[Editor's Note: this recap is by phish.net contributor Craig Hillwig –PZ]
Phish returned to Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood, Georgia on August 1, 2015 for the second show of a two-night stand. Heading into Lakewood, I had many questions. First, which version of Phish would show up? Other than a fine effort at Shoreline and select segments of others, the performances had been pretty hit and miss through the first six shows of the tour. Second, there was a pretty big elephant in the room. Trey’s guest performances during the Fare Thee Well run of shows sparked renewed and vigorous debate over whether Phish would – or even should – pay tribute to Jerry Garcia in honor of his birthday on August 1 (or of his passing on August 9 at Alpine Valley).
Photo © @tweeprise
After the exhilarating first night of Lakewood, however, the question on everyone’s mind was whether Phish’s follow-up performance would deliver anywhere close to the top-shelf effort that we were treated to July 31. All three questions would be answered on this night. (tl;dr version – (1) Phish brought it – big; (2) yes, kinda and (3) no, but that’s hardly surprising.
The first set kicked off with a crisp “Runaway Jim” that easily could have gone longer but settled in at 9:15. “Undermind” followed with Fishman taking the lead early in the opening, giving it an unhurried pace that provided Trey a lot of room to stretch out during the strictly Type-I jam. Judging from the first two songs, Phish was on track to possibly top 7/31’s well-crafted first set. But the set then took on a decidedly more pedestrian feel with “Nellie Kane,” “Blaze On,” “Halfway to the Moon,” and “Ocelot” – all-well played versions with a little extra mustard from Trey on the solos. During the “Ocelot” I heard Trey quote the melody to Joe Raposo’s “Sing” (a/k/a “Sing a Song”), which was one of my favorite jams from my Sesame Street days.
Photo by @hapstweet
As an aside, while many people were wondering which band would show up in Lakewood, your correspondent was even more curious about which guitar would show up. Trey has been switching guitars far more frequently this tour than I can ever remember. Typically, Trey would use the same guitar for the whole tour and often for consecutive tours. But heading into Lakewood, Trey had already switched guitars twice. From Bend through LA, he played what I call the “old koa” (circa 1996-98), “koa” being the wood used on the top of the body and “old” to distinguish it from the darker finished “New Koa” guitar Trey played for most of 2.0 and during 2012-13. You can tell these two koa guitars by luthier Paul Languedoc’s standard inlaid signature on the headstocks. Then in Austin he switched to “Puppy Marley,” the blonde-colored axe we all remember so fondly from the salad days of 1990-95, inlaid on the headstock with a picture of puppy Marley and the thought bubble, “Who’s the Mar-Mar?” It’s also the guitar he used for Fare Thee Well. But the Austin show turned out to be somewhat of a turkey. He switched back to Old Koa in Grand Prairie, and that was a much better effort. It seems like Trey may have been struggling to get comfortable, but this is just reading tea leaves on my part.
Photo © Phish From the Road
Come Lakewood, Trey switched guitars yet again to what’s commonly called the “Ocedoc.” The Ocedoc is a gorgeous piece of art with a deep, rich finish on a body hand-crafted from a rare piece of wood that Paul Languedoc had been saving for many years, and named for its custom ocelot inlay on the headstock. This guitar debuted at the Greek Theatre in 2010, and at the time Trey said it was his “magic guitar.” Ocedoc would be Trey’s main axe from roughly 2010 to 2012, when he went back to “New Koa.” For whatever reason, Trey chose correctly in Lakewood with the Ocedoc. These two shows were among Trey’s most consistent, confident and complete back-to-back performances of 3.0. I predict he’ll keep riding this cat as long as it continues to serve him well this tour.
The first set continued with a peppy “Heavy Things.” Trey played some “Happy Birthday to You” quotes during his solo which, in light of the “Heavy Things” song choice, easily could have been a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Fat Man’s birthday. The first set closed out strong with “Theme From the Bottom” and “Run Like an Antelope.” The “Theme” was a fairly standard first-set version and the “Antelope” was a shred-fest that brought the house down as it typically does. We as fans tend to make a lot of excuses for first sets, but there are none needed for this one. While the song selection was more heavily loaded with typical first set fare, everything was extremely well-played. If the rest of the first sets this tour are of equal caliber, I expect very few complaints from all but the haters.
Photo © @tweeprise
In this regard, the song selection in the second set was no different. While there’s plenty of room for disagreement over the set flow, the jams were abundant and well-developed with numerous modulations. Set two also took a decidedly darker tone, with lots of crunchy, raucous, testosterone-driven thrash in the jams. Things got real right off the bat with the second “Tweezer” of the tour, a 26:36 long stunner with liberal helpings of Type-II jamming. While lacking the length of the Tahoe “Tweezer” played nearly two years ago to the day, this version more than made up for it in girth.
Nor was this a blissful “Tweezer” – it was a filthy, nasty, wrecking machine of overdriven guitar, envelope filters, Taurus pedals, Clavinet, and the new kid on the block, Trey’s new Mu-Tron pedal. Trey relied heavily on the Mu-Tron at several points during the jam, and its pairing with the Clavinet on this song is a joy to behold. “Tweezer” reached liftoff for a more than few moments before settling back into the filth and then fading into ambiance, segueing into “Waiting All Night.” “WAN” extended the dark mood of the set until a heartfelt and raucous “Backwards Down the Number Line” brought perhaps the second paean of the night to Jerry’s birthday.
Photo © Phish From the Road
The darkness then returned in the form of “Carini,” which picked up where the “Tweezer” left off with liberal helpings of crunky grunge that arguably (but perhaps not firmly) entered Type-II territory, and which at one point sounded like it could go back into “Tweezer.” “Carini” was also loud. I was very impressed with the front of house sound in Lakewood, even during the loudest parts. This was my first time at the venue, but it’s wholly unsurprising to me that audience tapes from this shed routinely rival the best sounding recordings from any amphitheatre Phish has played. “Carini” faded after about ten minutes into “Waste,” a welcomed cool down with this now-rarely played classic. “Waste” came full stop and next up was “Sand.”
Photo © @tweeprise
“Sand” brought even more liberal doses of Mu-Tron and Clavinet, with Trey settling into the pocket early into a funky disco-inflected jam that more than hinted of “Shakedown Street” before resolving into a bombastic “Tweezer Reprise.” The “Tweeprise” was even louder than the “Carini” and was punctuated at the end by a massive detonation from Mike’s Taurus pedal that rattled my ribcage. The Velvet Underground’s “Rock and Roll” was unexpectedly tapped for the encore slot (first time since 6/4/09) and sent everyone home smiling.
All in all, the Lakewood shows were terrific, and reaffirmed that this band can still bring it big on consecutive nights. Don’t be the only one left on the block. See this band right now, as much as you can. The next show is tonight in Tuscaloosa... any wagers on which guitar shows up?
Photo © Phish From the Road
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
Official 7/31-8/1 Atlanta, GA LE poster by James Weinberg. Edition of 800. 18x24.
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