Phish | 06.20.09 | Alpine Valley I

Words by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Dave Vann

Phish :: 06.20.09 :: Alpine Valley :: East Troy, WI

Phish :: 06.20.09 :: Alpine Valley, WI
After some long drives over the past week, Phish has finally settled into the last destination of their first summer tour in five years – Alpine Valley. Nearly twice as big in capacity as any other shed the band had played, and literally nine or ten times the size of the Fox Theatre they played last Tuesday, Alpine is always a party that allows a ton of people to witness the band in their element.

The lawn at Alpine is also the steepest I’ve ever seen, with more broken ankles to its credit than Kobe Bryant’s killer crossover dribble. As for the show itself, the band turned in another smoking effort – their third in a row – showing that they are gaining steam and feeling comfortable again. While the band seems to be playing the same batch of songs, I’ve decided that that’s okay as they continue to build momentum and gain their sea legs, especially when they play said songs well. Opening with “Punch You in the Eye,” Trey led the sharp guitar moves on this one. His two daughters, Eliza and Isabella, were sitting on the side of the stage for the beginning of the show, and kept waving to their dad and McConnell – pretty cool since the tour closer on Sunday is Father’s Day. It also shows that the backstage dynamic has changed in the Phish world and holds promise for much more music in the future.

A nice, focused “Runaway Jim,” a loose “Yamar” and one of the best songs of the night and possibly the tour, “Bathtub Gin.” The band built this one up and had it reach a zenith that focused on more ripping from Trey – some of the fastest axe work I’ve seen from Big Red in some time, a real must hear. To put the jam in perspective, I could see from my second row center seat that Trey actually fogged up his glasses and had to wipe them off afterwards, while smiling and saying “whoa” to McConnell.

Phish :: 06.20.09 :: Alpine Valley, WI
The new little rager “Kill Devil Falls” again saw an animated Trey jumping all over. I’m convinced this song is the cousin to “Chalkdust Torture” and the reason Trey likes it so much. “Train Song” and “Farmhouse” slowed things down for a much needed break after those fireballs, before the whip-you-into-a-frenzy “Sparkle” and a gigantic “Run Like an Antelope,” where Trey asked, “Been you to have a hibachi, man?,” and saw the band catapult the nearly forty thousand in attendance to the break.

“Waves” opened set two and was nice but rather short, at least compared to the post-hiatus versions of ’03 and ’04. A particularly strong “Sample in a Jar” and a blistering “Maze” saw Trey shredding something fierce and some super work by McConnell, taking center stage on the organ, as the audience tried to chase the band in a giant game of cat and mouse.

“Makisupa Policeman” saw Trey joke about his past legal troubles by adding two key changes, namely, “Woke up in the morning… pissed in Jah Cup,” followed by his shit-eating grin during, “Woke up in the afternoon… called my probation officer.” Again, being close to the stage allowed me to see Trey point to himself in the chest when he said, “Policeman came to MY house,” adding a tongue-in-cheek, “Yes, he did.” Funny to laugh now but I think I speak for all when I say I’m glad Trey is back where he should be – on stage and sounding super.

Anastasio & Gordon :: 06.20.09 :: Alpine Valley, WI
A super funky, Gordon driven “Ghost” was another raging, hot jam that bounced and moved before giving way to one of my personal favorites, “The Lizards.” I danced and moved along to this number, transporting myself to the world of Gamehendge as Trey sang about the lore of such characters as Rutherford the Brave. A classic Phish song that was simply a treat to hear.

Not to be outdone, the band smoked “You Enjoy Myself,” sans vocal jam but with a sharp focus that saw this set shaping up to rival any of the Midwestern run. That landed in “NICU,” where Trey gave a “play it, Cactus” instead of the normal “play it, Leo” line, and saw Gordon break it down.

“Prince Caspian,” which saw Trey noodle along with his favorite pedal/sound effect of the tour, what my friends and I are dubbing the “whale call,” eventually landed in a beautiful “Waste” that showcased Trey’s furious fretwork, albeit in a different light than other tunes. To cap off a blazing set two, I could literally HEAR Trey call out the word “Fire!” to Page from my seat, which gave me the all important two second head start on the rest of the crowd before the band tore up the Jimmy Hendrix number, complete with a quick drum breakdown by Fishman.

Kick in another scorching “Character Zero” encore, and night one of Alpine officially came to a close with another super-solid effort from the band. As the tour has gone onwards, it is clear everyone is becoming more comfortable being back, and most importantly, the band is having fun, something that was lacking night-in and night-out in post-hiatus years. The band sounds great, getting more polished with every gig, which has me uber-excited for things to come.

However, we need to dig deep for one more night of the first leg of summer as Phish has proven they are back and still kings of the jam world. Stay tuned for the final installment…

Phish :: 06.20.09 :: Alpine Valley :: East Troy, WI
Set I: Punch You in the Eye, Runaway Jim, Stash, Yamar, Bathtub Gin, Kill Devil Falls, Train Song, Farmhouse, Sparkle, Run Like An Antelope
Set II: Waves > Sample In A Jar, Maze, Makisupa Policeman, Ghost > The Lizards, You Enjoy Myself > NICU > Prince Caspian > Waste > Fire
E: Character Zero

For more pics of this show go here.

Phish perform again tonight (6/21) at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI. Check back for setlists, pics and full reviews. Complete Phish tour dates available here.

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