One night after the Fourmile Canyon Benefit warmed up the 1STBANK Center, Phish turned the arena into a steam bath. The band took the stage just after eight, and aside from two suites that were going unused, the 6,500 seat arena was crammed. The band opened up the first set (and their fall tour) with "Chalkdust Torture," with the entire arena singing along with the chorus "Can't this wait 'till I'm old, can't I live while I'm young" -- sadly appropriate for those of us who had to get up and go to work today.
The group then flubbed its way through "Ocelot", a slinky, blues-funk number off of its last release, Joy, before getting the room cooking with the eerie "It's Ice," adding a more worked section after the musical "fall-though-the-ice" segment in the middle of the song, before drummer Jon Fishman kicked it back into gear.
Keyboardist Page McConnell was strong through the first set, but really let loose in "NICU" - tearing up the electric organ on the uptempo ska tune until Anastasio ripped into the porno-funk of "Moma Dance." As the masses around the arena shook their asses to the Mike Gordon's thumping bass lines, light designer Kris Kuroda swirled colors and patterns around the arena.
The band seemed to really slide into "Stash" well, with Anastasio nailing the intricate composed lead into the song and taking the band along with him as he shifted keys briefly at the end of the tune before unfortunately abandoning the change and possible extended jam for the ending buildup that led into "Golgi Apparatus" to end the set. As a whole, the set was solid and had some clear highlights - but aside from solid playing by the entire band, most of the songs stayed relatively standard.
During the thirty-minute set break, I meandered around in a daze trying to find a place to cool off. Despite the cold rain and fall weather outside the venue, inside was more like a steam bath. Strangely, the east side of the venue was cooler than the west side - something I discovered while suite hopping. Downstairs, the packed hallways were crowded with sweaty bodies as steam mixed with errant pot smoke creating a muggy, thickness.
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Police and fire crews wandered through the crowd the entire night, and aside from seeing one kid clearly too spun on chemicals being dragged through the hallway, there didn't seem to be any other big issues. Now and then security would shine flashlights up into the isles at people dancing, but most eventually gave up by the end of the show.
Phish's second set kicked off with Anastasio's ear-piercing distorted guitar melody of "Mike's Song", with Gordon thumping away his lead bass lines behind. The 1STBANK Center might not have the best sound, but it isn't bad either. It's like a wide open Fillmore, but surprisingly, without a lot of the bass slap back that venue has. If anything, the bass sounds a bit flat and lifeless, but the room was still clear from every corner I found myself in - even at the back of the suites.
Drummer Jon Fishman held the band down as Anastasio and Gordon noodled over McConnell's organ swells, eventually leading the band through "Simple" and into the wah-wah funk of "Ghost," before wrapping up with "Weekapaug Groove" some thirty minutes later.
Pulling out a megaphone from behind his amplifier for "Fee," Anastasio inadvertently created a high pitched feedback when he crossed the front of the bullhorn with his microphone. The megaphone - used normally to create a hollow, distant sound for the vocals - became another instrument for Anastasio as he waved it across his microphone in the extended segment at the end. Out of the dissonance, the growing reggae swell of "Makisupa Policeman" emerged. Teased the night before by Yonder Mountain String Band while Fishman sat in on drums, Phish picked up where the Yonder guys left off - making reference to the growing fog of (no doubt medical) marijuana smoke hanging over the crowd in the always-changing lyrics (my notes are unclear and I haven't heard the recording yet, but it was something about handing a cop some "dank").
Reminding us that Monday morning rush hour loomed a few short hours away, the band went into "Slave to the Traffic Light" before wrapping up the set with "Strange Design" and a stretched-out "Julius." If I was a picky, obnoxious phish-head, I would complain that - while I love the Southern rock sound and shredding Chuck Berry guitar Anastasio plays in "Julius" - "Slave" would have been my pick to end the set, with its dramatic buildup by the entire band culminating in a "Day in the Life"-esque final chord left to diminish into the crowd noise. But I'm not one of those types.
The band encored with the Rolling Stone's "Loving Cup," a song that Phish might as well own the rights to by now - not only because it is one of their most played cover songs, but because they simply own that song. The band kept it short, though, ending before 11:30 and sending everyone out to the wet and welcome cold.
Click through for Critic's Notebook, complete Set List and download links.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: Aside from tonight's clambake inside, the 1STBANK center is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to see a show in Colorado. By The Way: This is night one of three. Please pardon any lack of coherence from here on out. Random Detail: Some asshat threw a full water bottle at Fishman's kick drum and hit it with a "thud" during the encore break, garnering quite a few well-deserved boos from the nearby section (and hopefully a hearty slap to the back of the head from whoever was behind him).
Phish - Night One* 10.10.10 | 1STBANK Center Broomfield, CO
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*Anyone who purchased a ticket for the show can log in using a code on their ticket for a free MP3 download of the previous night's show. Click link above or download individual songs for $.99 a piece.