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Thursday, August 25

Phish loves Dick's, Lockn in the Summer Time. After that Fall Tour andHalloween in Vegas: Some Thoughts by Greg Heffelfinger

Phish is all set to end their Summer Tour and start up again after a couple of weeks on Fall Tour.

After what most agree was a shaky summer, Phish is ready to roll into LOCKN. The festival provides just what Phish needs at the moment. Page and Fish are sitting in with Phil as two of his "friends" and Fishman and Russo are poised to give the double drumming treatment that Phil got with the Grateful Dead et al. Page sat in during the wonderful "Phil & Phriends" run in 1999 that also featured Trey. After holding a Bass-ful day at Terrapin Crossroads with Mike Gordon. Phil has had all members of Phish join him on stage and he has joined Phish onstage when he played with Phish at Shoreline. A good show that also had Warren Haynes join Phil and Phish for a rendition of "Viola Lee Blues" that still gives me chills when I think about it.  

So the cross-pollination is complete, especially after Trey played the Fare Thee Well shows last summer. So the first night of Phil & Friends is going to be a treat for all attending. The second night the Chris Robinson Brotherhood will join Phil with the Hendrix-esque, guitar wizardry of Gary Clark Jr.. Phishheads refer to Trey as a Jedi but to follow that metaphor, the force is strong with young Clark, it is. So look out for some Grateful Music both nights Phil and his friends take the stage.

Phish's summer tour as it were, has been uneven at best. Some fans got great shows, some fans got their "Ass-Handed" to them. There were even some fans that got their "Ass-Handed" to them at a great show. However, through weird song placement, some new songs and some repetitive song selections the tour didn't come close to heights they reached last summer. Blossom and Alpine and Lakewood and Nashville and actually the whole east coast with a great tour-ending run at Dick's comes to mind, put 2015 into the books as one of the best 3.0 tours yet.  So the anticipation was high this year. I like the new song "Breath and Burning" and I have colleagues who think "Tide Turns" might be one of the best Trey ballads in a long time. However, keep "Farmhouse" out of "Mike's Groove" should be a t-shirt I have heard it so much. "You got your "Farmhouse in my "Mike's Groove", you got your "Mike's Groove in my "Farmhouse"" springs to mind. That reference dates me and if you don't get it don't worry. I'm just old. 

I think the two dates at LOCKN will be good for the boys as festivals tend to cross-pollinate backstage as well as onstage and maybe they'll catch the spirit from the up and comers or they might realize just how lucky they are to be the vets they are now. Either way, it's gonna be a great couple of shows and a big thanks to Peter Shapiro for the free live stream for those who couldn't make it. It's a great idea and will only help this festival, which while big already, with this year's lineup, next year's tickets will be flying out of the box.

After LOCKN, Phish heads to what has become a tradition, the end of summer Dick's run. While the spelling game has been fun the last couple of years, I have a feeling it might have run it's course. After spelling "Thank You" last year, what else is there to say? It's been fun but if any year is the one to stop it on, this is it. Although after saying that, I'm going to these shows and would love to see the whole show spell "We love you, Greg" or "Goodbye and thanks for all the fish" another reference that dates me. After all, I remember when they retired the chessboard and the tour Fishman put the mumu away. A good band thrives on change and that's why the collective "we" love jam music. It doesn't always follow the same script. I know how the Rolling Stones are going to sound when they play "Gimme Shelter" or "Satisfaction" but the bands that I love, and I do love the Stones, keep people on their feet with jazz-inspired jamming or extended blues riffs or just a willingness to take chances and follow the muse wherever it leads. Umphrey's has their mashup shows, the Grateful Dead were pathologically incapable of playing the same song the same way, Phish loves to play with the energy that their fans put out and even if they don't do "Big Ball Jam" anymore and the word "ripcord" gets bandied about, they still can improvise when they want too.  And like the Grateful Dead, they have reached a plateau where there are no "bad" shows. Some just aren't transcendent and sometimes they are but no matter what, you are going to have a good time. Even if it's just people watching or seeing friends and hanging out.

After Dick's and a couple weeks, the band heads out on fall tour ending on Halloween in Vegas. I do wish there was the possibility of a Salt Lake City, Dark Side of the Moon show but Vegas is it for the Fall. Who knows what they will costume themselves as or even if that tradition too will end?  My gut says they just won't play on Halloween if they aren't going to cover anything but after the resounding success of the Disney album, the chances are good it's going to stick around. Most of those songs from that show are still in heavy rotation and "Martian Monster" has become a crowd favorite because of Mike's heavy bass bombs and Page's samples. In my personal opinion, the "phish in the future" costume seemed like a copout. That is Phish's conundrum though. We've seen them play all night and we've heard Exile on Main Street and Loaded and Remain in Light covered note for note. They are a victim of high expectations and can't just be a band anymore on Halloween or they get lambasted for it. What other band besides Umphrey's McGee puts that much energy, time and money into their Halloween show?  

Also, I think some of the younger fan base aren't familiar with some of the material they cover and it doesn't get the respect it deserves. Playing Little Feat's Waiting for Columbus falls into that category because that album is amazing and one of the best live albums from the Seventies,period. I think Phish nailed it by picking the instrumental Disney album because they could interpret the songs as they felt and weren't locked in to a pre-set song form. 

Whew! That was a tangent wasn't it? This year Dick's has become a hard ticket to get and while the place is huge, the crowd Phish draws can fill airbases and Indian reservations, so it's yet to be seen how many shutouts there will be. After the LOCKN sets and Dick's run we can put Summer 16' to bed. Then we start Fall 16' fresh and clean. The fact that they are playing at all is a miracle considering that not that long ago there was no Phish to see. So enjoy every show, treasure every moment because time is passing and no one is going to be around forever. Let's all raise our glasses to the summer and the fall and the band that is Phish and all that entails because they have become a part of our lives and for that, we thank them.  And ps: Boys, Trey, if you read this, you asked Ween to get back together and now you guys are at the same festival.....hint,hint!!

Written by:Greg Heffelfinger

"Roses are Free" and the jam following from 4-3-98 "Island Tour"

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