Wednesday 10/20/2021 by zzyzx


The last few weeks have been rough both personally and for the Phish community at large. I caught Covid after a Billy Strings concert and on September 28, I had to go to the hospital as I was having symptoms of hypoxia. Fortunately it was "just" the Covid creating pneumonia and the ER sent me home a few hours later, but in the moment it was terrifying. I didn't know if I would ever leave the hospital again.

The one cool thing that did happen from that horrible day is that Trey was tipped off that I was there and he sent me a message from his solo set that night, telling the story about how me timing songs and how I might not have been the fan that musicians dream about when they form a band, but ultimately moved it to a direction of genuine affection, a sign that Trey really does care about the community.

So after the drama of catching Corona, fearing for one's life, and then recovering, three weeks from the day of my hospital visit, I somehow found myself inside Matthew Knight Arena - on the floor close to the stage no less - about to see Phish. And what do they start with? "Down With Disease." And not just any "Down With Disease" but the 6th longest ever played. While I doubt it was intentional, that opener - complete with a few interesting themes, a "There is a Mountain" tease, and some very cool effects from Mike - felt like a perfect way to mark the end of one of the scariest chapters of my life.

Photo © Phish, by Rene Huemer
Photo © Phish, by Rene Huemer

After 25 minutes, the "Disease" segued into "Runaway Jim." Unlike the main character in the lyrics, this one stayed close to the main theme, it hit a very strong peak. Everyone can have their own headcanon as to what kind of dog Jim is, but in Eugene he was clearly a greyhound.

Phish is frequently about the contrasts. Formal song structures morph into an improvised jam. High energy songs wind down to a ballad. A heartfelt tune about losing one's sister can suddenly become a semi nonsensical track about llamas being used as weapons of war in a mythical land. So what better way to follow up a song about a tamed dog than one about a wild cat.

OK, I'm going to go on a digression here, but we need to have a little chat about "Ocelot." While I don't always share the hatred for certain designated songs, I usually can figure out why. The Ocehate though always confused me. The mid-song jam, while never particularly long nor "Type 2", usually goes to an interesting space. This version in particular reminded me of a good "Roggae," hitting a very nice peak. It's time to acknowledge "Ocelot" (or "Ocleto" as I like to call it after an amusing brain slip when I was writing it down on my setlist at The Gorge one year) as a completely enjoyable part of a Phish complete breakfast.

After the brief excursion to 2009, we were returned to the early 90s with a "Rift," "Horn," "Ya Mar," "Stash" combination. While the lyrical miscues in "Rift" were amusing - one great thing about the Phish community is that our default behavior to anything different, even a mistake, is to be entertained by it - I want to focus on the second pair.

One of the stories I always try to imagine is how the members of The Mustangs reacted when the first royalty checks started coming in. For those who have never heard this, "Ya Mar," is just a song that Mike randomly heard on a Caribbean vacation. He bought the tape and later Phish started performing it. Seeing how The Mustangs aren't exactly a household name here and Phish is rarely known much outside the United States, that must have been an interesting conversation. They might not know who Phish are, but they definitely know exactly when they play one particular song. This version was extra fun with some word play about grandfathers. "Play it for your grandpa Leo," exhorted Trey before Page's very strong solo.

Before we go forward, I'm going to go back. There are going to be nested flashbacks here people. Everyone hang on! Prior to the show, I went into downtown Eugene to get some tacos to eat in the lot. While I was driving to the Matthew Knight, I went past the Hult Center. Phish played there exactly 27 years and 5 months prior to this one: 5/19/94. That was my very first day in the Pacific Northwest. It was part of a trip that would cause me to move up here. While the show itself isn't the best of 1994, the "Stash" from the night is arguably the best one I have ever seen. I usually go back and forth between this version 9/9/99. So playing "Stash" in Eugene raises the bar. You can no more go through the motions with this than you can a "Tweezer" in Tahoe.

While it didn't hit the heights of the Hult, it did feel like they were trying to channel a similar space. Multiple times I felt it get to that intense, dark place that "Stash" can embody. It definitely would require a relisten to see how close it came; alas my Live Phish code is not yet working as of writing so this is going off of memory. Regardless, the attempt was made and the version played was a highlight of the night.

And then the other shoe dropped.

