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. halcyon Says:

    Thanks for posting the Mullins Center show up. I went with some friends who had tickets, I searched high and low to get in. Finally found some one who sold me a ticket for 40 dollars which included 2 j’s and a cap. The seats were awesome, and the show was raging. Thanks for rekindling the memory bank.

  2. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    gee, it would be nice if all of my tickets came with party favors. of course, that would take some of the fun out of cruising the lots listening for what you need…

  3. Highway Bill Says:

    …ok, so I’m going to see Trey tomorrow at Carnegie Hall and I’m very happy.

  4. fat bastard Says:

    i will have 2 cases of ice house available at indio for $100 bucks each. beer will be cold

  5. Little Buddy Says:

    SOAM –

    re: Darien. It had to be the little lady that through off your mojo, b/c that show was so well played. Great 1st set as noted, but the second set was no slouch either. Drowned was nasty and the Antelope, Fluff closer was classic. The Antelope jam had some serious energy. The rift interlude between Caspian and Antelope was pretty nice too. A very interesting, well played and jamming show IMO. I still think its the best show I saw this summer (I missed Hartford and the west coast run). Too bad she ruined your time…

  6. beepaphone Says:

    I was floored on 8-1 when I was on Hoodstream and broken, barely streaming versions of TC(W) and Mound were coming through my laptop.

  7. shpongleyez Says:

    Yes! Jam of the Day is one of my “Go Tos” and a truly fantastic, incredibly psychedelic piece of magic.

  8. Brimley Says:

    Does anyone remember what show they played in epic Reba in Montreal was from??? 1994-1996 maybe??

  9. bhizzle Says:

    @ SOAM

    I have to agree with Little Buddy re: Darien. Coincidently, I had one of my bff’s from Florida come up with his gal. She, too, turned his show into trash. She went missing and he couldn’t find her. He left the pav to go to our car and heard half the 2nd set and encore sitting on the hood waiting for that hussy!

    A few days ago I mentioned on here my dream of winning the Indio package….well I told her too and what the package included. She asked who I gave the second ticket too. I told her my bro that I hit 99% of my shows with. She got irked and asked why it wasn’t her. I told her straight out because she would end up wanting to leave and nag about it and ruin my time. Sorry about being blunt baby but……

  10. bhizzle Says:

    Don’t think me gay (not that there’s anything wrong with it.) by dropping the “bff”

  11. nonoyolker Says:

    @ brimley – i think you mean 7-6-94. Awesome version and there is a SBD floating around

  12. cottle Says:

    Reminds me of the recent 30 Rock where Jack said he and Tracy were BFF’s. When Liz calls him out for having a best friend forever, he says “that’s not what that stands for”.

  13. fat bastard Says:

    the worst time i ever had at a phish show was at alpine when i only went with my girl at the time. i was smoking with some strangers and she was all, ” you dont even know whats in there!” and “when do you think you’ll quit smoking MARYJUANA?” One and done

  14. AintNoTele Says:

    Phish>relationships is a tricky thing. i’ve seen some where one is a fan and the other isnt and it works well, others where both go to shows and have a horrible time…relationships are like doses, you never know whats gonna happen when the circus comes to town

  15. Little Buddy Says:

    I guess i’m lucky. My old lady’s been to twice as many shows as me. She’s up over 200 after this summer’s shows.

  16. Little Buddy Says:

    Although her Phish obsession did cause me to pay that tribute band Phix to play our wedding in ’06. That was pricey! They came all the way from CO. Sick time though!

  17. bl68300 Says:

    Hey Miner (and anyone at this great site!) if you could put up a version of 3/20/92 show from NY i would be forever indebted to you. was to young to be there, but after my first show this was one of the tapes given to me, and it truly was a gem to behold. unfortunately an old friend had lost it some time back, and i have not been able to find a good copy since. Please somebody make my weekend by hoookin me up w/a good version!!! Also, i agree about the 1st set @ MPP. smoker! every1 looked confused @ setbreak, but I had a big ole smile on my face knowing I saw a lot of bust outs and well played music. Crowd control happens to be one of my fav. songs…even though i think its a cover…

  18. Little Buddy Says:

    FYI – Crowd control is an original. Its on undermind. Interesting tune.

  19. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ its up…its a classic…I’ll find it…

  20. Mr.Miner Says:

    3.20.92 –

  21. Stupendous Says:

    I wouldnt be able to coexist with a female that didn’t share my joy for music…
    I’ve not dated girls before based solely on what they listened to….booty calls are different stories but life partners…till death do us apart… thats gotta be some strong-ass love….Music is my life and even though my girlfriend gets her overloads (some songs make her angry; SOAM being one of them) she gets it…
    For that I am grateful. 🙂

  22. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    I took my wife to her first Phish show in Mar 93 after dating about 6 months. It took her to her first Dead show in Dec 92. It was me showing her the lilght in the strangest of places, she enjoyed both though the phish show changed her forever, it was her first time with caps’n’stems as was 90% of the venue as I had moved a large load in the lot that afternoon. Remember, Spring 93 was a special time, when we were all in on the inside joke that this band is. Now, she is my show/tour buddy but is on the fence about Festival 8 because she doesn’t want to miss school aspects of the kiddos Halloween fun. She waived off on bringing the kiddos to the fest eventhough one is free and the other 8, for risk mitigation purposes eventhough I signed off on playing the sentinel for the entire weekend.

    If she attends with me, Awesome!

    If she does not, I will be playing psychonaut and astrally project to the UCCC(Universal Coincidence Control Center) to help everyone’s weekend become that much more phishy.

    JOTD F’n Wow! Talk about Muscially Inconvenient. Love it!

  23. Robear Says:

    JOTD = sick little ditty starting around 12 min. mark.

    Way to give love to some first sets! After ‘Bag’ at Hartford, I said to myself, “Trey’s on, Mike’s on, Fish is on, Paige is on, Kuroda is on, and the venue doesn’t care if you dance in the aisles! This is IT!”

    Kenny P, the east coast drives were plain stupid and reediucculus! Never to be repeated again by this band, IMO. I too had a tough time getting into the music at MPP, chatter box crowd, tight wad staff.

    SOAM, my gf had a real tough time at Darien. Something in the air? She snapped out of it though, by set II. That first set raged!! Loved the ‘Wolfman’s’, and thought the ‘Bowie > Gin’ was one of the best jam segments of the east run.

  24. Chuck D Says:

    Beautifully dark DWD, great segments by Trey and Page… gotta be one of my new favorites. And Free goes off into an interesting, dark direction as well, unexpected there.

  25. beepaphone Says:

    LMAO at fat bastard.

    I had the EXACT same thing happen to me at Alpine in 03. Girl I was dating, took to to her first show…She knew I was a toker, yet got upset that I would smoke at Phish…She seemed to enjoy the music, but I couldn’t get past the awkward vibe. Game over. The next year she went pentacostal and married a tattoo artist.

    Enter Bonnaroo and I took my current girlfriend to her first show. She rocked the late night show (relatively sober…just a couple beers) so I knew she was ready. We delved into some boomers for the Sunday night show, and we didn’t say a word to each other as long as they were playing. I would look over and she’d have this gap-mouth smile boogyin’ down all good like. I had to beg her to listen to more of my live albums on the drive down. On the drive back, I let her pick the music and Phish was all we listened to.

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