Review: Phish is back, and better than ever |

Review: Phish is back, and better than ever

Bryan Welker
Special to The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

TELLURIDE, Colo. – It was Aug. 15, 2004, at the Newport State Airport in Coventry, Vt. Halfway through the show I remember thinking, “It’s time for the boys to take a break.” Everything about the shows felt wrong – the weather, the energy, the music. It was to be the final Phish show ever. Phish was retired. Turns out it was just a four and half year-break – a time for the band to dry out and reassess priorities.

On Monday and Tuesday, Phish did something they had not done in more than 20 years – play Telluride. The last time they played there, the band was making its first tour outside Vermont. It was 1988 and no one outside their home state had ever heard of Phish.

Today, Phish 3.0, as they are called, is a totally different animal. Trey Anastasio has a new guitar and the band has a new attitude. Clean and sober, with families in tow, their future has never been brighter. The members seemed genuinely happy and the proof was in the music. The first night featured outstanding takes on their own songs “Julius” and “Sand,” and covers of Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone,” and Bob Dylan’s “Quinn the Eskimo,” their first performance of the song since 1999 and a real treat.

The solid show had fans eagerly awaiting Tuesday’s show, and they started with a surprise, “The Squirming Coil.” The second-set opener, “Party Time,” was also notable, seeming to set the table for great second set.

Here are a few things I took from the shows. Bassist Mike Gordon was on fire; it’s a wonder someone didn’t tear an ACL from dancing to his grooves. The designs by Phish’s lighting director, Chris Kuroda, are over the top. He didn’t have his normal rig set up because the stage in Telluride’s Town Park was so small, but the job he did was incredible. (Note to the fans: Leave your laser lights at home where your cats can enjoy them, because no one at the show does. Phish has someone in charge of lights and it’s not you.)

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