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By Kent Brown
Chicago, IL

On a picturesque Tuesday evening in Chicago, Illinois, Phish came, Phish played, and Phish conquered. They performed before a sell-out crowd; rabid Phish heads anxiously awaiting the long anticipated return of their heroes: Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, & Jon Fishman. The band reunited again and back at it onstage, rockin’ and rollin’ like only they can do.  It was good to see them back together, and the performance that night certainly did not disappoint.

(credit: Paul Desman)

Everything about the show on that Tuesday evening in August was vintage Phish and classic Chicago – from the “lot” at Toyota Park, to taking the “L” train and the Pace bus from Midway airport to get there, (except that the venue is actually in Bridgeview, Il.). The parking lot was transformed from an uninviting slab of granite into marketplace full of vendors selling everything from homemade t-shirts, to glass work, to burritos. The infamous “lot” is a core ingredient in understanding the aesthetic of a Phish show, a band that represents more than music. They carry with them a way of life and a following that only a few bands in the history of rock can claim to garner. Many outside observers compare the Phish phenomenon to the Grateful Dead, which to be fair, I can understand, given the crowd, the “lot”, and the “jam band” touring mystique. That’s about where the comparisons to the Dead should end, however. Their music is really not comparable, except maybe that both the Dead and Phish can, at any given moment during their shows, rock out a ten to twenty minute jam. But that could also be said about a host of musicians, past and present. Anyone that attended a Hendrix show in the sixties or a Zeppelin show in the seventies could probably say the same thing. Those who have really taken the time to listen to Phish would probably agree that their sound is unique and completely their own. And that sound was on display again, for the first time in almost five years, with thousands of fans enjoying every moment.

For the veteran Phish fan, the Chicago show undoubtedly did not disappoint. For those who don’t know, Phish usually plays two sets and an encore. The concerts typically last for three to four hours. Their first set was solid – some new stuff mixed in with some classic fan favorites like ‘Gumbo’ and ‘Sample in a Jar’. A new song that Paige wrote was played for the first time, appropriately titled ‘Windy City’. The second set was simply phenomenal. ‘Carini’ really got the crowd going; a song almost resembling a Rage Against the Machine anthem. The mood quickly changed into dance when they started into ‘Gotta Jibboo’, and continued to rock with ‘Wilson’ and ‘2001’. Just when the crowd thought the set might close with ‘Chalkdust Torture’, Phish played on, with a stirring rendition of ‘Harry Hood’. It was well after 11 PM, mind you. ‘Hood’ is a concert favorite and livens up the crowd in a wonderful way as the song concludes. The time was approaching 11:45 PM. Surely they would close the show with ‘Hood’. Wrong again. The band continued into one my personal favorites, ‘Squirming Coil’ – another lengthy song with a beautifully orchestrated piano solo at the songs’ end, (credit Paige McConnell). A ‘Loving Cup’ encore was nice icing on the cake, which made for an electric Tuesday night in Bridgeview.

(credit: Paul Desman)

For this article’s encore, I would like to take a paragraph to applaud a group of individuals that rarely receive any credit or applause for their performances. I had a very unique vantage point for this particular show. My seats were located on an overhang that overlooked one of the entrances onto the floor section of Toyota Park. The section that I was overlooking was not an ordinary entrance, however. It happened to be the Emergency Medical Services team and also a gathering point for the concert security. I am fully aware that concert security is often the villain for many concert goers, for obvious reasons. I’ve witnessed security officers that take their assignments way too seriously, security officials who seem too overwhelmed, and security people who don’t really seem to care. The security at Toyota Park was terrific that night, and genuinely appeared to be having a great time while still performing their duties. The emergency medical team was equally impressive; and trust me, they had some difficult cases that night. From the band onstage, to light and sound crews, to the medical and security teams – Tuesday night in Chicago was certainly a night to remember.



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