Ace Cowboy’s Phish Hampton Review: Trey-Rod and the Three Jeters

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.

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48 Responses

  1. Well said. I almost feel bad for the haters…if you weren’t able to indulge in the moment and have a great time this weekend, then I think something might be seriously wrong with you. Luckily, I didn’t encounter any negativity all weekend, so maybe it’s just the folks who can’t seem to get away from their computers and breathe in some fresh air. Oh well, not my problem.

    Thanks for the words Ace…as usual, you said what we’re all feeling.

  2. A++ fan. Couldn’t be happier to feel like crap at work today! Someone asked me what happened to my voice and all I could muster in response was “Fluffhead.”

  3. Slack, you throw it down once more in yet another great post. I was not their, but I did have my bowl/beer in hand watching the set every night on my couch and listening as soon as released on live phish. I agree with everything you say here…I think you have to put the flubs aside and think about how these shows were the complete opposite of the disaster that was coventry. These are the phish of old…practicing and nailing songs that havent been played in years (Guelah). Personally, I thought the boys only got tighter as the shows progressed, with nighty 3 being very very very tight and all jams being played near perfection. My only hope is that the guys dont give up on practicing to record this new album. Three cheers for Phish3.0!!

  4. I wasnt there, but Ive already listened to the shows via the free downloads at and I must say…..who gives a shit if they flubbed a line or chord, or 50 of each. Im in total agreement with you and hate the Phish Nazis who analyze every f’in second possible. Fluffhead crowd reaction gave me a semi! Cant wait til Camden, as it is currently the only show I have a ticket to. I’ll be the a-hole climbing the wall to the seats when the lights go down……bong bong!!!!

  5. “So does someone thing that because we missed a change it wasnt great? I could fucking care less if we missed a change, or a number of changes. Doesnt have anything to do with it. Its all about the energy, i thought that it was a pumping show. People arent there to see us get through all the sections perfectly, thats not what they come for. I thought people were rocking, and thats all that counts”

    trey- bitersweet hotel

  6. Well played Ace. Good running into you for a brief moment! I had an absolute blast down there too…def one of the best phish weekends I’ve ever had.

    When my kids saw me get off the plane at LaGuardia, they looked like I did for the Fluff opener…it was awesome!

    See you at Jones Beach!

  7. so you’re saying trey-rod used preformance enhancing drungs in the past?!?!?!

    great write up – loving having 3.0 around – can’t wait for the summer.

  8. And if that’s you, know this: There may come a day when I jazzercise on your grave.

  9. Great review, objective but with the fan touch.

    Friday was the lowest day but was not bad at all. It is understandable.

    Down with decease and Seven Below was the moment when Phish officially said “HEY WE ARE BACK!”.

    Can’t wait till June.

    Grettings from Peru.

  10. As always, right on point Ace. Great write-up and even better to see you around here again. Keep it comin!

  11. ha ha ha i kept waiting for them to play that lol i am having difficulty coming up with words besides speachless..i am a 20yr phish head who really hasn’t listened to much phish at all since coventry. I think a good follow-up-new- age song title to parallel ‘i didn’t know’ should be ‘i forgot’ lol Speaking for myself , I forgot alot that I was reminded of this weekend, old dance grooves, old friends, old feelings…totally unexpected. I was surprised to see the ‘older’ crowd, it was definitely like a reunion of my age group late 80’s early 90s fans, also unexpected and very very cool and touching. I agree about Page!!! WOW!!!! As for Trey, I have always been a narrow minded stubborn man in purple pants fan (AKA MG), but these shows I opened my eyes to a new Trey, one I respect as a fellow in sobriety, and he progressively rocked my yellow phellowship socks off more and more as the weekend went on. By the 3rd show, not only was I sober perma-grin, but could not stop giggling. This man is only just beginning here…he now has this new energy to tap into that we got a taste of this weekend and that I can guarantee will take him and the band to a whole new level. Great news for the younger scene!!!! 3.0 is the best version yet! Psyched!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. I was at the Ramada Inn. Is it possible that the scene’s two headiest writers were at the same joint, and didn’t even know it? Isn’t that some kind of Ghostbusters ‘crossing-the-streams’ scenario in which the entire universe should fucking explode???!!

    “My uncle touched me in the shower when I was nine!”

    Jesus wept.

    I miss Ace.

    Well done, my friend!

