Phish Festival 8 | 11.01.09 | Indio, CA

Words by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Steven Walter

Phish Festival 8 :: 11.01.09 :: Indio, CA


Phish Festival 8 :: 11.01 :: Indio, CA
The final day of Festival 8 brought out some firsts for the band. Beginning a bit after noon on Sunday, Phish settled into a stripped down arrangement for their first ever, full-length acoustic set.

The set opened with a few numbers fans were expecting to hear, like "Water in the Sky" and "Back On The Train," a fluttering "Strange Design," as well as a few more daring tunes for an acoustic setting, such as "The Curtain With."

With the blistering sun again beating down upon patrons, Trey told the audience to sit down at the beginning of the set, something he later explained he'd never be able to do because he can't take orders, which led to the frontman jumping out of his seat for "Wilson."

The acoustic early afternoon set proved to be the perfect scenario after the musical chaos and relentless ass-kicking of Halloween. It provided the opportunity to sprawl out in the lush, green grass of the concert field and float away to the simple melodies of "Bouncin' Around the Room" and "McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters." The acoustic version of "McGrupp" was clearly a highlight that allowed fans to appreciate what a wonderful composition the song is, shinning in this unique setting.

The tripe encore of "Driver," "Talk," a song that really flourished with Trey on acoustic, and "Secret Smile" closed things out. The acoustic portion of Sunday truly captured the laidback, SoCal vibe of Festival 8 in a nutshell.


Phish Festival 8 :: 11.01 :: Indio, CA
After the Packers/Vikings and World Series games that saw the masses huddle around giant screens, sprawl out on couches and picnic tables, and imbibe heavily at the Bloody Mary bar, Phish hit the stage for their seventh set of the weekend just before 6 p.m., shortly after the sun had set and the temperature dropped.

Opening with the upbeat, fan favorite, "AC/DC Bag," Phish was back in familiar territory - electric, where let's face it: this band belongs. "Bag" was cut a bit short, Trey pulling out of the jam and instead segueing into "Rift." A welcome choice, but a bit puzzling since they had played "The Curtain With" earlier, and both songs contain a very similar composed section.

"Gotta Jibboo" got the crowd gyrating; before the set seemed to sort of fall apart. The set wasn't bad, but seemed disjointed at times, and the band simply looked tired. This point was further driven home with some major flubs in "Reba" and "Guelah Papyrus." But, it didn't matter. There were no haters around and everyone continued to move along, including the band who did manage to end the set on a high note with a Fishman-led, super tight and funky "Undermind," and a mostly razor sharp set closer of "Split Open and Melt." A set that will get lost in the mix of the weekend, it did have a few choice moments buy lacked cohesiveness overall.


Phish Festival 8 :: 11.01 :: Indio, CA
We made it: the eighth and final set of the weekend! Clocking in at around two hours, the set started off good, but eventually turned great. An infectious, danceable "Tweezer" kicked things off and found Gordon dropping bombs of thunder that felt like they might pull rain from the desert sky above.

A panic-attack inducing "Maze" swirled with McConnell's organ and Anastasio's piercing licks, before things morphed into "Free." A bombastic version of one of the band's most beloved jams, "Free" turned the sea of people into one glowing mass of smiles, many with eyes closed and arms raised over head.

Clearly feeding off the crowd's energy, the band moved into the new Gordon track "Sugar Shack," featuring funky, calypso rhythms and Gordon's quirky vocals. Things were gaining speed and truly hit a stride during a triumphant "Limb by Limb" and a very well played "Theme From the Bottom" that soared high with the song's classic, ethereal jam.

Many fans felt the best set of the weekend was the eighth and final offering. Well executed and perfectly balanced, we were treated to soaring highs, funky dance numbers, and dark, chaotic, dissonant weirdness like that found in the massive "Mike's Song." Drifting out of "Mike's," "2001" lit a party keg under an already amped-up crowd that busted their best dance moves during the legendary space-funk. With the band pumping the beats, lighting director Chris Kuroda brought "2001" to new heights with rainbow patterns and backlit palm trees behind the stage. Known by phans as CK5, Kuroda just might be the best light guru in the game.

Phish Festival 8 :: 11.01 :: Indio, CA
From the darkness emerged "Light," which featured a very weird, atypical, almost Type-II jam, with a "Burble" twin off to the side of the crowd. At times the "Burble" looked like a guitar, then a piano, and finally a hand playing or waving.

After exploring "Light," Phish laid a delicate, raw lining over the masses with the majestic "Slave to the Traffic Light." One of be best show closers in the band's repertoire, it summed up the weekend: amazing, beautiful, dangerous at times, but clearly worth the journey.

An extended encore of "Grind," a very unexpected "Esther," which was performed flawlessly with McConnell's circus style organ capturing the festy vibe in a snapshot. In a subtle way, "Esther" also signaled that Festival 8 had come full circle. Back at the band's first festival, 1996's Clifford Ball, "Esther" was played early on, but had not made an appearance at any of the following festivals.

A bunch of thank yous to Red Light, Goldenvoice and Phish peeps in general, Trey said they hoped to do it again, emitting a universal cheer. The icing on the donut was a raging "Tweezer Reprise" in which the stations at the back of the crowd erupted a few final times with huge bursts of flames.

Festival 8 was a triumphant success and a welcome return to the festival atmosphere for Phish. Exile was nailed, some of the best jamming in years, and a relaxed vibe made Coventry seem like a distant memory. A true epiphany for all in attendance, and from what showed onstage, the band as well.

More photos of this show available here.

Phish Festival 8 :: 11.01.09 :: Indio, CA
I (Acoustic): Water In The Sky, Back On The Train, Brian And Robert, Invisible, Strange Design, Mountains in the Mist, The Curtain With, Army Of One, Sleep Again, My Sweet One, Let Me Lie, Bouncing Around The Room, Train Song, Wilson, McGrupp And The Watchful Hosemasters
Encore: Driver, Talk, Secret Smile

Set II: AC/DC Bag, Rift, Gotta Jibboo, Heavy Things, Reba, The Wedge, Guelah Papyrus, Undermind, Sparkle, Split Open & Melt

Set III: Tweezer > Maze, Free, Sugar Shack, Limb By Limb, Theme From The Bottom, Mike's Song > 2001 > Light > Slave to the Traffic Light
Encore: Grind, Esther, Tweezer Reprise

Get the complete Phish Festival 8 story at Complete Phish tour dates available here.

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[Published on: 11/2/09]

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