A sampling of thoughts from last night's historic Halloween gig:
Steve Paolini: Of course, I thought it was a joke. Disney's Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House? The entire Phishbill was clearly a joke, and reports were that the "album" had no – what do you call them? – "songs." My working theory was that this would be the Halloween the band covered an obvious album that literally everyone in the audience would know. Led Zeppelin IV... The Wall... Nevermind... Thriller. Phish had begun using the Phishbill in 1996 when they covered Remain in Light as a way of introducing the audience to musical costumes they might not be familiar with. This year had to be an album that needed no introduction. Because they sure as hell weren't going to play a bunch of sound effects for an hour.
Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish.
Of course, in true Phish fashion not only was it not a joke, but the payoff was better than anyone could have imagined. It was real, and it was spectacular. Ten original jams inspired by the Disney album titles. This was the kind of thing fans speculate about but no one really expects will actually happen. Maybe this was something Phish could have pulled off in 1998, but certainly not in 2014. Think again. It's really hard to overstate how far out in a limb the band put themselves (31 years into their career, no less). This could have been a disaster. Ten instrumentals no one knew during the most anticipated set of the year? Based on a freaking Disney album? And, at least for those of us unfamiliar with the original album, the narration had the potential to come across on the cheesy side. But the jams were so engaging it arguably worked better than any of the other musical costumes. One of the dirty little secrets of past Halloween performances is that, especially for fans who either don't know or don't care for the cover album, there's usually a portion of the second set that seems to drag a little. Not so last night. Not even close. The big question now is, will they play any of these songs again? Or was our trip indeed too short?
Photo by Allie Carson
Dan Mielcarz: What they are going to do tonight? Pavement? Allmans? Jukebox set? Then we see the Phishbill on Twitter. Nah, that's gotta be a joke. The essay is hilarious. They mentioned Houses of the Holy, is it going to be that? Maybe Slayer, that was in there, too. The songs could be Phish song code names? 10pm = iced coffee on the couch. Rage at Nugs during the first set, great Halloween theme to the songs once the stream is up. Fun “BBFCFM.” Good little “Wolfman's” jam. Setbreak. They are clearing the stage! Gravestones going up? Bono's Humility on a gravestone… haha! Maybe they are going to do this sound effects album after all. No, it'll be a Thriller cover or something. Lights. Sound effects. Where's the band? In a haunted house?!? They are going to do this album! Holy crap, they are going to jam this album! Ten brand new tunes? House explodes, band is in awesome makeup. They are facing each other across a square, totally locked in. Every tune is like the best part of an amazing jam. Oh, Page is controlling the narration and sound effects. This is so so so great. Can't believe I wanted Pavement. THEY ATTACK! YOUR TRIP IS SHORT! Think these tunes stay in the rotation? Best. Halloween. Ever. Best. Band. Ever.
Photo by LMo.
Jeremy Welsh: As descriptions and photos of the Phishbill began to appear across the interwebs, one was left wondering whether it was all just an elaborate prank. Because that seemed like something Phish would do. Pick a long-forgotten album from a certain age of fan's childhood and hold that up as the cover album. Hah hah, so really, what's the *real* album?
The evening took on a special life, as only Phish could do, when it turned out that it actually was the album selected for their 2014 musical costume. Sure, there were dancers and props and dead Esthers and Nutbags, along with an ethereal voice narrating surreal "spooky" tableaus. And yes, the band even dressed up. But it came down to the music. The individual grooves – I'm hesitant to call them songs – that highlighted the best of what Phish does. Each moment provided the Why for our infatuation. Offering up peaks or melodies that would *make* the jam of a night on a tour.
I was left wondering whose idea it was. Someone with a kid, maybe. Trey? Fishman? Who had the gumption to present it to the other three? During the playing itself, with Page in charge of the samples, it sure appeared that he was leading the way. But not until the encore, which asked “Is This What You Wanted?,” did I allow myself to think "Holy shit." Phish heard the clamor after the previous year's Wingsuit set and took fans' demands for an album costume to the extreme. And in doing so, gave us an amazing experience. If the joke really was on us, then thanks. I will take Trick over Treat every time.
Photo by LMo.
Tim Wade: Nineteen years after I first saw them, Phish continues to astound me. I was bewildered when I was told that the Halloween costume would be Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. I considered and rejected the possibility of a free form, set-long jam to these sound effects, and decided that they must be pulling our collective leg in order to maintain the suspense. I’ve never been more happy to be wrong.
