Phish, IT, Limestone, ME- 8/2 &3
You know, its so much more than a music festival. It's a carnival,
it's a fiesta, it's a weekend long party. So what if it took you 22 hours to get there from New
York City, 10 of which was spent sitting in traffic? So what if it took you 30 from Camden,
or 25 from Boston? So what if half your commute was spent sitting in traffic? You were going to IT,
Phish's triumphant return to Limestone, Maine, home of two previous summer festivals, and you were
going to be there, along with 60,000+ other fans, seeing six sets of music from arguably the best band
on the planet. What's not to like?
Located on a abandoned air force base, in northern Maine, IT was poised to
take flight. With a stellar Winter Tour under their belts, and a just-completed
Summer Tour that, as a whole, topped Winter, musically speaking IT was six months in the making. The rust from the winter was gone, replaced by a focused energy from the band that resulted in some inspired jams along the way,
including the "Seven Below" from the Gorge and the Charlotte "Hood, just to name a few.
New songs permeated nearly every setlist, highlighted by "Scents and Subtle Sounds," the
strongest of the batch, with its lengthy, major-key ending. And if all in
all, IT wasn't the musically-legendary festival some were expecting and
hoping for, it was still a damn good time.
Rumor had it that the gates had been closed mid day Friday to allow more
time for the crew to try to fix problems stemming from seven inches of
rain in the weeks leading up the festival. And walking over to the stage on
Saturday afternoon, it was clear what problems they were talking about.
While mud had been present in other spots in the venue, they were there in
moderation. However, there was around a hundred and fifty feet of mud
leading into the stage area, which only degenerated as the weekend progressed.
But most people took this in stride acknowledging that there was little the
band and or production company could have done. Perhaps a couple more wood
chips would've helped, but it would've only been a band-aid on a very large
As for the music day one…....lets just say it was mixed. Phish, at this stage of its
career, is capable of playing in several different styles, from ambient, to funk, to
rock. And depending on who you talk to, one fan's favorite show these days,
is another fan's least- most recently, the first Camden show is a good
example. But you'd be hard pressed to find someone who was not happy with day
one, set one. Highlighted by a fan-requested "Meatstick," its post-hiatus
debut, and the seventeen-plus minute "Ya Mar", the afternoon set was high
energy, and loads of fun. The jam in "Reba" is not to be missed, featuring
Mike's thumping bass, and even though the set's energy tailed off
a little towards the end, the set as a whole was great.
The second set began around 8:45 or so, as darkness had set in. Launching
right into "Down With Disease", tons of fans were still outside the gates,
entertaining themselves with the rides, the General Store, the food stands,
and, most popularly, the Live Phish Tent, where you could
burn an 80 minute cd of various songs from the Live Phish catalog, including
some from the three southern shows that many people hadn't yet
heard. "Disease" segued nicely into a perfectly placed "NICU", which was
followed by "Brother". Quickly played and high energy, "Brother" was eagerly greeted by many fans, even though the jam was relatively short. The middle of the set
slowed down a little, almost too much in my opinion, however a quick "David Bowie"
brought the energy right back up. Unfortunately, it closed the set, leaving fans with a sense
of unfinished business.
And then there is the third set. Depending on who you speak with, people
either hated this set, or loved it. Much like the first night Camden second set, it featured significant amounts of jamming, most of which
was done in the nearly thirty minutes of "Rock and Roll" into "Seven Below." While the first fifteen minutes or so were quite animated and intense, the remainder
became more ambient, and the energy decreased. But after moving into "Seven Below", Page and his layering, delivered on many levels and for many this was
the highlight of the first day. "Scents and Subtle Sounds" followed, although it featured
very little improv before moving, surprisingly, into "Spread It Round". Quick and to the
point, "Spread it Round" served its purpose, giving the band the opportunity to really close
the show out in style, however "Bug" did not necessarily deliver. Still the band pulled it out with a double whammy encore of "Dog Log" and "Mango Song", the combo of which
sent many fans off into the night perfectly happy, despite the ups and downs that permeated the
second and third sets.
