As a rhombus rose from the hallowed stage at Madison Square Garden, in one of the most surreal moments in Phish history, an ineffable energy engulfed the room. Whispering from the stage, the fairy tale melody of “The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday” tickled the synapses of all in attendance, and, collectively, the audience realized what they were witnessing. Simultaneously, a long-dormant part of each individual awakened; a visceral energy infused with awe, disbelief and joy was birthed from the hearts of all. Yet these words are inadequate; it was something deeper.

Each of us was brought back to our earliest days of falling in love with a band that we could hardly believe existed. A palpable enchantment arose as a concert transformed into an improbable lifetime event for which so many had longed through their decades of unconditional devotion. As the band shepherded us through the door into Gamehendge, an energy more unique and compelling than any I have ever felt filled the air—the dreams of 20,000 people, together in one place, simultaneously came true.

This transcendent feeling provided the backdrop of a musical fantasy that had existed only as a figment of the collective imagination. So far removed from the current reality of a band whose modus operandi is evolution, this journey through Phish’s mythology was akin to discovering it for the first time. Unfolding piece by piece, it felt as though we were hearing each song anew. Every piece took on a greater prominence in context of the story, and their musical structures echoed with congruency in relation to those around them. The songs we knew so well made so much more sense hearing them in place, as they were intended, as part of Gamehendge.

Transfixed, I was a blank slate—thoughtless—with no conception of what would come next, surprised by each and every turn. It was as if my memory had been erased, and the set, itself, was rewriting my understanding of the story I had once known so well; a captivating experience of unbridled joy and child-like enthusiasm. Steeped in the astral energy of the collective, the music took on a deep-rooted vitality, which accompanied with the narration and theatrics, created a spectacle beyond anyone’s wildest dream.

We had arrived.

Perhaps it was Crest Theatre 3.22.93; maybe Great Woods 7.8.94 or the GameHoist show from two weeks earlier on 6.26; possibly the old-school 3.12.88 performance from Nectar’s, but everyone had a tape that ushered them into Gamehendge when they first got into Phish. Devouring the saga, learning the characters, and internalizing the plot was a rite of passage for new fans. You had to know the details to really feel a part of it all, for the intricacies of Gamehendge were woven into the fabric of the Phish community. The music, the humor, the shirts and stickers sold on lot, the ethos of the tribe—the story informed so much of the experience. Especially when the band’s catalog was not so vast.

But as Phish pushed forward, transforming from the quirky, Vermont prog-rockers of their youth into the millennial groove machine of the late-90s and beyond, Gamehendge became less prominent in their live shows and less ingrained in their surrounding culture. With each passing album and evolutionary phase of the band’s career, Gamehendge faded further and further from the forefront of the community’s collective consciousness. When one of the songs did appear on stage, it was a reminder of days gone by, a relic of a simpler time. Any suggestion of a modern performance of the entire story was quickly written off as a pipe dream, wishful thinking, a pie in the sky. Thus, as the reality of New Year’s Eve unfolded, it sent a bolt of lightning through legions of fans near and far.

There are few things in this ever more complex world that truly make us feel like kids again—innocent and carefree with life spread out before us. But as the initial notes of “Lizards” emanated from the stage, something special happened. We were transformed into versions of ourselves that we didn’t even realize we no longer were. A spirit awakened from the depth of our beings, a youthful spirit so familiar but that had lived at arm’s length as we grew. We were in Gamehendge; against all odds, we were in Gamehendge.

If for only a night, the train that has been moving full steam ahead for four decades, paused to honor it’s starting point, to celebrate the genesis of a life-changing journey. A year in the works, no detail was spared in presenting a musically complete telling of the tale. It was a night for all-time; a night that will never be forgotten; a night that reminded us of who we are and all we hope to be.

We stepped out of the Garden and into a new year, inhabiting our newest selves, the ones who had been to the land of lizards and had a story to tell for the rest of time. We bid farewell to our companions, we shared embraces and we parted ways, crossing back through the door to walk our own paths with the ancient secrets of eternal joy and never-ending splendor.

