We got the show that we've all been waiting for. It took just the third night at Red Rocks for the band to completely gel onstage. Add in a little local spiritual energy, a wonderful Colorado night weather-wise, and three plus hours of premier Phish (the best in almost a decade) and you have a formula for one magical night for the ages. We're going to be talking about this night for a very long time.
You're really going to have to listen to the show for yourself. Even then, what you hear will not do justice to the actually vibe and energy of the crowd for the Saturday night show. There's always a little magic that fails to translate onto tape. It's gonna take me a week or so for me to fully comprehend the significance of Saturday night as well as the entire Red Rocks run.
I'm not going to quickly label 8/1/09 as the best Phish show ever... far from it. However, the events from the evening definitely make a strong argument that 8/1/09 was one of the better (if not best) show in the 3.0 era and it smoked anything that the band performed in the 2.0 era. The show started out with one of the strongest first sets I had seen from Phish in a very long time and they followed that doozy up with a mind-numbing second set that left everyone reeling. If you paid big bucks for your Saturday ticket... well, it was well worth the price of admission.
The day started a little bit later for us, but we we're ready to board the party bus by 4pm in Denver and had loaded up on plenty of party favors and booze. The parking lot was swarming with heads which meant there would be two party buses from the Basics Fund taking us to Red Rocks. Larry the bus driver was back, but we opted for Charlie's yellow school bus instead. That would end up being a clutch move (seven hours later) after the show ended. Larry seems to be shrouded in a tinge of bad luck.
We had the last three or four rows blocked off for our crew. The Joker headed to the back of the bus and resumed DJ duties. I helped select 49 different tunes from different playlists that the Joker ended up playing... and everyone got down and dirty. We definitely had a much cooler and rowdier group than a few of the boobirds from Friday night's sojourn back to Denver. A group of ladies were sitting in front of us and drinking heavily. It was their first Phish show and they weren't fucking around.
Katie was there with her friend Lucky Kat. I nicknamed her that because she was super lucky to have gotten a ticket. They were ready to throw down and polished off a half of a handle of citrus-flavored vodka before we event arrived in the lot. The bus ride was so bumpy that Katie spilled half of her cocktail on my leg and I reeked like Redbull and Vodka for the rest of the night.
Charlie got us to the lower lots in record time and we spilled out of the party bus and hit the lots. The Joker had t-shirts to sell and I had a couple of Dharma patches to hawk not to mention that I was in search of mushroom chocolates. Plenty of headies and molly available in the makeshift Shakedown. Ocelot t-shirts were selling for $15. I sold one patch to a guy selling Red Stripes and he tried to sell me opium.
There was lots of chatter about August 1st being Jerry Garcia's birthday. Plenty of discussion about which Dead song they were going to cover. I heard everything from Terrapin to I Know You Rider to Stella Blue.
Nicky and I saw a wookie down. It looked like he was taking a nap, but his girlfriend was slapping him in the face. At closer inspection, he had a cut on his forehead and it appeared that he took a nasty fall.
Just before we wandered inside, we found some mushroom chocolates for $25. The girl selling them warned us to only take half since they were highly potent. They kicked in slow but then shot me towards the cosmos.
Nicky and I found a perfect spot to rage on Page side. We were exactly in the middle of the venue and ready for the festivities to begin. The kid next to me called for AC/DC Bag opener. I told him that was a solid and safe bet since there is some sort of formula that Phish has been sticking to since the summer tour started. There's obviously a core list of songs that are in their rotation but they treat the crowd to a new song or two including a bustout.
8/1/09 Phish, Red Rocks Ampitheater, Saturday Night 3Although AC/DC bag was predictable, The Curtain With was not as the boys played it for the first time since they ended Coventry and the 1.0 era with that rare tune. Did you know it was only the 7th time ever performed? Luckily, I was at five of those shows.
Set 1: AC/DC Bag, The Curtain With, Mound, Gotta Jibboo, Guyute, PYITE, Tube, Alaska, Antelope
Set 2: Rock & Roll > Down with Disease > Free, Esther, Dirt, Harry Hood
Encore: Sleeping Monkey, First Tube
Some douchebag in the row behind me kept screaming, "Play Terrapin! Terrapin! Play Terrapin." He kept it up all night.
They followed up one bustout with another gem... Mound. Last time played was at New Year's Eve in 2002 when they returned after their hiatus. Mound was in heavy rotation from 93-95 but it fizzled out after the 1996 tour and the band semi-retired one of the more difficult songs in the repertoire.
