26 in 26 of 2019: #15 07/02/2019 Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs, NY (Scott Mikita, @scottmik104)
I’m not really sure why it took me this long to make the trip to Saratoga Springs for the first time as it’s only a mere two and half hours from my abode in Connecticut. Nonetheless, I was very excited for these shows at SPAC as it would be the first time that my wife agreed to do a multiple show run by my side. Two shows at SPAC, two at Fenway, and then onto Mohegan Sun was the plan. These shows would prove to be the defining moment for my wife being “hooked”. Although she started seeing Phish with me back in 2009, it took a long time for her to really enjoy herself at a show versus going just to be with me. We had just been wed 10 days prior to this SPAC show so these shows would more or less be our honeymoon.
SPAC is a wonderful place to see a show. The venue was buzzing with energy as soon as we walked in. I hit the lottery for these two shows but of course, lawns. I, for one, enjoy the lawn at most venues. Plenty of room to roam and rage. I don’t feel the need to be nuts to butts inside the pavilion especially in the summertime. A lot of murmurs were emerging from the growing crowd on what they would open with after coming off a stellar show at Camden just a couple of days earlier. As I looked to my right, I could see a man in a helmet decorated with stickers who could only be, “The @lawnmemo.” I was still somewhat new to the Phish Twitter at this time so I elected to not go over and say hi. Something I still regret to this day.
Then Phish did what Phish does. Opened with a shocker of an Everly Brothers song in “Cathy’s Clown”. Nobody saw this one coming. I didn’t even know what it was until after the show. Next up, “Tweezer Reprise”? Wow. We are going to have a good time tonight. As if that wasn’t a big enough surprise, we flow right into a third song, “Carini”?!?! This was an oddly placed, first set treat that got the place moving! A pretty standard run through “AC/DC Bag” led us right into a hilarious take on “The Moma Dance”. Fish comes in too early and Trey throws some shade his way. Teasing him that they had finally figured out what song it was. The intro was long. To the point that I thought we might actually get the return of “Black Eyed Katie”!? Alas, the lyrics start and we’re back to a standard run through “Moma”. A well placed “Theme From The Bottom” was next followed by a fun version of “Meat” which includes the return of the “Hee Haw” lick played in Camden a couple of nights earlier. Not only would the “Hee Haw” lick return throughout this show, it carried on for much of this tour. Home was next, and while I don’t particularly care much for this tune, the ending jam that came out of it was a delight. “Bathtub Gin” and a soaring “WOTC” capped off a great first set.
Set two starts us off with a nice, mellow version of “Cool Amber and Mercury”. I dig this tune. Mostly because I’m a “fool”. Also, because my wife has quite literally face planted into rock before. Up next, “Down With Disease”. Now this version is very good. It just never really goes anywhere for me. The theme becomes repetitive here. It comes up, goes back down, but never really peaks. Worthy to drop on your ears but it came up a bit underwhelming for me. I decided that the “Scents and Subtle Sounds” that would follow was a more noteworthy jam overall for this exercise.
I recognize “Scents” immediately upon the first note. Yes!!! Intro and all! I am fully blissed out. My first time catching this live and I am in! A slight lyrical flub in the intro part is forgotten quickly as we shift into the meat of the song. I love the lyrics to this beauty and I had to keep opening my eyes to make sure that the winds weren’t lifting me up into the sky. The chorus kicks in right at the 4:20 mark of the song, and we have liftoff. We get past the chorus and the jam starts off very quiet at the 5:30 mark. Then it starts to build slowly. Trey starts firing off little machine gun licks at 6:46. They are quiet but prevalent. At 7:10, we start to intensify a bit. Page is just going nuts in the background but, again, quietly. 9:35 Trey’s volume is up, and now we are cooking! Fishman is a silent hero behind the tone of Trey’s guitar but is an absolute force on his kit. Mike stays in the pocket for the majority of this. At 11:30 Fish hits a little louder and Page lets loose as Trey is noodling about. Trey gets the echo effect going around the 13 minute mark and Mike steps up to lay down some bombs. By the 14 minute mark, we have everyone on stage fully engaged in the jam. We start to fade away at the 15 minute mark and seque perfectly into “Twist”.
“Twist” has some stank to it. The “Hee Haw” lick comes back at 2:10 and then dissolves into a Type 1 jam. More quiet jamming ensues. The volume picks up at the six minute mark but then the jam gets cut and the song ends at just over the eight minute mark. A quick run through “Wilson” and then the boys land on “Scent of a Mule”. Nothing too exciting about this one other than the “here comes Cathy’s Clown” change to the lyrics. “Fuck Your Face” is a fun, late second set treat, and then a standard run through “Halley’s Comet” before we settle into closing the set with a nice rip through “Harry Hood”.
“Fee” starts the encore off then concludes with Trey saying “I think we have time for a couple more” much to the delight of the crowd. “ALBTD” softens the mood before we get to dance once more to “First Tube” prior to exiting the venue. A very good show concludes and I can’t wait to do it all over again the next night!
My name is Scott Mikita. I have done some work with the Wook+ crew over the past 18 months including a number of appearances on their YouTube channel. I have also done some writing for the Wook+ blog on various different topics. All of these things that I’ve worked on can be found at Wookplus.com . My first Phish show was on 12/30/95 and I’ve been pretty much “hooked” ever since.