The Tower Jam….......what can I say? I slept through it. I heard it
briefly when I was woken up to go see it, but between not sleeping much
after Camden and not sleeping at all the night before (due to driving) I
just couldn't do it. Did I miss an event? Of course. Was I moronic? Yes.
The second day was going to be better. That much I knew and the band
apparently concurred through a show highlighted by the second set,
including a "Ghost" to end all "Ghosts".
The first set was very strong and shouldn't be overlooked. "Saw It Again"
was an early highlight, as was "Chalkdust Torture," played in
a very, similar style and fashion to the experimental version down in
Camden. After "Wilson", which Trey dedicated to Kevin Shapiro, and
identified as being the "shortest Wilson ever" and therefore, "postable" (at
which point he made a motion as if he was typing on a keyboard), the crowd broke into a
LOUD chant for Fluffhead, a chant that will surely come through on the
monitors, and subsequently the Live Phish releases. Trey then leaned over to ask Mike what he thought, Trey returned to the mic and announced "Mike said No". The crowd laughed and began to playfully boo,
before Trey began the intro to Mike's Song, laughing the entire time. A
classic Phish moment.
And then came the second set. Easily the strongest of the six sets, it had
everything and more. The second set, on the second day has typically been a
strong set of music in the annals of Phishtory, notably the second from
the Great Went, with its glorious "Bathtub Gin". And now IT has its own
with "Ghost." The song began quickly after a run through of "Mellow
Mood", and offered some pretty concise jamming at the beginning but
shortly after, spun outward eventually landing in a powerful ambient jam,
lasting upwards of thirty minutes, illuminated by the crowd tossing around
thousands upon thousands of glowsticks in the mother of ALL glowsticks wars.
The band finished out the set in strong fashion with an absolutely
raging "Pebbles and Marbles", and a strong "YEM" with a vocal jam that ended
in "Chariots of Fire", while Trey introduced the top three male and female
participants in the Runaway Jim 5k Roadrace earlier. Presenting the first place
runners with a trophy cup, the band launched, predictably, into "Loving
Cup", closing out a rocking set on a high note, and leaving fans breathless
from a virtually flawless set of music.
Continuing Phish's tradition of NOT doing what even the most astute and
educated fans expect, the band opened the third set with "46 Days," leaving
those of us that were positive they would open the set with
"Fluffhead", flummoxed. Needless to say, "46 Days" rocked hard, at least for
the first fifteen minutes or so, before moving into engaging ethereal textures. that worked After clocking in at nearly 40 minutes or so, the band wound it up in strong fashion, as Trey
brought back the song's riff, and the band followed suit. "Julius" ensued, and just like the
Alpine Valley version, blew the doors off the crowd. Many fans around me,
who hadn't heard the Alpine version, and hadn't heard the song since way
before the hiatus, were floored by the guitar heroics. "Lizards" continued what was poised to be a stellar third set, however "Secret Smile" took
some of the wind out of the sails. Despite the song's length, at less that four minutes,
it didn't work, altering the mood unlike the ""Army of One" in the first set, which fit nicely.
Still "Secret Smile" gave fans and band alike time to breathe before the obligatory "Run Like an Antelope" closer, which left folks smiling pleased with a very solid day
"Good Times, Bad Times" encored, however it could've been any song, as most
fans were completely preoccupied with the fantastic fireworks going off to
the left of the stage. All weekend long, fans had been setting off tiny
sets of fireworks in the lot and in the concert grounds, none of which came
even remotely close to the all out display the band put on. It was a fitting cap
on a day's worth of music, and a weekend's worth of partying.
In the end, IT was truly a great time. The music, while mixed in
intensity, was still solid from start to finish, and was still better than that of
most every other band on the planet, which is, at its core, the reason
everyone went through what they did in order to get there. Fine,
it took me 22 hours to arrive and set up, but I loved every minute of it (okay,
most of it). Why? Because of the music. Trey joked on the second day that next
year would have no traffic. We all know that' s not true but we're all going to be there anyway.
Believe it or not, Dan Greenhaus is STILL stuck in traffic