Phish: Hampton, Set Two

Posted 03/09/2009 by cal

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I might as well resign myself to the fact that I'm going to write about all six sets. It's good practice, any way.

“Backwards Down The Number Line” opened the second set; I guess we knew that was coming. “Tweezer”? This was the boneless, sauceless hot wing for me. Trey was playing all the little variations of the main lick. Not for the first time, there was this deliberate pause between the composed song and the jam. Then it got funky--the easy default, no need to get too fancy. Trey had been unusually melodic, almost sugary, early on in set one, and the syrup returned early in the “Tweezer” jam, which gradually unfunked itself and then petered out, but there was no reason to force anything here. I can wholeheartedly get into the idea of lots of songs. Then “Taste” appeared, a song that most bands would have quickly abandoned, as goofy and awkward as it was in the early years. Hell, it’s still pretty goofy, but you know what absence does to the heart. Still, this version was not smooth and really had no build. The band was beginning to coast on audience goodwill.
By “Possum”, I started wishing I didn’t know about all the amazing “Possum”s they’ve played before. Okay, not really. Nothing happened in this version, the boys even forgetting what the end of the jam feels like. But in the end, you just have to think caution really was the correct strategy on this first night of first nights. 12-31-02 was sub-par at least in part because Phish was still trying to force jams while the fundamentals were on the backburner. Coventry showed that it was all totally lost. Tonight, they were at least proving that they’d been rehearsing…
Then came “Hood”. Yikes.
It was like Alpine ’04 again. Why is the Mr. Miner section so hard for Trey?
Come to think of it, what exactly has happened to Trey in this second set? I’d thought that with the first set under his belt, he’d relax a little. Dammit, I’ve seen this man wail at least a handful of times since the summer of 2004. He has shredded me into the ground on multiple occasions. Is there so much pressure to perform with this particular band? Granted, the composed material is much more complex than TAB, but the improvisational fever is just not in effect, either. I’m willing to chalk it up to nerves. Only Trey could know what exactly was going wrong, even after all that rehearsing, during Night One, Set Two.
And then, improbably, “Waste” was just transcendent. I mean, it’s a great song, but Trey’s noodling in the end sounds truly inspired, what little of it there is. It wound things up instead of down.
And then, “You Enjoy Myself”. To have nailed it all the way through on the first try would have been less perfect than this. Coventry was all tears, no laughter. Give me laughter any day! You wanna talk about an ice-breaker? It was as if all the tension slid off Trey’s back, so he could turn in a solid set-closer. The jam was rudimentary but it felt like home. The vocal jam was everything you could hope for! Whatever else this is, it is Phish.
The encore began with “Grind”, which was tons of fun, unlike the discordant “I Didn’t Know” in set one. “Bouncing” was a you-hadda-be-there, as I learned later about the balls bouncing around the room. Finally, “Loving Cup” might have been predictable but honestly, this encore felt more like unbridled, laid-back Phish than any three-song stretch all night.
Night One was more about what was to come than what is. Its greatness is purely in the fact that they pulled it off when even a train wreck would have been forgivable. They’re in this for the long haul now, they say. This felt like a start. I can’t wait to dive in right in the middle…

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