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)

Tags: ,

281 Responses to “Fire In the First”

  1. Mr. Completely Says:

    he’s in California, with their budget he’s probably lucky to get new gluesticks every third year

    hey Miner, my kid started kindergarten today – teachers rule!

  2. PBS Says:

    @ Miner – Does your tv allow you to watch files other than dvd format, such as .avi or .wmv? If so, you can take all those vob files from the dvd and create a .wmv file using window movie maker, and then plop that single file onto any ole dvd and watch it that way.

    These all in one receivers today allow for playback of almost any kind of video format. This would of course cause for a little bit of quality loss, but certainly the easiest workaround to avoid buying spendy dual layer media, not to mention the time it would take to burn it on an older machine.

    Just my two cents.

  3. EL Duderino Says:

    Through re rendering from HD to SD the dual layer does a better job then single layer. That’s why I believe we’re seeing more dual layer dvd’s now. I heard through the grape vine that there will be more teamhood dvd’s coming real soon from RR and other dates, so I would figure it out or you may miss it. Kinda like I did when the Hampton teamhood dvd’s came out.

  4. PBS Says:

    That being said, it looks like Mr. C has you hooked up. I’m working on that torrent and file creation this evening, so if Completely can’t hook you up, we’ll see what I can do to assist.

  5. PBS Says:

    Haa, new laptops for school teachers, that’s hilarious. My wife is a teacher up here in Washington…I single handedly provide all their IT support, as they have one guy for the entire district.

    All west coast states have serious lack of funding for schools, especially for hardware allocated to teachers.

  6. voopa Says:

    “he’s in California, with their budget he’s probably lucky to get new gluesticks every third year”

    No shit. My wife’s district doesn’t even budget for laptops for the teachers. Her previous district did, but when she left it was 5 years old!

    She must spend at least $1K of our money on those kids each year…

  7. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ no cpus for public school teachers in CA….what world is that?

  8. whole tour! Says:

    legalize and tax the herb in cali/the entire country = plenty of money for schools that would otherwise disappear into the void.

  9. PBS Says:

    ^^ and a ton of jobs taboot.

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    @PBS – if I can’t get this thing burned, I’ll post here over the weekend…ur in PDX right? am I getting handles mixed up?

    we really should have a thing sometime. Beer somewhere or whatever with PDX PT peeps.

    El Dude, nice! Any word on the Gorge?

  11. PBS Says:

    @ Mr. C – I live in Ridgefield, north on the 5 15 miles in WA. PDX is just easier to say in this context.

    We should totally get together. Let the kids romp, eat some BBQ, beers, buds, etc.

    BTW, anyone going to Pearl Jam/Ben Harper?

  12. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Mr. C

    The Gorge is the perfect Venue for teamhood. Almost all views are unobstructed there. Makes sense to me. And no, The Gorge was not mentioned specifically.

  13. whole tour! Says:

    i saw pearl jam and ben harper at MSG in 2003. Ben came out and did a few songs with pearl jam…it was f-ing sick! They decided to release the entire show on dvd! If you have to opportunity to see them together, do not miss it!

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Dude, makes sense, hopefully they’ll hook it up.

    @PBS, hear ya, I actually live in Milwaukie just south of actual PDX

  15. Mr.Miner Says:

    heading up to PDX during first week of october i think

  16. PBS Says:

    Oh, I’m not missing it. Venue is 3 minutes from my house, and we got a good line on covered seating in the first 10 rows ish.

  17. Mr.Miner Says:

    actual PDX 😉

  18. PBS Says:

    @ Miner/Mr. C – We totally need to get together. Would be a hoot. What dates?

  19. albert walker Says:

    funny how in videos I can sense from the band’s gestures when things are off or something really clicks

    that funky little organ led jam at the end of DWD the whole band is bouncin around huge grins
    you see there expressions and movements change as the jam gets thicker and funkier

    during some other songs Mike is looking over at Trey like “what the fuck?”

    I never watch the band at shows and have not really watched videos so I would never notice these things

    This RR hood is really tasty also
    forgot how good it was

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    LOL “actual PDX”

    I’m like 2 minutes from “actual PDX” (Sellwood)

    @PBS – oh you live next to the Clark County Ampitheater? that’s pretty cool ’cause the bad rap that place gets is mostly about traffic, so… 😮

    @albert – I hear you – I see a lot of stuff in the videos I’d never notice otherwise

    I go through big parts of shows watching closely, other long stretches with eyes closed, other parts watching the lights…

  21. PBS Says:

    Yea, we love the venue. In year one, the company I worked for had a box there. And noone ever wanted to go to the shows. We went to everything that came there year one. Good times. It’s a good venue…as you said, tainted by curfew, db minimums, and traffic.

  22. Mr. Completely Says:

    crap! looks like the “fishman’s dress” stuff is all gone from Dry Goods! the socks and towel and stuff printed with like the muumuu…wanted to give them as gifts…but unless it’s just their search feature sucking, they’re gone….boooo

  23. Kenny Powers Says:

    @ miner and others –

    to find out whether your burner has DL capability, there should be some sort of icon on/near the actual burner drive that slides out, which should at the least have DVD and CD icons. If you look real close below the DVD icon there should be a “R DL” (meaning recordable DL) in small writing on the bottom part of the icon. Maybe so, maybe not.

    If your computer was built 4 years ago, it’s a crapshoot. Anything from the last few years, and certainly anything w/ a Blu-Ray burner will have DL capability.

    Only reason I can think of that they’d be upping these video torrents for dual layer discs is that you’d need twice as many discs if it were single layer. But it’s wierd that you can choose that yourself…I’ve burned DVDs of movies a million times and if you have the raw video files you can usually tell your PC whether you want to burn single or dual layer and then pop in the corresponding blank media. Hm.

  24. BrandonKayda Says:

    I’m listening to the 8-1 Paul McCartney concert I attended….it is incredible, definitely holds up.

  25. EL Duderino Says:


    You should download the Camden dvd up @ the D. 4 single layer dvd’s instead of 2 dual-layer. The quality is just as good, plus it’s one of the better shows of the first leg of the tour.

Leave a Reply