Monday, September 5, 2011

Mainline to the Soul (Phish-Colorado II 9/3/2011)


Colorado II


To Start, Possum ripped with a fury that spelled out the "thick" to which we would be in "IT", soon enough; and one would have hoped, but not necessarily guaranteed, that that dead animal lying in the middle of the road would be a mere after thought, if not simply a mile marker indicating our embarkation through a tour de force performance on the second night of Colorado's three night run. To step back, and one needed only to open their eyes, to behold the foot hills of the Colorado Rockies, approaching the venue from the East, the natural beauty of the environs could have been enough for a flop show and some memories of a marathon weekend. It may not be the Gorge, but it sure as hell is one comfortable venue, with some gorgeous scenery. Back to the music…The pace did not lessen as the band dropped into the last Moma Dance of the tour, and quite possibly the year. As Possum ended and the opening licks of Moma captured the audience, there was an air about the collective whole; and as the band settled into the grove of the song, there was an intention in the music that was more apparent ,as each band member wove their part, and the entwined whole leapt from the stage with more meaning. From Moma, The Wedge was next, and while the preceding evening had been dedicated (Sesame Street Style) to the letter "S", there was more a thematic tone to the song choice, rather than just common denominator of a shared letter. (One could read into possibly anything, or nothing regarding the setlit, but it is worth a gander here) The Great Divide, just beyond the view of the venue, the Rocky Mountains; The Great Divide between where the band began in 2009, and where they are now, truly on top of their game. The song both spoke to the scenery abounding from the area surrounding the venue, but also a split in the decidedly more confident and focused band. Team Phish was approaching every song as if it had to be played to it;s core. It seemed the Platonic Form of each song was the goal of the collective unit, and they set their sites on Glory.

Beyond the upper deck of the venue, almost at arms reach, the Rockies stood second only to the band performing on stage, and Phish was in full control, unwilling to let anything, even a gargantuan mountain range, stand in their way. While the show began well past sunset, there was still that lighter quality song based first set, and in these environs is where we found Ocelot wandering and ambling in his bluesy swagger. Trey let loose his thick blues rock chords that seemed to capture the theme of Commerce City at that moment. The night was young, but treachery lurks in the shadows, of a distant and foreseeable future. Slowly building the jam out of the song proper, Trey soared with Mike keeping pace right along side him. As darkness truly hunkered down, and all light was lost to the evening, the opening notes of Divided Sky rang out; this musical nod, the Divided Sky and Great Divide captured the visual majesty that are the not so distant Rockies. The band tapped into the Rockies for this show, and it was pouring out of them; as the song approached the PAUSE I recalled the "Sky's" I had been witness to in the past few tours, and how fittingly longer the pauses had seemed. When the music stopped I reveled in the relative grandeur, and yet utterly intimate feel of the venue. I stopped for a moment, with the band, and just soaked in the energy, stayed focused: There was still a lot more to this set! Out of the peak and energy of Divided Sky, the band used this as a catalyst to keep the uptempo focus driven, while not sprinting through their songs. An above average Funky Bitch made way for Axilla I which built to a fiery pace. Turning up the Energy even more, Llama stepped in and brought back, from the annals of their catalogue, a long forgotten sense of how the song should be played; with grit and determination, sheer musicianship and a towering peak that crescendoed through the venue. Seemingly utilizing the setlist for aptly setting the tone, after such a height of a peak for the set, "Fast Enough for You" fit seamlessly into the next position, and could not have registered the mood more accurately. But again, as Phish has proven all summer, when winding down their sets, where are we going…where will we end…Wolfman's Brother burst forth, and in very un-Wolfman's Type II Jamming fashion, closed out the first stanza of what was wrapping up to be perfection(in my eyes.)

