Since the shows started there's been a lot of people asking which night of Phish at Hampton Coliseum was the best. Here's my attempt at an "answer." Take it for what it's worth.
All three nights were meaningful in their own right. Friday was a statement. We're back and we're not fucking around. They played the great classics and if you think hearing a Fluffhead or Divided Sky live is boring, then f. off dude. The Tweezer on night one was crazy. I've found that much of the energy doesn't translate on the recording because it was so tangible in the audience. When they laid into that slow funk it was almost like they were going to count it down like they used to and slow it down until they stopped...but they didn't - they just held it slow an even. When they started playing Stash I got lit up with text messages saying "Maybe So, Maybe Not," which makes sense considering I'm producing a film by the same name. Ron Kwasman, head of the Green Crew who I had finally met face-to-face earlier that afternoon, texted me and I remember writing back, "So far, so hood?" We got to hear that hood a little while later. I also spent a good deal of time just wandering during the second set, convinced that I could do betterthan my floor positioning during the first set. Afterall, I'm no spring chicken, so I thought a nice view from the upper deck would be nice, and in Hampton - there are no bad seats. I chose a tasty spot [above] 4th row on the Page Side/Rage Side and committed to going straight there on Saturday. Page was on from the get go on Friday and it turned out to be a good choice throughout.
Saturday = Night of the Noobs. Let me explain - it was a night that made noobs out of all of us early nineties Phish fans. They took a set list that on paper, I would have crumbled in a ball and thrown in the trash based on a few runs of songs I didn't know, and played it with the funk of the late nineties and the slow precision of the early 80's. They made me love songs I didn't associate with "my" Phish. Second set seemed like a blurry jam to me in a good way.
Sunday was the culmination of precision and jamming. The DWD 2nd set opener clearly said that we can still fuck it up for twenty+ minutes. The downside of Sunday is that we all knew some of what we were going to hear based on what we hadn't heard. Night one I guessed a few correctly, Sat. a few more, but Sunday I called Wilson, Foam, bathtub, AC/DC, My Friend, Maze, Free, Tube, Frankenstein, 2001, Moma Dance, Slave, Contact and Tweezer Reprise. It took away from the suspense a little, but not the enjoyment. I think for me Sunday was also the end of a very tough weekend. I had been up at the crack every day and asleep way too late. I held a camera and walked around all day for three days, and then danced until after midnight every night. By Sunday night I could hardly stand up and dance for the super jams. I'm sure many felt happy to be there all three nights and can't wait for summer tour, but are glad it it was over.
I’m not going to cal it the best, but overall I'd have to say I had the best time on Saturday night. There was a vibe. Maybe it was my seat or the crowd I was surrounded by. Everyone to my immediate left were a group my age or older, and I coincidentally met a bunch of people who I had been talking to about my documentary who pointed out even more people who I should talk to. They got down like real phans should. Andy Gadiel stood one seat from me on Sunday (in the same section) celebrating the return of Phish with the vigor of a 21 year-old super-phan. We all turned twenty again that night. The band made a lot of connection with the section i was in since we were right next to VIP and many in our section were still VIP or semi-important-people (depending who you ask?). With Page facing this section with so many familiar faces we got a lot of love and Trey rocked towards us frequently.
Saturday was one of those nights where you just have a memorable time from start to finish. I'll never forget the really drunk dude [right] I shared the aisle with, who turned to me after a fat bowl and said, "Dude....I lost your lighter...I looked for fifteen minutes - I can't find it; it's gone. You can have this lighter though," at which point he pulls out some lighter with a design on it I never got to see in the light. He says, "It's a lighter from Boston, it represents where I'm from and now you have a story." I said, "I will definitely save this lighter." As he swayed where he stood, he looked at me with drunken seriousness and blurted, "Save a lighter, save a life."
The whole crew I was with in the aisle took responsibility for the drunk guy who was dangerously close to toppling over throughout the first set. We all held down the aisle and gave each other and the people in their seats ample room to dance. Everyone in the aisle felt like it was their personal responsibility to protect each others' aisle space in a friendly way and to help all the seated fans safely navigate the very slippery aisle. There were several pregnant women and many double-fisted beer drinkers, and just plain old wasted people, who need help. When the first set ended. When the set break came we all parted ways and headed to refill our water bottles and get food, use the bathroom, etc. I was sure I’d never see the drunk lighter dude again. However, when I returned, slowly, the same exact aisle crew returned. No wooks charging our already tight-enough space. It was a small thing but pretty astounding. The guy who was sitting to my rights had forgotten to give me back my bowl before the set break – a fact I didn’t even realize until the start of the second set when I tried to pack it. However, he came back twenty minutes later and immediately apologized and packed it up for us. There was a point where there were about five pieces of glass from different crews in their 30’s and 40’s floating by. Everyone got their bowls back and we all just rode the magical wave of music. It was one of those nights that defines the positive connotation of “perfect strangers.”
It seemed like everyone I met on Saturday night had also been there Friday and we were settled in and ready to get high as shit and dance. I was in a very chill and mostly older section where we did just that all night. Sunday had a lot of people who hadn't seen Friday or Saturday and hence the vibe = best show ever. Still there were many who had seen other shows and the vibe was crazy every night. If you weren’t there when Mike came back for his Weekapaug solo with the bright white spotlight, or the sick Wolfman jam that can’t be given it’s due from the recording alone, or the Punch > Gumbo or the Ice > Haley’s Comet…..the set lists were surreal.
They played a show for every type of fan and still left many types of shows for us. They have reserved the psychedlic long-form ultra jam show, or the mega funk show, or a narrated Harpua type set, or dare I even say a gamehenge or at least a Forbin > Mockingbird. So which was the best depended on which 3-4 song runs you liked the most. Was it the crazy Tweezer - Taste - Possum - Gumbo? or the Ghost - Piper _ birds - Wolfman's - Caspian - Mike's - Weekapaug? or the Twist - 2001? Personally, I don't have to choose - I loved them all.