Phish pulled off what is likely the greatest of their Halloween gags. It was certainly the most Halloween-y costume they’ve ever donned. The theatrics were topped only by the music, which was fresh and Phishy and completely, utterly sick. It also seemed to immediately pay dividends in the third set’s “Sand” -> “Tweeprise.” I’m one of the people who thought last year’s show was the most amazing Phish experience I could ask for, but I really wish I could have been there last night.
Take a bow, Phish. You deserve it.
Photo by LMo.
Phillip Zerbo: When fans sit around and shoot the shit about Phish, as we are known to do, we are often drawn to fantasy concepts for special sets or shows. “What if they did x, y, or z?” It’s an easy and fun game to play because the process is as open ended as our imaginations. As Phish’s 20+ years of special event traditions have evolved, the concept of an intentionally open-ended improvisational set has been deployed only on the summer gigs – Clifford Ball’s Flatbed Jam; The Great Went’s Disco Set; Lemonwheel’s Ambient Set; the Tower Jam at IT, the Storage Jam at Superball Icks. But even the most fantastical of the fan imaginations could not possibly have envisioned this.
Photo by Allie Carson
While last night’s inspiring, challenging, kick-ass funfest of a gig was rooted in the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House, rather than a “cover” in any traditional sense, Phish took over the concept and used the album’s sonic palette simply as guidelines into which they would deliver one of the most engaging, danceable, mind-fucking original concept sets in the history of mind-fucking rock and roll gigs. Make no mistake: this could have sucked. It was risky. What other performing act at this level takes this type of risk ever, much less routinely? With risk comes reward, and the bigger the bet, the bigger the rewards. In this case, ho hum, yet another unique artistic masterpiece that cements Phish’s legend as the greatest improvisational rock and roll band ever.
My Tier One of Phish Halloween gigs is now 1998 and 2014 alone. Lesson? Don’t miss Halloween in Vegas. Moving in to their fourth decade as a band (and my third as a fan), Phish still confounds expectations and leaves the jaws of even the most JadedVet™ drooping on the floor. We’re all going to be dancing, running, driving and banging to this set for another generation. Good work, Phish!
Lily Morton: what happens in vegas sometimes needs to be known outside of vegas. let it be known... last night's phish halloween concert was absolute magic, a spectacular trick and treat for all senses. happily i witnessed the halloween vegas event with my crew on the floor in my favorite spot. mikes side right side. zombies, zombies, walking corpses ohh my...
the haunted house set was aesthetically perfect as a inspiring canvas for ck5. i love the lighting of this set. chris kuroda brought it all on! lightning and darkness, scary, gloomy, light of freakiness. thank you mr kuroda.
when i saw the program, the album cover being chilling thrilling sounds of the haunted house, i recalled the record from childhood and figured phish would do exactly what they did... use the sounds as a backdrop launching into original jams. and the jams did not disapoint. i was floored literally the entire show surrounded by very crazy happy people and this being vegas, the phreak really comes out with phishheads. the energy in the room was intense and focused like fans at an arena all there supporting their home team with no one opposition.
each jam was spot on. i cannot recall a single moment of seaching awkwardness. each jam reflecting the concept of the track on the disney halloween record. we partied all dance hall down and about pounded that floor about... yea. i love phish phans... i stood next to "the dude" all bathrobe clad and sunglasses - "the dude" with his buddy, a sleak sort of white alien panda bear with white fuzzy slippers all claws. the phans brought it too. everyone looked fabulous, truly fabulous.
the third set was over the top fifth gear all the way like speeding down a desert highway without obstacles in a fly sports car. full force on with no breaks. tweezer into sand was so deep... so so deep. this is my favorite live experience hearing sand. sand is a composition i wish they would return to again and extend. the shift of sand to tweezer reprise was really hot. there was suspense... i remember shouting "do it. do it. do it!" this is the band i love and always will love. i enjoyed every moment of the entire event from the moment i walked in the door.
Photo by LMo.
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March 27, 1993
25 years ago
Set 2: Buried Alive > Halley's Comet > It's Ice > Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin' Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Poor Heart > Golgi Apparatus
 Beginning featured Trey on acoustic guitar.
 Fish on trombone.
 All Fall Down signal in intro.
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