Phish makes triumphant return to Telluride
August 9-10, 2010 | Telluride Town Park
Looking out over a crowd of roughly 10,000 people on the ball fields of Telluride's town park after tearing through a cover of Traffic's "Light up or Leave Me Alone," Phish's Trey Anastasio summed up the surroundings succinctly: "It's still beautiful here." Some twenty years after the band last played in the small mountain town, bassist Mike Gordon, keyboardist Page McConnell, drummer Jon Fishman and Anastasio returned for a two-night, canyon-shaking run. The band has a storied past with Telluride, as Anastasio recounted on the Tuesday night.
Back in 1988, the then-fledgling band from Vermont was eager to venture out past the Green Mountain State. Through a friend of a friend, a Colorado tour was booked and the band and soundman Paul Languidoc headed out in a rental moving van. Arriving in Telluride, however, the band discovered that the promoter hadn't actually booked any shows, so they spent the next week or so gigging around town at the Roma and Fly Me To the Moon Saloon to the same half-dozen people.
This go-round, obviously, tickets were a bit harder to come by. Even before I got to town, I was seeing people with signs asking for extra tickets at gas stations in Montrose and Ridgeway. The next day, my crew was walking past dozens of pitiful faces and fingers in the air outside of the will-call booth. We made our way in about a half-hour past the 5 p.m. doors and found our way up front to some friends who had been in line since noon. The place packed in over the next hour and a half, and people started getting testy over their tarp space.
The first set felt a bit like a warm-up, with a short version of "Down with Disease" to open and rough versions of "Cavern" and "The Wedge," but the band did connect on a few tunes like "Stash," "Possum," and Traffic's "Light up or Leave me Alone" - one of my all-time favorite Phish covers because of McConnell's boogie-woogie piano work. At set break, a lot of the crowd around us dispersed, making room for people on the fringes to come in.
By the time the lights dropped for second set, we were packed in noticeably more than first. Just as the stars started to blink into sight in the night sky, they were quickly outshone by light designer Chris Kuroda's amazing display when the band launched into the trance-funk of "Sand." Often referred to as the silent fifth member of the band, Kuroda does more visually with his array of moveable lights than just about any other band could ever hope to accomplish with even the most elaborate stage setups. Walking around the back of the venue, I could hear Gordon's thumping bass lines during "Tweezer" echoing through the streets of town, while the entire crowd boogied down in front of me.