Yes, for me personally, Eugene was my first event since recovering, but it also was the first Phish show since the Chase Center concert two nights previous where one fan fell to his death and two others were injured in an unrelated fall. It was a terrifying event where even those who witnessed it will never able to completely forget. An obviously emotional Trey took a moment after "Stash" to acknowledge the injuries, the deaths, the connection we all have as a community, and how something like that would affect many of those who attended or even just were following the show on the webcast. It did feel like the energy from that night was coloring this one, but it became more apparent after Trey's comments.

Photo © Phish, by Rene Huemer
Photo © Phish, by Rene Huemer

The second set especially felt like it was in a dark, introspective area that they couldn't quite shake. If I were to describe the set with one word, it would be "weird." This wasn't going to be a dance party. The jams repeatedly went into space. At one point during "Twist," I wrote, "Dark but cool," in my notes and that feels like a summation of the evening. Even a reliable high energy song like "Blaze On" found itself in a quieter spot that was more reminiscent of "A Love Supreme" than its normal self.

Perhaps the quintessential part of the set was the penultimate song, "2001." While I have few notes about this due to the fact that I somehow found myself against the rail right in front of Trey during this (thanks Henry!) and - especially after Trey told the story about me timing up front - was extremely self conscious about picking up the clipboard, the ending of the song stood out. As they went into the second passage of the climatic build, the triumphant theme that is the centerpiece of the song, the release of the tension, they decided to just not play the peak. Instead they took it down, eventually segueing into "Sigma Oasis." It's a unique version. The ending will probably be a love it or hate it with little middle ground sort of thing.

For a show in the wake of a tragedy. "Drift While You're Sleeping," felt like the appropriate call for the encore. As they played the end section about the short length of time we have here, they were able to channel that into the very strong peak that the rest of the show was largely avoiding. It really was a night to reflect, a night to see where we had been, but - ultimately - a night to remember that we only have so much time here so we also need to push on and enjoy what we do have. It'll be interesting to see if that was the cathartic moment the band needed to push through on the second night of Eugene or if the introspection will continue and become a theme of the tour.

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, comment by Midcoaster
Midcoaster Thank you, David! This review is a great reflection of what was, I'm sure, a heavy night (following the events of SF). Listening to the Disease right now, I have to say, I'm glad you picked up on the "Mountain" theme. I heard that in the SF SYSF and in some other places during those two shows. Is this done to throw fans off the Halloween scent?

Phish is crushing it right now, despite (or in spite of) all the insanity of the past 18 months. Count me among the fans who are glad that Phish is still here doing this for us, and that @zzyzx is still here doing this for us. Your contributions to our understanding of this music are invaluable. Many of us are so glad that you're on the mend and continuing to contribute to the community.

Now, let me get back to this big Mike gooball of a bass bomb in that opening Disease. Oh boy!
, comment by yb0rc1ty
yb0rc1ty I appreciate you, David. Happy your healthy so I can keep reading your thoughts on Phish -- you're a tremendous writer, my dude. This is my kind of review. Brought me right into your experience. Thanks!
, comment by orome42
orome42 hey david, any idea if this DWD contends for longest first set opener ever?
, comment by icculusFTW
icculusFTW Tell me if I'm wrong -- but I believe this is the single longest opener in the band's history.
, comment by orome42
orome42 word is unofficially it is, w the second longest being the 6/10/00 DWD at 24:59
, comment by Slice
Slice Thanks for the review. I think it should be said that Phish did not need to speak publicly regarding the horrible SF accidents. The fact that they did says everything about who they are as people and their sense of community and family. It was powerful. And then to gather themselves and play a gorgeous Walls of the Cave was jaw dropping and a wonderful tribute.
, comment by phootyjon
phootyjon Thanks for the review. Well-written. I love the sidebar to the 1994 show at the Hult. That Stash had a major impact on me as well. I was hoping they'd take it for a spin again last night...and they DID. Love this band. Looking forward to this evening.
, comment by A_Buddhist_Prodigy
A_Buddhist_Prodigy Thanks, David. Your writing is great and completely captures the in your head and in the groove of a show like this. I truly appreciate all you do. Great work.
, comment by tubescreamer
tubescreamer I appreciate this review and directing me toward two fantastic stash: one I’d never heard and one I’d forgotten.
, comment by rachelmolly
rachelmolly Mr. Steinberg, I am so glad to hear that your hospital stay was brief and that you are on the mend! I actually heard about your having COVID while running into a friend at the supermarket. So, I’m glad you’re well! The Phish community wouldn’t be the same without ZZYZX!

Stash in Eugene, now if that’s not apropos I don’t know what is. And on a date like 9/9/99 wow.