As a rhombus rose from the hallowed stage at Madison Square Garden, in one of the most surreal moments in Phish history, an ineffable energy engulfed the room. Whispering from the stage, the fairy tale melody of “The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday” tickled the synapses of all in attendance, and, collectively, the audience realized …

Back Where it All Began Read More »

(Johnny Dombrowski)

Phish has made a career out of one-upping themselves time and time over, and with Sci-Fi Solidier, they just did it again. To close a mind-bending fall tour, the band performed their most ambitious, multi-faceted and outright brilliant Halloween set of their lives. Sci-Fi Soldier is a work of utter genius—a profound piece of spiritual philosophy wrapped in the band’s irresistible humor and drool-worthy grooves—that delivers on multiple levels and represents the greatest piece of concept-driven art that the Vermont quartet has ever laid down.

The cohesive, set-long suite simultaneously hits as shock value comedy, science fiction adventure, and spiritual Truth. Though this work of art can be met on multiple levels of enjoyment, it can only be wholly appreciated when understood in its deepest intention. Woven into Sci-Fi Soldier’s comedy-laced adventure lays a spiritual philosophy that in terms of its story—and reality—can save the world.

In a production in which every detail was calculated, the comic book that Phish distributed before the show serves as a crucial accompaniment to the set’s trajectory, as it provides a road map of Halloween’s musical, lyrical and philosophical journey.

Central to the plot is the quantum theory of parallel, coexisting realities expressed through the metaphor of the Nine Cubes. The quantum field contains every possible version of reality, and which version is energetically attracted determines what comes to fruition in humans’ earth-based experience. When the sci-fi soldiers look into the Nine Cubes, they see Earth, “the homeworld of their beloved prophets,” Kasvot Vaxt, “tearing itself apart.” When confronted with the knowledge of Earth’s destruction, they are determined affect an alternate reality and save the planet.

The super heroes look to the “only entity wise enough to interpret what [they’ve] seen,” the oracle, Holy Blankenstein. The oracle explains that Earth has been destructed by “forces of the human’s own making;” a plague called “The Howling” was caused by all the thinking of the human race. Blankenstein instructs the sci-fi soldiers to time-travel back to Earth before its ruin and find a way to “put a blank space where [humans’] mind should be,” or in other words, get human beings to transcend the realm of thought and live in their true state of unitary consciousness in order to return the planet to balance.

Holy Blankenstein, whose name overtly connects to the sacred state of non-thought that is central to the story’s philosophy, illustrates one methodology to accomplish this goal through the creatures that inhabit his planet. He explains, “These creatures keep their brains in their knees. They clear their minds with the movement of dance and handstands in grand fashion. We can learn much from them. Clear your mind.” It is through this example that the metaphor “un-head the knee” is born. This term, while literally referring to the creatures clearing their knee-based minds through dance, is a clever figure of speech to describe the process of stilling the thinking mind in order to move beyond thought, itself, and live in pure awareness of Truth, the Oneness of all living beings.

(Johnny Dombrowski)

Through Blankenstein’s dialectic and the example of their prophets, Kasvot Vaxt, who “used music from their album I Rokk to travel the galaxy and share their teachings,” the sci-fi soldiers settle on a path of action. By playing music to get humans to dance, they will “put a blank space where their mind should be” and influence the human race to “un-head the knee,” or transcend the dimension of thought. If humans “get more down” and, hence, “clear their minds,” they will experience “The Unwinding”—the deconstruction of the illusion of separateness—enter their authentic state of pure consciousness and live the spiritual Truth of Oneness. These existential tenets echo spiritual sages throughout the history of mankind, and the way Phish integrates these ideas within their musical-comedic masterpiece is beyond genius and exemplifies why they are, quite literally, one of a kind.

