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.
Comparing and ranking Phish shows is depraved. To suggest that one is superior to another is to make the sacred profane and in no way do we here at the Mockingbird back office condone such inhumanity. That said, if a marauding band of ISIS operatives were to seize a bus full of phish.net staffers and force us to name the consensus best show of summer tour so far, I am sad to say that a few heads might roll before we arrived at an answer.
Shoreline boasts the 45-minute electric trifecta of “BlazeTwistLight.” Atlanta 1 lays claim to the best “Kill Devil Falls” ever played and a mighty fourth quarter. Nashville’s second set has zero quit and the triumphant return of the second jam in “Mike’s Song.” Blossom’s outstanding first frame laid the foundation for its quintessential one-two “Cheezer” combination. And then there’s Mann 2, y’all. Scimitar to my throat, that gig stands shoulder to shoulder with Phish’s finest two-set performances of all-time. Don’t want to suggest it’s better than the shows I haven’t named here, like Austin for instance, but these ISIS fellows are very persuasive and have left me no choice.
Phish concluded their two-night stand at Philadelphia’s Mann Center for the Performing Arts with yet another peak performance in a summer tour that has surpassed nearly all expectations. Let’s not mince words. This show had everything you wanted: late tour debuts, first set jams, and a five-song, second set improvisational tour de force that “type-II” aficionados will be dissecting for years to come.
As last summer’s pair of Mannshows demonstrated, few things have the potential to weigh down a show more than a sweltering northeast shed during the dog days of summer. Mercifully, the atmospheric conditions were nearly perfect for this mid-August evening on Fairmount Park’s Belmont Plateau, setting the stage for fully engaged and energized band and crowd.
When Phish catches fire, we all win. Whether you’re at the shows, listening at home, or just following along through setlists and recaps, there is a certain energy and excitement that permeates every thought and every discussion we have about this band. Make no mistake, Phish is on fire right now. While it’s far to early to prognosticate, I wouldn’t be surprised if some day in the future we’re talking about August 2015 as one of “those months.” Since Atlanta the band has been on a tear that has been truly impressive, creating legendary moments at almost every show.
Sunday’s oldie/rarity bust-out-fest at Alpine Valley was an altogether different kind of affair, with the band improbably combining as many of their most beloved, oldest, Gamehendge-iest songs into one first set. Often, when the band decides to play that show where they go deep in their catalog, the trend continues for a show or two, with the band plumbing the depths of their repertoire and pulling out a few stops that no one expected, even if they don’t pack the same punch as, say, a “Harpua” or a “Forbin’s” or an “Icculus” or “Sanity” bustout (think 7/30/03 following the bustout-heavy 7/29/03). Tonight’s first set was cut from that mold.
Welcome to the 195th edition of Phish.Net's Mystery Jam Monday. The winner will receive an MP3 download courtesy of our friends at LivePhish.com / Nugs.Net. To win, be the first person to identify the song and date of the mystery jam clip. Each person gets one guess per day, with the second “day” starting after I post the hint. A hint will be posted on Tuesday if necessary, with the answer to follow on Wednesday. Good luck!
Hint (Posted 2015-08-11 12:05 pm): Smoke 'em if you got 'em.
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!
The Front. Nectar’s. Hampton. MSG. Unquestionably a handful of the most storied venues in Phish’s long history, and not a coincidence that they all happen to be the most played venues in the band’s history. After this current two-night run, Alpine Valley Music Theater, in the rolling hills of East Troy, Wisconsin, jumps past Hunt’s and into the Top Five of Phish’s most played venues. Though, better watch out Alpine! Dick’s is quickly knocking on your door!
Lots of fans have a love/hate relationship with Alpine. And let’s be honest, many of them skew more towards the hate side of that equation. Yet, despite some of the drawbacks of the venue – heavy handed law enforcement, preposterously steep lawn, nightmarish traffic jams in and out – I for one love Alpine and every single trip I’ve made there.
I think it’s largely true that how much fun you have at a Phish show is up to you and your ability to, if you’ll allow, “surrender to the flow.” But it sure helps when you’ve got a pristine summer day and perfect seats in one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever seen on your side. This was my first trip to Blossom Music Center, the sonic and architectural gem built specifically with the Cleveland Orchestra in mind, and I was floored. Blossom has everything going for it, from the setting in Cuyahoga Valley National Park to the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere (and congrats to the couple that got married in the middle of shakedown), but it’s the sound that knocked me off my feet. I can’t imagine a better spot to allow a person to get good and thoroughly hosed than right in front of Chris Kuroda underneath that wood pavilion last night, so to whatever forces conspired to put me there, thank you.