[Thank you to Phish.net contributor Willie (@twelvethousandmotherfker) for this recap. -Ed.]
After three long years, and fifteen months to the day from the originally scheduled date, Phish returned to the phabulous Forum last night to play a rock concert. Thank Icculus.
For me, it was my first indoor show since Nassau in 2019, and damn was it good to be back. I didn’t realize how much I missed standing with my buddies in my favorite spot (right in front of Mike), sharing in the joy and community and, yes, groove that makes Phish so special. We’re all extremely lucky this is still happening -- I don’t want to forget that. Plus, they’ve been playing out of their minds!
So, let’s dig in.
The show started late (thanks, Stan Kroenke!), but that only helped to stoke the anticipation brewing in the venerable old building. After a killer show and NICU-fest in Chula Vista, everyone had high hopes for a big night and perhaps the appearance of a certain song that hadn’t yet been played on this tour—but more on that later.
The lights went down. The band came out. It was on.
Fittingly, it began with “A Wave of Hope.” This was the second time the song’s been played after its debut this summer. It’s a pando song, which hey look okay, but that’s a part of our collective history now. It’s a fun rock song. I refuse to quibble. And when the first few notes of “You Enjoy Myself” ring out in the second spot of the first set, it sends a shockwave through the arena.
As has been tradition on this tour, the band seems to be purposefully defying our expectations with song placements, set structure and jamming whenever and wherever they feel like. And after almost 40 years, I think that’s the greatest gift this band can give its fans. We are obsessive and persnickety with opinions and ranked lists, but when we’re at a show and we don’t know WTF is happening? I think that’s one of the best feelings in the world. That moment when it feels like everything is on the table and anything can happen.
YEM in the two spot is one of the moments—imagine where we’ll go from here! And to borrow a phrase from Ferris Beuller, this “You Enjoy Myself” was *so choice*. Clocking in at almost 24 minutes, it covered the familiar carnival grounds and got us to Firenze in style. The jam out of the composed section had everyone on the floor dancing like maniacs before Page and Trey took it in a spacier direction. Mike then dropped his first bomb of the evening, which tickled our collective solarplexus. Really, the whole band and crowd seemed to be feasting on the energy, and as an extra funky bass solo gave way to a Vocal jam—we were all wondering what could possibly come next. I guess there’s a reason this song usually comes at the very end of shows, but an altogether silky drop into “Moma Dance” kept the funk coming and the people dancing.
Moma was its usual fun self before the jam took a slightly introspective turn with some gentle leads from Trey and a comfy bliss bed from Page. Fishman noted his appreciation with a simple “yeah.”
Speaking of simple, the opening riff seemed to find Trey’s fingers in what would be the first of many elegant segues of the evening, and we were off and running. And while this particular “Simple” might not end up on any jam charts, the feeling of “we’ve got it simple cuz we’ve got a band” was never more keenly felt—at least by me. It’s a beautiful thing to be surrounded by human beings enjoying life again, and when we get a Zeppelin tease in what can only be described as Trey’s sexy frog guitar tone, everybody’s having fun.
Another delicate, if clunky, segue into ‘Waiting All Night” gives us a chance to cool down for a moment. I’ve always been a fan of this Wingsuit era chiller, and the surf rock vibes feel especially appropriate for the native Angelenos in the audience. Of which I’m sure there are at least one or two.
The chance to chill didn’t last long as Fishman leads us into “Maze.” Now, I’ll admit I fell victim to one of the classic blunders here as I thought (wishfully, perhaps) that we were gonna get a monster Bowie to close out the set—but hey, I’ll get lost in the “Maze” any day. This particular labyrinth builds heartily to a ripping climax, leaving the tweaked and puddled to wonder whether indeed they’ll ever get out.
But indeed we do—under the cool shade of the banana tree, in fact. It’s “Fee!” Even by Phish standards, this is a truly goofy song—and one of my personal favorites. For whatever reason, this was the song that hooked me at ten years old when I heard it coming from my best friend’s older sister’s room. And in the grand tradition of Phish, she let me borrow Junta that night, and the rest, well, is phishstory (sorry).
Anyway, twenty five years later, “Fee” is still a delight. And though I thought it might end the set, another tight segue leads us into “Steam.” Which is cool! Steam is always cool. Is it life changing? No. But it’s cool! I mean, did you see all the steam that comes out when Page presses the steam button during “Steam?” It’s cool. It’s funky. Kinda. Whatever, I’m not complaining. I absolutely refuse to quibble.