Before he vanishes, Blankenstein leaves the soldiers with a cryptic number— 10/31/21, “likely an inflection point where the past and the future are precisely divided.” In preparing to time-travel back to earth on this date—fifty years before The Howling takes hold—and inhabit the bodies of their prophets, Kasvot Vaxt, the comic book heroes quickly realize that the Scandinavian band has been long gone from the planet by this time. But they find a connection to a band called Phish who “know how to play the music of the prophets,” and they decide that they will have to settle on a plan B. The sci-fi soldiers will inhabit Phish’s bodies on Halloween 2021 to influence humankind to see through the illusions of thought and separateness in order to save the planet. The music of the Halloween performance flows from there.

The way in which Phish integrates their hallowed 2018 Kasvot Vaxt set into Sci-Fi Soldier is a masterstroke. Nodding to their last Halloween show while weaving its story into an even more ambitious and complex performance ties together Phish’s past, present and future. In co-opting the former story into this one, they also recognize their career as a continuum and not simply one separate chapter after another.

But what about the music? Well…every single Sci-Fi Soldier song is absolutely fucking incredible. The set is beyond cohesive, a flowing artistic suite from beginning to end. The songs not only carry forth the sci-fi adventure narrative, they also craft a non-stop dance party strewn with deep Phish grooves from start to finish. This was the Halloween set of dreams—a conceptual masterpiece with riveting music that is laced with comedy and framed in a visually hypnotic production. What more can one ask for? Sci-Fi Soldier is absolute, one hundred percent Phish perfection.

(Johnny Dombrowski)

The band musically riffs off the established narrative laid down in the comic book to form the songs of the Sci-Fi Soldier set. Most of the songs clearly reference parts of the story, while a few are more opaquely connected. Musically speaking, assuming they continue to play these songs, Phish immediately infused their catalog with a plethora of potential launch pads, as they could take any one of these songs off the deep end. Most of them are thoroughly groove-based—several structured around simple vamps—and feel more open-ended then past Halloween originals. Though they form a more unified whole than any group of Halloween songs to date, it would not be surprising to see them take prominent roles in the band’s live shows immediately.

As the set kicks off with “Knuckle Bone Broth Avenue”—the name of the time-stream the sci-fi soldiers use to travel back to Earth—and “Get More Down”—the overarching instructions from the futuristic saviors to humankind—the rhythmic, dance-based focus of the set becomes immediately apparent. “Egg in a Hole” brings a heavier psych-metal vibe to the set as the soldiers speak of their journey to New Chicago to see the oracle, Blankenstein. “Thanksgiving” is a dose of self-referential groove-comedy in which Sci-Fi Soldier sings about Phish, often repurposing their exact lyrics, which becomes a pattern throughout the set. The refrain of “It’s a shame about the blood” may reference the effects of the Howling if the course of time is not altered by Sci-Fi Solider’s Las Vegas performance.

The overarching theme of the set—Truth beyond thought—comes front and center in “Clear Your Mind.” Trey, as Clueless Wallob, tells the audience that this song is very important on Sci-Fi Soldier’s home planet, and that he hopes they will heed its message. With this invocation, he brings the spiritual instructions of the comic book plot to life, asking the audience to clear their mind in order to see the Truth of their unified and limitless existence. This suggestion, though anchored in the fictional narrative, is completely in line with the lyrical motifs of so many of Trey’s modern, spiritually centered compositions. Here is where fiction and reality intersect, as this belief of moving beyond humans’ obsession with thought can simultaneously save both versions—fictional and actual—of 2021’s Earth-in-peril.

(Johnny Dombrowski)

The instrumental of “The 9th Cube” references the quantum model of parallel worlds and how the Sci-Fi soldiers were able to perceive Earth’s destruction and choose a different reality in which they save the planet. This piece hearkens back to a classic Phish sound, as its intricate twists and turns veer from the looser groove-based structures of the songs that precede it.

‘The Inner Reaches of Outer” combines lyrical wordplay with a Brian Eno-inspired sound to craft one of the more delicate and enchanting songs of the set. The inner reaches of outer may be a metaphor for the paradoxical and dualistic nature of human beings—that the deepest part of the individual self is, in fact, nothingness, and part of the greater whole of existence. This idea is also reflected when Blankenstein appears to the soldiers in both “being and not being.”

