October 18th, 2016 was the first of two nights of Phish in Nashville, Tennessee. These would be the only two shows of the fall tour that I would catch, once again proving that I sure know how to pick ‘em.
I flew in and cabbed to my standard dive hotel, a neo-hippie takeover Comfort Inn reasonably close to downtown. When I arrived I noticed a small group of people protesting in front of the hotel, waving around signs featuring home-drawn pictures of bedbugs and other unsavoury critters. Like I say, the place is a bit of a dive. I checked in and strolled down the street to buy some mix for my duty free. By the time I returned the hotel had obviously taken care of the pest problem; there wasn’t a protester in sight. I grabbed a glass from my room, settled into the busy pool area and started in.
I think I might have walked downtown for the show, I don’t remember for sure – perhaps I hopped on the free tourist bus – but I do recall being on foot as I approached the venue. With every step the faint rumblings of amplification grew until the soundcheck crystallized in my ears. “That’s funny,” I said to m’lady, “it sounds like they are playing Walkin’ Blues, and it sure sounds like Bob Weir singing.
“Do you think that’s the soundcheck we are hearing,” I pondered as we walked, our pace increasing, “or are they playing music through the PA?”
We kept walking, they kept soundchecking, and soon the two of us were convinced; that was definitely Bobby singing with Phish. Well now!
We cruised the lot before the show and bought some food and sundries (I got the coolest Steal Your Boognish t-shirt for a mere $20) and hung out before heading in. Inside the nearly-new amphitheatre we parked ourselves on the lawn and made friends with our grassy neighbours.
The band came out and got the place up and moving with blazing Chalkdust followed by a torturous Blaze. Then Ghost appeared, and man, all of us on the grass were ready for the Lawn Boy that came next. It almost sounded like hell was coming when they went into Halley’s, then they come at us with Sand!
I could keep this going, but how about I give both of us a break. Let’s just say the first set odyssey ended with a funky twilight run though of Also Sprach Zarathustra.
Of course the second set was the money when it comes to this show. After My Friend, My Friend (one of my Phish faves) the band introduced their friend Bob Weir. Actually, scratch that – as I recall nobody said a word of introduction. Come to think of it, I don’t believe that Bob’s name was mentioned at any time, even after the show. However, it was literally a case of a man needing no introduction. Bobby came out, they launched into Samson and Delilah and the crowd went completely nutballs.
It was pretty exciting when he stayed onstage for Phish’s Twist and even took the lead vocals on Miss You. And they kept going! West LA Fadeaway and then Playin’ In The Band (which was at one time my absolute favourite Grateful Dead song), with Trey on vocals! (Let Trey Sing)
Again without a word to the audience, Weir joined Phish for the encore too, treating us to a blissful version of Dylan’s Quinn The Eskimo. Bobby had sat in for basically half the concert and it had sounded great – by the time we filed out of the place and walked the two blocks to the Nashville strip the show had already become the stuff of legend on the interwebs.
M’lady and I poked our heads in on a Jeff Coffin gig but it was too notey and non-Nashville for us so we opted for a bit of honky-tonkin, stopping in for a beer and a song or two at a half-dozen bars along the noisy street. We found out the next day that we had left our seats by the door in one place just a few minutes before Trey and Mike had walked in. Too bad we missed them but it’s not like they got up and played or anything. It is interesting to note that Bobby wasn’t with them.
I bet he was out partying with Fishman.