“You’re going to Atlantic City again? To see that same band you saw two nights ago?” It’s a fair point, and without getting into hours of philosophical lectures with this person, as a fan, sometimes you have to ask yourself that same question. Why do I have to go see this band again?
But then you get to the venue, you see the people you intended to see, and some you didn’t, and the collective energy ripples through the entire crowd, and to the empty stage, and back again. By the time the lights go down, maybe you are seeing the show with a new friend. This happened to me on Friday night, I met two new people who I spent the whole show with. And they were back on Sunday, same spot, same donut-themed fan to keep everyone cool, same enthusiasm and energy. And I got to introduce them to my wife and other friends. Here we are, again.
You could say that there’s a “thing” with Phish and Sunday shows, to put it mildly. With the end of the first leg of the tour, there was an “anything can happen” feel in the air. Opening with The Landlady (sixth time played since the beginning of 3.0) reinforced this tone. I thought that the song hadn’t been played in forever, but it turns out I saw the last one in Mexico in 2020. Does anyone even remember February 2020?
The playing of only the Scents and Subtle Sounds intro shows, to me, that they’re paying attention to the setlists, and possibly to what people are hearing and not hearing. Dropping into an unfinished, truly jammed out Moma Dance set the tone for the rest of the show. They were in no hurry, and the Jedi switch was turned to “on.” I was surprised how groovy The Final Hurrah got, maybe this is the best jam vehicle of that whole group of songs?
With Mike's Song going almost ten minutes, this first set was starting to feel like a second set. A pure “Mike’s Groove” was the perfect set of tunes. (Side note: My wife loves Divided Sky and I told her it was somewhat to very likely that they’d play it, and at every song break in the first set I was hoping for it, including being sandwiched between Mike’s Song and Weekapaug Groove. Damn.) The song selection toward the end of this tour has just been fantastic.
We got our first The Sloth since 2019, and the Roggae was another perfect song for the setting. A lot of the first set songs were eight to ten minutes, just enough time for them to take a song out, stretch a little bit, let it settle, and then bring it home. This version had Trey using his effects to keep it going, but without a real peak. It was a very consistent set of music, without losing momentum. I thought they’d save You Enjoy Myself for the encore, but as a first set closer, it’s the best way to send fans into a setbreak out of breath and in need of more.
The rumors were running rampant at setbreak. Harpua! Forbin’s! The Boss coming out to play Born To Run with the band (someone actually said that to me).
Instead, we get a hot Carini, the third of the tour. The reliability of the jam vehicle out of this song is just truly impressive. I thought the improv here was similar to what we heard in set one: a little laid back, but still driving, lots of effects, and not losing any of the intensity. As this tour has evolved, it’s becoming clear to me that Page and Trey have both achieved a balance of using the new gear / effects, so that the jams still lean in that direction (the “psychedelic soup” as I’ve been calling it), but then you still get a lot of Trey playing with a regular tone and Page on piano, like in the bliss section around six minutes into this Carini.
This 15 minutes of Carini has a lot packed in, and I think you’re seeing the band at their most powerful when they can achieve in 15 minutes the same thing they can achieve in 30 minutes. The Set Your Soul Free, at about 10 minutes, had a similar “microjam” tucked in there, and the Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1 was the quietest that I’d heard them be all weekend. The raucousness of the entire Atlantic City boardwalk scene, contrasted with 35,000 people all silently appreciating the moment with this song was a touching moment.
This segued into another patient build into Piper, which ventured back into Carini, before running through both Waves and Simple. I’d argue that they were searching for something there in the second set, but it all flowed well and the songs were well placed. About to Run features Trey at his most Hendrix-like, and I thought this growling, intense shredding, with a fantastic peak, would lead us to the end of the set.
But instead we get a First Tube to finish, with all of us jumping up and down with no end in sight. It seemed like they didn’t want the weekend to end either.
The Fluffhead > Backwards Down the Number Line was 24 minutes of pure enjoyment, for me, and for everyone else there. This BDTNL was particularly celebratory, as a cap to this weekend and to the first leg of this tour. With all my friends, there were (masked) hugs galore … isn’t that what it’s all about?
Oh boy, is this guy now going to tell me that I should like Backwards Down The Number Line because it’s about friendship and shit? Not exactly, but sort of. Hear me out.
I spent the weekend with friends old and new, my wife and my business partner, my neighbors and people I've grooved with at shows for a decade or more. This song was played, I think, in celebration of that. If Covid has taught us anything, it’s that it’s a thrill (albeit a little nerve wracking) to get back to those things that we got so used to in “normal life.” It’s clear the band feels it too. We all felt it this weekend, and those who go to shows over the next few weeks will undoubtedly feel it too.
Trey talks frequently about how the band members are closer now than they’ve ever been before. The band has also talked a lot about the community that exists between the band and the audience, and how that relationship has evolved over the years—through celebration and heartbreak, through a lot of ups and downs. And then there are the fans. Lifelong friendships and relationships made because of this band, because of these shows.