The conceptual apex of the set comes in the pairing of “Don’t Doubt Me” and “The Unwinding.” “Don’t Doubt Me” conveys the perspective of Holy Blankenstein, while doubling as an exhortation from Clueless Wallob to the Halloween audience. Both the music and the lyrical command to “Un-head the knee!” grow in intensity throughout the set’s centerpiece reaching a furious climax. A passage deep into the piece’s mounting peak brings the set’s theme to a head—

There’s nowhere to be
A far off white light hanging over me
But nothing is changing in the silent cold
Is it lonely?
Is it lonely?
Is it lonely?
Is it lonely?
Not if you un-head the knee!
Is it lonely?
Not if you un-head the knee,
Because then YOU become WE
When you un-head the knee.
Holy Blankenstein!

When the ego-driven obsession with thought is released and one moves beyond the thinking mind into pure consciousness, the illusion of the individual dissolves into the Truth of Oneness—“YOU become WE when you un-head the knee.” Holy Blankenstein, indeed. This is the crux of the set’s philosophy and how Earth is saved.

“The Unwinding,” which follows “Don’t Doubt Me,” represents the dissolution of this illusion. The individual moves through an unwinding of programmed thought and action when they are awakened to the Truth of their connected, unified and infinite existence. No longer is one burdened by the false constructs of self and other, and the experience of life becomes one of harmony and grace. The tranquil quality of this composition as juxtaposed to the intensity of “Don’t Doubt Me” illustrates this transition into human’s natural state of being. Tangentially, the band could really take this song into deep, abstract places as hinted at in this version.

The subsequent track, “Something Living Here” may very well also connect to this transitional process, representing the last vestiges of the dying ego. The repeated line “I twist humor to exist, and, no, I never asked for this” seems to speak from the deconstructed ego trying to hang on in the face of Truth that spells its oblivion. The line “Stuck in the waiting room and I want to go in” might speak to the individual’s natural desire to transcend itself versus the grasp of the egoic mind holding on for survival.

The narrative resolution of the set comes in the penultimate piece—“The Howling.” This revelrous throwdown serves as a celebration of a mission accomplished—the Earth has been saved and The Howling has been averted. The lyric “The Howling—Now it’s starting to feel good!” reveals that the sci-fi soldiers have affected a new reality in which humankind will live as One and the plague of thinking has been cured. Carrying a dance-floor-incinerating “2001”-esque groove, this track seems like it could serve as a staple in Phish’s live repertoire moving forward.

(Johnny Dombrowski)

The set concludes in very Phishy fashion with the almost-a-cappella song “I Am In Miami,” as the futuristic band sings of their return to their home planet of New Miami. Filled with clever wordplay and humor, this piece provides a perfect landing point for the deep, set-long journey through the outer reaches of the galaxy.

Unbeknownst to anyone, the music of 2021 has been pointing to the Halloween set since day one. Trey’s new guitar tones, Page’s synthesizers, Fishman’s voice samples—these were all stylistic building blocks of Sci-Fi Soldier’s sound, and Phish, simultaneously, used these elements to reinvent its post-pandemic sonic path. The creation of the set and the preparation for its performance pushed the band outside of their conventions and served at a catalyst for Phish’s most adventurous and successful year in a long, long time. In fact, this past fall tour is my personal favorite run of Phish since the late-‘90’s, but that’s another conversation for another day.

When the lights came up after the Halloween set I was in sheer disbelief. My first thought was, “That was the greatest thing of all-time.” Now, several weeks and many re-listens later, that thought has not changed one iota. It was, in fact, the greatest thing of all-time. Integrating every element of Phish’s artistic genius into a unified and fully realized, conceptual package, the Sci-Fi Soldier set marks a new creative high point for the ever-evolving, humanoid phenoms. The band met the moment with comprehensive mastery, flawlessly showcasing their multilayered production despite the countless variables within live music and performance art. But beneath the amazing music, persistent comedy, and visual effects of Sci Fi Soldier, there exists beautiful and universal Truth, Truth that both bands—fictional and real—hope we, their audience, will heed. Through an elaborate science fiction framework, Phish elegantly constructs a spiritual allegory, breaking new conceptual ground with their Halloween creation. The result was truly something to behold—an unparalleled performance that will go down in Phish lore and be talked about until 4680 and beyond.

