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Published: 2009/11/02

Final Notes of Phish’s Festival 8

Why not give Phish’s official crossword a go?

Phish closed its Halloween-themed Festival 8 Sunday with three diverse sets of music. The day’s entertainment was called for “the crack of noon” and included the band’s first acoustic performance since the Bridge School Benefit in 1998. Making the afternoon set more special, the members of Phish sat onstage in mirror image formation, the festival’s promoters gave out free donuts and coffee and Relix and Jambands.com’s presented the band’s first official crossword puzzle in the Festival 8 Express.

At the start of the set Trey Anastasio urged audience members to sit down for the mellow set—to mixed results. The first part of the group’s set focused on Phish songs that were staples in Anastasio’s solo acoustic sets—“Water in the Sky,” “Back on the Train,” “Brian and Robert” and “Mountains in the Mist—as well as the Page McConnell sung “Strange Design.” Anastasio also formally introduced his 2005 solo cut “Sleep Again” into Phish’s repertoire, while Mike Gordon led the band through his Leo Kottke collaboration “Invisible” for the first time. The group shifted gears partway through the show from ballads to re-workings of complex material. “The Curtain With” was the first multi-part epic the group tackled in its unique configuration, followed in short order by “McGrupp and the Warchful Horsemasters.” During “Wilson,” Anastasio nervously apologized for asking his fans to sit down, remarking that he is too ADHD to sit down himself. The band also treated the crowd to lovely versions of bluegrass-inspired numbers like “My Sweet One” and “Train Song,” among others.” Phish played for around an hour and later returned for a three-song mini-encore consisting of “Driver,” “Talk” and “Secret Smile,” the latter of which Phish had not played since 2004.

Phish came back after a lengthy break for a high-energy electric set that balanced the difference between older classics like “AC/DC Bag,” “Reba,” “The Wedge” and “Guelah Papyrus” and latter day grooves such as “Gotta Jiboo,” “Heavy Things” and “Undermind.” Unfortunately, the band flubbed several of its classic compositions, in particular, “Reba,” though explored some interesting, funky passages during its more layered jams. A tight “Split Open and Melt” brought the set to a close.

The festival’s final set was perhaps the band’s strongest, featuring a number of jam staples, a sprinkling of new Joy cuts and some darker experiments. The set opened with an extended “Tweezer” that segued in “Maze.” The sequence was followed by a powerful “Free,” Gordon’s new quirky “Sugar Shack,” a jammed out “Limb by Limb” and a surprise run through “Theme for the Bottom.” Beginning with “Mike’s Song,” the band closed the set with an extended suit of music that ran from “2001” into an extremely dark “Light” and, finally, “Slave to the Traffic Light.” Instead of completing the Mike’s Groove, the band encored with the barbershop quartet ditty “Grind,” the recently revived “Esther” and “Tweezer Reprise.” Throughout the night, lighting designer Chris Kuroda made use of an expanded light setup that included new onstage lights, concert field flames, a forest of illuminated palm trees and series of multi-colored blimp lights.

Please read the following stories for more on Festival 8’s happenings on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

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