It was Almost the End of Summer Tour, but Phish Blew Up Alpine Valley Last Weekend Like They Were Just Getting Started | JamBandsOnline.com

It was Almost the End of Summer Tour, but Phish Blew Up Alpine Valley Last Weekend Like They Were Just Getting Started

Article by Sarah Powell Cassada  

Photos by Lori Sky Twohy

Being a true nerd for Phish, I pay attention to the set lists.  But, then about 5 shows prior to a personal upcoming run, I STALK the set lists, sending out vibes that the few shows ahead of mine don’t get some choice songs, lowering my chances of getting those myself.  As many of you Phish nerds would know, stalking the Deer Creek run prior to Alpine could be pretty disappointing.  It was hard for me to see “Fee” in the encore set for the first night, as I’ve been chasing the boys for years for that song.  And, the entire second night just left me feeling like there was no way I could get a better show at Alpine.  I was pretty sure they had saved their best show for Deer Creek as a way to pay back the phans who got jipped out of a full show last year by the incredible thunderstorms.

I ventured out to Alpine, still excited, holding on to the fact that they hadn’t played my number one song chaser since the Gorge in 09, “Sneakin’ Sally.”  If they could play “Fee” twice this summer, after swearing it off, surely I could get my “Sneakin’ Sally.”

Lucky for us we got to the lot in time to secure tickets as the year prior there were tickets literally on the ground that people had left who were unable to get rid of them before the show.  2009 was definitely a buyer’s market at Alpine.  2010 was quite the opposite.  There were almost as many fingers in the air as there were cars on the lot.  Many gave up, and waited in lines at the box office for about 2 hours to pay face for their tickets.

Rolling in, we made one more pit stop, grabbed some cold waters, and headed down to my spot at any show, Page side, middle, half way up.  You want to find me at a show?  That’s where I’ll be.

We found a flattish (by Alpine’s standards) piece of grass, and as we nodded in approval at our find, cheers roared, and they opened with “Tube,” which is a great jam, but when they busted out “The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony,”  I was taken back to the 90’s when you were as good as guaranteed one if you went on any part of a tour’s run.

Now, it’s a rare treat, getting it about every 20 shows or more.  I felt like a kid again, when I used to hop in the car at a moment’s notice with no responsibility, very little money, and rarely ever a ticket in hand.  It felt good to reminisce, and feel like a more youthful version of myself.

While I had heard “The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony” many times in the 1990’s, I had the tape from my Deer Creek show in 1996.  Yes, the tape, boys and girls.  Remember when you had to wait several days to get a copy of the tape to relive your show?  Now, all you need is your laptop and Wi-Fi, and you’re on your way to hear the show while the sweat from all the dancing is still fresh on your skin.

Well, I had the 1996 Deer Creek tape, and while I have not had a tape deck in severalyears, I always assume that the song after “The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony” should be “Suzy Greenburg.”  Well, this night, it was.  It’s a strange feeling for a show to greet your expectations so well.  I get a “Suzy” every time I go on a run, even if only for one show.  Yet, she never gets old to me.  I’m just as excited to hear it live today as I was the first time I heard it back in 1995.

As they jammed out Suzy, the night sky was growing darker, and you could see the video up on the screen more clearly.  Up close images of Trey’s new guitar flashed.

A little pause, as the boys teased the crowd, and we waited patiently for “Funky Bitch.”  I have so much adoration for this Son Seals tune, and get the chills when I hear Phish perform this cover.  At least once, Son Seals made a special appearance to play guitar with Trey and sing his own song.  What a great jazz musician, who is deeply missed.  They definitely honored his memory with this cover, rocking it out.

My first “Reba” since the reunion followed. No whistling, but a very long jam that kept me moving the whole time.

