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Saturday 09/03/2016 by pzerbo

DICK'S1: WHEN MERCURY COMES OUT AT NIGHT

Phish got right down to business last night at Dick’s… so we’ll do the same. Roaring out of the gates with “Ghost,” the band offered only the second show-opening Ghost since the ‘90s, the other also being at Dick’s (8/31/13, the “MOST SHOWS SPELL SOMETHING” gig). Rounding out at a little over ten minutes, it was still too early to sense that this was a night where IT was happening.


Photo by Herschel Gelman.

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Monday 08/29/2016 by pzerbo

LOCKN' 2: SWEET VIRGINIA

Phish closed out the Lockn’ Festival on Sunday night with a solid performance of mostly classic fare to cap the four-day festival that featured many of the top names in improvisational rock and roll. Phish’s headlining slot on Friday night defied the low expectations that often accompany festival performances, as Phish offered one of the most highly-regarded shows of 2016 featuring expanded treatments of fan-favorites such as “Ghost,” “Bathtub Gin,” and “You Enjoy Myself.”

Outstanding performances from many other acts throughout the weekend helped raise the bar for the finale, including standout performances by Umphrey’s McGee, Ween, My Morning Jacket, Chris Robinson Brotherhood, two different Phil Lesh and Friends ensembles (including one with Fish and Page), and two jaw-dropping late-night performances from Joe Russo’s Almost Dead. Let’s turn to the action and see how today’s jamband heavyweight champ responded.

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Saturday 07/23/2016 by pzerbo

FORUM RECAP: GRAVITY'S RAINBOW

On Friday night, Phish rolled into The Forum in Inglewood, CA for the third consecutive year and the penultimate show of the 2016 summer tour. After an unusually sluggish opening two weeks of the campaign, starting with Great Woods Phish had returned to mid-season form, including most recently a successful run in San Francisco that featured entertaining jams and a bounty of bustouts. The tour has seen its fair share of ups and downs, but with an upward arc and two high-profile, webcasted, weekend gigs to wrap up, the hammer was theirs to pull out the come-from-behind tour championship. Let’s see how they did.


Photo © Derek Gregory

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Sunday 09/06/2015 by pzerbo

DICK'S 2 RECAP: TWIST AND SHOUT!

Saturday night at Dick’s started somewhat ominously – as the early crew assembled around the stage, dark clouds and stiffer breezes were of enough concern that the stage crew was forced to scramble and lower the Page-side PA stack, which was swaying precariously from the rafters. The storm clouds passed... and this minor non-event was the only real thing that went “wrong” all night. The rest was all win.

There would be an abundance of Peak Phish performed this evening, but it didn’t come early. The new summer dance machine vehicle “No Men In No Man's Land” opened a show for the second time this summer. Showing such early promise upon which fans have rightly heaped considerable praise, this version didn’t sniff the peaks of the Forum, Mann, or MagnaBall versions from earlier in the tour, but set an upbeat tone that carried into a compact but excellent “Martian Monster.” The set then settled in to stock footage with a mostly forgettable sequence of “NICU,” “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan,” “Bouncing Around the Room” and “555.”


Photo by Patrick Jordan © Phish From the Road

At this point we we’re looking at the inflection point of the set – it wasn’t honestly going very well, with a real sense of going through the motions. In the song’s early days, most fans would certainly not have thought of “Winterqueen” as a song that could step in to save a set, but that’s pretty much what happened, as if there was a mid-set recalibration. While Fuego’s title track initially seemed most likely to provide the best opportunity for improvisational expansion (and has indeed offered many gems), “Winterqueen” has quietly become perhaps the most consistent contributor from that song batch. A comparatively rare mid-set “Split Open and Melt” opened the jamming jets with some dark tension established with Trey and Page engaged in delightfully weird swirling counterpoints. An excellent “Limb By Limb” and soaring “Roggae” offered a perfect pairing of contemplation and soul-inspiring peaks, before “Character Zero” (“the crowd was going wild”) took us into the break. The set had some balance issues, but it grew progressively better as it went along, and left high hopes for the money frame.

The second-set opening “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” didn’t go deep but was more than a table-setter, burning brightly as the first stage rocket booster was released, igniting the show’s improvisational centerpiece, “Chalk Dust Torture.” Up against stiff competition for the title of Dick’s Finest Dust (see 8/31/12 and 8/31/13), this year’s “CDT” was a thrilling ride, an active and exploratory adventure of sound, shape, light, and vibration that was so deep and rich and brimming with joy that you never wanted it to end. Rounding out at a little over sixteen minutes it seemed considerably longer. As exhilarating as the “CDT” proper was, the dream textbook segue into “Twist” was a beauty to behold. The best of song transitions happen organically, where the seeds of the subsequent song are infused with ease, grace, patience, and dramatic pregnant intention. Trey laid the first hints of the "Twist" well over a minute before they dropped into the song proper, with everyone else insistent on powering through on the current jam theme. Trey guided them to a blissful and brilliantly fluid culmination into “Twist,” leaving a Peak Phish moment that is in a class with some of the greatest segues in Phish’s history.


Photo by Patrick Jordan © Phish From the Road

The “Twist” proper was gravy and yielded to the third-ever performance of “Mercury,” its first in a big second set slot. The song having several sections led to a funny exchange with a buddy: he asked “what song is this?” “Mercury.” Then a few minutes later, “so what song is this?” “Mercury.” “No, this one?” “Still ‘Mercury’!” They’ve been working this song out in soundcheck over the course of the tour which paid considerable dividends tonight. More or less out of the blue – and after two consecutive years of adding sizeable batches of new songs in each of the last two Halloweens – ”Mercury” is a pretty huge development, given it is one of if not the most significant new original of the post-breakup era. Fish’s Marimba Lumina solo bridges the song’s two main sections, and the timing of this section in the flow of the set contained the slightest echo of “Drums” > “Space.” “Mercury” is a hybrid club in Phish’s bag, with engaging composition yet offering tremendous freedom to roam and explore. Get comfortable with “Mercury” – this winner is here to stay.

The set could easily have coasted home to victory on a succession of set-closers at this point, but the improvisational fuel was still burning bright enough for a late-set “Light” that packed enough ideas for a jam twice its length, with Page and Fish contributing especially vibrant and engaging performances. A powerful, dramatic and perfectly-placed “Wingsuit” soared its way to a emphatic, ground-shaking, fist-pumping “Rock and Roll” to take the set home.


"Split Open & Melt" – Photo © @tweeprise

Page seemed legitimately choked-up leading in to his favorite encore song, “Sleeping Monkey,” before we headed into true bonus time with a bright, happy, cathartic “Harry Hood.” “A Day in the Life” finally closed the books on this show that saw the band using all the weapons in its considerable arsenal of artistic magic that we’ve all been so privileged to witness. I’d be remiss not to note how exceptional the crowd has been; in contrast to a few of the nights last year, front center floor has been virtually stress-free with considerable space and minimal-to-non-existent hassle. One last night to empty the tank before we head into the fall break. Be in the moment, but consider taking a few of those moments for inventory, to reflect upon the bounty of awesome which we can be thankful for: our friends, our band, our community. It’s a happy time in the Phish world, so soak it in!

-Phillip Zerbo

Phish Summer 2015 – Setlists & Recaps
07/21/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 1
07/22/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 2
07/24/15 SetlistRecap, Recap2 – Shoreline
07/25/15 SetlistRecap – LA Forum
07/28/15 SetlistRecap – Austin
07/29/15 SetlistRecap – Grand Prarie
07/31/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 1
08/01/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 2
08/02/15 SetlistRecap – Tuscaloosa
08/04/15 SetlistRecap – Nashville
08/05/15 SetlistRecap – Kansas City
08/07/15 SetlistRecap – Blossom
08/08/15 SetlistRecap – Alpine 1
08/09/15 SetlistRecap – Apline 2
08/11/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 1
08/12/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 2
08/14/15 SetlistRecap – Raleigh
08/15/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 1
08/16/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 2
08/21/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 1
08/22/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 2
08/23/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 3
09/04/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 1
09/05/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 2
09/06/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 3


Commerce City, CO posters by Rich Kelly. 12x24, Edition of 850 each night.

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Monday 08/17/2015 by pzerbo

REGULAR SEASON FINALE; ON TO THE PLAYOFFS!

Never miss a Sunday show… so “they” say. Or if you must, at least read the recap! Let’s get right to the action from Sunday’s conclusion to the regular season portion of Phish’s summer 2015 tour at Merriweather Post Pavilion.

When Phish took the stage a little after 7:30, a few overzealous (and perhaps over-served) fans in the pit cheered for “Sleeping Monkey,” which was the encore the previous night. They responded with an extended full-band “Sleeping Monkey” tease, that LivePhish actually cut into its own track. But, no, this wouldn’t be a repeat of 6/18 & 6/19/10 when “Tweezer Reprise” closed a show and opened the next. A quick “Charge!” from Page and we were off to the races with “Golgi Apparatus.” “Golgi” has kicked off dozens of shows in its almost thirty-year history, though this was the first opener since 12/29/09 in Miami; “Golgi” was also a tour debut, having last been played last this past New Year’s Eve, also in Miami.


Photo © Merriweather Post Pavilion

“Golgi” yielded to turn-on-a-dime transition to “Undermind” that saw an energetic Page piano solo, followed by Trey taking a more relaxed turn at the helm. The always punchy “Julius” was a perfect energy balance for this spot in the show, and a great way to mix things up for a song that sees most of its action in set-closing or encore roles. Mike’s “555” was a bit of a stumble as the band seemingly couldn’t find the same page, with Trey finally showing at least a little interest for his late-song solo. The delightful Anastasio/Marshall composition “Nothing” was played for the first time since 6/7/12 Worcester (139 shows) and only the sixth time ever. “Nothing” is really a great song; if you don’t know it well, take a second to dig into the lyricsensconced! – and check out the original Amfibian version.


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road

No Men In No Man’s Land” continues to jump around in a utility role and found yet another great mid set spot here. It’s funny how soon many fans establish their preferences to how a new song is deployed, as many are already vocally lobbying for more “second set treatment” with the jamming jets open for firing. While “Blaze On” and “Mercury” are both very likely candidates for long-term residency in the Phish repertoire, “NMINML” is all but a lock for Rookie of the Year. “Stash” hasn’t “gone big” this tour, but this was an enjoyable version with an almost swingy and relaxed calm, contrasted with the more traditional big tension and release dynamic. Near the end, though, the “Stash” jam turned delightfully weird in the more classic sense and concluded with a sharp, punctuated peak.

A quick huddle with Mike and Trey resulted in “David Bowie,” with an actual full-fledged if mostly uneventful intro, something that is more often than not skipped these days. The composed section of “Bowie” was a little rough, but the jam more than compensated. The early part of the jam was slow, trippy, almost Floydian, then a shift to a bright major key, which has been very typical of Phish’s jamming approach this tour, though relatively atypical for “Bowie.” This excellent “Bowie” jam also featured a brief but clear flirtation by Trey, and then Page, of the bridge between “China Cat Sunflower” and “I Know You Rider.” A smoking hot “Possum” put a wrap on this very good first set, with the last 40-minutes being especially vibrant and fun.


"David Bowie" – Photo © @tweeprise

Whenever Phish strings together a few great shows fans are quick to proclaim it “the best tour since…” or “the best tour in 3.0.” They’re almost always jumping the gun – they’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin's done. That said, one thing seems unambiguous, at least to this observer: first sets have made a notable and in many cases substantial improvement this tour. The floor is still pretty low (see Shoreline, Austin, Kansas City etc) but the ceiling has been raised a ton, with truly great first sets including Bend 2, Atlanta 1, Nashville, Alpine 2 and Mann 1. That’s a pretty big deal given where we’ve come from in recent years, so kudos to the band for what seems to be a conscious investment in making first sets matter; it’s working, and appreciated!


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road

In a shocking development that sent overnight markets reeling, “Down with Disease” opened a Phish second set! If you just listen to the intro it may seem like a total trainwreck, but it seemed perhaps more likely a case of a little in-band joke, with Trey tweaking the intro line, “trying to stop these demons that are dancing in Mike’s head!” The “Disease” jam itself was solid if uneventful, staying close to the song’s vest in type-I space until the last minute or so when the “Disease” structure melted away with Trey offering hints of “Slave to the Traffic Light,” before they actually shifted into “Slave” proper. “Slave” was a great call in this spot and the unorthodox placement seemed to pump the song up with a little extra vitality, as it was more up-tempo than normal, very bright and bouncy, less lullabye-like, and very reminiscent of the 7/4/99 version in Atlanta.

The set is going well at this point, and those seeking the deep improv were thrilled to see the “Light.” This "Light" jam had a lot going for it, one potentially destined for greatness. Chris Kuroda was unleashing his full arsenal of psychedelic goodies and the band was purring along. Trey threw in a “Little Twelve Toes” (from Schoolhouse Rock) tease near the end, and we’re really going for peak liftoff, when Trey then deployed the fan's least favorite tool: the ripcord. The segue to "Twist" was pretty sweet in its own way, but Fish in particular was visibly pissed and expressed that through the transition (listen for his repeated, emphatic bass drum thumping, as if to say "no!").


"Possum" – Photo © @tweeprise

The last outing for “Twist” at The Mann was a 22-minute monster that many seasoned observers consider the best jam of the tour, so hopes were still riding high. But after a few brief minutes, Trey again shut it down, this time in favor of the Rolling Stones’ classic “Shine a Light” from Exile on Main St., the first Phish performance of the song since 7/20/13 at Chicago’s Northerly Island (91 shows). “Fuego” followed and had “under” bettors cashing their tickets early, as the jam segment of the song was omitted entirely resulting in the shortest performance of the song to date.

Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” came along at just the right time to give this set a much-needed lift, a little Hail Mary to evoke the spirit of 8/8/98! This version was odd and kinda cool, slower and funkier than usual, with Trey riding the echoplex and Page getting up (so that you can get… up?) over Fish and Mike’s impenetrable chunky groove. “You Enjoy Myself” would take the set home. This “YEM” was notable for Trey replacing his “boy” scream with, um, “motherfucker”! The post tramps jam featured more Trey and Mike shenanigans with close-up jamming followed by a back-to-back balance jamming routine, before they both climbed up on Fish’s drum riser pre-vocal jam. A “Backwards Down the Number Line” encore still left more than ten minutes before the 11pm curfew, but that was all she wrote.


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road

So, Phish fans, that concludes the regular season, and quite the regular season it was! Phish dominated from coast to coast, offering a roster of shows that will – depending on what happens in the playoffs – make a very strong case for best tour of 3.0. This tour contains what is either the best or second best single show of 3.0, Mann2 (better than “FYF”? Tough call), and a roster of heavy hitters that seem to match up well with the cream of fall ‘13: MPP 1, Shoreline, Blossom, Atlanta 1, and Nashville are all solid top tier shows, while Alpine 2, Atlanta 2, Mann 1, The Forum, and even Bend 2 from so early in the tour are all worth your time to explore. We’ve had new songs, great jams, excellence spread across both sets, all the while without any major weather issues or other mishaps.

And now? The playoffs! Playoffs? On to Magnaball! And Dick’s! Be safe, folks… we’ll be back with coverage from Watkins Glen throughout next weekend. Let’s get it on!

-Phillip Zerbo


"You Enjoy Myself" – Photo © @tweeprise

Phish Summer 2015 – Setlists & Recaps
07/21/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 1
07/22/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 2
07/24/15 SetlistRecap, Recap2 – Shoreline
07/25/15 SetlistRecap – LA Forum
07/28/15 SetlistRecap – Austin
07/29/15 SetlistRecap – Grand Prarie
07/31/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 1
08/01/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 2
08/02/15 SetlistRecap – Tuscaloosa
08/04/15 SetlistRecap – Nashville
08/05/15 SetlistRecap – Kansas City
08/07/15 SetlistRecap – Blossom
08/08/15 SetlistRecap – Alpine 1
08/09/15 SetlistRecap – Apline 2
08/11/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 1
08/12/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 2
08/14/15 SetlistRecap – Raleigh
08/15/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 1
08/16/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 2
08/21/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 1
08/22/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 2
08/23/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 3
09/04/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 1
09/05/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 2
09/06/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 3

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Monday 08/10/2015 by pzerbo

ALPINE2 RECAP: SUNDAY GRAVY

Phish’s summer 2015 tour wrapped-up a two-night stand on Sunday at Wisconsin’s massive, sprawling venue on the steepest hill in all of rock and roll, the Alpine Valley Music Theatre. My friend and colleague Parker Harrington did a spectacular job setting the Alpine Valley scene in his recap of Saturday’s show, and there is a lot to cover from this edition of “never miss a Sunday show” so let’s cut right to the action from the bunny hill in the corn fields.

The band kicked off the gig at 7:45 with “The Very Long Fuse” from Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House, the first performance of the song since the 10/31/14 debut in Las Vegas. This was one of the tunes from that set that was seemingly a long-shot to appear again in the repertoire, given the centrality of the theatrics in the first performance with the laser “cutting” a hole in the haunted house set, ultimately revealing the band. Surprising though this may have been, it was but a hint of what was to come. Instead of exposing the haunted house, “The Very Long Fuse” would instead create a huge explosion to reveal… Colonel Forbin!


Photo © @tweeprise

The first “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent” since the MSG “Truck Your Face” set from 12/31/13 (57 shows), this edition would offer one of the more hysterical chapters in the ongoing Gamehendge saga: The Bird Shit Narration. We here at phish.net are rather fond of “Fly Famous Mockingbird” – in addition to it being a delightfully weird and simultaneously beautiful song, it’s eponymous character is the namesake of the non-profit foundation that sponsors this site. The narration is simply too good not to include in its entirety.

Trey:Thanks everybody. I’m not much of a talker these days, but I used to be when I wouldn’t shut up for fifteen minutes at a time. I will say this, when we stay at Alpine Valley here, some of us, sometimes all four of us, we sleep in the parking lot right back there, I sleep in the parking lot when we play here. I woke up there this morning, it was pretty cool, I got up and put my headphones on, I was listening to a mix tape, and I got to walk around the venue out there. I walked around all morning, we never, the four of us had never really been out there. We always see you guys from this perspective and you always see us from this perspective. It was really fun this morning to walk around, and I walked around and I walked all the way up there, and up where that guy who is waving his arms is, which is like on the peak of that hill, and it is so beautiful from up there, you can see over the top of the venue, and I was also really loving that tree right there, so this is a special shout to the people by the tree, you guys are all waving, thanks, man! The tree is really cool, and then my other favorite spot was that tree, over there, right on the corner is really beautiful. And then the last place I was standing, there was like a piece of wooden platform, that if you’re on the hill, there’s a flat area, you guys right there are on it, and that was one of my favorite spots. And it was there where I was standing when I felt a drop of rain dropping on my head. And I looked up and saw no clouds, and I realized that it was bird shit! And then I thought, maybe tonight is the night to do “Famous Mockingbird!” It’s a sign from the heavens! So I’d like to thank that bird. And then, when I got back, after my little stroll, I started looking up some little factoids that I want to share with you. So thanks to the shitting bird, and by the way, for those of you on the grassy knoll, if you feel bird shit, and you feel a second bird shit, there is obviously a second shitter, on the grassy knoll. Anyway, ba-da-bump! So when I started looking up some facts, I wanted to say that apparently we’ve played here seventeen times, which is pretty cool, man. And tomorrow is apparently the nineteenth anniversary of us first coming to Alpine Valley. So I just want to say, we love it here, and we’ve had such great times, that’s pretty amazing, nineteen years, and we get to share all that with you at this beautiful venue. I’d like to thank the shitting bird, and I’d like to shut up now and play a song, about another bird, the famous mockingbird… as we carry you to Gamehendge.

As Scott Bernstein aptly noted on Twitter, “the bird that shit on Trey at Alpine wins creativity points over @drewphish but kudos to both for getting Trey to play their requests.”


Photo © @tweeprise

The set then proceeded to include seven more songs – every single one – that was a tour debut, fourteen shows deep into the run. “Brian and Robert” was played for the first time since 10/27/14 at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (BGCA). “Saw It Again” was played for the first time since 10/31/14 Vegas featuring another episode of Mike and Trey coordinated dancing, and not one but two false endings. “Esther” saw its first live action since 8/30/13 at Dick’s (77 shows), and was notable – given often sloppy performances, especially after sitting on the shelf – for being well-executed, despite the break.

Mike’s lovingly bizarre “Weigh” (first since 8/3/13 BGCA, 80 shows) was a welcome treat, though marred by crowd “woos.” “The Sloth” emerged for the first time since 7/12/13 Jones Beach (94 shows), and “Sanity” took a hard look in the mirror for the first time since 10/28/14 BGCA. While this diverse and surprising set was a treat by any reasonable measure, it was still absent any real jamming; enter “Split Open and Melt,” the first since 1/3/15 Miami. “Melt” has, ironically, been in a bit of a closed shell of late in terms of expansive and exploratory jamming; this edition isn’t going to recall the song’s glory days, but it was certainly more than serviceable and really rather excellent for the era, especially Trey’s machine-gun routine at the end, and ended the set on a high note.

When first sets suck, relative to Phish's ridiculously high standards – and I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sometimes they do – we note that. This set, to be sure, did not suck! And to be fair, there have been a bunch of first sets this tour that have been pretty awesome, Nashville and Atlanta1 in particular. There was clearly a conscious force at work here to mix up the routine, and it is an effort that fans appreciate in the extreme. The repertoire built over the course of three decades is teeming with riches, so, sometimes go ahead and dig deep, right? They did exactly that, to the fan’s delight. Bravo!


