Five Sets of Summer

7.19 Bill Graham (Michael Stein)

7.19 Bill Graham (Michael Stein)

When presented with care, Phish sets are more than a collection of songs. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and carry the listener on a journey with strategically placed jams and songs. Though such artistically created statements were few and far between this summer, here are five that stood out from the pack.


5) 7.15 II The Gorge, George, Washington

The Gorge M. Stein

The Gorge (M. Stein)

Every time you thought Phish was going one way, they threw a head fake and veered another in a set anchored by misdirection, teases and all-around zany Phishiness. Though it didn’t always flow so well, the band certainly went for something on this night, never settling into any one jam and keeping the audience on their toes with segues, hijinks and musical theatrics. Though the set didn’t contain a whole lot of meat, the band came closest to a central jam in the opening sequence of “Crosseyed” > “What’s the Use?,” building the former into a sublime space, before quickly jumping ship into the latter. “What’s the Use?” took on a larger-than-life, feel amidst the majestic surroundings of The Gorge. Phish used “No Man’s Land as a recurring theme throughout this frame, continually referencing the song both musically and lyrically, while featuring a mash up with “Crosseyed” in its jam segment. “Meatstick” > “2001” contained the most fluid improv of the night, as the band locked into a hypnotic outro groove that flowed seamlessly into the Deodato cover. In a set that never stopped bobbing and weaving, Phish delivered a dynamic listening adventure on the first night of their west coast swing.

Crosseyed and Painless > What’s the Use?, No Men In No Man’s Land > Stash, Ghost > Chalk Dust Torture, Meatstick -> Also Sprach Zarathustra, Cavern


4) 7.18 II Bill Graham Civc Auditorum, San Francisco, CA

7.20 Bill Graham M. Stein)

7.20 Bill Graham (M. Stein)

The second set of Bill Graham’s first night possessed four distinct segments that pieced together to form a pretty fluid frame of music. The first segment came in the pairing of “Golden Age” and “Twist,” the former featuring a fiery groove excursion that carried a hybrid feel of “2001” and “Tube.” It seemed as though the band would revert to playlist form with mid-set versions of “My Sweet One” and “The Line,” but they rebounded nicely with the combo of “Simple -> Sneaking Sally.” “Simple” briefly moved into ethereal territory before giving way to the jam of the night in “Sneakin’ Sally.” A relentless peak highlighted this centerpiece before the set concluded with standout versions of “Limb by Limb” and “Slave.” Phish engaged in some patient jamming on this night which came as a welcome shift from their previous several shows.

Golden Age > Twist, My Sweet One, The Line, Simple -> Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Limb By Limb, Slave to the Traffic Light


3) 7.1 II SPAC, Saratoga Springs, NY

SPAC Andrea Zimmerman Nusinov

SPAC (Andrea Zimmerman-Nusinov)

Sometimes a massive jam sequence can hold down a set all on its own, and this is what took place on the band’s first night in Saratoga Springs. After a solid set-opening “Sand” the band took flight in their most outstanding improvisation of the summer in “Carini -> Chalk Dust.” Masterful interplay rolled off the stage with the sense of effortlessness that characterizes Phish’s best playing as the band connected multiple themes in a cohesive, thirty-five minute explosion. This sequence felt like a breakthrough after a week plus of building improvisational momentum and it seemed as though the band would take off from here for the rest of tour. As it turned out, however, “Carini -> Chalk” proved to be an anomaly in a low-key summer, but this portion of jamming certainly stands up to the band’s most proficient work of the last several years. Although it did contain some rarities, the rest of the set devolved into a series of songs, but after the peak that Phish had already reached, everything else felt like gravy.

Sand, Carini -> Chalk Dust Torture > Prince Caspian, Bug, Shine a Light, My Sweet One, Sleeping Monkey, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Fire


2) 6.28 II The Mann, Philadelphia, PA

BGCA M. Stein

BGCA (M. Stein)

The three elements of a great Phish set are flow, jamming and song selection, and the band hit on the trifecta on the first night of the Mann. Phish navigated this second set with nary a hiccup, offering two tour highlights and connecting everything quite smoothly. High quality excursions stemmed from “Fuego” and “Breath and Burning,” as both jams navigated the darker side of things. “Fuego” likened a revamped soundtrack to Super Mario’s dungeon lair and “Breath” took a bass-heavy path towards a similar vibe. These jams were complimented by a searing version of “Jibboo,” an intense Page-and-Trey-led “Timber,” and a peakier-than-thou version of “Slave,” creating an airtight set that possessed non-stop action throughout.

