Fire In the First

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

Red Rocks (G.Lucas)

While the second sets have been the primary focus of all the summer shows, there were a few first sets that stood out among the rest.  While Phish traditionally uses the first set to showcase their songs, and the second set, their improv, in any legit first set there is usually some overlap.  The first sets this summer followed a more old-school contour, featuring longer setlists and standalone jams, while most often feeling like warm-ups for second half adventures.  But a few times during the second leg, the first set popped off a bit more.  Below are four first sets, in chronological order, that left a greater musical wake, gave a little bit extra, and set up the second set with a bit more gusto than usual.


Red Rocks 8.1

I: AC/DC Bag, The Curtain (With), Mound, Gotta Jibboo, Guyute, Punch You in the Eye, Tube, Alaska, Run Like An Antelope

8.1 - Red Rocks (D.Vann)

8.1 - Red Rocks (D.Vann)

Always a great opener, “Bag” kicked off the show with energy and a hint of funk before everyone was blindsided by “The Curtain (With).”  Arguably the most emotional moment of the summer, the band slaughtered the composition that had slaughtered them back at Coventry.  As the band gelled majestically, Trey played incredibly poignant leads into the Colorado heavens.  A one-of-a-kind catharsis, we all lived what we had imagined for years- and the past was behind us. But so much more importantly, the band stepped up to the moment,and put the past behind them.  The first song after such an episode would be….”Mound!”  Played only twice since 1996, Phish ripped through the old-school piece, and it sounded as fresh as any new song played all summer.  The “Jibboo” that followed felt like a celebratory groove-fest that ushered in the future.  “Punch” and “Tube” flooded the set with plenty of super-sized dance patterns before “Antelope” sprinted to the finish line.  Taking the jam out to a more dissonant intensity before returning to the peak, this was the first of several menacing     versions throughout August.


Darien Lake 8.13

I: Sample In A Jar, Dinner and a Movie, Wolfman’s Brother, My Friend, My Friend, Possum, Farmhouse, Sugar Shack, Brian And Robert, David Bowie, Bathtub Gin, How High The Moon*, Golgi Apparatus

Darien Lake (H. Ainsworth)

Darien Lake (H. Ainsworth)

Though this frame embodies the “set of songs” structure, it featured energetic playing throughout, some choice rarities, and was anchored by three solid jams.  “Wolfman’s” moved through liquid grooves to an expressive peak- my personal favorite of August; and at the end of the set came a somewhat unprecedented combo of “Bowie” and “Bathtub.”  These three pieces- with “Bowie” being the jam of the first half- carried the improvisational weight of the set, but there were elements of surprise as well.  After “Sample” innocently opened, Phish dropped into the ever-elusive “Dinner and a Movie.”  Played only seven times since 1994, any time you hear the dark instrumental, it is always a treat.  And with their 3.0 precision, the band nailed the eighth.  Phish sandwiched “Wolfman’s” with a second ominous bust-out in “My Friend, My Friend.”  In addition to a well played “Sugar Shack,” the spoken tribute to Les Paul and “How High the Moon” also made this set unique.  It may look routine on paper, but that’s why you can’t judge a show by its setlist.


Hartford 8.14

I: Punch You in the Eye, AC/DC Bag, NICU, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Birds Of A Feather, Lawn Boy, Stash, I Didn’t Know, Middle Of The Road, Character Zero

"Punch / The Landlady" - Hartford (T.Hill)

"Punch / The Landlady" - Hartford (A.Hill)

One of the most scorching first sets of tour, the band came out with a string of oldies that set the tone for the entire show.  An exciting “Punch” had the pavilion blowing up all over the place before the ushers began asking for tickets during “NICU.”  But the biggest surprise of the set came with the heavy drop into “Colonel Forbin’s” for the first time since Vegas 2000.  We finally had returned to Gamehendge- a land that seemed somehow inaccessible during the post-hiatus era.  A gorgeous run through “Mockingbird” capped the ’80s portion of the set, and the band fell right into the only “Birds”of August.  The jam was fuel-injected, soaring through fast-paced textures, and bursting at the seams with snarling energy.  Taking their improv into an aggressive ‘type 1.5’ territory, Phish used “Birds” to set up the most outstanding excursion of the set- “Stash.”  With a darkened psychedelia, the band got in touch with the ethos of the song, leaving its more melodic interludes on the west coast.  The highlight of the set- in my opinion- this “Stash” has flown way under the radar.  A vacuum solo, a Mike song, and “Character Zero” to close- a great first set.


