26 in 26 the Forum
What if I invited you to a Phish show with no jamming? Would you go? Could you still have fun? The Phish show at the Forum in 2016 hit a lot of checkmarks for a “bad” Phish show. Trey on Lumina. “Joy.” 26 Songs with an 11 song second set including a “YEM.” Nothing going longer than a standard play-through. And that’s what a lot of this show felt like, a play-through. I don’t even know if that’s a real term, but it felt like Phish was going through the motions on this one.
I caught this show in the middle of a west coast tour week that ran from the Gorge down through the state of CA. I caught a night’s sleep in my own bed in San Diego in the middle of tour on the Thursday before this show. On that one night at home during tour, my cat of 15 years died. Talk about a mindfuck on my one night off from dosing in an acid-filled week.
So, it’s a bad show. And by that, I mean it’s a standard rock show. The LA crowd had a good time. They were able to buy Coke in the parking lot and smoke weed inside the venue and hit some balloons after the show. This crowd probably enjoyed the standard fare. But are phish’s songs strong enough to stand on their own with no improv? That was the question on this night, and for me, on this one night, I was able to have fun while realizing that when phish is playing, there is no other place I’d rather be.
Listening back to this show, and there’s really nothing that stands out to a seasoned phan. The “Fuego” is good, easily the best example of phishyness in this show, but it doesn’t distinguish it from other “Fuegos” played in 2016. Fuego was played well in 2016 and this is another example of that.
So how many times can phish get away with a show like this? It helps that the next night in Chula Vista they knocked it out of the park with an excellent show start to finish. But earlier this year, as I made my decision to book a cross country trip and go east for Bakers Dozen this year (Final weekend!), I definitely thought about this Forum show. I don’t want to see a show like this in NY, and possibly anywhere ever. I go see Phish for the jamming, and if they stop delivering on that, I won’t want to exert as much effort to see them. I will still go see them in LA but probably won’t travel as much to see a standard rock show.