Photo © @tweeprise

Although obviously not a bust-out, “Run Like an Antelope” opened the second set for the first time since 8/11/04 Great Woods (245 shows). While nothing extraordinary took place in the ten-plus minute run time, “Antelope” had the crowd going wild in excitement, as is its role. “Carini” found itself in the two-hole and was a curious bird: there wasn’t a lot happening here early in the jam. Trey went for the Mu-Tron but backed off quickly, and the jam was picking up steam until about six minutes in, when they shifted to a pretty, light, bright jam that was rather delightful, if brief, setting the stage for “Waves.” Or another way to look at it, the “Waves” jam started even before the song proper, in place of a “Carini” jam. The first few minutes of the “Waves” jam were carried by a brisk current, before dissolving to calm, almost flat waters. Trey signals “Tweezer” with about half a minute left in “Waves,” and the segue to “Tweezer” is really odd (and great), with what comes tantalizingly close to but not quite a tease of the signature descending riff of “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again.”


Photo © @tweeprise

The second “Tweezer” of the weekend following Blossom’s excellent “Cheezer” (“Chalk Dust” -> “Tweezer”) from Friday, Trey launches from the “Memphis Blues” riff into the “Tweezer” theme with the Mu-Tron leading the way, crunching through the corn fields. Early on in the jam it almost seemed like they were going to bail out, with light hints of “Back On the Train” a la 7/27/14 Merriweather, but they hung in with Trey leading brilliantly, chunka, chunka, chunka. Page led the flight to lightness and Mike and Trey followed with Fish calmly driving the tempo. A tap of Mike’s fight bell, a few comet shots from Page, and we’re back into delightfully familiar territory from this tour with bright, sunny, open major key spaces. This segment evoked the lightest hints of “Dear Prudence” and “Franklin’s Tower” while never wavering from the core Phish essence. What an awesome jam!

Dirt” offered a brief contemplative interlude, offering one a moment to perhaps reflect on the 20th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing. In the humble opinion of this observer, “Dirt” is no less than one of Phish’s best songs, with haunting lyrics tenderly delivered alongside passionate solos from Trey. “Mike’s Song” sure left a mark in Nashville with the long-awaited return of the second jam, and its first appearance since then had fans again on the edge of their seats. Trey and Page rode the thick groove to Funky Town in the first jam – first jams matter – and then at decision time, nobody was throwing up a stop sign, so we’re on to the second jam! Since a number of observers – rightly, if snarkily – noted that the second jam in Nashville wasn’t the second jam, The Right Way, we’ll just call this one “Drew’s Jam,” if that’s OK with you. Page was on fire and let the charge that broke out into some start-stop jamming. And the "woos." Come on, people, what are you, twelve? Shut the fuck up! Seriously. You're at a performance of music, you are not the musician, so your job is to, wait for it... shut up and listen. Killer jam, though.


Photo © @tweeprise

This tour’s anthemic “Blaze On” rained chemtrails on the assembled masses, laying the seeds for the next generation of yearbook quotes. You’ve got one life, Blaze On, it’s kinda like a Dead song! A compact “Weekapaug Groove” (“woo”) sent us around the homestretch, though in one of the only questionable decisions of the entire night, “Weekapaug” actually came to a dead stop rather than offering a launch-pad to bang straight into “Tweezer Reprise.” A mere nit-picky footnote, however, to the best four minutes in rock and roll. While “Tweeprise” has closed sets rather than encored throughout the song’s history, it is notable (and awesome) that it has closed the second set in each of the four instances where “Tweezer” was played on this tour.

The tour debuts kept rolling through the double encore with Mike’s ode to love, “Contact” (first since 10/29/14), and the barn-burning “Frankenstein” (first since 10/31/14) put a wrap on this thrilling performance by The Phish From Vermont. This show had it all, it was the whole Phish package. Get some!

The Road to Magnaball continues on Tuesday at The Mann in Philly. Wit, or Witout? It’s all up to you. We’ll be back with more coverage on Wednesday, enjoy the day off!

-Phillip Zerbo


Photo © @tweeprise

Phish Summer 2015 – Setlists & Recaps
07/21/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 1
07/22/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 2
07/24/15 SetlistRecap, Recap2 – Shoreline
07/25/15 SetlistRecap – LA Forum
07/28/15 SetlistRecap – Austin
07/29/15 SetlistRecap – Grand Prarie
07/31/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 1
08/01/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 2
08/02/15 SetlistRecap – Tuscaloosa
08/04/15 SetlistRecap – Nashville
08/05/15 SetlistRecap – Kansas City
08/07/15 SetlistRecap – Blossom
08/08/15 SetlistRecap – Alpine 1
08/09/15 SetlistRecap – Apline 2
08/11/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 1
08/12/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 2
08/14/15 SetlistRecap – Raleigh
08/15/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 1
08/16/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 2
08/21/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 1
08/22/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 2
08/23/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 3
09/04/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 1
09/05/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 2
09/06/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 3


Alpine Valley posters by Brad Klausen.

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Wednesday 08/05/2015 by pzerbo

NASHVILLE SKYLINE: GREATEST HITZ

On Tuesday night Phish’s summer tour descended on the brand new, 6,800-capacity Ascend Amphitheater in downtown Nashville, TN. The Nashville Skyline form the backdrop and the gentle arches of the Korean Veteran’s Memorial Bridge spanning the Cumberland River in the background frame this gorgeous spot in Nashville’s West Riverfront Park. This was Phish’s 26th performance in the state of Tennessee, the first since 6/10/12 Bonnaroo; it was Phish’s fourth in Nashville, though the first in almost twenty years since 11/29/95 at the Municipal Auditorium.

Reports from the brand new venue were universally positive. Seats were just folding chairs on grass and were not permanently affixed, and none of the seats were yet numbered barring the first one in row, as if details were still being added. Most of the staff were laid back and accommodating, and the facilities were so fresh that they had "new car smell." The venue acoustics was unusually pristine – crisp and bright – offering the best of both worlds, with wide open and full sound like the best outdoor venues but with the sharp, dialed-in sound of an indoor venue. The extreme heat that has followed the band throughout much of their tour was no exception in Nashville, an unrelenting 90F° at the 7:34 start time.


Photo © @tweeprise

The gig kicked off with a spirited “Free;” this was the sixth deployment in the kick-off position since the song opened the MSG run on 12/28/11, and the role fits the song like a glove. The tour’s bright, peppy new Anastasio/Marshall funk vehicle “No Men In No Man’s Land” is gaining steam and fans as it rolls across America. While the Mu-tron effect gets a lot of ink, it’s Trey’s playful, engaged, attacking jamming leads, weaving and jutting and sailing over the bedrock of the best rhythm section in rock, that is propelling this song to strong Rookie of the Year contention.

Wolfman’s Brother” was next – you know the set is shaping up as a winner when “Wolfman’s” is offered this early, when there was no pressing need for an energy boost. Mike and Trey engaged in the first of several adventures in Glen Close jamming – this bromance is no act, the affection (musical and otherwise) for each other is palpable on stage. It borders on redundant to note Mike’s contributions to “Wolfman’s” ongoing excellence, but this is as good a place as any to note that Mike’s playing this summer has been consistently phenomenal in a lead jamming role, brilliant musical ideas rolling off one after another into the Phish stew. This set was kicking so much ass that even “555” was superb, featuring a fiery Trey solo.


Photo © @tweeprise

Trey was using his Ocedoc guitar for this gig, and in an unusual move switched to the KOA for “Birds of a Feather.” Trey has switched guitars during the tour from one show to the next, but it is exceedingly rare for him to do so mid-gig. While this “BOAF” was brief at six minutes, Trey was super active in the composed section, playing lead fills where he usually just chords. Intentional or otherwise, Page chimed in with a series of scary effects toward the end, like the kitchen sink of screeching animal noises. The whole sequence was weird, but awesome weird. Don’t sleep on this “BOAF” when scanning the timings; it’s a jam-packed six minutes. When “BOAF” ended, Trey switched back to the Ocedoc.

Funky Bitch” featured Mike showing strong vocals and a fantastic Page solo, and a tender delivery by Trey of “When the Circus Comes” provided what is in the last few years a rare instance of back-to-back cover songs. This version of “Stash” isn’t going to whiff any seasoned observers “best of” lists, but it rounded out the set nicely. After a brief interlude with the Chairman of the Boards in “Lawn Boy” – where Page visited and acknowledged Mike Side (the right side) – a pounding “Walls of the Cave” punctuated this excellent first set. While this set didn't have a tent-pole jam like the Atlanta1 “Ghost” or even a very non-first-set-like opening sequence of “Martian Monster” and “Down with Disease” from the LA Forum, this set had great pace and flow, thoughtful song selection and inspired type-I playing that easily ranks it among the top tier of this tour's first sets.


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road

The first “Golden Age” since the ground-breaking 10/31/14 Vegas gig opened the second set festivities. The “song” part of the song was light on love, heavy on falter; maybe something was amiss with Trey’s prompter? The jam section starts out with real potential, a chunky groove with Page on clav that went type-II, though in an unusual move reverted back to the type-I jam. This wasn’t negative at all it was just unusual, as Trey shifted the band to a major key with an airy, open approach and tone. “Light” brought out the rock star in Trey, almost a 90s style where he was out on the ledge, way out front with more typically hard rock licks, leaving the band a bit behind but in a good way, deep into his art before lots of pedal tweaking and a reduction to a soft spacey wash that set the stage for “Shade.” Another new Anastasio/Marshall composition, “Shade” may not have been liked by all for blocking the “Light,” but the selection could be reasonably excused given that Tom was in attendance.

Many readers know the story of “Mike’s Song” and its long-lost “second jam.” For those catching up, back in the proverbial day (up until the first hiatus in the fall of 2000), “Mike’s Song” would often contain not one but two jams – the first jam after the vocal section, and the second at the end of the descending chord progression that resolves to “Simple,” “I Am Hydrogen,” or any number of other tunes. When Phish returned to the stage after their break and break-up, – in 2002, and then again in 2009, respectively – ”Mike’s” second jam was seemingly a thing of the past. Which was, you know, not that big of a deal. We’re all adults, for the most part; we can accept change, more or less. That said, for fans of a certain age, “Mike’s” second jam was at the very top of lists of things from the good ol’ days that we’d wish might someday return.


Photo © @tweeprise

Enter my friend and colleague, Drew Hitz. Drew is a professional musician and music business consultant, a world-renowned tubist who has performed with many of the greatest ensembles of our time, a phish.net contributor, and a member of the board of directors of The Mockingbird Foundation. He’s also a pretty big fan of the second jam in “Mike’s Song.” So, on 5/22/13, when Drew had the opportunity of a lifetime to perform tuba with Trey and the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center presenting orchestrations by Don Hart, he had the chance that every Phish fan dreams of: a few private moments with Trey. Drew thanked Trey for being able to perform with him that night, what he described as the highlight of his career. Then he asked if he could be a pain in the ass Phish fan for one minute, and he asked what had happened to “Mike’s” second jam – you know, it’s in “F”! Drew noted how incredibly gracious Trey is, all the time, even with super fans. The “Mike’s Song” discussion didn’t quite take, however, and the “second jam” remained in mothballs.

When Phish announced that they were playing in Nashville, home of Drew and Trey’s common friend and colleague, Don Hart, Drew decided to make the trip. Don arranged for Drew to attend soundcheck, and again Drew had the chance to speak with Trey. This time he left little to chance; he had a recording of the last known instance of “Mike’s” second jam, 7/14/00 Columbus, OH, queued up on his iPhone, which he played for Trey, to remind him how it goes. “So, Trey, do you want to break Twitter tonight?” None of this was a secret – Drew tweeted about it – so when the opening notes of “Mike’s” hit, the suspense was, for many of us, rather thick. The show was also being webcast – it wasn’t quite the whole world that was watching, but for those who follow Phish with passionate regularity, this was the "who shot J.R.?" moment – we were all tuned in.


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road

Now that we’re all on the same page, we had the pesky matter of the first jam in “Mike’s Song,” which was excellent in its own right. If they would have concluded “Mike’s” then and there, well, no big deal, right? But after two false endings… a hint at “Simple” and then... no way! The second jam! This holy shit moment, the all-time couch-tour synchronized desk-flipping moment, instigated by a fan. Pretty cool, huh? And the (second) jam! Much ink will be spilled about this in the coming days and weeks, but for now let’s just say that it was well worth the wait. Trey even capped off the fun by briefly teasing “Eleanor Rigby” near the end of second “Mike’s” jam. Clocking in at 14:27, it was the longest “Mike’s Song” in over twelve years, since 2/21/03 Cincinnati. Wow. Just… wow!

At this point in the show, the “W” is obviously secure. It would have been so easy to take a knee. Park the bus. Call off the dogs. It would take an act of monumental stupidity to fuck this up, so play a few songs straight-up and hit the tunnel, right? Wrong. Good Phish shows get their work done in the third quarter, stick it in cruise control, take a bow, and move on to the next town. Great Phish shows power through the fourth quarter with ferocity and determination... to glory! This was a great Phish show. “Piper” was simply outstanding, pushing the boundaries of sonic space. When “Crosseyed and Painless” hit, there were no more desks left to flip. Fish was so on, all night, and he still had the juice to drive the powertrain and offer a transcendent vocal performance, while Trey was channeling his inner Adrian Belew.


Photo © @tweeprise

Then, there is the not-so-small matter of the “Weekapaug Groove.” First, a silky smooth segue from the “C+P”. Then the “Weekapaug” intro at first seems a little trainwrecky, but it’s all coming up Millhouse so they work it to their advantage. Then, a funky change in key and tempo, more bromance coordinated dancing to a funky dark groove – that contained strong hints of Black Sabbath’s “Electric Funeral” – before heading back to the concluding chorus. Still Waiting! Using “Crosseyed’s” “still waiting” chorus to smoothe the transition from the dark slow part to the light fast part was absolutely brilliant. “Weekapaug” was like a mini-movie thriller with more twists and turns than a “Mike’s Song” with a second jam! Fifteen-minute “Weekapaug”; 45-minute “Mike’s Groove”... holy shit. Take a few deep breaths, hug the person closest to you, and then sit back and enjoy a sublime “Slave to the Traffic Light” encore.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes, after all these years and decades, you wonder… why is it that I still spend so much time and energy and money on a rock and roll band? Sometimes, that answer isn’t readily apparent. Sometimes the answer is still waiting. Sometimes the answer never comes at all. Then, Shoreline II. Atlanta1 I & II. Nashville (Or Vegas, or Randall’s Island, or….). When you get whacked in the face with brilliant, powerful, masterful, awe-inspiring shows like that, the answer is simple. It’s the art of four men, it’s right in front of you, it’s undeniable, and when it’s on, it’s totally awesome. That’s why.

We’ll be back here tomorrow with more coverage of Phish's summer tour from Kansas City.

-Phillip Zerbo


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road

Phish Summer 2015 – Setlists & Recaps
07/21/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 1
07/22/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 2
07/24/15 SetlistRecap, Recap2 – Shoreline
07/25/15 SetlistRecap – LA Forum
07/28/15 SetlistRecap – Austin
07/29/15 SetlistRecap – Grand Prarie
07/31/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 1
08/01/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 2
08/02/15 SetlistRecap – Tuscaloosa
08/04/15 SetlistRecap – Nashville
08/05/15 SetlistRecap – Kansas City
08/07/15 SetlistRecap – Blossom
08/08/15 SetlistRecap – Alpine 1
08/09/15 SetlistRecap – Apline 2
08/11/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 1
08/12/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 2
08/14/15 SetlistRecap – Raleigh
08/15/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 1
08/16/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 2
08/21/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 1
08/22/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 2
08/23/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 3
09/04/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 1
09/05/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 2
09/06/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 3


Nashville, TN LE poster by Status Serigraph. Edition of 700. 18x24.

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Wednesday 07/29/2015 by pzerbo

AUSTIN RECAP: FEEL THE TEXAS HEAT

On Tuesday night Phish’s performed their first gig at the 14,000-capacity Austin 360 Amphitheater. It was their twenty-third show in Texas, with the first on 10/25/90 at The Showbar in Houston, and most recently on 10/8/10 at the Austin City Limits festival. Great performances litter the Texas roster, including the famed Bomb Factory show on 5/7/94 and the two-step at the Starplex Amphitheater in Dallas on 7/25/97 and Austin’s South Park Meadows on 7/26/97. Nobody was expecting cool breezes for this late July Texas show, and the 8:34pm start time saw the band and fans doing their best to manage a sweltering 95°F.


Photo © Austin 360 Ampitheater

Phish’s fans are rightly noted for being devoted, obsessive, and, at times, overly critical of the band’s performances. In the “3.0” era, much fan angst has been focused on the quality of performances in the first set. This critique boils down to songs being played in an interchangeable, uninspired and often sloppy manner. The mantra that “anything can happen at a Phish show” is belied by many modern day first set performances, where the only real variation is the degree songs they’ve been playing for ten, twenty, even thirty years are botched. Sometimes this stock criticism is unfair, reactionary, and entitled. Other times, it is spot on… it’s like a different band is the warm-up act, but with the same lineup as Phish. The first set from Austin falls squarely in the latter category; it was far below average, even for the modest standards of a modern Phish first set.

Party Time” opened the festivities in a casual, almost serene manner. “Free” brought the tempo up a little but was marred by Trey having difficulty recalling the song’s pesky details, followed by a “Halley’s Comet” that seemed to wilt under the oppressive heat. Even “Wolfman’s Brother” – often the bright spot in otherwise listless first sets – couldn’t harness any heat. “Possum” was respectable, and if one was forced to pick a first set highlight this would be as good as any. A sequence of short standards included “Lawn Boy,” “Bouncing Around the Room” (a difficult song for Trey despite its seeming simplicity was punctuated at the end by him stepping on a wrong pedal, scrEECH!) and “Water in the Sky.”


Photo © Austin 360 Ampitheater

Dirt” was a minor bust-out, having been last played on 10/25/13 in Worcester, a 58-show gap that was the longest in the song's eighteen-year history. After “Devotion to a Dream” they offered Mike’s “Sugar Shack,” a mystifying call given Trey's historic difficulties with the song and the fact he was genuinely struggling on guitar, with predictable results. “Run Like an Antelope” has saved plenty of lackluster sets in its day, but there would be no heroics on this night until after the break. All that said, no big deal, right? Everyone has a bad day at the office; precious few, however, turn those around as fast, decisively, and often as Phish.


Photo © @tweeprise

After a relatively short break, they did exactly that, busting out of the gates with a fiery “46 Days.” The vibe established in this “46 Days” was night-and-day from the first set, the band displaying fresh and powerful confidence. The show being webcast, desks started flipping across America when they slipped into “The Dogs” from last Halloween’s Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House set. Another smooth segue back into “46 Days” witnessed the second half of the sandwich taking a decidedly more open, flowing and airy approach, setting the stage for “Piper.” While not quite containing the “slow build” of old, the intro was slow-ish, before building into an up-tempo early pace. The early stages of the “Piper” jam is vintage Fishman, drive-pounding Phish’s engine room, with Trey gliding above, before taking charge with his bandmates in close supportive pursuit. After a bit of a tempo downshift, Trey briefly hinted at “Lizards” before settling on “Ghost.” “Ghost” featured more great Fishman fills coming out of the “composed” section. “Ghost” was awesome – patient, sailing into a bright major key, with a tempo kick into the bliss zone and hints of “Runaway Jim” toward the end. If you are looking for the highlight reel CliffNotes for this gig, the opening half-hour of the second set is money.


Photo © @tweeprise

The new Anastasio/Marshall ballad “Shade” – with its opening a dead ringer for the Dead’s “Standing on the Moon” – made its second appearance, after its debut at the tour opener in Bend. While unusually placed between two slower songs, don’t sleep on the excellent “Gotta Jibboo” that featured Trey offering much more focused leads than are often found in this groove-based vehicle. “Waiting All Night” was performed in back-to-back shows, squandering much hope for fourth quarter momentum. The apparently self-referential “Blaze On” will likely be a fixture in the rotation; Trey clearly loves performing this song. A vocal segment of the fanbase clamours for Dead songs to enter Phish’s rotation, and in "Blaze On" you get three for the price of one (“Not Fade Away,” “Liberty” and “Women Are Smarter”)! “Wading In the Velvet Sea” gave Page another turn in the spotlight before giving way to “David Bowie.” “Bowie” offered a truncated intro, a reasonably solid composed section, and solid jam sequence with CK5 unloading the kitchen sink of psychedelia on his favorite song.


Photo © @tweeprise

Suzy Greenberg” took us down the home stretch, with Trey finding another vehicle for the deployment of his Mutron pedal (the ‘77 “Dancing in the Street” effect). A Neurologist in Austin!? Austin scooped up the Forum’s hanging “Tweezer Reprise,” and a “Loving Cup” encore closed the books on this first leg of the 2015 Texas Two-Step.

Wednesday’s gig takes us up north on I-35 and brings us back indoors to the Verizon Theatre at Grand Prairie; tickets are still available if you find yourself in the area, and the show will also be webcast via LivePhish. We’ll be back here with more coverage tomorrow.

Phillip Zerbo


LE poster by Conor Nolan. Edition of 675. 18x24

Phish Summer 2015 – Setlists & Recaps
07/21/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 1
07/22/15 SetlistRecap – Bend 2
07/24/15 SetlistRecap, Recap2 – Shoreline
07/25/15 SetlistRecap – LA Forum
07/28/15 SetlistRecap – Austin
07/29/15 SetlistRecap – Grand Prarie
07/31/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 1
08/01/15 SetlistRecap – Atlanta 2
08/02/15 SetlistRecap – Tuscaloosa
08/04/15 SetlistRecap – Nashville
08/05/15 SetlistRecap – Kansas City
08/07/15 SetlistRecap – Blossom
08/08/15 SetlistRecap – Alpine 1
08/09/15 SetlistRecap – Apline 2
08/11/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 1
08/12/15 SetlistRecap – Mann 2
08/14/15 SetlistRecap – Raleigh
08/15/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 1
08/16/15 SetlistRecap – Merriweather 2
08/21/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 1
08/22/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 2
08/23/15 SetlistRecap – Magnaball 3
09/04/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 1
09/05/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 2
09/06/15 SetlistRecap – Dick's 3

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Tuesday 07/07/2015 by pzerbo

FARE THEE WELL - CHICAGO 3 RECAP

The celebration of fifty years of the Grateful Dead came to a bittersweet conclusion on Sunday at Chicago’s Soldier Field, the last of five “Fare Thee Well” concerts billed as the final shows of this quintessentially American of institutions. During this abbreviated final run of shows – that some had labelled a nostalgia trip or worse, a “cash grab” – a band emerged that very closely approximated the spirit of the Grateful Dead. Not just in the authenticity provided by a lineup of its surviving members, but in the truest spirit of the band, producing music that – in, at times, brilliant flashes – transcended all the bullshit, and gave us the real thing.


