[We'd like to thank Dianna Hank, @Dianna_2Ns, for recapping last night's show - ed.]
Last night at the hot and humid Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park in Alpharetta, GA, Phish threw down an absolute scorcher of a show -- one that most fans will probably agree (Imagine? Phish fans agreeing on something??) is the show of the summer thus far.
Being my first time seeing “Southern” Phish (excluding Miami & New Orleans, because those aren’t really the South I’m talking about), I was unsure of what to expect from the whole experience. I knew from prior tours that, more often than not, the band seems to bring a certain special something to their 3-night runs down in Georgia, which is why I wanted to cross this trip off my list in the first place.Arriving on lot was a bit of a cluster, with long lines of traffic being directed into lots by disinterested high school kids in neon shirts who clearly had already had it up to here with this Grade A wookery the band had brought to town -- and this was just the first night! After parking, we wandered over to Shakedown and I quickly remembered what Summer Phish felt like in the pre-Baker’s Dozen years. The smell of pesto grilled cheese and veggie burritos frying up on flat top griddles wafted by as competing stereos blasted The Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23” and the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime.” Friends from all over the country bumped into each other and stopped to hug, causing sweaty, dusty wook traffic jams. Folks ambled by with pin boards and koozies, slanging their wares in hopes to pay for those insanely overpriced beers inside the venue. I felt the feeling I forgot. This is what New York City Summer Phish was missing.
Similar to the parking situation, entry into the venue could’ve probably been a little smoother. Luckily, us Phish fans are a mostly docile group with a decent amount of patience amongst the lot of us, but the heat and humidity was creating a certain funk throughout the herd of enthusiastic entrants, and not of the danceable variety. Upon entry, we feasted our eyes on Alpharetta’s beautiful “shed” whose lack of walls made it seem like more of a gigantic shade tent, complete with numerous Big Ass Fans running from above to keep folks as “cool” as possible. From our seats in the pavillion, merchandise, food, drink, and bathrooms were all incredibly easily accessible and there were no signs of obnoxious ushers trying to lay down the law for the sake of following protocols. Our seat neighbors were friendly and our view was good. I was psyched!
Mere moments after taking the stage, the band hit the ground running as they burst into the aggressively energetic “First Tube” to open the show. I can’t speak to every time this has happened but, in my opinion, when they open a show with “First Tube,” it’s probably safe to assume that you’re in for a treat. I was informed by a seat neighbor that “First Tube” was how they finished their 2-night stand at this venue during Fall Tour 2016, so by opening this run with the tune, they seemed to be picking up right where they left off. “No Men In No Man’s Land” came next, proving that the band planned on wasting no time getting down to business down here. After a solid, high-energy jam which featured Page on synth, the band dropped into “Ghost,” obviously, because after the 1-2 punch of “First Tube” followed by “No Men In No Man’s Land,” what else are you going to do?? This “Ghost” covers a lot of ground in its 22 minute 27 second lifespan. While it starts off dark and dirty, it quickly transitions to a light bliss before entering a chunky, space funk segment that eventually finds peak after glorious peak before returning to finish the song. An undeniable highlight of the show in the 3 spot. Unreal.
After that monster of a jam, the band took a breather with the melodious “All of These Dreams” before hopping back on this Southern funk train we were riding with “Back on the Train.” This upbeat groove featured "NMINML" teases from Trey before peaking and returning back to finish the song. As dusk came upon the venue, “Free” delivered some more slanky, ploppy funk which continued nicely with a bass-heavy “Martian Monster.” The relentless funk fest kept on with the classically funky “Tube” before leading into “555.” Albeit somewhat of a breather, “555” fit in with the funk theme of this set while letting both the audience and the band take a bit of a break before the ripping “Walls of the Cave” close it all out with a bang. WOW! What a way to kick off a run.
After a setbreak full of highfiving strangers, as the lights went down once again, the band seemed to be in agreement with everyone in attendance in that there was only one way they could possibly open the 2nd set after the unrelenting funk fest of a first set like that -- and that was with “Tweezer.” This “Tweezer” started off in a nasty way, with dark and dirty Mike bombs peppered throughout before we entered the underwater segment of the jam. The jam peaks with a funk bomb that explodes into blissful, dancey grooves before fizzling out into “Blaze On.” While somewhat of an awkward transition from the dark, dankness of “Tweezer,” the promise of a jam out of “Blaze On” made it allowable. During this jam, Trey took on a gritty, gnarly, almost-2.0-sounding tone to peak the song hard before returning to finish it. In a way I would’ve never thought I could feel pre-Magnaball, “Prince Caspian” had me stoked and, even in its short, 6 minute existence, provided some nice peaks that kept the energy of the set high.
After this sweet diddy, some may have been wondering where we could possibly go next. But, if you were paying attention at all, you knew that there was once again, only one right answer to that question, and that answer was “Carini.” This monster of a jam clocking in at just over 20 minutes contained a multitude of different segments, all special in their own ways. Fish’s high pitched screaming of “CARINI HAD A LUMPY HEAD!” added to the already ferocious energy coursing through the venue, as dark funk groove gave way to beautiful, peaceful bliss. Trey picks up on a dancey melody, definitely teasing something (possibly The Band’s “Chest Fever?”) before ascending into the ether. This ethereal glory crashed back into the funk theme of the evening before Trey made his guitar scream while Page’s synth took us to outer space. As this jam fizzled, fans were once again on the edge of their seats wondering how the band could possibly follow that epic piece of music. But, once again, there was only one right answer, and that answer was “Simple.” This Phish anthem contributed to the borderline frenetic energy of the crowd before being cut short and giving way to the softer “Winterqueen.” While this tune almost always delivers with satisfying jams and peaks, this placement felt a little jarring and caused for a mass exodus of fans who had been “holding it” since setbreak. As is so often the case, “Winterqueen” delivered before the obviously perfect way to end a set like this, which was with a gorgeous “Harry Hood.” This Hood brings that characteristic tender beauty and peaks in a euphoric way to end the set.
Appearing in the encore slot for the first time ever, “More” had delighted fans tilting to the left and leaning to the right before both vibrating and pulsating with love and light. As the song came to a close and it became clear that we weren’t getting our “Tweezer Reprise” tonight, overjoyed fans with shit-eating-grins on their faces were left wondering when that “Tweeprise” would actually show up and, more importantly, how the band planned to follow that show for the next two nights! I, for one, can’t wait to find out…
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