(Johnny Dombrowski)

Phish has made a career out of one-upping themselves time and time over, and with Sci-Fi Solidier, they just did it again. To close a mind-bending fall tour, the band performed their most ambitious, multi-faceted and outright brilliant Halloween set of their lives. Sci-Fi Soldier is a work of utter genius—a profound piece of spiritual …

Holy Blankenstein: Spirituality in Sci-Fi Soldier Read More »

Chase Center 10/17/21 (Scott Jones)

The ethos of Phish music has always been connected to the divine. Trey has spoken at length throughout his career about attaining a musical proficiency in which the band can get out of the way and become invisible, allowing the music to pass through them and speak for itself. In a 1994 interview with Steve Silberman, he explained this point of view:

The way I look at it is like being a filter. The music exists in the universe, and if you’re lucky enough, or strong enough, to get your ego out of the way, the music comes through you. The audience that we have is open to that. They understand that conversational transfer of energy. Their being open to it makes it easier for the energy to pass through.

This dynamic has provided Phish and their fans countless spiritual experiences over the past 38 years. It is this very magic that motivates us to go to so many shows—the feeling of transcending ourselves and tapping into mysteries far bigger that any one of us. These experiences provide the goosebumps when thinking back on those powerful moments that have colored our lives so vibrantly for so many years.

I could create an endless laundry list of these special instances, but Sunday night took things to an entirely different level. Though ritual is part and parcel of the Phish experience, the solemn rite they invoked in Sunday’s second set cut to the core of life and eternal existence. What took place was profound beyond words, but language is our medium of communication, so I will attempt to use words to point to the truth that unfolded.

As everyone knows by now, towards the end of Sunday’s first set a man jumped from the upper deck at Chase Center and fell over a 100 feet to his death. Some saw it happen, some found out at setbreak, and others not until after the show. I found out at setbreak—about ten minutes before the show was set to resume. Naturally, it shook me up. First I was startled, then I was scared, and then I was sad. I wasn’t sure what to make of such a tragedy amidst a place of pure joy. But Phish was about to step on the stage. What was even going to happen? What was supposed to happen? I had no idea. I felt confused. But I decided that my only choice was to embrace the reality of what transpired, let go, and give myself over completely to the experience of what was to come.

As the lights dropped, the band opened with “Evolve,” Trey’s pandemic-scribed composition that details the beginning of time and the creation of the universe. Told from the perspective of the divine creator, the lyrical couplet that concludes the song details the entrance of human beings into the cosmos and their struggle with earthly entanglements that are ultimately insignificant in the face of the eternal truth—

Then came the people with problems and hope
That don’t mean a thing, if they just knew the scope.


Upon the conclusion of the song, Trey started up “Set Your Soul Free,” a song about the spiritual unity of all beings and the liberation of the soul from the body. As this jam progressed, it moved from an upbeat space to a dark, heavy and abstract sonic realm. In my silent and thoughtless meditative state, an understanding emerged from within—this music represented the transitional, intermediary state that souls navigate between this dimension of life and the next dimension of existence after death. All faiths describe this liminal stage in different ways—Buddhists speak of the Bardo, Islam calls it Barzakh, Christianity espouses Purgatory. This complex and amorphous musical path narrated the transmigration of Sunday’s departed soul as it passed through the realm between worlds moving towards the hereafter.

The band came out of this incredibly deep musical passage into “Wingsuit,” a metaphor for the soul’s elevation out of the Bardo and into eternity.

Nothing lasts, nothing stays…
What’s old is gone…

And gliding away, you fly where you choose
There’s nothing to say and nothing to lose.