Photo © @soldierfield

Before the first set began, the band gathered to offer bows to audience and a group hug before The Last Grateful Dead Show Ever. Constructing the final setlist must have been an enormously difficult task – one last shot at their enormous repertoire as a group. The celebration kicked off with a rousing “China Cat Sunflower” > “I Know You Rider” with Trey and Bruce trading verses on “China Cat” and Bobby taking lead vocals on “IKYR.” As was the case for large segments of this run, Trey shined throughout, weaving leads both delicate and powerful. They opted for a democratic approach with Bobby, Phil and Trey sharing Garcia’s signature “I wish I was a headlight, on a northbound train” line, and the fifteen-minute combo set a tone of celebration and earnest joy for the gig. “Estimated Prophet” added to this first set’s “second-set feel.” Approached with an almost funereal pace that saw Trey intently following Bobby’s lead to keep (the lack of) pace, the jam nevertheless gathered some steam toward the end.

Built to Last” was offered seemingly not as self-congratulations, but as a nod to the enduring bond between the band and its fans. Bruce assumed the vocal duties, but it was Trey who would shine on this tune with confidently delivered lines that floated effortlessly and optimistically. “Samson and Delilah” rarely missed a Sunday show, and this version stayed true to the Dead’s history, even in the band’s heyday, of often sloppy performances. Phil’s “Mountains of the Moon” was a surprise call, given that it was never performed in a Dead show after 1969. “Mountains of the Moon” sent more than a few fans to the restroom and concessions, but that would have been a mistake; “Mountains” was brilliant, easily provided the jamming highlight of the first set, and one of the most patient, balanced, and engaging conversational passages of the entire run. The traditionally spirited “Throwing Stones” closed the set with an almost unrecognizably slow pace. At one point it seemed that Bobby had forgotten the song’s lyrics and we were heading for a “senior moment” but instead he delivered a modern day improvisation that “you can buy the whole goddamn government today!” We give you a hard time, but we love you, Bobby!


Photo © @languagestrange

The second set began with fireworks (literally) and then opened with their first big radio “hit” (and one of only two repeats from Santa Clara), “Truckin’.” “Cassidy” offered a good-bye from the band – “Faring thee well now / Let your life proceed by its own design / Nothing to tell now / Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine” – and also the jamming highlight of the second set, twelve blissful minutes that would have been notable show highlights in almost any Grateful Dead era. Trey took a crack at Garcia’s loved “Althea” that was compact but far from throw-away before yielding to the beloved “Terrapin Station.” Phil and Bobby traded vocal versus on this “Terrapin” that proved one of the only questionable decisions of the night, as the band was unable to find solid footing in the basic mechanics of the song.

After the final “Drums” -> “Space” segment – augmented by an array of psychedelic computer graphics on the venue’s massive video screen as well as on the webcast feed, in the event that stuff wasn’t already happening inside your head – Phil offered another moving testament to the collective love that all had gathered to celebrate with “Unbroken Chain.” Though born in the band’s prime and appearing on 1974’s From the Mars Hotel, “Unbroken Chain” almost never made it into the Dead's live repertoire, emerging only in the spring of 1995 just months before Garcia’s passing, also appearing in the Dead’s final Soldier Field performance on 7/9/95. They made it through the composed section mostly unscathed and validated the choice with an inspired if brief jam. Bobby then delivered a moving rendition of the final Garcia ballad performed by this band, “Days Between,” with the set predictably concluding with “Not Fade Away.” Trey, Bruce and Bobby shared vocals on the “Touch of Grey” encore that hilariously saw Bobby donning a “Let Trey Sing” t-shirt… never too late for one final joke. Never trust a prankster! A single encore would simply not suffice and the band returned one more time for a touching “Attics of My Life.”


Photo © @jayblakesberg

Especially given the unrelenting amount of shit given by many fans in the lead-up to the event's organizer, Pete Shapiro, for everything from ticket prices and distribution to the show’s venues, it should be said that these events were exceptionally well-run, professional, and fan friendly. The record-breaking crowds of 70k+ in attendance each day truly put the revamped Soldier Field facilities to the test, with bathroom and concession lines often challenging, and the biggest complaint being the congestion ordeal of exiting the venue on the routes back to civilization. But other than some of these difficulties inherent in any big event, those in attendance seemed no worse off from the experience (far from it!). The in-venue visuals by Candace Brightman and Paul Hoffman were spectacular, and the at-home production was also stellar, with virtually flawless delivery, outstanding production value, crystal clear and full sound, and magnificent halftime video montages by Justin Kreutzmann with original music by Neal Casal. There were a million things that could have gone wrong, but most everything went right; so kudos to everyone involved in putting together these historic events in a way that allowed fans to keep their focus where it belonged, on the stage.


Photo © @languagestrange

The band on that stage produced some truly inspired music. I’ll readily admit that I was skeptical from the outset – these guys don’t play together regularly, for reasons. The Grateful Dead was a democratic institution to a fault, and you don’t need to be a rock-and-roll hall famer to know that sometimes you just want to do your own thing, the way you want. Put those guys who are used to having things precisely their way back into that democratic cauldron… it doesn’t often work. To be honest, it hasn't worked all that well in the post-Jerry attempts to date. That they put aside those differences to gather as a group one last time was no surprise, as the incentives to do so were plentiful. That they did so and produced music of a quality that was deserving of the mantle of the band’s name, Grateful Dead – that surprised me. To Bobby, Phil, Mickey and Billy: thank you, for this weekend, and for the music that has been the soundtrack to my life since my first show in 1981. Bruce Hornsby and Jeff Chimenti also deserve the appreciation, respect, and thanks of fans for their contributions to this continuum of music known as the Grateful Dead.


Photo © @languagestrange

These shows were clearly not about Trey Anastasio. But we’re covering this on phish.net because of his involvement, so a few concluding words about his performace are in order. What a moment for him… as happy as I was to be listening to my favorite living musician playing with the band I grew up with, I was more happy for Trey. This obviously was far from the first time he’s had the opportunity to play these songs with members of the Dead, but to be able to attack the catalog so fully, to not only perform the songs but really lead the band through jam after jam, on the biggest of stages, it was a profound joy to witness. Grateful Dead music that is good requires a lead guitarist who can execute the compositions competently; Grateful Dead music that is great requires a lead guitarist that can converse as an equal, but also put the band on his shoulders and elevate the whole. Trey did both. Trey Anastasio didn’t need the validation of being able to fill the hardest hole to fill in all of rock and roll – and to gain the appreciation, respect and even love of the only rock audience more skeptical than Phish fans – to be known by many as the world’s greatest living rock musician. But it sure doesn’t hurt. The implications for Phish of this experience? Could be huge... simply huge.

Sayin’ thank you!… for a real good time!

Phillip Zerbo

(Chicago1 Recap; Chicago2 Recap)

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Sunday 07/05/2015 by pzerbo

FARE THEE WELL - CHICAGO 2 RECAP

Happy Fourth of July! Let’s get right to the action from Saturday’s Fare Thee Well gig from Chicago’s Soldier Field...

Shakedown Street” kicked off the gig a little after 7:30 local time with Bobby taking the vocals, which he would do in whole or in part on no less than six traditionally “Jerry songs” this night. On paper this opener may look deceptively good – a fifteen minute “Shakedown” is usually cause for great excitement. The reality was something less than that headline grabber would indicate, as the song suffered from deficits of pace, direction and energy that made it a fan favorite in the Dead’s heyday. “Shakedown” wasn’t a total trainwreck, but it never found a long enough straight-away to gather momentum.


Photo @languagestrange

Garcia/Hunter’s 90’s-era optimistic anthemic “Liberty” was the first of several nods to the 4th of July holiday, again with Bobby at the vocal helm. Trey took his only solo lead vocal of the set with “Standing on the Moon.” This was a brilliant call for its placement in the first set, removing it from the shadow of the late-second set tear-jerking centerpiece role where Jerry wrote substantial chapters of his legacy. Trey acquitted himself well with a tender, convincing and respectful offering of the song, acknowledged with a hug from Phil at its conclusion.

The balance of the set settled into a familiar song-oriented approach of Bobby-driven cowboy and blues tunes typical of Grateful Dead first sets, with improvisation relegated to a supporting role. “Me & My Uncle,” “Tennessee Jed” (a rotation of Bobby, Bruce and Trey vocals), “Cumberland Blues” and “Little Red Rooster” filled out this Bobby-centric segment. Phil stepped up to the mic for “Friend of the Devil” that was notable for a Trey and Bruce tag team trade-off of solos that neither seemed to want to end. The 80-minute set was capped off by a ripping “Deal” (Trey and Bruce on vocals) that was the set's highlight, recapturing some of the spark that was more consistently evidenced in Friday’s show.


Photo @andreanusinov

Bird Song” kicked off the second set with Phil taking vocals, and in short order it was clear that the second set would – in keeping with the Grateful Dead’s legacy that we’ve gathered to celebrate – be an entirely different beast from the first. The “Bird Song” jam returned to a formula that found so much success in the first Chicago show, with the band paving an improvisational runway for Trey’s lead to soar. Bruce and Trey again shared lead vocals for “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion),” a song that has found a home in the Phil Lesh & Friends repertoire but precious few fans had ever seen the Grateful Dead perform live – or were even alive when it was performed – as it was only saw stage time during a brief stretch in 1967. Bobby Cheese led the “Golden Road” through a vocal breakdown, then Trey pulled the band through an awesome concluding jam that was decidedly Phish-y in nature.


Photo @andreanusinov

Bobby’s “Lost Sailor” > “Saint of Circumstance” combo got off to a humorous start when Mickey Hart – who has been a non-factor in the music outside of the “Drums” segments, casually gum-smacking through the proceedings with brush-stroked irrelevance – donned a sailor hat. Cute, Mickey. “Lost Sailor” was beautifully rendered overall with brilliant lead fills by Trey near the song’s conclusion and in the transition to (and jam within) “Saint of Circumstance.” Bruce offered an innovative vocal take on “West L.A. Fadeaway.” “West L.A” was an unexpected setlist call in this spot given its traditional first set role with Grateful Dead proper, but it worked surprisingly well, in no small part because it fits Trey’s low-down funky style to a T$.


Photo @jayblakesberg

In a spot that would suggest time for “Drums,” instead we were treated to “Foolish Heart” with Trey on vocals, his second take of the evening on a beloved Jerry tune from Built to Last. These were the moments – Trey in the lead with clutch emotional trigger songs – that inspired both great hopes and figgity concern leading up to these gigs. But only the most crusty and closed-minded could fail to stand and cheer this performance that balanced powerful leads, delicate finesse and sweet vocals for a major second set highlight.

“Drums” and a more involved “Space” than Friday set the stage for a “Stella Blue” that was well-received but never truly soared, with Bobby taking another questionable turn at the microphone and a jam that never quite found its footing. “One More Saturday Night” brought the set home, in this case for one last Saturday night, at least with this lineup. The holiday-appropriate “U.S. Blues” encore featured an innovative remote red-white-and-blue tie-dyed light show from the Empire State Building projected on the venue’s screens and to the home viewing audience (a “Tower Jam” reprise!). The celebration continued with a tremendous fireworks display set to John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”


Photo @andreanusinov

This show had a lot of win, but in much smaller packages spread throughout the night. The first set outside of “Standing On the Moon” and “Deal” was mostly a slog, a fitting celebration of fifty years of Grateful Dead music that often featured mostly uneventful first sets. The show got much better starting with “Deal” and through to the “Drums” portion of the second set, which has real replay value. But overall this was a performance that regressed to mean expectations of what many observers felt was this lineup’s ceiling – fun, mostly competent, but lacking in the excitement of improvisational excursions that had sparked such high hopes on Friday. On the plus side, this was still a great deal better than Santa Clara, and we have one more night to go. That’s right, Saturday Night!

Never miss a Sunday show… we’ll be back with more coverage tomorrow.

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Saturday 07/04/2015 by pzerbo

FARE THEE WELL - CHICAGO 1 RECAP

Going into the Santa Clara shows last week, the Fare Thee Well lineup assembled to celebrate fifty years of the Grateful Dead was a blank slate upon which every fan could (and did, in abundance) project the story they wanted to see. This celebration was first and foremost about the profound and enduring history of the defining improvisational rock-and-roll band of our time. The question at hand was: was this going to be a pure nostalgia trip, where the music really didn’t matter? Or would the music stand on its own and honor that history in a meaningful way, in the present?


Photo by @andreanusinov

Those Santa Clara shows contained their fair share of musical enjoyment, and there were many positive moments that offered hope for Chicago. However, an honest assessment of those performances also revealed, at times, a band that suffered from wide discrepancies in preparation by individual members, an almost total lack of conversational cohesion, an absence and/or confusion about leadership roles, and an unsettling lack of ability to perform core elements of beloved songs. So as we approached the first of the final three shows by this ensemble, expectations of an amazing event remained high... while hopes for transcendent music were, let’s say, muted.

Then a funny thing happened between Santa Clara and Chicago – like the best athlete or manager, they made some critical halftime adjustments, and came out of the gates seemingly an entirely different band, one that much more closely approximated the one that we’ve assembled to celebrate.


Photo by @neddyo

Box of Rain” bridged the twenty years since the Grateful Dead’s final performance on 7/9/95, when “Box” was the final song officially performed under that band name. It’s all a dream we dreamed, one afternoon long ago! Phil delivered the vocals with confidence and beaming pride, and we were off to a great start. An extremely slow intro jam paved the way for “Jack Straw,” with Phil sharing vocal duties with Bobby. Maintaining a tempo that was in the same ballpark of the songs as performed throughout their history was a challenge in Chicago, but by the end they had collectively pulled “Jack Straw” up by its bootstraps for a more than respectable version.

Bertha” allowed Trey his first lead vocals of the night, and while nerves may have marred his opening line, his recovery was sweet and pure. A “Bertha” that works – or, for that matter, any performance of Grateful Dead music that works – depends on a confident lead guitarist who knows the material and can be assertive in that role. This “Bertha” showcases Trey ready, willing and able to carry that weight. “Passenger” saw Bobby in much more comfortable form than we saw during much of Santa Clara, delivering not just competent but confident vocals. Bruce Hornsby was offered a moment in “Passenger” to emerge from witness protection with a solo, a courtesy also offered to Jeff Chimenti, though both would be relegated to complementary – if often inaudible – roles for most of the gig.


Photo by @andreanusinov

The Wheel” opened some delightful space, allowing Trey some breathing room, and for a few minutes it seemed like we were deep into a second set. “Crazy Fingers” is a difficult song to perform well even by ensembles with extensive practice, making this a somewhat bold tactical call. The band was more than up to the task, with Trey’s taking the lead vocal and finding a sweet spot despite his having never previously performed the song; Trey’s “I tried” ending vocal refrain was convincing and touching in its authenticity. “The Music Never Stopped” was a little sloppy but compensated by a collective soaring energy, Trey crushing the final solo and Bobby riffing on “never stop, never stop now!” Only a shade over an hour, but the set was totally entertaining end-to-end, rendering the issues and concerns from Santa Clara an unfortunate footnote. That was a great first set – no qualifications, not “for this lineup” or “for this era” – simply great.

A lengthy, hour-plus halftime ended a little after 9:30 local time with Phil and Bobby sharing lead vocals on “Mason’s Children”, though that was a mere prelude to “Scarlet Begonias!!” “Scarlet” was really the moment where the metaphorical keys to this ride we’re handed over to Trey – a ride that may have flipped the odometer a few times, but still has plenty left in the tank. The composed section of the song was bright, airy, hopeful, and gorgeous! This “Scarlet” extended to around fourteen minutes and crystallized so much of what Grateful Dead music does to inspire: starting with a balanced conversation, but allowing the lead guitar to shape that conversation and take flight, bringing not just the band but the audience along for a journey of adventure and discovery. An intricate yet simple web formed around Trey, who soared above yet never strayed too far from the conversation… nostalgia would have to step aside for this “Scarlet,” as this band’s magical story was witnessing a chapter in progress.

The “Fire on the Mountain” portion of the “Scarlet” -> “Fire” was somewhat less thrilling, with an abrupt transition rather than a patient melding of peanut butter and chocolate, though it did afford Bruce a turn at lead vocals. This “Fire” would be the weaker partner of the combo, but the afterglow of the “Scarlet” left few if any dissapointed. A ~twelve-minute (and seemingly rather early) “Drums” allowed room for Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart to take the reigns, followed by a very short “Space.”

New Potato Caboose” emerged from “Space” with Phil and Bobby sharing vocals, but as with the beginning of the set, this was simply the lob for the smash that would come with the “Playing In The Band.” History is replete with so many instances of “Playing” defying improvisational gravity over its 44-year life – forming the pillars of rock improv upon which an entire modern musical genre rests – that it’s almost hard to imagine the song breaking new ground in 2015. Almost, but not quite: this “Playing” has essentially four different jams, several of which were very un-”Dead”-like, proving old dogs can indeed learn new tricks. Afforded repeat opportunities to pull the plug and move on, someone would instead offer a new idea to continue the conversation. Alongside the “Scarlet,” this spectacular “Playing In the Band” formed this show’s must-hear highlights.


Photo by @neddyo

One of the themes that emerged among the “Playing” jams was “Let It Grow,” which was dusted off in earnest next. Bobby delivered the song’s vocals confidently, while Trey’s shined brightly with an increasing sense of ease in his share of leadership among the band and the crowd. For the set’s finale they went all-in, with “Help on the Way” > “Slipknot!” > “Franklin’s Tower.” Trey took the vocals on “Help” with an ease and confidence that almost demands performances in future contexts. The “Help” jam and transition to “Slipknot!” will not be lauded as examples of precision performances of these songs, but the energy was right there and filled the space of the biggest of stages. Phil took lead vocals on a “Franklin’s” that crossed the finish line for this set that exceeded all but the most unrealistically demanding expectations. A sweet and tender “Ripple” provided the encore.

Especially considering the baseline established in Santa Clara, this show was all win, and sets the balance of the weekend in an entirely more positive and hopeful light, musically, to go alongside the high spirits of gathering the tribe in such a high profile context. There has been a tremendous amount of energy devoted to the money and the tickets and the name of the band (that you can find… elsewhere), but when it comes to the music, we now appear to have an ensemble equal to the task of fulfilling dreams as a group one last time.

Are you excited? I’m excited! Have a great show... we’ll be back with more coverage tomorrow.

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Sunday 01/04/2015 by pzerbo

MIAMI4 RECAP: FROM RAGS TO RICHES

On Saturday night Phish concluded their season at Miami's American Airlines Arena. Let's cut right to the action...

Saturday’s first set opened with a classic five-song sequence that could have been lifted from a 1994 setlist playbook. “Maze” serves as a power-packed kickoff – along with 9/4/11 Dick’s only the second “Maze” show opener since 1995 – with Page and Trey trading confident and peppy leads. A compact but spirited “AC/DC Bag” set the stage for a sublime “Divided Sky” that anchored the set. “Cavern” kept the energy spiked, though with an odd digi-noise leftover plaguing the song’s beginning, one that would recur several times throughout the gig (feature or bug?). “Scent of a Mule” featured a (comically ‘off’) “Smoke on the Water” tease from Trey and a true Mike bass solo before the song’s “duel” portion, but was otherwise uneventful. First sets have been the achilles heel of modern Phish gigs, but this opening segment delivered solid goods.


Photo © Scott Harris

The band shifts to more current material with the new-to-Phish TAB classic, “Plasma,” Fuego’sDevotion to a Dream, and “Water in the Sky,” that offered opportunity for the obligatory south Florida cheer in response to the “filter out the Everglades” line. “Split Open and Melt” sticks the band’s foot in the improvisational door, with Trey’s digi-noise popping again which kicks the song off with a trippy darkness that they pursued vigorously in the jam. Trey’s playing early in the jam is melancholy, sweet and poetic, soaring softly, a honey rather than vinegar enticement even within the dark confines of the song. Page forms the perfect envelope of support for Trey to explore, the pocket is subtle but super effective. The jam’s climax does get a little dirty and chaotic before pulling in the reigns and taking the set home with “Character Zero.” Low though the bar may have been, front to back that is your Miami run’s best first set, and by a non-trivial margin.


Photo © Phish

Stealing Time from the Faulty Plan” made its first ever appearance in the second set opening slot, but would only serve as a brief launching pad to the greatness that would follow in the “Down with Disease.” Trey and Page lead the fresh, bright, sunny jam early, letting the song’s structural confines melt away ever so gradually. Fish and Mike locked down in a manner that wasn’t always so evident earlier in the run and provided frictionless loft for Trey’s soaring ascent. At the 10:30 mark we’ve totally dispensed with “DwD” as a song, with the first and most dramatic of several major plot twists. Page laid down a riff that the whole band picks up on immediately, a thick, funky, ass-shaking groove that was so coherent in the moment of expression that one would be forgiven for thinking that moment of magic was in fact composed. “Improvisation that sounds composed” is a phrase often used when describing the essence of peak Phish music, but this passage was so stunning and on-point that if it wasn’t composed, it should be, for a future song!


