The Gorge. Nothing quite like it on tour. The Gorge is like a mini-festival spread out over two days of bacchanalia. I have never seen a bad show at the Gorge... and I've caught all 14 of them.
Sure, it's a hike to get to George, WA and only the most motivated phans make the journey to visit one of the most solemn venues on tour. It's totally worth the time and effort. When I moved to Seattle in 1997. I missed all of Fall 97 tour. On the flipside, I caught a plethora of West Coast Phish including the first three runs at the Gorge (97-98-99). Although I had seen 30 or shows by the time I graduated college, Phish was probably my third or fourth favorite band (nothing could top the Grateful Dead in my eyes). But something colossal happened during my first sojourn to the majestic Gorge in 1997, and I was instantly hooked on Phish. I remember driving back to Seattle after the shows totally bumming that I couldn't stay on tour. By 1998, I was ready to become a full-time tour rat. A monstrous four-song second set on 7/17/98 (anchored by a 24-minute cosmic-space-funk version of 2001) stands out as one of the Top 5 sets of Phish I've ever seen (includes one of my fav Mike Song as well). I've been chasing that high-water mark for the last 15 years. As a result, I'm happy to brag that I caught every Phish show at the Gorge including 2003 and their only appearance in 2.0 and all three throwdowns in 3.0 (2009, 2011, 2013).
We wised up and opted for premier camping in 3.0. This year we were invited to join Uncle Ted's Seattle friends at "Camppossum." We all met up in Seattle and my girlfriend and I joined a caravan to the Gorge. We raided a Safeway in Cle Elem on the way (looked like the wookpocalypse in there) and finally navigated a clusterfuck of a line to get into the camping area. Our basecamp was 20-25 strong and everyone was a veteran of Phish tour and/or the Gorge. We had everything set up (including shade tarps and an Ez-Up to combat the 100 degree temps) within an hour and were ready to preparty.
|The ladies decorated the campsite with these furry things|
I cruised Shakedown and noticed hundreds of fans with their finger thrust in the air. I had not seen so many desperate heads at the Gorge scouring for tickets since the late 90s. The Gorge was not a sellout, but they were hoping to find cheap tickets. In this case, extra tickets were close to face (compared to 2009 and 2011 when I saw extras going for under $20). Washington state has legal weed (plus Cali and Oregon had medical weed) so Shakedown was flooded with nug-mongers. I sniffed some of the dankiest dank Lemon kush from a grower in Humboldt. I traded our SoCal nugs (XXX Kush grown in a former house used for porn shoots) for a couple shroom caramels.
The floor is where the party is at. We got a comfy spot near the soundboard and I was boomin' already before the boys took the stage. Standard Bag opener "Let's get this show on the road!"). Knew they weren't fucking around with a Timber Ho jam. Trey looked like a kid in a candy store and loved showing off his chops during Wolfman's. It was CK5's birthday and the band played a few notes of "Happy Birthday." I expected Bowie at some point (because Trey once mentioned that Kuroda requested Bowie every night because it's his favorite song to light). Trey pandered to the crowd of Seattle locals and revealed his Russell Wilson jersey and launched into a thunderous Wilson. He hopes the Seachickens play Wilson at home games this season. We finally got an extended Tube! They keep getting shorter and shorter (Chicago was under four minutes) but you know it's been bad ripcord city when I'm gushing over a 5:44 version of Tube. Yeah, Secret Smile is one of those weird 2.0 songs that never stuck. I caught all but one version of it and really dug the acoustic version at Festival 8, but electric? Not so much. At that point, I was outta my tits shroomin' and caught up in a fit of the giggles. Everything G-Rob said to me was fucking hysterical especially his reciting of the Secret Smile lyric "hold on..." G-Rob kept whispering "Hold on! Hold on!" and I lost it. He was dispatching sound advice considering I was on the edge of the abyss and radically gacked up so much that I was ready to topple over. McGrupp is an old-time favorite for sentimental reasons. They were rocking hard all set until the mellow pairing of Smile-McGrupp, which let a ton of air out of the show. As my girlfriend add, "Secret Smile makes Show of Life seem heavy." Love Leo on classic rock covers like Curtis Loew. The Melt to close out was the highlight of the first set. The sun had just gone down and it was time to freak out the acid heads by bringing out the Gimp for some after-dark occult shit.
|The Joker sent this to me...|
You can't sleep past 7am at the Gorge. I always say I'm gonna go to bed early, but I never do. I got up and restocked ice for the coolers. Glad I went early because the line a few hours later in Shakedown looked like bread lines from Soviet Russia in the 70s. I snagged a breakfast burrito and watched Miller/Ashu/Chad jam out in our campground. Awesome way to ease into the late morning than an impromptu jam session.
|Furthur II bus parked in Shakedown|
|Phishy humor in Shakedown|
|Saturday before sundown (pic by @change100)|
Set 2 was anchored by DWD. A giant beachball came crashing down from the lawn, which whipped the crowd into a frenzy. The boys got a lil bored and a lil lost with the DWD jam and slid into Undermind. They really stretched that out over the last couple of years. I guess they weren't prepared to play it in 2.0, but I dig Undermind because it's one of those rare songs when you can get almost anything (and go almost anywhere) with the jam out. Trey saw an opening after dragging everyone into the furthest cosmos and took an escape route through a wormhole with Light. The 2009 version at the Gorge still stands out as one of my favorites. I had one of those magical Gorge moments that time and have been hooked on the Light jam ever since. But we got a rare quick hook with Light. Gasp! A Light ripcord. But they went for a more funkified route with Sneaking Sally. Wise choice. Full-throttle funk. We got a quickie 2001 dance party but loved the UFO lights by CK5. The guy next to me was singing along to Walls of the Cave, especially the poignant moments, which brought him to near tears. Love seeing that at shows... when someone gets a song they rarely hear like WOTC. The last two songs of the set were plutonium -- Fluffhead and Antelope. I feared that they'd cheese out with a Show of Life encore, but the thunderous Good Times Bad Times hit the fucking spot. Big Red spooge factor was at its highest readings.
Watch the Gorge shows here. And for every setlist from this summer tour, plus links to vids and recaps, click here.