It has been nearly two years since I last saw the band Phish perform live and it was also about eight years after I saw them for what I was certain was going to be the very last time — I thought that they had broken up for good. I was back at the Jones Beach Amphitheater, only this time I had one of the worst seats in the place. I was just a bit irritated at first — I bought the ticket directly from the band’s tickets by mail service and I thought that after seeing them for 17 years that I would get assured a better seat than this.
In the time leading up to the show, I saw a number of people in their late teens that were talking about how many shows they had seen and unlike in the past, nobody had the slightest interest to speak with me. There I sat, nearly two weeks of beard growth on me — feeling like a genuine adult that had no appeal to the youth of the audience. I also felt incredibly alone. Naturally, a few days later I found out that a friend of mine would have gladly come with me had I told her that I was going.
The show finally began and it was with a song I did not recognize. My first assumption was that it was a newer song but this was not the case — it was the Little Feat song Skin it Back, and they had not played it since 1989!
The rest of the first set was full of songs that Phish have been playing for many years — some of my favorites, including Possum and Halley’s Comet. They also performed the Beatles song “Happiness is a Warm Gun” for the first time since they played The White Album in its entirety as a “musical costume” on Halloween in 1994.
The second set was similarly full of classic songs as well as newer ones, with plenty of exploratory playing in between. Here they are playing the songs Sand and Golden Age — twenty four lovely minutes of music.
So much has changed in the seventeen years since I saw Phish for the first time at the Jones Beach Amphitheater. In 1995, the patent for the MP3 codec had not been yet issued by the US Patent office and one of the most affordable ways to spread recordings of live music was by copying cassette tapes. Fans of Phish had been copying tapes since the early days of the band and I went to that first concert with a couple of blank tapes and an envelope addressed to my parent’s home in New Jersey. Sadly, the person to whom I gave those tapes did not send me a copy but I eventually got one.
Two days after I went to the concert, I entered a code that was printed on the ticket and received high quality MP3s directly from the band’s live music web site. Quite fantastic, really.
It was an enjoyable experience and I am quite glad that the band has resumed playing together and recording new music. I would recommend giving them a listen if you have the opportunity.