The legion of neo-hippies and others who crowded into the Greek Theatre on Friday night looked suspiciously like survivors of the Deadhead caravan. Their search for good vibes led them directly to Phish.
As fans in tie-dye and granny dresses did the frantic hippie shake in the aisles, Phish grooved through its upbeat mix of folk-rock, funk, jazz and progressive rock(!) elements. Outside the sold-out amphitheater, meanwhile, it was like the streets of some starving nation, except that the hundreds of disheveled souls were begging for tickets , not food.
On Friday, those Phish-heads who got tickets were rewarded with a three-hour show of significantly more energy than the Dead had offered in recent years. And the music had a sometimes tropical flair, as on "Yamar," a tune from its bar-band days in Vermont.
The quartet's long moments of improvisation were pleasant enough, but rarely reflected any emotion heavier than upbeat playfulness. Coltrane this ain't. Phish was most successful when the jamming was kept to traditional pop elements: bluesy guitar, barrelhouse boogie piano, etc.
That element of playfulness grew as the night wore on, beginning with guitarist Trey Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon performing a tune while bouncing on trampolines. Later, drummer Jon Fishman (who spent the night in a dress) led the band in the barbershop favorite "Sweet Adeline" and, later, Aerosmith's "Cryin'."
The band's other choices for cover tunes were just as surprising, including a decent show-closing rendition of "A Day in the Life," which is a good trick for any band, and indicates Phish isn't just for hippies.