I had an idea to start this review with one-word answers from people about the show walking out of the venue. I gave up on that pretty quickly. Wooks.
In this 40th anniversary year, it’s impossible not to reflect on age, youth, nostalgia, the future.
And it’s an ironic sight to behold when band and crowd, in unison, yell one of the most iconic lines in Phish, “can’t I live while I’m young?!” as we shuffle to and from the show at the all-inclusive resort and wake up with sore legs and tired brains.
So maybe it’s not about living while we’re young. Can’t we live while we’re old?
We’ve been talking a lot about bustouts on the Helping Friendly Podcast. Mostly 80s songs we would like to hear come back. And Phish came out on Friday night with a bustout for sure, the first “Dinner and a Movie” since the Baker’s Dozen. This intricate composition was followed up by the simple and beautiful rock of “Loving Cup.”
We then get the potential MVP song of 2022, “A Wave of Hope,” stretching to 16 minutes. For the most part, it was a mellow groove, leading into another 16-minute song, “Stash.”
Several times last night, I noticed how, 40 years in, the band is still listening so well, adapting so quickly, and adjusting sound on the fly. This “Stash” jam is a good example, with all four band members subtly shifting to accommodate what the others are doing. A layered, textured sound emerges, post-plinko, but still incorporating those elements of funk, space and rock. This is the sound of maturity.
The trio of “Heavy Things,” “555,” and “Axilla (Part II)” lead into a breather with “Joy.”
I love the trend of going with “Axilla (Part II),” and although it’s more common in this current era (9 since 2021 for “Axilla (Part II)” vs. 2 since 2021 for “Axilla.” But every time they start it up, I really want the fully drawn out ending, a la 10/29/21.
To close the set, we get the 3rd 16-minute song, this time the mind-melting “Split Open and Melt.” This version had a combination of moments of serene and calm jamming, along with the more demented effects-driven soundscapes we’re used to hearing.
They hit the stage for Set II, and based on that first riff from Trey, I’m sure they’re going into “Punch You in the Eye.” Alas, Jedi Trey has other plans, and gets the crowd moving with “First Tube.”
This set gets moving with “Waves,” and again I’m thinking about time. Fifteen minutes goes by quickly, and although it doesn’t sound to me like there’s a lot of new ground being covered, the mellow, flowing jam is perfect for those of us standing on the beach.
Next comes a truly special jam. “Waves” goes into “Ruby Waves” (get it, on the beach, water, waves?). Here’s something to think about. This song, a dependable jam vehicle with 10 entries in the Jam Chart to date, was debuted 36 years into this band’s career. How is that even possible?
During this jam I was watching Page and Trey particularly, based on my view of the stage. Every time one of them made a slight sound adjustment, the other adjusted right alongside. Trey talked about this on our Undermine interview with him—the importance of listening, telling the other band members “Hey, I’m here, and I’m listening.” It’s really sweet and inspiring to see these guys listening to each other and still creating new musical directions.
This fully textured, layered jam went a lot of places, and was even complete with “Dave’s Energy Guide” teases and a full-band rock peak.
We got a respite, complete with “south of the border, and over the moon” with “Shade.” What a great breather. Perfect placement.
A late second set “Chalk Dust Torture” brings us to our headline. We’re all yelling “can’t I live while I’m young?!!” And you can feel it—he fans, the band, everyone here, that’s why we come. At least in part.
We’re holding on to a part of life that’s carefree, silly, not serious, not consequential. It’s pure fun. We travel all the way down here to see music on the beach. We’re all trying to just live while we’re young. Even if we’re not that young.
I love a late second-set “Bathtub Gin.” One of my favorite jam vehicles, the tempo never lets up, with Fishman driving this for 17 minutes. A great jam that ends with a blissful, celebratory peak. We’re still living.
An encore of “Golgi Apparatus” and “Character Zero” sends us back to find late-night nachos, music, maybe the odd cocktail. And we’ll be back tonight.
And as a wise friend said to me this morning, “Phish could retire at any time; accomplished and comfortable. But, as they say, age is just a number. Last night showed that they clearly have more to say.”
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It's unbelievable to me that I've been a devoted fan for 30 years now. If anyone had told me back in 1993 that I'd still following this band, and watching a webcast from my couch on the every day I signed up for Medicare, I would have laughed.
Can't I live while I'm old, indeed.
But my real question is: did you bring the original, broken clipboard to Mexico or was it a facsimile?
BTW, @zzyzx, thank you for bring the original clipboard to the Phish Studies conference. Your clipboard is part of the Phish folklore handed down over the years, and holding the original in my hands for a few seconds is one of my Phish Moments.