First Night Fiestas

With Bangor fast approaching, and everyone anticipating quite the banger in Maine, I figured it would be a good time to take a look back at the other tour-opening throwdowns of this era. For the past couple years, the band has come out practiced and polished to kick off tours, and—very often—these tour openers have blossomed into one of the most memorable nights of the season. Putting all these shows side to side, it’s quite eye opening to see all the amazing music that has come in 3.0 tour openers. Let’s look back at the making of a 3.0 tradition.


Toyota Park—6.11.2010

Toyota Park

Toyota Park

Phish sparked Summer Tour 2010 with their first mega-opener of 3.0. During 2009, opening shows were a clear warm up, but starting in Chicago on this brutally hot day, the band laid the groundwork for future tour-opening blowouts. This show featured two sets chock full of improv and full-tilt playing. One can tell from the setlist alone, that the band meant business—but the setlist was just part of the story. Six months after playing their best modern shows to date in Miami, the band hit the stage in The Windy City with a similar fire and cohesion, and what resulted after setbreak was a thing of beauty. Framing the set around the centerpiece jams of “Light” and “Ghost,” the latter of which remained a highlight of tour well after tour’s final show, Phish sculpted a flowing stanza of music that never once hit a road bump. The “Limb” was spectacular, “Caspian” was placed perfectly, and “Antelope” was more shredding than usual, all before they closed the set with the debut of “Show of Life.” I can still remember the glow of everyone faces when the lights came on after this one—this night was a keeper.

I: Down with Disease, Wolfman’s Brother, Possum, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Reba, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Divided Sky, Golgi Apparatus > David Bowie

II: Light -> Maze, Ghost -> Limb By Limb > Prince Caspian > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Run Like an Antelope, Show of Life

E: Cavern > Julius



Bethel Woods—5.27.11

Official Bethel Print (Stout)

Official Bethel Print (Stout)

The Bethel run, or at least the first two nights of the Bethel run, is the stuff of modern era legend. Bursting out of the gates with far more improvisational bravado than we had heard from the band in 2010, Phish set their community afire with these two shows. This leg of summer tour would be a game-changer for the band, as they dropped far more complex jams than we had heard in the previous two years—and it all started here in Bethel. The opening show has lived in the shadow of the brilliant performance on night two, but has almost just as much to offer. To begin with, the band dropped “Tweezer” to open the show and jump-start the summer. The opening half also saw high points in “Wolfman’s -> Walk Away” and the best “Kill Devil Falls” outside of Bonnaroo ’09. The meat of the second set, however, would remain one of the elite jam sequences of the year. “Boogie > Waves > Prince Caspian > Crosseyed” contained some of the most dynamic playing of the era to that point, but more improtantly, it showcased Phish’s intent to bring things deeper. A transcendent “Waves” jam saw the band sculpt abstract soundscapes with staggering, leader-less interplay—a revelation at the time, and quite the blast off for the opening night of the year. Not to mention that the guys had just masterfully deconstructed and dissolved a “Boogie” jam to segue into “Waves.” “Caspian” provided an anthemic comedown before they took “Crosseyed” right back out into a deep improvisational space. A murky, evil groove emerged from the hard-rock playing, absolutely slaying the audience while tallying the the third open jam of the sequence! I think we spun this  chunk of the set ten times through before coming to Bethel the next day. Phish had taken five months off and had come back way better!

I: Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend, Poor Heart, Roses Are Free > Funky Bitch,Wolfman’s Brother -> Walk Away, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Kill Devil Falls, Bold As Love

II: Carini > Back on the Train, Boogie On Reggae Woman > Waves > Prince Caspian > Crosseyed and Painless > Wading in the Velvet Sea > Possum, The Squirming Coil

E: Julius



The Gorge—8.5.11

Gorge Print (Klaussen)

Gorge Print (Klaussen)

