Northerly Island 7.19.2013
This couple weekends ago Phish returned to Chicago for their only Midwest stop of 2013 (so far at least). This entire tour has been riddled with weather issues, most notably the rescheduling of the band’s first trip to Canada in thirteen years. However, despite Mother Nature’s best efforts, the band strung together two great shows at Northerly Island, even with Friday night being cancelled shortly after the start of the second set.
It is a shame Friday could not have gone on as planned as the first set contained strong versions of multiple songs. The set included standout versions of 46 Days and Wolfman’s Brother, as well as the first version of My Soul of 2013, and another Scent of a Mule complete with a Marimba Lumina solo from Fishman. After a very intriguing Down with Disease to open up the second set, the show is called due to the severe weather that is on its way. This version of Disease will likely not receive much love due to the fact that it was the only full song of the set, but fear not, Phish always finds a way to make up for lost time, this weekend would be no different.
Highlights: 46 Days, Scent of a Mule, Down with Disease After a long night of sulking over the bummer that is a cancelled set of Phish, as well as a couple of not-so-necessary, yet still highly enjoyable hours spent in the “tunnel party” many fans awoke to the great news that Saturday’s show would be three full sets, to start “promptly” at 7:00 PM.
Northerly Island 7.20.2013
Of course, by many musicians’ standards, 7:15 is exactly what “promptly at 7:00” means. The first of three sets on this Saturday starts off with a continuation of the Prince Caspian that was cut short on Friday. While I hate to be a guy who uses the word “standard” to describe a set, this first set, while good, seems fairly standard when compared to we would hear in the two sets that followed. The first set does contain songs worth noting: One of the most upbeat and fastest paced versions of Rift in recent years, the year’s first versions of Lawn Boy, and I Didn’t Know, and perhaps a bit of a jab at many fans complaints of hearing a certain song with a combo of Ha Ha Ha -> Possum. Stand out versions of My Friend, My Friend and Kill Devil Falls keep fans dancing, and one of my personal favorite combos to end any set, Cavern -> David Bowie closes out set one.
7/20/2013 Sets 2 and 3….. I’m weary of writing too much about these sets, because it could easily happen. These last two sets of Phish’s Saturday show are a pair of sets that make you feel totally fine about sacrificing way too much of your time, money, energy…. Semi-vital organs that you sold on the black market, your dead grandfather’s priceless heirlooms you pawned off….. Yes… all of these sacrifices are now OK if you were in attendance on this night.
Back on the Train slowly creeps its way in to start the second set, and the Mike’s Groove that followed would be one for the ages. Fans have been clamoring for an extended version of Mike’s Song for some time now, and while this version doesn’t stretch the twenty minute mark as some fans have hoped for, it certainly packs much more of a punch than many versions from recent years. As the song ended and a light rain began to leak its way out, fans were treated to the first version of Theme from the Bottom wedged into a Mike’s Groove. This version saw great playing from all members with an extended jam at the end that I would have liked to see continue, however, the Weekapaug Groove that followed left very little to be complained about.
Groove has always been my absolute favorite Phish song and this version is by far the best I have personally seen. A great shredding start to the song from Trey gave way to a terrific solo from Mike and as the whole band joined in, this seven minutes version of Weekapaug totally debunked the myth that all Phish songs have to be stretched to the max to reach their full potential. The songs that wrapped up set two: Golden Age -> Waves -> Piper -> Slave to the Traffic Light were all terrific and offered fans many peaks and valleys of jamming bliss. Golden Age in particular displayed some wonderful singing from Trey. Another highlight came in the absolutely nailed intro to Piper, which will always be one of my favorite moments of any Phish song. On any night this would be an extremely solid night of music, but were not done just yet.
Many fans were hoping for a jam heavy set three and while it did not start out that way, the opening selection of Meatstick and Birds of a Feather keeps the energy high until a wonderful “breather” song in the Page sung Strange Design. Next came an odd selection for a third set in Ocelot. I can’t think of many songs that have grown more the past four years than this one. This cat definitely has grown some teeth and Chicago’s version fits perfectly in this third set, or any set for that matter.
