Phish | 06.05.09 | Jones Beach III

Words by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Dave Vann

Phish :: 06.05.09 :: Jones Beach Theater :: Long Island, NY

Phish :: 06.05.09 :: Jones Beach
Friday saw an absolutely relentless onslaught; both by the bone chilling rain all day as well as the band. For the third and final night at Jones Beach, and fourth show of the summer tour, it was clear that on a loose Friday on Long Island, everyone seemed to hit their collective, touring stride.

I arrived a little earlier than previous nights I was able to park in the closer lot to the venue and was surprised to see that people were in good spirits despite it having rained pretty heavily and regularly throughout the day. Puddles littered the asphalt and folks were decked out in rain gear, yet the vibe was absolutely electric. Unlike sporting events, where rain hampers or cancels a game, with Phish it has the complete opposite effect - they draw on it and channel the force of Mother Nature straight through their instruments.

Kicking things off with the classic tunes "Wilson" and "Buried Alive," it was immediately apparent that this night would prove to be special. Both cuts were tight, fiery and inspired. "Kill Devil Falls" seemed to be a bit shorter than Tuesday's version, but again kept the energy at a high level before landing in another Gamehendge saga tune, "AC/DC Bag." Again showcasing piercing licks from Anastasio, the band really seemed to nail this one. The crowd also reciprocated with a gigantic cheer (as always) at the line, "Let's get this show on the road!"

The first vacuum cleaner solo of summertime occurred during "I Didn't Know" before chestnut after chestnut poured out in the remainder of set one. "My Friend, My Friend" was a semi-bust out and a real treat, and "Ya Mar" was delicious and danceable as always, with McConnell (aka "Leo") spreading his digits across all sorts of keys on this number. I had been waiting to hear "Theme From the Bottom," which again showcased the best type of Phish jam - soaring, delicate patience that rattles your soul to its very core.

Gordon & Fishman :: 06.05.09 :: Jones Beach
Finally, the loveable cover of Stevie Wonder's "Boogie On Reggae Woman" saw the masses grooving away with no signs of the rain hampering things. It was funky and featured some huge bass bombs by Gordon. The set closer of "Split Open and Melt" was a tad sloppy, but, to be honest, it didn't matter in my mind. Friday's first set was the best on paper in years, and was sharp, ferocious and inspired in actual execution. Easily my favorite set of the summer thus far (in terms of song selection) and a true nod to the fans that braved the elements. It was simply a rapid-fire attack of gem after gem, where it didn't matter if this was your first or hundredth Phish show. There was something for everyone to enjoy.

After a set break that actually saw the rain cease and many patrons ringing out their shirts and socks, or maybe abandoning them all together, set two picked up where the first ended and didn't slow down for the remainder of the night. "Down With Disease" bubbled up with Gordon's patented bass drop, which progressed through the orange lights of Kuroda, who conjured up the rainmaker as drops began to gently fall once again. "DWD" was the first time that the band really stretched things out this show, and though it fell short of the 13-minute mark it was still the longest song of the evening.

"Twist" was up next and featured a tight jam with the crowd adding the "Whoo's!" to fill the song's chorus. I heard a distinct tease of Santana's "Oye Como Va" in "Twist" as well. Although not super jammy on this night, I smiled thinking of Santana telling Trey about the now famous "hose" metaphor, where the musicians water the flowers of the audience through their instruments. In what seems to be a peanut butter and jelly combo that's emerged over the past 8-10 years (meaning the tracks are often played together or in the same set), "Twist" was followed by "Piper," which saw some thick guitar by Trey, who in recent years has focused on more of a razor sharp, crunchy sound instead of the pure build up and release of early versions in '97 and '98 (the ones I still prefer).

Trey :: 06.05.09 :: Jones Beach
"Piper" landed in another new tune, "Backwards Down the Number Line," which debuted in Hampton. In a lot of ways, these lyrics are appropriate for Phish and the last few years of their existence, and the jam feels the most like, well, a Phish song. This tune has the potential to be jammed out and made truly special, should the band ever decide to do so.

The band continued chugging along and dropped the hammer with the summer's second "Free." Dark, funky and complete with a bass breakdown, "Free" was, is and will always remain one of the quintessential Phish songs for a plethora of reasons: lyrics, groove and all around dance-ability. I wouldn't mind if they played this song at every show. Counter that with the debut of "Twenty Years Later," which didn't really catch me amongst the new tunes but featured some appropriate lyrics in the Phish world. I need to hear this one again before making my mind up about it.

The homeruns of the night came at the end of the show with a loopy, funky, tweaked out "Also Sprach Zarathustra," commonly referred to as the "2001." As if he'd read my words from the previous review, Kuroda proved me wrong and showed that he still can paint a palette of light unmatched by any others, as "2001" saw a rainbow color-scheme mixed with some black and white strobes that helped the tune blast off into patented super-space-funk territory. "Slave to the Traffic Light" closed the show proper and absolutely roared in its delicate thunder (again, a jam in the vein of "Theme," which I feel Phish absolutely perfects).

Toss in the encore bust out of The Beatles' "A Day in the Life" – another touch that screamed old school/'95 - and the icing on the proverbial sopping wet cake was placed on Phish's triumphant return to Jones Beach. Thus far, Friday's Phish show was my favorite of the return, due to old friends I was with, old tunes that were played (what a setlist!), the X-factor of weather and the fact that the band seemed locked in from note one to finish.

Now, time to pack up the car for my second trip to Boston in two weekends. Great Woods, here we come...

Phish :: 06.05.09 :: Jones Beach

Phish :: 06.05.09 :: Jones Beach Theater :: Long Island, NY
Set I: Wilson, Buried Alive, Kill Devil Falls, AC/DC Bag, I Didn't Know, My Friend My Friend, Ya Mar, Theme from the Bottom, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Split Open and Melt
Set II: Down With Disease> Twist, Piper > Backwards Down The Number Line, Free, Twenty Years Later(1), Also Sprach Zarathustra, Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: A Day in the Life 1 = First Time Played

Brian Bavosa and Dave Vann are JamBase's team on tour. Keep an eye on our Phish Summer Tour Page for lots more from tour...

Continue reading for more pics of Phish at Jones Beach...

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