I can’t think of a better way to kick off the first weekend of the fall semester than seeing live Phish.
That Friday afternoon, after classes, I rode up to Pelham (just outside Birmingham, a short distance up the road from Tuscaloosa) with a friend to see a show I’d been anticipating for months – my third of the summer tour. We met up with a big group and headed to Oak Mountain Amphitheatre. It was Phish’s first appearance at the venue since 1999, which was pretty exciting for Alabamians like me. We arrived a good while before the gates opened, so we had several hours of the lot experience – always a good time – complete with booze, food trucks and hordes of phans. For those of you who have never experienced it, it’s essentially a heady version of a football tailgate. The excitement in the air was almost tangible.
I was very pleased with both the first and second sets. Phish did a fantastic job of keeping the crowd engaged throughout the show. They came on strong with a high energy “Possum,” a fairly typical opener for the band, followed by their own interpretation of “Cities,” a Talking Heads original. My memory of the first set is pretty hazy, but I know they played some good tunes, including “Back on the Train,” “Down with Disease,” “Julius” and “Gumbo” (and this time, I was actually in the stands to see it). They ended the set strong, thanks in part to an impressive Trey guitar solo, with The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
The guys kicked off set two with a lengthy version of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll” (another repeat from my previous Phish excursion in Wantagh), complete with a tease of Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” Afterwards came “The Lizards” – the second of the summer – and it’s been stuck in my head ever since. Following “Halley’s Comet,” a spacey “Sand” gave way to “Twist,” which featured a tease to Santana’s “Oye Como Va.” Next was a lively “Birds of a Feather,” succeeded by another cover, “Boogie on Reggae Woman” by Stevie Wonder – another one I witnessed in New York, but always such a fun jam. The second set came to a close with “Also Sprach Zarathustra” > “Waste” > “Slave to the Traffic Light.”
Phish ended the show with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s traditional rock ‘n’ roll tune, “Good Times, Bad Times.” I think all in attendance would agree the night was a success, filled with plenty of old school jams and a dynamic energy felt throughout the venue.
I had mentioned to a friend that I hoped to hear an “Ocelot” or “Bathtub Gin,” and ironically enough, he got to hear both of those in Charlotte just two days later. Needless to say, I was a little envious. They seem to have been on a bit of an “Ocelot” kick lately, performing it the last 3 shows out of 7.
It seems that each time I see Phish, they just get better and better. I had hoped to make it to another stop before the second leg of the summer was through, but I am anticipating the release of more tour dates. The sooner, the better!
Taken on an iPhone. Sorry about the subpar photo quality.
Friday, August 24 –
Set 1: Possum, Cities > Sample in a Jar, Timber (Jerry) > Back on the Train, Lawn Boy, Down with Disease, Gumbo, Ginseng Sullivan > The Wedge, Julius > Cavern, While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Set 2: Rock and Roll -> The Lizards, Halley’s Comet > Sand > Twist > Birds of a Feather, Boogie on Reggae Woman > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Waste > Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: Good Times, Bad Times
Next stop: TBD