Merriweather 8.15

1: Crowd Control, Kill Devil Falls, The Sloth, Beauty Of A Broken Heart, Axilla I, Foam, Esther, Ha Ha Ha, Party Time, Tube, Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan, Strange Design, Time Turns Elastic

Merriweather (K.Pusey)

Merriweather (K.Pusey)

Sometimes a first set can ride on sheer energy and well played songs- and it always helps if most of the songs haven’t popped up yet on tour.  Thus was the case with Merriweather’s opening frame, featuring seven late-summer debuts, and a couple songs that has only been played once.  This version of “Beauty of a Broken Heart” really hits a groove and foreshadows what I think can be a solid vehicle for good-times dance music.  And of course there world premiere of “Party Time.”  A song that is sure to ingrain itself in Phish lore, the debut of the funk was nothing short of delightful.  With huge smiles and great energy, Phish delivered a satisfying first course.

OTHER LEGITIMATE FIRST SETS: 7.31 Red Rocks, 8.7 Gorge, 8.8 Gorge (We’ve talked about these a lot though!)


Winged music noteJam of the Day:

Disease > Free” 6.26.95 II


This supremely psychedelic segment of music saw an early, improvisational “Disease” morph into a brand new “Free,” creating a forward-looking highlight of an unreal set at SPAC.  These jams gets into seriously spacey and mind-expanding territory- incredibly engaging jamming in my book.  If you’ve never heard this, listen…now! Classic Summer ’95.



11.3.94 Mullins Center, Amherst, MA < Torrent

11.3.94 Mullins Center, Amherst, MA < Megaupload

November '94 Pollack

November '94 Pollock

Coming at you via reader request is an early show in the huge month of November ’94.  With a focus on fast-paced psychedelia, Phish was drooling with hunger on the verge of stardom.  A great relic from an intense era in Phish history.

I: Fee, The Divided Sky, Wilson, Peaches en Regalia, Glide, Split Open and Melt, Dog Faced Boy, Sparkle, Down With Disease

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Simple > Poor Heart, Julius, You Enjoy Myself > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars, Harry Hood, Cavern

E: My Sweet One*, Nellie Cane*, Amazing Grace, Highway to Hell


Source: DAUD/OTS AKG460B/ck61 > Custom Pre-amp > Teac DAP-20 @48kHz (Taper – Dave Flaschner)

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281 Responses to “Fire In the First”

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  1. Baxter Says:

    Hartford first was the heat I thought. It was so nice to be there that night, weather was perfect, great vibe in the crowd too.

    Thanx for the Mullins show, I was there too. (I live in Amherst), and I have been looking for a good recording of it. Thank you Mr. Miner!

  2. bhizzle Says:

    My first Phish tee was of that 94 Pollock. Later I would tie dye it, more brown & green than anything, but not too bad.

    Man, I really have to hear those RR shows.

    Now let me see if I can remember hearing the JOTD that summer eve.

  3. Little Buddy Says:

    Holy crap! Trey is so evil during todays DWD jam of the day. Sick!

  4. fikus22 Says:

    Morning all- does anyone out here happen to have an extra camping pass for indio? we were planning in staying at a hotel but it looks like we will be camping instead. on a related note, does anyone need a hotel room for indino? it’s a 2 bed room at the la quinta inn and spa, i believe it’s $1,028.00 for friday thru sunday nite. please contact me at ddstahl at yahoo. thanks

  5. nonoyolker Says:

    “Taking their improv into an aggressive ‘type 1.5′ territory” – love the meticulous categorization! Great write-up today. The JOTD is dirrrrty too. Straight evil ish.

  6. bhizzle Says:

    Definitely Evil JOTD, especially going into Free. (Unfortunately, I can never get the second song in the mix to stream with “>” JOTDs. Mofo!!!!!) But yeah, that’s the band I fell in love with. Trey needs to start listening to Slayer again.

  7. bhizzle Says:

    Also, with more DWD would start that way too.

  8. HarryHood Says:

    @at Nono

    You beat me to the punch on the “type 1.5” territory comment! Great way to ride the fence on that one Miner!

  9. HarryHood Says:

    Speaking of riding the fence……. Did anyone see the commerical during last night’s game with Brett Favre trying to decide what TV to buy? Classic!

  10. BTB Says:

    Miner – Good call on the Darien SET I.

    I couldn’t believe how pleased I was with a first set like that. My Ladyfriend (who is new to PH) was rockin’ to that. I even got to tell my continuous joke that every Farmhouse is the new “best farmhouse ever, man!”

  11. bhizzle Says:

    Sears commercial, right? Atleast he’s making a $ being the butt of the jokes being made about him. cough cough bs cough cough retire cough cough please…

  12. verno329 Says:

    The segue from Disease into Free is incredible. That whole show is pretty damn good too but the Jam of the Day is certainly the highlight. Thanks Miner!