Photo © Scott Harris

My personal jaw-drop moment of this inspiring “Disease” was at ~16:30, when the jam could so easily have glided to a satisfactory conclusion; but Jon Fishman was having none of that, with a driving, rumbling insistence that nothing is over until we say it is, paving the way to the greatest of rewards. As the jam rounds the clock past the twentieth minute Fishman is in absolute beast mode as the hose is in the full ON position, with Trey riding a wave with a “Manteca”-infused sustain that filled the biggest moment and allowed true collective release, then playfully oozing bliss for the balance of the jam, with a final dose of aggressive weirdness from Trey and Page and an affirmational series of rings from Mike’s fight bell. This “Disease” was twenty-six minutes of dazzling artistry that we will be listening to for the rest of our lives.

Rather than reaching for a breather at the end of such a satisfying-if-mind-bending jam, “Light” takes the handoff and blasts off with the full momentum of the “Disease” as its tailwind. The jam is so chunky that it defies even the most sedentary to not get off their ass and move. This jam is a super active conversation, where all voices yearn for the listener’s attention as one, a textbook example of being “locked in,” offering enough complexity and challenge to hyperactive attentive listeners, while also being fire-under-seat danceable and broadly accessible, this “Light” was simply brilliant. A flawless “full arrow” -> to “Sneakin’ Sally” was the money move at the inflection point of the set, this wave was gaining steam and would not relent or yield. “Sneakin’ Sally” always titillates and delivers in the big moments, but this version ditched its traditional casing and went for a totally bonus if very un-“Sally”-like sonic excursion after the vocal jam.


Photo © Phish

When “Sand” finally washed on stage it was clear this would be a “no-breather” set that would hang ten until the final note. A short tour’s worth of highlights already in the bag from this set alone, Trey approaches this “Sand” with an active persistence, the freshness of the ideas radiating one after another, as if he traded in the glider that has been his aerial transport for so much of this past summer for a stunt plane ready to perform death-defying feats that will shock and amaze! “Harry Hood” starts with Trey in a super playful mood, one that would persist through the balance of the gig. Trey offered a “Happy Birthday” tease, apparently to someone on or near the rail, and threw in a few Pete Townshend windmills for good measure. This “Hood” is delightful, and while it doesn’t go nearly as deep as many of the abundant selection of great versions of 2014, it didn’t need to, as the greatness of this set was long before cemented. A classic closing combo of “Suzy Greenberg” (with a brief “They Attack!” quote from “The Birds”) and the “Good Times Bad Times” encore ended the show much as it began, letting the engines out on the greatest improvisational rock band alive for one last celebratory release before we go our separate ways until next summer.

This show exudes brilliance, with the jam-packed second set immediately in a top tier of 2014-15 sets alongside 7/13/14 Randall’s, 7/27/14 MPP2, and 10/31/14 II Vegas. The show ends the season with an emphatic exclamation, leaving the best memories to linger as we wait for the days to get longer. This show has it all and represents the core of why so many of us are Phish fans. Treasure the memory and let it propel you all to health and happiness in the new year. Hug your friends, hang on to the smiles, until we meet again in summer 2015!

-Phillip Zerbo


Photo © Andrea Nusinov.

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Saturday 01/03/2015 by pzerbo

RECAP: SHARIN' IN THE MIAMI GROOVE

Joining me (PZ) to recap Friday’s action is my dear friend, LMo.

PZ: Happy 2015, Phish fans! We’ve been on a bit of a ride the past few days on the ship of Phish. The fans making the trek to Miami caught a monster wave with the NYE second set and “Tweezer,” though otherwise the band has presented as adrift, disinterested, and even for stretches taking on water, with New Years Day’s performance being even charitably among the least inspired in holiday run history. While not reaching the Jimmy Carter-level malaise that characterized the 2011-12 MSG holiday run, the band was straddling the Mendoza Line with only one and a fraction high quality sets out of five washing upon the Miami shores.


Photo by Brantley Gutierrez © Phish 2014. All rights reserved.

Phish would return to form this night, but it didn’t happen early. “Free” has settled into a comfortable rotation as an opener since first introduced in that role on 12/28/11 MSG. Rather than inspire, “Free” sounds flat and tired here, especially in contrast to the explosive “Martian Monster”-infused brilliance displayed on the final night of fall tour (11/2/14) in Vegas. “The Moma Dance” kept the vanilla flowing, with the first real signs of life came in the strong closing jam in “Possum.” Where one might be most hopeful to find rays of first set improvisational brilliance – “Roggae” and “Stash” – Phish delivered competent, relaxed, professional versions that served admirably in the moment but were otherwise unremarkable.

"Back on the Train” featured an ending that by intention or otherwise was basically the same (very good) jam that concluded the “Possum” from earlier in the set. The deep irony of this set was that Trey nailed the solos in “Sugar Shack” with which he has notorious difficulty, but then proceeds to completely butcher the infinitely less complex “The Line” bringing the vibe of the set to a full stop. “Ocelot” and “The Squirming Coil” conclude the set in much the same sleepytime vibe it began. Add in the increasingly long pauses between songs – often featuring seemingly intense discussion followed by the most mundane of song choices – and for better and/or worse this is your typical Phish first set these days.


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish 2015. All rights reserved.

LMo: The first set included some of my favorite songs, though all the songs seemed quick to end and i was left wanting for something, somewhere, sometime to extend into uncharted waters, if only for a little while. Those special moments were entirely absent from last night’s first set. i love Free as an opener. i enjoy the tightly composed section and lyrics that invariably lead to the bass line taking over and some time to hear mike gordon lead along to the response of what is always some interesting guitar notes as the lead shifts back to trey. i imagine the song as about the freedom of bass and guitar to talk it out as the lyrics conclude.

in the first set there was a long pause between each song. there seemed to be a lot of deliberation about what to do and where to go and what is what. Moma dance was the choice at that juncture, another one of my old time favorites. i heard very satisfying guitar moments in last nights version, i just wish the MoMa dance would stretch out more and explore before returning to it's conclusion. Possum was just a straight up Possum, no surprises, though short in length. Roggae next with some very very sweet guitar moments again, a beautiful one always. calm calm calm... followed by Stash without surprises and Get Back on the Train.

Get Back on the Train seems to me a sort of calibration song for the band. there are other songs i would also call calibration songs, in that this song really brings all four members to a clear and excellent unison that later seems a basis for some interesting musical communication. there is such a walkable steady rhythm with Get Back on the Train.

Sugar Shack and the Line sort of pull the brakes on the forward momentum. I shrug and enjoy the ballads, though i noticed a slight stumbling sound with the guitar during the line, missed the net on that one. set one concludes with Ocelot and the Squirming Coil- nice bass in the Ocelot. i also enjoy the guitar and piano interchanges and melodic shiftings in this song and last night is a fair example, though nothing overwhelmed me. the Squirming Coil is often a set closer. sadly, the ending got foiled for me with the freezing of my stream and i missed my favorite part of Coil, page and the piano solo. i have experienced live great piano solo moments every time. i love to hear page alone. my stream unlocked as i saw a close up of page ending the set with the flourish of a man paying a bill offhandedly, rising from a table and making a hasty exit.


Photo by Patrick Jordan © Phish 2015. All rights reserved.

PZ: Mike’s Song” has been on a strong run with innovative and extended first jams of late, with this powerful ten-plus minutes anchored by Fish laying down a simple woodblock beat around which a deep Mike-driven pocket developed, with Trey and Page trading riffs on the surface, a great version for the era. The first ever “46 Days” embedded within a Mike’s Groove was a refreshing and unexpected call, one richly rewarded with a radically funky type-II departure from the song’s structure, this Mike’s Groove was twenty minutes deep before the opening notes of “Weekapaug.”

This “Weekapaug” started out uneventfully enough before soaring to an open, airy plane – Page in control on clavinet – before the “first ending” jam, then they blow through the stop sign and drop into a stop-start, sadly though predictably infected by the fucking “woo.” Page quickly rinses the palate with “They Attack!” samples from “The Birds,” opening the door to the second half of this 17+ minute “Weekapaug” jam that was the clear highlight of the gig. Trey abandoned his new/old guitar in favor of Fish’s marimba lumina. Page picked up Mike’s bass line, while Mike took over on Trey’s guitar for a rotation jam that instantly and easily ranks among the (if not the) best rotation jams of 3.0. As a stand alone “Weekapaug” (clocking it at 17:33) it is in a tier of its own for 3.0 and likely the best since 1.0.

The improvisational jets were exhausted at this point, but riding such a high third quarter wave floated all boats for the show, one that maintained crisp, crowd-pleasing energy. “Fuego” wasn’t in the mood to go big, but yielding to the much loved “Slave to the Traffic Light” left few if any disappointed. An all-too-brief but still fun diversion into “2001” set up a super high-energy “Walls of the Cave” to cap off a set that joins 12/31/14’s second in Miami’s top tier. An uneventful but fun “Sleeping Monkey” (clappers join talkers and smokers in the unholy trinity) and “Rocky Top” send the assembled masses home happy. The band was due for a stellar set... we asked, they delivered. Happy New Year to all, enjoy the final gig and safe travels home.


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish 2015. All rights reserved.

LMo: as i heard Mike’s Groove from the cloud - mikes - 46 days - weekapaug – it was one coherent whole and it was absolutely amazing good. in Mike's song i heard an amazing piano / bass interplay and exchange, the tension was superb. it is cool to see trey step aside a moment as things get kind of dark and deep. my impression of the guitar moments are of stepping and swaying within the tight rhythm section, a really nice guitar sound all flawless and smooth and soaring through moments. there is a smooth transition into 46 days - really really nice guitar with this song and i am not disappointed - trey just talking talking talking - say it, say it, say it! i like the way the piano supports the melody in 46 days, trailing the lead guitar and spinning with the angles and changes, all the while, a solid rhythm section. i like the extension near the end beyond the lyrics, this is a worthy funky let's take a ride sort of jam. set two is all on.

the transition into weekapaug is just right, smooth. the bass line intro is always a pleasure to hear, page takes up with a really sweet funky groove on the clavinet keyboard, great sound. this is the good good part... the sound builds, very unified very lead guitar and all the sound pulls together. there is the start stop i love though unfortunately the crowd does the woo thing. past that is on track with the Birds - They Attack - from the now infamous 2014 vegas halloween set. things get great and funky good with the shifting of trey to percussion taking up the marimba lumina, then mike shifts to guitar. page on keys takes up the rhythm section with a very bass line keyboard sound while fishman holds it all down fishman style - a must hear and revisit moment. mike on guitar is very very interesting and an entirely different listening experience, while trey looked to be having good fun with percussion. really good old-school fun - mixing it up, getting a little crazy, a band and crowd totally aligned in the moment.

Fuego was a perfect song choice at this juncture. trey’s guitar takes flight into some unknown places in solo. at the conclusion of Fuego there is a really comfortable gentle sounding soft regroup that was good on the ears. from the tones of the guitar at the conclusion i was imagining Whats the Use? coming next, instead it is Slave, one can't go wrong with Slave and this version is no exception.

2001 - ohhh my. very good and very brief. superb things sometimes are enclosed in shorter time frames. i hear the hints of the guitar riff that is so superb from Dick's Simple 8-29-14. this is a winner of a sweet guitar riff that seems to have a lot of room for interchanges and shifts. the bass sound thumps and grooves right along. count me greedy, this 2001 could have extended and had potential for another over the top jam. i was defiantly left wanting more, though this is said as a compliment to the band.

Walls of the Cave is a terrific high energy last blast of excellent blazing light soundscaping. page is on fire with trey - rocking it out and pounding sound to a conclusion... and fishman on drums punctuates the conclusion of an excellent second set. magic!

the encore - Sleeping Monkey and Rocky Top - i wanted to note that fishman has a really familiar and excellent voice. i really enjoy the humor of this song and fishman sings it so sweetly. i could do without the unison crowd clapping. people are happy, in any case. i also wanted to note that for a band of new england guys, they do a soulful version of the southern Rocky Top. having grown up down south, i am amused hearing Rocky Top sung with New England accents.

looking forward to watching from the clouds tonight and cheers to everyone both at home and in Miami. cheers and thank you to my favorite band. i am most vicariously happy for my friends who are there in person.

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Tuesday 11/04/2014 by pzerbo

VEGAS3: YOUR SPACESHIP IS ABOUT TO BLAST OFF!

PZ: The only “never miss a” Sunday show of Phish’s fall tour fell on its last day. Given the gradually ascending upward trajectory of this tour, the final day of the Halloween stint was sure to provide plenty of tricks and treats. The frantic energy of the Halloween holiday weekend was tempered slightly on Sunday; in stark contrast to the first two nights, ticket availability went from major pain in the ass to tickets on the ground faster than you can say “need to catch a flight home for work/kids/life.”

A classic old-school opening combo “Runaway Jim” and “Foam” kicked off the gig, starting the set with an early 90’s vibe; a common show opening couplet from ‘92-94. The first “Mexican Cousin” since 6/19/12 (Portsmouth VA, 110 show gap) followed, offering swaying homage to the most ubiquitous of Vegas imbibing traditions, and their aftermath. Our trip may indeed be short, but Phish’s history is long: Round Room’s “Mexican Cousin” debuted after the first hiatus, but it wasn’t an exaggeration when Trey noted it as ”an old one, but a good one.” “Ocelot” continues to solidify its role as an anchor type-I first set jam vehicle, then Trey negotiated the pitfalls of Mike’s “Sugar Shack” in more than respectable fashion.


Photo by @hersch

2014 witnessed Undermind’sA Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” enter consistent, regular rotation for the first time; more than a third of all performances of “ASIHTOS” have taken place in 2014, to the general delight of fans. (Listen for subtle Star Wars theme teasing in this “ASIHTOS”). Page’s lovely “Halfway to the Moon” develops a pleasant short jam before giving way to “Bathtub Gin.” This 14+ minute “Gin” is great with a patient deep pocket developed by Page, Mike and Fish. A textbook example of “average great,” the wide open door to true “Gin” greatness was left wanting as Trey was seemingly content to lay back in the pocket instead of using it as a launching point for a dramatic peak.


Photo by @tweeprise

When the band launched into “Free,” one might have been forgiven for thinking that the band was just running out the clock on the set, but they clearly had better ideas. “Free” is a fine tune brimming with fun and positive energy on an average day. But when “Free” morphed into a hybrid with “Martian Monster” quotes, the crowd was going wild! Your spaceship is about to take off! Because of the incredible speed of your rocket, your trip is short. Based on the literally ecstatic crowd reception, you have to think that elements of Friday’s Haunted House set will find a welcome home in the repertoire. What a release! “Walls of the Cave” closes out a solid first set.

LMo: sunday night was a perfect finale for this short trip some of us embarked upon this fall tour. as the saying goes... never miss a sunday night show. this is vegas and all bets are off. we can all enjoy ourselves and our final night together for what seems like will be a very long time. i can't possibly dissect the best among so many incredible moments. i recall that i danced the night away with a real sense of connection with the music. everything felt just right.


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road

the first set again had the intensity and drive of a second set, when the band seems absolutely calibrated for musical excellence and communication. my personal first set highlights include ocelot which was so danceable and most fun, all hippity hoppity like. i noted in song i heard the ocean sing that page takes lead near the conclusion of the song and took things away with spectacular keys and a sweet transition into halfway to the moon. this part of set one was all about page. i was mesmerized with the piano section.

the gin - free - walls of the cave rocked my world and i was out of space and time, carried through time with the phish. this is a recording i cant wait to hear again and again.


Photo by @alliedise

PZ: The fact that patient, exploratory type-II versions of Chalk Dust Torture” seem to routinely roll the stage with assembly line regularity in 2014 – The Mann, Randall’s, Portsmouth, Dick’s – is yet another indicator of how spoiled we really are these days. One so-called “knock” on recent set-opening anchors is that while they set sail for a long journey, that they are often without a decided peak; they maintain a consistent high level of floating grooves but never hit the release. This version fits that mold, effortlessly meandering through several distinctive thematic sections without a decided crest; personally I’m thrilled riding that wave all day long, save the release for later! After coming to a natural gliding conclusion, “Piper” assumes control and offers a spectacular counterpoint to the “CDT” jamming with Trey taking a more decisive if rhythmic and balanced lead. Standing alongside SPAC and Portsmouth as the crown jewels of the 2014 “Pipers” this version capped a brilliant half hour of improv, delivering a clutch third quarter.

The middle section of the set was excellent if routine (“average great”) with more or less stock versions of “Theme From the Bottom,” “Wombat” and “David Bowie.” The only real misstep of the whole show was the inexplicably bad call of “The Line,” but even that would be forgiven quickly given the extraordinary strength of the concluding “You Enjoy Myself.” For anyone with any lingering questions regarding the band’s ability to dip into the silly end of the pool, look no further than this “YEM.” This version had it all – tight composed sections, a legit jam section, and although Trey passed on his solo in favor in favor of feeling the moment through dance, there was more weirdness to come as Trey picked up his megaphone and began using the siren on it as he ran around the stage. Mike joined him, and Trey held the megaphone up to Mike's bass. Mike then began playing his fight bell with drum sticks while Trey went to the drums and played along with Fishman. Finally, Mike and Page joined in, so that all four were playing on Fish's kit, before returning to the traditional vocal jam ending. After Page thanked the audience and crew, Mike teased "The Load-Out." The first ever “Moma Dance” encore proved that Trey still knows how to troll a JadedVet™, then the curtain fell on this outstanding tour in brilliant fashion with “Slave to the Traffic Light.” See you in Miami!


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish From the Road

LMo: set two was also spectacular. my personal highlights include a very very tight perfect wombat with good fits and starts and breaks. the timing felt tight as a drum. the wombat is a rocker. the yem is my favorite live experience with yem and that is saying a lot because i always love this song. this version felt a little different somehow. it was deep and funky and again, the timing of transitions was spot on. the light effects are always a pleasure to visually melt into as i enjoy the different phases of the composition.

did the music in this fall tour start off a little disjointed? i don’t know. whatever happened, the phish had it all happening and on point in vegas. "all is well that ends well... and so it goes.”


Photo by LMo

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Saturday 11/01/2014 by pzerbo

VEGAS1 RECAP: YOUR TRIP IS SHORT!

A sampling of thoughts from last night's historic Halloween gig:

Steve Paolini: Of course, I thought it was a joke. Disney's Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House? The entire Phishbill was clearly a joke, and reports were that the "album" had no – what do you call them? – "songs." My working theory was that this would be the Halloween the band covered an obvious album that literally everyone in the audience would know. Led Zeppelin IV... The Wall... Nevermind... Thriller. Phish had begun using the Phishbill in 1996 when they covered Remain in Light as a way of introducing the audience to musical costumes they might not be familiar with. This year had to be an album that needed no introduction. Because they sure as hell weren't going to play a bunch of sound effects for an hour.


Photo by Rene Huemer © Phish.

Of course, in true Phish fashion not only was it not a joke, but the payoff was better than anyone could have imagined. It was real, and it was spectacular. Ten original jams inspired by the Disney album titles. This was the kind of thing fans speculate about but no one really expects will actually happen. Maybe this was something Phish could have pulled off in 1998, but certainly not in 2014. Think again. It's really hard to overstate how far out in a limb the band put themselves (31 years into their career, no less). This could have been a disaster. Ten instrumentals no one knew during the most anticipated set of the year? Based on a freaking Disney album? And, at least for those of us unfamiliar with the original album, the narration had the potential to come across on the cheesy side. But the jams were so engaging it arguably worked better than any of the other musical costumes. One of the dirty little secrets of past Halloween performances is that, especially for fans who either don't know or don't care for the cover album, there's usually a portion of the second set that seems to drag a little. Not so last night. Not even close. The big question now is, will they play any of these songs again? Or was our trip indeed too short?


Photo by Allie Carson

Dan Mielcarz: What they are going to do tonight? Pavement? Allmans? Jukebox set? Then we see the Phishbill on Twitter. Nah, that's gotta be a joke. The essay is hilarious. They mentioned Houses of the Holy, is it going to be that? Maybe Slayer, that was in there, too. The songs could be Phish song code names? 10pm = iced coffee on the couch. Rage at Nugs during the first set, great Halloween theme to the songs once the stream is up. Fun “BBFCFM.” Good little “Wolfman's” jam. Setbreak. They are clearing the stage! Gravestones going up? Bono's Humility on a gravestone… haha! Maybe they are going to do this sound effects album after all. No, it'll be a Thriller cover or something. Lights. Sound effects. Where's the band? In a haunted house?!? They are going to do this album! Holy crap, they are going to jam this album! Ten brand new tunes? House explodes, band is in awesome makeup. They are facing each other across a square, totally locked in. Every tune is like the best part of an amazing jam. Oh, Page is controlling the narration and sound effects. This is so so so great. Can't believe I wanted Pavement. THEY ATTACK! YOUR TRIP IS SHORT! Think these tunes stay in the rotation? Best. Halloween. Ever. Best. Band. Ever.


Photo by LMo.

Jeremy Welsh: As descriptions and photos of the Phishbill began to appear across the interwebs, one was left wondering whether it was all just an elaborate prank. Because that seemed like something Phish would do. Pick a long-forgotten album from a certain age of fan's childhood and hold that up as the cover album. Hah hah, so really, what's the *real* album?

The evening took on a special life, as only Phish could do, when it turned out that it actually was the album selected for their 2014 musical costume. Sure, there were dancers and props and dead Esthers and Nutbags, along with an ethereal voice narrating surreal "spooky" tableaus. And yes, the band even dressed up. But it came down to the music. The individual grooves – I'm hesitant to call them songs – that highlighted the best of what Phish does. Each moment provided the Why for our infatuation. Offering up peaks or melodies that would *make* the jam of a night on a tour.

