The third day of Phish’s three-day Festival 8 event started in relaxed fashion this afternoon with the long-awaited first full-length acoustic set that found the band expertly working through unplugged versions of classic Phish tunes and a couple of debuts. There was even a healthy dose of fun Phish banter when guitarist Trey Anastasio asked the crowd to sit down to enjoy the mellow tunes but later apologized saying that he hated telling people what to do and explaining that he couldn’t sit down if he tried.
[All photos by Regan Teti Marscher]
The set started with three songs that were staples of Anastasio’s solo acoustic performances -Water In The Sky, Back On The Train and Brian and Robert. Each sounded as if they were written to be played unplugged and early on it was clear the band had spent a considerable amount of time rehearsing. Invisible, a song off Phish bassist’s Mike Gordon Sixty Six Steps release with acoustic guitar legend Leo Kottke, followed with Mike taking the lead vocals as he does on the album. Next, Page McConnell sang the first of two songs he’d sing during the set, Strange Design. McConnell has struggled hitting some notes this weekend, but not during Strange Design or the Army of One that followed a little later.
Most fans in the crowd remained seated at the beginning of the set until the first notes of The Curtain With rang out. Everyone rose to their feet to take in the biggest surprise of the set and the band reciprocated by nailing the tune that they struggled so mightily with at Coventry. The second Phish debut of the acoustic set was also a song from one of the band member’s side projects – Sleep Again. Sleep Again was debuted by Trey Anastasio’s 70 Voltz Parade ensemble in 2005 and was recorded for the infamous Shine album. Phish’s version sounded very similar to the Voltz version.
After an ode to the past (My Sweet One), an ode to a bike (Let Me Lie) and one of the poppier songs in the band’s repertoire (Bouncing Around the Room), Mike Gordon stepped out to sing the sweet Train Song from 1996’s Billy Breathes album – a song that the band played during most of the mini acoustic sets in 1996. Wilson, another song you wouldn’t expect to hear the group perform unplugged, came next with Anastasio’s apology for asking fans to sit coming right before the “blat boom” bit. The set ended with a spot-on McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, the second gamehenge tune in a row. READ ON for more about Phish’s first-ever acoustic set…
Admittedly, I am not the biggest fan of The Rolling Stones. Certainly don’t hate them, but they’re not at the top of any lists for me. None of that mattered when it became clear just a few tunes into set two, Phish’s full performance of Exile On Main Street, that this would be the most tightly performed Phish set in recent history.
[All Photos by Regan Teti Marscher]
If Phish played their catalog as cleanly and precisely as they did these eighteen tracks, it would be scary. And all the while they made these songs their own often times in the way they would jam out the outros. I was trying to place what Phish/Trey song the Torn & Frayed outro sounded like when ScottyB chimed in and let me know it was Drifting – and it was awesome. Guest vocalists and horn players Sharon Jones, David Guy, Tony Jarvis, David Smith, and Saunda Williams blended extremely tastefully into the background never overshadowing or drawing attention away from either the songs or the performance.
It was nice to see Jon Fishman singing lead on Happy without it being a novelty cover song that lead to a vacuum solo. Fish did a great job when it was his time and all around it seemed like the right decisions were made on how they divided up the lead vocals duties. The backup singers interplay with Trey and the rest of the guys on Ventilator Blues/I Just Want To See His Face was superb, this was my biggest surprise – I knew Phish would knock Tumbling Dice, Shine A Light, etc. out of the park, but the Ventilator Blues > I Just Want To See His Face was really really smooth.
READ ON for more about Phish’s Halloween performance at F8…