To many music fans, just the name Phish sends shivers of noodling guitar solo horror throughout their bodies. To me the name Phish means completely unique, intricate, amazing musicianship. From 1983-2004 the band found a huge audience playing a complex mix of musical gumbo that sounded like bebop jazz, Frank Zappa, bluegrass,The Grateful Dead, among others. And all the while they sounded totally unique. Nowadays there are 500 "jambands" that sound like Phish but none of them can touch them in terms of composition and shear musicianship.
When the parking lot and backstage party scene got bigger than the music, singer-guitartist Trey Anastasio and the band called it quits. Thousands of hippies and music fans were disappointed, but anyone who heard a lot of Phish shows from 2003-2004 knew something just wasn't right. The only problem I always had with them stopping was that Phish was something unique in this world that the four guys just couldn't come close to without each other. The reality is, the whole of Phish is a lot larger then the sum of its parts (which is true of most great bands).
Fast forward to this weekend March 6-8, 2009. Phish is back with their first shows in 5 years. I always knew they would come back, but I always feared that they wouldn't be able to get back what it requires to play the intricate magic of Phish music. Well after I heard the first 2 minutes of Friday nights opening song (thanks to the free MP3 downloads of this weekend's shows), I realized my fears were unfounded.
Opening with (arguably the band's hardest to play song) "Fluffhead", it sounds like the band never stopped playing together. The band continued to play a 4 hour-plus show that contained so much of the Phish catalog, that I wonder what the heck they are going to play in nights 2 and 3.
Maybe it's the fact that Trey has confessed to being clean and sober, or just the fact that they are really excited to be playing together again, but the shows are sounding as good as I remember them. I, like thousands of other fans are thrilled to have them back.
Phish, Hampton Coliseum. Hampton, Virginia (3/6/2009)
The Divided Sky (14:11)
Chalk Dust Torture (7:28)
Sample in a Jar (6:06)
I Didn't Know (4:03)
The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony> (1:49)
Suzy Greenberg (5:42)
Train Song (3:15)
Water in the Sky (3:59)
The Squirming Coil (7:30)
David Bowie (10:29)
Backwards Down the Number Line (7:09)
Theme from the Bottom (8:39)
First Tube (7:19)
Harry Hood (13:54)
You Enjoy Myself (21:28)
Bouncing Around the Room (3:58)
Loving Cup (7:09)