The night wraps up with a couple of jam heavy hitters and one very intense cover. Light has become a launch-pad for Trey in recent years allowing him to take more risks in his improvisation. Fans are always going to want to see new and exciting renditions of songs and it is easy to see that these risks are paying off greatly for songs like Light. This version does not stretch to the lengths some recent ones have but when the song is this entertaining, who cares? I think many fans could enjoy their favorite band a lot more if they would just put away their stopwatches and “surrender to the flow”…. Brah.
One of the “MVP Songs” of 2013 in my opinion, Harry Hood appears next and the set is closed out with arguably the best ever version of Led Zeppelin’s Good Times Bad Times. Trey takes more risks, shreds, and fans grin from ear to ear. Another cover in the Stones’ Shine a Light puts a beautiful cap on a terrific night of music. Time for some leftover deep dish and a snooze before Chicago Phish wraps up on Sunday.
Highlights: Possum (seriously), My Friend, My Friend, David Bowie, Mike’s Song > Theme from the Bottom-> Weekapaug Groove, Light, Ocelot, Good Times Bad Times
Northerly Island 7.21.2013
As amazing as night two of Chicago was, Sunday is no snoozer show by a longshot and it should not be skimmed over. A lot of fans can get annoyed with the signs that are held up. In my opinion, signs are like almost anything else in life in that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about using them. If you hold up a sign for an entire show, not only are you a moron, but the likely hood of your song ever being played on that night is quite slim. Apparently the guy up front on this night did it the “RIGHT way” with his “0-172 Dinner and a Movie” sign, so Trey dedicated the song to this sign holder and night three was underway. The typical show starter AC/DC Bag is next and as Trey keeps plucking the last note of this version of Bag, it synchs up nicely with Fishman’s drum beat as he begins Maze. I always find Maze to be a more powerful first set song and this version does not disappoint. Not so standard and well played versions of Mound and Funky Bitch come next with great singing and bass play from our favorite desert dwelling plant, get ‘em Cactus !!
Next is what will be known as the “360 Gin” from the Chairman of the Boards, Page McConnell. Before Trey starts singing this version of Bathtub Gin, Page hits every key on his whole damn rig in a hilarious fashion that gets the crowd roaring with delight. As the song ends and Wilson makes an appearance, so does the rain….again. However this time the rain does little to slow down this great show. An expected version of Water in the Sky gives way to a tremendous Boogie on Reggae Woman. The rain did not stop, but neither did the crowd’s enthusiasm. I can’t remember having more fun in the rain in my life than I did during this combo of Water & Boogie On. As Trey starts the opening chords to Run like an Antelope, Mother Nature got the best of us again… even if for just a few minutes, time for a breather, a very wet breather.
Another set for the books comes up to close out this fantastic run. A cover of The Apples in Stereo’s Energy begins this set as the band stretches out this version in which ultimately segues nicely into Ghost. One of my other “all-time favorite” Phish tunes in The Lizards is next and gives this fan all he could ask for and more, or so it seemed.
Harpua dude….. One of the most sought after songs in this bands whole catalog comes next. This version is…. as Mike put it… “Odd” to say the least. The cast of Chicago’s own “Second City” are brought on stage as they portray the exact WRONG way to hold up a sign, which ironically gets their song played this time. These “fans” on stage claim they know the “Right way” to tell the story of Harpua, which apparently is nothing more than some incoherent ramblings of Al Gore, erectile dysfunction, and of course Cats !! Mike takes over the narration portion of Harpua and, in a way, saves the song from utter and total disarray. Now, don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled to hear this song, no matter how goofy… but it was still odd…quite odd, and hey ! the storm IS finally gone !! Set two finishes with a second attempt at Run like an Antelope and this version is well worth the wait. Character Zero makes an appearance as the encore to close out a fantastic weekend of music, and rain.
Mother Nature did her best, but when Phish is playing as well as they are right now, not even she can slow down this band that has continued to progress, evolve, and still leave fans wanting more. Even though it’s only a few days removed from the Chicago run, I already can’t wait for the next one. Cheers!
Highlights: Maze, “360” Bathtub Gin, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Energy-> Ghost, Harpua (for the laughs at least), Run like an Antelope