Hey guys, let’s start at the beginning. I do not think I have formally introduced myself yet. My name is Ben Belden. I am from Birmingham, Alabama. I am currently in my fourth ( and a half 😉 ) year at The University of Alabama. I love skiing, mountain biking, backpack camping, and music. I think that wraps up the small talk portion of this intimate talk we are having here. Why has it taken me four (and a half) years to graduate college? That is a great question, and here is my explanation – I hate school, I would rather attend concerts or camp or hang out with friends or watch a riveting movie or watch two insects fight (for god’s sake). Basically, give me something that doesn’t involve school and I will complete it and love it. Let’s go back to that attend concert thing, ya I love to do that. Whether it is Plato Jones at The Booth in Tuscaloosa or Phish at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, I will be participating (if finances and travel cooperate of course). Phish at Bridgestone Arena, that was this weekend, and I was there. Nope this is not your same ole same ole album review, this is a CONCERT REVIEW! Not any ordinary concert review, this is the best band in the world, my personal favorites, the maestros of rhythm, the current day John, Paul, George, and Ringo (lol), the phamily from Vermont this is a Phish concert review. Shows number 2000 and “2001”. (and 2002, but I was not in attendance because I make semi-responsible decisions and I had work that next day.)

That semi-responsible decision-making process I was talking about above, let’s throw that out the window for a second. Phish Nashville Fall tour opening shows! Wow! Ever since I saw Phish in New York at the infamous Madison Square Garden back in July and the fall tour was released, the weekend of October 6th has been on my mind, and it was finally here. One word to describe my Phish fandom, early obsession (some might call it the honeymoon phase). My schedule has been cleared and I was ready for the voyage north to Nashville. I left work early that Friday and picked up my three “friends from college.” We arrived in Nashville three hours later hopeful, ready to dance under Kuroda’s Spaceship. What is Kuroda’s Spaceship? Chris Kuroda is the light technician in charge of live curating the light show to the exact specifications of the band, crowd, and vibe. This spaceship is unexplainable, attendance is necessary to understand the beauty. Luck was already in our favor with a lottery hit of early admittance. This means a buddy and me get to enter the venue before anyone else. But more importantly, this means we get prime placement on the floor. This prime placement – one row behind rail, Page (the pianist) side. Night one of the three-day run was upon us.

Night One

5, 4, 3, 2, 1. “Danger I’ve been told to expect it. I begin my descent down the cold granite steps … DON’T TAKE ANOTHER STEP! DON’T BLAME IT ON YOURSELF!” (stuffy-sounding Trey). A fiery “Julius” tour opener started us off great – high energy. “Julius” is not known as a show-opener, but it sounded right where it needed to be. A semi-long ten-minute “Back on the Train” followed, it was groovy and had its peaks. Trey’s iconic quick fingers were in affect with his high-pitched guitar. Jon slams the last word on the drums to end “Back on the Train”. The all-powerful Trey then speaks to his disciples for the first time of the tour, still sounding stuffy, he thanks all his phans for being in attendance, welcomed them, and expressed his happiness to be in the music city officially initiating the weekend. Now, I do not have time to review every song from every set from every night, so I plan to explain my personal highlights. The moments that melted my face (was it being non-sober or the talent, both for sure). The peaks I remembered the next morning. Starting with a first set “My Soul.” In my opinion, “My Soul” was curated for this exact set at this exact moment. I do not talk much during sets (maybe it’s the pure-concentration on the band or the haziness going on in my head) but I remember turning to the person to my right and saying, “wow this sounds bluesy as f*$k!.” Perfection for a southern, Elvis country, music city crowd. Page then slams a classic, enhancing blues piano line. I could have been mistaken to be in a black belt, deep southern bar shuffling with my broad if my eyes were closed. “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” is a new personal favorite of mine. Who doesn’t love a tune that gets the crowd involved. It reminded me of a “Hey Jude” by The Beatles, as we screamed back at the band, “This is what space smells like. You will always remember where you were” (Phish Nashville N1 Crowd).  Not going to lie, this tune put me in a fantastic mood. Whenever I hear that song, from now one, it will hit home for me. I will imagine everyone smiling, arms around each other, united, screaming. A “Run Like an Antelope” encore, show closer was satanic. “Run Like an Antelope” brings out the weirdam in humanity. It was glorious. The whole crowd’s circulatory system was in possession of Trey, Mike, Page, and Jon. I vividly remember looking to my right (as I was far left) and watching homosapiens act like feral, wild animals. It was pure chaos. Pure anarchy. All these moments were fantastic but the highlight of night one for me was the set two opener “Gotta Jibboo” into “Oblivion”. Alright, I have an extremely biased opinion towards “Gotta Jibboo”. This is a tune that got me into Phish. A tune I went two for two on (if you know you know). A tune I had a 100% success rate on for a short 24 hours. But even past my biasm, this “Jibboo” f*$ked (agreed by all). It was a consensus winner of highlight of the show. We did not deserve a transition into a 22 minute “Oblivion”, but we were gifted it. Night one was my second Phish show. To be fair, my opinions do not mean sh*t. I am a newby, but I do not give a f*$k. We are all hear for the same reasons. Like minded individuals who share a common love for Phish attempting to escape reality from this messed up world we live in for a little bit.

