite the use of one during sound check (Jam, Midnight Confessions, Ginseng Sullivan, Silent Night (on Theremin), Too Much Fried Dough At The Fair, Peaches en Regalia, Cannonball tease, Jam [Unconfirmed]). Like I said, the song choice was almost predictable, but every song raged. To save time I'll say right off the bat that Chalkdust, Funky Bitch, Sample, Alaska, and Possum were standard, but by no means were they soft. Every one of them was played with as much passion as the day the debuted it. The rest is worth elaboration. The Moma was particularly funky and went > a super pop off NICU. I'm telling you, Gordo meant business last night. Gordon was popping the mid-set Cavern off so hard people were falling down all around me. The Gin got pretty deep and was probably the Set One highlight if not for yet ANOTHER BOMB Wolfman's. This shit took Set One to a new level. Although not confirmed (even by me yet with a re-listen), I heard Golden Age teases. Just like the other Set One ragers, Cacto controlled this one. From pop off to poppin' off Gordo and the boys DESTROYED this Wolman's like they have much of 2011. Wolfman's then went > Julius, one of the better ones of the year and certainly one of the longest.
Set II: Carini (12:17) > DWD (12:30) > Slave (9:56) > R 'n' R (7:35) > Twist (7:01) > BDTNL (8:05), Theme From the Bottom (7:44) > Suzy (6:19) > Character Zero (9:18)
E: Loving Cup (7:21)
Set Two launched off with Carini after a shout-out to the ol' security guru, and it was clear the Second Set madness would continue as it did through the course of 2011. A LONG DARK chest-pounding Carini > DWD, probably the highlight of the show > a classic Slave > a short but SICK rare mid-set Rock 'n' Roll > a standard but great Twist > yet another, but good-feeling-inspiring-nonetheless BDTNL. Apparently there was a break between BDTNL and Theme, but I didn't hear it. Theme is so fucking sick, and this one was no different. From the deep murky melodies to the mind-bending guitar riffs to Page's spine-tingling piano strikes this shit has it all. It seemed longer. Theme > ugh..Suzy > ugher...Character Zero, although Trey cock-rocked this one to the extreme. He was flipping his red hair around like Slash...it was crazy. They were obviously into it...well, Trey was...too bad it was Character Zero. But again, much was to be expected of this show, including something standard like a Zero set-ender. Still rocked. Loving Cup was a serious boner-beater, but again, certain things were to be expected. We figured it was Loving Cup or First Tube (based on the ginger banging from Character Zero) or maybe a nice surprise for the locals, something like a YEM. We got the former and we lived with it.
So ended the Vermont Flood Recovery show, one of our prouder Phish moments. Bad circumstances, great cause. I think we raised a lot of money for the people in need, and we did it in style - our style. Phish rocked the "hometown" spot, and all the locals who didn't get a chance to rage tour got their fix. It was a fitting way to end the first chapter in the Phish 2011 Yearbook. We'll see you in a few months to finish that book when the spaceship lands again and little theremins come out and take over...
- Trigger Treinta Uno
Thanks to Phish.net & LivePhish for the set list help. Get the Golden Age teases in there. To everyone who helped out with the recovery show - from the band to the vendors to the management to the state to Essex Junction to the Green Crew to the ticket holder - what an incredible benePhish. We feel honored to have been part of such a great community effort, and I'm sure VT is deeply grateful. We shown the country once again what we're made of - besides hemp, veggie burritos, tie-dyes, and pins - and I couldn't be happier to be part of it. Is it New Years yet?