[Originally Published: March 10, 2009]
In honor of today’s anniversary of the Phish reunion shows, we wanted to reprint Hidden Track founder Ace Cowboy’s thoughts Hampton.
To accurately describe what it’s like having the popular rock band Phish back on the Hampton Coliseum stage, let me steal a quip from that lovable ol’ drunkard Arthur when he tells Linda about owning a yacht: “It doesn’t suck.”
[All Photos By Dave Vann]
This weekend was absolutely top-drawer, a once-in-a-lifetime gala event. This weekend was all about energy, and not in that typical hippie bullshit geodes and quartz kind of way; not “energy, brah.” This weekend was about everyone’s stories being interwoven with their own, connected by being part of something bigger, a participatory séance, the resurrection of a lost world. This weekend was about thousands of people at the exact same time falling collectively back in love with something they once adored so much.
Page is getting most of the accolades, and deservedly so. I’m not sure if he’s louder in the mix than ever before, but he played magnificently this weekend. Fishman and Gordon, as well. I made a joke on my Twitter page that Trey is now the worst player in the band, though I really don’t believe that. Page, Mike and Fishman clearly all had better weekends than Big Red, but there’s an unfair burden on Trey – no matter how well or poorly Page and Mike and Fish play, all eyes will always be on Crimson Dago. Everything he does on stage is magnified and parsed and agonized over.
Trey’s got the unenviable task of playing the hero or the goat every single night. It’s like he’s the A-Rod on a team full of Jeters. He’s become Trey-Rod. Let’s take him out from under the microscope for a while. He fucking nailed every single melodic, chirpy jam on the run; he just needs to find his sea legs on the so-called Type II jams. And he will. Anyone really want to go on record and doubt him? Just say so.
No matter which set you most enjoyed from this weekend’s run, we can all agree on one undeniable absolute truth: If you’re returning home from these shows with anything less than an ear-to-ear smile, a gigantic boner (or the less popular clit-boner equivalent) and a positive outlook for the future of this band, then it’s probably in your best interests, as well as possibly the national interest, that you stay far away from Phish henceforth. Just go away. No more live shows, no more message boards, no more cynical e-mails to fellow jaded vets. A sloppy batch of notes in Punch You in the Eye or Silent in the Morning is no match for the look on everyone’s face when the opening notes of Fluffhead became audible over the deafening roar.
But if, following a prolonged second hiatus, you somehow managed to be a hyper-critical reactionary ingrate about a 12-hour, 83-song romp through one of the most impressive and expansive catalogs in modern music, then all hope may be lost. I cannot even begin to comprehend how you could find the slightest fault in anything that transpired from the moment the band stepped on stage – including Cactus in his emo-sleeveless-Michelle Obama outfit – ‘til the minute you checked out of your [destroyed] hotel room. And if that’s you, know this: There may come a day when I jazzercise on your grave.
They didn’t jam enough!
Trey messed up the YEM lyrics for chrissakes!
I counted 27 flubs in the first set alone!
My uncle touched me in the shower when I was nine!
Big picture, folks, big picture. Rome wasn’t burnt in a day. (Wait, that’s not right.) Well, Rome wasn’t built that quickly, and what took this band more than 20 years to build cannot be re-captured in a few months of rehearsal. This was simply a simple celebration, an uprooted time capsule of the band’s history; it could never be an immediate return to 25-minute facefucking jams that are talked about solely by date and title, and it wasn’t.
The return to glory merely began this weekend. From here on out there will be flubs, but it’s time to accept these meaningless minor bungles as an inevitability in order to get to the good stuff. And if this weekend is any indication, the good stuff will come in droves this summer. Hampton was a showcase for the future, a supreme flash of the arsenal.
But the sheer madness of this weekend was much more than just the music. It’s the anticipatory stomach churn before the show. It’s the house lights going down. It’s the conversations you haven’t had in nearly half a decade. It’s the snippets of other people’s conversations you haven’t heard in nearly half a decade. It’s the jargon. It’s the lingo. It’s nonstop games of Cornhole on the Ramada Inn grassy knoll. It’s the ticketless guy in the Matthew Lesko costume trying to stand out, and the ticketless guy in the Antelope costume who indulged us with his best Mick Jagger impression. It’s a guy from South Carolina sneaking in on Saturday night and getting a five-minute screamfest from all his friends when he arrived at the seats. It’s feeling the feeling we all forgot. It’s Phish.
News and notes: An astounding lack of arrows on the setlist – there will be a buyer’s market for arrows on summer tour…If you had to pin me down on my favorite tune of the weekend, it’d probably be Suzy…Or AC/DC Bag…Or about 50 others…I love those new green laser pens that a few people in the crowd wielded…two old tunes that have been inserted into Phish songs were played in the same set: The Landlady (PYITE) and The Asse Festival (Guelah)…Speaking of, Kuroda [coincidentally??] used rainbow lights during The Asse Festival…and lastly, the crowd may have grown five years older, but we’re five years more the wiser (and much sorer in the morning – “cash or trade for a heady hamstring and calf massage!”)…I’ve never seen a better crowd in my life, at any show, Phish or otherwise. ‘Til June.