First, it’s great to be writing in this series again. There’s not a finer way in my opinion to get ready for summer tour than reliving the previous years highlights. Cheers to LawnMemo for pulling it all together as always.
By most objective measures, the show that took place at the DTE Energy Music Theatre on July 16, 2014 was probably the “worst” Phish show of the summer. To wit:
- It has the lowest rating on phish.net of any 2014 show, 3.19
- The longest song performed, “Ghost” was only a shade over 11 minutes long
- The first set was one of the songiest first sets ever
- There was a seven and a half minute long “Tweezer”
From a pessimistic perspective, it’s not coincidental then that, other than Dicks, this was the only show that I attended this summer, parlaying an in-law visit with a Phish concert. But what does that all mean? What is a bad Phish show? How can these concert extravaganzas that we all look forward to for months on end be bad? Do they ever truly disappoint?
There’s always a lot of talk about the expectations that we have as fans. Whether or not having them is a good thing when going into a show. How they skew our realities (“Man if they had only taken that Fuego a few minutes deeper this show would have rocked!”). I’ve found that, typically the only expectation I try to bring in is that I want to see something that I’ve never seen before, which this show had. Try to have fun, be optimistic, and live in the moment. And that’s why, regardless of the lack of type II improvisation, this show was some of the most fun I’ve had at a Phish show. New venue, fun seats surrounded by fun people, and there’s something that needs to be said for a show that gets you a “Mike’s”, “Ghost”, “Tweezer”, and “Piper”. Even if they were all short, they were all tight and good by my ears. But that’s not why we’re here. We’re here to talk about the #25in25. The jams of the summer and for that, we’re talking about the encore “2001>Possum”.
I doubt anyone knew it at the time but this was the first time in its 200 times played history that 2001 was used as an encore (Editor’s Note…LawnMemo knew, I had been dreaming of it for a long, long time). And it harkens back to its original incarnation, 4 minutes and get out. Pure energy build and the fun thing about when “2001” is played as a set opener (or an encore really) is that you know Fish is going to hit that final downbeat and something pretty cool is going to come next.
It’s not the funk or spacey giants of 1997 and 2000 respectively. It’s instead a perfect setup to the meat of the encore. The maligned and notorious “Possum”. And, honestly, this “Possum” hits like a freight train. It’s no surprise that it’s played well (as it’s been played a lot in 3.0). But the band does seem to give it a little bit extra mustard in the encore slot. You could really close your eyes from about 3 minutes to 7 minutes and think that this version is from 1992. A great dynamic shift at 3:30 or so where it gets very quiet and then some very fun play that leads to a dissonance build at 5 minutes in. If the band played every version of “Possum” like this focusing on this entire middle section, I don’t think anyone would have reason to yell “Repeat!” as they so frequently do. And of course they continue the 1992 sounds right up until the typical “Possum” peak as the train come careening into the station and sends everyone off with a happy face. Just like an encore should. “Possum” is a great encore and could be used in that role much more frequently by my tastes. This is an awesome “Possum”.
I mentioned earlier that this show was some of the most fun I’ve had at a Phish concert. To swing this back around to that point, only seeing one show of the real summer tour meant that, going into it, I wanted to see lots of things. And this show delivered. If one was on tour and was travelling from Randalls, to CMAC, to DTE, to Northerly, I can understand the criticism that there were ripcords and repeats and short songs. For me though, it worked. But, more personally than that, this was my wife’s fourth show. My wife likes Phish. She doesn’t love Phish. Not the way I do (or you do, probably). But she loved the songs that were played at DTE that night. She knew the Fuego songs well and most of the songs they played were on her favorite list. And her favorite song is “Possum”. We named our dog Possum. So standing next to her and seeing her dance all night, smiling, having fun, and enjoying every moment of her favorite song that she finally got to see is a phenomenal memory for me (and for her!). That’s why it’s sometimes important to look beyond the ratings, the reviews, the song lengths, or the bustouts. We all have that anecdotal moment where we “got it”. Whether it was being taken to a show by a friend or a sibling, listening to the right bootleg, or finding that particular show that you fall in love with which causes our respective fandom to grow and it all comes together. I got to see that moment happen in real time for my wife. Sometimes the right show finds you at the right time and it’s perfect in every way for where you are in life. That’s what DTE was.
About me: I’m Matt Burnham and I live in Austin, TX. As a new father of an 11 week old, I am beyond excited about Phish finally travelling to see me in Texas rather than the other way around. I don’t think I had anything to do with that decision really but I’ll take credit for it if people want to give it to me. . Follow along with me at @therealburnham and see my other things at http://soundandphission.blogspot.com/