There’s something about West Coast Phish shows. It’s a more relaxed vibe, the people are more laid back, and there’s a more celebratory air. If you’re waiting for Phish to come on stage at Madison Square Garden, you might feel a little anxious and a little overwhelmed. Not so for Tahoe. Under a beautiful blue sky and surrounded by pine trees and adoring fans, Phish kicked off 2018 Summer Tour with a solid show—at times inconsistent, at times magnificent.
The band hasn’t played together in more than 6 months, but they didn’t take long to attempt to shake off the rust and find some grooves. Kicking off with “Free,” Trey went deep with the effects. According to Ryan from TreysGuitarRig.com, the nastiness we heard in “Free” was an “envelope filter into the Leslie rotating speaker, plus some gain/mid-boost from a Tube Screamer or the Klon.” Ryan also mentioned that “Trey got back into the Leslie in a big way during TAB tour, especially while Ray was out.”
Which brings me back to the rust. In the past 6 months, Trey has played with 2 different TAB configurations, Mike has been out with MGB, Fishman has been playing with The Mallett Brothers, and Page is recording a new Vida Blue album. It would be pretty natural for there to be some rust. But for guys this experienced and talented, they try so many different things in short succession to try and find something that works for everyone, which makes it hard to notice when they are searching for a groove.
For example, in the 3 slot we get a “Moma Dance” that always allows the band to get comfortable early on in a set. Like the Baker’s Dozen version, this was a 14-minute jam. Page drove this one, alternating between a few different keyboards. Fishman holds down the beat, and Page and Trey complement each other for about 9 minutes. Trey subtly led Page back to the main theme with some soloing over the piano. There were several themes in that jam, and it honestly could have gone on for 10 more minutes.
Wasting no time, they go right into a 16-minute “Ghost.” How many times will you see 3 10-minute+ songs in the first 4 songs of a first set? Probably not many (could use some #geekery here). This “Ghost” was patient and lovely, the friendly cousin to some of our darker “Ghost” jams. At one point it got quiet and serene, with some light groundwork from Mike and Page, and that allowed Trey to just burst through the door with a wonderful bliss jam.
(At setbreak, because it was just getting dark, they were trying to configure a new and improved light rig. That’s my pic you can see above. It appears as if people are getting beamed up into space. It happens. The new rig seems to be more mobile. There’s more movement, possibly another row of lights, and more dynamic shifts of the lights themselves during jams. It’s cool.)
Set 2 kicked off with a “No Men,” which I felt was a 17-minute jam that rarely arrived at any particular destination. Trey was having a great time with the effects, and his reworked rig provides some more aggressive, dirty sounding effects. There was good cycling through some thematic jamming, and landed on another bliss jam. This seems to be where the jamming is most comfortable these days. It’s a good place to be.
You knew “Soul Planet” was coming!! It was just a matter of time. This landed mid-second set, and it seemed like the band was having fun with the lyrics. The jam got serious, with Trey getting into the mutron envelope filter, which he’s been using since around Fare Thee Well. This was the most “dark” and exploratory jam of the night, with Mike driving most of the jam. This was probably the best groove they hit, which bodes well. We know that new material is refreshing and always pushes things a little differently. Seems like “Soul Planet” may be that song of 2018.
The set-closing “Harry Hood” was a delight. It seemed like a thoughtful, measured version. Some might find it too slow, but it felt delicate and perfect, like the atmosphere and ambience of this wonderful area. “Hood” is one of my favorite songs, but in recent years it often seems rushed or an afterthought. I don’t typically see it as a good sign if they play it the first show of a tour or run. But this one was patient and blissful. Trey leads us to a wonderful, thrilling conclusion as usual.
In a night of searching, they often landed in these blissful moments. While they seemed to be searching for some of the jams, in this environment, surrounded by natural beauty, it’s hard not to feel blissed out.
See you tomorrow for Tahoe2.
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