Phish Return to SPAC, Raise $3.5 Million for Flood Relief

Phish returned to Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) on Friday, August 25th, for a pair of shows that served as a benefit for victims of flooding in Vermont and Upstate New York this summer. Their first time playing at the historic Upstate amphitheatre since 2019, Phish will record their 24th career show at SPAC, following the show on Saturday night.

Earlier in the day, Phish connected with New York Governor Kathy Hochul, announcing that the band had donated $3.5 million dollars raised from the pair of concerts, to support flood relief for Upstate New Yorkers, as well as Vermonters affected by flooding earlier this summer.

That number is sure to rise, with donations being raised during the shows through the Waterwheel Foundation’s 2023 Flood Recovery Fund, supporting victims and their families, area businesses, and non-profits. The Recovery Fund will support both shorter-term needs and long-term recovery and resiliency projects. 

We are so grateful to everyone who donated their time and resources to make these benefits possible, and those that attended the shows or watched online. The joy in the room at these concerts was undeniable. But for the people affected by the flooding, it is an ongoing struggle. That’s why we are continuing to accept donations, raise awareness and distribute the funds.

Page McConnell

With rain in the forecast and a blanket of clouds enveloping the Saratoga Spa State Park grounds, fans arrived early and in great numbers, setting up a Shakedown off Route 50 while sprinkles fell intermittently throughout the evening. Filing into SPAC, fans dispersed to find spots on the lawn or head down to the pavilion, with the first notes of the evening at 8:05pm.

What might look like a pedestrian set on paper was energetic and rocking from the start, with “Kill Devil Falls” and “The Moma Dance” opening the night, the latter finding its familiar home in the two-slot, clocking in at nearly 14 minutes. The trio of “Ocelot,” “The Wedge” and “Mull” packed a punch, especially “Mull” which deftly found a segue into “Punch You In the Eye,” with fans erupting upon the first notes, carrying the energy into “Sand.”

phish spac shows
artwork by Josean Rivera

It was within “Sand” that a classic film was paid homage to, as teases and jams based on “We Welcome You to Munchkinland” spiced the jam vehicle nicely, a tribute to The Wizard of Oz on the 84th anniversary of the film’s initial release. This tidbit had fan’s ears perking up, searching their internal database to find where this ditty derived itself from, occuring later in a second set “Chalkdust Torture” and the original recording played outright as the postshow music.

For a band that has played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “If I Only Had a Brain” over the years, including with the legendary Ken Kesey, the band didn’t miss the chance to celebrate an inspiring American film. Drummer Jon Fishman even went so far as to put his hair in a pigtail to mimic a munchkin hairdo in the second set. The incredible “Sand” is a must hear, and led into a set closing “Rock and Roll” courtesy of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.

What would amount to a five song second set began with an Anastasio-penned quarantine tune “Evolve,” serving as an appetizer for the feast that was about to be plated. “A Wave of Hope” and “Simple” would pair up for back-to-back 22-minute jams, following in the vein of the excellent recent shows at Madison Square Garden. To follow were a pair of 11-minute jams in “Fuego” and “Chalkdust Torture,” wrapping up a powerful set, a true treat for the many first-timers in the crowd this evening.

For an encore, the first breather of the night arrived as “Wading in the Velvet Sea,” giving way to Kasvot Växt’s “Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.” which has found a home in the set closing/encore slot to send fans on their journey to Oz.

Phish – Broadview Stage at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Saratoga Springs – Friday, August 25

Setlist via

Soundcheck: My Soul, Fast Enough for You, Wombat
Set 1: Kill Devil Falls, The Moma Dance, Ocelot, The Wedge, Mull > Punch You in the Eye, Sand, Rock and Roll
Set 2: Evolve, A Wave of Hope -> Simple > Fuego -> Chalkdust Torture
Encore: Wading in the Velvet Sea, Say it to me S.A.N.T.O.S.

This performance was a benefit for Vermont and Upstate New York flood recovery efforts and was a free webcast with all proceeds via donation going to those efforts. Coinciding with the 84th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz being released in the United States on the date of this show, Trey teased We Welcome You to Munchkinland (or It Really Was No Miracle) several times in Sand as well as at the end of Chalk Dust Torture, Fish wore his hair with a single pigtail sticking out of the front of his head like a munchkin for the second set, and We Welcome You to Munchkinland was the postshow music. Trey also teased Dave’s Energy Guide on Sand.

photos by Dave Decrescente

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