, attached to 2017-07-15

Review by NICU4LIFE

NICU4LIFE Northerly Island Pavilion holds a special place in my heart. My first time coming to Northerly was in 2006 when I saw Trey, Mike, and The Duo (GRAB), which was a big moment in my Phish history. So it was amazing that 11 years later I got to experience Phish play at the same venue. However, I have some major issues with the venue. First, while I am happy that they got the additional land from the airfield, the extra space is somewhat off centered from the stage itself. It felt like the lawn area was positioned too far to the left of the main stage. Since the old airfield land is next to Lake Michigan, it would have been hard to expand the lawn area to make it more centered to the stage. Also since the stages from the original venue space are still there, it creates an odd visual block to the overall venue. Of course, a universal negative of large out door venues where there is no slated area, it becomes harder to see the band/stage. But the universal plus of flat outdoor venues is that you can dance your butt off!

But there is a more serious issue with Northerly Island: getting in and out of the venue. The venue is past Soldier Field, the Field Museum and the Shed Aquarium. Only a small stretch of street and land connects you to venue, which is open and wide, but gives you very little space to leave and enter. Now picture close to 30,000 people coming into and out of the venue, it is going to get packed. There are only two entrances to Northerly Island, one for those who got pit and seat tickets and one for those who only got lawn tickets. My brother and I missed the beginning of the first song because the line to get into the lawn entrance was so long. It was also very difficult to get a cab after the show since you are not near any major streets in Chicago unless you want to walk several miles. Again, I am glad the Northerly Island expanded but I hope the owners of the venue realizes the major logistical problem of funneling that many people in and out and make some changes.

Now I did not like the opening song to show. STFTFP is a fine song, and I have heard high quality versions of it played live but it did not work well as set opener and brought in a weak tone for the first set. Stealing Time moved into to Moma, which is a great song, but The Boys goofed up. Page forgot to sing on time at the “up the rigging” section and vibe was sucked out of song. Not a horrific occurrence, again this is only the second show of the 2017 tour, but this wouldn’t be my favorite Moma of all time. After Moma, Phish transitioned into The Wedge, which was my pre-show request, and I was very happy. Wedge moved into Halfway to the Moon and then to Ya Mar and a nice groove was created. The Boys stopped but then played Martian Monster, which was the best song of the first set. I forgot how much MM is harder rock jam, which mixes some heady narration samples/vocals with a roaring guitar sound by Trey. However, when Martian Monster ended, Phish played Party Time, which was the worst song of the show. I like Party Time, it is a fun and silly song, but The Boys were just not playing it well. Trey was not hitting the notes so the song sounded off. As the rest of the set when on, a gentle Wingsuit led into a BATR and then first set ended with very strong More. Overall, the first set was filled with a few “hit or missers” but in many was it was almost like The Boys were getting out all the jitters before the entered into the magnificence and glory, which was the second set.

In my young and short history of seeing Phish live, this second set was the best Phish music I have ever heard. Now there are other shows that go down as my personal favorite shows, but when it comes to raw musical brilliance, this second set takes not just the cake, but the whole freaking birthday party! The Boys first start off with a new Phish song Corona, which was my favorite new original debut that I heard over the two days. Corona offered a nice bright spacey feel to the overall atmosphere. And Then Simple. S-I-M-P-L-E. When they first started playing, I was not thinking they were going to jump into a crazy jam. But the moment that happened, you knew you were going to hear something special. The jam started with dark minor key grooves, which almost echoed the sounds from the first sets MM. And then the segueing of Timber was a perfect addition to overall darker and heavier sound that was being jammed. It was as if you were travelling down a rapid waters, in the middle of the night, on winding and turning river, not know where the river would end but embracing yourself with pure excitement for what was ahead of you. The transition into Winterqueen was as if the raft splashed right into calm waters and there was a collective breath of fresh air and settling of peace that enveloped you with the soft sounds and gentle lyrics of Trey. I can’t stress how much loved the use of Winterqueen as nice respite from all the mind-blowing jams that were occurring in the second set.

The groove started heat up again with transition in to Light, which offered the characteristic build up jamming style that Light is known for. Then you were lost again into the crazy river of jams, which was Scent and Subtle Sounds. With no intro to the song, you really felt taken away by all the jamming. Page really anchored a lot of the crazy of the jams at this point, due to the awesome synth work. Waves of spacey, heady, and dark jams kept hitting you one after another which were continuations of the jams there were brought in by Simple. Then segueing into Cities was the punch to the face! Cities was the perfect song to carry the darker crazier jam feel that was being played out throughout the second set. It was also a wonderful ode to the great city of Chicago, (side note: while this jam was taking place you could see fireworks in the distance by Navy Pier. Truly Chicago was celebrating Phish’s visit!). Cities transitioned into Slave to the Traffic Light, which brought a more spacey and drifty feel to end all the craziness that occurred through this jam journey.

The encore was Loving Cup, which for me, is actually one of my favorite songs to close a show with since it such as rocking song and brings a lot joy to The Boys when they play it. In summary of night two, if night one brought in the meta-theme of nihilistic optimism and the balance of positivity in sorrow, then the second night jams were the music representation of that theme. The jams were dark but also light. There were moments of complete insanity but mixed it with gentle moments of calm. I heard now that this is the age of 4.0 or 3.5 Phish but whatever age it is, we are witness a remarkable display of Phish’s music.


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