25 in 25 of 2016: #14 07/15/2016 Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA (Eamonn Kress, @i_shred_pow)
Crosseyed and Painless -> What’s The Use > No Man in No Man’s Land -> Stash > Ghost -> Chalk Dust Torture
The Gorge. I’m lucky, that at this point in my life, I can consider The Gorge a “backyard” venue. There’s something about that place that is magical and every time I have seen Phish there, they have delivered and then some. The fact that it is so remote and only a select few roads lead there means that fans from all over fly into the Pacific Northwest and converge on it via only a few highways that cut through the Cascades. It also helps that you camp there so it feels like a mini-festival. The vibe at The Gorge is so high and all systems are GO; this is something you realize as you walk over the crest of the hill to this view:
For this piece, I am going to talk about the magic that happened during the second set, but I would like to give an honorable mention to the “Tweezer” opener that blew people off their feet, a nice “The Old Home Place” that hadn’t been played in 155 shows. And, of course, the debut of “Ass Handed.” Boy, how the latter of these foreshadowed that which was to come during the second set. Speaking of which, as Phish took the stage for the 2nd set, the crowd was so amped and ready to go. The first chords of The Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless” come thundering out of the PA.
As the chorus gets underway, the sun is finally beginning to set and CK5’s toys are starting to take full effect. Working through the song, Fish has a tight hold on the flow, keeping the drums in check. Around 3 minutes in, Page is the first one to briefly veer off script with some funky clavinet improv. It is around this point that Trey teases Queen’s “Under Pressure.” However, at this point the song is still getting started and we are “stiiiiiill waaaaiting” for it to take off. Fish’s rap, as usual, is a great setup to get the song moving. With some added chutzpah from Fish at the end, they reel the song in and Trey is the first to step onto the launchpad.
Just around 6 minutes in and Trey is doing what he does best: taking us all for a ride with some beautiful melodies and riffing. Soon, Page kicks into gear to funk it up a bit. For the next few minutes, the jam space is contained within the realm of “Crosseyed and Painless.” We haven’t left Earth just yet but the engines are being primed and the band’s interplay is quite good and patient. Trey is really feeling it — his tone is on point and playing is emotional. At 10 minutes in, some modulation and a bit of Trey’s style, the “Still Waiting” theme gets turned into a fueled riff upon which some Type I interplay begins to take form. This allows the other members to loosen up a bit and Page and Mike get some good interplay going. This whole time, Trey is still noodling around with something that is similar to “Crosseyed” but at this point, it is slightly different. At 11:30, Mike and Fish create a beautiful jam space and Trey shifts tones – they have reached a new height and we are all floating along. Mike drops some bass bombs and Trey subtly hits a chord progression that reminds me of “Scents and Subtle Sounds.” At 13:20, things get dark and fast and all of a sudden WOMP! We have dropped into “What’s the Use?” Holy shit!
This “What’s the Use?” is so perfectly executed and timed – the sky is just after dusk and the stars have come out by now. With waning notes from Trey, deep bass bombs from Mike and a sneaky sliding synthesizer (Moog?) sound form Page, the song settles and so does the audience. This is a perfect compliment to the beauty of The Gorge, with stars out and a quiet crowd – incredible. Around 20 minutes after the 2nd set started, “What’s the Use?” has reached its final form and taken us all to a blissful corner of the universe which is quite delicate and melodious. Out of the epicness of “What’s The Use?” the ambient tune slowly builds up with some Mike bombs that sound slightly like “Down with Disease” and shortly after, in the ether, Fish starts up the “No Men in No Man’s Land” beat… BOOM! Here we go, funky dance party!!
This one is particularly energetic and 2 minutes into this “NMINML” Trey is already taking us away with that quintessential rift and tone. He and Page have some great interplay and this one is very funky. For the next few minutes, it’s all out Phish funk dance party, with Fish holding down a great beat and keeping the train on its tracks. At around 5:45, Machine Gun Trey makes an appearance and Trey starts singing “Still Waiting” which gives me chills thinking about. The crowd was so pumped! After that, Page starts going off on the clavinet and Trey kicks on his wah pedal to get things real evil and funky for a moment. Couple that with some more dark modulation and Page coming onto the ‘Lil Punkin’ and this jam reaches a new dark space. Around 9:30- the No Man’s lyrics come back into it briefly and before you know it Trey is teasing… NO, playing…“STASH!”
