You either love neo-noodlers Phish or loathe every patchouli-drenched groove they kick out declaring them an abomination of bands like The Grateful Dead. On the last stop of his Northern Exposure tour, Phish front man Trey Anastasio pulled into The National sans gooballs, twirling broom skirts and parking lot revelry typical of his band's rabid followers.
The sold-out crowd comprised of clean-cut kids from the ‘burbs and a handful of crunchy bearded folks who get a couple of balloons batted up and around the floor. The scene creates a celebratory vibe before irritated stagehands pop the balloons, eliciting angry boos from even the kindest of hippies.
As the lights fell, the “smoke” and more balloons went up as a mop-topped Anastasio sauntered onto the stage immediately firing up a version of “Push On Til The Day” that the devout might call “porno-funk” with its fusion of effected, bluesy riffs and slapping bass. Without slowing the dance trance that had infused the packed crowd, Trey and company moved into familiar territory with“Sand” from Phish's most mainstream disc “Farmhouse” and eased into a timely cover of The Five Stairstep's soulful classic, “Ooh Child” as amber lights washed over the stage.
While Phish is known for its extensive jam sessions, Trey keeps things a little tighter. He doesn't hesitate, however, to improvise from time to time. After an eight-song set that lasted well over an hour, the beer lines tripled in size as folks refueled for what promised to be an equally amped second set.
Two songs in to the next go round, Anastasio delighted every phan with inclusion of the nonsensical jammer “Gotta Jibboo” leaving one sweat-drenched dancer to throw his hands up and proclaim, “I can go home happy now!” However, at least 20 minutes later he was seen crying “Woooohoooo!” as Anastasio rounded out the set with four solo acoustic songs including “Water In The Sky” and “Sample In A Jar.”
Having ventured well into what appeared to be the end of the evening, throngs of folks headed for the doors as Trey and the boys headed back for their encore. Eventually, even Trey looked a little tired as he squeezed out the last of “First Tube,” capping a night that justified why his fans are hooked and his band's anticipated reunion tour just down the road is sold out for three performances. One question remained as the masses hit the sidewalk in the chilled October air. “You got any tickets for Hampton, man?”