As soon as the last note was played there was no question in my mind that 8/7/09 was one of the greatest Phish shows of all time, and likely the only show this year that could fall into that category.
I've listened right up until the Sally vocal jam which is where things really take off, and i keep hesitating to put it back on.
Will it be as good as i remember? Was the atmosphere so great that it felt like a great show?
The day after the show while waiting in line for Pollocks i got some confirmation in the form of someone i likely know from my biscuits years but couldn't quite place who had "been to 238" shows and called the first night of Gorge "in the top 30."
That's saying something...i guess...
But was it? Are we even comparing 1.0 to 3.0? Pop in a show from 97 and its a different band playing. The songs are the same, but the energy is different. The sound is different.
Many people are claiming 09 is the "best" Phish ever. Clearly they are misinformed, because the best Phish ever happened when they were at their best...91, 94, 97/98, early 2000.
The question really is, should 09 be added to that list of great years? Will we be looking back 2 years from now saying that this summer run was legendary, or will the vast improvement the band has made since Hampton continue? Will a possible NYE run blow this out of the water? Festival 8?
I like 3.0. I think the shows are interesting, full of energy (different on each coast, but still energy), and getting more and more creative by the minute.
The fact that we had a show like the first night of Gorge only increases the likelihood that we will get more shows on this level and THAT is why people keep coming back for more and more and more...
Part of me really wished that they sucked, so i could go back to my 04-08 vacuum cleaner mentality to music and believe that Phish was done and creative music would have to come from somewhere else.
But as you can read below, the third night of Hampton hooked me again, and it wasn't even that good compared to what we've heard since.
I am definitely approaching a moment when i will no longer be lucky enough to have the time or funds to travel extensively in search of a great show.
But it's never going to stop, BECAUSE of shows like the first night of Gorge.
So without actually completing a relisten, i will agree with Mr. Miner, and flatly state that this was the best show of tour.
Miner's flowery language is a bit more than i would use, but its the right idea.
This show had everything i wanted from a phish show when i was still awed by large coliseums and vast amphitheater lawns. Much like 4/3/98 felt, a great show unfolds slowly and can peak at any moment. When they opened with Disease after just playing it at Shoreline i knew something was up. It felt loose and fun. And that's how i remember shows.
The anxiousness that I'd felt at every show since Hampton was finally removed after this one. They COULD play a complete knockout show from top to bottom, and looking back, it was a huge relief when they did.
The proverbial dam that was holding back any creativity broke open that night and the water continued pouring through during the rest of tour.
But i think anyone who listens to this show, especially anyone who was there, will consider this a watershed moment of this tour, and of this year (so far). I don't think Darien's Drowned>Caspian, MPP's 46 Days>Oh Sweet Nuttin and SPAC's BDTNL>20 Years Later can occur without the variety of improvisation we heard at the Gorge. It had to happen, there had to be a show where they worked and worked and worked at getting that unbelievable connection back.
I will stop typing very soon, but for me, THE moment of the show is the calypso jam where they add vocals. Some will recognize that adding vocals to an amazing piece of improvisation is an old school Phish occurrence that we haven't really heard in later years.
But when they started singing together, pretty much out of nowhere, it felt like someone had flicked a switch. I'm probably mangling it, but there's a Gordon quote somewhere about the music coming from the center of his body (like a care bear, my visual addition) and blasting out into the crowd.
And that's what it felt like. It was as if the four guys on stage all held up their power rings or something and captain planet came down from the sky.
Everything was moving in one perfect motion and they sang in JOY at a feeling they'd likely forgot was possible to achieve. It was the musical equivalent of standing on top of a mountain and banging on your chest and roaring at the top of your lungs.