Phish closed out the Lockn’ Festival on Sunday night with a solid performance of mostly classic fare to cap the four-day festival that featured many of the top names in improvisational rock and roll. Phish’s headlining slot on Friday night defied the low expectations that often accompany festival performances, as Phish offered one of the most highly-regarded shows of 2016 featuring expanded treatments of fan-favorites such as “Ghost,” “Bathtub Gin,” and “You Enjoy Myself.”
Outstanding performances from many other acts throughout the weekend helped raise the bar for the finale, including standout performances by Umphrey’s McGee, Ween, My Morning Jacket, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, two different Phil Lesh and Friends ensembles (including one with Fish and Page), and two jaw-dropping late-night performances from Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Let’s turn to the action and see how today’s jamband heavyweight champ responded.
The opening half hour was uneventful, the proceedings starting a little after the scheduled 8:30p kickoff with “Sample” and moving through mostly colorless yet tight readings of standard first-set fare: “Martian Monster,” “Axilla,” “Moma Dance” “Halley’s Comet,” and “AC/DC Bag.” “Fuck Your Face” was the only mild surprise of the night, appearing for only the fourth time in four years. Both “46 Days” and “Limb By Limb”—interrupted by “The Line”—saw brief excursions beyond each song’s respective structure, though jamming in earnest would wait for the second set.
Photo by Scott Marks.
Intentionally or otherwise, “Possum” contained a little fake out at the end that tripped up Chris Kuroda, and the band closed the set with the always-fiery “First Tube.” Despite the familiar safety of the setlist calls and a lack of any meaningful improvisation, the set was tight and generally better than it looks on paper, with Fish driving an accelerated tempo throughout. There is nothing in the set that demands repeat listening from the seasoned observer, but the band delivered a quality penultimate set of the festival for the assembled revelers.
“Carini” kicked off the money frame, with a demonic scream from Fish signaling an early exit from the song structure. The desire to find a theme to latch onto was clearly evident, but the band found little solid footing or cohesion, leading to an early bail-out. Trey opted for “Chalk Dust” and a jam developed that stayed close to the song’s structure before it, too, was jettisoned in favor of “Twist.” After another exceedingly brief jam, Trey’s shaky vocals on the return to the conclusion of “Twist” suggested the long weekend may have been taking its toll. There was nothing wrong with the set to this point, per se, but collective hopes for improvisational expansion were dimming after three successive attempts at liftoff couldn’t find air.
Photo by Scott Marks.
“Light” stumbled out of the gate with a few cringe-inducing moments during the composed section, but that fact would soon be long forgotten as “Light” became the inflection point at which this set turned for the better. Fish—the unquestioned MVP of this show—drove the opening jam segment with Mike and Page locked-in to his side, providing a lush landscape over which Trey began to soar. A little over seven minutes in, Page moved to the Rhodes and led the ensemble down to a soft, melodic framework that would form the basis for the evening’s highlight, a slow crescendo to a soaring, moving peak. While covering familiar ground, this jam stands alongside Friday’s “Ghost” and “Gin” as the improvisational highlights of Phish’s set of weekend performances.
“Tweezer” capitalized on the momentum established in “Light,” with Fish’s insistence leading the way to a thrilling, highly-entertaining jam segment just short of ten minutes long. This isn’t exactly a “Tweezer” for the ages, but nevertheless packs a ton of awesome into just under ten minutes. If you are short on time and want to cut to the chase on this show, don’t miss the “Light” > “Tweezer” segment. Page takes the reigns—seemingly intervening in what setup to be a Trey ballad—with and excellent “No Quarter.” Chris Kuroda has seemingly found his stride with the new light rig on his traditional showcase, “2001,” much to the delight of those in attendance and watching at home. A delightful and touching “Harry Hood” set up the set-closing “Tweezer Reprise,” and the “Loving Cup” encore put a bow on this satisfying performance.
Photo by Scott Marks.
The weekend was curiously absent of any of the new tunes that will appear on Phish’s forthcoming album, but the performances were both well-above average, both for multi-band festival shows historically, and for 2016 overall. This edition of the Lockin’ festival has to be viewed as a decisive win, as attendees reported easy logistics and infrastructure, friendly staff and patrons, and four days of spectacular music. Thanks are due to Pete Shapiro and his team for offering the vast majority of the proceedings via a free webcast.
We now turn our collective attention to what has become one of the highlights of every year… Dick’s week! Have a great week and safe travels, we’ll be back with coverage on Saturday.
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