I was left wondering whose idea it was. Someone with a kid, maybe. Trey? Fishman? Who had the gumption to present it to the other three? During the playing itself, with Page in charge of the samples, it sure appeared that he was leading the way. But not until the encore, which asked “Is This What You Wanted?,” did I allow myself to think "Holy shit." Phish heard the clamor after the previous year's Wingsuit set and took fans' demands for an album costume to the extreme. And in doing so, gave us an amazing experience. If the joke really was on us, then thanks. I will take Trick over Treat every time.


Photo by LMo.

Tim Wade: Nineteen years after I first saw them, Phish continues to astound me. I was bewildered when I was told that the Halloween costume would be Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House. I considered and rejected the possibility of a free form, set-long jam to these sound effects, and decided that they must be pulling our collective leg in order to maintain the suspense. I’ve never been more happy to be wrong.

Phish pulled off what is likely the greatest of their Halloween gags. It was certainly the most Halloween-y costume they’ve ever donned. The theatrics were topped only by the music, which was fresh and Phishy and completely, utterly sick. It also seemed to immediately pay dividends in the third set’s “Sand” -> “Tweeprise.” I’m one of the people who thought last year’s show was the most amazing Phish experience I could ask for, but I really wish I could have been there last night.

Take a bow, Phish. You deserve it.


Photo by LMo.

Phillip Zerbo: When fans sit around and shoot the shit about Phish, as we are known to do, we are often drawn to fantasy concepts for special sets or shows. “What if they did x, y, or z?” It’s an easy and fun game to play because the process is as open ended as our imaginations. As Phish’s 20+ years of special event traditions have evolved, the concept of an intentionally open-ended improvisational set has been deployed only on the summer gigs – Clifford Ball’s Flatbed Jam; The Great Went’s Disco Set; Lemonwheel’s Ambient Set; the Tower Jam at IT, the Storage Jam at Superball Icks. But even the most fantastical of the fan imaginations could not possibly have envisioned this.


Photo by Allie Carson

While last night’s inspiring, challenging, kick-ass funfest of a gig was rooted in the Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House, rather than a “cover” in any traditional sense, Phish took over the concept and used the album’s sonic palette simply as guidelines into which they would deliver one of the most engaging, danceable, mind-fucking original concept sets in the history of mind-fucking rock and roll gigs. Make no mistake: this could have sucked. It was risky. What other performing act at this level takes this type of risk ever, much less routinely? With risk comes reward, and the bigger the bet, the bigger the rewards. In this case, ho hum, yet another unique artistic masterpiece that cements Phish’s legend as the greatest improvisational rock and roll band ever.

My Tier One of Phish Halloween gigs is now 1998 and 2014 alone. Lesson? Don’t miss Halloween in Vegas. Moving in to their fourth decade as a band (and my third as a fan), Phish still confounds expectations and leaves the jaws of even the most JadedVet™ drooping on the floor. We’re all going to be dancing, running, driving and banging to this set for another generation. Good work, Phish!

Lily Morton: what happens in vegas sometimes needs to be known outside of vegas. let it be known... last night's phish halloween concert was absolute magic, a spectacular trick and treat for all senses. happily i witnessed the halloween vegas event with my crew on the floor in my favorite spot. mikes side right side. zombies, zombies, walking corpses ohh my...

the haunted house set was aesthetically perfect as a inspiring canvas for ck5. i love the lighting of this set. chris kuroda brought it all on! lightning and darkness, scary, gloomy, light of freakiness. thank you mr kuroda.

when i saw the program, the album cover being chilling thrilling sounds of the haunted house, i recalled the record from childhood and figured phish would do exactly what they did... use the sounds as a backdrop launching into original jams. and the jams did not disapoint. i was floored literally the entire show surrounded by very crazy happy people and this being vegas, the phreak really comes out with phishheads. the energy in the room was intense and focused like fans at an arena all there supporting their home team with no one opposition.

each jam was spot on. i cannot recall a single moment of seaching awkwardness. each jam reflecting the concept of the track on the disney halloween record. we partied all dance hall down and about pounded that floor about... yea. i love phish phans... i stood next to "the dude" all bathrobe clad and sunglasses - "the dude" with his buddy, a sleak sort of white alien panda bear with white fuzzy slippers all claws. the phans brought it too. everyone looked fabulous, truly fabulous.

the third set was over the top fifth gear all the way like speeding down a desert highway without obstacles in a fly sports car. full force on with no breaks. tweezer into sand was so deep... so so deep. this is my favorite live experience hearing sand. sand is a composition i wish they would return to again and extend. the shift of sand to tweezer reprise was really hot. there was suspense... i remember shouting "do it. do it. do it!" this is the band i love and always will love. i enjoyed every moment of the entire event from the moment i walked in the door.


Photo by LMo.

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Wednesday 10/29/2014 by pzerbo

SF2 RECAP: THE WORLD SERIES OF PHISH

A few thoughts from last night, with the help of LMo.

Tuesday’s Phish gig at the intimate confines of the Bill Graham was another winner that flowed with a perfect harmony. The band's energy and song choices felt synchronized with audience reception and desires, satiating a relaxed and considerate mid-week crowd that was kind and attentive to listening. So, a riddle: how do you make a JadedVet™ dance? Simple! Play a first set that flows like a second set! Extra bonus trivia: did you know that Tuesday’s show was the 25th anniversary of David Steinberg’s first Phish show? Think about that… a quarter century of Phish fandom. Pre-show also included a packed City Hall plaza watching the Giants and Royals battle it out for the Word Series on the big (BIG) screen. Good times!

Water in the Sky” gave way to the second ever Phish version of “Plasma,” which seemed to catch folks off-guard from a standing start. Charlie Dirksen would like to personally thank Page for performing “Halfway to the Moon” tonight – it’s a really great song. “Poor Heart” and “Gumbo” kept the “Sanity” in check before letting loose on a blistering “Antelope.”

LMo: I like it when a set list tells a story, where the story is something of my own imagination. I love how Phish songs lend themselves with ambiguous and odd lyrics to subjective interpretations. Last night was such an experience, and so the connection goes... into mikes song... the mike’s song started up the party with a deep dark dirty red light kind of a ride. ck5 all in with the dark red as the groove drops. to me this mike’s sounds heavy and hot, a good one. after a deep hard hitting shift in the phases of mikes song the wingsuit comes along to take us on a gliding smooth flight. i love how the song lyrics in wingsuit reflect the sound of gliding in flight. the pace of wingsuit also dovetails the i am hydrogen calm in mike’s groove. i love these calm delicate moments. this version of wingsuit took a beauteous flight. i enjoy floating and swaying along with the shifts and changes, like wearing a wingsuit.

After the rejuvenating experience of wingsuit flight water in the sky... we get a very intense set one highlight moment in the plasma. gumbo is another highlight a very good gumbo, a mood that shifts hot and heavy... a little dirty, in a clean way. i will be dancing to this one alone late at night at times when no one is looking. the shift from gumbo into sanity was so on, without missing a beat. and there are hints of gumbo teased within sanity. As they bring out sanity it was just so fun in the room on that dance floor. such an amusing and honest dance that sanity brings out of me as i feel it - the comic relief moment of our collective day to day frustrations expressed and released. such fun. sanity was a collective release last night. the punctuation of lyrics at the ending is really really sweet. they sing it with love and understanding, not one of us is perfect. this is why i love the phish from vermont.

sanity into an antelope that truly rocked us back to a high speed chase to the end of set one. i recall feeling such fun with this version of antelope as it happened. i shifted around to face my friends a lot and watch them in the running running running in place and time. yes. i love antelope always but last night’s version is set apart as my favorite live experience of this song.


Photo © Phish From the Road

Wouldn’t it have been funny if, after playing a first set that felt like a second set, that they played a second set like a first set? Well, OK, maybe not so much, but that possibility was contemplated briefly as they opened the second frame with “Kill Devil Falls.” Not to worry though as this “KDF” was not roped into any preconceived box but rather got weird and served as a surprisingly well in the kickoff slot to the money set. “Mountains in the Mist” doesn’t evoke the same tick response as those of us who saw a lot of shows at the end of 1.0, which is great because when played sparingly it is a great addition to the ballad rotation. The post-summer of “Fuego” didn’t quite give us a super-charged “Fwaygo” but if you are holding a OVER 12mi ticket, you are a nevertheless a winner. When “Julius” kicked off the set was declared dead and over my one Mr. Dirksen, which just shows that the JadedVet™ isn’t always the smartest guy in the room. At this point in the set things are going great, if perhaps a slight downgrade on the third quarter from Monday night.

LMo: set two was superlative as a whole. kill devil falls starts us off on a really really high note. really jammed and set up some good energy in the room. i noted the excellence of it. and this is why we have the calm moments, the calm of mountains in the mist was needed after that version of kill devil falls. i loved last nights version of fuego as it happened. the now familiar anthem also reflects the rhythm of collective release. i enjoyed he stomp timing of this one. just stomping and feeling the pace of it marching in place.

my collective group thought we were getting a tweezer as they dropped julius. i enjoyed julius mid set this time, as i am familiar with julius mostly a set closer or an encore. mid set this set two just felt right because i was so happy to know there were more songs to follow and more dancing. julius to a hot twist, very hot.

now to note a do not miss - the hood. this is a good good good hood. a most interesting extended version. most superlative. you can feel very good with this hood. the encore: loving cup was truly what it was - a beautiful buzz. there was a lot of love in the room this tuesday night at the bill graham auditorium. i for one really felt it, such love. and that is my overall impression of this night and concert, that of love. this show is one from the heart. if you are looking for a download coming from fall tour to take you there with deep jams and smooth transitions this is the one.


Photo © Phish From the Road

When “Twist” landed, one might have been forgiven to think Mr. Dirksen might have been right, given that “Twist” has morphed from a jam vehicle always pregnant with possibilities to one that if often an out-of-ideas crutch. Not so, Doubting Thomases! The cream of the 2014 “Twist” crop, this version set the stage for a show that shifted the improvisational jewels to the back end. In addition to the “Smoke on the Water” tease from Trey, the “Twist” would be tonight’s home for the homage to Friday night’s performance of Pink Floyd’s Meddle with the hints of “Echoes” that have been a lingering foreshadow ever since Santa Barbara.

An unusual and fun late set “Runaway Jim” then set the stage for the improvisational highlight of the evening, a 19-minute masterpiece of “Harry Hood.” Brimming with confidence, cracking with vital energy, weaving through no less than a half dozen stylistic themes and teases, and concluding with a subtlety and grace appropriate for a band demonstrating peak powers, just days after fall tour obituaries were being written. This is why I see this band, this “Hood.” So much love in the room, really great stuff. “Loving Cup” took it home in fine fashion. Tonight we wrap things up and head on to the land of bright lights. Custy up, rope and ride, bet it all on 17!

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Wednesday 07/30/2014 by pzerbo

PORTMOUTH1 RECAP: ADULT SWIM

PORTSMOUTH, VA – On Tuesday night Phish’s summer tour juggernaut found its exhale point at nTelos Pavilion on the shores of Virginia’s Hampton Roads. Following a pair of powerhouse performances and packed house, frenzied big summer weekend vibes at Merriweather Post Pavilion – with the intensity, innovation and fearlessness of Sunday’s “Tweezerfest” that landed from outer space, instantly slotting that gig as the 23rd highest rated show among fans in all of Phish’s illustrious 30-year history – it was clear that we were due for a return to earth. Given the context of the band playing at a sustained career peak, even a decompression show was bound to produce gems.


Photo © Phish, Phish From the Road

Phish again delivered the goods by exhibiting their skills through expert thematic setlist construction, mood settling, and most of all awareness of and response to the ball as it lay. Merriweather witnessed the band and crowd at its most ferocious balls-to-the-wall intensity. But one of the many tentacles of Phish brilliance and what makes them so “sticky” is that even when they downshift into a “weekday vibe” they hum and resonate at a frequency best suited for the moment. Tuesday’s crowd was everything Merriweather’s was not: calm, relaxed, settled, happy, comfortable and content. Phish played the right show for that crowd – little smoking, less talking, few drunks, no flying plastic debris, no nitrous hordes, no bullshit – it was time for Phish’s “adult swim.”


Photo © Parker Harrington

While it found a home opening second sets in the mid 90s (often in spectacular fashion, see 12/28/95, 7/26/97 and 11/16/97) “Timber (Jerry)” opened a show for the very first time in its 27-year run with Phish. Then the set settled in to a more predictable routine with compact versions of “Undermind” in its concise rendering, only the second “AC/DC Bag” of the tour, and Mike’s slinky “555.”


Photo © Parker Harrington

A long and flowing “Divided Sky” took place as the sun set Page side on a gloriously comfortable evening that offered easy breezes and imminently civil trappings. Trey’s “Ocelot” and Page’s “Halfway to the Moon” kept the first set ship gliding softly and effortlessly before upshifting into “Kill Devil Falls.” The first set improvisational anchor role fell to “Split Open and Melt,” and it delivered by getting weird with a dissonant minor key quickly, and then staying weird. CK5 took to exhibit his mastery with a brilliant LED display including a spectacular sequence featuring first his reverse-stage fractal projections, followed by a spotlight sequencing on the band members, culminating with unloading the kitchen sink of his seemingly never-ending arsenal of visual tricks. “Good Times Bad Times” harnessed the crowd’s latent dance energy for a final throw-down before the break.


Photo © Andrea Z. Nusinov

Chalk Dust Torture” has become the toast of the tour as a jam vehicle, an open door to the airy, spacious, floating comfort of the jamming style that took root during last fall’s historic tour. At this point late in the summer tour – when they’ve dropped career-defining versions seemingly one after another – it becomes easy to get into the “sure, but not as good as x, y, or z” game. That game can be fun, but it can also lead one to lose sight of the majesty offered and windows opened by outstanding versions such as the one offered tonight. This “CDT” may well get lost in the shuffle of current sustained greatness for this Phish classic… but if you would have dropped this set-opening jam into almost any show from 2009-2011, it would have been a clear (even “top-10”) highlight of that year. The same can be said about this show as a whole.

The first “If I Could” in almost two years (8/29/12 Oklahoma City, 68 shows) set the water theme that would permeate the set in motion – “run with me across the oceans...” and was tenderly and confidently delivered. While “If I Could” was respectfully received, “The Line” represented perhaps the only awkward mis-step of the evening where Trey’s setlist direction didn’t quite hit the mark. “The Line” fell somewhat flat on a crowd that despite their decidedly relaxed temperament was all too ready to dance.


Photo © Phish, Phish From the Road

Solid if controlled versions of “Birds of a Feather” and “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” brought the band vibe <-> crowd vibe back into equilibrium, a wave that crested in a crunchy “Mike's Song.” I was taking a rare respite from the front stage area and enjoying the show with a bunch of my JadedVet™ colleagues from The Mockingbird Foundation back by the soundboard, several of whom are the strongest proponents of the “return of the ‘Mike’s’ second jam.” (As an aside, sure, we think the return of the second jam would in fact be wicked cool, but mostly it’s just a joke, a brotherly poke offered in love to our musical heroes… they can play “Mike’s Song” however they darn well please, and we’ll be cheerfully cutting rug in response. Every time!) So when that moment of truth came, the last held chord of the end of “Mike’s” first jam, we all held our breath and…

Prince Caspian.”

Waves” paid homage to our seaside locale before the band launched into a throwback ending… back to 2010, with a parade of set closers. “Weekapaug Groove” was a dance throw-down but lacked some of the spark that it had been feeding from the “Ghost-a-paug” sequence favored of late. “Cavern” > “Golgi Apparatus” > “Run Like an Antelope” took us to the finish line in solid, entertaining fashion, but the jamming guns were packed away for the night. A “Wingsuit” encore – what a perfect spot for a song that is digging deep roots early in the fan psyche, this song is loved, deeply, already – and “The Squirming Coil“ brought closure to this mellow but totally satisfying affair. I’d be remiss not to note that part of Page’s outro solo was marred by an embarrassing case of crowd clapping; but after that display of doing-it-wrong, the crowd seemed to compensate and became whisper quiet for the end of Page’s solo.


Photo © Phish, Phish From the Road

Phish is often about reactions to that which came before, sometimes writ large (albums, tours, jamming style) while other pendulum swings take place in microclimates, show-to-show. I’m thrilled beyond belief that the band plays very different types of shows: sometimes of their own accord, following the flow of their individual and collective moods and inspirations, and seeking to understand and play to the audience and mood and venue presented in the moment. Looking at the best shows of the tour, they have so many different vibes – do you like MPP2 or Randall’s3 more? Ginger or Mary Ann? On this night, in this place, for this crowd, Phish performed... perfectly.

We’ll be back tomorrow as we begin to round the tour’s home stretch.

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Monday 07/21/2014 by pzerbo

CHICAGO3 RECAP - THE ATOMIC WEDGIE

[This recap was a collaborative effort by some of the Mockingbird Foundation / phish.net staff, a.k.a. The Lawyers in Soccer Jerseys: @drewphish, @chrisbertolet, @cglush, @beverage_cart, @bestedog, @lumpblockclod and @pzerbo]

Phish is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re gonna get. The first two days of the weekend run at Chicago’s Northerly Island contained the usual assortment of hits and misses, peaks and valleys. Sometimes you could tell from the shape of the chocolates what you were likely to get, and that they would melt in your mouth – Friday’sReba,” “Golden Age” and “Piper,” or Saturday’sLight” and “Hood.” Then there were the totally unexpected surprises – that funky pink chocolate that nobody knows what it is supposed to be, but turns out amazing, i.e. Friday’s out-of-nowhere type-II “Wombat.” We’re told to “never miss a Sunday show,” so let’s get to the action from the field.


Photo © PhishPhish From the Road

Gumbo” kicked off the festivities, the first “Gumbo” show opener since the only other instance on 11/28/98 Worcester. Trey took to the echoplex during Page’s solo, offering a more interesting "Gumbo" than usual. “Runaway Jim” was next, a solid version; you have to love in “Jim” pre-jam when Fishman is so good at laying off the cymbals to create space.

The first “Tela” since 7/31/13 Tahoe (39 shows) was next, though it seems like much longer for those who attended that Tahoe gig, as during that performance we were all re-assembling our brains after they had been pulverized by the Tahoe “Tweezer” that preceded it. Apparently the Randall's Island crew gets their wish a week later, as the chants that sounded like “Reba” were actually for “Tela.” Phish, a band that plays requests… as long as it is a song they want to play, when they want to play it.


Photo © Phish

A short soap box; skip a few paragraphs to return to the music. For those trying to enjoy the show at home, “Tela” also suffered the first of many drop-outs where the LivePhish stream crapped out. Let’s face it: LivePhish and their partner, nugs.net, are out of their element; they do not possess the core competencies in the tasks to which they’ve been assigned. Drop-outs during Phish webcasts are now routine, it’s part of the package… for Phish. Yet, other bands have figured this out, other service providers offer state-of-the-art quality.

Why is this? When it comes to technology of providing live and recorded music to fans online, Phish used to lead; now, they follow, and from way behind. At some point it becomes impossible to understand how such incompetence goes unaddressed. On Saturday the big dropout came at the high point of the show, the fantastic “Hood” jam. Sure, we can replay it later, but the core value add is the immediacy of the moment. Nugs was great at the internet... in the late 90s. It’s 2014. Further, the communication about the issues has been poor, at best, and cluelessly aloof and dismissive at worst. Let’s not even get started about the LivePhish app, last updated in 2010. 2010! It is like the bad boyfriend / crazy girlfriend that you know is going to go bad in the end, but you just can’t quit them. They know we love The Phish, they know we’re going to keep coming back and buying their products; our demand is de facto inelastic.

We have a great thing going here: the fans love Phish, and Phish loves their fans. So why not address this lingering point of friction so we can get back to the love-making? The offering isn’t cheap – it wasn’t that long ago when $20 was the price of a ticket to the actual show. So, what do we need to do to make this a priority in the Phish org? It sure would be nice to put these issues behind us. We humbly request more attention to these matters by those in charge.


Photo by Robert Henriksen

Back to the action, we were happy to have the stream back… even for “The Line.” “The Line” is our favorite Lumineers cover (j/k!) that they do, Phish’s “One Shining Moment” of IT. Fishman keeps finding extra gears in this version, the rest of the band seemingly wanted to be done, but he took them on a couple bonus laps. “Scent of a Mule” started with Trey having trouble finding, whaddaya call them, “notes.” Fishman just doesn't want to lay out, he's kicking so much ass and knows it. This is like '93 Fishman, when Trey finally gave him permission to change the tempo. This turned into a very spirited and deliberately weird “Mule” duel. Page walked over to Fish’s Marimba Lumina and held candles over Fish. But as we all know, you can't hold a candle to Fishman. Trey joined in on drums, Mike added cowbell and cymbals, the whole affair had a ceremonial feel. A drum circle, Phish-style! This “Mule” was a real treat, showcasing a band that can still get weird and have fun.

Bathtub Gin” brought us back down to earth a bit, following the soaring performances at SPAC and Randall’s Island. Other than Fishman, Page has grabbed our attention the most this tour. He is playing better than we've ever heard him play, as evidenced in this “Gin.” At least on this night, the hope of “Gin” opening up to its brilliant flowering plumage would have to wait, but a solid version nonetheless. “Silent in the Morning” was next in its now-ensconced "Horse"-less incarnation.

Maze” is one of the few hard/fast songs that seems to be played better in 3.0. This “Maze” featured “Mission: Impossible” teasing and was well-played overall with exceptional rhythm playing by both Trey and Page, and Fish is, again, killing it. This “Maze” broke no new ground whatsoever, but how much does that matter? Not much.

Ocelot” is so obviously “Tennessee Jed,” how can you not love it? It's probably the best or at least second-best jam in many of the sets in which it is played. The only “problem” with “Ocelot” is that they haven't done more with it, it has so much potential – keeping with the Dead analogy, “Ocelot” has a huge upside, like a ‘73 “Playin’ in the Band,” or even a poor-man’s/first set “Dark Star.” There was a stretch in 2012 where “Ocelot” got better and more intense with every version to the point where a breakthrough type II version seemed like an inevitability. Then that stopped happening. A spirited “Walls of the Cave” closed out this solid and entertaining set.


