, attached to 2023-04-21

Review by andrewrose

andrewrose Down with the Bowl

Phish in the Bowl!

Hard not to love almost everything about the conditions last night in the Hollywood Hills, the bands first trip back to the Hollywood Bowl in 10 years, this time the first of a three night run in April, meaning lots of cheap tickets available. In almost 30 years of seeing the band, I’d never until this point seen West Coast Phish, and I took this opportunity to treat myself to a visit to this gorgeous venue and some sun as a bonus. It was hot and sunny all day and even the post sunset temperature drop you’d expect was only a modest dip, cooling the Bowl just enough to stay comfortable. Security was relaxed, it was easy to move around, and the mood was lit.

The band immediately put to rest any speculation that this would indeed be a no repeat tour, firing up the crowd with Moma Dance, as if to say ‘the moment of songs not being repeated ends.’ They sounded sharp. Sigma Oasis showed up in the second slot and seemed for a moment or two like it might go on an excursion, something the band has been doing reliably once or twice in Set 1 this tour, as they have the last couple years. It didn’t quite get there (see the 8/10/22 Sigma for more of a standout version of this nature), but playing was again solid. The Party Time was an easy call here with everyone warmed up and the party on. Jon Fishman was ready to flex, something he’d continue to do all damn night.

I was pumped to finally catch a version of Strawberry Letter 23, a nod to another local (after they acknowledged Hendrix in Seattle with Izabella)—this time LA native Shuggie Otis.

Then they fired up Everything’s Right, which would deliver as the primary jam vehicle of the first set. Clocking in at just under 20 mins, it’s a not unfamiliar explorations but worth your time all the same, especially for the payoff towards the end. The band, anchored by Fish and Mike with a lot of force and precision, were able to really pack a punch in jams without coming off sloppy. Both Trey and Page sounded to my ears a step above where they’ve been so far this tour, and you could start to feel things breaking open in little places. Shade was a sort of coda marking the sun having properly set, and a quick Funky Bitch countered with punch. A Wave of Hope served as your first set closer, another repeat appearance after a really strong showing in Seattle. This one didn’t go quite as deep, but the song continues to secure its place in the pantheon of modern era jam vehicles.

I had no complaints hearing Sample open the second set, despite having seen in two of the last three shows I was at last summer 22. But both those versions, on 7/22 and 8/10 in Bethel and Toronto respectively, were outstanding with dynamic, beautiful jams, and yet very different. Well this Sample didn’t do that, but it certainly set the mood high and whatever it lacked in jamming, the Disease that followed more than made up for it.

Put this one on your must listen queue folks. It’s just over 20 minutes but wastes no time and pulls through numerous sequences, as the best jams do. At times a kind of psychedelic electro-fusion Kid A era Radiohead sounds pushed through a firecracker. The last thunderous 8 minutes or so go down tempo, echoing Pink Floyd at their meanest. The energy and execution is hard to communicate here, as if they pumped some of the pulse of 2003 into the PA, only with the gnarliest of 21-23 era sounds. A+

Mercury->Blaze On is a terrific sequence in its own right, the Blaze On jam going 18 minutes, and seeing more familiar Trey led rock out territory to varying effect. Great finale. The YEM is noteworthy too. Not so much for a blow up jam as for a rare Trey/Mike duel that’s intricate and soulful, and winds wonderfully into a bluesy strut that sounds almost like they were going to go into My Soul or a Zz Top number. Listen for for the aggressive riffing Trey leads off the Cavern with. Powerful!

Drift While You’re Sleeping shows up again as an encore, and really brings her home in the last few minute finale. Scorching send off for a night more than well spent in the Bowl.

See you tonight for Part 2!


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