[Editor's note: This Grand Prairie recap is by phish.net contributor Matt Burnham. –PZ]
On Wednesday, Phish played their first show in the greater Dallas area in seventeen years. Not since the hallowed summer tours of 1997 and 1998 had Phish graced this part of the country with its presence. In fact, up until the Austin show this tour, no second set had been played in all of Texas since 1999. After an unbalanced (and hot!) show on Tuesday, the band finished up their Texas Two Step by taking over the Verizon Theater at Grand Prairie. As Trey noted, the venue was about 20 miles east of his Ft. Worth birthplace, making this more of a hometown show and building extra anticipation among the crowd. Adding to this, the Verizon Theater is by far the smallest venue of the tour and acoustically without equal. And it was indoors and air conditioned providing a reprieve from the Texas sun and heat.
Energy is obviously very important when seeing live music. It's the unwritten communication method between the crowd and band. Playing in such a small and controlled space really seemed to energize the band – the energy and interplay between the crowd and the band was like nothing I've seen before. Feeding off of this energy really propelled the band on Wednesday.
Photo © @tweeprise
The band took the stage at 8:15pm and opened with “Tube,” possibly as a reference to the recently-deceased Harris Wittels who was looking for that next big “Tube” jam and for whom Mike wore a shirt in a remembrance that he posted to Instagram the previous day. “Tube” didn’t open up into a funk jam but instead ended quickly, as most 3.0 “Tubes” tend to do. “Guelah Papyrus” came next and the Trey/Mike interplay was on full display during the synchronized dancing parts. This dancing section continued through an energetic “Punch You In The Eye”; even Mike was smiling a bit during the “Landlady” dancing. “PYITE” wound down and segued into “Steam.”
“Steam” has historically been exclusively a second set song, but in its debut first set appearance here it was played with a first set precision; it didn’t lead into a jam but was extremely well played. “Poor Heart” and “NICU” were up next and were great examples of what first set songs can be. It’s very trendy (and factual) to say that 3.0 first sets are not as high quality as they had been in previous years. The thing about expectations, if you go into the first set of a show and expect to get a 25-minute “Tweezer,” that’s not likely to happen. A perfect first set shows the band is having fun, is tactically strong, and deploys unique song choices. Through these first six songs (other than “Steam” not existing at that point yet) this first set could have easily been from 1993 or 1994. “I Didn’t Know” was next and Fishman came out and did his thing, as Trey addressed the crowd briefly noting that he never thought he’d be twenty miles from his hometown introducing a man in a dress.
Photo © @tweeprise
“Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan” was next and led to the first set highlight, when the band launched into a stellar, soaring, sixteen-plus minute “Divided Sky.” During the pause, wave after wave of adulation and applause showered down on the band in a way that made Trey laugh and the entire crowd smile. “The Squirming Coil” was pegged as the set closer and Page’s solo was typically gorgeous and felt slightly longer than normal. Afterwards, Page made a “Thank you, good night” style joke before acknowledging they would be right back. There was a welcome and decidedly “old school” vibe to this very good first set.
Photo © @tweeprise
After the break the band harkened back to the song of 2014 and put “Chalk Dust Torture” in the set opener role. All throughout 2014, when “CDT” opened second sets, great things developed. This version carried that tradition forward, and as it descended into serene bliss, recalling the great 7/10/99 Camden “Chalk Dust.” As the unfinished “CDT” wrapped up, Trey started the signature lick to “Simple.” Another song that has been on a recent stretch of great versions going back to Dick’s from last year, this version wouldn’t be explored to great lengths, but again was well played. About six minutes in, Trey starts teasing around a riff that sounded like “Silent in the Morning,” and that was where the band chose to go. The only true (->) segue of the show was a nice one musically, although there was a slight hiccup in vocals. “Silent” was played well and as it ended, everyone was wondering what could come next… “The Line”
Photo by Patrick Jordan © Phish From the Road
“The Line” is likely to be the most maligned song currently in their catalog. But it’s a redemptive song, and like “Backwards Down the Number Line,” if these songs didn’t exist, then 3.0 Phish probably doesn’t exist either. “Birds of a Feather” – with the ubiquitous “They Attack!” quote – was fired up next. Although it’s not been one of my favorite songs historically, this version was pure energy and worked well. The stalwart “Fuego” was played rote to the album version and eventually moved into “Julius.” “Julius” is one of the songs that whenever Phish plays them, there becomes a new ‘best ever’ version. This was no exception as the band pushed the normal version a little harder and a little longer than normal. “Harry Hood,” the “other” song of 2014, closed the set in great fashion. Although not reaching the improvisational heights of many 2014 versions, this “Hood” was still enough to make everyone feel good heading into the encore. especially with Trey playing an extremely long note toward the end to allow the band to vamp around him in an extremely satisfying manner.
Photo © Phish From the Road
When the band came back out for the encore, it would be interesting to know what they had in mind. Regardless of their plans, they interacted with some fans in the front of the pit who had held a cardboard sign with “The Connection” on it. The band conferred, and decided to give it a go for the first time since 2010. Although it started a bit rough, they pulled it together admirably in the end. And as the only song of the show from the “2.0” era, it was appreciated. It’s been said before that “Tweezer Reprise” is the best four minutes in music. If that’s the case, then “First Tube” can be considered among the best nine minutes in music. Encores should make the crowd drop their jaws and leave the venue smiling. This worked perfectly.
Austin was a bit rough and uneven but Grand Prairie was among the best shows of the tour so far. Anyone who had any doubt coming into the show that the band had lost a step could rest easily. There may not have been much exploratory type-II jamming in Grand Prairie, but there was definitely enough of everything else to make everyone happy.
LE poster by Ken Taylor. Edition of 700, metallic inks.
Phish Summer 2015 – Setlists & Recaps
07/21/15 Setlist – Recap – Bend 1
07/22/15 Setlist – Recap – Bend 2
07/24/15 Setlist – Recap, Recap2 – Shoreline
07/25/15 Setlist – Recap – LA Forum
07/28/15 Setlist – Recap – Austin
07/29/15 Setlist – Recap – Grand Prarie
07/31/15 Setlist – Recap – Atlanta 1
08/01/15 Setlist – Recap – Atlanta 2
08/02/15 Setlist – Recap – Tuscaloosa
08/04/15 Setlist – Recap – Nashville
08/05/15 Setlist – Recap – Kansas City
08/07/15 Setlist – Recap – Blossom
08/08/15 Setlist – Recap – Alpine 1
08/09/15 Setlist – Recap – Apline 2
08/11/15 Setlist – Recap – Mann 1
08/12/15 Setlist – Recap – Mann 2
08/14/15 Setlist – Recap – Raleigh
08/15/15 Setlist – Recap – Merriweather 1
08/16/15 Setlist – Recap – Merriweather 2
08/21/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 1
08/22/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 2
08/23/15 Setlist – Recap – Magnaball 3
09/04/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 1
09/05/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 2
09/06/15 Setlist – Recap – Dick's 3
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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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