Tonight’s show, in Austin TX (the “live music capital of the world”), opens with “Llama.” The tape fades in a good minute into the song, so if any opening banter occurred it has been lost to the sands of time. The band sounds good but not perfect, perhaps a little looser than the last show. This continues with the next song, “Horn,” which I always consider a treat to hear (I believe it has one of Trey’s better composed solos). “Horn” drops into “The Curtain,” which is also of course always welcome in a setlist (I think I’ll have more agreement here than with “Horn”). The looseness from early in the show sounds tightened up by now and both “Curtain” and the following “Split Open and Melt” sound great. “Split” sticks to the same standard performance that has typified the song this tour, though Trey’s solo at the end does have a good energy to it. Up next is “Mound,” the first of three Mike songs this evening, and “Punch You in the Eye.” I like the pairing of these songs; the plodding blues feel of “Mound” pairs nicely with the uptempo funk of the “Punch” intro.
“Bouncing” provides a pleasant bridge to “Maze.” Page’s solo here is good; so is Trey’s. Neither is notably face-melting. This “Maze” duel is thus a draw. A quick “Golgi” leads to the set-closing “Runaway Jim,” which like so much from this set, sounds good despite not being particularly memorable. This first set feels like a small step-down from some of the great first sets from the last couple weeks but there’s nothing bad about it either. None of the songs clock in at over 10 minutes, so there’s not any real exploration or experimentation here. Outside of “Split” there’s also not anything that’s super high energy; I’m sure “Maze” was fun in the moment but there has been better performances of the song recently. The set is also short as a whole, barely cracking one hour. It’s an average first set in every sense of the word ‘average’, though enjoyable enough (as average Phish sets are). Hopefully the second half will have more of a spark to it.
“Rift” opens set 2, occupying it’s familiar opening role, and serves as a fitting prelude both musically and conceptually to “Tweezer.” The “Tweezer” jam starts at 4:30 with Trey latching on to a repetitive and slightly dissonant ‘slide’ riff (playing one note then sliding his hand down the fretboard). This goes on until about 6:20 where he starts a more traditional solo, though he reprises the slide riff throughout the jam. An even more dissonant and tense segment starts by 7:30. They finally break out of the tension for a short peak around 9:45 but transition into the composed ending quickly at 10:15. It’s not a bad “Tweezer” but a more elongated and celebratory peak after the many minutes of building tension would have helped push this into ‘great’ territory.
…but perhaps they were saving the celebration for the following “Reba.” The composed segment sounds tight tonight and the jam starts at 6:30 (as it pretty much always does, I think I’ll stop notating this). This is easily the most melodic Trey solo of the night with many sharp runs, and it really picks up steam by 9:00 for a solid peak. It’s nothing unusual for “Rebas” from this tour, but it’s still a well-played “Reba” during a time when this song really shined. That’s enough for it to be a highlight of the night for me. “Paul and Silas” gives Page a moment to shine in the spotlight (he has seemed a little subdued tonight to me) and leads straight into an earlier than normal “Big Ball Jam.” After these two very quick songs the following “Fast Enough for You” provides a nice breather. The band has done a good job of placing this song in setlists during this tour (I suppose Trey gets the credit for that as the setlist writer).
“You Enjoy Myself” anchors the middle of the set. Page’s solo here doesn’t do much for me and is easily overshadowed by Trey’s. Sorry Page, but it sounds like you had a bit of an off-night tonight. Trey latches onto a fun, funky riff early on in his solo around 11:40 that injects some life into this “YEM.” This quickly leads into a exciting peak a couple quick minutes later at 13:50. Page is not totally out for the count and provides some really good and somewhat unusual comping underneath this peak. The bass and drums segment is short tonight, as usual, but is at least nice and funky. Overall, a solid if not very memorable “YEM.” The Henrietta segment is next and features “Cracklin’ Rosie” tonight. Fishman starts screaming during “Rosie” – something about “FUCK THE HORNS!” and something else I couldn’t quite decipher. “Big Black Furry Creatures from Mars” closes the set; a slot for this song that I still don’t understand, but the band keeps playing it here so clearly they get something out of it.
“Sweet Adeline” starts a triple-encore (no “Amazing Grace” tonight!) and contains some hilarious banter from the crowd. Audible on my recording is a lady yelling “goddamn barbershop quartet, I cant’ take this right now!” A man responds unintelligibly and the lady replies by saying “Want to take this outside? I may look short but I’m strong…” Phish: inspiring barroom brawls since 1993. “Poor Heart” makes its requisite appearance, and the night ends with “Tweeprise.” Not a whole lot stood out to me from this show. The first set feels like a bit of a step down from some of the really well crafted first sets recently, Page’s solos didn’t do much for me, and there’s not much unusual improvisation to speak of. Nevertheless the band sounds decently tight throughout and both the “YEM” and “Reba” in the second set and the “Split” in the first set are solid, representative renditions of these songs.
Unfortunately no source circulates of the the next show in New Mexico on the 8th. This is a shame for it looks like a fun one; Phish.net tells us that there is a rare “Oh Kee Pah Ceremony” and a “Forbin’s > Mockingbird > How High the Moon > Mockingbird” sequence in the first set and a second set “Kung” sandwiched between “My Friend, My Friend” and “YEM.” Maybe Kevin Shapiro will throw us a bone and release an official recording of this show in the future (assuming such a source exists), and if that occurs, I’ll certainly come back and do a write-up of it. Otherwise I’ll talk to you again on the 9th when Phish returns to Colorado!
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Reba”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: ~61 mins.
- Second set length: 83 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at Liberty Lunch, though the band was scheduled to perform a show here in 1991 that was canceled.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Cracklin’ Rosie,” returning after a nine show absence (2/21/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).