Few other things need to be said about this show than “Rock and Roll > Meatstick.” Playing—arguably—the greatest jam of this era, rivaled only by Dick’s “Light,” the story of this show began and ended with this unforgettable sequence. Spanning so many different feels within one jam, the band flowed through distinct sections of melody driven improv, the dirtiest funk you’ll ever hear, and evil, storage-laced abstraction. This “Rock and Roll” in the context of The Gorge created an experience that tapes can never translate. This is the type of jam that steals a show—in fact, it stole the entire weekend as the second night was a fun, though straightforward, show. To illustrate the magnitude of this jam, people debate it versus Big Cypress’ monstrous “Rock and Roll” for the best version ever! I’m not picking a winner, but I think that tells you the level of jam we are dealing with here. Then, the final bass-led jihad into “Meatstick”—an all-time Phish moment—to bring us into the heavily funkified segment of “Meatstick > Boogie On.” That three-song run is what everyone remembers about the show—and rightfully so—but there are a couple other points of note. First and formost, a sunset version of “Roggae” that transformed into a wide-open daydream, easily the most impressive version ever played. And the delicate “Farmhouse” placed after the second set theatrics is as good of a rendition as you’ll ever come across.

I: Kill Devil Falls, The Wedge, Bathtub Gin, Nellie Kane > My Friend, My Friend,Cavern > Taste > Roggae > Walk Away, Funky Bitch, Roses Are Free > David Bowie

II: Backwards Down the Number Line > Rock and Roll -> Meatstick ->Boogie On Reggae Woman > Farmhouse, Show of Life, Julius, Character Zero

E: Loving Cup




NYE 2011 Logo

NYE 2011 Logo

Although Phish’s Summer ’11 tour was their best modern jaunt to date, many were not sure how the extended layoff between Labor Day and New Year’s Run would treat the band. If the first night of the run was any indicator, however, they hadn’t missed a beat. And then the next three nights happened. But the first night was legitimately awesome. First set standouts included a third-song “Cities” that stopped abruptly deep into open waters, the promising first set sign posts of “Stash” and “Bathub Gin,” and a rare “Ballad of Curtis Loew.” The second set was straight fire start to finish, and one of the better Holiday Run sets of this era. “Carini” flipped into major key territory, taking the show on an uplifting journey before Trey seamlessly wove in the opening lick to “Tweezer.” This prime-time combo exploded the arena and before long, the band was ripping off a plinko highlight reel amidst the “Tweezer” jam. One crack lick led into another in this swampy, urban dance monster which smoothly rolled into a mid-set “My Friend.” The darkhorse jam of this show, however, is the “Rock and Roll.” Overshadowed by “Carini -> Tweezer,” this jam puts a magnifying glass on the dark, glitchy, abstract, plinko-esque jamming style that was prevalent during 2011. “Harry Hood” rounded out the night, a version in which Trey led with notable passion, evoking his “Hood” playing of old, if even for a little bit. Walking out of MSG after this one, I thougvht we might be looking at one of the elite New Year’s Runs of all time. We weren’t.

I: Free, Glide > Possum, Cities, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Stash, Contact >Sample in a Jar, Kill Devil Falls > Bathtub Gin

II: Birds of a Feather, Carini -> Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend -> Rock and Roll -> NICU, Bouncing Around the Room, Harry Hood > Bug

E: Tube > Rocky Top > Tweezer Reprise




The band opened last year’s touring schedule with one of their strongest shows of 2012. A complete show—bookended by “Buried Alive”—possessed a retro feel and intensity that was certainly welcome after MSG’s anticlimax. This night has been discussed so much that I feel I don’t need to go into it here. It was outstanding on every level.

I: Buried Alive > Runaway Jim, Torn and Frayed, Funky Bitch, The Moma Dance, Rift, Nothing, Ocelot, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Possum, Rocky Top

II: Carini -> Taste > Ghost > Boogie On Reggae Woman > If I Could, Quinn the Eskimo, Harry Hood > Cavern > Buried Alive Reprise

E: Loving Cup



Long Beach—8.15.12


Long Beach Official

Leg One of 2012 was unquestionably the band’s most impressive tour to date when it ended. Exploding through their staple sheds on the East Coast and in the Midwest, Phish had themselves at a crossroads. Despite their clear musical proficiency, none of the jams had surpassed 15 minutes (or so). Obviously, time is not the central factor in jam quality, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a Phish fan who’s favorite jam is under twenty minutes. The band often finds musical gold mines 17 minutes into a piece or deeper, places they just weren’t going in this era. But on this night in Long Beach, everything changed. Taking the next logical improvisational step, the band opened the second set with 40 minutes of jamming, including 25 in “Rock and Roll” alone.” And it was awesome, exploratory improv, the type of stuff fans had been yearning for. This show sparked the modern trend of long form jamming that would culminate at Dick’s two weeks later—and we all know what happened there. That road to glory—however, at least in the short term‚ started at Long Beach. Oh, and the “Hood” that ends set two is the best of the year.