As the bass heavy intro to Down with Disease opened the second frame, thoughts of the DTease came to mind, delusions and fantasy, bliss and folklore; all things enveloped my mind, and as the band stepped outside the song and began to paint a musical landscape on par with the likes of the actual surroundings, they built upon a groove that Trey effortlessly led, slowly morphing the rhythm towards the beginning of Tweezer. This was truly a segue, finding a rhythm that slowly begins to resemble the next song, and while the band caught on, eventually, Trey did not force the intro, but waited for all to hear where he was headed. This musical direction, segueing into the next song is something that the band is beginning to develop (if I had my way, that sideways carrot would not appear in anything less than a transition as carefully manicured as this transition!) Tweezer catapulted the venues energy level, and as we stepped out of the freezer, along with Uncle Ebenezer, Hell seemed to shoot out on its heels, as if it hitched a free ride on Ebenezer's coat tails and white frilly hair. I say "Hell" here, because this is the most sinfully bliss-filled Tweezer since, possibly, 2/28/2003, and I would feel I was doing something illegal just by possessing a copy of it, or simply listening to it! As they boys neared this end of this golden journey, having hinted a few times to Golden Age in their jam, Golden Age was no longer an allusion, and was thrust forth with vigor, it's lyrics speaking clearly, in part, to the magnificence that just abounded free form, from the collective subconscious of the band. Materializing from thin air, the song returned back to the ether, and Limb By Limb appeared in its place. Type 1 in it finest moments, LXL always seems to conjure visions of Persian Country side, sand riddled and vast in it's expanse, and this version left nothing to be desired, Trey's staccato licks towards the end of the song reaching higher and higher to the sky, as they rose in pitch, and out of the licks, with Paige comping with the precision of 10th degree black belt, slicing with a Katana blade through Trey's solo, the boys stepped back into the outré of the song. After a 10 second breath of fresh air, the band ducked back under the sonic deep blue and emerged at Kill Devil Falls. I knew this placement had intention written all over it, and while some may say this song has no place in the second set, Bethel 1's KDF proved this song has all the chops to be a jam vehicle, if only just a showcase of the bands ability to tightly and aptly shred anything in their way. True Samurais, Phish negotiate obstacles with clear headed thinking, and show such ease of use sometimes, it is as if their ninja training can be construed as unnoticeable. "This time it's gonna be different!" ringing throughout the venue, lessons were being taught at every turn of the jam. Paige all over the Clav, and Phish all softly singing, "Don't Go Back to Kill Devil Falls." But as mission control set the countdown to 10, the Launch Pad was already empty. Into the Stratosphere, the band soared to sonic heights, in a whole band interplay, each member listening, not overbearing, and as Trey brought the peak to it's knees, he resuscitated it, and back up again, the band literarily brought the song to end, and revamped a minor reprise; as if to say, it's not over yet; we got one last cork screw and whirl wind ride before finding the run way.

The proverbial runway was sponsored in part by an ambient effects driven intro, which segued into the purely funk based opening, loops and all, with Paige on his Scream Machine 2011, and while wallowing in the mire for a brief second, Fish punched right into the opening of the much heralded King of Funk "2001." Mike dropped his filter effect, and in pure soul train, cow/porno.discofunk style, Trey dropped the loops out of sight and entered into the conversation with his short licks indicating they were all back on board and in flight. Ladies and Gentlemen, I promise you the Cabin will be smoking and the Fasten Seat Belt light will remain off for our entire journey. Do not attempt to sit down, you may get hurt! While it was short, and to the point, 2001 definitely held its own, as length was indicative of nothing tonight: jams formed of their own accord, and thoughts were drawn out to their conclusion. Light filled the gaping whole that Phish had blown open in their nuclear holocaust of 2001. They got in, set the timer, evacuated, and detonated as they swiftly strolled from the scene of the crime. Light seems so natural to come out of 2001; the dawning of man, into the thinking man! This Light reveled to subconscious communication, revving up quickly and as the night would have it, attempting to naturally tie of loose ends, out of Paige's "Rising" effects, and an ambient section, Trey almost comically found himself playing back into Down with Disease. (I'll be honest, I had flashbacks of lengthy "Playing in the Band" second sets, where some how, out of the chaos, came the wrap up of PITB, an hour and a half after it started.) This gentle Disease reminder, cause thats all it was, then regrouped (via Trey in the only forced, albeit slight, section) into Julius, and the game was beginning again, I was left asking one question, one I did not want an answer to: When will this end? Julius did not hold the answer, and the Cavern that slammed the crowd afterword would certainly have been the obvious favorite to come in to wrap up this Stellar evening. But No! As my legs began their slow atrophy-like state of cramping, Antelope rung out like sharp shrill, and if one theme abounded throughout the whole of the show, it was that this was indeed the Zoo, and the animals had taken over, to an animalistic energy that drove each song to it's unbridled heights. Possum, Ocelot, Llama, Wolfman, Antelope…and…as the Antelope raged, with teases throughout, we were "left in the now, in a wondrous glow" with a final destination of Sleeping Monkey. As Fishman entranced the audience, he summed up my fears the end of this weekend would bring. "The day that you arrived, my sleeping monkey is revived. But you sent him home on the train!"

We were certainly home on the train as we slow stepped, and creeped into the Colorado Midnight! The only solace left by a show of this caliber, is that there is another night to top it. Sunday being already here, we had only to brush off the smoldering ash of a raging forest fire of a show, and wander and amble, as Ocelot, in an exaggerated swagger, towards the nearest bottle of water, aspirin, and nice warm sheets of a freshly made bed. These are the nights we tell the parents not to wait up for us, we probably won't be coming home, and if you are up, you are sure to think that we ingested speed, for the sheer manic state our conversation will be stemming from; we promise the only drug imbibed is the adrenaline rush of the raging guitar, heavy hit bass bombs, tickling of the ivory keys, and perpetual snare hits and cymbal crashes, administered like a demented cocktail; Mainlined into our souls.