The iconoclastic Vermont jazz rock combo Phish slid into eastern Washington Friday and opened its seventh visit to the magnificent Gorge Amphitheater. Music lovers from throughout the country were treated to a unique experience -- the greatest (american) live band ever in the greatest (american) music venue in the greatest (american) state. Friday's night's show demonstrates the controversial butterfly effect -- the heat and funk the Phish produced at the Gorge in 1998 were an idea that was taken all around the world, puffed up and out, and re-deposited (perhaps by the Space Station passing above) in Grant County in 2013.
We opted for the $68.75 week of show VIP box seats that went for $64 in 2011, so by definition, Phish is a little bit better than last time. The box seats include a private parking lot, private entrance, wait service and -- new this year -- an incredible stub-down problem with four-seat boxes occupied by 20 or more kick down get down kids. You can't trust phishheads to follow the rules of civilized society, Gorge. Where's Walter White when you need him?
The show was sold out at 24,000, but it seems not all 24,000 found the remote Gorge location on the map, 1500 miles due west of Blue Earth, Minnesota. We saw ph caravaners with license plates from NY, ME, CO, MI, IL, CA, NV, MT and others along the way. Phish Gorge certainly lives up to its throne as the state's leading out of state tourist draw. We had over 50 at our pre-phunction at the Quincy Lakes Wildlife Area, just north of the official Gorge campground, cesspool and raping pit. At the venue, our seat neighbors were from Seattle, Bellevue and Spokane.
The Gorge has plenty of easy to tarp seats, especially if you arrive more than 10 minutes before showtime. No shed to shred -- this is a real amphitheater. The vibe Friday was electric -- everyone in the venue knew they were fortunate to be a witness to the goodness.
Phish and The Gorge have grown up together -- the venue continues to slowly modernize now with video screens, and a paid parking lot option -- permanent bathrooms might even get on the drawing board. One new twist this year: in addition to the over-21 bracelets, and the VIP bracelets, and the camping bracelets, the Gorge now has volunteer medical bracelets empowering the wearers to talk wayward souls out of the impound ponds or down from their evergreen state muffins. And it worked -- unlike this year's country music Watershed festival, no one died from MDMA and the Quincy Hospital saw only scrapes and bruises.
Phish took the stage looking rested and refreshed. Mr. Anastasio started in Pearl Jam plaid but ended the set sporting a Seattle Seahawks american football #3 Wilson jersey. Jon Fishman's hair looks longer than usual, as does Page McConnell's. Mike Gordon seems to have gone in for an emergency coiffure on the $10 grey bike helmet he was wearing last weekend in Chicago, and he now features a full-on grey jimmy johnson pompadour -- a cross between Brian Setzer and Mike McCready. Some of the phans traveled in teams too.
AC/DC Bag -- Pippin and poppin. Mr. Anastasio is the song's MVP for his precise note placement, ricochets abound.
Timber Jerry -- Timber ho indeed. Jon is the MVP for his riverboat wheeling.
Wolfman's Brother -- More like the 97 Gorge Wolfman's than the 99 Gorge Wolfman's, and bigger and better than the 03 Gorge Wolfman's or the 11 Gorge Wolfman's -- a huge funky disco throwback proving the pacific northwest can move. Mike is the MVP, but Page is korgtastic and Mr. Anastasio blistering on the triple reverse.
Funky Bitch -- You know that Mitch Hedberg joke "I wear a necklace because I like to know when I'm upside down"? This bitch was pinkman -- the sounds of bracelets jangling down the street. Jon was the MVP for pushing it and Page came in sunday at church style to end the mission.
(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction -- Mr. Anastasio honors Mick Jagger's 70th birthday while keeping his obligations to Mr. Capshaw by not mentioning the name of any artist that is a bigger draw than Phish.
Wilson -- Mr. Anastasio sheds his plaid and reveals his Russell Wilson Seahawks jersey. It is not explained if Mr. Wilson is a phan. Apparently, Mr. Capshaw has proposed that the Seahawks american football team play the "Wilson!" taunt when their beloved young quarterback takes the field, and has enrolled Mr. Anastasio to aid the negotiating. The phan in box 122 with the Sounders scarf in 100 degree heat is the son'g MVP.
Possum -- Plenty of these in Grant County. Both the oldest and the youngest box workers are spotted groovin along, so presumably someone in the middle is a new phan too. Jon is the MVP driving the song.
Secret Smile -- Like the theme song from an ABC Afternoon Special. 2.0 memories of you. The mister tent is the MVP.
McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters -- "That looks too much like Dave" as our polyrhyhmic buddy Dave makes it back to Phish Gorge for the first time since 99. Page is pounding at the end and is the MVP.
Ballad of Curtis Lowe -- Dr. H's prediction of a wild west theme continues to prove true with this old timey Page vehicle.
Split Open and Melt -- "In the morning I pack up my gear and toss it my in caryall..." 24,000 very lucky souls got to the middle of nowhere for a concert. Mike is the MVP knocking the Space Station a little off course with each note like how a very good water skier pulls the boat around.
Crosseyed and Painless -- "Still waiting..." Jon as David Byrne throwing down on the woodblock as well as popping out the RISD kid lyrics. Kaleidoscopic.
Twist -- "Whew!" for everybody but these freezer guys who somehow drew their own personal NSA agents. Page is the MVP for pressing down keys.
Waves -- Two waves in a row for 6000footdrop -- a 2.0 miracle. Orchestral ending earns Page the MVP. The Duck Dynasty guys were just down the way in Box 211.
Twenty Years Later -- "We all start out small..." There are several families at Phish Gorge -- one of the few places in america you can take your children or parents or music teachers to see a Phish show. Jon is the MVP for the rock overtones.
The Mango Song -- Another Gorge Mango! Some tech squeals in the soft parts and Page winces on the big screen. He earns the MVP for killing it on the keys.
Bug -- This super happy old dancer almost came to blows with interloping box hoppers who exceeded 20 in the next box built for 4 and crashed the old dancer's box spilling schwill. Here's a concept to ponder: for the love of God people please sit in your own seat.
Rocky Top -- Grant County is the Tennessee of Washington State. More hoedown. Mike is the MVP for being brave enough to take the stage with his haircut.
Character Zero -- You know its the closer. Mr. Anastasio is the MVP for his willingness to be the best guitar player wherever he is.
Harry Hood -- You knew it was coming from the teases or the polite H-O-O-D placard kids in the terraces. Beautiful part is beautiful, although the Gorge is missing one beauty this year. Harry Hood is why you come to the Phish concert. Band is the MVP.
Fire -- A Washington State shoutout (but again not to an artist that is a bigger draw, like will they ever cover Pearl Jam's Black?) Mr. Anastasio moves over and lets Jon Fishman take over. Literal fire.