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”

  1. Kenny Powers Says:

    ^ sorry, meant it’s weird you “can’T’ choose for yourself single or dual layer. I wasn’t sure which site El Dude was referring to for the Camden torrent so i just Googled it, came upon

    and there’s a huge swarm going on right now…downloading around a 2MB clip. Grab it while it’s hot.

  2. MagicMike Says:

    I still have my Republique Du Phish tee shirt. Can’t believe it’s now 15yrs old.

  3. voopa Says:

    “This RR hood is really tasty also”

    I’m with ya there, AW. Love the end where Trey shreds through the theme.

  4. PT Says:


    While I agree with you on most of your first set choices — especially Darien, I must respectfully disagree on Merriweather’s first set. My perspective is that is didn’t hang together at all, though once I heard the “Ha Ha Ha” it seemed it could pick up (which it did), still it was more a series of songs, rather than cohesive in anyway. IMNSHO. :o)

  5. Robear Says:

    Awesome copy of the ‘Darien’ show, Mr. Miner. Thanks again. Your downloads are easy to handle for the newest of trader’s. I love mid-set ‘Antelope’s’, and this one had fireworks blasting over-head.

  6. snigglebeach Says:


    Stay away from that link ^ ^ ^

    I just went into super virus mode and got the evil DR. Virus. tells u u need their help but they are the virus. not sure where that came from, but stay away. now i have to go looking for crap, cause it starting going crazy right away

  7. PT Says:

    Kenny P — (On page one) — Your second and third paragraphs really clarify a lot about MPP. Environment and fatigue were part of the issue (yeah, we took the turnpike too and despite nasty traffic, the driver maintained composure for the most part, yet he was later to suffer). Hadn’t been there since 2000, and had forgotten (deliberately?) the freakish helicopters and searchlights thing. Still, met some nice pholk and had a decent time. Tough competition what with SPAC and Hartford.

  8. Kenny Powers Says:

    oh crap snigglebeach,

    are you talking about my link? i’d feel like total crap if i fucked up your or anyone’s computer! i’m halfway done w/ the Camden DVD downloand and have had no issues w/ that site…never heard of it, but my uTorreny client worked flawlessly w/ it. poop.

  9. Kenny Powers Says:

    @ PT, I must have missed the searchlight and helicopters…weird. That was my first time at the venue. Some things I really liked: the not insanely priced 24 oz beers, the frugal and nature-centric vibe of the construction. Not so much the single bathroom and the fact that the only draft-producing area to the sides of the pavilion were almost 100% coevered by tarps, trapping in the Maryland summer heat and humidity. Still glad I made the trip though.

    Paaaahty Time!

  10. fromthetub Says:

    Way late on this, but the older MacBooks and MacBook Pros don’t burn dual layer discs. My MacBook Pro was the last model released before the DL burners — so frustrating. I believe my laptop is about 2.5 years old, maybe 3 yrs.?

    Did any of the other designers enter the Festival 8 design contest? I was up until 4am working on my entry… I tend to procrastinate, but got it done!

  11. voopa Says:

    I thought about doing a design, but couldn’t come up with something clever enough…ah well, I already have my F8 ticket. so whatever…

  12. fat bastard Says:

    @ Voopa

    how bout don’t play walfredo! LOL

  13. fat bastard Says:

    2 beers

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    what, did the deadline pass? I came up with an idea but knew I didn’t have time. a number line, counting back from 8…

    no idea if i would have liked MPP in person, but I like that set a lot

    I never ever ever ever ever ever ever click on any “torrent” link from any site I don’t know well – never google for “torrents” – most of them are traps at this point. demonoid is fine. pirate bay is safe but under surveillance so be very cautious using it for copyrighted material

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    so re: earlier, MP3s not sounding as good as the real thing: case in point, Joy. the mp3s that circulated were OK but the actual album sounds just great. I mean: great. Sounds nice and clear when it’s quiet, stomps and roars when it’s loud. Really well worth hearing the actual thing.

    Also: does Trey really think submarines go below the ground?

  16. fat bastard Says:

    does Trey really think submarines go below the ground?

    what are you talking about?

  17. fat bastard Says:

    mr c get you some 9.2.9 WSP seriously

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    lyric to TTE

    in which Trey makes the claim that he, Trey, is in fact a submarine

    but then states that submarines go below the ground

    which, you know, kind of undercuts his claim given that if he really was a submarine he’d probably, don’t you think, know what they go below?

  19. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Kenny – thanks for more info – by “raw video files” what do you mean exactly? these come as VIDEO_TS folders with .bup, .ifo, .vob etc files, in other words a completely set-up dvd with menus etc

  20. Little Buddy Says:

    Mr. C: Lol! That submarine lyric has gotten to me since the first time I heard TTE… I actually like TTE, but what was he thinking there. Weird.

  21. fat bastard Says:

    its a tripped out song, he’s trippin. aren’t colors cascading too? sp

  22. PBS Says:

    the raw video files would be .vob

  23. lot rat Says:

    miner-do you dislike alaska completely or just believe it belongs in the mid first set?

    Indio is coming

  24. albert walker Says:

    just watched the whole rr first set
    like miner said great 1st set

    curtain with is amazing. composition near perfect and the jam is beautiful.

    punch is a top rate version. IMO best of 2009. very tight with nice landlady

    this tube has been growin on me. Trey and Page got some good interplay goin on. Mike and Fish locked in a nice groove. Not very long but this is becoming one of my go to jams from this summer.

    Antelope takes some good risks. Has a darker psychedellic edge to it. The opposite of my other favorite 2009 in Darien which is played more straight up old school style. Very nice.

    Guyute. Not my favorite song but this one surprised me, especially considering some of the rough versions they’ve played this year. real nice.

    Mound was a little sloppy but one of my favorite rarities so no complaints.
    jiboo was played well but the jam kind of went nowhere for me
    Alaska had a nice little blues thing going. Like it late in the first set.

    I remembered this being the best 1st set of the weekend. Had the fun sign language thing going on too. After watching it again it stood up nicely. Very solid, sprited performance.

  25. fromthetub Says:

    Mr. C – the deadline was today at noon eastern. Came up way too quickly!

    I’m not sure if my design was super clever, but I like it. We also already have our tickets, but it would be so sweet to win! Sounds like they will choose a winner next week… I’ll keep you all posted. Fingers crossed! 🙂

    re: RR 8/1 — I was lucky enough to be there and that Curtain (With) completely choked me up. I had a huge knot in my stomach. I was at Coventry as well, so to hear it played so beautifully really brought home where we are today, and how incredibly lucky we are to be sharing in the groove again. And then a Mound? Wow.

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