Having heard the rumor that Fishman had been spotted wearing a T-shirt by an obscure-ish (but real) band called “The Residents” and having seen a screen-shot of a text with him and someone else alluding to the fact last night's cover would be an obscure album from 1981, I knew it could be a remote possibility, being Phish and all, but it still seemed a bit far-fetched. So many other (slightly) more plausible rumors were being floated and when the anticipation had reached an absolute fever pitch and doors opened we got our first glimpses of the Phishbill. The album would be i rokk by the band Kasvot Växt. An aside here - I was at the Wingsuit Halloween show when speculation was super high for The Allman Brothers Band's Eat A Peach, which I was mega excited about. I sat in my seat and read the Phishbill and immediately started laughing. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but the Phishbills are written in the most bizarre, stilted way where everything about it, especially the quotes from the band, made it seem like a total joke. Which is the exact same vibe that I got from THIS Phishbill, making it more likely to me that it may in fact be true. Also, I was sober this time around, and reading the Phishbill a few times before the show started, it did seem pretty plausible??
Anyway, speculation and rumors and much internet sleuthing were all happening in a major way, but it all finally came to an end as the lights went down and we went into the first “extremely uneven” set of the night. I love a fast opener like ‘“Buried Alive” (nice call Russ); it’s got the ability to whip the crowd into a frenzy right from the get-go. "Buried" has always conveyed this dissonant sense of chaotic unpredictability to me, and this version didn’t disappoint.
It’s sacrilege to ever say you’re disappointed to hear the opening notes of “Ghost,” but I didn’t feel great about its placement – I felt we would get a pretty standard example of recent "Ghost"s, and that it was. Not that that’s a bad thing, and I thought Mike’s playing was exceptionally strong, with Trey taking the band into a major key “mini bliss” jam through the end.
"Ghost" transitioned into “Crazy Sometimes,” which is a great title for this tune because it’s exactly how it makes me feel. I just feel like it’s all over the map, there are so many different parts to it. I’m usually a huge Mike fan, but this has taken a long time for me to warm up to. That being said, there was a cool spacey outro jam in the last two minutes.
When “Free” started I was like “aggggh” – "Free" is a fantastic song, it just seems to me to be played SO much lately. That said, this version turned into a pretty awesome funk dance-a-thon, coming together for a hard rocking and strong ending.
Annnnnd now for another personal let-down, we get “More”, which immediately reminded me of the final points made by my recap predecessor Rob Mitchum: tunes like this seem so “increasingly disconnected from the real world.” Though I guess it’s Halloween? I have no idea why that makes any difference. I noticed the guy to my left was just standing there with his arms folded this Colin Kaepernick “More” protest that I thought I’d join him in, but on my right were my silly fun friends twirling and dancing. So I spent half the song sitting with my arms crossed and the other half half-heartedly dancing, which is actually a great metaphor for my entire relationship with Phish now that I think about it. Though I’d like to think I’m WAYYYYY more on the twirly dancy side.
A drop into “Halley’s Comet” is not totally unwelcome, but it’s just the fact that it’s a tune that they haven’t really been doing anything with recently. The original version written by their friend Richard “Nancy” Wright was exquisitely bizarre and they took it and turned it into a fun groovy dance tune, cementing his amazing lyrics in the Phish lyrical hall of fame. But when Phish doesn’t take it out, it tends to be just a little too little-kiddy for me so I was realllllly happy that they jammed this one out a little bit, getting into a super cool, funky, effects-laden end of the jam.
When the opening notes of “Ocelot” hit, there were equal amounts of groans and cheers from my section. I actually like "Ocelot," but boy was this set kind of underwhelming so far. The last three minutes of "Ocelot" turned super bluesy and slinky and great, so it’s definitely worth a listen. For me at least, it was the jam of the night thus far, despite its short length. Oh “Theme from the Bottom,” you and "Free" are so annoying to me at first, and then halfway through I remember how much I love you and what great songs you are. This is a beautiful version with a huge peak, lights going bananas, the whole nine yards. As it started winding to a close, speculation of what was most likely to be the final song of the set started turning to "Good Times Bad Times," "Cavern," "David Bowie"... instead, hey everybody, it’s “First Tube” time! Tons of excitement from the crowd, every flat brimmer’s favorite dance tune, this was a super jaunty version with Trey getting his Swedish-inspired dance moves and rock star persona ready for the set to come. Major energy from the whole band, you could sense them all getting excited. The last two minutes were a super celebratory cap to a semi-snoozy first set, and got me very pumped for what was to come.
Black curtains dropped right at the end of "First Tube" in a very dramatic gesture. And when they finally rose after set break was over, they revealed… white curtains set to distorted, ambient space noises. The white curtains then rose to reveal an all white stage, with the band all dressed in white, white instruments, glowing checkerboard floor and the 12 black cubes suspended from the ceiling started glowing white as well.
This part of the recap is going to have to involve a little bit of free association due to the surreal quality of this set, so bear with me. They immediately kicked into the first song “Turtle in the Clouds.” If you have never seen the International music contest Eurovision, first of all you need to stop reading this recap immediately and YouTube some of that shit. I was like "OMG, it’s like Phish is a Swedish contestent on Eurovision in 1981 and it’s EVERYTHING." It’s hard to remember everything that was going on on stage because A LOT was going on on stage – Trey on the Moog at the beginning, Trey and Mike running all over doing choreographed dance moves, Fishman was doing a lot of singing, it was all a bit much to absorb right off the bat, but I knew for sure that I dug the hell out of whatever was happening. One thing that was pretty easy to grasp was that they were having an unbelievable amount of fun. It was all so fun and funky I couldn’t handle it.