Setlist pictograms by Joseeen (available at Etsy)

Down with Disease” stepped back into the role it knows best, launching the second set festivities. The opening of the jam contained some very “Gin”-like phrase from Trey. The Echoplex is definitely the new Whammy, in that it can sometimes offer a crutch when Trey is struggling for direction, as he did during the early phases of this jam. Finally there was something to build on with Page taking rhythmic control. While not reaching the peaks of earlier offerings during this tour, this fourteen-minute “Disease” offered high hopes for the rest of the set.

Winterqueen” followed – a tune that has already demonstrated a much higher ceiling than many gave it credit for upon it’s arrival on the Phish scene. This version however serves more of a breather and bridge role. It also included an odd missed pedal by Trey that resulted in an abrupt and jarring modem screech. “Hello! You’ve got mail!” “Theme from the Bottom” extended this mellow interlude with a similarly placid yet flowing vibe, gradually building and blooming while staying true to the song’s foundation.

Mike’s Song” stuck to it’s type-I power guns (odds of the much sought-after “Mike’s” ‘second jam’ were taking action at 85-1 against). This is said as a compliment: this offering was more or less by the books, but infused some much needed energy into the proceedings.

When they opted for “The Wedge” there was an audible deflation in the crowd. Were we in for a rare Sunday edition of the Saturday Night Special? Sure, we love “The Wedge.” It’s a great tune, but one that hardly ever strays from the confines of structure – it’s a classic first set song – and this set was frankly primed for some explosive release. But, Phish is like a box of chocolates.

The dreaded “box” was smashed into a million pieces, propelling the band to hitherto unexplored space from it’s familiar “Wedge” retreat. This was so unexpected and great that it left many of us speechless. There were several almost-teases and jams including “Roll with the Changes” (REO Speedwagon) – "keep on rollin'" = "we keep it rollin'?" Think about it – and “Paradise City” (Guns N' Roses). Page absolutely made the “Wedge” jam, always offering an idea. He listens so well, it's astonishing. At 11:00 Fish drops back into the “Wedge” beat. But Trey won't let it go, and starts with the ascending butter riff. All four guys are contributing strongly to this jam that is indisputably the most creative take on the song to date. Much like the 7/18/14Wombat” or 11/2/13’s “Theme” it was the element of surprise that sent this killer jam over the top. You never know what you’re gonna get.


@ Scott Harris Photography

The now comfortable position of “Ghost” in the middle of Mike’s Groove fed off the vibrant energy of “The Wedge.” What a turnaround! It was amazing how this band can go from sounding tired to sounding revitalized in just one song; they seemingly have “the switch” at their disposal. The intensity of this “Ghost” is like playoff hockey or the best World Cup match, the latter parts of the jam were frenetic in build and excitement, total hose. “Ghost-a-paug” is a real thing, and it isn’t taking prisoners. “Weekapaug” keeps it rolling with what is on first blush one of the best versions of 3.0.

Before the conclusion of “Weekapaug” – that included “Stash” and, sigh, “San Ho Zay” teases – the band returned to the “Ghost” theme for a full band… something. Is it a “tease?” A “jam?” A “reprise?” Is it “Ghost” > ”Weekapaug” -> “Ghost” -> “Weekapaug?” Reasonable cases can be made for any of these, resulting in a bunch of overeducated and hyper-obsessive Phish dorks throwing their hands up. What was it? Hell if we know for sure – our crack team will figure that out at their earliest opportunity – but it was sure awesome! We’re going with “Ghost jam” for now, hope that’s cool with you.

The gig rounded out with a fiery “First Tube” and an added-time “Character Zero” for good measure. What a stretch they just played! Fan-fucking-tastic. After the inaugural visit to this venue last year that was marred by force majeure, the weather mercifully cooperated and the venue seemed by all accounts to work well for Phish fans. The band had set the bar incredibly high – perhaps unreasonably high for this early in the tour – at Randall's Island, a set of shows that arguably represent the Crown Jewels of Phish runs since their 2009 return to the stage. They didn’t always reach those highs in Chicago, but these shows were each excellent in their own right, showcasing Phish at the peak of their game where even the “average” shows are rather great.

Finally, we’d like to drop a once-in-a-blue-moon reminder that the all-volunteer efforts of the staff here at phish.net are offered in support of our charity, The Mockingbird Foundation, that raises funds for music education for kids. If what we do is valuable to you, we’d like to encourage you to consider a small donation to support our work, which seeks to “pay it forward” to the next generation of music performers and appreciators. We’d also like to thank everyone who organized and participated in the events that benefited the foundation this past weekend in Chicago, including Surrender to the Flow Yoga, Screens ’n’ Suds, The Mothership Art Collective, PhanArt, as well as our friends at Rock Bottom Brewery. It is a humble privilege and distinct honor to join with Phish and their fans in charitable endeavors, on top of all the fun we have enjoying the band.

We’ll see you back here after the break, reporting from Charlotte.


Photo © PhishPhish From the Road

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Thursday 07/17/2014 by pzerbo

SURRENDER TO THE FLOW YOGA - SAT 7/19

Phish Yoga with Tracy Stonaker

Phish shows and yoga can create a similar state of heightened consciousness. Through unparalleled improvisational communication the band profoundly unifies body, mind and spirit. This is yoga. Join us for an aligned vinyasa yoga practice set to the sonic spectrum of live Phish. Open to all levels of yogis and Phish fans.

Saturday, July 19, 2014 – 2:00 - 3:30pm – $20

All proceeds benefit The Mockingbird Foundation and Street Yoga. Sign up at surrendertotheflowyoga.org/register or email tracy@surrendertotheflowyoga.org

Chicago Yoga Center – 3047 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657 – (312) 330-1413

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Saturday 07/12/2014 by pzerbo

RANDALL'S1 RECAP: ISLAND TOUR REVISITED

Picked up pieces from the first night at Randall’s Island from PZ and LMo.

PZ: Only a little over a week ago I noted in this space that the functional role “Fuego” would assume in Phish’s ever-expanding repertoire was still very much an open question. Opener / early set compact rocker? A launching point for set-defining improvisational exploration? Late game / set closing heroics? The question seems almost silly now, because in that short time we’ve learned the answer rather decisively: much like Phish as a whole currently, “Fuego” does it all. “Fuego” is the tabula rasa onto which Phish’s creative muscle is currently being flexed, joining the likes of “Ghost,” “Tweezer” and “Down with Disease” as the canvass of legacy. Not bad for your new single, right?

LMo: This was a most excellent first set. I could hear the urban city vibe I love so much throughput the concert. “Bathtub Gin” went absolutely over the top of excellence. Trey takes it out of the park and into the sky with Page fast supporting the flight. Page is carrying sound into some very interesting places these days, the piano just soars into unique melodies invented in the moment, improvisations confidently and gloriously asserted.

PZ: When me and my buddies shoot the shit about the Phish, geek-ing it up comparing shows and eras and versions of songs – as we will sometimes do for no better reason than to simply amuse ourselves – the only factor that puts any distance between where Phish is currently versus past eras is the quality and volume of improvisation in the first set. Example, the amazing fall ‘13 tour, which was as good as any… you want to say since Big Cypress, or at least I do. But that’s a hard case to make based on the differentiator that 2003 in particular had so many shows where they fired all cylinders throughout the gig. The prime output from current shows is demonstrating Phish playing at a career peak, but often times there is a sense of a bifurcation where the first set is the “compulsories” and the second set is the free skate.

So when Phish starts to peel off epic (I chose that word carefully, not flippantly) versions of “Bathtub Gin,” as they did during Friday's first set, and follow it with the second soaring, flowering of “Stash” in the first ten days of tour, the “not as good as [whatever]” argument starts to get wicked flimsy. First blush, the “Gin” is right up there with Gorge ‘09 and the Bethel Gin-Teca as the best of 3.0.

LMo: I love to be as close as possible to the stage but there was scarcely room to plant my feet in our spot close in front of Mike. There was not much space for dancing in this crowd but everyone around me was quiet and I like that. “Steam” was truly wonderful and amazing, a lot of brilliant moments that seemed as if they could go on and on... the shift into “Down with Disease” was seamless. The “Dwd” jam was over the top wonderful. We really all went out there to the sound space many of us are looking for with the Phish. Sadly, I was brought to a full stop with the crowd chanting "woo." So, oh well... I will just say it knocked me out my own auditory flight and made me fall back to earth for a little while. So I took a moment to write a sidenote poem in my notebook about something not related to the event.


Solar garlic #stash #phish #randalls – Photo by Andrea Z Nusinov.

Page rocks the “Golden Age” with sweet piano riffs throughout. Awesome Page-side love, thank you. “Limb by Limb” got interesting too. “Fuego” is our summer song this year, just rocking the house every time, big time. I personally enjoyed the experience of sharing this song again after the Atlantic City introduction of it with my buddy Marco, who aptly said to me, "if you build it they will come," just as the “Fuego” started to build the momentum. “Fuego” is “Tweezer” in another outfit.

“David Bowie” was all about CK5. I so enjoyed Kuroda's lights. I tend to close my eyes a lot at a show and just listen to the huge sound, but the lights in “Bowie” really got me last night and I noted a glorious full lightbulb of a white moon hovering over our dear gathering at Randall's. The moon and CK5 were really in sync last night. Cheers to Chris Kuroda for always bringing the best effect. The "Character Zero” encore rocked it out for the finale of a beautiful magic night in New York City and we are right where we should be at this juncture. I felt truly free, let loose of all cares and worries.


Updated MAP! Saturday Randall's Island #phish
Image from Coventry Music

PZ: The reason Phish is better than any other Rock and Roll band is because our band’s drummer, Jon Fishman, is better than your band’s drummer. If your drummer sucks, your band sucks, no matter who you put around him or her. Our drummer doesn't suck. As good an example as any of this Fish Drives Phish phenomenon is the Randall’s “Down with Disease” – when you get a chance, listen to this version, and focus just on Fish. Follow him, listen in awe as he simultaneously anchors and drives and cajoles, then retreats and listens and ponders as the next idea percolates, like the most engaging conversationalist.

The remainder of the set was incredibly balanced with no meaningful downtime, comparatively compact versions of songs that flowed with balance, ease, grace, charm and power. “Steam” ended kinda oddly but seemingly because they had better ideas with the “Disease.” The “Golden Age” jam offered tons of mind candy in a compact package. “Fuego” saw its first fourth quarter action, where it simply works, big jam or otherwise. “Limb By Limb” was elegant and perfectly placed. The set construction was masterful, so much so that stock footage “Cavern” and “Character Zero” were enjoyable even for the JadedVet™.


Randall's Island last night. Photo by Dana (distortion) Yavin.
Photo courtesy © Phish From the Road.

Phish plays again tonight and tomorrow, same time same station. They are a great band offering a high quality adult entertainment experience and playing at the peak of their powers, so if you are driving around the stadium, think about popping by. Lots of trippy stuff, festival-level entertainment everywhere, build some time in before or after to walk the grounds, you are sure to find something unique and cool. While the New Yorker OCD Phish fan crew was hysterically flummoxed by the logistical idiosyncrasies of this venue, all in all it was pretty awesome and easy experience by most accounts. Walk the bridge if you can, at least once – it is really quite something, a vantage point that most of us have sailed over hundreds of times without much thought, yet one that is well worth a moment of your time and reflection.

Gotta run, we are in our spot 20-ppl back straight in front of Mike, if you are in the neighborhood by all means stop by and say hey. Go Phish!


Photo courtesy © Phish From the Road.

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Wednesday 07/02/2014 by pzerbo

GREAT WOODS 2014 SUMMER KICK-OFF!

Greetings, Phish fans! Summer tour 2014 kicked off last night at Great Woods – a venue that has been housing Phish performances for over twenty years and through which a CliffNotes history of the band is told – with a performance that featured a mix of classic and familiar songs as well a measured dose of material from their new album, Fuego.

Fuego has been received favorably by the vast majority of fans as well as the mainstream press. The band seems enthused and determined to focus on that material and allow it to breathe and grow in their live performances. So, let’s splurge! Bring us some fresh wine! The freshest you’ve got – this year! No more of this old stuff!

If there is one song from the album that is already universally loved it is clearly the title track. “Fuego” (the song) seems destined to “go big” and upon the opening notes there was a palpable excitement in the air. Three live performances is far too early to project the role it may play in the repertoire, but it hasn’t yet stretched out beyond its very dense structure – any latent potential of the song remains just that, a potential, a subjunctive, a question. Is “Fuego” destined for an expansive improvisational launchpad role akin to “Light,” or is it more “Walls of the Cave” – a beloved composition that adheres closely to a fixed structure?

The move of “Wingsuit” from the opener on 10/31/13 to the closing slot on the album suggested a natural slot for the walk-off set closer, where it succeeded spectacularly at Great Woods. The song offers expansive and inviting lyrical themes and is pregnant with the emotional weight of a true rock anthem. Will it go Big, or will it be “Bug?” The upside potential is limitless – the song’s, the band’s, yours and mine. Time will tell.

A more curious and interesting case is provided by “Waiting All Night.” A lovely studio track that benefited greatly from the guidance of Fuego’s producer, Bob Ezrin, “Waiting All Night” may stand alone in a first set jukebox, launch into something more powerful, or settle nerves after an improvisational roller-coaster. Tuesday’s performance was fine in isolation but (IMHO) suffered slightly from its placement following an unusually by-the-book opening half of the second set. The “Mike’s” > “Simple” > “Free” segment was, generously and politely, a workman-like sequence that dispensed with the notion that a Phish gig’s second stanza requires improvisation, or anything new. It is really a lovely piece that will perhaps require tryouts in a number of utility roles to find its proper footing.

Turning to the improvisational meat of the show, there are three: “Stash,” the brilliant segue from “Ghost” to “Weekapaug,” and “Harry Hood.” “Stash” was fantastic and measures well against other 3.0 standouts (7/30/09 Red Rocks, 7/14/13 MPP, 10/31/10 and 10/31/13 Atlantic City), and was further enhanced by the flexing of new muscles from Chris Kuroda in new-to-2014 fractal-based mind-spinning awesomeness. “Ghost” was asleep at the switch until Fish drove the band back into “Weekapaug” – a.k.a. “Mike’s Song Second Jam” – a reprise of sorts to the same “Ghost-a-Paug” from 12/30/13 at MSG.

Then the “Hood”... wow. You basically have the whole story of this show, or any show, in this 18+ minute “Hood” – confident and competent composed section, a daring leap into the unknown, a jumbled wad of confusion and uncertainty, then deep-space-nine that sucker, get weird, and pour your heart and soul out to complete the package. The performance immediately summons a comparison to 8/5/13 Hollywood, both as a top-tier 3.0 version and because it bucked script and placed the big improvisational moment of the money set late instead of early. Works for me.

---

As is becoming a bit of a habit, for our “point-counterpoint” segment I’m joined by my dear friend, Lily Morton, who will take it home with her view… and then we invite yours. Happy summer, be safe, play hard, fly high! -PZ.

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last night's concert is the starting point of a glorious summer. my impression overall was one of superb unity going forward. this thought is also reflective of the unity of the new songs of fuego with the old phish standards we all know and love. the show was strongly bass-driven and all songs held tightly in the framework of the rhythm section. cheers to Fishman - the timing clock-master.

the set one standouts in my experience - 555, a winner of a song among the new record releases and stash, an old friend. within stash i noted an inspired tension and brotherly wrestling between the bass and guitar. most fun.

bouncing around the room and cheers to chris kuroda for lighting cool enough to drop the temperature a few degrees. the lighting of both sets was dominated in cool colors, blues, purples, greens as this palate helped offset the steamy steamy heat of july's beginning in the northeast. love the light.

birds of a feather into wingsuit slowed down the momentum as the first set came to a conclusion, a necessary reprieve to the intensity of warmth. wingsuit is a dear lovely song, a most beautiful concept. it has a future for potential improvisation particularly where the guitar is likely to stretch and take flight. wingsuit is a calm collected composition that seems to be evolving moments of intensity and exploration. the song isn't necessarily calm throughout, making things yet more interesting. moments beginning in calm flight take alternate changes and turns. wingsuit will evolve with extended jam stretches, sound flight navigated of the guitar… just a prediction.

set two was all about mike. with mike's song opening straight up with no surprises into simple when things got very surprising as simple was hot hot hot, smoking hot as there was a noted 'something' in last nights simple. perhaps it was a noted tension again between the base and guitar. very nice.

waiting all night, a most pleasant calm moment (a beautiful calm) to recollect into a ghost that felt singular and in perfect company to the great ghosts of the past. this ghost felt unique and singular and in my experience was the peak of last night's concert experience. epic ghost.

into mike's into hood. there were moments that carried my ears off into something in the hood... somewhere late in the composition. i can't recall exactly what it was. i simply noted that it happened.

julius was an awesome encore. a one song encore as this seemed quite long, so upbeat and i was most happily elevated in my spirit after last night's opening concert this summer tour. it is going to be a hot hot summer. things are going to remain very interesting... we have superb unity here.

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Thursday 01/30/2014 by pzerbo

PHISH 2013: LET'S GO FACE TRUCKIN'!

In 2013, it was a very good year in the Phish world, one when you felt like “IT” could happen at any time. I had the privilege to see the band on nineteen occasions across eight venues – Bangor, Tahoe, BGCA, Dick’s, Worcester, Hartford, Atlantic City and MSG – and wanted to reflect on some of the highlights of each, touching on historical context where relevant. These thoughts are not intended as any sort of “best of” list; rather, they represent simply one fan’s journal of notable moments, reflections and personal experiences from the past year of Phish.

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Monday 12/30/2013 by pzerbo

MSG2 RECAP

Two down, two to go. Busy times in the city so we’ll get right to the action from Sunday night at MSG. I’m joined by a few friends with whom I spent the gig on the back of the floor to talk about what went down...

PZ: The first half of the first set was typical of recent vintage first sets – enjoyable, well-played, but mostly safe and uneventful. The opening segment of “Moma Dance,” “Rift” allowed everyone to settle in and get cozy. “Roggae,” “Sparkle” and the second performance of Wingsuit’sThe Line” keep the vibe warm and expectant. A slippery and bright “Stash” turns the corner on the set that would offer a wealth of riches going forward. “555” was an instant fan favorite among the Wingsuit songs and is perfect in this spot; the juxtaposition of Trey riding hard and dissonant leads over the dripping sexy funk is pregnant with great potential to go huge in a bigger improvisational role. “It’s Ice” takes a delicious late turn with Page leading a left turn to the get down lane, and Page continues the extended dominant in the subsequent “Gumbo” that – atypical of in the last few years – also tacked on a nice little jam to the end. “Walls of the Cave” made it’s third New York appearance (the debut on 12/31/02 + 1/1/11) to close the a fun, enjoyable set of mostly compulsory exercises but with just enough spice to keep things interesting.

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Wednesday 12/11/2013 by pzerbo

REVIEW: MIKE GORDON, THE EGG

Today marks two years since Mike Gordon’s current quintet – featuring Scott Murawski on guitar, Craig Myers on percussion, Tom Cleary on keyboards and Todd Isler on drums – last performed in the U.S. That mini-tour produced The Egg, a three-CD set featuring the tour-closing gig from Albany’s The Egg Center for the Performing Arts on December 11, 2011 and released earlier this year.

The Egg
The Egg

Gordon just announced an 18-date 2014 spring tour, along with the release of his hotly anticipated new album, Overstep. Before we turn our attention forward, we wanted to take a quick look back at the last time we saw this vibrant force on today’s improvisational rock and roll scene...

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Saturday 11/02/2013 by pzerbo

AC2: LIVING THE DREAM

Wow. Are we having fun, yet, Phish fans? Holy moly! On Thursday, Phish set down one of the ballsiest, boldest, most innovative creative offerings of their storied thirty year career. The pressure is off and we are rounding the home stretch on what is arguably the best tour of the post-breakup era. Check that: in my opinion, we are easily, definitively, by a large measure witnessing the most consistently excellent, innovative, paradigm-breaking tour since the 1990s… we’re in the thick of artistic explosion that belongs in the discussion with August ‘93, December ‘95, summer and fall ‘97, or any other tour or era that you want to include in the conversation.

Given the magnitude and power of what is happening in the moment – and because I’ve been living a little large and am time pressured, again, sigh – I’m going to let these last few weeks settle and offer some hopefully coherent and reflective thoughts soon. So I’ve Tom Sawyer’d this recap with the help of my friends. Twenty plus years into this journey, and I’m as thrilled and jacked up about this band as I’ve ever been… the vibe reminds me of the afterglow of Big Cypress. This is it. Let go, enjoy it… take a look around you, give a good look to the people around you. There is a lot of love in the air, embrace it, give yourself to the moment. Music is the BEST!

Martin Acaster: We sat in my truck and listened to the show on the street corner outside the WOW Hall in Eugene while waiting for our daughter to emerge from the squealariffic and sweaty Hoodie Allen show feasting on cold pizza and chugging amp energy drinks. On the ride down from Portland "Under Pressure" came on the radio and I thought to myself… this would be a really cool song for Phish to play someday. You can imagine the holy shit chills I experienced during “Twist.” The band knows what I am thinking even when I am 3000 miles away. I chuckled at the “Halley's” > “Tube” juxtaposition… since they are now essentially the same song. Heard “Wombat” teases all over the place. That groove is so infectious. The Bush Kush freakout reminded me a lot of something Ed Zeppelin used to do on a couple of Dread Zeppelin tracks. Another winner… the Phish from Vermont is truly en Fuego.

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Saturday 10/26/2013 by pzerbo

WORCESTER 1 RECAP

The colors on the trees are mostly faded. It’s cold outside. The Red Sox are in the World Series. And Phish is back at The Centrum. Life is good. Short and sweet here, for a blow-by-blow visit the excellent JamBase Skinny.