An unlikely set 2nd set “Stash” and Trey adds some more of that sick tone from “NMINML” on the intro licks. Nothing like a little crowd participation to get things going, eh? Trey plays much of the intro to this “Stash” using that really cool effect. A few minutes into the “maybe so, maybe not” lyrics, we are graced again with some more “Crosseyed and Painless” teases of “still waiting” and shortly thereafter, some beautiful notes “What’s The Use?” riff from Trey and Mike. The jam space is quite patient at this point with Fish lightly moving from different drums on his kit. Trey throws in a riff that sounds very much like “Manteca” briefly before returning to the “Stash” infused jam. Finally, about 40 minutes into the set, the “Stash” comes to a finish and we can catch our breath. No, who am I kidding, within milliseconds, or a dollop, if you will?, Trey starts playing the chords for “Ghost!”
I think it was at this point that I chucked a bunch of glowsticks right at Lawn Memo. Right into the “Ghost” we are given another tease of “Crosseyed and Painless”, thank to Trey’s sneaky riffing. This was such a good follow as it was continuing the dark theme, and got things funky once again. Trey weaved into the main structure of “Ghost,” about 2 minutes into it, teases “What’s The Use?” Again, and again… The “Ghost” drop is beautifully paired with the “What’s The Use?” Riff and it works so well! Trey comes back to that dark funky tone quickly into this “Ghost” jam, and it is such a powerful tone. With that added evil funk Trey starts to widdle away and Page keeps it funky on the clav. All the while Fish holds the slow Ghost drum beat in place, this queues Trey to hop up on the Marimba Lumina and take us all out of Washington and off into deep space. As Trey messes around you can hear Page messing with the “NMINML” riff and Fish speeds up the tempo. Within no time, the four have assembled into a speedy drum circle and Fish starts chanting the “NMINML” lyric. It’s almost full on at this point even with the beat being maintained by the drumming quartet. There is something so primal about a percussion only jam – the Gorge was a perfect setting for this and helped make your ape brain quite happy. As this awesome drum circle continues and Fish keeps chanting “NMINML” with some emphasis on “no man, no MAN man”, and eventually “Still Waiting”, the drumming continues and Trey hops back onto the Languedoc with some added “NMINML” riffs that are so nasty!! May as well call this full on! Joined again by Page and shortly Mike, “Ghost” has become “NMINML.” Or wait?!?!? Is it something else, for those with a very attuned sense of hearing, Trey takes an early stab at the riff before they seamlessly segue into “CHALK DUST TORTURE!” Holy shit!
This CDT is off to a fast beat, thanks Fish, and quickly gets the “NMINML” tease a couple times from Trey mixed in with the chorus. As this one breaks into a refrain, we get a quick “Crosseyed and Painless” tease again! What song are they even playing anymore? As the jam in “Chalk Dust” starts, Trey takes the lead with some quick shredding, machine gunning and energetic melodies. Trey then shifts to a minor scale to keep with that dark theme that has developed over the night. Trey really works the fretboard on this one and takes this “Chalk Dust” to a really high place. Each burst of standard “Chalk Dust” jam is a blast of energy, which Trey finds each time with his spirited playing. Around 17 min after “Ghost” starts we get another “What’s The Use?” Tease from trey and that further sets him into high gear. Mike, Fish and Page are all adding to this and helping Trey to figure out his path keeping each of them and the unit on track to a great syncopated, spacey, evil “Chalk Dust” outro!
Ill also give honorable mentions to the “Meatstick > 2001 > Cavern” to follow because they too are so nasty and contain some more teases. The “Meatstick” gave us a chance to figure out what the hell was happening, a little, and dance together in unison (sort of). The “2001” was pure Mike and funk with additional “NMINML” and “What’s The Use?” teases and “Cavern” is always a fantastic set ender. What a set.
Every now and again, we are lucky enough to be graced with a Phish show that is so genuine, fun, and truly exemplifies what this band is about. The antics, the seamless segues, and pure good natured improv – this one is a prime example. They essentially continually play 4 songs or theme them throughout the whole of set 2. “What’s The Use” and “2001” in the same set equals launchpad into deep space. This is a fine show and one hell of a way to open up at the Gorge. If you haven’t listened to it, what are you waiting for!