I: Suzy Greenberg, Cities > Kill Devil Falls, Guelah Papyrus, Cool It Down,Rift, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Bathtub Gin, Quinn the Eskimo

II: Rock and Roll > Ghost > Limb By Limb, Guyute, Dirt, Harry Hood > Good Times Bad Times

E: Julius





12.28.12 (G.Lucas)

A year later when Phish was heading to MSG after a long layoff, people were confident Phish wouldn’t tank again—and they were right. The magic of Dick’s carried over to MSG’s jams, and the most dynamic and far reaching of them came bursting out of the gates on the first night in the form of “Tweezer.” Taking their classic vehicle on a multi-staged odyssey with their new-school musical sensibilities, the guys gave us a message that Dick’s wasn’t just a Rocky Mountain high. And when the dust settled on the New Year’s Run of 2012, an argument could be made for the 28th as the most complete show of the four. A hot “Stash” and a “Little Drummer Boy” infused “Wolfman’s” set the improvisational stage for “Tweezer,” while the band filled out the second set with solid playing and selections all the way through.

I: Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Moma Dance, Funky Bitch, Army of One, Tube > Stash, Nellie Kane, Kill Devil Falls, Free, Wolfman’s Brother

II: Tweezer > Maze, Twist > Theme From the Bottom -> Fluffhead, David Bowie

E: Bouncing Around the Room, Good Times Bad Times

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367 Responses to “First Night Fiestas”

  1. bouncin fan Says:

    my girl did all of summer 99

    she just said over takin in live bait 9 “last time we saw Fee it was Good”

    “yes babe the alpine fee was good. ”


  2. RoosterPizza Says:

    Little rooster dancing it out to ASIHTOS with the head bob and all.

  3. angryjoggerz Says:

    Been listening to the Oxy Years comp lately – a period of Phish I am not as familiar with. Some really good stuff, though not sure I love the overall sound, a bit sloppy but I like all the spaciness. The SPAC 04 Piper certainly delivers.

    Been here a day and ready to come back, leaving tomorrow. These 2 day trips around the world are kind of a mindfuck, but I certainly stay busy. Kicking ass now so I can chill in a few weeks.

  4. angryjoggerz Says:

    I am hoping ASIHTOS clicks with me someday. I know people on here are big fans, but it grates on my lyrically the way that BDTNL or something does – the “run away run away run away” thing just makes me feel embarrassed. Perhaps this livebait version will turn me on.

    Just finished “the true adventures of the rolling stones” book, pretty good read in that on the road with the band kinda way. interesting to read about altamont and rock skully and all that.

  5. phishm Says:

    I feel like the only person that actually likes BDTNL. I think it’s a great song.

  6. m00nshake Says:

    Hello everyone! I only pop in once in awhile but some of you might remember me. 😉 I was at tour opener last year and I loved it. Sadly, I won’t be there or possibly anywhere on this summer tour as I have returned back to a rigorous school schedule to obtain my Master’s of Arts in Teaching. I was an English as a Second Language Teacher in Cambodia for five years after a long roller coaster ride of trying to find out what I wanted to do when I grew up (yes, I know, it took awhile, sorry about that…) I hope that this tour’s opener is the strongest yet and surpasses last years. I might not be there physically but I’ll be there in spirit and it’ll be on my MP3 player as I run my daily 8-miles. I hope everyone is well, btw. 🙂

  7. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    i like jones beach, blossom, and bethel number lines

  8. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    daft punk’s remix of get lucky really blows.

  9. frit0pendej0 Says:

    Every Foam in November ’94 is a winner – Bangor, Kent, Ann Arbor, Columbia and Minny (maybe the 5 best shows in an overachieving month, with apologies to UIC and Olympia). I wish the crowds would shut up long enough to let them build up a jam from near silence the way they do in these Foams. The quiet period in the Columbia Foam is amazing. Like they were playing to an audience of dogs.

  10. angryjoggerz Says:

    I like BDTNL fine, but the opening lyrics are just so jarring and the song seems much better to me once they move past the initial structure. In short, I like the jammy parts.

  11. angryjoggerz Says:

    Live Phish downloaded super fast, so who knows. Phishthoughts always loads really slow for me, I think it is all the flash players.

