The Daily Ghost

25 in 25 #13 08/08/2015 Alpine Valley Music Theatre, East Troy, WI (Steve Cicero, @junta8710)

Alpine, old friend. It’s really good to see you once again.

Returning to the Valley for the first time since 2012 (possibly the last time?), there was a lot of excitement for the two-night stand.  The real excitement for me though was bringing my friend of 20+ years to his first show.  He’s never really listened to Phish besides when with me, but has always appreciated their musicianship and approach to live shows.  He gravitated more to the funky and bluesy songs, “Julius” being his favorite.  After years of telling him the cliche “you got to see them live,” he agreed and it was time for him to experience the life-altering experience we’ve all, well, experienced.
We rolled onto lot a couple hours before the show ready to rage.  Right away he got a sense of the community.  When you’re at a show, everyone is everyone’s friend.  From the booze to the drugs to the stories, everything is shared.  At one point a chant of “Gordon!” erupted as Mike rolled past in a golf cart.
      “Why is everyone yelling at that guy?
      “That’s the bassist.”
      “Holy shit, that’s awesome.”
The night couldn’t have started off any better.

The first set has all the common ingredients you’ve come to find in 3.0; energy, fun and tight playing throughout.  “No Men In No Man’s Land” made for a great opener, Trey ripped “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan” and “Poor Heart” was a chance for the crowd to hoe down.  My friend, my friend was enjoying himself, but it wasn’t until “Julius” dropped that he started to get IT.  He knew the variety in setlists, so how perfect he gets his favorite song at his first show.  After a surprising “Frankie Says” cool down, the next 44 minutes consisting of “Maze”, “Mercury”, “Reba”, and set closing “Possum” is a phenomenal ride that is incredibly satisfying.  There is just nothing better than a “Reba” jam during an Alpine sunset, which is a common place for her to reside as I pointed out earlier in the day.

Setbreak was a chance to catch our breath and gather our thoughts.  I was eager to know what my friend had thought so far.  At one point during the set I caught him just gazing into the sky with a huge smile, so I knew he was feeling good.  And I’m sure the brownies we ingested didn’t hurt.  “I see now why you go to so many shows, this is pure happiness.”  Again, it was probably the brownies, but he was getting IT.

“Down with Disease” opened the second set and sent the thousands of barefoot children into a dancing frenzy on the lawn.  While not a monster, this 14+ minute “Disease” has a lot going on.  Coming out of a blissful haze, the spotlight hits Mike and he starts “Halley’s Comet”.  This comet is short, but it shines bright.  You could feel the tension in the crowd for a jam and the band must have picked up on it because shortly after the 6:00 mark, they drop effortlessly into an awesome funk groove.  Trey plays with his pedals quite a bit, firing off riffs that echoed out into space.  The others provide a rhythmic backdrop that had everyone elated.  Poised for liftoff, Trey smoothly signals the band to “Twist” around at 8:25 and the others follow right along.  I’ll sacrifice a 20 minute jam for a buttery segue and this one is.

“Light” followed and kept the energy high.  While never reaching a different stratosphere, it keeps a nice melodic flow throughout highlighted by Page and Trey.  The light eventually dims on the jam and what followed had me yelling “Holy shit!” to the Gods.  “What’s the Use?” makes its 2015 debut nearly five years to the day of the last time I saw it (8-14-10).  With everyone’s arms raised in acceptance, “What’s the Use?” delivered so much power and emotion it turned Alpine Valley into a sanctuary for six minutes. This is why we go.

Next on deck was a standard “Fuego” followed by a surprisingly non-jarring “Backwards Down the Number Line”.  Not usually my thing, especially late in a second set, but oh my friend was happy happy so I didn’t mind.  The set closes with “Slave to the Traffic Light” which is without a doubt the best way to close any set.  The funk continued into the encore with “Meatstick” proceeded by “Character Zero” to give Trey one last chance to tear the roof off the sucker.  End show.

The first night was in the books and for my buddy, it was well-written.  He still talks about the comradery the crowd had.  Amazed at how friendly and engaged everyone was with every song.  “Being at a Phish show is like being at a Packers game where the Packers always have the ball and are always scoring.”  Being from Wisconsin, I couldn’t have said it better myself.  I’m happy to say my friend got IT.

From Steve:
Steve Cicero, 30, Milwaukee.
I tweet sometimes, @junta8710.
My favorite “2001” is always the next one.
See you in St. Paul.