Sometimes fans leave a Phish show raving about a specific jam or song sequence, they run home to download it, and it lives on in Phish folklore forever. However sometimes, like last night, the crowd leaves bouncing from the enormous amount of fun that was just had inside the gates of the venue. These shows can’t really be recreated through audio – you had to be there. Fans who watched or listened from their couch may have thought the show was fine, but could not truly understand just how much fun everyone – from the band to the crowd – had experienced.
In Portsmouth, Virginia, for the first night of a two night run, it was clear that Phish was having more fun than they have had in a long while. From beginning to end, the band was giggling and joking, bringing friends and props on stage, for what will surely be a memorable show for anyone who attended. The jams may have not have all been there, some songs may have been a bit sloppy, but the level of fun was unparalleled by any show on this tour so far. The real fun started, appropriately, with ‘Party Time’, as Trey brought out Carl “Geerz” Gerhard, a member of the Giant Country Horns who toured with Phish in 1991, to take the stage for a trumpet solo during the end of the song. We learned that “Geerz” now is the head music instructor for the entire armed forces, yet he still knows how to add a fantastic solo to a Phish original. The excitement of hearing Phish with horns for the first time in a long while had most of the crowd going crazy.
The rest of the first set was fairly standard, Water in the Sky and Horn made their first appearances of 2012, as did the Gordon original Babylon Baby. Bathtub Gin kept bordering on going into an extended jam, but ultimately subdued itself into Stealing Time From The ‘Fun’. But just when you thought it was over, the real excitement began. As Fishman grabbed his Electrolux for his signature solo in ‘I Didn’t Know’, Trey introduced him as the “Executive Officer of the Air Force”, and requested Fishman show some respect and tuck in his shirt – Fishman obliged. The ensuing Run Like An Antelope featured alternate lyrics of “tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck”, “been you to tuck in your dress, man?”, and “tuck in your dress man, you’re out of control”. We would all soon learn that this would become a theme for the rest of the night.
The second set’s Split Open And Melt, while not completely on point, featured “split open and tuck” lyrics before segueing into the first Mango Song in nearly a year. The third Backwards Down The Number Line of the tour followed, and it is probably the best one yet. The extended Limb By Limb was an exceptionally raging version, with high peaks and awesome lighting. The hilarity returned yet again when the relatively rare Lengthwise featured alternate lyrics: “When you’re tucked, I sleep lengthwise”, before segueing into what should become a legendary Maze. For years, fans have wondered whether or not Trey possessed qualities of the mystic Jedi, yet last night it was confirmed, as he somehow procured a lightsaber and began to play his guitar with it. The lightsaber become a great musical toy for Trey throughout the song, alternatively playing licks, jamming, and swinging it around in the air, and at one time even shouting “FISH: I am your father”. Cavern>Fire closed the set with even more “tuck” lyrics (“Let the Tucker take over!”), bringing the second set to a close. The encore saw the band come out in sombreros to perform Mexican Cousin, before segueing into one of the more beautiful Slave To The Traffic Lights in recent memory.
Hands down, this was one of the most fun times I’ve had at a Phish show. It transcends flubs and jams and all of the ways one may normally judge a Phish show, and highlights what this band represents – pure, unadulterated fun. I don’t think anyone inside that venue would argue this. While those who listened from home may not completely understand – I can assure you; this was some old school fun Phish.