Better than...playing hackey sack alone
It would be understandable if the members of Phish were a bit little exhausted heading into their show at the Hollywood Bowl. A month long summer tour has seen the band make its way across North America.
Playing their first show at the Bowl since 2011, the quartet attracted their usual number of out-of-towners. Fans traveled from as far as Toronto and New Hampshire to catch the band as they celebrate their 30th anniversary. Despite having not released new music since 2009's Joy, Phish continues to soldier on as one of the most popular touring bands in the country.
See also: In Defense of Jam Bands
Five years after ending their temporary break up, the jam band seems to have completely shaken off the rust that marked their first few years back on the road and are playing with the same vigor that defined their late '90s success.
Playing their customary two sets over 150 minutes, last night the quartet showed that there are confidently able to drastically mix up the styles. Their fiercely loyal fan base continues to pick up what they're putting down, despite the haters.
"Scent of a Mule" was the high water mark of a relatively reserved first set, at least by Phish's standards. The song featured drummer Jon Fishman playing Mike Gordon's bass with mallets and all four band members huddled over and playing Fishman's drum kit at the same time. The first 70 or so minutes featured a mix of alt and funk rock that didn't leave room for too many extended instrumentals. But they sounded crisp, especially during a short version of "Cavern" from 1992's Picture of Nectar and a cover of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
Years of drug abuse have hindered singer/guitarist Trey Anastasio's playing in recent years. Once considered one of the preeminent guitar players alive, Anastasio freelanced too much outside a song's structure and his solos often lacked the focus that defined the band's best days. Yet after the lights went down for a second time and as glow sticks rained on the crowd (to the chagrin of this writer), Anastasio's soaring guitar guided the band through psychedelic, spacey jams on songs like "Birds of a Feather," "Down With Disease" and "Sand." His razor sharp precision allowed for cohesive jams with bassist Gordon and keyboardist Page McConnell, who in turn were able to unleash their heavy grooves and delicate keys respectively.
The band never strayed too far from the song structure, but didn't really need to. Each extended instrumental had a degree of familiarity to where fans were able to follow along even with a few new spontaneous wrinkles
After finishing with a soulful rendition of the Rolling Stones' "Loving Cup," Phish didn't sound ready to leave. In fact, the only reason they stopped was because of the Bowl's strict curfew rule.
Personal Bias: The first time I smoked pot I was listening to Phish. What a long, strange trip it's been.
The Crowd: Lots and lots of hair.
Random Notebook Dump: Seeing hippies hand out bible verses on pamphlets is a new thing. Same goes for the gents selling nitrous in plain view on Highland after the show
Full set list below
Set 1: AC/DC Bag
The Moma Dance
Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan
Roses Are Free
Scent of a Mule
While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Set 2: Chalk Dust Torture
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Golden Age > Birds of a Feather
Down with Disease > My Friend, My Friend > Harry Hood > Character Zero
Encore: Loving Cup