Phish Goes Out Emotionally

Phish called it a career last night (Aug. 15) at the end of the second day of its weekend-long finale in Coventry, Vt. Before a crowd of more than 70,000 fans, the Vermont-based jam band wrapped things up with a rare performance of “The Curtain With,” which guitarist Trey Anastasio told the crowd he’d written in 1985 while living in a cabin in a neighboring town.

Yesterday’s three-set affair was understandably an emotional one. During the second set, both keyboardist Page McConnell and Anastasio broke down in tears while addressing the audience.

Set three was a surprisingly mellow affair, opening with “Fast Enough for You” and winding down with “Slave to the Traffic Light,” before a massive fireworks display was set off just outside the concert grounds at the Newport State Airport.

The quartet was on fire during the first set, offering definitive versions of “Mike’s Song,” “Weekapaug Groove,” “Chalkdust Torture” and “Possum,” among others. Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon brought their mothers, as well as longtime manager John Paluska, onstage to dance during the jam in “Wolfman’s Brother,”

Early arrivals to the festival awoke Saturday to the news that state police had begun turning away cars approaching the concert grounds. More than 20 miles of traffic backed up on I-91 and conditions at the mud-filled camping area deteriorated due to heavy rains.

In a move that echoed 1969’s Woodstock festival, thousands of fans abandoned their cars on the side of the highway and walked or hitchhiked to the concert site, an effort profusely praised by the band once it took the stage that evening.

After a tentative Saturday first set that featured such older staples as “Run Like an Antelope,” “Axilla,” “Sample in a Jar” and a closing cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” the band hit peak form during such second set stunners as “AC/DC Bag,” “David Bowie” and “Character Zero.”

The band seemed to mirror the fatigue of the crowd during its third set, fashioning strange, psychedelic jams out of “Stash” and “Free.” But a second wind gave life to a cover of the Who’s “Drowned” and an encore rendition of the smile-inducing “Harry Hood.”

The concerts were simulcast on XM Satellite Radio and in Regal Cinema movie theatres throughout the United States.


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