This is the fourth in a 6 part series on my trip to Indio, CA for Phish’s Festival 8 at the Empire Polo Grounds. I’m only separating them out because it would be one long post to put it all together. They’ll be posted immediately as I finish them. I’ll link to my pictures from the festival in my final post. My other posts about Festival 8 can be found using the fest8 tag.
Sunday started with me waking up suffering from dehydration. Apparently, you shouldn’t drink a lot, among other things, while in the desert if you’re not also drinking a lot of water. So I woke up with tunnel vision and was barely able to move. I honestly thought I was tripping, having never tripped before, but I hadn’t taken any hallucinogens. After drinking about a gallon of water in a 2 hour period, I managed to pull myself together and headed to the concert field with the others for the acoustic set at noon. We were a few rows back on the Fishman side of the stage, but it turned out that they had swapped the stage setup. So we still ended up Page side, where we had been for all the other sets.
The band came out and Trey managed to talk everyone into sitting down (the power of Trey). They played a bunch of mellow songs and then busted out “The Curtain With”. This was the highlight of the set for me. The intricate composition played perfectly on acoustic instruments couldn’t have been easy. At one point (I don’t really remember when, having not listened to it over again), Mike asked if we were sitting because we wanted to or because we were told to. They played with some more mellow songs, and then Trey started up a rocking “Wilson”. The crowd was going nuts. During the break before the end of the song, he said how someone asked him to suggest that people sit down, but that he had ADHD and couldn’t sit anymore. They finished “Wilson” and immediately started “McGrupp”, another intricate song. This ended the set, but they came back for an encore (though it’s not officially listed as that because this was only the first set of the show) and played “Driver”, “Talk”, and “Secret Smile” before finishing up. It was a long set, but it was nice and relaxing. They really need to play more acoustic sets like that. It really shows off some of their abilities better than the electric sets. They also have a ton of music that is far more suited for acoustic sets. I think this was the highlight of the weekend for me.
We now had a lot of time to do hang out before the sets that night. I stopped by a Dry Goods tent to pick up a hat. For some reason, they have switched all their shirts from Gildan brand to American Apparel. While I understand the quality, softness, and ethics behind the brand, American Apparel only makes fitted shirts. They don’t fit people with broad shoulders, like myself. Even if I didn’t have a gut, I couldn’t wear them because of the shoulder issue. The sleeves are also tighter on someone built like me. So I bought a hat, mainly because they actually had a Festival 8 hat. I had wanted a poster, but they were selling for $50 and I really didn’t think they were worth that much. We then headed back to the RV and hung out there while we waited for the night sets. During this time, Nick, Laura, and Steve recorded an episode of This Week on Lot while we were all there, chiming in when we wanted.
We made it back for the night sets just in time. They were just starting “AC/DC Bag” as we were walking in. The first set had a lot of firsts for me that I had always wanted to hear live since I first started seeing them in 1997 – “Rift”, “Reba”, “Guelah Papyrus”, “The Wedge”, and “Undermind”. I was especially excited for “Undermind” as it’s my favorite song off that album and they had really funked it up the couple times they played it since returning. They finished the set with a strong “Split Open and Melt”. The setbreak was extra long. It felt like it was over an hour before they actually came back (during a normal show, they’re about 30-45 min, and the previous two nights, they were about 45 min). Because of my lack of sleep, I was extra tired and just wanted them to come back and finish up.
They finally came back for their last set. They started out strong with “Tweezer” segued into “Maze”. They followed this with a very strong “Free” and then “Sugar Shack”, one of the few songs off the new album that I had yet to hear up until that point. In fact, I think the only songs from the new album that were not played this weekend were “I Been Around” and “Twenty Years Later”, the only two I have not seen live now. The last big hurrah of the set started with “Mike’s Song”, which segued into “2001” segued into “Light” segued into “Slave to the Traffic Light” to close what I consider the strongest set of the weekend (acoustic set aside). They came back for the final encore of the weekend with “Grind”. They then started up “Esther” the one Phish song I have been dying to hear live since I first heard the song. They ended the weekend with a very strong “Tweezer Reprise”. This set is of note because they played “Mike’s Song” without a “Weekapaug Groove”, something that is rarely done and something that makes stats junkies wet their pants.
Everyone headed back to their campsites glowing after that set. We decided to come up with a plan to get our stuff together and get going in the morning, but we were going to party it up a bit. I don’t know if everyone partied or not because I fell asleep sitting upright on the couch in the RV. I woke up, kicked Matt in the head and wondered where I was. I laid down at that point and passed out for the night.