Sometimes, being a Phish fan is kind of like being a parent: your kid presents you with a completely ridiculous challenge (“Mom, mom, I'm gonna build a rocket ship to the moon!”; “Fans, we're going to cover The White Album front to back!”) and all you can do is stand there and nod, knowing it'll probably never actually happen, but also knowing it's a lot worse to challenge the notion in the first place.
So consider Phish's first-ever all-acoustic set (the first set of the third day of their massive Festival 8 this weekend at the Coachella Polo Fields in Indio) a series of these challenges, each stepped up to, one after another. “Hey, hey, we're gonna serve 40,000 custom made doughnuts in the shape of an 'eight' to tired/strung out superfans at 11am!!” Sure you are, honey.
“Hey, hey, we're gonna convince all those fans to sit down, just 'cause we can, even though they're so used to noodle-dancing it seems embedded in their DNA!!!” Ok, just be safe. “We're going to play the fugue-like composition “The Curtain (With),” which was written for high-speed guitar theatrics, on acoustic instruments so as to show our fans that we don't need no studio trickery to melt their faces off!” Well, alright, just make sure you're home in time for dinner…
Of course, the early-afternoon acoustic set wasn't all intricate, mind-blowing instrumental impressiveness: like any band would, the four members of Phish used it as an opportunity to demonstrate their vast songwriting prowess, mostly taking the hour-plus to weave through ballads like the gorgeous, heartfelt “Strange Design” as the sun blared down on already spent fans, who ultimately stood up to bounce around to, well, “Bouncing Around the Room.” It ended up working out anyways: guitarist Trey Anastasio, who'd earlier told the audience that he'd like them to sit, ended up taking back his words: to paraphrase, he said, “I hate telling people what to do. I'm kind of ADHD myself” – which, in many ways, is confirmation that he is actually just a big kid, after all.