A treat to follow was a song I had heard only once before, and one they had only played two times ever before.  The first time was in 1987, and most recently this summer in Charlotte.  When it played, I could recognize parts of it, and I thought, “I’ve heard this before.  Is this a cover?”  At set break we retrieved the set list from our phone, and realized we were the third crowd ever to be treated to a “Fuck Your Face,” and I then remembered that as soon as I had heard they played it in Charlotte, I listened to a recording of it on the Internet, amazed that there was a Phish song I’d never heard before. What a treat?

After a song I barely knew, but was able to keep the rhythm to, I got an “Alaska”  And a “Back on the Train,” followed, by my first ever “Taste.”  They fully jammed out, prolonging it more than usual, sending out a fantastic light show, and getting the crowd revved up.  It was only the kind of revving that occurs when they go to set break.  I turned to my friend, and as the lights were flashing, and the music was on its way to the asylum, I said, “That’s Set one.”  I was positive we had gotten enough, and they were taking us out on a high note.  To my utter shock, amazement, and enjoyment, five more songs followed.

“When the Circus Comes to Town” is always a nice bus stop, a time for stretching, slowing down, reflecting, and desensitizing after the music and lights from “Taste” had made my mind a little messy.  “Lawn Boy” offered another nice mind rest.  I love when Page sings his bluesy solos, taking the time to stroll the stage, wink and point cheesily at certain crowd girls, and graciously thank his fellow musicians.

“Sparkle” is another phan favorite.  I’m pretty sure it’s one of those songs that no matter how many times you get it, you’re still excited that you’re getting another one.  While I don’t get one every run, I do get one at least every year, and am always laughing and falling apart when they bust it out.

“Gumbo” then lead in to “Run Like an Antelope,” a common set ender.  This time, Trey changed the lyrics to “Marco Benevento,” a name that I had heard before.  Could he be giving recognition to another musician, one who just played at the Telluride Jazz Festival?  It’s quite possible, indeed.

Set break was the perfect amount of space.  I made the infamous hike straight up the slope to the restrooms, refilled my water bottle, and had a chance to rest on my bottom before the next set.

Set break used to be a nuisance for me, but as I get a little older, I enjoy the break from the music, the lights, and love the chance it gives me to talk about what the heck just happened.  And, that first set was really something worth talking about!

“Sloth” opened the second set. It was only the third time they’ve played it since they reunited!  Excitement from the crowd is quite the understatement.  It’s one of those times when everyone around you is ecstatic, high fiving, exclaiming “SLOTH!”  Yes, we got a “SLOTH.”

“Down with Disease” followed, another song I get many times a year, but always get excited to hear since I’ve “waited for the time when I can finally say that this has all been wonderful, but now I’m on my way.”  This song got me through so many different necessary pieces of my life that I knew I had to get through, but was glad to say “goodbye” to.  This lengthy jam led right in to another rarity, “What’s the Use?,” which was only the fourteenth time played ever.  Only die hard phans were letting out their screams of recognition at the beginning of this one.

We then got my children’s favorite, “Scent of a Mule,” first time played this year.  At this point, my eyes were wide, and my mouth was gaping at all the rare performances we were privy to.  I realized that sure, Deer Creek got two killershows, but we were getting one hell of a show ourselves.

As “Mike’s Song” started, I realized that our show had just a few more songs left in it, and I stopped moving my feet, paid close attention to the monitors flashing up close shots of Page on piano, Trey on guitar, Mike on Bass, and Jon on drums.  I listened to the song, and just swayed for a little, admiring the stars, and the people all around, the energy, the absolute perfect Wisconsin summer night that God blesses us with to make up for the winters he forces on us.  And, as the song was coming to a close, I could anticipate “Dirt” as whistling began.  I was at peace, and felt as though there was really no other way for the show to go but to “DIrt” at that point.

Every phriend of mine has a reason to love “Dirt,” personal reasons about their father or a past love, and I feltconnected to them, even though most of them were not with me.  I could recollect the stories told to me about how this song makes them feel, and the song really packed a punch that night, and hit me right in my soul.  I was so amazed at the song’s beauty.  My mind was completely in the song, but also with my friends. So much so, that my show buddy had to nudge me not once, not twice, but THREE times before I realized that “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” was starting!

