“Control for smilers can’t be bought
The solar garlic starts to rot
Was it for this my life I sought?
Maybe so and maybe not.” -Anastasio/Marshall
Trey Anastasio impressed a lot of Jerry Garcia fans this summer with his well conceived and expertly delivered work as lead guitar player in “Fare Thee Well,” a tribute to 50 years of Grateful Dead.
I watched the first three shows via Youtube pay-per-view and felt that the first two shows suffered from a serious lack of Trey. Whether Trey was being overly kind and respectful, or being held back by Bob Weir is a question we can debate over beers. Whatever the reason, the two shows in Santa Clara lacked the confidence and cohesion needed to elevate the music and the people in love with the music.
After also watching the first night in Chicago, it was clear “The Boys” oiled their rusty gears and more importantly, they gave Trey the clear directive to step up, which he did to most everyone’s delight.
For a variety of reasons, I wasn’t interested in attending Fare Thee Well shows in person. I did see Grateful Dead in several large stadiums, but it’s something I stopped doing when the original band stopped touring 20 years ago. Now, I seek out shows at small outdoor venues, theaters and clubs where the venue itself is part of the package. The grassy park that is Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend is such a place, and with two nights of Phish to open the band’s summer tour, I knew these were the shows for me.
It had been 17 years since I last saw Phish (who took six of those years off themselves, first in a hiatus and then in a breakup). What a time to come back!
Phish introduced a handful of new songs in Bend. Old favorite or new to my ears, I liked most every song I heard. There was no aimless wandering. Everything the four musicians did, they did with purpose. This is mature Phish and I’m all for it.
Following the shows, it was awesome to realize that the code on my ticket stubs entitled me to a free download of the shows from LivePhish.com. I love not just the instant access but the leveling of inane hierarchies. In Grateful Dead days, you had to know a taper to get a first generation audience copy of the show. And so on down the chain…second gen., third gen., forth gen. Grateful Dead fans—like most every scene I’ve seen—can be elitist and exclusive in many ways. By providing instant access to a crispy soundboard of the show for everyone with a ticket, the playing field is leveled by technology and those who would use it generously.
Since returning from Bend, I’ve been buying shows from LivePhish.com that I attended in the 1990s. The Jazz Fest show in 1996 is one I recommend, if you’re looking for some new old Phish. I’ve also been listening intently to the lyrics and remembering how much I loved them in the first place and how fresh and brilliant they remain today. Trey’s prep school buddy Tom Marshall is the Robert Hunter of Phish, and the guy truly delivers lyrical gems.