  13. A review worth the wait. I’m now rethinking skipping Alpine…especially now that pHiL isn’t hating anymore. Let’s get you out there too, Ace. I have a miniature golf crown to defend if I remember correctly

  14. You got a way with the words, Ace. Love your reviews. Why aren’t more people talking about the Hampton Wolfman’s? Gordon’s basslines are nasty. Thoughts?

  15. Kudos on this review. Most reviews seem to fall into two camps, the it was just magical and everything was perfect and this was the best show ever and you missed the show of a lifetime etc. The 2nd are the critical flub counting reviews of the haters. This was the 1st I read that seemed to be straight up. They are back, we all rejoice, the energy was magic but they made mistakes and yes there were really no “25-minute facefucking jams that are talked about solely by date and title”.

    While I missed this shows (1st Mothership miss since ’98) I have been a phan for 25 years. I have listened to the shows and I agree they are tighter than I have ever heard them to which I give a lot of credit to the slower tempos they are using (listening to NYE 97 right now and damn did they play fast back then). But I will also say that at least on tape, nothing really sticks out to me as best every phish.

    That being said, if this is the starting point for the year everybody better hold onto their hats because these 3 shows are in rarefied air. While I may be in the minority, the band did some great shows in 2004 as they headed out to pasture and I would never have thought that after walking out of the 1st shows of that year in Las Vegas (Trey was sick and totally sucked and no Kuroda). So hearing Hampton ’09 is making me giddy for Camden and the rest of 2009 and beyond.

  16. Nice review, but it might have the unfortunate effect of nipping interesting critical comments. I’m a little nervous about how my two comments below will be received by the Hampton-hyped, PH3.0-luvin crowd. First comment: cramming the catalog is not jamming the catalog. The sheer number of titles they played has the effect for me of skipping a stone across the Phish sea. The moments of falling in, dropping deeply, deeply into a song are few and far between. Second comment: these Hampton sets are what Coventry should have been. Cumulatively, the Hampton sets say less along the lines of “We’re back!” than they do “This is what we’ve been!”

  17. @ben you said it much better than I could (guess that is my my blog is a podcast, my writing sucks). While I do suck at words, my grasp of numbers are a little better. Looking at some stats the avg songs/show from ’95 to ’00 was around 17-18. Phish 2.0 saw that tend continue.

    If you look at this weekend it was 28!!! That is more than even the songs you normally here in a 3 set NYE show. Again, I am not a hater, the shows sound great and the energy must have been unfathomable, but musically I was a little let down. Then again I have always been a quality vs quantity guy and think the band is at their best when then color outside the lines a lot more than they did this past weekend. Just my $0.02.

  18. yeah ACE! what a literary return for the cowboy of cards.

    great to hear/read your words dude.

    I shared very similar sentiments.

    keep on!

  19. Gotta Love it! Your review is CRISP, as was the entertainment. ! !! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    …Oh how could I ever have been so foolish…

  20. Ben – if they were what they had ‘been’, Trey would probably be dead by now, or at the very least drooling on the mike hee hee

  21. bravo Ace Cowboy. could not have summed it up better. long time phan and attended the shows. so tired of the critics – you’re right, time for them to exit stage right. no more room for them. also yes – type 2 jamming non existent – YET. and yes, Page was EN FUEGO and T-Money needs a little time.

  22. Best article yet. Keep up the good work. You are the true head i was next to all three nights. Oh yeah our hotel room got seriously violated. I feel so bad for that cleaning lady ha ha. THIS IS RED ROCK S THIS IS THE EDGE. see you all on summer tour:)

  23. well said. i do feel bad for the haters. regardless of what phish show we are talking about it isnt about counting the missed notes or riffs. live phish is about the total experience, being completely free of care, and being amongst thousands of others who feel the same. if you weren’t 110% satisfied by what we experienced that weekend, you aren’t a phish fan, and its too bad you took the ticket from someone who is.

  24. I was one of the cornhole dudes!!!! We saw lesko’s car get towed away!….”Bumbed is what you are when your car get towed”…yeah, they played Contact that night….

  25. Props to Ace for his Hidden Track hidden closet past! I’m so happy Scotty B. resurrected the ghost of Slade here! Great to see his words coming back from the 1-yr. Hampton Revival!

    Don’t be a stranger Ace! the HT readership loves ya forever!

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