  13. BTB Says:

    Also, Sugar Shack, IMO – is the new “phishiest” new song. Party Time as well.

    Got to love Gordo

  14. cottle Says:

    Glad to see you put MMP up there on the list of first set smokers. As much as people downplay that show because of it’s predecessor, that first set was DOPE! Any first set with a Sloth, Esther, Axilla, Foam and Ha Ha Ha is a winner in my book…not to mention the debut of PAAAAAARTY TIIIIIIIIME!

    Just had to get my two cents in…back to work now.

  15. Pence Says:

    ^ Also, with more DWD would start that way too.”

    I thought the very same thing. I think phish needs to take a day off from practicing and just listen to themselves from these past recordings. You know just go through Miners old posts and listen. There is some good shit here.

  16. fat bastard Says:

    saw a band called “hack n weeze” last night in chi. they cover GD and phish tunes. guitarist is the real deal with the rest of the band being pretty average IMO.

  17. fat bastard Says:

    man i love ac/dc bag as an opener!

  18. Kenny Powers Says:

    MPP was such an interesting and polarizing show, one that I think plays better on tape than at the time. I was there, and think my personal state and immediate surroundings had a profound effect on how I experienced it (isn’t that usually the case?). I just remember there being really low energy in the crowd…and I had really good pavilion seats! Also the sausage fest around me was not very conducive to positive energy…really chatty and constantly crushing Adderals.

    Another issue for me was the “Hartford effect”. Not only the Hartford show itself but the brutal drive to MD the next morning. Stupidly took the NJ Turnpike and sat in gridlock for hours. Didn’t have time to catch the much needed hotel nap before the show and was super beat come start of show. I could’ve (maybe should’ve) artificially helped my energy situation with some party favors but I didn’t want to be in rough shape for the pending journey up to SPAC the next morning.

    Anyway set I had some tasty moments. Honestly I skip over Sloth every time I listen to it because Trey totally borked the opening chords, which I think are so vital for setting the energy for the rest of the tune. The KDF jam was high octane w/ some nice crowd swells. I really dig the Red Rocks Beauty of a Broken Heart (listen to how locked in they are around the 3:00-3:45 segment) so that was cool to hear live. Foam and Esther always nice to hear but didn’t help energy-wise. My fave segment which I felt carried the most energy was from Ha Ha Ha through Faulty Plan. I have to admit I was psyched they closed w TTE because I really wanted to avoid a set-break bathroom line (lines at MPP were brutal)…but listening back this was a very well-played TTE with a more jammed out and rocking ending than usual.

    Set II overall anticlimactic and pace-challenged (Alaska > Let Me Lie not a good mid second set combo), but the jam out of 46 Days was absolutely masterful. Sweet Nuthin and Hood were solid but honestly I was so beat by that point it was hard to muster much energy.

    I blame most of my reactions to my own fatigue and older age than years past…but I’m definitely glad I went, even if it did mean 15 hours in a car in two days.

  19. andrewrose Says:

    I had completely forgotten about that SPAC 95 show! Definitely used to have that one on an XLII … did I get it from Matso? 😉

  20. Jay Says:

    Damn, that JOTD will turn your hair white!

  21. SOAM Says:

    Did someone just say they had a 1000.00 hotel room…..WTMFF-

    Whoa nellie cane-my finance box can’t hang…a g?-shiiiiiiiiiiit–better bring some vaseline for that deal-porkage fever

  22. posternutbag Says:

    Good thing you mentioned the 8.7 first set in that little footnote or there would have been lots of confused posts on here today!

  23. SOAM Says:

    I’ll be at Indio and I’ll have some tasty nugs-100.00 a gram-great stuff at a sweet rate

  24. SOAM Says:

    if I’m honest-my chick was a total duchebag at Darien-then it took forever to get out of there-a 7 hr ride-slept it the back of the truck-dropped her tude and ass off and split to Hartford..WHERE I GOT OFF MFING SOLO-WHOOOOO!!-I left Darien and was like-“that was ok-not killer” but I wasn’t sure if it was my old ladies duchefever or theactual show–but then I went to Hartford and like I have said-the first set all my faves-bust out mockingbird-and then they hit BOAF and I boogied my balls off-pure ass tweaking phreaking

  25. EL Duderino Says:

    Totally off topic:

    Is anyone considering buying either the Mono or Stereo release of the Beatles box sets? I just read an in depth article about the process of the remastering and the care in detail they took on the packaging. Looks impressive!

    Here is what I read.

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