We’re only about halfway through March, but tonight marks the beginning of Phish’s long California run that will last for essentially the rest of the month. This is the band’s first two-night stand since New Orleans, so here’s to hoping that the break from travel will help them settle in and dig deep. “Landlady” opens the show and sounds good, though the abrupt transition at the end of the song into “Runaway Jim” is a tad jarring. Audio issues crop up by the end of “Jim,” with loud distortion audible over the recording. At first I thought it was just an issue with the tape but technical difficulties will become a theme of this set. “Foam” is up next and the band sounds tight. Their playing has definitely been rock solid so far. However, audio issues strike again and there’s a lot of feedback and noise throughout “Foam.” “Bouncing” bridges us to “Stash” and here technical difficulties threaten to derail the song entirely. There’s a false start and Trey tells the crowd they’re going to start again so that they can “play together.” Trey’s mic seems to cut out at the beginning of the first verse, cutting him off mid-line. It’s a rocky start to the song. Understandably, they don’t experiment much within the “Stash” jam or drag it out. The jam begins at 5:45 and there’s some great shredding from Trey at 7:45 but from there they head towards the end of the song.
Following the issues in “Stash” Trey tells the audience they need to take a break to deal with some “minor technical difficulties,” leading to a rare mid-first set “Amazing Grace” that is barely audible on this tape. Thankfully, the Phish crew is able to work some magic during this break and the audio issues greatly subside for the rest of the set. “Paul and Silas” leads right into a well-played “It’s Ice” that has some unusual scratching/wailing during the ‘underwater’ segment of the song. The somewhat rare “Oh Kee Pah Ceremony” leads into a standard “Suzy Greenberg,” and “Run Like an Antelope” closes out the set. There’s a great dissonant segment in this “Antelope” from about 5:45-7:00, where the band works towards the standard end of the jam. We got a brief hint of it in “Jim,” but Trey is in full-on shred mode for the last couple minutes of this jam. It’s not a particularly unique “Antelope” but it’s full of energy and easily the highlight of the set.
Overall this first set is hard to recommend; audio issues definitely detract from the listening experience, it’s a fairly average setlist, and the band doesn’t engage in much experimentation or improvisation. That being said the band is definitely playing their songs well and the set ends on a high note with “Antelope,” so the second set could easily turn this narrative around.
Set 2 opens with a fun pairing of “Axilla > Glide” that gets the crowd back into the groove. I’m happy to report that the sound issues plaguing the first set do not appear again in the second (though it’s not the greatest mix of tour), and the relatively tight playing from the first set continues through the end of the show. “Reba” is up next and has a very good jam. The improvisation follows the standard progression but it feels less rushed than some “Reba” jams from this tour have sounded and develops over a full five minutes. There’s no whistling segment tonight and instead the band slides into the cool groove of “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” which I believe is only the second performance of this song on this tour. It’s a fun performance with a lot of great soloing, particularly from Page. The ‘master of the boards’ also goes all out with hamming up the lyrics.
“Mound” sounds a tad sloppier than normal, especially from 3:50 onwards, but it’s nothing too jarring. The “Mike’s Song” jam starts at 2:40 and has interesting transition chords around 5:35 instead of the more typical F-key switch. This leads to an interesting segment where Trey is playing rather blissful melodies while the rest of the band is stuck in the more typically dissonant “Mike’s” jam groove. It’s a cool moment but it doesn’t last rather long. There’s some good shredding from Trey before they hit a peak at 7:10, and from there they head into the end chords at 7:30. This is a good Mike’s song, which is not something I have been saying very often on this tour! It sounds less disjointed than normal and I really like that middle segment, brief as it may be. “Hydrogen” sounds mostly fine tonight though there are some minor timing issues.
The “Weekapaug” jam follows a progression that has become increasingly common; about a minute or two into the jam the rest of the band quiets down and lets Page take the spotlight. There’s a couple minutes of great soloing from him before Trey starts to shred at about 5:45. Trey then leads the band into a brief “Heartbreaker” jam and then a much longer and more full-band “Lively Up Yourself” jam, a song I’m not too familiar with. This is fun and all but I prefer open-ended improvisation to silly teases, so unless you’re really into these songs you’ll probably be like me and not find it as interesting as some of the more experimental”Weekapaugs” they have been playing as of late. “The Horse > Silent in the Morning” provides a breather after the craziness of Mike’s Groove (Trey’s acoustic playing during “Horse” is rather hard to hear on tonight’s recording).
Phish (or at least Fishman) must have had fun with the debut of “Great Gig in the Sky” just a few nights ago, for we get a reprise performance tonight in the middle of the Henrietta segment. Fishman’s vacuum solo at the end of the song is rather long, and the crowd is dead silent as he ‘plays’, so the rest of the band perhaps mercifully forces the return to “Hold Your Head Up” before he has finished. “Golgi Apparatus” is the lone post-Henrietta song of the set. “Sweet Adeline” (which is very hard to hear) and a quick “Rocky Top” close out the show.
This show is far from essential listening, as far this tour goes. The first set is plagued by sound issues, the mix throughout the show is not the greatest, and the show is light on antics and significant improvisation. Nevertheless, besides for a few minor flubs here and there the band sounds tight throughout the show, and there’s a couple of bright spots with “Antelope,” “Reba,” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago.” “Mike’s Song” also continues to improve. Hopefully having settled into the venue tonight, and with the sound issues behind them, we’ll hear a bit more craziness from the band tomorrow night!
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Run Like an Antelope,” “Reba,” “Jesus Just Left Chicago”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 66 mins.
- Second set length: 85 mins.
- This is the first time Phish performed at The Palace. They will return tomorrow night.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” returning after an eight show absence (3/5/93).
- The best represented studio albums are Rift and Lawn Boy (4 songs).