The talented Vermont jazz rockers Phish yarn bombed a three hour dance party into the central Texas hills last night at the new Austin360 Amphitheater. Despite Austin's reputation as the "live music capital of the world," tickets for this monumental musical moment were available at the box office. Probably 12,000 in attendance of the 14,000 capacity.
Austin is the largest American city without a major league sports franchise, but it is home to the country's only Formula One racetrack, the Circuit of the Americas, in the fields southeast of the Austin city limits. The new Austin360 Amphitheater sits in the infield of racetrack, efficiently sharing its facilities. The complex offers free parking and overflow seating like these fine empty seats.
The sound was clear and bright, even at the top of the lawn. Some of the side seats (sections 101 and 107) had bad sight lines, but our section 103 row F week-of-show release seats were excellent. The venue has plumbing and food trucks and other welcome touches like water under $5. Our seat neighbors were from College Station, Ft. Worth, Memphis, and Portland, Oregon. Seat hoppers were in action plopping into seats without even pretending to check their seat numbers, and it appears some people still smoke cigarettes in Texas despite it being 2015 and all y'all.
Party Time: Fun fun fun. This might become the national anthem if Kinky Friedman ever wins that White House bid. Keyboardist Page McConnell is korgtastic.
Free: "...I feel the feeling I forgot..." Bassist Mike Gordon is slow and sticky like he still has some Franklin's on his fingers, but lead guitarist Trey Anastasio is squeaky clean and carries the tune.
Halley's Comet: "...I'm going down to the central part of town..." Every night millions of bats emerge from the Congress Avenue Bridge. Regularly, like Halley's comet.
Wolfman's Brother: "...I hear the high pitched cavitation of propellers from afar..." Austin is blessed with rivers and lakes and has a powerboat culture. Page stands up at the keys and Mr. Anastasio takes this as a challenge, moving to his Stevie Ray Vaughn licks. The glue of this Wolfman's was Mike who was dropping the individual bass bombs like he was running the tires at Darrell Royal (with cheese) Stadium.
Mr. Anastasio takes the microphone and thanks everyone for coming out to the show "in the state where I was born" and that it was "good to be back." Page interrupts and suggests Austin should hold a "Trey is coming back to Texas" parade.
Possum: "...your end is the road..." Or a food truck. Everyone in our row can do the Texas two step. Possum shares its melody with Don't Mess Around with Jim, so maybe this was the Don't Mess with Texas shoutout.
Lawn Boy: "...the moist green organic that my feet tread upon..." Page takes the microphone lounge crooner style, giving these two musical buddies a chance to stand next to each other.
Bouncing Round the Room: "... the sirens sang their song for me..." Poppy. Set one is being very set oneish. The 60 year old usher from Syracuse in our section is into it, causing some of the young people who were also into it to reconsider.
Dirt: "... a tiny space to move and breathe is all that I would ever need..." Mr. Anastasio whistles and whispers like in the old days before he was a thing. Seat hoppers find a funnel at the bottom of our section and pour over the rail into the pit.
Devotion to a Dream: "...it's today a new world order..." Western swing style. Ted Cruz might approve if you blindfolded him. All of the seventh graders in the audience are digging it.
Sugar Shack: "...if I could bushwhack it on back to the shack..." Phone calls are being returned throughout the venue. Is Mike required to sing this song as part of his therapy?
Run Like an Antelope: "... spike, man..." Jaunty ragtime intro leads to a jazzy Antelope set closer. Austin360 may be the new USANA -- a safe place to take the family or your music teacher to a Phish show. One of our seat neighbors exclaims "That opening band was excellent!"
46 Days: "...looking for clues but they couldn't be found..." Drummer Jon Fishman raps the wood blocks so hard dogs start to bark. Although the show was being simulcast, the venue did not turn on the video screens so the best we could see of Jon's magnificent pounding was like this.
Story of the Ghost: "...his answer came in actions..." Moody, chewy, torchy, trudy, with jazzy vocal stylings from this man and what is left of his hair.
Shade: "...I love your hair in the mornings you know..." Mr. Anastasio still writes ballads in case Phish plays another Big Cypress set and the other three need to use the rest room.
Gotta Jiboo: "...momma sing sing..." This is the type of universally lovable tune that could save the Red River District.
Waiting All Night: "...and I said I'm sorry..." We took in this soulful new tune from the bleachers at the top of the lawn and there was harmony across the venue.
Blaze On: "...you got your nice shades on..." The sun dropped behind the lawn of the venue just about at showtime. Blaze On has a mocking tone, and sounds like Harry Belafonte's Man Smart, Women Smarter. That's right!
Wading the in the Velvet Sea: "...you'll get it pretty soon unless..." Once again Page confirms the wisdom of his parents in sending him to piano lessons.
David Bowie: Mike continues to remake himself and David Bowie is certainly an influence.
Suzie Greenberg: "...is anyone here a neurologist?" Probably. Jon's humor is a reason this band endures.
Tweezer Reprise: Left over from a few shows ago. Burnt orange insanity.
Loving Cup: "...I'm the man who brings you roses when you ain't got none..." Will Mr. Anastasio be invited to star in the Rolling Stones' 75th anniversary shows?
Show ends promptly at midnight at 85 degrees. Austin360 Amphitheater is a terrific venue in a terrific city to see a terrific band.
See you at Dick's!