(Originally published on Grateful Music)
“One good thing about [Phish], when it hits you feel no pain.” And we’ve all been crosseyed and painless this summer as our favorite band was hitting it nightly. Spectator to unarguably the greatest tour of 3.0, and likely the best run of shows since the 1990’s, I couldn’t be more elated for our community as a whole, especially us youngins in the bunch. No more can that handful of apathetic old heads trample on our good time with the tired old adage that “it just ain’t the same.” While Phish 2015 is far from the band with the same moniker from two decades ago, they are finally reaching the same summits again, and old and new, contemporary fans have laid witness to all their glory. And to understand how I personally feel about this latest peak from our favorite ensemble, lets head back for a moment to the lowliest point in Phishtory.
If Phish was Poster Nutbag, I jumped on the phan bandwagon right before he kicked the bucket. My journey to Phish was a tedious one that began in the summer of 2004 with a decision made by my group of teenage friends to head up to Coventry, Vermont for what was then to be their last music festival. At the time I only had dabbled in some of the band’s more well known tunes, and my only notion of what a Phish festival or show was like came from watching Bittersweet Motel. While the rest of the seasoned Phish community was already mourning the loss of their favorite spiritual/therapeutic/musical outlet, my friends and I set out upon an epic, but arduous journey that marked the very beginning of my true insertion into this wonderful jam band community.
While I now understand how weird, pensive, and not so serene the vibe was at Coventry, at the time I thought I was at a run of the mill Phish festival. I was in heaven. Ankle deep muddy heaven. I even thought the mud was a normal occurrence. It rained! Of course there’s gonna be mud so deep one can’t even take care of his shoes. I was a newb. And as I walked into the venue barefoot, hundreds of phans busted through a fence from their several mile trek to the fest. I met a head that had his chest ripped open after he scaled a waterfall and failed while hiking into the campgrounds. He still got to the show. I knew this wasn’t quite the status quo at the time, but what struck me was the dedication of these phans, making it to their last hurrah hell or high water. When the music started, that dedication was unfounded, as Trey rambled on, and the rest of the band attempted to carry his addled self. And while the weekend was a musical and logistical bust, I did pick up something from Coventry. A need to understand where this fanatical nature came from. So over the course of the next few years, I delved deep into the Phish catalogue, caught the boys solo when I could. One particular Trey Anastasio & 70 Volt Parade show at Jones Beach, on the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing felt like a personal apology for the atomic blast that was Coventry. After that show, fishing further, finding all those gems in the band’s catalogue that veterans so energetically talked about, I held out hope for a Phish reunion. Then my and thousands of others’ prayers were answered with the Mothership shows in March of 2009. While that run left much for wanting, our band was back together, and I was experiencing present day good and genuine Phish performances for the first time in my existence. With both the Dead and Phish setting out for their first full-length tours in five years, 2009 made for a largely legendary year of music.
Fast forward to 2015. Phish has been out on the road again for seven years running. While during the last lucky seven heavy rotations around the sun we’ve witnessed many highs, a few lows, and a lot of middle of the road shows, we are buzzing off a tour that exceeded all of our wildest dreams. Even us relative newbies’ never expected harmonious heights synonymous with the mid-nineties. We never envisaged musical mastery exceeding all of 2.0 and 3.0 combined, yet here we are. A collection of shows that rivals most groupings in the last two decades. Incredible. Speechless. This is why we keep coming back for more. And to cork it off, Sunday night’s THANK YOU encore at Dick’s placed a juicy cherry atop all that’s transpired this summer.
For the first time in this 3.0’ers life, I feel like I’ve experienced all of what Phish has to offer. Upward and onward! 2015 ain’t over yet. Rumor has it we have an MSG New Years run in our future, followed by 2016 shows that our Mexican Cousins will have a chance to jump on. Then the rumored US winter tour. Born again, rejuvenated, whatever you want to call it…the boys are hitting on all cylinders and magic is in the air. Nothing currently suggests that it won’t continue into the winter and New Year. So save your pennies, recharge on this break, for the future is bright, and time’s got nothing on Phish. Mid-life they may be, but they look like a bunch of giddy teenagers on stage, and their enthusiasm is widely reflected in the music they’re producing. And as the music plays the band, the band plays us. Thank you Trey, Page, Mike, Jon, CK5, and the crew that brought it all back home for each and every one of us on this tour. Until next time, united we stand.
Words: Russell S. Glowatz