Glad to hear all those cards fell into place for you in this week’s Eugene show.

Control for smilers certainly can’t be bought!

You wrote a great review about 10/20/21 which in its own way, too, has a numeric beauty.

, comment by JMart
JMart Zero problems with drift as the encore.
My wife and I were discussing whether they would address SF or not. I’m glad they did. And they did it as well as they could have.
Great review
, comment by GitDown
GitDown Really well written, and I’m so glad you’re back after that bout with Covid.

I’m honestly shocked I’m telling YOU this, but at some point in 3.0 (I think), it was finally learned that although The Mustangs’ version of Ya Mar is how Mike discovered the song and brought it to the band, those royalty checks you mentioned are going to a Cyril Ferguson. If you go to the history page, the original is embedded.
, comment by Jamesrduo
Jamesrduo Wait, arent you vaccinated, whats up with the hospital visit? Should you have really been at a show so soon after recovery?
, comment by rsmarg
rsmarg YES!!! They finally played I Never Left Home! Since the day Trey posted the video debut of this I've been eagerly waiting for Phish to get their hands on it. It exceeded expectations. I really appreciate how dark and spooky they made this. I've now listened to it four times and the chills get more and more intense. It is so easy to read into a song whatever one finds, but for me, this was the right song for the times. These f*in guys. Such pros!
, comment by setthegearshift
setthegearshift Have there been any repeats yet? I've been quickly scrolling through setlists/posts/comments and haven't seen anyone mention it - and while they are only 5 shows into this tour, they seem to be digging deep into the catalogue and doing lots of extended jams in non-traditional-jam songs (a la BD). Of course they could lead off with Free tomorrow night and this will look ridiculous in hindsight :D
, comment by EvenCarlSagan
EvenCarlSagan Hey, excellent write-up, David!

-from just one
never-jaded- noob,
that happens to be a phan of yours.
, comment by Mtnj08
Mtnj08 Great review! I've been a fan for almost 30 years, and a fan of .net since it began, but for some reason, just now registered on Back in the infancy of the internet, I would read Gadiel's page daily on my dial up, anxiously awaiting setlists and news!
I am certainly not questioning your extensive knowledge, but I heard Catapult teases in DWD upon 1st listen (prior to reading your review), went and listened to the Donovan song, and I hear that, too...just wondering if anyone else shared my impression.
Thanks for all you do!
, comment by Kriddaz
Kriddaz As my friends and I were leaving the Chase Center show last Saturday, I commented on how dark and gritty the jams felt that night, and also in Sacramento. My exact words were "I love when Phish gets sinister!" We missed the Sunday show because it was time to drive home to Eugene, but word about the accident got to us very quickly. We speculated if the band would acknowledge the events, and were tearfully thankful that Trey took time to talk about it. Ironically, our seats were in the 200's Row A, with only a very short concrete wall and tiny piece of glass keeping us safe from way up above. My crew didn't even dance, we mostly sat, and contemplated how easy it could be to fall. It was one of my buddies first show and as 2001 started I nudged him and said "just wait!" and then, when the final peak never came, I wondered if that was intentional, like we're not supposed to use this moment to peak. Maybe so, maybe not? But the emotions sure were flying high.... fast forward to last night, EUGN2 - did it feel like Fishman was trying to get the 2001 back, during Ruby Waves? I kept half-expecting to hear the final passage and the peak... but it never came.
, comment by topolewb
topolewb Nice review. Show had two distinct parts; pre and post speech. Weird is a great description for the post. The weirder, the better for me. DWD, Stash, and 2001 all stood out. Also, liked Plasma out of Blaze On (Debuted at Matt Knight). Thought Sigma Oasis sounded great as the closer for the night. Drift made sense for the Encore, but ultimately killed the Encore jamming trend prior to the Eugene shows. DWD was the boss of the night. Saw you from a distance in Eugene, but didn’t get close enough. Thanks zzyzx for the review.
, comment by disco_stu1973
disco_stu1973 @ZZYZX,

Your Phishy contributions are immeasurable and your review is excellent. Welcome back!!! Or should I say that it is wonderful to have you back?

, comment by nicuenjoymyself
nicuenjoymyself Awesome recap glad you are feeling better
, comment by MrSh0w

glad you're safe, David

- Dewey
, comment by PauperCaspian
PauperCaspian Glad to hear you’re alright ZZYZX, met you briefly at Magnaball after reading your memoir, really neat, serendipitous experience. Keep on going!
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