Gorge Amphitheatre – George, WA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito
Where I usually write reviews from my computer, we will make an exception and type this from gate B5 at the Spokane Int’l Airport (That’s my way to say excuse typos/grammar cause I typed this on an iphone). You see, this is not a typical Reverend Justito confession. This is a dream come true because I can now say I have seen Phish throw down at the Gorge.
99% of the time you hit the show, park, get inside the venue, rock out, buy the shirt and then head home. For this experience I got to Washington late Wednesday. Before the Subaru was packed for George, WA I had two days with the likes of thenaturalstoner, Phishbeard and ebrother on their home turf. I saw the campus of WSU, ate at Fazzari’s, took my first two visits to the state of Idaho and was chased by an eel in the Snake River. Ok so there was no eel, thenaturalstoner just wanted to get a good chuckle by scaring the shit out of the city boy and it worked.
We headed out from Clarkston, WA for the Gorge at 10am sharp Friday AM. For just about everyone heading west from Washington/Idaho border, this was their first time seeing Phish since Festival 8. During the three hour ride, fantasy setlists were dreamed up, past shows discussed and inside jokes that would carry through the weekend were born. For me, I enjoyed checking out the rolling hills and breathtaking canyons of Eastern Washington while laughing about Phishbeard and his hate of the song “Julius.”
We managed to set up Camp Jeff Winston in about 45 minutes giving us ample time to crack open a few beers and avoid the oppressive desert heat (shade tents are a good thing). We made new friends (word up Travis from Santa Barbara), took the lame jokes of neighbors too far (I’m sorry but if you offer used anal beads for $2 you better deliver) and anticipated face melting action from the boys.
Making the 45 minute walk from the campground to the venue on the first night, my heart was racing. I have wanted to see a show at the Gorge since I first heard about it during my first Phish show (07/31/97). As we finally made our way in, within seconds I agreed with every single person who shared with me the fact that photos do not do the venue justice. We hit the pit Page Side Rage Side and as the sun set beyond the Columbia River the band opened night one with “Kill Devil Falls.”
I was impressed at how deep the first set of the weekend was. “The Wedge” in the number two hole was a welcome treat and a final warm-up for the first extended jam of the night “Bathtub Gin.” When it comes to Gin and I they tend to be hit and miss, but this take was money. With this being my 21st show, it’s always nice to get to hear songs you have not heard the band play before. I got my first two of the weekend with “Nellie Kane>My Friend My Friend.” Nellie was fun but the treat was the “My Friend My Friend.” Decked out in my Iron Maiden inspired My Friend shirt, I was ready to start a pit as Phish mastermind Trey Anastasio conjured a devilish tone moments before the songs climax.
The first set continued to rage with “Cavern>Taste>Roggae>Walk Away.” I tend to feel “Roggae” is a boring song, but on this particular night it featured a slow smooth jam that I can’t recall ever hearing in the song. This unexpected jam made “Roggae” highly enjoyable. “Walk Away” was deeply discussed on the way to the Gorge so we all had our fists flying through the air as the foursome kicked out the rocking jam.
I assumed set break would follow “Walk Away” but we ended up with three more songs. “Funky Bitch>Roses Are Free>David Bowie.” I had to travel over 1000 miles, but as a rabid Ween fan it was about time I got to see Phish cover the pride of New Hope, PA. Set I ended with a raging “David Bowie” as the last sliver of light hung along the edge of the cliffs beyond the stage.
On paper, you will read that Set II kicked off with “Backwards Down The Number Line.” While it’s true that the band played it, anyone not celebrating a birthday on this weekend will inform you that a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll” kicked off set II. Not sure how long the jam stretched, but I can tell you that it may very well be the most insane bad ass jam that I have ever witnessed the boys play. From Page McConnell rocking a theremin to “Moma Dance” teases, this is Phish at their best.
Most of Camp Jeff Winston claims “Meatstick” had “Fire on the Mountain” teases but I don’t buy that. I do know the band once again sang the final section in Japanese and jammed effortlessly into “Boogie on Reggae Woman.” Then it all fell apart.
With the energy level high Anastasio dropped the band into “Farmhouse.” I enjoy the song, but you could feel the energy shoot out the venue and right up the Gorge. “Show Of Life” followed and where a dance party once raged, folks took a seat always keeping an eye out for those dead hookers.
While Phishbeard would disagree, “Julius” picked the energy up a bit. “Character Zero” is a balls out rock and roll song meant to fill big venues, however on this night it never took off. Perhaps if the band had a mid-level song between “Boogie” and “Farmhouse” (“Theme From The Bottom” or “Slave To The Traffic Light”) it would have worked. “Loving Cup” was the lone encore of the first night at the Gorge. After the amazing Festival 8 version, I feel as if I’m chasing the dragon on Cup and I’ll never see one as good as that again.
On the long walk back to camp, most fans seemed to agree that “Farmhouse” killed the momentum, but in no way would it ruin the weekend. There were pizza-dillas looking to be eaten just off shakedown, and we had a lot of partying left to do.
Click here for a recap of Day Two with Phish at the Gorge.