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. gavinsdad Says:

    Nice to see you getting back in the swing Miner.

    in a Zappa hole on spotify thanks to yesterday’s chat. currently RDNZL off “studio tan”.

    Warren Haynes and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, simply put, was classy. I know I sound corny but it was just such a nice treat. Super nice nite, undersold, zero security…the Mann has to be my fave Philly venue by a long mile. I know very little about orchestras but the arrangements Warren used were subtle and tasteful. Standouts: Crazy Fingers, High Time, If I Had The World To Give (!!), West LA Fadeaway (somehow this was dirrrty) and a lovely Terrapin. just a unique experience…recommended.

    Bethel was my sole tour opener. was going thru some extremely rough work stuff that entire day which left me desperate and distracted come show time…work woes also carried over into PNC where i’m looking forward to a fresher perspective in a few weeks. But Bethel was fantastic musically and the venue is my fave “shed” on the east coast (ahead of the Mann, yes)

  2. plord Says:

    YO BANGOR. You see what you’re up against here? Step up now. Your target is Gorge ’11. I will accept nothing less than DCU ’12.

    Just pulled the trigger on a SPAC Sunday, based purely on the hope that this SPAC run follows the arc of last year’s. Also because the freaking countertops and stove hood arrive next week and if I skip out for the duration of the run it might get ugly.

  3. Tweezer Says:

    It looks like the odds of a Stash 6th or 7th song in the first set are pretty good.

  4. JZ Says:

    Any kind folks in this thread driving from/past NYC to Bangor and want to give a fanner a lift? The public transportation options range from terrible to whatever’s worse than terrible.

    I will contribute non-stingily to gas money, and I don’t smell!

  5. alf Says:

    bethel, bitches

  6. kayatosh Says:

    great piece, miner. that list of shows is stacked w/greats.

  7. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    the Mann has to be my fave Philly venue by a long mile

    I will not rest until phish returns to this venue. I really want this to happen before they hang it up. it is just philly to the core.

  8. ren Says:

    So much potential for Bang’er….must keep expectations in check

  9. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Hey gang- I have come upon a really nice ticket for Holmdel that I need to trade for sat SPAC pavilion. I have sect 101 row E. lemme know if this interests any of y’all.

  10. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    so long, DOMA!

  11. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Patriots just released Aaron Hernandez…

  12. bouncin fan Says:

    damn forgot GD you were dealing with that biz shit at behtel. lame.

  13. marcoesq Says:

    May be old news but I had never heard this about BGCA

    As it turned out, the inconsistency of the first two shows may have been attributable to another piece of gear altogether. Fishman had started using a new in-ear monitor setup, and he was struggling to hear his bandmates on stage. By the third night (8/19), Fish decided to abandon the setup. That seemed to make all the difference, and set the stage for a night to remember.

  14. alf Says:

    gorge 11 was a great time. took a close friend to her first show and first time at the gorge for both of us. all she was hoping for was some bluegrass. after the gin, nellie kane segment we were both satisfied. after the sunset roggae i told her i got what i came for and the rest was gravy. i’ll let telas or leo describe the rnr. terraces ftw though!

    i figured my friend liked night 2 better, a more flowing, dancey 2nd set. but nope, she liked night 1: ‘what was that crazy way out there jam they did the first night? that was awesome’


  15. kayatosh Says:

    mann story. told before worth another shot.

    tripped hard at the mann on shroums back in the early nineties. first timers. one buddy thought he was trapped in a 1960’s time warp — he truly believed he had traveled back to the 60’s and was stuck there forever. He went to first aid once inside, was sent to the hospital where he had a more pleasant trip, and returned by cab to the parking lot to hear the end of the allman’s show from the hood of buddy number 2’s mother’s family truckster station wagon. my other buddy and i managed to stay out of the hospital by huddling face down in a blanket while blues traveler opened for the allmans. couple tunes into the allmans set — doing fine.

    buddy #1’s dad got the hospital bill which stated that his son had eaten bad mushrooms (they were actually great). The dad’s reply “This makes no sense, son. You don’t even like mushrooms.”

  16. voopa Says:

    lol @ mushrooms!

    T3- I have the third source listed of that date (shnid 4437), and can get the other 2 tonight. vooopa at ghee mahl (3 o’s!)

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    sweet, thanks, voopSTAR.

  18. IrieWalton Says:

    Quality piece, Miner.

    Also, where are all the haters now chanting down the reader’s picks after Miner has dropped pre-tour analysis like only he can do over the past few days?! And in a week’s time we’ll all be discussing the first night rager!

    Only a few more hours before a four day weekend for me! Going camping in the desert in central Oregon around Bend. After a long week of five days/nights of all day meetings, followed by dinners I can’t wait to just plunge myself into the Deschutes River while plowing through a rack of Deschutes brew.

  19. kayatosh Says:

    needless to say, but the characters in the above story had the obligatory “nothing’s happening” moment on the ride to the mann and ate more. Soon there after, time warp buddy goes silent and begins relentlessly staring out the window and occasionally looking at his hand bewildered. By the time we arrived at the mann he was loco and wandered off to try to get right, which made him even more loco.

  20. IrieWalton Says:

    Also, props to the supreme court for restoring a lil’ faith in the powers of government.

    Love is love.

  21. MiA Says:

    What you need son is some Allman Brothers.

    Works every time.

  22. MiA Says:

    What you need son is some Allman Brothers.

    Works every time.

  23. dorn76 Says:

    I want to hide my face in a blanket in Bangor. During Melt.

  24. MiA Says:

    Dammit. That’s a stabbin’

  25. jtran Says:

    2011 I did pretty good with tour openers

    “Look at where you’re working”

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