YAY!  “Sneakin’ Sally!!”  Robert Palmer cover, perfect!  Robert Palmer is another musician who passed in the recent decade, and to honor his memory by playing his (in my opinion) career best by Phish is amazing.  Who wouldn’t like for their song to be covered by Phish?  I shouted out all the words to a lifelong favorite song of mine, and one I’ve chased Phish to hear since 1995.  This was my first, and after it was over, I took out my imaginary list of songs I chase the boys for, and made a check mark in the air.

“Weekapaug Groove” and a sick and long “Bug” rounded out the second set, but we wanted more.  With such a long first set, we were sure we’d only get one song at the encore, and I really wanted it to be a great encore, and it really was.  Covering Bob Dylan’s “Quinn the Eskimo” was a great way to get me moving again, and build excitement for the next night.

Getting to the lot for night 2 at Alpine, I’m feeling my age andresponsibilities.  I remember going on runs, sleeping in vans, tents, treating our selves to a hotel room every once in while, driving over night and napping on the lot before the show.  I remember going to a show 6 hours away, and then driving back home that same night in order to make it to class the next morning.  And, now, after one night, and a very short drive at about 45 minutes, I am feeling the activities from the night before down to the bone.  Yet, I endure.

We get to the lot early because we need three tickets tonight. We set up some shade, and off I go in search of tickets for cheaper than face.  I did find two out of three of these in just about 30 minutes, but then had to get out of the sun and off my feet to rest up from the night before. I figured, “If no tickets walk past, I will just get one at the box office.”

A true lot experience I needed and hadn’t had in a while. Lately, I seem to be in a rush to get to a show, getting to the venue just in the nick of time. But, today, my friend Dan and I arrived early and were able to connect with the people around us.  Dan even played some guitar for a very young phan in diapers. We snacked, shared stories, and one by one we had a gathering of my husband, his friends from Ohio, the couple lucky enough to park next to us, and our friend Lori.  Just before show time, we celebrated her birthday with a cake, and were excited that Phish was to play for her birthday party.

I did not find that ticket, and so we did end up with one from the box office.  Once again, we hit the head, filled the water bottles, and went to “Page Side Rage Side” for the show.  Night 2 started off strong with “Tweezer,” an eclectic jam which truly show-cases the musical geniuses that the members of Phish are.  The way they play off each other during this song always amazes me.  Sure, they’ve played it live almost 300 times, and have practiced it even more, but it still boggles my mind how they are able to play it in this organized chaos.  It feels like they go off in their own directions several times, and then all come back to the same path at the same time in one beat.

Great way to start a show for sure.

In hopes that they keep the energy up, they do not disappoint with “AC/DC Bag.”  My friend had purchased a t-shirt in the lot earlier this evening, which had the word “Alpine” formed in to the “Phish” logo.  On the sleeve was an Antelope sign, which we heard on night one, and on the back were the words, “Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.  Let’s get this show on the road.”  We were happy to have accidentally purchased a memento that would end up being so appropriate.

After two incredibly long jams, we were ready for some swaying music, and Page sang us into “On Your Way Down.”

As with the night before, I was super glad to have Page sing.  He can sing the blues like no other.  It was dark enough that you could see his face on the monitors, and watching the expressions he creates while he sings the blues is just as beautiful to see as it is beautiful to hear.  I should point out that this was the first time they played it this year, only the second time they’ve played it since the reunion, and only the nineteenth time they have ever played it.  As with night 1, it appeared as though we were in for some rare treats.”

A perfect “Divided Sky” led in to “Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan” was up to bat next, my newest mantra.  I sangalong every word, exclaiming it as my mission statement.

Up until about a year ago, I felt as though I was part of a faulty plan, but turned it around, made a new plan, and feel as though my life now is many stolen moments from a plan I don’t have to follow any more.

