Phish @ Augusta Civic Center, October 19
Words and Images: Eric Wyman
“Never miss a Tuesday show!” That’s how the old tour saying goes…right?
Augusta was prime for everyone missing it. It’s 3+ hours from Boston and 9 hours away from Utica. Anyone who wanted to take a little detour through Maine on a Tuesday probably should have their head examined. From seacoast New Hampshire though, it’s almost a hometown show. The State of Maine has played host to some of the finest moments in Phish history, you can’t skip this one. Memorable things happen on the nights everyone drives by on to the next tour stop (11/2/98, being the most famous). So as I’m driving up 95 I’m thinking about this and wandering, maybe they’ll play Gamehendge, maybe they’ll bust out a pre-halloween cover. So I walk into the show with all this unwarranted anticipation and the place is a shoebox, it’s the state championship game in Hoosiers. It’s all happening!
Now, anyone who’s been around knows that shit’s just a pipe dream. They’re not playing Gamehendge tonight. They didn’t learn Dark Side on the way up here. This could potentially go from being the most awesomest show ever to a total snoozefest, all from expectations. So you gotta sit back take a breath and soak it in. This place is amazing, let’s see where it goes. No expectations.
We chatted pre-show with a couple of very nice ladies in the row behind us. They ask “So how many Phish shows have you been too?” My friend responds modestly, “This is number 153 for me…I was a junkie for a bit back in ’98 and ’99.” Quickly correcting the statement with a subtle, “music junkie…not like junkie junkie.” We all laughed. They respond by saying “This is our first show and Jon Fishman gave us the tickets or we probably wouldn’t even be here. So you guys think it will be fun?” Yes, yes we do.
READ ON for more of Eric’s take on last night’s show…
No expectations. They just hoped it would fun. Crazy, huh?
And fun, it was.
There wasn’t a point in the show where I thought…meh or I think I’ll take a bathroom break now. It just felt right. There were more vets with their kids than I’ve seen thus far, the vibe reflected that and the band caught on to the mellow mood immediately. Chalkdust opened with the expected level of excitement, but then it slowly tapered off…in a great way. It felt appropriate to the room and those inside of it. More of a local stop as a favor to the people of Augusta than the next stop on the traveling circus. From Back on The Train through Nellie Kane, the band remained in a down-tempo groove that was unwavering. Highlighted by an excellent effort in Gin and a soulful Jesus Just Left Chicago, the first set finished with 46 Days and Possum – two songs that have tremendous energy, but tonight even those barn burners had a mellow feel.
Building off the home town hoedown, the Civic Center had $5 Magic Hats around every corner, but damn if I could find a bottled water. After searching the entire venue I was finally pointed to a makeshift concession stand in a makeshift meeting room staffed probably by the high school cafeteria staff and some kids on detention.
A first timer for the majority of the room, the decidedly “un-kid-friendly” Fuck Your Face opened set two and weaved in and out of a Mike’s Song that was unique and certainly unexpected. But the next frame was the highlight of the show, pairing two songs that just flat out belong together Light > 20 Years Later dipped in and out of an ambient jam that exemplified the relaxed feeling all night long. This is a must hear and further listens may prove it worthy of the more workable jams of the song’s brief history.
As the set came to a close with A Day In The Life, I turned to the dude behind me and said “First Tube” guaranteed. Looking at the clock it was 11:30, curfew must be 11:45…boy was I wrong. The opening notes to Reba rang out and a moment of “Really? Did this just happen? This isn’t an encore.” overcame me. I texted Scotty and commented “Odd huh? When’s the last time this was an Encore?” 9/21/99 was the answer and what followed was a jam that went completely off the beaten path and was worthy of an eleven year wait between occurrences. The whole of the jam maintained the feel from the entire note resulting in a cohesive show from front to back. They followed with Number Line in an encore that felt more like the beginning of a third set than a final frame. I would have been fine with a whistling ending myself ;)
Set 2: Fuck Your Face > Mike’s Song -> Fuck Your Face -> Mike’s Song -> Fuck Your Face > Light ->Twenty Years Later -> Fast Enough for You, Weekapaug Groove, Halley’s Comet > Free > Harry Hood> Golgi Apparatus, A Day in the Life
Notes: Reba contained a Manteca quote and did not have the whistling ending. First Reba encore since 9/21/99 Tucson.
So tonight everyone will line up outside the Auditorum in Utica, the show everyone skipped Augusta to go see. I’ll remember Augusta for years to come and I pass along this advice to everyone in New York. Walk in with no expectations, it’s just another show.