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Tuesday, August 13

Review and Photos: Phish - Harvey's Outdoor Arena - Stateline, NV - 7/30-31/2013

The excitement in the air was electric as Phish ascending up to beautiful Lake Tahoe for what would become a diversely historic 2-night run of shows. As the piercing sun set over Harvey's Outdoor Arena, which is in effect a casino parking lot transformed into a mountainous outdoor venue, the sold out crowd was buzzing with pure standing room only energy.
Opening the show with “Wolfman's Brother” the band was noticeably having fun from the beginning, playing back and forth off of each other, jamming it out briefly before jumping into the first “Gotta Jiboo” of the tour which was prompted by a young kid standing on his dad's shoulders with a “Jiboo” sign. “Cavern” made space for Trey to stretch his arms a bit and noodle around, while “Birds of a Feather” showcased a great rhythm sectional from Mike and Fishman. The show really got heated as Mike led the band into a an extra thick “Funky Bitch” and then came an out-of-the-blue “Cities” which had the entire 8,500 strong singing along.
“Rift” was fast paced and kept the crowd moving as Phish then planted the highlight of the first set, a totally spontaneous and crowd pleasing “Bathtub Gin”. The vocal harmonies that go along with the chorus nearly fell out, and Trey not being one to miss an opportunity took this would be mistake and made it into one of the more vocally original “Gin's” in recent memory. Ending with the same moxie they began with, “Tube” was performed with razor like precision, while Page sent the band to set break with a cover of “Walk Away”. Walk away they did, but not for long as they we're back in less than thirty minutes with another loaded set.
“Golden Age” opened the second set and as it has become known for; it set the stage for loose jamming and improvisational interplay between all band members. Segueing into “46 Days” the band all stepped back so that Page and Mike could play back and forth off of each other. Page on his organ and clavinet and Mike with extra reverb and flange on his bass, they ping'd notes at each other, until Trey stepped in to accent the jam with minimal but impactful licks, this as Mike's bass tore into the forever classic Phish cover of “Boogie On Reggae Women”.
A solid and somewhat dark “Ghost” came out of “Boogie On” and then a rocking one-two punch was thrown at the crowd in the form of a very illuminating and fan friendly “Carini>Piper”. Slowing the show down for a moment the foursome played “Velvet Sea” before Mike again took lead for a raging “Mike's Song”. Trey shredded all over this “Mike's” until they landed with a set-perfect, though unexpected, “Slave to the Traffic Light”. The “Slave” hit all the notes that it's meant to, with it's swaying upbeats, reggae undertones, and beautiful piano solos, leaving the crowd, pleased, excited, and when they finished and left the stage without a “Weekapaug”, even a little confused.
For the first time in over 14 years the band opted to encore with the “Mike's Groove” bookend: “Weekapaug Groove”, and it moved the entire crowd, squeezing every last bit of dance of out them. The band playing off of this energy, was full of the same excitement and ripped out one last song, “Character Zero” which sent the crowd back to their rooms and homes with lyrics echoing in their heads.
The second night at Tahoe was the show you would have never wanted to miss. With the sun setting on the band, it glowed horizontally across their faces as they decided to open with “Chalkdust Torture”, with it's “Can I Live While I'm Young” mantra it got the crowd moving until they then broke out some more tour debuts such as a rockin' “Camel Walk” and crowd participatory “Sparkle”.
Keeping the energy alive and well Phish performed “Back on the Train” and the Rift classic “It's Ice”, before slowing things down for a very well received “Brian and Robert” and their third take on the Gordon/Murawski tune, “Yarmouth Road”. It's heavy reggae vibe and open ending led to some intense drum and bass jamming which was a nice treat for those on the West Coast who were hearing this live for the first time. “Kill Devil Falls” got the crowd moving once again and Trey reveled in the moment utilizing the song to showcase his intricate guitar work and some super fast plucking, something he did quite well for this showing. Page treated the crowd to a somewhat rare “Lawn Boy” before the band started the classic rolling riff's to “Ocelot”. The lyrics, “Ocelot, where have you gone”, having a deeper meaning since Trey's well known Ocelot guitar hasn't been in rotation all tour, some would say it's been missing since his TAB Spring Tour.
They ended the set with a crowd clapping “Stash”, another great song that allows every member to profile their talents and for Trey to belt out the weird and infamous lyrics that he and Tom Marshall wrote many decades ago.
The second set was unexpectedly unreal. The “Tweezer” that consumed nearly half of the set was five songs in one, with the jam taking on rock, reggae, jazz and bluesy elements, the band at their improvisational peak of the past 4 years took the crowd on a momentous journey, with energy being passed back and forth, “Woo's” erupted from the crowd on the off beats. It was jaw-dropping. “Tela”, a rare Gamehendge gem came right after the 36 minute “Tweezer” and then a romping “Twist”, and of course again garnering “Woo's” from the crowd.
“Architect”, the Trey song that has now become a Phish tour regular was placed at the perfect spot in the set, allowing the fans and possibly even the band to exhale and digest what exactly had just happened, and then “Bouncing around the Room” fueled up everyone's tank as it was expected to be the show closer. “Don't rule out a set-closing “Antelope” I heard from the person next to me. Sure enough it was not to be ruled out but to be played, or rather performed with the crowd garnering a deep down gusto only these four can muster near the end of such a show. The down beats toward the end of “Antelope” produced more crowd “Woo's”, as the set ended on a mind bending high note.
“Julius” was not what most would expect for an encore opener, but at this point it was time to assume t the unexpected, and so the rocking anthem was what we got, moving the crowd even more, until “Tweezer Reprise” raised it's flawless head. Again the crowd was back in the world of “Tweezer”, screaming “Woo's” at the band as they ended a two night run in Lake Tahoe to a more than satiated fanbase.
Phish proved, as they tend to, that they have more gas in their tank than a lot of their fans even think their tank has to hold. They bring a mystery to each show, and from sunset, to set-close each night in this mountainous lake hideaway was full of those mysterious surprises that keep us coming back show after show, tour after tour, year after year.
Words: Sammy Martin
Photos: Michael Stein
 © Phish and The Dead - a Grateful Music Publication