Jones Beach Theater
Wednesday, July 4
Better than: Putting the freak flag in permanent cold storage.
"Goddard College!" Phish leader Trey Anastasio called out between verses during "Alumni Blues," the band's opening number at Jones Beach on Wednesday night, a rare onstage shout-out to the band's Vermont alma mater. Anastasio wrote the doofy blues-funk number around the time he transferred into Goddard in the mid-1980s, a school with self-structured curriculums that make Hampshire look comparatively square. The band members threw themselves into their obsessions, studiously following their curiosities through jazz, fugues, classic rock, improvised music, and intense practice routines, absorbing the idyllic weirdness of the place as they formed their identity. In a sense, Goddard thusly became the spiritual alma mater for pretty much every jam band formed in the past 20 years. Nobody to blame or credit but the wonders of progressive liberal education.
Wednesday night, during the second of two sold-out shows at Jones Beach, the Vermont quartet celebrated the birth of the nation during a pleasant evening at Robert Moses's cement and sandstone jewel, but mostly showed why they're Goddard's most distinguished alums (give or take David Mamet). Long before it became fashionable to hate Phishor even to like themthe band was blessed with a profound and palpable outsiderness, which they channeled into their music and made a successful career. This outsiderness keeps away many and draws others defiantly close. During the two set, three-hour show, the band did almost nothing to invite in the former, plenty to please the latter (plenty to confound them, too), and continued their decades-long battle with whether or not to let their freak flags fly. Sometimes, they flew.More »