These words describe the ephemeral nature of life on earth and the truth of the beyond. There is nothing to lose—we are infinite beings whose consciousness exits in human form for only a brief blip of time and upon transitioning, re-merges with the One energy from which we all came. This staggeringly powerful rendition of “Wingsuit” musically ushered the departed soul from this realm into the next. Encompassed in awe at the sacrament at hand, I was brought to the brink of tears by the moment’s undeniable consecration as Phish transformed tragedy into ceremony.

Upon the soul’s elevation into eternity, the band broke into “Chalk Dust Torture,” a song in which the lyrical refrain of “Can’t I live while I’m young?” celebrates the very essence of life itself. And where the band took this jam provided the final step on the soul’s transitional arc. The music built into an extended, celebratory and uplifting excursion that depicted the arrival of the departed soul into the never-ending bliss of infinite existence—or in western terms—heaven. The heaviness of this set-long metaphysical journey arrived in deliverance—a liberation into the dimension of purity and truth, our eternal home steeped in serenity and wonder.

The mystic communion that transpired during Sunday night’s set was on an entirely different level than anything that has ever happened at a Phish show. This was so much more than music. This was about divine light that lives within us all. This light is what the essence of Phish has always been about, but never had it come so face to face with an actual event in which a soul moved through the stages of existence in the presence of, and to the knowledge of, the band and so many in attendance. With their performance, Phish musically communed with the departed soul present in the room, shepherding it on its inter-dimensional journey into infinity.

Death is a sad occurrence on the earthly plane because no longer can people enjoy that particular soul in human form. But death is also the most beautiful part of life—a soul’s transition into everlasting bliss. Phish’s willingness to embrace a tragedy and take part in this transcendental process was the most awe-inspiring event I have witnessed, and it brought my esteem for the band and their role as conduits between us and the divine into a whole new domain of reverence.

The ethos of Phish music has always been connected to the divine. Trey has spoken at length throughout his career about attaining a musical proficiency in which the band can get out of the way and become invisible, allowing the music to pass through them and speak for itself. In a 1994 interview with Steve …

A Spirit Family Read More »

Atlantic City [Jake Silco via Phish]

That was a complete fucking blowout. Phish dropped the gauntlet on Sunday night in AC, staging a two-set musical showcase that put a indelible exclamation point on their first tour since Fall 2019. Carrying serious momentum from note one and strewn with improv from start to finish, Sunday night’s show was truly a night to remember. Played with purpose with two beautifully flowing sets of music, the tour closer on the beach illustrated what can happen when all the elements of a show fall into place. This night brought a crescendo to the weekend in in the beach, as Phish appears to be in a superb place as they look towards a brief leg two of summer and a longer fall tour down the road.

The centerpiece of Sunday’s show was the exquisitely flowing fifty-minute suite that kicked off the second set—“Carini > Set Your Soul Free > Beneath a Sea of Stars > Piper -> Carini.” The improv within these jams naturally moved from one to another, covering a vast amount of diverse musical ground. “Carini’s” jam ignited this run with a soaring trajectory, quickly modulating into an uplifting and celebratory plane. The interplay of Trey’s clean, sky-scraping melodies and Page’s triumphant grand piano work led Phish through this promised land. Following its peak, Trey smoothly switched guitar tones, and the rest of the band seamlessly followed him into a more modern section of music characterized by their Summer ’21 sound.

 “Set Your Soul Free” featured shreddy, atonal guitar leads laid over a swing beat from Fishman, that created a musical juxtaposition with the mellifluous “Carini” jam. Phish deconstructed the second piece of this improvisational puzzle towards its end, blending its quiet conclusion into “Beneath a Sea of Stars.” Throughout their career, Phish has always been masters at playing to their environment and this selection provided a lustrous example of this phenomenon. The delicate centerpiece of  Trey’s “Ghosts of the Forest” project fit perfectly on the beach, and even its lyrics, “The lights are flashing and the waves are crashing” depicted the boardwalk and the ocean that lined the two sides of the venue. This gentle passage provided a mellow interlude in the larger musical statement while keeping the improvisational vibes flowing.