Night Two

Even if I was a washed-up vet, I am not the type of person to predict songs before the show or call them during a transition. I do not require this validation from my fellow phans, but I do prefer and want certain songs over others. “Cities”, “Gumbo”, “Split Open and Melt”, “Harry Hood”, “Everything’s Right”, and “Stash” are all songs I “seek”. Night Two delivered all of these. We all knew Phish would open with a “2001” for their 2001st show. Everyone predicted it, it was a certain lock. A lock of the century. Comparable to a David v. Goliath type beat lock. Well, we got it. A creamy 12 minute “2001” to open. What we did not know is that they would play four songs before coming back into the iconic guitar riff Trey plays for “2001”. A crowd pleaser “2001” is. Shadowed by the “2001” opener was the second song during set one, a Jimmy Buffet (RIP) favorite of “Gumbo.” Now (I keep saying now to grab the reader’s attention, look this is important to me. I do not feel like and do not have the brain power to come up with a replacement for now, sorry.) I got hooked on Gumbo from the 1999 version from Boise. Trey, in his oversized 90’s clothing, lays down the funkiest repeated guitar riff I have ever heard. I had to remind myself this is not 1999 phunk Phish. This is 2023 modern Phish. This song had sentimental value to me, and that is why I was seeking it. To get it on show three for me was asinine for such a rarely played song. “Stash” was sick. It’s quest seeking vibe is sick. The way it involves the crowd with sweet hand claps is sick. They way Trey screams in horror is sick. Everything about “Stash” is sick. That is all on “Stash”. Oh, also not to mention it was 15 minutes long. A set one closer “Split Open and Melt” was admirable. An encore, show closer “Harry Hood” was magnificent. The inclusion of the notorious glow stick throws during Hood brought immaculate vibes into the spaceship. “Everything’s Right” reminded everyone that it was going to be ok. But the highlight of the show for not only me but for everyone (Instagram posts from the run, included this very tune) was the Talking Heads classic “Cities”. Everyone knows it. Everyone loves it. Everyone sings it. A slower, relaxed version to the previous “Cities” during the seven-night Madison Square Garden run two months ago, it was still adored by all. Now (there it is again), Cities was another asinine showing on show three for me. People seek this one. Every “Cities” showing is historic from the Greek Theatre 2010 snythy “Cities” to the massive, hard seven-night summer 2023 Madison Square Garden “Cities”. What I am saying you should envy me for getting it on show three. The wait for “Cities” ended early for me.

Set Breaks

Do not get me started on set breaks. They suck. Why would you put thousands of spun wooks into a condensed cage, turn the lights on, and allow them to communicate. I understand breaks are needed for our mighty Phish, this section of the article just allows me to b*tch about set breaks. Lines to use the restroom are ridiculously long. Drink lines are long and on top of that a beer is $15.00 (f*$k you Live Nation). You do not want to know how long water bottle refilling stations (water fountains) lines are. Getting back to your friends on the floor is a struggling journey (if you are lucky enough to find them without being cursed at for “cutting” or knocking over a drink or stepping on hands.) Set break is a socially anxious, awkward persons worst nightmare. Why will I keep coming back to see Phish? I will keep coming back because the ability to socialize with people with similar interests in incredible venues shadows all the negatives of set breaks. The music is not too bad either. Phish really is a family. The love. The dysfunctionality. The playfulness. The connections. All these things are why Phish is a family and why we will always keep coming back. Alright the lights are back off, I got to go, DO NOT TALK TO ME.

Now that I have returned to reality. I feel like I live two lives, mediocre worker Ben and devoted Phish Ben. Roses, buds, and thorns from this past Nashville run. My rose is the ability to reconnect with my college friends and share experiences with them (for real it was that insane “Cities”). My bud is getting home and getting some much-needed rest (for real it is the next Phish run I get to attend). And my thorn is set breaks (now this one is for real).

Photo Creds: Me, Myself, & I

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