Every other year, because every single year would be too normal, band members Trey, Gordo, Fishman, and Page take the stage as Phish, one of the most significant jam bands of all time, at Washington’s Gorge Amphitheatre for a three day Phish Phantasy.
Phish has been known to be the “anti-band.” Just when you think that you know what’s coming next, after almost 35 years, even those who’ve seeen the band jam near a hundred times, such as the strangers I decided to fly across the country and take on the Gorge with, can still be taken by surprise.
After two long years since their Washington shows in 2016, the band returned to The Gorge. Allowing me to fulfill a dream I’ve had since I was a 7 year old kid at summer camp, where I was first introduced to Phish. Sixteen years later, Phish gave me three nights of everything I didn’t know I wanted and more.
I took the Gorge on with a few Phish vets, but none of us could have been prepared for the beauty that was the Amphitheatre. Extreme sloping hills that had me itching to roll down them led the way to a simple, yet iconic, stage, behind which the land drops off into the massive gorge leading down to the Columbia River.
Waves of excitement crashed over me as soon as the clock struck 7:30, a time the ticket read the show would start; a time I quickly learned was a seemingly everlasting 45 minutes before the band would come on each night. However, fret I did not, what I was about to experience was worth every second of “Waiting All Night,” both literally and lyrically.
Phish came out for night one with an opener of “Set Your Soul Free,” a jam that lived up to it’s title within the first few chords. Phish will make you feel some type of way through your headphones, and what I was feeling seeing it live had the stupidest grin overtaking my entire face. They transitioned into “Wolfman’s Brother” and later gave me everything I wanted with a near 15 minute “Simple,” reminding us all “we got it simple, cause we’ve got a band.” I wouldn’t dare classify anything Phish does as “simple,” but, if you say so, Trey.
Set two came in even hotter than the last with a 24 MINUTE “Chalkdust Torture.” Lead singer and guitarist Trey Anastasio pleaded with us all to let him ” live while I’m young,” and I’d never related to a 53 year old rockstar more than in that moment. The band “kept it rolling” and lit a “Fuego” inside of us all to continue set two.
Night one came to an end with a “Tube” into “Golgi Apparatus” encore, and the sadness that would later insue held off on the sole premise that two more nights were promised.
Day two began with “Party Time,” setting the stage perfectly for how the night would proceed. They got funky on us with “Weekapaug Groove” and had us begging for more with a set one closer of “Cavern.”
Set two, like the day prior, came in REAL HOT. The band came back on, and within the first few notes of the set two banger “Tweezer,” murmurs arose of a “Tweezer Reprise” or “Tweprise” encore, not to be had before transitioning after 14 minutes into their cover of “Golden Age.” Two songs, 27 minutes later, we were all at their mercy.
The end of set two brought the strangers I’d arrived with and me closer than you could imagine after a short 48 hours together, while Trey serenaded us with “Prince Caspian,” and “Rise/Come Together.” While I can’t say I’m traditionally a mushy person, night two had me in the feels for sure.
Those murmurs that came earlier soon became truths after an encore beginning with “Bug” quickly turned into the aforementioned “tweprise” we’d all been hoping for. It was hot, it was heavy, it had me holding my hat on to make sure I didn’t spontaneously combust through the top of my head out of sheer bliss.
Choking down the ascending sadness for an end all to near, we took on night 3. Nights one and two were had down in the pit, as close as we could get to touching some of the greatest musicians of our time. Night 3 gave way to a sunset that seemed to last for hours, setting behind the walls of the gorge below with what could have been a watercolor painting as seen from the lawn of what was voted as the “Best Outdoor Concert Venue in America.”
Channeling that “anti-band” feel, Phish slowed it down for night three, and set a mood that quite literally had me rolling around in the grass in happiness. “Birds of a Feather,” got us almost as good as did the cuddly, but muscular “Wombat,” in set one. They kept it going with a set two opener of “Crosseyed and Painless” into a dirty “Twist” with three separate songs weaved in out of it. I’ve listened to all three of these sets multiple times since seeing them live, and it still happily baffles me every time. Before I could actually “Split Open and Melt” to end set two, Phish gave me the song I didn’t know I needed with a “Fluffhead” that (almost) brought me to tears.
Night three’s encore of a lighthearted but heavy hitting “Wilson” kept the looming sadness away as a weekend I’d been dreaming of since the early days of summer camp came to an end.
The 3 day party that was Phish at the Gorge left glow sticks scattered across the most beautiful venue, and us feeling more than fulfilled. This summer has Phish touring for the first time in years; catch them (and me!) at their seventh annual “Dicks” for Labor Day weekend: a 3-day spectacle at Colorado’s Dicks Sporting Goods Park.