On Sunday, we hadn’t even gotten into the parking lot before we saw 1) people trying to get tickets for the sold out show, and 2) people dressed in patriotic costumes to celebrate our nation’s independence. Phish reflected the festive mood by opening the night with an a cappella Star Spangled Banner. This was followed by a tight Punch You in the Eye. For me, the twin highlights of the first set were My Friend, My Friend (a favorite from way back in the day for Cazador), and the closing song, Gotta Jibboo, which the band jammed out on incredibly hard. I never thought Jibboo could handle closing a set like that, but I recall thinking – as thousands danced their frenzied hippie dance around me – that Phish could not jam any harder. I was soon to be proven wrong.
The second set was almost a continuous jam, with the only solid break in music coming mercifully at the end of Waste (which featured Trey forgetting the lyrics to one of the verses – he made up for it with his great solo at the end of the song). About halfway through the set, the band began Harpua, the story of a boy’s cat getting into a fatal fight with Harpua, the meanest bulldog in town. Trey then continued the monologue with some commentary on America being the greatest nation on earth but the history books being full of lies. I was unsure of where this was going, as it was not typical Phish banter. Trey began talking about the boy listening to “the only band besides Phish who won’t bullshit you.” With that, an extra heavy guitar riff boomed off the stage. Instantly, every member of the audience who was a teenage male in the mid-1990’s realized what was happening: Phish was covering Rage Against the Machine. Killing in the Name Of. Unbelievable! Jon Fishman, the drummer, sang Zach de la Rocha’s part (while still drumming), and Trey did his best Tom Morello.
Ed Note: The whole American History: Phish banter is below, but the meat of the song starts around the 4:20 mark (amazing. we can’t make this shit up)
One of the examples of the raw musical talent of Phish is their ability to do excellent covers of varying types of music. This fact exploded through the amphitheatre as 12,000 hippies screamed/danced/jumped through the song’s climatic ending. The band then went back into Harpua and closed out with an excited Weekapaug Groove. Amazing.
During the break before the encore, sparklers burned, someone decided to shoot roman candles into the rafters of the pavilion (hippies love fireworks!) and everyone buzzed about what they had just been through. The encore was First Tube. Again, not the song I would have guessed to close the show, but the band carried it through in a way that truly capped off the whole weekend, with Trey doing his Jedi guitar act to finish things off triumphantly.
It was one of the best Phish shows I have ever seen – certainly with one of the coolest set lists. More than that, it left me encouraged for the future. Sunday’s show was fantastic, and it featured a lot of old Gamehenge era songs (Colonel Forbin’s Ascent), some brand new songs (Ocelot), some rarities (My Friend, My Friend), and something that had never been done before (Killing in the Name Of). It did not feature the heavy favorites of YEM, Reba, or Divided Sky. This is encouraging to me, because I think it shows this band can stay fresh without having to fall back on their “greatest hits” over and over – preventing them from turning into a novelty act of a bygone era. And judging by the number of enthusiastic young fans in the lawn, Phish will be able to play before willing crowds in Atlanta for years to come. What a weekend!
HUGE thanks go out for making this weekend possible. Thank you Kristen for the clutch heads up on tickets. Thank you Patrick for making Friday night’s accommodations possible. Thank you Beige for the excellent pictures seen in the Fourth of July With Phish series . . . and for selling my left-over PBR’s.