The second song “Stray Dog” kicked off, and the notion of a stray dog loping into town was just so awesomely Phishy. The song was super buoyant and involved a lot of staccato, super articulated playing. As well as a lot of “here, there, here, there”s. Trey went into an amazing bluesy solo that had the crowd rocking its ass off. Mike and Trey finished off the tune with some Pete Townshend-like windmill action.
“Everything Is Hollow” started and reminded people in my crowd a lot of Chilling Thrilling, “bright white light shining right between my eyes” was Page’s refrain while Trey and Mike did some “whoaaaaaas” behind it. Then there was this “lay it down, you got to lay it down” part where the cubes started glowing red and blue and the stage kept alternating between green and white. This ultra bizarre / ultra amazing composed part wound up devolving into one of the prettiest outro jams of the whole night. Oh yeah, and Page actually did have a bright white light shining right between his eyes, Page loves being literal.
“We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains” was next, and right off the bat I was like “this is a Trey song if I’ve ever heard one.” “We are only passing through, we’re liquid light and vapor blue"?? Uh yeah. At this moment I should comment on the fact that I’m an absolute devotee of weird Phish, so them singing “We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains” in harmony was like a dream come true. This section went into a whole “nine cubes” section, which confused me because there were actually twelve cubes – I’m sure someone will figure that out. Also, Trey is playing a white Stratocaster for some reason? Excellent jam with beautiful lights. Also, wow their clothes are so cool. “I’m the glue in your magnet” indeed.
Next up what turned out to be my favorite song of the set, “Say It to Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” Seriously one of the most fun songs I’ve ever heard. They were bouncing all over the stage. “This is what space smells like”? YES.
“The Final Hurrah” aka "FACEPLANT INTO ROCK" kicked off in kind of a lopey, upbeat way. Whatever, just rolling with it at this point. The lyrics of everything are just so phenomenally bizarre. That’s what made it so convincing to me that this was all translated from some insane Nordic mashup Scandinavian language. “Faceplant into rock” was Page’s key trigger for the song and he inserted it like the Chilling Thrilling samples in cool and unexpected places. Sick rocker of a jam and they obviously enjoyed the hell out of singing “Faceplant into rock” because duh.
Next came the Miami Vice lights, foggy stage and "Possum"-y / "Crazy Sometimes" mashup vibe of “Play by Play.” “Perception is spoonfed, I open up my mouth” YES!! When they were singing “I hope someone notices,” all I could think was “WE’RE noticing (fake) Kasvot Växt!!” It had a "Wingsuit"-y vibe, and at this point the cubes are going nuts moving up and down with all different colors. IT seemed like it was coming to a close, then the energy built back up in this off-kilter, dark and doomy type of way. The section that followed had syncopated jamming over super cool Mike effects, and it was amazing.
With the next song being titled “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long,” I was expecting some Phish heavy metal thing, but instead it was a slow groove with a call and response thing going on. Mike and Trey doing "Scent of a Mule"-style faceoff, Mike goes back on the drumkit, which was a recurring theme throughout the set. Along with Trey stalking the stage like a caged animal, which I adore, killing it on the octave effect and shredding in equal parts. Insane Trey doing major rock star solo.
“Cool Amber and Mercury”, now that doesn’t sound like Trey AT ALL. WHAT a coincidence. Laid back, Trey bopping around the stage doing some Vegas-y moves. Note: his guitar sound is amazing in this set; maybe the Strat should be making more frequent appearances. Page starts playing the “faceplant into rock” sample again. Trey takes the lead in this tune (as in most of them), but just great full band playing. I actually thought this tune was the weakest so far, which is saying something because I think it was better than everything else in either the first or third set.
I was so disappointed to kick off what would be the last song of this amazing set. I kind of was feeling a Paul Simon Graceland vibe from this tune, “Passing Through,” and as soon as I started feeling an “outdoorsy hippie” feeling, the cubes started showing nature scenes. I’m telling you peeps, seeing the water and the clouds and the mountains on the cubes while listening to this was unreal.
Anddddd now I have to be a major drag because my deep feeling is that there shouldn’t have been a third set. Personally, I was so exhausted during setbreak I didn’t know how I would make it. As it kicked off and my friend asked me what the song was, my outburst of “it’s 'Set Your fucking Soul Free'” did nothing to improve my attitude. It was fine I guess. The second that “Tweezer” kicked off all I felt was sorrow because I think "Tweezer" would have been so much better served by having more space on another night. IMHO or not so humble opinion, this show needed a high energy third set with some tunes that they would jam out, but not be monsters that you want to hear 30 minute versions of. Instead I sat down for a good 20 minutes from most of “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” (even though it was a good version), “Backwards Down the Number Line”, “Meatstick” through “Bug,” only getting up to dance for my favorite jam in the world aka “Run Like an Antelope” to end the set.
P.S. - Thanks to everybody I (sober) raged the show with, who gave me so much awesome feedback from a (non-sober) POV! Russ, Rosalie, Sam and Janae, love you guys!
If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Phish.net. Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Phish.net is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.
This project serves to compile, preserve, and protect encyclopedic information about Phish and their music.
The Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Phish fans in 1996 to generate charitable proceeds from the Phish community.
And since we're entirely volunteer – with no office, salaries, or paid staff – administrative costs are less than 2% of revenues! So far, we've distributed just about $1,500,000 to support music education for children – hundreds of grants in all 50 states, with more on the way.