Phish fans and the symphony lot together in the Great Church of Country Music. What sounds like the perfect plot for an SNL short actually happened Saturday night at the famed Ryman Auditorium in Nashville when Trey Anastasio headlined Orchestra Nashville’s season-opening show.
Anastasio took the same 60-piece orchestra on a field trip to Bonnaroo in 2004, performing in front of a crowd of 80,000. It only seemed fair that Trey’s noodle-dancing pilgrims be invited into sacred confines more familiar to the golf-clapping elite. The result was a crowd gawker’s dream — dreadlocks and muumuus to the left, tailored suits and Coach bags to the right.
The first half belonged mostly to the orchestra, though Trey opened the show up front before moving to the back and then offstage completely. The second half featured the world premiere of Trey’s ethereal opus “Time Turns Elastic,” which he wrote with his new favorite collaborator, composer Don Hart. The piece had all the elements familiar to jam-band junkies: Anastasio’s wandering, whining guitar runs and spacey, nonsensical lyrics. When paired with the crisply performed orchestration, it came off sounding more like the theme song to a Disney film on ‘shrooms. It was ambitious, strange and wholly entertaining.
The normally famously restless Phish fans were polite and appreciative, giving the orchestra a raucous standing ovation and breaking out into a spontaneous “Happy Birthday to You” for Trey, who turns 43 tomorrow. Trey looking vaguely uncomfortable in a suit and tie, but there was no doubt that he had won over both his hardcore fan base and the Bach aficionados who were new to the party.