However, the most forward-looking highlight of this extended combination began as Phish melted from “Sea of Stars” into “Piper.” Quickly building out of the song’s lyrical opening, the band crafted a high-intensity excursion into a dark, avant-garde frontier. This piece represents experimental Phish at its finest. Peppered with modern tones from Trey, Mike and Page, the jam was driven by Fishman’s uptempo, crash-cymbal-heavy rhythms. But when he subtly slipped into a groove adding a backbeat to his work, the music transformed into some abstract, psychotic Phish grooves—inject this stuff into my veins! The band wrapped up this musical package when Trey smoothly offered the “Carini” lick into this menacing mixture, and the band smoothly segued back into the set opener, completing a spectacular run of a multi-stage musical drama.

Phish continued with “Waves,” the third ocean-themed song in a row, but arguably added one too many songs to the end of the set, wedging “Simple” and “About to Run” in before “First Tube” closed the frame with vibes on high. Perhaps they could have eliminated “About to Run” and jammed “Waves” into “Simple,” adding a bit more cohesion to the back end of the set, but even as it stood, it was all but perfect.

And nothing could be finer than a “Fluffhead” encore, a choice that encapsulated the feeling of the entire evening.

Once again, the band absolutely crushed the opening set of the show, a trend of which I just can’t get enough. It seemed as though Trey wanted a d0-over for Saturday night’s botched version as he started the intro to “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” but as the song hit a point of transition, he faked everyone out by splashing into “Moma Dance,” immediately electrifying the show. Extending the funk number into an earnest, out-of-structure improvisation, Phish had clearly come to play in their concluding show of tour. “Moma’s” jam segued into “The Final Hurrah, before a nasty, mid-set “Mike’s Song” brought the second legitimate highlight of the night. This trio of songs comprised almost 35 minutes of standout, dance-based Phish‚ and the show had just started. And to close out this monster opening frame—”You Enjoy Myself.” A dead mint first set through and through.

I really hope that this Atlantic City beach party becomes a bi-annual affair, as the set up is just perfect and very hassle free. The sound is great throughout the massive venue and it seems that everyone found a spot that they liked. It really worked out great from all aspects.

And thus concludes leg one of Summer 2021. What a run it has been! When Phish announced this summer tour, I really hoped they would come out with a new sound to their improvisation. I had felt that 2019 had grown somewhat stagnant and they needed some sort of sonic shift to keep things moving forward—and, boy, did they bring one! The band sounds refreshed and rejuvenated from their forced time off and the rest of the year—pandemic provided—looks to contain quite a lot of musical adventure. Phish is back to pushing the envelope with fresh-sounding jams and breaking ground with experimental interplay—and this, my friends, is how we like IT.

I. The Landlady, Scents and Subtle Sounds > The Moma Dance > The Final Hurrah,  Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, The Sloth, Roggae, Back on the Train, You Enjoy Myself

II. Carini > Set Your Soul Free > Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1 > Piper -> Carini, Waves > Simple > About to Run, First Tube

E. Fluffhead, Backwards Down the Number Line

Atlantic City [Andrea Nusinov]

That was a complete fucking blowout. Phish dropped the gauntlet on Sunday night in AC, staging a two-set musical showcase that put a indelible exclamation point on their first tour since Fall 2019. Carrying serious momentum from note one and strewn with improv from start to finish, Sunday night’s show was truly a night to …

Dancing in a Dream Read More »

Atlantic City [Jake Silco via Phish]

Phish came back to the beach on Saturday night and showcased the exploratory and innovative side of their improvisational game, veering from the groove-centric affair on Friday night. With abstract improvisation dispersed through both halves, Saturday night’s show became a playground of the mind, leading the audience down dark corridors in every major jam. Musical diversity is Phish’s calling card, and tonight they focused their lens firmly on experimental playing.

