[Phish.net thanks Chris Vetoulis for writing this recap. -Ed.]
Living in this tube, we are safe. We are free. Our escape begins before the first notes are played. From the time our last moment of responsibility ends, our eyes suddenly open and we gaze in a world of fantasy, where our imaginations expand beyond the constraints of our day-to-day. The feelings weren’t forgotten, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude flows in as we realize we have the chance to do this once again.
Emotions surface from a combination of what has been and the excited anticipation of what will be as we venture out into the present - - one shoe in front of the other, with only one objective in mind: surrender innocently to what lies ahead. What’s the use of setting expectations, after all? Perspective brings wisdom that, just as we no longer seem at the center of our own universe, the band is no longer at the center of this tube. At the true center, it’s love it’s love, that binds us in a patchwork made only possible by the collection of its individual parts, drawn together for moments in time which, without each and every one of us present, would have been different tonight.
Almost 50 years to the date of its opening, Pine Knob would see anything but an ordinary Phish show for the band’s third visit to the historic venue that has played host to many, including the Dead for a handful of shows from ’80 to ’91. Thunderstorms expected over the venue with severe warning periods brought blowing rains, low visibility and a quickly moving blanket of clouds overhead with ominous uncertainty about how the show might be impacted. Gates were delayed from 5pm as all staffers went into a stay in place mode and fans poncho’d it on lot or waited in their cars, trucks, and busses for the lightning to pass. At 7:42 the east gates opened for a few minutes, letting some through only to close again for 25 minutes, teasing us. We never needed doors like this before and finally Phish's Twitter reported that gates will open at 8pm and fans with be treated to a single set experience. Shortly after 8, we would be making our way in. The rain wouldn’t let up all night and we were grateful to be heading to the pavilion.
Friendly, engaging, lovely people surrounded us inside. From Joe and his soon-to-be wife celebrating his birthday, to Paula and Wayne, the older couple whose son told them emphatically to check out Phish for their first, to the father and his young son, Gage, behind us, and Jason and Aaron who saw their last show 22 years ago, the room was filled with energy as fans discussed the possibilities… would it be a massive "Drowned" to open?? Others said "Water in the Sky." More and more smiles and greetings from the folks filling in around us brought tremendous positive energy before a single note had been played when, at 9:04, the house lights darkened, and the band took the stage.
After a few extra waves to fans and friends visible from the stage, Trey hints guitar metal effect toward an opening "I Never Needed You Like This Before," fitting perfectly after needing each other for an hour of rain and lightning delay that had kept us apart. No more false starts or walkie talkies could stop what had started now - we were off! "Needed You" was extra punchy as the band instantly establishes the confident tightness that has been building in ’22 toward a peak of light and sound at the end of the song.
Now that we have each other, Everything IS Right as we settle into our phish tube headspace. When our quartet gets into the early part of the "ER" jam, it’s clear the tone will carry a "set II feel" from the jump, signaling time for our bodies to adjust and groove accordingly. The opening jam takes different shapes, starting with a melodic higher tone. Trey and Page interplay from the grand before Mike starts to patter control from the bottom the moment Trey opens a door toward deeper low-funk grunge. Mike shifts effects from balanced, long tones into pumping funk with Trey following toward wah fills. Jon holds a strong frame from which the others can play with high hat tempo as the jam dissipates and settles softly.
"Kill Devil Falls" shows up next delightfully and humorously with the band and many of us having just got back from Cuyahoga Falls, draping our waterlogged clothes in the hall. Again, adding to the timing fit of "Needed Before," it's all making sense now and it’s an extra special 4.0 version of "KDF" which, by my ears, hasn’t recently created the kind of energy as some of its past performances (a la 10/30/10). But, tonight (….toonight!) it would reach that familiar higher peak and be the second type II escape, again starting with melodic highs and, at 9:05, enters an Allmans-like groove emanating below CK5s array of color. Taking my eyes away from the stage, I see exuberant dancing and smiling faces. I notice just across the aisle, a probably 10-year-old boy grooving hard, and it hits emotionally as I start seeing and feeling the show through his young eyes and feet. I stay in the joy of our collective legacy and the moment overwhelms my senses until I turn back to the band as they land "KDF."
