Phish Tour 2021: A New Past, A New Perspective
Let me start by saying, no band on planet earth can do it like Phish, the highest highs, the lowest lows; transfusing dark riffs with whimsical merriment. I have said a lot about this band in previous reviews and I always try and find a different angle or something new to say about their performances. In the past, I have reviewed the sets, song by song, but good lord that’s tedious and after a while redundant. It’s best I stick with the hits and talk about the best parts of these shows instead of nit-picking and going, full journalist mode.
I have always wanted to travel to Deer Creek Amphitheater (now Rouff) the venue made infamous by the Grateful Dead and the gate-crashing incident. The drive north was worse than expected and I honestly didn’t realize Indianapolis was such a big city. Arriving in town, something just wasn't right with my stomach and I missed out on the first show, which turned out to be one of the best shows of the tour, filled with 30+ minute jams and improvisation. I have since listened to this show and I am still kicking myself for missing it but I was physically unable to attend. The next day was better after a long night's sleep but still, something inside was not right, I struggled forward in the earnest hope that the music would bring me back to life and I was excited to see what Phish could bring after this long hiatus. I had been keeping up with the setlists of the previous shows and was ready for whatever may come and boy did it!
The lot scene in Indianapolis was one of the largest I had seen and my sidekick, Jack, and I were graciously accepted and welcomed. I have been traveling with Jack for over 15 years now and we have seen countless shows and even journeyed to Egypt together. Jack has cerebral palsy and I am so grateful to be his friend and to have his perspective in my life. You can check out more with Jack below on the Out Of My Mind VLOG Episodes #4-5. I just wanted to mention him here, in case anyone was wondering.
After thoroughly "wookifying" ourselves we headed into the venue to await Phish. Friday was filled with monster jams, ethereal noises, and all-around spacey jams. The improvisation was on point and they always seemed to make it back to Earth before blasting off again. Needless to say, the band couldn’t keep that up all weekend and Saturday's show was more of a rock and roll experience. Not to say it didn’t have its moments where they got downright dirty and sleazy with those riffs. I knew Sunday was going to be off the charts but I was not prepared for the "Story Of Sally." What is there to say about this set? It might be one of the most creative and hilarious Phish moments since Merriweather's "Tweezerfest" for me. The band would go in and out of various songs, creating new lyrics, combining imagery, and having a lot of fun on stage. This is what Phish is all about, taking chances, taking risks, trying something that has never been done before, and can never be replicated. The "Story Of Sally" is really just the story of Phish and their inclusion of improvisational elements from all influences and their all-around passion for music.
We drove the next long haul of about 9 hours to Hershey, Pennsylvania and I came down with one of the worst stomach pains I have ever experienced. I barely made it to the next hotel before I was about to tap out on the whole week. These things happen on tour and while it sucked, it’s only time and music seems to help everything. Fortunately, I pushed through to hang with all my friends at Hershey. These two shows solidified my short run and gave me most of the songs I knew I was going to see. It was a grand event filled with loved ones going backwards down the number line. I would say more about these shows but I honestly barely remember most of it because I was struggling with stomach pains, I do remember some great jams from Birds Of A Feather and Chalkdust. These two shows kind of just washed over me, I don't remember much but I do remember dancing and having fun most of the time. Have any of you ever experienced a concert while sick? How did you push through? I am glad I survived getting brown in Hershey town but I wish I could have carried on to Atlantic City. Cest la vie.
Seeing Phish is like transporting myself into the past. The past me, past experiences, some past life; foggy in the haze of memory. Somehow reliving a deja vu-like dream but with new meaning, an advanced frame of mind. The pandemic has really put things into perspective and while I yearn for the past, I still look forward to what may come. Seeing Phish is like moving forward in life, not knowing what they will play, how they will play it, or how the hell they will get back down to earth. Things may be changing again quickly but one thing will never change, Phish absolutely jams and they do it like no one can.
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.