Phish’s sixth show at the William Randolph Hearst Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA since the famed August ‘93 tour closer began much in the same way the second through fifth shows did: incredibly long lines dotted by nitrous vendors, fans cutting in line at the gate and once inside, tarping large swaths of seats for folks nowhere to be found, and a general logistical failure in transporting the fans from outside the venue to the inside of the venue. Both nights this year have had such bad flux issues with the switch to digital tickets that can’t be loaded or verified on the overloaded cellular networks, that some staffers have resorted to just waving folks through once the posted showtime (6 pm PT) arrives. This of course has in turn led to the venue being overfull each of the first two nights. Doors opening at 4:30 pm instead of 5 pm yesterday seemed to help a little bit, but it still wasn’t great.
But, as usual, once everyone was in and settled and the pre-show tunes started (which included a nod to the aforementioned 8/28/93 show with a JJ Cale tune), all the annoyance from the run-up dissipated and everyone turned their attention to more important matters. Phish took the stage at 6:34 pm local time to raucous applause from the extra grateful crowd after Monday night’s elite second set, and we were treated with a rarity brought back in recent years, “Olivia’s Pool” (aka Slow “Shafty”). Unlike Monday night’s first set, the sound was dialed in from the jump - or so we thought - and the band sounded crisp and well-oiled. “Seven Below” batted second after taking last season off, and while the jam neither went too deep nor too long, Trey found a honeysweet high pitched tone and led the band through some beautiful melodic patterned play. Mike pushed for minor mode territory with his new bass, and unlike some spots Monday night, Trey heard him and followed, ultimately providing some time dilation action with one of his toys. My mind drifted back to Summer 2003 at the Gorge, where I witnessed possibly the G.O.A.T. “Seven Below” two months after graduating from the school in which I stood, a reminder that Phish has been really good for a long time and that I’ve been lucky to follow along for nearly 25 years.
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