"Camel Walk" is a welcome reprieve after a 31-minute "ER"/"KDF" combo jam punch and offers an early chance for concessions run, unsure when the next good opportunity could be in this atypical 1-set format. I take the chance and groove by the walking dancers up the hill. On my way back I hear the beginnings of "Stash" and I can feel its time to get back to the seats.
I love "Stash," as it harkens to my earliest Phish listening memories of the A Live One version and tonight’s fifth performance of ’22 was more powerful in the delivery of all of its parts than recent versions with a tight organized section leading up to the jam. Trey and Mike mimicked rhythms before Mike departs back to fill in the downs before Trey starts launching a rock and roll rocket of electric leads as Jon raps snare-heavy time. The Koa screams higher pitches into the air and Page tightens his tether with strong chord phrasing fitting beautifully into the moment. @9:45, Trey moves into a staircasing pitch walk up the board for three minutes with the other mates buckled in tightly. Mike pops off short bursting tones, cleanly filling all the holes until Trey is as far as the wood will allow and then ratchets high tone repetitions, hand firmly holding with wrist action signaling a peak. Page senses the end of the jam and collects the group back into key to close out a "Stash" worthy of comparison to other recent performances.
"Bouncin’" is up next, and, after its apparent 12-show absence, brought smiles to the faces of everyone in the pavilion and you could hear many singing along despite most vet’s history of tough talk on the song. I’ll say it... I love this song. Things seemed at their loosest on stage during "Bouncin’," with all the individual layers clearly present but not as synchronized as I think the band likes it, yet still finishes leaving smiles across the room.
Then, we move into a three song, old school, evilesque Phish sequence by setlist with fan favorites "My Friend, My Friend," "David Bowie" and "Carini," each of the jams finding positive major feels within their dark outer layers.
"MFMF" is played well and as we get toward the climax of the song, Trey assumes a devilish posture while stroking his guitar with scary hues from Chris. The countless eyes staring back at them, reveal faces in sinister receipt of the darker side of Phish, reminding us that light can only exists because of its alternative. Mike vocalizes a loud vibrato as he is taken into the darkness with us while wicked "MFMF" chanting takes this version out. Those waiting to see “will this include a MYFE ending?” abandon the stat as Jon starts "Bowie." Bigger things lie ahead now.
To the great satisfaction of everyone at Pine Knob, this "Bowie" delivers a super tight intro through the composed section as lights show Kuroda enjoying its nostalgic and clean delivery, too, being the one person in the room with less "Bowie" intimacy than only the musicians themselves. We dance along to their fun. Given this, when the creative segment starts, the community releases a collective exhale and prioritizes new oxygen before the build. I lean over to Wayne, (who for his first show is clearly taking a deep appreciation for what’s happening) and prepare him that he’s about to witness one of the most quintessential Phish build-up crescendos in the catalog. He returns a smile and turns back to the music.
The "Bowie" jam starts out familiar before opening up to tight Type 1 synchronization between Trey & Mike with Fish putting out controlled, stock bounce snare rolls in the distance. The jam moves into a "Suskind"-esque rhythm with bends that open to brighter guitar leads before hints of a key change. But, the blend hangs on for dear life only veering away slightly before Trey moves into the explosive finale and takes everyone with him.
Wayne would later exclaim about “that 'Bowie' song!” and it’s clear that our eldest new rager, our youngest new ragers and everyone in between are discovering our best kept musical secret… and we’re so appreciative that they get it.
"Carini" is one of the bands most rotated jam vehicles of 4.0 and starts with traditional red, evil hues as our newest on-lookers watch the versatility progress from 'tight composed' to 'creative improv' during "Bowie" into metal Phish rock. As has been warned, “"Carini’s" gonna get ya,” and tonight it does. Instrumental spaces open and the song careens toward major key high melodic feels with some more poppy bass until Trey switches down into deeper effects that take on a lower tone with Page tickling Ray Manzarek into the afterlife. Trey then opens up to higher pitched, soaring notes followed Page’s move to organs overhead as things slowly move to resolution with grungy Koa & bass distortion. Then, Trey begins something familiar, but our brains are so glued into the grunge it’s hard to recognize at first.
