SHOW REVIEW: Phish
8.13.97 Starlake Ampitheater, Burggetstown, PA
By: Jeff Lockwood
This was the second show of the tour that I was able to see this year. Two days earlier, I was in the corn field ridden state of Indiana to catch Phish at Deer Creek. I wanted to stay on for the rest of the tour, but I do have a job you know.
None of my friends really like Phish and the ones that do were not able to go to the show here in Pittsburgh. My fellow employees and bosses could not be persuaded to go either. Their loss. I really enjoyed being there by myself.
I knew that the traffic through Pittsburgh was going to be bad so I left work two hours early and much to my surprise, it was not as bad as I had anticipated. After about two hours of sitting on my ass in the car, I entered the parking lot of the Starlake Ampitheater where I waited a little bit more. While waiting, alone in my car, to be directed to my parking space, I heard Poor Heart, Funky Bitch and the Earl Scruggs bluegrass classic Paul & Silas eminating from the concert pavilion. This was my little sign that tonite was going to be good. Aside from one over-happy youth walking among the traffic asking people to smile, I could feel an aura of hippie-like happiness. And I wasn't smoking marijuana.
The parking lot was a sea of smiling dreadlocked people vending everything from sodas and candles to drugs and hugs. It is sad to say that some of the people that go to a Phish show really do go for the festivities before and after the concert. What ever happened to going to see a band for their show? This concert was not sold out at first, but some of the hordes of ticketless people somehow got the tickets they were after and made the show a sell-out.
For me, the Starlake Ampitheater has been nothing less than a run-of-the-mill big metal roof with bad sound and overpriced beer. While the beer was still overpriced this evening, the corporate sinage disappeared when the lights dimmed and Phish hit the first notes of Elton John's Amoreena. My ticket noted that I had a seat somewhere in the pavilion, but it mattered not because the generally peaceful crowd just filed into the isles to spin, dance, and groove with the band. The security, who would usually be expected to shine flashlights in peoples eyes and tell them to take their seats, weaved in and about the concert goers without any hassle. The night was just as I had felt it would be. Fantastic.
Phish's first set lasted about an hour and a half. The band played everything from the leg slappin' bluegrassish, coutryish Poor Heart to the crowd pleasing Wilson which happened to have a tease of the Christmas-time tune Little Drummer Boy. They sure do play it all. New songs like Crosseyed and Painless fit right in with old songs like Silent in the Morning.
After a 40 minute break, the lights dimmed and Phish took the stage for another set that lasted for over an hour. It all began with Runaway Jim. There were a couple of new songs played in this set as well. Ghost had an interesting groove to it and it segued right into Izabella. Part of the Gamehenge saga, a musical story if you will, a song entitled McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, was also played. Also Sprach Zarathustra (the theme from 2001: A Space Oddessey) began the climax of the show. It eventually turned into Golgi Apparatus and finally Edgar Winter's Frankenstein to close the show.
One of the dumbest things in the world is the planned encore. In my opinion, an encore should be brought on by the fans, not management. Almost every band in the world does it. But since it is one final song, we all look forward to it. Anyway...the last song of the evening was Theme from the Bottom. It was a nice way to end the show.
Tonite's show displayed the diversity of the music played by Phish. You can't really find any band today that will perform an acapella rendition of Sweet Adeline alongside theme songs from science fiction movies. Even when the band screws up, like when guitarist and lead singer Trey Anastasio began to sing and extra verse in Runaway Jim, the crowd immediately recognizes it and laughs along with the band. Keyboard/piano player and vocalist Page McConnell, bassist and vocalist Mike Gordon, and drummer, vocalist, vacuum player, and dress wearin' Jon Fishman all blend humor, talent, and practice together to create a unique and very original sound that some people dedicate their life to.
No matter what band they are compared to and no matter how uncool you think they are, Phish are extremely talented musicians that let their music speak for them. Before you go comparing them to other bands, open your mind listen to Phish and see for yourself.