Selection: “Boogie On Reggae Woman>2001>Waste>Slave to the Traffic Light”
Memo’s “Other Jams” Memo: “Rock and Roll”, “Sand”
From Michael Rothenberg:
As I sit here in my hotel room after a tornado recently threw a 3,000 pound oak tree through my house like a pencil, I remember back to the tornado of Phish phans that blew into Pelham, AL during summer tour 2012. The show was special for several reasons; most importantly it was my first in-person Phish show, after having been on couch tour for a while.
It was also special for Phish and its fans since the last time they last played at Oak Mountain was in 1999. Oak Mountain is an intimate venue, holding maybe eight or nine thousand people. I intentionally have not listened to Phish for six months prior to re-living this show, in order to get ready for 2013.
The first set was rather predictable but well played. The obligatory “Cities” was second – “a lot of bridges in Birmingham” – along with first set appearances by “Down with Disease” and “Julius.” The highlight of the first set was a rippin’ version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with Trey burning up the frets to close out the first set. The crowd loved it and seemed to exhale together as the lights came up.
“Birds of a Feather” ended and the band took a bit of a breath. The jam vehicle of this night began with “Boogie On Reggae Woman.” I rather like this song, but it’s not one of my favorite extended jam songs. “Boogie On” began with Mike’s familiar funky bassline and the crowd around me seemed excited to hear it. Page, whose piano was hidden from the fans on the sides of the venue, played his part in a genuine staccato, almost reggae-like manner. Mike’s bass remained consistent throughout the song, although I am not a big fan of the computer-like bass sound.
The jam in the song begins around 3:15 and for seemingly an eternity, it’s mainly Mike’s bass and Fish’s repeating drums. It seemed for a while the guys weren’t sure where it was headed. Things start to get a little ethereal around the 6:00 minute mark. The lights changed colors, Trey jabbed at his foot pedals, and the air felt like the boys were about to bust out something interesting following a tight but rather pedestrian “Boogie On.”
“2001” eventually kicked in at 7:15. I’ve always been a fan of rhythmic scratching on the electric guitar – I’m looking at you, Bob Weir – and Trey lays it down over a nice funk by Page. The main familiar part of the piece comes shortly thereafter. There is a slight blurp of notes around the 9:00 minute mark but nothing major. The band recovers well, the groove had a lot of folks dancing and moving in the smoky lights.
More space-like music made the transition to “Waste” which started slightly abruptly.
Now I know, I know. “Waste” has its lovers and haters. I don’t mind this song. In fact, it has grown on me over the years. Trey’s voice was so good on this version and, interestingly, the crowd seemed to stay with them during the slow song. On the ballads, Trey almost has a kind of haunting late-era Jerry Garcia vulnerability in his singing. Page again was a standout here.
An all-too-short “Slave” (less than 10:00 minutes) closed out this jam and this second set which, to me, was the best played song of the set. Throughout the show, the band’s energy was there and they seemed genuinely happy to be playing at Oak Mountain. Trey even mentioned it earlier in the show. But the crowd seemed to sense this was the end of the set, and seemed to revel in having Phish in their town. Page was certainly the star of both sets, but the whole band played well, with exuberance. They had fun and made us smile. You can’t ask for more from this unusual run of songs or this hot summer night in Alabama.
From Michael Rothenberg:
Bio: Originally from Miami and now a lawyer in Atlanta, GA, Phishhead and Deadhead Michael Rothenberg tries to keep the positive groove alive in an all-too-cynical legal world. Coming to love Phish after first falling in love with the Dead, Michael’s biggest regret is not being able to play guitar well enough to form what can only be assumed would be a tragic Phish cover band. His greatest achievement is when his two oldest kids (ages 8 and 5) ask him to play and replay “the clapping song”, known to all of us as “Stash.” Connect with him on twitter at @MRothenberg.
Favorite Ghost: 07/23/1997 Lakewood Amphitheater, Atlanta, GA