Selection “Golden Age”
From Ashley Driscoll:
We had been on the edge of our seats waiting for dates to drop for Phish’s 2013 Summer Tour. On March 12, we were given a full summer tour schedule with the opener on the books for July 3, 2013 in Bangor, Maine.
So, Bangor it was. Thoughts of this city immediately stirred up excitement among fans as Phish hadn’t played Bangor, since November 2, 1994. In ’94 they laid down an elite thirty minute “Tweezer” that appeared on the famous “A Live One” album.
After months of anticipation and pre tour preparations, July 3rd had arrived! I embarked on a 4+ hour trip from Boston to northern Maine. The emotions grew exponentially with each passing hour. When I arrived at the Hollywood Casino in Bangor, I started to see familiar faces painted with smiles and people dressed in their favorite summer tour gear.
All I could think about was getting a move on to go check out the newly erected Darling’s Waterfront stage. It was a sunny New England summer day and the heat was ablaze. As I journeyed from the casino down the street, the happy energy from everyone around me was intoxicating. I even strolled by what seemed to be a makeshift “Shakedown Street” in a local grocery store parking lot.
Then, there it was: the stage. My heart fluttered and it was then that I realized summer tour had begun; I was seeing Phish that night.
The scene at the venue on the waterfront was something out of a novel or some beautiful fairy tale. There was a river walk strewn with fans in pretty dresses, hula hoopers, patches of lush grass with picnic blankets and of course coolers full of refreshments. There was a relaxing breeze by the water making the scene even more perfect. I’m not an art historian but it reminded me of a wooked out version of Seurat’s “Sunday Afternoon (on the Island of Grande Jatte)” but of course it was a Wednesday in Maine before a Phish show…
It was around this time that I got my picture taken by a local photographer who was overwhelmingly intrigued by my Fishman Everything glasses and right after that I ended up in a photo op with the Hood Milkman, who we of course called “Harry.”
After taking in the scene I was pleasantly surprised by sounds of music coming from the stage! It was time for soundcheck.
If you are unfamiliar with the Bangor soundcheck, do yourself a favor and put it high on your “to do” list. Albeit a soundcheck, it was the first live notes heard from Phish since the infamous Garden Party six months earlier.
The soundcheck started off very bluesy and I wondered what they were planning with that kind of mood. They then pushed forward into a newer Trey Anastasio Band song, which made me speculate if we should expect Phish versions of songs from “Traveler.”
Something unique about this soundcheck was it revealed the first public rendition of “Yarmouth Road.” This played a huge roll in 2013 as it connected us with the year long theme of “new Phish” and was set to debut a few nights later in Saratoga Springs, NY.
The soundcheck ended with a 15+ minute improv jam, which had me excited because I was looking forward to that kind of energy to come out full speed ahead later that evening. I wanted the groove of the soundcheck to carry over to the show and erase ideas some people have about tour openers being “warmup” shows; hoping to rescue it from the abuse of the critics.
Bangor was in fact a tour opener and many, as expected, did call it a standard “warm up,” but I felt it was solid and strong. I feel like it really set us up for a monumental, significant 30th anniversary year for Phish.
It was time for the show and the excitement was palpable. Fans filed in the somewhat mismanaged entrances and took their spots at this new General Admission venue. I was dead center halfway between the soundboard and the stage surrounded by friends new and old. Holy Phish! We’re here!
Like always, pre show jitters combined with restless anxiety was only becoming more intense as we all waited, watching for some movement on the stage in front of us. The mindless chatter mixed with the typical song opener calls and predictions were buzzing in every direction.
After what seemed like an hour, but was mere minutes, there was an uproar of cheering; the four band members had taken the stage. Before we knew it the first few notes of 2013 filled our ears: “POSSUM.” People were a mix of feelings and you could see it. There was without a doubt some disappointment on the faces of the folks around me who “knew” we were getting something totally outrageous. People love to hate on “Possum” and it even became a heavily discussed topic throughout the year, but not me, no way! I continued to smile as big as I could.
Most of the first set was straightforward but absolutely solid. I was delighted when the third song in was a well executed “Stash” a song that means a lot after I adopted the nickname a few years back. The set ended with another personal favorite “Mike’s Song” with a non traditional Horse-less “Silent in the Morning > Weekapaug Groove.”
The jam of the night was the second set opener. “Golden Age,” a TV on the Radio cover that was debuted by Phish on 11/27/09.
I believe this cover had previously sat with mixed emotions among the fans. If you like the song or not, personally I believe it to have been strategically placed at this moment in time. As we know, the band could have opted for a somewhat predictable, maybe even dark “DWD” or a blazing “Rock N Roll,” but I think the placement of “Golden Age” here as the first second set opener of the tour was a reminder that we are surely in a Golden Age of Phish.
Jon Fishman had told me at Nectar’s back in March of that year (2013) how stoked they were as a band and how it truly took them nearly four years to get back to where they wanted to be. He had asked me if I had a chance to check out their last tour and reminded me that they were indeed on fire. He had said with pride, “I mean, we killed it!”
So I knew they were ready to bring the heat while reinforcing where they are in their career and “Golden Age” in this spot solidified that idea for me. Phish has had ups and downs but it has all been part of the 30 year journey, leading up to that exact moment in Bangor, Maine that evening. A line in the song, “clap your hands if you think you’re in the right place” couldn’t have been more true. I don’t even clap during “Stash” or chant for “Wilson,” but you better believe I participated in the clap in “Golden Age” that night.
This version of “Golden Age” is actually really impressive. The lyrical section lasts about six minutes and then Trey plays a confident solo before they begin jamming. A “Manteca” tease from Page at 7:15 sends us on our way. The jam lasts about seven and a half minutes yet they manage to cover quite a lot of ground. Trey is clearly comfortable as he plays one funky lick after another while the rest of the band backs him with a blissful groove. Gordon plays some alien like bass lines as Page and Trey whirl around each other rhythmically. The band settles down into another smooth groove with Fishman keeping the jam fast paced yet super silky. Things get quiet and the band shifts into a somewhat spacier sound as they segue into “Twist.” This is definitely a version worth exploring.
Lastly, I’d like to mention the high quality “Run Like An Antelope” that closed the second set. Even though an “Antelope” set closer may seem predictable I feel like it was a perfect bookend for this set.
The “Harry Hood” encore sent me off into the night thinking: Phish is back and I am here to be a part of it; I could not be more lucky. This show sparked something special that we saw carried out all year long.
I don’t think it could have been any more symbolic, whether the intention was there or not, Phish started off the tour saying this is “The age of miracles, The age of sound [and] there’s a Golden Age, Comin’ round.”
From Ashley Driscoll:
Ashley (stASH) @ashstarr88 hails from Boston, MA. When Ashley isn’t catching Phish shows or making Fishman ornaments you can find her doing PR and promotions for @Aqueousband and Blue Stream Productions.
Ashley is a kind person to all in the Phish community. She brings great energy and has a huge heart. Always willing to help me with any project I get myself into, and I see her helping fellow fans with tickets almost every day.