After two days of Phish at SPAC, the energy that had built up between band and crowd was brought to a froth, thanks to Friday night’s Second Set (“Energy>Light->Mango>46 Days->Steam>Drowned>Slave”) and Saturday’s improv heavy “Split Open and Melt”, plus the magic of “Tweezer>Sand>Carini”. The froth spilled over Sunday with a start to finish highlight of the tour, as the band broke out the rockers in Set 1 and the Jam vehicles in Set 2, capping off a three night run in a way to rival last year’s tour closer at SPAC.
Fans filled the lots on either side of Route 50, brought Shakedown Street to life once again and mingled with friends under looming gray skies. Whether fans came in from Lee’s Campground, drove in from area hotels or walked across the Route 50 bridge, the excitement was electric and rain be damned, made their way into the venue. There is no weather condition that Phish fans can’t deal with in their journey to see Phish – rain, fog, snow, sleet, high winds, Sharknado, mud or Oswego 99-esque humidity – coping with a light rain was old hat for even the newest fan. Once inside, fans made their way to the lawn, and the lucky ones to the balcony and pavilion. Whether you were on the lawn or inside, you were getting wet – on the lawn from a consistent but light shower, or for those inside, from the sweat, smoke and humidity that had built up over three days.
With one of the most energetic openers in their repertoire, Phish kicked off the night shortly after 8pm with”AC/DC Bag”, followed by “Back on the Train”, both of which had Trey noodling to steady the rocker, pumping up the crowd in the process and getting the show off on the right foot. A well placed “Divided Sky” was given the standard treatment and then some, showcasing one of the band’s early compositions. “Free” developed from the end of “Divided Sky”, with “It’s Ice” and “Mound” following close behind. “Maze” was Page-heavy in the best way possible, tearing up the keys and organ to build the song up and up. “Limb by Limb” paired with “Walls of the Cave” to close the set, the latter building fans up during “Listen to the silent trees” and Trey leading the way with all three on par with the Bad Lieutenant. The first set in the books, fans took refuge under the trees or stayed in the pavilion and balcony to rest up for what was sure to be a hot set.
Second set opened with a typically spirited version of “Down With Disease”, drifting into Type II jams that led to even deeper exploration as the song built to the 14 minute mark. From there, the song seemed to dip into dark territory, a la “Sand”, but having played it the night before, we were treated to a fantastic segue from ‘Down With Disease” into “Ghost”. The first “Ghost” of the summer had some playful Frampton-esque sounds from Trey in between stanzas, then fell into a clavinet jam from Page, combining with Trey’s riffing and led towards a playful discourse between the two. “Piper” was shredded by the band from the start: they simply rocked out without reserve, carrying the tune for seven minutes before a final two minutes allowed experimentation take over and found time to give “Piper” a soft sendoff, drifting into “Wading in the Velvet Sea”. This is truly a ‘love it or hate it song’, but many at this point appreciated the placement for a slight break to prepare for the second half of the set that was yet to come. Sometimes, you need a breather at Phish shows and this one was of those times.
If one song keeps getting better and better in the 3.0 era of Phish, it’s “Run Like an Antelope”. The dancing frenzy created from each version is due in part to Trey’s focus on the progression of the song; he has great focus on this tune, more so than any other, shunning his musical ADD for a bit to keep the song moving towards a finish line of undetermined origin. Building out of the lyrics that were substituted at the end of “Antelope”, (“Run like a Meatstick out of control“) the natural next song selection was “The Meatstick”, leading to the Meatstick dance from fans who were still catching their breath from “DWD>Ghost>Piper” and “Antelope”. To cap off the set, fans were rewarded with a 20-minute “You Enjoy Myself”, that while good, had Trey’s guitar talking over a conversation between Mike, Page and Jon. It wasn’t a bad thing, but it lacked the flow of the post ‘Wash Uffizi’ jam that is a staple of YEMs. The vocal jam that arose for the final three minutes was humorous and captivating.
For an encore, “First Tube” felt like the natural choice, keeping the energy cranked up to 11 and preparing to get SPAC ready to liftoff. “Loving Cup” was a fine replacement and accepted without complaint, an entire crowd of 20,000 singing in unison “Oh, What a Beautiful Buzz!” Walking out, the night air was warm and light as fans made their way back to tents, beds, homes, cars and RVs, all in need of rest after three incredible days of Phish, and with all the potential of Summer Tour laying ahead of them.
Set 1: AC/DC Bag > Back on the Train > Divided Sky, Free > It’s Ice > Mound, Maze, Limb By Limb, Walls of the Cave
Set 2: Down with Disease 1 > Ghost 2 > Piper 3 > Wading in the Velvet Sea > Run Like an Antelope 4 > Meatstick 5 > You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Loving Cup
2 Guy Forget quote from Fish.
3 DEG tease from Trey.
4 Lyrics changed to reference Meatstick.
5 Japanese lyrics.