One of the pervading themes of Phish’s opening half of summer tour has been rain. For the past week, it seems like we’ve been walking out of shows soaking wet wearing shit eating grins just about every night, and Wednesday in Alpharetta was no exception. The rain came early and often, drenching the lawn-goers while blowing into the sides of the pavilion taboot. The band met the weather with yet another great second set—not to mention a solid first—that flowed from start to finish with no discernible lulls. Centered on the sequence “Energy -> Fluffhead -> Piper,” the band played a fast-paced second set that also featured a nod to the inclement weather in “Drowned -> Water in the Sky,” and a late-set dance party with teeth in the form of “2001 > Mike’s > Wedge -> Weekapaug.” With an opening frame that far outshone yesterday’s snoozer, the second night of Alpharetta balanced the grittier throwdown of the first with a quirky show that offered quite a lot.
Though the musical highlight of the night emerged in “Piper’s” dark and demented tale, the biggest take away of the show came in the return of “Energy” smack dab in the middle of the second set. The band hadn’t touched the cover since its well-received debut at SPAC, but it was only a matter of time before the song reared its head again—and this time, as suspected, it carried a new school jam in tow! Trey added a lyrical refrain of “Electricity” as the band vamped over the songs chords and drifted into uncharted waters for the first time ever. It’s been a moment since Phish has kicked down a new jam vehicle, and this one seems to have some legs. Progressing out of the song’s feel into a fast-paced groove, it wasn’t long before Trey was hitting his wah pedal and painting the textures with his signature sound. But aside from the jam, itself, simply dancing to a new palette of Phish music was pure joy.
And as the band brought the jam to an ambient close, they coyly slipped into a “Fluffhead.” It had been ages since I enjoyed “Fluffhead” as much as I did last night. Despite a few struggles on Red’s behalf, the placement of and transition into the anthem was superb, and above all else, it was only the first version of summer. Phish had all but beaten a dead horse for the years of 2009-2011, playing “Fluffhead” far too often for any 15 minute composition, but this time it just felt right. Continuing their summer of segues, as the guys wound down “Fluff,” they never got to the very end, instead slipping into a “Piper” that would soon explode. This tour, “Piper” has been used as a cathartic vehicle, but at Alpharetta, the band took the jam in the opposite direction, entering into a lair of dissonance and layered effects. You hate to see the band get stuck in ruts, thus, it was great to see them flip the script on “Piper” this go round, keeping things fresh and unpredictable. Without having respun the show, I can’t go much further into a description of the jam, but if someone could only listen to one track from this show, “Piper” would be my nominee.
“Drowned” hit a few nice places before segueing into “Water in the Sky,” a pairing that I thought—momentarily—would be followed by “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” and “Waves” in a nautical homage, but the band choose a different route. Phish closed the set with another dynamic “Mike’s Groove,” this time pairing “2001” with “Mike’s” in a classic combo that we haven’t seen in a minute. Each piece saw the attention it deserved, if not a bit more succinct than Merriweather’s versions. This time, the band slipped in “The Wedge” to bridge “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug,” including a surprise transition into “Weekapaug,” further cementing Summer 2013 as the tour that the band relearned segues.
The final piece of note to this show was the debut of Trey’s “Frost” in the first set. Translating gorgeously to the Phish setting, “Frost” is now waiting to be placed deep in the second set out of a long jam. I really dig this one and think it could be a fixture in the Phish universe from here on out. Beyond “Frost,” the first set contained some spunky dance numbers at the top set in “Moma,” “Funky Bitch” and “Gumbo,” but slowed a bit from there. “Guyute” sounded fresh and spot on in its only appearance of tour.
Phish has now put the east coast behind them sets their targets on Northerly Island in Chicago, a new venue that has received less than stellar reviews by other fan bases. Hopefully the venue has fixed things up as they claim they have, because there are a lot of Midwesterners who will be tasting Phish 2013 for the first time of of summer. And as Frank the Tank said, “It’s so good when it hits your lips!”
I: Runaway Jim > The Moma Dance, Funky Bitch, Divided Sky, Gumbo, Nellie Kane, Frost*, Alaska, Guyute, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Suzy Greenberg
II: Punch You In the Eye > Drowned -> Water in the Sky, Energy -> Fluffhead -> Piper > Fast Enough for You > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Mike’s Song > The Wedge ->Weekapaug Groove
E: Quinn the Eskimo