Words by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Josh Miller
Phish :: 03.07.09 :: Hampton Coliseum :: Hampton, VA
Okay, let's take a breath. After Friday - which, let's face it — was a nightmare getting in, and saw a non-existent shakedown street and an incredibly high anxiety factory. Come Saturday, people started chilling the fuck out, realizing that the band was back, and there was after all, more than a single show happening over the next few months. It was time to rage, and Saturday seemed just a bit more rambunctious outside, as witnessed by the bottles littering the fountain area directly outside of the venue's entrance.
Trey Anastasio :: 03.07 :: Hampton, VA|
Saturday also saw an influx of newcomers who missed Friday, either due to work, being shut out or simply refusing to pay the ridiculous asking price of a ticket. Regardless of why, the rowdiness outside on Saturday afternoon was somewhat magnified, and the vibe carried straight through into The Mothership.
Opening with the appropriate "Back on the Train," the crowd cheered wildly at the line, "It took me a long time to get back on the train." A fun and loose "Runaway Jim" took the energy up a notch, while "Split Open and Melt" was the first heavy hitter of the night. With reckless abandon, the band tried to find their way through one of their darkest jam vehicles. "Melt" was solid, and very "safe," as many of the jams until this point of the run seemed to be. By safe, I mean well-rehearsed, and that's not a bad thing; but it did illustrate that the band was still finding their legs.
"Punch You in the Eye" was a very welcome treat and had everyone screaming "Hey!," even if Trey missed a few changes in this one. Miscues didn't matter: there was no hate anywhere to found as Phish was still clearly playing above expectations. A loose, funky "Gumbo" again found McConnell working his magical fingers with a spew of smothering funk, as he continued to absolutely dominate the first two nights. Let me be absolutely clear: McConnell seems rested, reinvigorated and more confident in his playing than he has in the past ten years. Maybe that's because he put out his own self-titled album during the break (you can read our feature with him here). The band even played "Beauty of a Broken Heart" from McConnell's album a little later in the first set, and featured McConnell out front and Trey soaring on some tasty licks.
Other favorites like "Reba," which was as welcome as an old, trusty dog licking your face on a warm, summer day, "It's Ice" featured a very creepy, spacey middle section, and a loose, goofy "Halley's Comet" told us that the band was ready to play anything at anytime this run. Toss in a "Lawnboy," which saw McConnell swoon to the middle of the stage and a raging "Run Like An Antelope," and the first set again clocked in at almost two hours.
Phish :: 03.07 :: Hampton, VA|
However, it was the second set that made the biggest statement of the weekend, thus far. It was the first one in years that I was truly able to lose myself in, and saw the band honestly just let go and as Anastasio always says, "let the music play them." Firing up with a sizzling "Rock and Roll" and an exceptionally strong "Limb by Limb," which saw Fishman showcase his very underrated and often overlooked drumming, the band bounced into "Ghost," led by the thick, gooey bass bombs of Gordon. Somewhere near the end of this jam, the place turned the corner and set the stage for an absolutely epic end of the night.
"Piper" was triumphant and I couldn't help but think of MSG '02 (read MSG review here), before it somewhat abruptly landed into "Birds of a Feather." Next, one of the best songs of the night, the high-five, karate chop your friend, funky dance vehicle "Wolfman's Brother." Admittedly one of my favorite tunes, "Wolfman's" has been a true monster since '97, and was one song that continued to progress post-hiatus. This night's version showed no signs of slowing.
But, hands down the strongest moments of the run thus far were the following 30-plus minutes of an absolute, razor-sharp "Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove." "Mike's" was dirty, danceable and had the entire building grooving with every turn. "Hydrogen" was as beautiful as ever, while during "Weekapaug" I realized I was absolutely drenched in sweat and had been spontaneously pulling dance moves that I wasn't sure my slightly older frame could still pull off. But, I did, and more importantly, so did the band. A smoking "Character Zero" closed out a frickin' barnburner of a show. This second set — not on paper but in energy and intensity — was the set of the run until now. Raw power.
Toss in an encore of "A Day in the Life" — only the third one since '97, and everyone was floored. I personally hadn't heard Phish play this chestnut of a Beatles cover in over 13 years, and can safely say they are pulling out all the stops. Stay tuned for the final barrage of fireworks to come on night three...
Mike's Song Jam 03.07.09 from Jesse Borrell on Vimeo.
Story of the Ghost 03.07.09 from Jesse Borrell on Vimeo.
03.07.09 :: Hampton Coliseum :: Hampton, VA
Set I: Back On The Train, Runaway Jim, Brian and Robert, Split Open and Melt, Heavy Things, Punch You in the Eye, Gumbo, Reba, Mexican Cousin, It's Ice, Halley's Comet, Beauty of a Broken Heart*, Guelah Papyrus*, Lawn Boy, Run Like An Antelope
Set II: Rock and Roll, Limb By Limb, Ghost, Piper, Birds of a Feather, Wolfman's Brother, Prince Caspian, Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero
E: A Day in the Life
*First time played
Read the review of Hampton Night Three here...
You can download this song for free at LivePhish.com.
Continue reading for Take Two of Night Two...