  12. BNCB Says:

    At Casa De Slick. About to huff all the under, the raid the raspberries and blueberries.

    Thinking of MiA

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Bouncin- That whole PNC ’99 Second set is off the charts.. Don’t skip the Meatstick. Skip ahead to the jam, it is incredible.

  14. Dr Pronoia Says:

    OK, fantasizing about making the 5 hour drive to SPAC and back for either the Friday or Saturday, since it may be the last phish I’ll see for a while (wife will be huge > twins arrive during presumed Fall/MSG tour)

    Any votes on which night is the smarter play?

  15. Dr Pronoia Says:

    It’s a longshot either way, and I may need a place to crash if I can swing it

    I’d be lying if I said this Live Bait didn’t get these wheels turning…

  16. joe Says:

    listening to live bait and checking flights to Denver here. (Bangor now downgraded to a 50/50 proposition for me and I’m not happy) I think we need to all listen to the consensus worst show of last year instead.

  17. MiA Says:

    Casa De Slick sounds nice. Great to see old posters like Moonshake and other new posters around.


  18. gavinsdad Says:

    just get there Doc Pro

    joe – you too (denver). i smell a huge All Star Game bet.

    m00nshake – good luck on your new program bud.

  19. gavinsdad Says:

    always wish i had crisper memories of shows past. i def remember loving pnc 99 and 00 but i remember other parts of those shows for some reason like the LxL from 99…but not the split>kung>split. random. they did meatstick both years and i dont remember the jam. i’ve respun since.

    the pnc 99 YEM (from live bait 4) is one of my faves.

  20. jdub Says:

    Get Lucky remix is basically just stretching out a song that was already pretty damn stretched out. Nothing happening there.

    Listening to Junip all the way through for first time. I like it. Clearly they’ve been listening to World Music, particularly apparent on the track “So Clear”. Type of album that will get better with many more listens.

  21. jdub Says:

    History says Friday @Dr. P. Saturday night special on 3 night runs seem to be a lock except for at Dick’s. Either way, you win though.

  22. phishm Says:

    So I was sitting there on the lawn at DC last show 98 and it was between sets. I was basically melting into the lawn and this guy next to me kept passing this pipe to me and talking in kind of a way that seemed crazy at the time. It was like he was reading my mind and I just kept melting. Then this dude near us decided it would be funny to break open a glowstick and douse us with glowing juice. The lights went down right after this and I stood up. The next 16 minutes kept me away from Phish long enough to get my shit together. About 6 minutes into the song I realize that they are playing me. Mind you they were probably playing everyone, but I was literally melting away. I remember saying fuck it and just started dancing exactly how the music wanted me to. This went on for a few minutes (seemed like hours) until I really started to freak. Not going to go into detail on the next few hours as it was like speaking to the big man himself and contemplating my entire life in front of him. Then all of a sudden I realized what I needed to do. It was like I floated above the amphitheater and instantly found my car on the other side of another lot. I then jumped back into my body and walked directly to the car. This was when the show was letting out. I had no idea where I camped as I wasn’t the one driving to the show. All of a sudden this awesome guy knocks on my window as I’m waiting in line to get out of the lot and says that we are in the same campground based on our wrist bands and asked if he could have a ride. He was a real life saver yet as spun as I was. Got to the campground and instead of crashing I packed up all my shit and started the 2 hour drive home. Don’t remember any of the drive, but got home somehow and basically started the next day changing my life to adhere to what I had learned. Met my ex wife a few months later, and the rest is history. Don’t think I was destined to be with her, but my kids were supposed to be born. They are my destiny. Sorry for the long post. Just listening to the show where this all went down and either fortunately or unfortunately I remember everything.

  23. gavinsdad Says:

    Doc Adderall

  24. phishm Says:

    OK, I don’t remember everything. The drive, to this day, is still a mystery to me. I kind of remember stopping at a rest stop and sleeping for about an hour, but most of it is a complete blank. Weird.

  25. angryjoggerz Says:

    All coffee’d up and heading out to give my talks. I am speaking to 150 Chinese teachers I just hired to come to teach in the USA. If you community school has a visiting teacher from China, you are welcome.

    I had the distinct honor being introduced by the title “comrade” yesterday – only took me 18 years but I am finally in, lol.

    Apparently the classroom I will be in today, with 150 adults, is not air conditioned. It is in the 90’s and humid here. Should be something.

    Comrade Armpit Sweat, out.

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