[We would like to thank user @Jmart, Josh Martin, for recapping last night's show. -Ed.]
Greetings, everyone, and glad tidings from Alpharetta, where Phish played their fourth show of this summer tour. It’s been a long time, and I’m glad to get to discuss our favorite band with you again.
But before we get to that, a little housekeeping: As some of you know, we had a first song back pool going on the .net forum. Thanks to all who participated and congratulations to @bonzo6980 for picking “I’ve Never Needed You Like This Before.” If any of you are sour that they played three of your picks (sigh), maybe it’ll help to know this fine gentleman donated his $127 pot to the WaterWheel Foundation. They were very appreciative and it was a humbling moment to make the donation in person. (See beneath the recap, below, for a photo of the folks at the WW table after receiving the handoff!)
Onto the music.
We have all missed Phish, and each other, so much over the past 18 months. Whatever trepidation and disjointedness may have been present in the music in Arkansas was far, far outweighed by the sheer joy of experiencing a show again.
Any misgivings one might have had with the band were incinerated after the “Carini” in Pelham and the “Chalkdust Torture” in Alpha. It was very gratifying to feel them capitalize on the momentum from one show to the next.
Which brings us to last night. These two tickets seemed to be the hardest to come by on summer tour, and everyone seemed very glad to be in attendance. After a brief rain delay, Phish hit the stage at 8 PM sharp. “Buried Alive” established one theme for the show: very competent playing, particularly from Trey. Page joined the party on “Set Your Soul Free,” which featured a nice jam that never strayed too far from home.
“Reba” is one of those songs that Fish seems to drive way more than one would expect. He and Trey were locked-in for the jam, which, just when the entire building was sure the peak was coming, somehow managed to shift into another gear altogether. The first of several stellar moments to come in the show.
“My Friend,” “Kill Devil Falls,” and “555” were all given competent, if short, readings. 2015 Lakewood KDF this was not, but it was a fun moment and certainly deserves more credit than it gets. Your author will never say no to “Gotta Jibboo,” even if this version won’t get much replay.
The run of “Sparkle,” “Thread,” and “Meat” robbed the set of a lot of its momentum. “Thread” in particular seems to be a cruel joke for a band to play on some poor soul who took too much and got separated from his crew, a scenario which I can tell you for a fact has happened.
Here’s a fun fact: “Run Like an Antelope” is the most common first and second set closer in every era of Phish music. It was a natural fit because it delivered such a skull-splitting climax, but most 3.0 versions (e.g. Merriweather 2019) have bordered on parody of its former glory. This "Antelope" delivered surprisingly well and gave us all a great reason to sit down during set break.
Anyone who was dying to hear four middle-aged men sing about “vibrating” and “pulsating” got his wish! Fortunately for us all, there was more to come, and that more was another monster “Tweezer” that will certainly get its own entry into the jam chart. Way back in 2013, the multipart jams were not a thing that happened all that often (if ever), which is one reason that the OG 7/31/13 “Tweezer” hit the Lake Tahoe crowd like a ton of bricks. Fast forward to now and it seems to be an established avenue of improvisation for a band in its 38th year of playing together, especially in light of the aforementioned “Carini” and “Chalkdust” already played on this tour. In truth, this “Tweezer” takes a while to really find its legs, but is then off a'running through key changes, tempo changes, synth breakdowns, bluesy peaks, Mike Funk---this one’s got it all and is certainly the standout moment of this show and the leg of the nascent tour. Listen to it now.
Not too long ago, there an article on .net breaking down the frequency with which legendary jams land in “Twist Around.” Here we are again! This one has a few dollops more than the average 3.0 version, but will generally get lost in what preceded it.
“Piper” was an excellent call to round out an hour of very confident jamming. For those who are worried that Phish can’t bring the fire anymore, listen to the pace at which this is played. Also listen for a very obvious “China->Rider” tease by Trey, paying homage to the fat man on his birthday.
If anyone cares to explain why Trey continues to drop “Farmhouse” at the most inopportune moments, please explain it to the rest of us. Maybe it’s as a cool down moment, but the “Waste” that followed it performed that duty much more competently. “First Tube” works so well as a set closer, and was another nod to Tony, whom we will all miss in TAB.
This was a good show with several good moments (“Reba,” “Antelope”) and one great one. The road is a long one and they’re already miles beyond the band who played their first show back five days ago.
On a more personal note, it occurred to me to share this moment with you all: 12/31/18 my then-girlfriend joined me in NYC for the show. During “Waste,” I said “I love Trey’s solo in this song. I’m in love with you!” Just fell out of my mouth for the first time right there. While she’s not as nuts about Phish as my friends and I are, she certainly understands how our rabid and unconditional love might compel us all to fly to Arkansas in the middle of the week for a show.
Which brings me to my point: no matter how straight you play it these days, tour can be a real grind at times, and takes a ton of planning and cooperation. My leg of summer tour is over and I am left with a feeling of gratitude for the tremendous amount of work my friends at Takacs Travel Agency put into the trip, and also for the simple fact that Phish is playing and we can all go see them and each other. We’re living in a pretty messed up world right now, and this tour alone should be a cause for real celebration. Safe travels to everyone going home or to Nashville. It’s good to be back.
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