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. Mr.Miner Says:

    @Miner – don’t forget you’ll need DVD-R DL (Dual Layer) to burn the RR show.

    ^^ what does dual layer mean?

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    can anyone burn me a copy of the RR show?

  3. EL Duderino Says:

    The people some not all of the people at are not the nicest. If you request something they want you to up something in return, if you don’t they put a – symbol next to your name. Very weird!! Not my kind of tracker at all. My suggestion is to just keep going back to bt.etree all requests are posted there anyway. GD and related, WT and LL are the only places to go IMHO!!!!!

    KEEP IN Mind To All:

    The RR DVD are dual layer discs. must have a dual layer burner to watch on your tv.

  4. Lycanthropist Says:

    ^ You have to have a DVD DL burner? I have DVD burner. Will it not burn the DL DVDs?

  5. EL Duderino Says:

    Mr. Miner you may already have a dual layer burner and don’t know it. Check your hardware devices and see what’s up. I have an iMac, the internal drive is a Dual Layer Drive.

    Most new DVD’s that we buy at stores such as the Clifford Ball are manufactured on dual layer DVD’s

  6. albert walker Says:

    This RR show is really nice

    I think the audience tapes they are synced with sound great
    finally got it burned Dude.
    a techie I am not.
    just got my torrent skills going last month

  7. Mr. Completely Says:

    really? you need a special burner to do Dual Layer? well, since this laptop burns blu-ray I’ll just assume it burns DL.

    Miner, DL is just a different kind of blank, a little more expensive, like $1.25 each or something. holds 8.5 gig instead of 4.75.

    of course I’ll fucking burn them for you, dude, if I can burn them for myself – assuming 10 peeps haven’t offered since you asked.

  8. EL Duderino Says:

    Dual >Layer Burners needed to burn the Red Rocks DVD. The Camden DVD does not require the Dual Layer Burner/DVD’s

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    @El Dude really? That’s just douchery. Lame. Considering how much is in circulation, they really expect you to seed something for every request? That’s just stupid if so. Keeping a good ratio is where it’s at.

  10. albert walker Says:

    I just downloaded some free software
    bought a roll of dual layer dvd’s
    wrecked 5 and then got it right
    don’t know what I was doing wrong or what fixed it
    loving these DVD’s and this show
    my crew had a crazy night to say the least at this one
    One More Saturday Night

  11. EL Duderino Says:

    Mr. C

    Your BD burner may do just that. Haven’t spent the 200.00 on the BD burner yet and may not so I wouldn’t know.

  12. Mr. Completely Says:

    I’m sure the MacBook has a DL drive, and I *guess* this one does – I’ll figure it out this weekend.

  13. albert walker Says:

    my shitty Toshiba had one so I imagine most newer models would

  14. whole tour! Says:

    i had a similar incident at week4paug. They wern’t too nice to me either one time. I never went back.

  15. Mr.Miner Says:

    i have a macbook from about 4 years ago and a Dell from older than that, i dont think I have the DL thang…..maybe I’m wrong…??

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    yeah this laptop they got me at work is kind of crazy, top of the line Dell XPS, why they got me a computer this nice I have no idea, it has Blu Ray burn capable drive, HDMI output, all kinds of crazy shit I don’t need but am glad to have….

    altho I wouldn’t put it past a Windows machine to be able to burn Blu Ray and not a DL DVDR. It’s powerful as hell but weirdly limited in some ways compared to the Mac. Looking at all the device info tells me nothing either way about single vs. dual layer.

  17. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ interesting, maybe my macbook does…too bad i dloaded to my PC! doh..

  18. EL Duderino Says:

    @ AW

    That’s how it goes, a little trial and error. Something as simple as bit torrent usually is confusing at first for all of us. Then you throw dvd’s in the mix, different kind of file type, different kind of confusion.

  19. Mr.Miner Says:

    If anyone can hook it up at their convenience- that would be sick….

  20. Mr. Completely Says:

    Miner, we need to talk this weekend anyway – I’ll see if I can look on my MacBook and see where it says “dual layer,” you can check yours, if you can’t burn em I’ll do it, no problem and glad to do it of course.

    4 years old, a fair chance you can’t, I guess

  21. Mr. Completely Says:

    ^^^ lol wrong computer, yeah, hear ya. I’ll take care of it, as long as I can burn em at all

  22. albert walker Says:

    I’m in Chicago miner
    I’m sure someone closer would step up
    but if not I could probably burn you one and get it mailed out sometime tomorrow

  23. voopa Says:

    @ Miner you probably do have Dual Layer. I bought a DVD burner from Fry’s for $50 about 4 years ago, and much to my surprise, discovered it was DL. Never used any DL blanks tho…

  24. EL Duderino Says:

    Mr. Miner

    Doesn’t your school give you new lap tops every couple of years? I figure you would need a somewhat recent machine to do your job more effectively.

  25. Mr. Completely Says:

    I haven’t done DL anything, and suddenly every video torrent I click on is DL, so I need to get it figured out one way or another I guess

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