Shit-show Friday afternoon traffic led to a very late start even for Phish standard time – at a half hour after the scheduled start time the floor was barely half full. Everything about this venue “outside the ropes” (concessions, bathrooms, Worcester as a place) is still a pain-in-the-ass, but everything inside was relaxed, cozy, and happy!

The “Waves” > “Carini” combo is exactly what you want out of the critical third quarter frame, this has it all, 23-minutes that oozes sexy crunchy grooves, and taken as a whole every bit as satisfying as the Hampton “Tweezer.” If “Carini” isn’t the most consistent go-to jam stalwart, I’m not sure what is – so damn good, every single time. The “Caspian” was a soul-crushing moment, and the “Number Line” didn’t help matters. But then every ounce of potential disappointment transformed as our lovable Vermont heroes opened the books back up on the jamming through “Ghost” and the “Disease” > “Sneaking Sally” combo. Everything that came after was gravy, but the sheer quantity of songs gave everyone a hook to hang their hat on. Good points, bad points. Good times, bad times. Sometimes it was hard to get emotional footing through the roller coaster, but that which was good, was great.

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Saturday 08/31/2013 by pzerbo

MOST SHOWS SPELL SOMETHING

Along with more traditional venues such as Hampton and MSG, Dick’s has in a few short years established itself as another “home court” for Phish, with this being the third consecutive three-night Labor Day weekend run. It is well established that Phish love Dick’s, in fact we ALL love Dick’s. It has been another long night and busy day for the phish.net team here in lovely Colorado, so we’ll proceed in the “express review” mode today.

Most Shows Spell Something.

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Sunday 08/04/2013 by pzerbo

BGCA2 RECAP

OK, Phish fans.... we’re almost at the finish line for this leg of summer tour 2013! It has been a wild ride, and we still have the home stretch over the next two nights. Let’s cut to the action from Saturday at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. This recapper ran into a late-night perfect storm of adult socializing that resulted in an inspection of the sunrise, so today we’re going to necessarily be a bit brief.

Grind” starts off the gig, giving us our first taste of a cappella for the tour. The first “Weigh” since 6/28/12 Deer Creek (45 shows) also offers enough “stop-start” to allow the crowd to exercise some of the hopefully subsiding “woo” energy. In a silly oddball song like “Weigh” this crowd effort doesn’t seem intrusive – as opposed, say, to during the previous evening’s “Reba” – though hopefully we’re all getting this out of our system. The new-to-2013 start rolls on with the always spirited “Alumni Blues” > “Letter to Jimmy Page” > “Alumni Blues,” only the sixth such performance since 1994.

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Sunday 07/21/2013 by pzerbo

CHICAGO 2 RECAP: THE MAKEUP SEX

Before we get to Saturday’s action from Phish’s gig at Northerly Island in Chicago, let’s briefly consider, “well, how did we get here?” The “here” is a three-set show, a structure typically reserved only for Phish festivals, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve performances. The “how” was Friday’s show that was abruptly halted eleven minutes into the second set during “Prince Caspian,” due to the approach of potentially severe thunderstorms. The venue was immediately evacuated, and soon thereafter it was announced the show was cancelled.

The upwards of 30,000 attendees exited the venue as swiftly and safely as the venue’s island logistics allowed. Fans were chill – to everyone that was a part of not making headlines, great job! On the level-headed end of the spectrum, fans acknowledged that while it was obviously a bummer, shit happens. Lightning strikes are powerful, majestic, yet often deadly events. Trey did in fact famously take a more carefree approach when on 7/22/93 in Stowe, VT, in response to the staff talking about canceling the show due to the danger of electrocution during a show that took place in a total downpour, “Fuck that. Put the plug up my ass and count out Llama!” In this spot, however, public safety and a sober assessment of very real risk rightly won the day.

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Sunday 07/07/2013 by pzerbo

SPAC2 RECAP

You know the drill, so let’s cut right to the action from SPAC2.

Crowd Control” starts off in its now-traditional show-opening slot (it has opened the show in each of its six appearances since Phish returned to the stage in 2009), giving way to a spirited if standard “Chalk Dust Torture,” the first repeat of the tour. “The Wedge” and “Funky Bitch” maintain an upbeat and solidly played opening stanza.

Heavy Things” saw some minor vocal struggles from Trey but was otherwise well-played, and was followed by a one-two punch from Farmhouse with an unexpected “Bug,” the first performance of the song in the first set in over a dozen years (9/25/00, Bonner Springs, KS). The first set seems like a potentially better fit for “Bug” – a song that many fans (including this one) love, but that can often fall fairly flat when positioned in the more common prominent, late-second-set or encore slots. “Bouncing” offers a breather before “Tube” that teases at some delicious grooves that could have offered the first extended improv of the set, but is cut far too short (and even at 6:44 is comparatively long for 3.0). Then the best “Julius” EVER... hint: they are all the “best ever” – “Julius” rarely varies, and always rages.

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Wednesday 05/29/2013 by pzerbo

TREY ANASTASIO & NSO @ KENNEDY CENTER RECAP

On Wednesday, May 22, Trey Anastasio revived his orchestral repertoire with the National Symphony Orchestra Pops at the 2,446-seat Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington, D.C., for his only scheduled orchestral appearance in 2013. Anastasio was joined by NSO principal pops conductor Steven Reineke, performing orchestrations by Don Hart.

First Tube” led off the show, as it had in all six previous orchestral performances, excepting it’s symphonic debut on 5/21/09 with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra when it closed the first set. Trey appeared extremely loose as he enthusiastically leaned into the first of his solos of the night, rushing ahead of the orchestra before settling into a sustained groove. The Anastasio/Marshall composition “Frost” from Trey’s 2012 release, Traveler, offered the only orchestral debut of the evening, with Trey delivering a sweet and delicate vocal performance.

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Saturday 08/25/2012 by pzerbo

OAK MOUNTAIN RECAP

We’re now fully in the swing of tour, show #6 of summer leg #2. Tonight the band returns to an old Phish haunt not visited in thirteen years, Oak Mountain Amphitheatre in Pelham, AL, a ~10,000-seat all-reserved open-air venue. This was the third Phish show at this facility (10/15/94 & 9/28/99) and the seventh in the state of Alabama. This show was provided as an official LivePhish webcast. Let’s cut to the action.

Possum” starts off, a little “early” @ 7:55 local time. Uneventful but fun, a quick break and then “Cities,” an easy call given the “A lot of bridges in... Birmingham” line which received the requisite crowd appreciation. An unusually rough rendition of “Sample in a Jar” was next, about which the less said, the better. “Timber” held early promise but retreated into it’s 3.0 shell before it developed into something interesting, giving way to a solid if concise version of “Back on the Train.”

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Thursday 08/16/2012 by pzerbo

LONG BEACH RECAP

Welcome back to the second leg of summer tour, Phish fans! This will be a necessarily abbreviated recap so that the recapper may make tracks up the coast of California (“must be somewhere over here”). Let’s get right to it.

Long Beach Arena was far less than full last night as the band took the stage just after 8:15. A rare opening “Suzy Greenberg” starts us off, the first time it had opened a shows since the famous 12/14/95 show immortalized on Live Phish 1. The set then settles into a pleasant if uneventful segment featuring “Cities” > “Kill Devil Falls” and a well-executed “Guelah Papyrus.” “Cool it Down” seems to be easing its way into the rotation and featured an extended ending – not quite “type II” but definitely a little added spice; the band clearly loves this groove.

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Saturday 07/07/2012 by pzerbo

SPAC2 RECAP

We’re coming around the home stretch for leg one of Phish’s 2012 summer tour, which by all reasonable accounts has been notable for the consistently quality performances. The variance between each gig has been very low and containing something for everyone, and the peaks – including last night’s absolutely ripping “Sneakin’ Sally” – have soared. In other words, they’ve been bringing the heat, every night. That sometimes gets lost when breaking down shows song-by-song with the minor quibbles and comparison’s that inevitably arise. We’ll offer some broader tour ending recaps and reviews in due time, but I wanted to get that out there. Here at phish.net we engage in a lot of historical analysis and comparison that isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t appreciating the here and now. The here and now is pretty awesome.

Kevin Shapiro kicked off the evening with From the Archives #16 part 2 on SiriusXM. Starting off from Phish’s first headlining performance at SPAC, we are treated to the absolutely sick 7/10/94Mike’s Song” -> “Low Rider” -> “Mike’s” > “I Am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug.” Then what is widely considered the most innovative “Boogie On Reggae Woman” ever played, from the 9/18/99 performance in Chula Vista, CA, a singularly stunning achievement in group improvisation that thrills every bit as much now as it did then. “Maze” from 10/18/96 at Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena is next, followed by the lovely Trey jazz composition “Flat Fee” from the classic 7/20/91 Arrowhead Ranch gig with the Giant Country Horns.

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Thursday 07/05/2012 by pzerbo

JONES BEACH 2 RECAP

Happy 4th of July, Phish fans! Let’s cut right to the action from Jones Beach.

A “Dave’s Energy Guide” tease from Trey and Mike hints at the first set fireworks to come, before the band launches into a spirited “Alumni Blues” > “Letter to Jimmy Page” > Alumni Blues.” Then the first of what would be a bustout-filled set, “Head Held High!” Played for the first time since the 10/31/98 debut (356 shows), this was the fifth song from The Velvet Underground’s Loaded performed by Phish this summer, alongside “Rock and Roll,” “Lonesome Cowboy Bill,” “Sweet Jane” and “Cool It Down.”

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Sunday 06/10/2012 by pzerbo

WORCESTER RECAP

Words by Phillip Zerbo. Photos by Parker Harrington.

We’re back! Five months and change since they kicked off 2012 at Madison Square Garden, Phish returned to the stage in Worcester, home of so many classic Phish performances over the years. The MSG New Year’s run met mixed reaction among fans, though that seemed long forgotten when the lights went down on Thursday. Let’s recap...

A punchy “Buried Alive” opens, followed by “Runaway Jim” – their second performance of the song in Worcester since the all-time classic “Runaway Jam” of 11/29/97. The fifth-ever Phish performance of The Stones’ “Torn and Frayed” was next, one of the few Exile on Main St. songs to stick in the repertoire after their performance of the album in full on 10/31/09. Standard but enjoyable renditions of “Funky Bitch,” “Moma Dance” and “Rift” were next. The only mild surprise song selection of the night was the Anastasio/Marshall composition “Nothing;” this was the fifth Phish performance ever and the first since 6/24/10 in Camden (78 shows). A typically languid “Ocelot” brings the set back into a more predictable pattern, followed by Page’s “Beauty of a Broken Heart,” the obligatory “Possum,” and we are capped off by “Rocky Top.”

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Sunday 02/12/2012 by pzerbo

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: TREY WITH THE PSO

The Pittburgh Symphony Orchestra sent the following email with important information for ticket-holders to Tuesday's performance by Trey Anastasio & PSO. Please take a second to check it out if you are attending!

We are looking forward to an amazing evening of music on Tuesday, February 14 at 7:30pm, as Trey joins the PSO at Heinz Hall. We encourage you to use this email as a guide if you are new to a classical music concert, Heinz Hall, or the Cultural District of Pittsburgh. Should you have a question that is not answered here, please refer to the FAQ page on our website.

PRE-CONCERT MUSIC! Arrive early, at 6:30pm, for live bluegrass in the Grand Lobby of Heinz Hall with Pittsburgh's Shelf Life String Band. Free to all ticket holders.

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Thursday 02/09/2012 by pzerbo

TREY ANASTASIO ORCHESTRAL: A BRIEF HISTORY

Trey Anastasio kicks-off his sold-out Winter 2012 Orchestral Tour tonight at Symphony Hall in Atlanta with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Scott Dunn conducting. The tour also includes performances with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra on February 14, the Colorado Symphony on February 28, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic on March 10.

Anastasio has a rich history of orchestral performances spanning over a decade. Anastasio made his orchestral debut with the Vermont Youth Orchestra on February 2, 2001 in Troy, NY (reprised two nights later at The Flynn Theatre in Burlington), with Troy Peters conducting. This performance included two compositions by Trey’s mentor, the late Ernie Stires, “Chat Rooms” and “Samson Riffs.” The highlight of these shows was the orchestral debut of “Guyute” that reintegrated the song’s original elements that would – in the Phish repertoire – evolve as “My Friend, My Friend.” These performances were capped by renditions of “The Inlaw Josie Wales” with Trey on acoustic guitar.

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Thursday 01/19/2012 by pzerbo

SOPA + PIPA PROTESTS

As most of you are aware, yesterday, Wednesday, January 18, 2012, witnessed the largest protest in the relatively short history of the Internet. Phish.net joined the massive protests against SOPA (H.R. 3261) and PIPA (S.968) by going dark for 24 hours. Yesterday, many of you exercised your civil rights and responsibilities and made your views known by contacting your representatives. As we return to live service, we'd like to take this opportunity to remind all of our users that democracy is something that happens every day. To learn more about phish.net's participation in this protest, please visit Hidden Track's interview with the phish.net and Mockingbird Foundation director of technology, Adam Scheinberg.

Welcome back!

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Wednesday 01/04/2012 by pzerbo

MIKE GORDON @ THE APOLLO PROJECT 2012-01-06

From Mike's Facebook page: This Friday, January 6, 2012 8pm / WFC Winter Garden, NY, NY in honor of the 30th anniversary of Brian Eno's tribute to the NASA moon landings, Apollo: Atmospheres & Soundtracks, the New York Guitar Festival presents a live re-imagining of this sonic masterpiece featuring the ambient ensemble itsnotyouitsme, Mike Gordon, Larry Campbell, and special guests including Noveller and Tortoise’s Jeff Parker. This is a free performance.

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Monday 01/02/2012 by pzerbo

YEMSG4 - NYE RECAP

Happy 2012, Phish fans! Apologies for being tardy with this better-late-than-never recap, though we assume many of you were also raging/recovering/traveling. Perspectives on the first three shows of the run up to NYE varied widely from total love to moderate puzzlement to mild disappointment. To be fair there has been something to justify all of those opinions; as always, the only opinion that should matter to you is your own. Let’s walk through the action as we finish our trip around the sun and flip the calendar!

A compact and rollicking “AC/DC Bag” gets the NYE show on the road, followed swiftly by “Wolfman's Brother” with a strong if brief type-I jam. Solid if uneventful versions of “Scent of a Mule” and “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan” keep the high-energy opening sequence flowing, before dropping down to the NYE stand-by breather “Lawn Boy,” making its seventh NYE appearance. “Gotta Jibboo” and “Farmhouse” then settle the set into a more sustainable groove.

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Thursday 12/29/2011 by pzerbo

YEMSG 2011-12-28 RECAP

Alongside the storied Phish traditions of Halloween and the summer festivals, the New Year’s Eve run of shows are the most eagerly anticipated by fans in any year. When this run takes place at Madison Square Garden – the world’s most famous arena, in the epicenter of the Phish fan base – the level of pre-show hype is practically off-the-charts. Performing their 20th show at MSG tonight, it is like entering their own post-season, after a very successful year. Three and a half months off their last performance – 9/14/11, the benefit for Vermont flood victims – and on the heels of a strong end to the last tour including several strong performances in Chicago and Denver, would Phish come exploding out of the gates? Or would the “marathon not a sprint” mentality give us the proverbial warm-up show? The turnstiles crank on 7th avenue, while couch tour nation settles in at home. Let’s do this.

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Saturday 09/03/2011 by pzerbo

DICK'S1 RECAP

The Dick(‘s Sporting Goods Park). The Phish. Labor Day Weekend. End of tour. Echoing the Alpharetta2 (6/15/11) webcast: StormTeam17 reports heavy winds, lightning and sandstorms pre-gig. Think “S”!

Lights @ 8:17 MDT, a stock “Sample” opener, briskly into a “Sparkle,” “The Sloth” combo that keeps the energy high and allows band and crowd alike to settle in before the first catch-your-breath moment. “Sweet Virgina” provides the first deviation from script, their fourth ever performance (the first in 84 shows, 12-5-09 Charlottesville) and third since the Halloween ‘09 cover of Exile on Main St. in its entirety. Then the second-only Phish performance of “Suskind Hotel” kicks the tempo up in a welcome nod to those that have been clamoring for more Mike songs in the repertoire. “Suskind Hotel” was awesome, with strong hints of “Birds of a Feather” in the jam and a “CYHMK” in the ending. A strong presence on the 2006 GRAB tour (as well as the Mike Gordon solo repetroire), this one is a keeper!

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Wednesday 08/17/2011 by pzerbo

UIC3 RECAP

This recap was a collaboration between @pzerbo and @lumpblockclod.

Phish closed out yet another successful tour at the UIC Pavilion tonight that has seen visits to an outstanding and diverse set of venues and witnessed a solid dose of innovative and thrilling jams. From the awe-inspiring natural majesty of the Gorge, to the shining spectacle of Phish under CK’s light’s at the Hollywood Bowl, to the blissfully peculiar hybrid of Vegas and Telluride that was Tahoe, and the history-drenched over-sized party of Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park, the tour remarkably gained yet more steam as it went indoors to conclude in Chicago. The quality of performances in Chi-town have caused even the most JadedVet™ to stand and applaud, with gloriously extended improvisation (“Waves” -> “Undermind” on 8/15 and “Down with Disease” on 8/16), debuts (“Babylon Baby”), rarities (“Let it Loose”), extended encores on both of the first two nights and all-around solid play. Heading into the final show of the leg, expectations ran high and, as always, anything was possible. Let’s dim the lights.

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Wednesday 08/17/2011 by pzerbo

UIC2 RECAP

Please note: this recap was written by @PYITE.

Some people hold specific venues in high regard because of past performances. I think it's fair to say that UIC Pavilion is one of those venues. A quaint and decidedly log-jammed sweat lodge is just the kind of place that good Phish shows happen. After two nights here, it should be safe to assume that the public's hopes and dreams for this run are being met.

In an absolutely entertaining evening, Phish put together a show that was light on run-of-the-mill repeats, heavy on a mix of songs you haven't heard in a while, and jams you won't soon forget.

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Saturday 08/06/2011 by pzerbo

LEG2 KICKOFF: GORGE1 RECAP

The Gorge. A simply stunning landscape coupled with rich Phish history spanning back to 1997, you know it is going to be good. Apparently required disclaimer: I didn’t attend this gig and am writing this recap literally “on the couch” from Cape Cod based on the recording. If this approach offends your sensibilities or invalidates the opinions offered, you are welcome and encouraged to not read it. Thanks! Let’s get to the action.

A crisp, upbeat and metaphor-rich opening sequence of “Kill Devil Falls” and “The Wedge” starts things out with appropriate nods to the spectacular surroundings before yielding to the first jam vehicle of the night, "Bathtub Gin.” Facing a strong headwind of history at this venue (8/3/97 and 8/7/09 are must-hears) “Gin” immediately dispels any notion that rust may have accumulated during the month break after SBIX. Breezily riding the main theme with Trey sailing over the groove, the foundation doesn’t stray but the steady, attacking build and culmination equals total satisfaction. In the words of @ericwyman: “pure power gin last night, rage face on hardcore.” Indeed.

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Tuesday 07/26/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @757PHAN

Posted by @757phan in the SBIX Essay Contest. This esay received the most "thumbs up" from phish.net users. This entry concludes the SBIX essay series for the phish.net blog.

A Journey of the Mind, Body, and Soul with Camp.net at SBIX

I want to start off by saying thank you to Phish, Phish.net, Team Camp.net, and to everyone in my life who helped me make this journey, especially my soon to be wife Amy. Amy is a phan and could not go, but encouraged me to go no matter what and made me promise to dance extra hard for her. I love that girl.

Here is a randomly written account of my experience last weekend. This is also a free write exercise in that it has only been edited for spelling and to include photos and some .net handles. Everything else was simply thoughts spilling out onto my computer as they raced through my head. I have included some photos and a few videos, but I really didn’t take many of either. I was too busy trying to live while I’m young. It is way too long, so I tried to chunk it up. If you want to read just one section great, the whole thing cool, or read nothing and look and the pictures it’s all good. Do you.

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Monday 07/25/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @HARRYHOOD213

Posted by @HARRYHOOD213 in the SBIX Essay Contest.

My Super Ball Poem

What can I say?, I was not even there,
But I had a good reason and that I will share.

Its nothing to exciting or overly cool,
It simply responsibilities of a working, family phool.

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Sunday 07/24/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @JOHNMANBAND

Posted by @JohnManBand in the SBIX Essay Contest.

Theater of the Mind

When I was younger I used to sit out on the back porch on summer nights with my father listening to an old transistor radio. At night we could pick up stations from far away – somewhere in upstate New York, sometimes even Canada. It had to do with the ozone-skip, my dad explained, the way the AM stations bounced their signals off the ground. Though he’d grown up with television, my dad was nostalgic about the golden age of radio and spoke of the “Theater of the Mind” in which the listener imagined his own movie based on what he’d heard. I guess he passed on some of that aural appreciation to me. I like to listen.

This past 4th of July weekend I sat out behind my own house, listening – enjoying what may soon replace the American summer vacation: couch tour. The sounds of The Bunny on Live Phish’s stream seemed to be broadcasting from a mysterious and distant land, a land called “The Super Ball.” The Bunny obliterated my interest in local radio. I kept it on all weekend. As long as the internet connection held out I’d be okay, and it was more reliable than AM.

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Sunday 07/24/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @FORBINS0218

Posted by @forbins0218 in the SBIX Essay Contest.

ARE YOU EXPERIENCED?

What is it?

An experience is born as a result of environmental intake and manipulation. It is the sum total of your surroundings combined with your attitude. To me Superball was just that: new friends, old friends, imaginative escapades, remembrance, embracement, anxiety and fulfillment. I could ramble on about every experience I had, but a few stood out to me that truly captured the event and all its participants. The following are 5 experiences that I will always remember.