Fuego > Runaway Jim, Gotta Jibboo, Breath and Burning -> Timber,  Slave to the Traffic Light, You Enjoy Myself


1) 7.19 II Bill Graham Civic Audirorium, San Francisco, CA

7.20 Bill Graham M. Stein

7.20 Bill Graham (M. Stein)

The second night of Bill Graham contained the best set of summer and, frankly, it wasn’t even close. Amidst a tour in which second sets often lacked jams and flow, Phish swam fluidly through series of jams in this one and closed with authority. This musical statement featured one of tour’s upper echelon improvisations in a high-octane and cathartic “Ghost,” a long-form, angelic-turned-demonic “Down With Disease,” and a wide-open couplet of “Scents and Subtle Sounds” and “Light.” The band assumed a different demeanor than they had shown for the majority of the summer, favoring artistry and improv over songs and simplicity, and they came up with a winner. Capping their jam-laced escapade with the high energy combo“No Quarter” and “Fluffhead,” Phish left everyone with a smile on this Tuesday night.

Down with Disease > Fuego > Ghost > Scents and Subtle Sounds > Light  -> Manteca > No Quarter, Fluffhead


Honorable Mention

6.25 II Wrigley Field, Chicago, IL: Though nothing crazy happened on this night, flow alone pushes this set into contender status—a comment on the quality of this summer more than anything else. A compact, blissed out “Carini” provided the lone highlight of the night.

Carini > Tweezer > Fluffhead, Piper -> Steam, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Harry Hood, Tweezer Reprise

The Mann A. ZImmerman-Nusinov

The Mann (A. Zimmerman-Nusinov)

9,460 Responses to “Five Sets of Summer”

  1. sumodie Says:

    At the Barcelo Maya. Not even the full DMB. No other acts listed. Dave really has this kind of pull…?

  2. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Tripping Billy says YES.

  3. sumodie Says:

    Golden years are a state of mind, not some mythic moment from the past

  4. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere

  5. voopa Says:

    whop whop whop

  6. GWK Says:

    CID making the big buxx these days boys

  7. HadToHaveThat Says:

    “Check the “tapes”, “spin” the shows”
    ^ check

    AJ – sent that link to Ren thanks for sharing! I give him BB reports especially when I see shout outs 🙂

  8. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    beantown folks are apparently pumped for mgb. first two of three shows already sold out for the end run of his tour…

  9. sumodie Says:

    I ought to buy Mike tix but I seem unable to commit.

    The Egg in Albany would have killer sound too

    Sinclair is super cool but the room is only acceptably ok for sound

    Maybe you trip face at Woodstock. Or maybe you get your face blown off in Vietnam. Golden years…?

  10. Sex&City Says:

    Where is Tripping Billy?!?!??!

  11. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Mini KDTU+Herring run coming to the southeast in early December.

    Athens, Asheville, Charlotte, Atlanta

  12. HadToHaveThat Says:

    I keep thinking about buying Mike tix too…playing asheville right around my birthday. but it would be a struggle to get there and back to work the next day

  13. GWK Says:

    womp womp womp

  14. dusty Says:

    The days of adding filler on tapes….

    I actually still think about 60 vs 90 flips at shows. Those first sets at dicks would have burnt me on combining 2 first sets on 90’s.

  15. Jerome Garcia Says:

    She wombat loves her some Mike though…

  16. dorn76 Says:

    Miami dolphins Golden Years are sure as hell not a state of mind. They are actual years.

  17. aj Says:

    Thanks, Chompbat

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    joggerz, you in chitown the week of oct 17th? back again for that annual conference if you are and would like to grab a beer one night.

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    shit I forgot Jack del Rio is coaching the Raiders


  20. sumodie Says:

    Lucius’s UJB remains oh so good

    Lucius’s Roo performance made me realize they’re a legit live band too

    Too bad said Dolphins can’t remember their supposed Golden Years


  21. lumpyhead Says:

    actual cassettes

  22. aj Says:

    T3, I am, let’d do it!

  23. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Nothing quite like the warm hiss of some XL IIs.

  24. HadToHaveThat Says:

    CHOMPbat! ha!

    yes lumpy. ACTUAL cassettes. you may have less of these than I do.

  25. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I’ll get at cha @joggerz

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