Trey signals "No Men in No Man’s Land" with the rhythm guitar lick in double time. The band obliges and drops into normal time all at once for an energy-filled 12-minute performance. "NMINML" transports us back from the ‘90s' departure of the last 55 minutes to 3.0 fast Phish funk -- clearly hitting “you’re happy that we’re here,” and our acknowledgement of having been “exposed to all the elements,” reminding us of our comrades on the lawn, still receiving water from the sky above. We let go and get footing as we approach the time horizon of a typical Mexico welcome set and toward the realms of top-five, single-set musical durations that exist in small company with King Cypress. It’s a fluttering array of interplay at the peak with spacey reverberations and some light harmonic loop work from Trey as Page takes on an assertive position in his rightful role as Chairman. The unbelievable work-out of Type 2 creativity that the band has laid down for the last two hours settles into fewer dimensions before turns to the opening "Twist" riff.
At first, and while likely feeling statistically “due,” "Twist" tries to take on precious time and is excitedly received through unified “Woos” from the audience. Maybe its placement is the band’s way of keeping us interacting with them deep into this lengthy engagement? Manzarek’s spirit channels through Page once more before Trey teases us toward reminders that “we’ve never met a man we did not forget,” bringing the few who sat for a moment of "Twist" reprieve to stand immediately again and bear witness, while syphoning fuel from the reserve tank we would’ve otherwise forgot, as recollections from Dicks ‘11 keep us smiling about the inside joke. It’s ok that Trey then collects us back to close "Twist." We already know who the ghost really is.
Earlier news of the Clarkston curfew and it being 11pm suggested that the next song would likely close the set and as the opening notes revealed, it would be "Drift While You’re Sleeping." At "Drift’s" appearance, the fans seem to let out a collective sigh as if the song might be insufficient to end this. “Not old enough”, “not big enough”, blah blah, despite deep shared respect for what’s arguably one of the bands brightest new compositions, brilliantly combining ballad, reggae, and exuberant soul chorus.
Some start to pack up their things and others begin to leave the pavilion.
As "Drift" snaps into its reggae bit the reception warms to singalong as some, even still, are getting up from their seats and making their way for the exits. Then…as only Phish can do…with it’s chorus, "Drift" more powerfully, more completely, and wholly conveys its lyric’s meaning. In stunning fashion before everyone’s eyes, the punchline hits on the backs of the few still leaving, knocking them down.
“We move through stormy weather, we know that our days are few” lands literally on our hearts and our smiling faces as friends, no longer strangers, embrace. Our logical and emotional senses combine to reach a new register, and in that moment it’s abundantly clear that there could be no better finale to this experience. Our full community basks in CK5’s center spotlight as the band takes their favorite position- alongside us. We are one and love carries us through.
After the band leaves the stage, it seems we’ve crested. What could possibly follow this up for an encore? In reverse order, "Possum" provides old school, unexpected and late post-curfew dancing and lights to finish us off but it’s what happened before Possum for the first encore song, that brings into focus a beautiful truth about the community we’ve become.
The band returns for encore and within a couple hours’ drive of Grand Rapids, where we all first met Jovi (a young girl who made a sign for Trey’s solo tour requesting to sing "Bug" with him on stage and he invited her up), Trey announces a dedication, and that Jovi was in the audience. As "Bug" begins, a spotlight shines on Jovi and her family. The band moves into the chorus, and Trey and Jovi lead us in her signature move, a full-arm fist to the sky with every “bug!” While raising our fists together with Jovi, we witness the legacy impact of the music on our younger community and also how our young ragers can influence it too. It was a beautiful tribute to where we are in 2022 as a family. We were overflowing.
Shout out to young ragers Max, Gage who shared in the groove at Blossom and at Pine Knob. And to Jovi! This run was more deeply meaningful because of you, and the future and our past we see through your eyes.
Rage on little ones. Our community love and music will live on in you.
Until our next escape!