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Saturday 07/23/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @TERRAPIN9614

Posted by @terrapin9614 in the SBIX Essay Contest.

"Colonel Forbin, stared up at the mountain..."

I'm freaking out.

My 85th show, and I'm finally getting my first "Forbin's." But there's no one to share the experience with. I'm walking back from the front of the crowd, back to my wife, my best friends, my entire Super Ball crew...but where they are, I have no idea.

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Saturday 07/23/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @DOUVY

Posted by @douvy in the SBIX Essay Contest.

Phish has shown me the essence of what I was searching for in music for a long time, and when you get four guys together that really understand how to respond to one another and work towards the chemistry of exceptional improvisation, the experience related is for everyone all at once, and it fills the air and grasps your attention like something beyond us all; a force to be reckoned with.

This weekend each band member infused selflessness into their playing by listening to everyone and everything but themselves to manifest their creativity. The band was able to focus on what the others were doing, and through this, Phish --and everything a part of it, the instruments, the energy the crowd, everything --were able to let the music transcend beyond them. From the opening note of Possum to the closing explosion of First Tube, a mega-blissful experience occurred where judgment of the music being played seemed to be absent on both sides of the music, from the musicians and the audience. And fittingly so, I find it unnecessary to personally judge any part of the weekend from a musical perspective. As a result of this absence of judgment, everyone’s interpretation of Superball was in its purest and most spontaneous form.

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Friday 07/22/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @TRIPSFORJOEG

Posted by @tripsforjoeg in the SBIX Essay Contest.

It isn't very often that things fall into place perfectly; that is, unless you happened to be in our group (and I'm assuming several thousand other groups) at Superball IX. So many things went so smoothly for us that it seems as though the whole trip was just a mental projection of my idea of a perfect weekend that started the moment the festival was announced. Our trip timing was immaculate. Our luck was great. Our campsite was green, flat, fun and close to the venue. I couldn't be more completely satisfied with the way everything went.

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Thursday 07/21/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @FLOCKINGINSIDE

Posted by @FlockingInside in the SBIX Essay Contest.

Secret set, how awesome was it that Phish let us see them

Undressed, raw and private in their own
Personal setting which they created to make our minds salivate,just when I thought saturday night couldn't
End any better they came out again and played the best
Revamped sleeping monkey I have ever had the privilege of hearing not to mention how Chris manipulated those lights. Another treat for the masses was
Ball square, a truly awesome work of magic, put together by some very talented and intense
Artists who definitely knew what was up, I appreciate all of your hard work and dedication the whole experience was like a
Lucid dream and at times I couldn't believe I was really there. I had a blast from the time I arrived until the morning we packed up our stuff and left making sure to
Leave our campsite clean, thank you Phish, for melting my face off, thank you superball for a great weekend, thank you rail for sunday night, can't wait to do it again!

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Thursday 07/21/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @IVY_LIGHT

Posted by @ivy_light in the SBIX Essay Contest.

Nature, History, Music, Philosophy, and Knowledge: The Journey that was Superball IX

Thousands of years ago, slow-moving rivers of ice descended on North America. Along their slow, steady passage, they carved out the earth into rivers of gorges. Pushed forth ahead of them was a nutrient-rich milieu of soil. As the earth warmed and the glaciers melted, the deep cuts they made became filled with the pure, lush, clear water once trapped as ice. And the lush soil gave forth to rich forests bisected by pure waterfalls.

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Wednesday 07/20/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @AUTOO

Posted by @autoo in the SBIX Essay Contest.

First off would just like to say that it was a life changing time being at Watkins Glen for the phish festival. I got there and camped in South Dakota I believe and was a very relaxing place to be very kind folks all around each side of you. I've always enjoyed going to phish festivals because I was in a accident in 94 that took the use of my right arm so I look different but seeing as how we are all a phamily at these kind of gigs nobody stares or says anything to you which is a big confident booster for me. Another way people helped me was thinking of ways for me do activities or what not without having to feel different. Ok about the phest first it wasn't bad driving and parking everyone was out to help each other. Also on top of Watkins Glen being so beautiful I was very Glad to see folks picking up garbage using bags for cans and keeping the sites very neat. The bathrooms were really well taking care of as well which is usually never the case. Last I was just very excited to be able to attend see I bought a ticket when they first came out because everyone I knew was all all about going. I was counting on someone to go with for months then they suddenly backed out so I was stuck because I have a handicap and can't do that drive myself. Luckily a friend of mine jumped in and said I will drive and help you out this weekend. People always get sketched or whatever about taking me to festivals or away for nights but I've been living with disability since 94 I was 11 when it happened so I am able to provide for myself now a days. Because of my accident I was in I lost the use of my right arm and have been in pain every day since I woke up from a coma. When I go to phish shows I think its the energy and love and peace that I am able to pull from other people that the pain will go away and will have use and be able to live my life completely free. So thank you to all the phamily that was there and to Phish for sharing there experiences with us.

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Wednesday 07/20/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @FATNESS1

Posted by @fatness1 in the SBIX Essay Contest.

Every Phish review must be prefaced with an introduction of the writer to place his perspective into the appropriate context for the reader. I am 31 years old, have been to 71 shows since 1996 (+/- 4 since I can no longer say with absolute certainty whether I was at a particular show), 6 of the 9 festivals (with regrettable absences from Clifford, Went and 8), I walked down the wedding aisle to Tweezer Reprise, I believe that if I ever ascend to heaven and God permits me to select the music I will pick the Reba jam, and after hearing Forbin’s this weekend, I can affirmatively state that I have just about heard everything in the catalogue.

Myself and 3 of my closest friends who love Phish made a decision a few months ago to leave our wives and children at home for what might be “one last hurrah” at the Super Ball. My thought process was that I had seen the band so many times, some good, some not as good, that I no longer needed to drive across the country and reshuffle my life around their tour schedule.

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Tuesday 07/19/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @JDISK

Posted by @jdisk in the SBIX Essay Contest.

Paying It Forward

I will always look back at Superball as the moment when phriends became phamily. Really, it wasn't all that difficult. There were a ton of summer camp-like group bonding experiences: setting up tents, falling asleep to trey's "The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday" narration and getting use to each others' distinctive body odors. Moreover, the collective love blossomed when we witnessed one crew member cry during bathtub gin, another turn speechless upon hearing his first colonel forbin’s at his girlfriend's 30th show and, especially, when we all embraced in a re-calibrating group hug in the middle of the ball square jam during one hell of an amazing trip.

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Tuesday 07/19/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY - @CAPTAINPOOKIE

Posted by @CaptainPookie in the SBIX Essay Contest.

I live in Watkins Glen. I was born and raised here. And other than a collective five years in which I flittered and searched up and down the east coast in my early twenties, this place is all I have ever called home. I spent my childhood diving into these huge, glacial lakes (that never seem to get warmer than the ice-continents that carved them), hearing local Seneca "Indian" elders pass on the oral traditions of the Iroquois Confederacy that once called this place home - and also believed that it was the cradle of civilisation. After-all, we call these "The Finger Lakes" because the Seneca believed that the Creator was so partial to this part of the world, that he showed his approval by sinking his enormous handprint across and deep into the landscape, forming the five, vaguely finger-shaped bodies of water.

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Monday 07/18/2011 by pzerbo

SBIX ESSAY CONTEST RESULTS

Many thanks to all who submitted essays for the SBIX "contest." It was indeed a contest in the sense we wanted to generate participation and provide a little extra motivation for folks to share. Bags-o-phish.net schwag will be passed out to those that generated the most votes, and as promised, essays that the site team found best captured the essence of the event will be featured on the blog for the next week.

The point of this endeavor had little to do with a contest, voting, or prizes, however. We simply wanted to capture the raw emotions and stories of fans who enjoyed the event and bottle the immediate reactions of the experience for posterity. There are no winners or (especially) losers with this project. We'll be archiving the essay thread in an upcoming FAQ page on SB icks.

That said, we do have the results of the top vote-getters.

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Tuesday 07/05/2011 by pzerbo

NY TIMES DIGS THE PHISH @ SBIX

Great article in the NY Times on SBIX.

"In other words, a Phish festival is a distinctly phantasmagoric summer fair for adults who happen to enjoy getting down to improvisational rock grooves."

Yep, that's us.

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Saturday 07/02/2011 by pzerbo

WATKINS GLEN 2 RECAP: NEW SPEEDWAY BOOGIE

WATKINS GLEN, NY – Before we get to the action, a moment of congratulations to the winners of the 420th running of the second Runaway Jim 5K: 1. Ethan McBrien 15:23 / 1. Katie Harrington 17:19 / 2. David Cook 15.35 / 3. Finn McCool 15:55. Queue “Chariots of Fire"! Congrats to everyone who ran and came out to support the runners!

First set kicked off with “Tube” at 3:30 amid hot but otherwise perfect weather with hundreds of beach balls rocking the field. Short but sweet as has been the recent trend, but no less punchy. A standard reading of “Kill Devil Falls” keeps the energy meter pegged before settling in the new first-set workhorse, “Ocelot.” The 32nd performance of this tune with every one to date occurring in the first set, was any song more of a lock for the afternoon frame? Nothing earth-shattering but a perfectly groovy, languid version.

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Saturday 07/02/2011 by pzerbo

WATKINS GLEN 1 - PARTY TIME!

WATKINS GLEN, NY – Would “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!” be trite? Yeah, sorry. SBIX. Three days. Great spot. Typical Phish festival goodies at every turn. A stunningly beautiful day with most everyone settled in camp, while later arrivals and day-parking folks navigated a sometimes thorough and laborious intake process.

By all accounts SBIX has attracted a significantly smaller crowd than the then-lowest attended Phish Festival 8 (initial estimates are hovering between 25 - 30,000; no official word yet). The excitement and enthusiasm of those who did make the trek more than compensated for the smaller numbers, spirits lifted further by the spacious and easy accommodations once inside. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of fans are tuned in to the action virtually via the The Bunny on SiriusXM and livephish.com as legit couch tour kicks into high gear. Ball. All. The. Time.

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Friday 07/01/2011 by pzerbo

NEW TREY INTERVIEW IN THE BELIEVER MAG

An outstanding, insightful new interview with Trey is now available in the July/August 2011 edition of The Believer magazine. An exceprt:

"Yeah, since Phish came back, I’ll just walk around backstage and ask everybody, “What do you want to play?” and people will say, “Oh, I want to sing this or that, ” until I have thirty or forty songs on a piece of paper. It’s like the writing. The set lists are all over the place. A mess. Then we go out onstage and just forget about it. We give a set list to Chris every night and he just laughs and rips it up. We never even play the first song."

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Monday 06/20/2011 by pzerbo

PORTSMOUTH RECAP

All in the Family

Portsmouth, VA. The end of another long, strange trip. The final show of this summer’s first leg, on Sunday Phish arrived at by far the most intimate venue of the tour (~7,000) on Father’s Day. This tour has been somewhat unconventional in that its strongest shows (Bethel2, Pine Knob, Blossom) were bunched at the beginning, whereas most tours tend to gather strength as they progress. The phenomenal Charlotte gig threw a huge kink in that narrative, but Raleigh, while fun, failed to fully capture Charlotte’s momentum. Their signature festival event of the summer, Superball IX, is just around the corner. Would Phish coast to the finish line, or go out with a bang?

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Saturday 06/18/2011 by pzerbo

ROCKY IN DIXIE: CHARLOTTE RECAP

Phish kicked-off the final weekend of the first leg of their summer tour in Charlotte, a venue that has been host to notable past gigs, including the stellar 7/25/03 performance with an epic “Harry Hood,” and the “Fuck Your Face” mega-bustout last summer (7/2/10). Following a two-night run of shows in Georgia that included spectacular highs (6/14Bathtub Gin,” “Light Up and Leave Me Alone”) and a perplexing, flat performance in the face of a dramatic thunderstorm on 6/15 that provoked a deluge of commentary, how would the band respond? Roll tape!

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Tuesday 06/14/2011 by pzerbo

MPP2 RECAP

Sunday night, MPP1 is in the books, and you know the drill so let’s get right to the action.

Phish Destroys America. Phish Severely Bruises America. Tour of Signs. Phish, The All-Request Band, continued their march down the long-neglected east coast on Sunday by staying put at The Pav Known as Merriweather Post. Phish opened with more “sign language,” this time with a crisp and punchy “Buried Alive.” Dipping back into their 1998 musical costume, The Velvet Underground’s Loaded, Fish assumes one of several leads of the evening with “Lonesome Cowboy Bill,” the first in 141 shows (7/30/03 Camden).

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Sunday 06/12/2011 by pzerbo

MERRIWEATHER 1 RECAP

On Saturday night Phish rolled in to Merriweather Post Pavilion for the first of two weekend gigs at one of the oldest sheds (circa 1967) still in operation – if you are in any doubt, visit the bathrooms, they are exactly the same as on opening night. Yet another venue where Phish has a proven track record of performing amazing shows (see especially 8/8/98 and 6/27/10), and following an uneven night in Camden with spectacular highs and baffling lows, anything was possible. Grab your popcorn!

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Thursday 06/09/2011 by pzerbo

DARIEN LAKE RECAP

Phish’s summer tour set up under the big-top of Darien Lake on Wednesday, providing fans with a double-header of wild rides: first in the theme park that was open only to Phish ticket holders, then with a diverse and wide-ranging gig itself. Their fifth performance here, Phish sought to expand on a history with the venue that includes the epic 8/14/97 gig with Ken Kesey and The Merry PrankstersForbin’s” -> “Camel Walk” madness, as well as 9/14/00 that contains what is widely regarded as one of the best ever versions of “Suzy Greenberg.” The park’s roller coaster imagery was appropriate for a tour that to date has had amazing highs, alongside some going-through-the-motions valleys. Let’s go to the videotape.

Signs Signs Everywhere a Sign. This gig’s fun started before the first note. A fan was front and center with both a “Jennifer Dances” shirt and sign. Trey immediately spotted the sign and asked for it, held it up, offered a spirited fist pump and said “Finally! Finally somebody got it right with the signs!” Apparently there are campaigns forming all across the land to end our long national nightmare and have Phish perform “Jennifer Dances” by bringing more signs and by having the crowd sing in unison before each show: “A little less salt in the gravy tonight!” The opener, “Nellie Kane” was also played in response to an enterprising group that literally had fifteen signs for the song! Phish, the all-request band!

After a drooping, bouncy rendition of Bob Marley’s “Mellow Mood” (a comparatively rare one-two opening sequence that did not contain a Phish original), the crowd was treated to a short version of “Buffalo Bill,” surprisingly making its first appearance in the Buffalo area. Settling into the set we witnessed a strong but otherwise standard sequence of “Kill Devil Falls,” “Wolfman’s Brother” and “Rift.” “Undermind” follows, a song that varies so often it is hard to peg down what a “standard” version might look like. This one was as “traditional” as the song ever gets but featured viscous attacking lead lines by Trey, very strong! “Ride Captain Ride” was next, thrilling the crowd but causing a mild earthquake in southern California as @lemuria, entering his third decade of missing Phish perform the song, exploded in jealousy. One day, Ellis, one day.

A respectably precise version of “It’s Ice” was next, followed by the comparably underplayed “Dog Faced Boy” and “Brian and Robert” (the latter, apparently, also in response to a fan sign). Picking up the tempo, the roller coaster descended into a stock “46 Days,” a pleasant “Limb By Limb,” and an obligatory “Character Zero” rocking closer. Overall a diverse and unique set with many first-of-tour performances, almost-rarities, and selections from a broad spectrum of the band’s deep repertoire. The jamming jets were in deep cold storage, but overall Phish delivered a very enjoyable set in which most every fan could find something to love. We’ll be back in... fifteen minutes.

Having our appetites stirred with the hints of “Golden Age” in the GoldenGinTeca at Bethel, the second set opened with this TV on the Radio cover as if shot out of a cannon! This bright, fun and engaging tune that Phish debuted in Albany on 11/27/09 made its third appearance in the Phish setlist and was thrilling the crowd, when Trey bailed in favor of “Mike’s Song.” Let’s hope “Golden Age” sticks in the rotation and is allowed to run free like wind next time. Strong and fun, but keeping the 3.0 tradition of the “no jamming in ‘Mike’s Song’ rule” going, this version was precisely rendered. For the first time ever, “Fast Enough for You” followed “Mike’s” – an interesting and pleasant if not especially bold choice, but props for mixing things up. “Weekapaug” saw Mike, perhaps feeling the missed opportunity of the set opener, leading a “Golden Age” tease and the whole band continued the “Golden Age” theme throughout the above-average “‘paug.”

The fan-favorite instrumental “What’s the Use?” from The Siket Disc follows, setting in motion the middle portion of the set that was extremely well-played and enjoyable, but also safe and firmly within the lines. “Theme from the Bottom” and “Backwards Down the Number Line” were both excellent if lacking any genuine adventure. “2001,” however, was stellar and infused with “Golden Age,” “Happy Birthday” (possibly to the late Les Paul, whose birthday is actually 6/9) and “What’s the Use” teases; not rising quite to the level of, say, the Michael Jackson-drenched 6/25/10 Camden masterpiece, but strong, innovative and fun. A beautiful if “typically great” “Harry Hood” closes the second set, and the always rocking “Good Times Bad Times” encore sends everyone home happy. Load the trucks, Camden awaits!

Much as was the case the night before @ Great Woods (recap), this gig was quintessentially “Phish 3.0” – strong, competent, tight, proficient playing, with diversity achieved more through Phish’s ability to reach into a very deep catalog rather than leaping-off-the-cliff improvisation, sprinkled with a very early-90s-style of thematic teasing throughout the second set. The big jamming guns never left the truck for this one, but that type of playing is clearly an optional and not compulsory element of the Phish program these days. Good times, and there isn’t a better entertainment value on the summer shed circuit, or anything close. The weekend is here, Camden and Merriweather await, let’s get it on!

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Wednesday 06/08/2011 by pzerbo

GREAT WOODS RECAP

On Tuesday night Phish rolled into Great Woods, home of many a classic Phish gig, for their only performance this year in New England proper. On the heels of a smoking hot weekend (Pine Knob and Blossom in particular), the comparatively modest performances at this shed from the past two summers (6/6/09 and 6/22/10), and the brilliant summer sun, anticipation was high and the crowd was pumped.

The workmanlike first set was light on improvisational exploration but not without highlights. A rocking, high-energy “Llama” opened the proceedings, and the energy stayed high through an enjoyable if interchangeable series of “Moma Dance” > “Possum” and “Cities.” While “Moma” is perfunctory by nature, hopes for a pattern of jamming emerging on the heels of the brilliant “Possum” from Blossom and the well-above average “Cities” from Bethel were, unfortunately, dashed. Nevertheless a fun sequence. The return of “Instant Karma!” for only the second Phish performance (6/12/10) added some unexpected spice to the set; way to go, Page! “David Bowie” followed in an unusual mid-first set slot. Kudos for the placement, but this version was apparently ordered “no extra mustard” as it never really got off the ground.

The Phish debut of Al Green’s “Rhymes” – a standard in the Mike Gordon Band repertoire – was a welcome addition and hopefully a harbinger of more songs from the rotation of Mike’s “other band” seeping into Phish setlists. The real meat of this set was indisputably “The Divided Sky” that was both precisely rendered and soaring in intensity, laying a punishing smack down to the jaded vet loser who used the occasion to cycle liquids. But to be fair I only missed half of the song. :-) “Stealing Time” finished off the first set proceedings, taking a sharp step back from the highs of “Divided,” but rocked, compactly, as it is obliged to do. Overall, the jamming jets were mostly in the closed position but it was a perfectly enjoyable set with a mini-rarity, a debut, and a spectacular “Divided.” We’ll be back in fifteen minutes.

Back on the Train” opened set two and was relaxed, lilting and a bit funky but (you knew it was coming at least once) Trey cut the jam a little short, opting for “Rock and Roll.” In this case, nice choice! Wow, just wow! For a 16+ minute version it wasn’t “exploratory” but it was absolutely dense-packed with power and energy. This was far and away the highlight of the night; do yourself a favor and download this show if only for this “R&R,” you don’t want to miss it. Great stuff! “Mango Song” follows and was a fantastic choice to bring down the energy level without crushing it entirely. Then “Bug,” that personally I love but the placement was questionable and there was a palpable deflation of crowd energy. Oh well, it doesn’t matter!

Pebbles and Marbles” didn’t do much for the energy flow of the show, but is such a great song that Trey can be forgiven for mild misjudgement in the setlist arrangement, and the performance was excellent in any case. After the fantastic version in Bethel, “Halley’s” reverted into the 3.0 shell in which jams hide. “Meatstick” was fun, as always, though several commenters have noted that this song works better when deployed less often and I tend to agree, but at least a few of us still actually do the dance. “Antelope” was great, and in a “OK kids, let’s review what we’ve done today” approach included “Meatstick,” “Bug” and “Divided Sky” teases. The “Suzy” encore was stock rock fun, and that is a wrap.

Overall? Sorry, phish.net co-workers, but you can’t make me use the numeric scale! My mind doesn’t work that way with Phish. I’m there for the fun, the friends, and of course great music in the moment, and there was all of that and more, a fantastic night of entertainment in my home venue. The venue was fantastic, as always, no issues anywhere, excepting the shit-show traffic on the exit, but we weren’t in a big hurry so no worries. My “categories” such as they are: There are maybe ~5% of shows that are outliers on the low end, 10% of shows that are outliers on the high end, and the remainder are “average,” i.e. rock solid entertainment. In that light this was an average Phish show. It was not a home run and excepting the “Rock and Roll” the jamming jets were on cool, but worth every penny and more. Good times!

On a final note, I will use a numeric scale to describe Squidda, the lower Cape’s premier jam outfit that played in the RV/Bus lot before and after Phish: 10! Out of 10! (OK they are friends so please forgive me one innocent plug).

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