It's always great when, while on Phish tour, the fun that's had *outside* the show is substantial enough to make the show itself seem like the cherry on top instead of the whole damn cake. However, it's also even *better* when the show itself doesn't suck donkey balls, as night 1 at least kinda did.
So, Bend2. We wanted to fuel up with a good breakfast before heading out on the day's pre-show excursions, but the hipster-ish brunch place that was recommended to us had a fairly long line, so we went next door to Super Burrito, eating a hearty-as-hell chorizo / eggs / beans / tortillas plate. Walked through Bend a little, scoring an incredibly potent flavymilxxx at a Vietnamese place. The downtown area seemed very pleasant!
Salvador had been skiing on Mt. Bachelor previously, and had the idea that riding the ski lift up the mountain when it's snowless would be pretty sweet. (It was.) We hiked around the volcanic rock above the ski lodge at the top of the lift for a bit, enjoyins some amazing views before heading back down. Next stop was the Deschutes River. We walked beside the river for a bit, and while Salvador hopped in and enjoyed a swim, I chased a bit further down the path where the river became rapids, watching rafting tourists scream for joy. After this, we hit up Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint in Bend proper, which offered views of all of the (relatively) nearby mountains, including Mt. Bachelor, the Three Sisters, and Fort Hood.
Quick stop at the motel before walking out towards the venue again. This time, we moseyed into the Silver Moon Brewing Co., each of us ordering a flight. Not bad, but truth be told we enjoyed Boneyard immensely more the previous day. Afterwards, we walked up through Wall St. (which seemed to be kind of the "main street" in town), which we'd partially explored earlier that morning, before winding our way up to the venue.
I may not have done an adequate job describing Les Schwab Amphitheater in my previous post, so let's do this. 8000 capacity, nice big lawn, great sight lines everywhere. A river runs behind the venue, close enough Mike side so that both nights people were able to row canoes / etc. up and watch the show. Venue concessionaires consist largely of food trucks, as well as a couple of local breweries. We found the sound to be distractingly weak night one, understandable because the venue basically sits in the middle of residential areas and as such volume is likely limited by local ordinances. Perhaps most importantly (to us, at least) there was a water station over by the port-o-potties, providing a refreshing mist for those who wanted to cool off, and faucets so we could fill our water receptacles.
With another early start on hand, we snuck all the way up Mike side before set one, finding a comfortable spot only about 10 people away from the stage. We were rewarded with way stronger, clearer sound than night one, and, overall, a far superior show.
Set one opened with a standard-good "Stash," before launching into one of the evening's many debuts. Mike's "How Many People Are You" is an urgent, straight-ahead rocker, probably his ballsiest offering since, well, "Mike's," and among his best ever compositions, IMHO. An extended "Winterqueen" was next, at 12+ minutes likely the longest version the band has ever played. I've compared this song favorably to Television's "Guiding Light," another gorgeous tune with great lead guitar, and this version lived up to that. The Phish debut of Page's "Heavy Rotation" sounded rather awkward until the tune's rockin' instrumental section. "Get Back on the Train," one of my favorite first set songs, was extended slightly, providing the evening's first infusion of funk (and an EXTREMELY stealth "Streets of Cairo" tease).
Another first-timer, Trey's "Scabbard," seemed kinda limp and TreyBand-y to me. Doubt we'll see much more of this one, although that could just be wishful thinking on my part. "Maze" featured the most energetic soloing of the tour thus far, and although the jam never really deviated too much from typical "Maze" themes, it foreshadowed several more scorching type I jams that would pop up throughout the early portion of the tour. Up next came "Mercury," another new song, and probably the most promising of the bunch. The song structure seems weave several independent themes together, pastiche style, with the highlight being a great composed Trey solo over an interesting time signature. I liked this one quite a bit, although I agree with my pal Beafvy that it would benefit from some editing. (Perhaps it's telling that at the time of this writing, a week and a half later, "Mercury" has still not been repeated.) Yup, "Possum" closer.
Salvador and I settled for the second set a little back from where we'd been first set, extreme Mike side. "ASIHTOS" opened the second set, a song I really don't usually care for because it so often utilizes a kind of despondent, plaintive blues mode (similar to "Stealing Time") that I think Phish doesn't really do all that well. This version, however, found itself in wonderful major key, "soaring" territory similar to so many memorable Summer '14 jams. "Waves" graced similarly uplifting ground in its jam segment, before a flubby (but still pretty) "Wingsuit."
"Farmhouse" next was odd in this slot, dealing us the dreaded second consecutive set two ballad. The subsequent "Simple" is an absolute must-hear for fans of chill jams. This one gets funky while staying fairly minimal, with Trey employing a beefy, ominous tone throughout. A stark contrast and counterpoint to the energetic, firebreathing Dick's '14 "Simple" (my vote for '14's Jam of the Year). A smokin' "First Tube" shuts down the second set, with a rare "Gin" encore (first since 1996) providing a welcome surprise. All in all, a WAY better show than night one, with a little bit of everything, except new stuff, of which there was a veritable fuckload.
Post-show, we decided to see if there would be be anything resembling a shakedown. All reports leading up to tour indicated that on-site vending would be strongly discouraged, but what we found instead was a minimal police presence that was both overwhelmed by the foot traffic and seemingly appreciative that these visitors were largely peaceful. Plenty of beer / water vendors, shirts, posters, etc. etc. etc. were on hand, but what caught my eye was a booth where a dude was selling "Ghetto Lot Kids." After some bargaining (and laughing my ass off at his products), I found myself a proud owner of a complete set. Yay!
After shakedown, we continued walking back to the hotel, coming across a Phan-friendly cigar bar, where we enjoyed a couple pints before toddling off.
So - in summation - a very enjoyable show, with dramatic increases in energy (both from the band and the crowd), wonderful sound, perfect weather, and a springboard to the remainder of tour. We'd be splitting town early the following morning... deets to come!