Phish’s 2015 summer tour finally kicked off last night in the northwest with an early 6pm ticket time. This year’s tour is starting later than normal due to Trey participating in the Fare Thee Well concerts earlier this season. The first show of the two night stand boasted a polished Trey, and a tight band. The concert brought with it three Phish debuts among a variety of Phish songs of every era, the only cover being Boogie On.
Starting with the Sample in a Jar, the band exhibited a clearly laid-back tempo and tone, everyone contributing evenly and thoughtfully. During the 10-minute Sand in the two-hole, Trey played with different creative licks although the song never ventured too far away from its standard structure. 555 played perfectly to the sun-drenched West Coast vibe of the crowd and after a few well played standards the band started with their first debut, “Blaze On”. The eight-minute song features rolling drums, which reminded me of Party Time and some lyrics that, on first listen, are arguably cheesy but catchy and fun nonetheless. A standard, relatively short, but solid Wolfman’s Brother closed the first set before opening the second half with Ghost.
Ghost started slow and purposeful. The band, even before the lyrics, sounded patient and powerful. Exiting the composed section, Trey and Page were locked in perfectly with the rhythm of the song but the solid jam ended up not going too far before entering a raging Birds of a Feather.
“The Birds” from last Halloween was sampled immediately entering the song, met with roaring cheers. This version might be one of the strongest versions of the song in 3.0 in fact. In the current era, Trey seems to play the song sloppy and screechy through many of the faster parts, this time, Trey nails the quick parts and the short jam explodes into a frantic and exciting rock jam.
The mid-second-set Mike’s Song started with quite a menacing tone. Like a lot of the other songs earlier in the night, the playing was, again, powerful–powerful as in, they all were locked in well, they all were properly prominent when needed, and every note was well placed (looks at Trey). Mike’s was short lived though and awkwardly transitions into The Wedge before moving into an 11-minute Fuego that, once it settled down, bled into another Phish debut, “Shade”.
Shade is a piano-led Trey ballad which is another love song that Trey struggles to sing. Once Shade passed, another debut immediately started up, “No Men in No Man’s Land” which is the favorite of my three. The up-beat, throbbing, poppy sound forces people to move and it has goofy lyrics that only a Phish fan can appreciate. The jam offers easy access to ‘plinko’-style rock jamming which very well means this could be the big jam song and, unlike Fuego, it doesn’t take 7-minutes before the improv starts. In fact, I’d compare it more to the improv that Tube sets up–buuuut, let’s not get too excited just yet.
“No Men” popped nicely into Weekapaug. Trey played some licks out of the lyrics that almost sounded like a Lynyrd Skynyrd song almost, licks that the band worked around until they reached the traditional Weekapaug jam peak. After the short Boogie On, the band flipped threw setlist structure to the wind and closed with an energetic CDT. One thing to note of the encore, Theme, was that Trey interjected one of those Skynyrd-sounding licks again–almost a version of Sweet Home Alabama. The lick is quick and might go unnoticed unless you are paying attention to them entering the jam portion of the song. Is this just me hearing it?
While there were no standout jams, I found this tour debut very exciting for a couple reasons. First, I think the playing was very well-polished for the first show in over seven months, I also think you can pick out the influence of practicing with Dead songs for months straight on Trey with some of his licks, patience, and note placement. The debuts are exciting to hear, especially No Men in No Man’s Land–I hope they drop more tonight and in shows to come.
Let’s see what night two brings!