I saw someone tweet a picture this week of people they met in Hershey, it said “Met this awesome family Hershey N1. We partied together every night through AC. Epic times with new friends for life.” With what other band can that be expected to happen?
You probably know the story of how BDTNL came to be, and if you don’t, check out Alive Again episode 3, Liquid Time, to hear Trey and Tom talk about it.
At moments like these, at the end of a big weekend, you realize how lucky we are as fans to have this music, to have this community. And I was grateful to be back at a show, experiencing the same things that we have been experiencing for 25 years or more. As Trey said right before the encore, “this was just magical.” It is—”with eyes wide open, somewhere in between the past and future, where you drift in time, you can see a different point of view.”
Now, with the first leg of the tour wrapped up, we have 11 days to listen back and debate meaningless things about the shows, like possibly settling once and for all whether Llama or Slow Llama is the real champion of the llama-verse. Stay safe out there, friends, and for you West Coast fans, you have some real beautiful stuff coming your way. Take care of each other, and enjoy it.
The author, RJ Bee, is the CEO of Osiris Media.
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the book ... interwoven the fabrics of your life, the universe, and PHiSH music.
I have had a hard time as of late and the song Scents and Subtle Sounds was my release from that negatively and darkness. I went into the last week of tour hoping to hear it as a release and validation of decisions i have made and etc... When, beyond my wildest dreams, they actually started playing it, i started to weep. Saturday was only the verse and then ripcorded into CDT. and i initially felt like ..poop that isnt what i wanted, but that is not how this works. The book is to help you chose being friendly and kind... not live your life or bring you joy, you must decide to find that. On sunday, when they played the intro i weep again with the biggest smile on my face because i then understood the message was ... for me.. that it is to choose positivity and joy over grudge and anger.. (the problem i had to fight thru had to do with loud sounds etc..)The switch -a-roo of that song both nights just double downed my life decisions regarding that situation in my life earlier. You did good in your decisions and we will slap you one more time to make sure you do not misinterpret the message of this chapter in your book. I know it is not for me but ... sometimes i feel like it is. Chase the feelings not the tunes, my phriends. i hope that makes some sense. i assign some life affirmations to tunes as they help me in certain times of need, joy, success, or darkness.. and that is how i fish.
what im saying is the boys always give me what i NEED, not always what i want or think i need, the book knows and guides... be safe and thank you for sharing.
Spoiler alert: yes.
If .net is in need of reviewers I would be happy to throw my name in the hat. It’ll be from the couch that’s what a 15 month old does to ya. COVID, baby! Literally.
Overall, completely agree about Number Line. Caught the first number line (see what I did there) and crazy to think all the new music since Spring 2009. But this was the first introduced to us at Hampton, so it’s like an old friend. It’s like Bug in a sense. You hear the opening and you aren’t sure how to feel but if you just let it be you’ll be rocking in about three minutes and completely forget about your momentary judgement at the onset of the song.
While I agree they were searching for something that second set, Trey Songs should have channeled his patience into Waves OR Simple. Not both. But the Carini and the Piper back into Carini was pure madness.
Appreciate the effort of all reviewers for the first part of tour. Looking forward to what comes next.
I drove to Hershey, PA from LI to meet up with my son (25) who lives in PA for N2. Unfortunately, I had a meeting at work the next day which I could not reschedule or cancel. So I drove back to LI immediately after the show. This reminded of my old deadhead days ('79 - '95) of pounding shows on the east coast.
My midweek road trip (out & back) to PA was the inspiration for my weekend in AC. I have an annual getaway weekend with 12 buddies (brothers) from my Long Island high school (Class of '82) this was the 39th year of the same 12 guys getting together and this year it took place in Tannersville, NY (Hunter Mtn) - bummed because it landed on the same weekend of my AC Phish plans.
Determined to not miss out on either. I drove the AC on Friday morning and went to the show N1. After the show, I drove to Tannersville, NY (approx. 240 miles) arrived at the house at 3:15 am. Some of my buddies were still up partying - classic. I spent all day Saturday with my "brothers" - hiking Kaaterskill Falls & "partying" pretty hard that night. In the morning (Sunday) we had a great breakfast. I then drove back to AC for N3 - "never miss a Sunday show" - It did NOT disappoint! After the show, I drove back to Long Island (175 miles). Walked in my house at 2:45 am - slept for four hours and went to work by 9:00am Monday morning.
That my friends is how you phish at 58 years old - that will either keep you young or kill you :-)
Next stop for me - Garcia all in Vegas.
I was on the side rail Page side. The Boom camera Operator was 2 feet away. This guy is Amazing-dancing while moving this 30 foot camera around.
The Landlady, Scents, Sloth, YEM, Fluffhead