Gotta Jibboo had a delicious jam. I've been on the fence recently about Guyute, but they did not disappoint with a solid version. If anything, I thought it was the weakest point of the first set. That indicated the strength of the first set. And then they boys just tore it up with the last four songs including a highly anticipated PYITE. Trey joked about using only hand signals to communicate with his band mates and they did lots of gestures back and forth. Trey made some sort of elongated tube hand gesture to Fishman.
"That can only mean one of two songs," joked Trey.
That's when they dove head first into Tube. It's one of my favorite Phish songs because I love it when they bring the funk. They followed up Tune with the only new song of the night... Alaska. Two crunchy chicks with fistfuls of glowsticks stopped in our row and got some of the guys near us to unleash them during the jam out. I also heard a couple of Rainy Day Women teases from Page and Trey and thought for a second that they might actually break out into a Bob Dylan cover.
And then they ended the monstrous first set with Antelope. The version from the last Red Rocks run is one of my favorites of all time. I must have listened that to death on a bootleg, so much so that the constant rewinding to that song wore out the Maxell II tape. It will be nice to compare and contrast the two versions from 13 years apart. Needless to say, they took a couple of dark and twisty turns during the song. Phish closed out their best opening set during the Red Rocks run with almost ninety minutes of high energy music.
Nicky found the Joker at setbreak and we hung out for a bit before the lights went down and it was ready to boogie down for the second set. They could have opened up with Down with Disease, which everyone was expecting, but they mixed things up with a cover of Velvet Underground's Rock and Roll. I love it when Page sings and they transitioned into jam that eventually morphed into those squishy bass sounds from Mike which could only mean one thing... Down with Disease. Cool glowstick war. Heavy jamming. More dippies. Mind melting.
Here's the video of DWD that I shot...
And just when you thought they were going to stop playing they segued into Free. I always get goosebumps during when Trey sings, "I feel the feeling I forgot" and the audience always lets out a warm cheer.
The other bustout of note was Esther, a song from the Junta days that Trey often flubbed the lengthy and intricate lyrics. They stopped playing Esther mainly because of the high degree of difficulty of the song and it's no wonder they shelved it in the 2.0 era when Trey's mind and body was riddled with Oxy. Good luck getting his fried brain to recall every single lyric and change. But obviously, Big Red is sober now and did his homework. It wasn't anything close to the mid-1990s versions, but I appreciated and respected the historical significance of the song. I caught the last one on Trey's birthday in Vegas on 9/30/00.
Dirt is one of the slow songs that I could hear every night. It gives you a second to catch your breathe and smoke up before the madness ensues... and it did with Harry Hood. I had one of those bitter and negative Phisheads next to me who talked through most of the song and was bitching about seeing Hood five times on the first leg of summer tour. I did everything to block him out and focused on dancing with my girlfriend and enjoying the moment. It wasn't the best version I have ever heard, yet it's going to be one of the most memorable. I'm happy that I didn't let that jaded moron ruin it for me.
The encore included two songs, something that always makes me happy. We had Fishman singing Sleeping Monkey before they exploded into a frenzied First Tube. I saw Trey play First Tue with his band at Red Rocks in 2005 and that did not compare to the pulsating energy of the crowd. Everyone in my section was jumping up and down as Trey ripped the shit out of it. As one guy screamed, "Do you finally believe now that Trey is back?"
They topped off a smoking hot show with a sizzling version of First Tube. That's how you end a kick ass show. I wandered out of the venue with a shit-eating grin on my face. How could I not?
The night will always be remembered as one of the best nights of Phish. However, it's important to point out that they did not play a Dead song to pay homage to Jerry's birthday.
We wandered back to the lots and I did a dippie and my girlfriend grabbed a burrito. There was a cop car shining his bright spotlight on a couple of kids with a cooler. He got on his loudspeaker, "No more alcohol. No more grills. No more burritos."
No mas burritos? Yes, the Man stomped out any sort of post-show entrepreneurial activity, yet illicit drug sales continued in the shadows.
As expected, Charlie the bus driver was there. Sadly, Larry couldn't catch a break and he got his bus stuck in town and unable to drive it back into the lots. His bus riders jumped onto our bus and Charlie drove everyone to Morrison to hook up with Larry's bus. I'm glad we picked Charlie's bus because unlike the previous two nights, we had a hassle free exit. The Joker resumed DJ duties as we sped back to Denver with everyone all fired up about the epic performance that we had just witnessed. Even Katie was so antsy that she was chewing on Nicky's hair.
It's going to be tough to top Saturday's show. But heck, it's all gravy isn't it? Three down. One more to go.