Time for a gear shift! To the high gear of your soul! It’s time to “Run Like An Antelope.” And though this particular Antelope stayed pretty much in control, as a set-closer, it’s a sure-fire way to send everyone into setbreak with a smile.
Now, before we get into the second set, I would like to take a moment to express briefly my appreciation for Chris Kuroda. I don’t know how it’s possible for someone to reinvent the wheel on an annual basis, but the way he continues to evolve the light show year after year is nothing short of incredible. He’s an absolute genius. That is all. Back to the show.
Historians will undoubtedly debate whether what happened next was truly a TweezerfestTM or not, but my takeaway was that the next seventy-five minutes of Phish music kicked serious ass.
It started with “Cars Trucks Buses,” the evergreen Phish-Jazz standard that feels particularly at home in Los Angeles. Page took the wheel, weaving us in and out of the proverbial traffic, as Trey surveyed the crowd from the passenger window. I have a sneaking suspicion (and maybe I’m projecting) that the band doesn’t love playing in LA, but on this particular Sunday night, despite the traffic, despite the football, despite the expensive parking, everything was indeed right. And before long, it happened: we got the first “Tweezer” of Fall Tour.
Now, looking at LivePhish this morning, I was honestly a bit surprised to see how the timing all broke down. To me, in the moment, the second set felt more like one long Tweezer with some extended teases rather than the other way around. But again, that’s for historians to decide. Me? I was raging on the floor with a few thousand of my closest friends.
And when the first jam section of “Tweezer” gave way to the second-ever cover of The Doors’ “L.A. Woman” (and first since 2003), we could all feel our mojo rising. As Trey giggled his way through the lyrics and Fishman kicked the jam into overdrive, we were all reminded of why we love this band—they’re so much fun. Sure, they’re wildly creative and virtuosically talented, but it’s always in service of fun. And when the Tweezer riff returns, we know it’s gonna be one of those nights.
The band then finds its way into the Kasvot Vaxt banger “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” Is it a nod to upcoming Halloween glories? Perhaps. Does it keep the party going? Most definitely. At this point, we’ve got ladies on shoulders, glowsticks flying around -- this is what space smells like. And when the Tweezer riff pops back up about halfway through, the band moves away from the S.A.N.T.O.S. structure and into a freer jam space. We get another L.A. Woman tease as the groove slows down and opens up into “What’s The Use?”
I love “What’s The Use?” so much. This version is haunting and beautiful and perfectly placed in the middle of the second set as the heady cool down we all need. It never ceases to amaze me how Phish can harness our collective energy so fully that they basically stop playing music and have us all on the edge of our seats. Pretty cool stuff. As we build back up, Page says hi to the whales just offshore in the Pacific Ocean. “Hi Page,” they say.
And we’re back to “Tweezer.” I don’t pretend to understand what all of Trey’s guitar gizmos do, but I do know that since the pandemic hiatus he’s been creating layers of sound that I’ve never heard before. It’s incredibly exciting and so impressive, and I think it’s one of the main reasons the band is able to casually drop lengthy jams whenever they like. If this is the sound of 4.0, count me in.
Though tonight is not necessarily one of those nights. We hear that sound in fits and starts, but tonight is all about flow. And Tweezer, of course. In lieu of a 20-plus minute behemoth, we get a Tweezer-fied fourth quarter of “Birds of a Feather,” "Chalk Dust Torture," “Boogie on Reggae Woman,” “Carini,” and “Mr. Completely” before a raucous “Tweezer Reprise.”
Some might scoff at such heavy hitters as “Carini” and “Mr. Completely” clocking in at six or seven minutes, but I would argue that since this set took place in an alternate Tweezerverse, their essential gravity had shifted. They were orbiting the planet Tweezer-like moons, and we watched them elegantly wax and wane. It was a beautiful thing. And when Trey (eventually) ripped into “Tweezer Reprise” to bring the set to a close, we were all treated to what is and will always be the most exciting three minutes in rock and roll.
“But if they played the reprise, how do you encore an encore?” I said to myself, brilliantly. With a capella and jams, that’s how! We were treated to the first “Grind” since 2019, which jauntily reminded us of the unyielding passage of time (a combined 83,456 days, FYI). And after that? What, maybe a Sleeping Monkey? A quick thank you and goodnight? Nope! “Bathtub Gin.” Boom. Phish. Our cups runneth over. Never miss a Sunday show.
It was a hell of a night.
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