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. voopa Says:

    I always thought the term “black ice” misleading.

  2. whole tour! Says:

    just watched ‘sugar shack’ from camden dvd. SUPERB HD picture! wow!
    it’s like your really there.
    besides the dude’s head blocking the view, it’s awesome.

    i really really love ‘sugar shack!’
    gordo played it last night!

  3. EL Duderino Says:

    Isn’t that what killed the original bass player of Metallica??? LOL

  4. whole tour! Says:

    very unique song
    the ‘standing the edge of a cliff’ part is super bad ass!

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Dude – I grew up in the Triangle, outside Chapel Thrill. At the time, the Asheville/Boone area hadn’t blown up the way it has now – my dad lived up there for a bit, and it was fairly cool, but much more under the radar.

    CH and Durham are, from what I can tell from afar, still much more happening places than Raleigh is, but it’s all so close together it really makes no difference. Coolest places to live in that area are, I think, Carrboro, Hillsboro area and especially the region around Pittsboro south of CH. Lots of growers and artists and woods-hippies back up in that neck of the woods. There are some *very* cool parts of Durham too from what I hear.

    It’s still a redneck dominated state, tho it voted blue in ’08 which was weird to see – but in that neck of the woods you should have no prob finding lots of cool people.

  6. whole tour! Says:

    any word on any asheville/knoxville dvds?


    is carini still working with the band?
    swore i heard he didn’t come back along with paul and brad

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    to me “black ice” is just “ice on the road you can’t see before you hit it”

    apparently “neck of the woods” is my phrase of the day

  8. butter Says:

    so your Cubs huh Albert?

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    @wt! I heard that too but only via rumor, not from peeps who definitely know things. I’ll ask at some point.

  10. Kenny Powers Says:

    @ wt,

    is that Camden vid actually mastered in HD resolution? Or was it just shot in HD and downrezzed to standard 480 for the torrent? I’m not ready to throw down the loot for a Blu-Ray burner for my PC as well as insanely pricey blank BD’s (they probs still have a ways to go in terms of speed and reliability too).

    But damn that would be cool if you could already get HD torrents of shows. That would have to be a huuuuge file!

  11. butter Says:

    I heard Carini is gone, but not sure. It was funny , cuz on the way to the venue in Chicago, my bro asked me about Carini and i told him they probably had put the tune away now that he’s gone. And BAM, one of those idiosyncrasies that happens when your on tour (they play Carini)

  12. albert walker Says:

    El Dude

    Have you decided what NASCAR driver number you will put on your truck when you get to NC?

    jk, man. You know me. Can’t help an opportunity for a red neck NASCAR joke.

  13. notkuroda Says:

    hey guys long time no see. Just wanted to check in and see who’s gonna be in Jax next friday for Mike. WT, you still in? B Stupendous, how bout you? We should meet up for a beach bowl

  14. voopa Says:

    “In advance of his show, Gordon and his band will perform live on WDST (100.1 FM), which sits next door to the theater. Gordon will also chat with WDST DJ Justin Foy. Tune in around 5 p.m. today. The interview and performance take place right after the 5 p.m. news.” (Eastern time, of course)

  15. Leo Weaver Says:

    You nailed the black ice with that one Mr. C…our parking lot here at work is old and has lots of low spots…I love to haul ass in when it’s cold and hit all the black ice spots around the lot (before it fills up obviously)…lotsa fun. But not nearly as much fun as doing donuts in a subaru in a fully-iced elementary school parking lot (guess it’s their hockey rink) just outside of Jamaica VT one time long ago.

    @Dude…the triangle area is pretty cool from what I hear…plenty of trouble and kindness to be found from what I’ve heard. And it’s easy to the beach and not too difficult to the mountains. I’ve lived in Ga, SC, and NC…NC’s been my fave so far. And there are enough folks from the NE that it’s beginning to take on a much more blue tint (as evidenced in ’08).

  16. whole tour! Says:


    i’m watching camden on a 1080i HD flatscreen.
    it looks HD to my eyes. zero flicker, pristine picture.

    i’m not sure of the exact lineage cause my buddy just sent the discs.

    my buddy superfreakie is starting a 2009 dvd vine over at for the bit torrentless folks.

  17. beepaphone Says:

    Mr. C – thanks for looking out! Working for a place similar to the EcoHaus you have in PDX. Green home building supplies and alternative energy/solar/wind.

  18. Mr. Completely Says:

    Kenny – I am not clear on the terminology of HD and blu-ray, tho this laptop came with BR burner. Is BR just 1080?

    for instance this RR dvd info file sez:
    Source: HDV Master > Firewire > Vegas 8.0 > DVD Architect by: JFI
    TV system: (NTSC)
    Aspect Ratio: 16×9 720×480

    is that “720i” which is referred to as “HD” but isn’t really real HD?

  19. whole tour! Says:


    i’ll be at gordo next friday.
    beach bowl(s) sounds cool since there is no reentry and security at the venue are a-holes.
    last time i was there, they dug deep in my pockets and practically gave me a semi cavity search.
    bastards still have my bowl from mmw in 2005.

  20. Mr.Miner Says:

    anyone have a link to the RR DVD?

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    @beep – my wife works for large enviro nonprofit so hearing of something like that is quite possible…I’ll just keep ears open

    RR DVD (2 dual layer disks) clocks in at 14 gigs. Pretty serious, but dealable.

  22. whole tour! Says:

    miner….you on demonoid?
    think they have red rocks.
    let me find a link.

  23. HarryHood Says:

    I’m sure this has come up before, but is Demonoid invite only?

  24. Mr. Completely Says:

    still a ton of seeds as of this morning…I seed every night from about 6 pm to 7am PST…will leave it up til traffic drops

  25. beepaphone Says:

    Awesome thanks Mr. C.

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