“Water in the Sky”  was crisp, light, and airy, and the song seemed to compliment the weather perfectly.  A little bit of a cool breeze blowing through, as the piano played off the air’s notes. The night was pretty much requesting “Water in the Sky.”  “The Moma Dance” and “Farmhouse” were up next, followed by my personal favorite of the night, “David Bowie.”

Yes, “David Bowie” is played about 1 in 4 times, and for good reason, because it is a kick ass song.  What other band can take a song with basically two lyrics, and make a lengthy jam out of it?  The boys killed it!  Their music made sense the entire time.  Heads bobbing in rhythm, lights flashing at just the right intervals, smiles on every Phish Phace.

Tonight, I was right that this would be a set ender for sure.  They brought so much energy to the valley, that I knew they were going to take us out on this high note, leaving us panting for more Phish.  And, so it was…”David Bowie” fired us up for more in to the set break.

Before exiting the stage for a much deserved rest, Trey reached in to the audience to accept a gift, what appeared to be a blow up green and pink toy guitar.

Another nice set break, and this night I had wished for the first time this summer on tour that I had brought my sweater.  For those of you who came from Deer Creek to the state with outdoor air conditioning; you’re welcome.  We tried to guess what would come during the second set, but mostly could not stop talking about that “David Bowie,” which was powerful enough to knock the breath right out of my being.

“Ghost” opened the second set, merging right in to “Theme from the Bottom,” a song I used to relate to when I was younger, and a song I’m glad used to identify me, but no longer does.

Following a couple heavy songs came an old school favorite of mine, and one they’ve now played only three times since the reunion, “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars!”  I could tell from the first bass note off Mike’s strings that we were getting a “BBFCFM!”

Everyone was laughing and dancing and singing along.  It was a moment where you were suddenly best friends with all the kids in your vicinity, looking at one another with amazement that Phish was tapping in to their 1980’s roots and pleasing us with such an experience.

Still aware of my shortness of breath from laughing, dancing, and singing along with 37,000 people, “You Enjoy Myself” started up.  I was excited that this was coming, as my husband, who rarely goes to see Phish live was with me, and he never got to see the trampolines that my friend Stephanie and I used to practice on our beds in the dorm rooms (total Phish nerd, I know).  And, as expected, of course, the trampolines came out, and of course my husband got to see Trey and Mike hop in unison, not missing a beat at all.  Yay for “YEM!”

“YEM” rolled right in to a “Piper” that was so different, it was almost not recognizable with the “Close Encounters” tease from Trey.  This musical jam gives you highs and lows and is a great jam that really makes you appreciate the intricacies that Phish as a group puts together to create music.  

Following “Piper” is a song that always makes me think, “Band Geeks, UNITE!”  “Also Sprach Zarathrusta” was up next, with a funky jazzy twist, of course.  A song that is a little campy certainly adds a fun flair to the evening.

I was enjoying the second set’s music at this point, but was longing for another song with more lyrics when they went in to one of my favorite covers, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”

This was another rare treat, as it is the first time they played it this year.  I was glad to hear a slower song, as it is unlikely for Phish to end a set on such a slow song (I mean it’s happened, but it’s just not very likely).  And, this time, I was right, as they went straight in to “Character Zero.”  There are so many rumors and guesses as to what they are saying, with my favorite being, “I’m to see the Man Malkay,” who is supposedly some kind of mind doctor.  I like that, and so, that’s what I sing when they play it.

I knew the show was wrapping up at this point, and I also knew that with a one song encore the night before, we were in for a pretty sweet encore tonight.

The happy, joyous, serene group they are now, they took center stage for their final bow.  They waited so long to come back on stage for their encore, that several newbies got restless and took off before hand, but, I held out. I knew they would be back for more.

Out they came with a four song encore.  We were treated to a Velvet Underground Cover of “Oh, Sweet Nothin’,” fifth time ever played, in to “Cavern,” and then “Joy,” to a “Tweezer reprise.”

The encore was so long, it may as well have been a set in and of itself.

And, so, off to the lot to find our car where we left it, regroup our melted minds, and head back to reality until the next stop.

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