Stateline will come alive this week with multitudes of peace-loving twirlers, bootleg-merchandise sellers and fellow travelers unafraid of letting their freak flags fly when jam masters Phish return to the Harveys Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena for a pair of sold-out shows.
After breaking up between 2004 and 2009, the July 30 and 31 performances see the band hitting a high note in their 30-year career. The band last played Lake Tahoe in 2011, dazzling enthusiastic crowds with a pair of outdoor shows at the same venue. The traveling circus that is an undeniable part of the Phish live experience is also a quintessential asset of the show, Phish singer and guitarist Trey Anastasio told Rolling Stone recently. Fans at Lake Tahoe might want to keep an eye on the singer to see how the performance is going.
“Live music is kind of gold dust, in a way,” Anastasio told the magazine. “You walk out there, it only happens once. You can record it, but that’s a different experience. If you listen to a recording of the concert, it’s not the concert. So you walk onstage and there’s these people standing there, and you can smell them and see them and make eye contact with them, and it’s pretty intimate. I know people say this, but I’m really saying it after 30 years: whatever state the audience is in on a given night absolutely, completely affects where the show goes. And I watch – that’s what I do. I look out and I watch, and I try really hard to make some kind of contact with people who are farther back. I look out and try to find somebody. Sometimes I look right at someone and try to communicate while the music’s going on. Sometimes I’ll kind of like focus in on this unlikely person in the audience. In fact, I might look at somebody who’s not looking, who’s looking over at a friend or looking up into the air.”
It took friendship to bring the band back from the breakup, a span that saw Anastasio arrested for drug possession and dealing with addiction. The return was a long journey, but it was one that saw the band producing some of its most-appreciated studio work on 2009’s “Joy,” according to a press release from the band.
“The road to Joy was full of bumps, delays, and detours, but the results demonstrate just how ready Phish was to work together again,” according to the release. “It is also a testament to four men with a life-long bond, who were always careful to protect their personal and creative relationships, even through difficult times.
“The four musicians never fell completely out of touch, and started to discuss working together again a year after the split, but wanted to be sure that they were really ready to get back in the game. They all stayed busy, working on solo projects and various collaborations and dealing with off-stage life.”
The members of Phish have said the greatest accomplishment of “Joy” is how effectively it conveys the band’s seemingly limitless variations and facets.
“I think it represents who we are and where we’re at right now,” drummer Jon Fishman said in the release, while keyboardist Page McConnell added “it sounds like us — and it’s difficult to improve on that.”
The Stateline shows catch Phish toward the end of their summer tour, with performances in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Colorado to come. Anyone looking for a tune-up to the Lake Tahoe shows can watch live webcasts of the band’s July 26 and 27 shows at The Gorge Amphitheater in Washington. For some decompression, the band’s three-night stand at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco Aug. 2-4 will also be streamed live. More information is available at phish.com. Following a break after their summer tour, the band picks up for a series of East Coast dates in October and November.