Never miss a Sunday show… so “they” say. Or if you must, at least read the recap! Let’s get right to the action from Sunday’s conclusion to the regular season portion of Phish’s summer 2015 tour at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
When Phish took the stage a little after 7:30, a few overzealous (and perhaps over-served) fans in the pit cheered for “Sleeping Monkey,” which was the encore the previous night. They responded with an extended full-band “Sleeping Monkey” tease, that LivePhish actually cut into its own track. But, no, this wouldn’t be a repeat of 6/18 & 6/19/10 when “Tweezer Reprise” closed a show and opened the next. A quick “Charge!” from Page and we were off to the races with “Golgi Apparatus.” “Golgi” has kicked off dozens of shows in its almost thirty-year history, though this was the first opener since 12/29/09 in Miami; “Golgi” was also a tour debut, having last been played last this past New Year’s Eve, also in Miami.
Photo © Merriweather Post Pavilion
“Golgi” yielded to turn-on-a-dime transition to “Undermind” that saw an energetic Page piano solo, followed by Trey taking a more relaxed turn at the helm. The always punchy “Julius” was a perfect energy balance for this spot in the show, and a great way to mix things up for a song that sees most of its action in set-closing or encore roles. Mike’s “555” was a bit of a stumble as the band seemingly couldn’t find the same page, with Trey finally showing at least a little interest for his late-song solo. The delightful Anastasio/Marshall composition “Nothing” was played for the first time since 6/7/12 Worcester (139 shows) and only the sixth time ever. “Nothing” is really a great song; if you don’t know it well, take a second to dig into the lyrics – ensconced! – and check out the original Amfibian version.
Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road
“No Men In No Man’s Land” continues to jump around in a utility role and found yet another great mid set spot here. It’s funny how soon many fans establish their preferences to how a new song is deployed, as many are already vocally lobbying for more “second set treatment” with the jamming jets open for firing. While “Blaze On” and “Mercury” are both very likely candidates for long-term residency in the Phish repertoire, “NMINML” is all but a lock for Rookie of the Year. “Stash” hasn’t “gone big” this tour, but this was an enjoyable version with an almost swingy and relaxed calm, contrasted with the more traditional big tension and release dynamic. Near the end, though, the “Stash” jam turned delightfully weird in the more classic sense and concluded with a sharp, punctuated peak.
A quick huddle with Mike and Trey resulted in “David Bowie,” with an actual full-fledged if mostly uneventful intro, something that is more often than not skipped these days. The composed section of “Bowie” was a little rough, but the jam more than compensated. The early part of the jam was slow, trippy, almost Floydian, then a shift to a bright major key, which has been very typical of Phish’s jamming approach this tour, though relatively atypical for “Bowie.” This excellent “Bowie” jam also featured a brief but clear flirtation by Trey, and then Page, of the bridge between “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider.” A smoking hot “Possum” put a wrap on this very good first set, with the last 40-minutes being especially vibrant and fun.
"David Bowie" – Photo © @tweeprise
Whenever Phish strings together a few great shows fans are quick to proclaim it “the best tour since…” or “the best tour in 3.0.” They’re almost always jumping the gun – they’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin's done. That said, one thing seems unambiguous, at least to this observer: first sets have made a notable and in many cases substantial improvement this tour. The floor is still pretty low (see Shoreline, Austin, Kansas City etc) but the ceiling has been raised a ton, with truly great first sets including Bend 2, Atlanta 1, Nashville, Alpine 2 and Mann 1. That’s a pretty big deal given where we’ve come from in recent years, so kudos to the band for what seems to be a conscious investment in making first sets matter; it’s working, and appreciated!
Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road
In a shocking development that sent overnight markets reeling, “Down with Disease” opened a Phish second set! If you just listen to the intro it may seem like a total trainwreck, but it seemed perhaps more likely a case of a little in-band joke, with Trey tweaking the intro line, “trying to stop these demons that are dancing in Mike’s head!” The “Disease” jam itself was solid if uneventful, staying close to the song’s vest in type-I space until the last minute or so when the “Disease” structure melted away with Trey offering hints of “Slave to the Traffic Light,” before they actually shifted into “Slave” proper. “Slave” was a great call in this spot and the unorthodox placement seemed to pump the song up with a little extra vitality, as it was more up-tempo than normal, very bright and bouncy, less lullabye-like, and very reminiscent of the 7/4/99 version in Atlanta.
The set is going well at this point, and those seeking the deep improv were thrilled to see the “Light.” This "Light" jam had a lot going for it, one potentially destined for greatness. Chris Kuroda was unleashing his full arsenal of psychedelic goodies and the band was purring along. Trey threw in a “Little Twelve Toes” (from Schoolhouse Rock) tease near the end, and we’re really going for peak liftoff, when Trey then deployed the fan's least favorite tool: the ripcord. The segue to "Twist" was pretty sweet in its own way, but Fish in particular was visibly pissed and expressed that through the transition (listen for his repeated, emphatic bass drum thumping, as if to say "no!").
"Possum" – Photo © @tweeprise
The last outing for “Twist” at The Mann was a 22-minute monster that many seasoned observers consider the best jam of the tour, so hopes were still riding high. But after a few brief minutes, Trey again shut it down, this time in favor of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Shine a Light” from Exile on Main St., the first Phish performance of the song since 7/20/13 at Chicago’s Northerly Island (91 shows). “Fuego” followed and had “under” bettors cashing their tickets early, as the jam segment of the song was omitted entirely resulting in the shortest performance of the song to date.
“Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” came along at just the right time to give this set a much-needed lift, a little Hail Mary to evoke the spirit of 8/8/98! This version was odd and kinda cool, slower and funkier than usual, with Trey riding the echoplex and Page getting up (so that you can get… up?) over Fish and Mike’s impenetrable chunky groove. “You Enjoy Myself” would take the set home. This “YEM” was notable for Trey replacing his “boy” scream with, um, “motherfucker”! The post tramps jam featured more Trey and Mike shenanigans with close-up jamming followed by a back-to-back balance jamming routine, before they both climbed up on Fish’s drum riser pre-vocal jam. A “Backwards Down the Number Line” encore still left more than ten minutes before the 11pm curfew, but that was all she wrote.
Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road
So, Phish fans, that concludes the regular season, and quite the regular season it was! Phish dominated from coast to coast, offering a roster of shows that will – depending on what happens in the playoffs – make a very strong case for best tour of 3.0. This tour contains what is either the best or second best single show of 3.0, Mann2 (better than “FYF”? Tough call), and a roster of heavy hitters that seem to match up well with the cream of fall ‘13: MPP 1, Shoreline, Blossom, Atlanta 1, and Nashville are all solid top tier shows, while Alpine 2, Atlanta 2, Mann 1, The Forum, and even Bend 2 from so early in the tour are all worth your time to explore. We’ve had new songs, great jams, excellence spread across both sets, all the while without any major weather issues or other mishaps.
"You Enjoy Myself" – Photo © @tweeprise
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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