One of the best developments of this summer has been band’s substantive first sets. It really changes the dynamic of a show when Phish plays two halves of engaging music, and that’s what they did once again on Saturday. The opening set centered on two separate three-song sequences, the first coming right off the bat in the show-opening trio of slow “Llama,” “Tube,” and “Destiny Unbound.” This run ignited the show with a bevy of dance rhythms right off the bat, a trend that wouldn’t continue. The other trifecta that served to deepen the music came in the form of “Reba,” in which Trey unleashed a delectable solo, “Soul Shakedown Party,” and the unquestionable standout of the opening frame, “Split Open and Melt.”

Following up Nashville’s all-timer, Phish uncorked another mind-bending version on Saturday that saw an incredibly patient band cohere to sculpt a hypnotic experiment in sound. Although the band was clearly listening and responding to each other meticulously, the resulting conversation presented as a single piece of abstract art. This jam showcased Phish’s ability to play as a single entity, focusing less on melody and rhythm, but more exclusively on textures and layers that envelop the listener in a fully immersive sonic environment—some truly avant-garde music.

The second set centered on the superb sequence of “Drowned” > “Ghost” that saw Phish craft completely innovative and original jams out of both pieces. The band took The Who’s rock anthem on a wild ride that passed through its rock-based structured outro and modulated through a  melodic segment en route to a churning and mechanical musical space. In this astounding arrival, Trey favored repetition and darker tones in creating a drone-based and meditative mantra.

My favorite excursion of the night came next in an utterly original take on “Ghost.” This jam continued the trance-inducing improvisational vibe of the night, as the band crafted a slow-paced and menacing passage with each band member offering minimalist contributions that created a masterful whole. Fishman’s delicate cymbal work created a shimmering framework to the music, while his drumbeat formed a slow-burning backing groove that kept this piece glued together. And before one even realized what was happening, the band pulled off a seamlessly smooth segue into “Scents and Subtle Sounds.”

At this point in the set, much like when “Everything’s Right” started on Friday, it felt like we were on the verge of an all-time frame of Phish. But as the “Scents” jam started there seemed to be some miscommunication on stage. Even so, the jam was right there for the taking, but instead of righting the ship, Trey quickly grew impatient and bailed out hard into “Chalkdust” in an inexplicably jarring move that completely busted the flow of the set. Honestly, there are few decisions that would have made less sense at this juncture, and Fishman even called him out at the beginning of “Chalkdust” for the debacle.

The ensuing jam in “Chalkdust” actually got quite intricate and interesting, reprising the abstract feel of the “Split” jam from earlier in the show, but it certainly took some mental recalibration to get back into the flow of things. Blending this piece into “No Quarter,” the band recovered from the mid-set hiccup far better than they did on Friday night, continuing the set with high quality musicianship and not derailing into a string of disconnected songs. “Slave” put an exclamation point on the night before “Suzy” tacked on some extra fun to end of the set.

One night is left on the first leg of Phish’s mid-pandemic comeback tour, and the elusive fully flowing, complete set statement of Atlantic City still sits on the horizon. Whether or not it will transpire remains to be seen, but the past two shows have provided a plethora of extraordinary music and a whole lot of fun amidst a massive beach party down the shore. That said, I’m keeping the faith that tomorrow will be the night.

I. Llama, Tube, Destiny Unbound, Ya Mar, 46 Days, Reba, Soul Shakedown Party, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil

II. I Never Needed You Like This Before, Drowned > Ghost -> Scents and Subtle Sounds > Chalk Dust Torture > No Quarter, Slave to the Traffic Light, Suzy Greenberg

E. A Life Beyond The Dream, Tweezer Reprise

Phish came back to the beach on Saturday night and showcased the exploratory and innovative side of their improvisational game, veering from the groove-centric affair on Friday night. With abstract improvisation dispersed through both halves, Saturday night’s show became a playground of the mind, leading the audience down dark corridors in every major jam. Musical …

The In Sound From Way Out Read More »

Get the Book!

Island Run Pins

Recent Posts


Phish News

Miner's Picks


All Right Reserved |

- 2023