Phish continues to circle around the San Francisco Bay area as we draw towards the close of the long California run. The opening two songs mirror the openings songs of the Crest Theatre show from a couple nights ago: “Chalk Dust Torture” and “Guelah,” a fine one-two opening punch. The “Chalk Dust” has a good energy to it and starts off the night on the right foot. After a couple wild outings “It’s Ice” returns to its standard form and comes back to the first set. “Possum” lets the band open up a bit early on and while Trey restrains himself from outright machine-gun shredding his solo is nevertheless energetic. The band has sounded very tight tonight up to this point. “Bouncing” serves as a pleasant bridge between the high-energy “Possum” and the following “Stash.”
If “Possum” let the band start to open things up, “Stash” is where they blow the door wide open. The jam starts at 4:50 and immediately gets dark with some nasty, chunky riffing from Trey. There’s good comping from Page and Mike to complement this demented vibe. Some great shredding from Trey brings us back to more typical “Stash” territory from 6:40-7:20, however, it gets weird again shortly after this at 7:45. Page really steps up as Trey wails away and starts to fade towards the background. Mike also is essentially playing some leads during this segment. An exhilarating build brings us back to the end theme to “Stash” at 9:40. This is a very good jam that easily makes this one of the best (if not the best) “Stash” of tour to this point! Worth a listen.
Trey dedicates “Glide” to the band’s truck driver and sounds solid, as does the following pair of Rift tunes,”Rift” and “Horn.” “Magilla” gets busted out for the first time in well over a hundred shows and sounds a little rusty due to the time on the shelf, but is nice to hear regardless. “Run Like an Antelope” closes out the set and almost immediately into the intro the band starts up an “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” jam that goes through a full instrumental refrain of the song, much to the crowd’s delight. “Ob-La-Di” will also be teased at the beginning of the jam. As one might expect following a set that has delivered both solid playing and good improvisation, this “Antelope” ends the set with a bang. Trey is clearly ‘on’ at this point, and delivers more thrilling shredding during this jam. The jam doesn’t really build to a peak; the whole jam is a peak itself. The rest of the band manages to keep up with Trey to put a bow on this all-around excellent first set. Between the tight playing throughout, good soloing in “Antelope” and “Possum,” adventurous improv in “Stash,” and good song selection/flow I have exactly zero complaints about the first half of this show.
Set 2 opens with a number of shorter songs: “Axilla > The Curtain > Sample in a Jar” and “Uncle Pen.” “Axilla” kicks up the energy level immediately while “The Curtain” is always a treat. The placement of “Sample” here works well as a landing pad for “Curtain.” As was the case with the first set, all of these songs are tightly played. After this opening sequence we get the real highlight of the set, an extended “Forbin’s > Mockingbird” with “Kung” and “Icculus” sandwiched in there. The narration out of “Forbin’s” begins with Trey telling the audience that the band brought out a “secret, magical glass of wine” on to the stage tonight and that “crazy things start to happen” when the right person takes a sip from the glass. Mike proceeds to take a sip, and the wine causes him to play a “ritualistic ancient riff.” Things get progressively weirder from there as the audience is turned into a “sea of bubbling soda” that eventually turns into a cloud that falls into Gamehendge. This is an entertaining and animated narration, and from here it collapses into “Kung!”
After the chanting of “Kung” you can hear Page start up “Fly Famous Mockingbird” but Trey has different ideas and starts strumming “Icculus” instead. “Icculus” is as gleefully entertaining as it always is (has there ever been an unentertaining “Icculus?”) and culminates with Trey screaming at the audience for a good 30 seconds or so. Similar to how he was during the initial narration, Trey is very lively and animated here. After this wonderful near-half hour of escapism we return to reality with the first “Wedge” in over a month (and the last until August). Despite the time on the shelf the song sounds good and I’m still really digging this initial, Page-heavy arrangement of the song. Mike’s Groove provides the last opportunity for improvisation tonight. “Mike’s Song” continues the trend of sounding tighter as this tour progresses. The “Mike’s Song” jam begins at 2:30 with Trey’s solo beginning at 3:15. His solo, like some from the first set, is very blistering and full of energy. He arrives at the end chords at 5:10 before segueing into the “Simple” riff at 5:30. Instead of this F-key segment turning into sonic anarchy, as it often did at the beginning of the tour, Trey delivers another great solo before the whole band goes into a brief stop/start jam. It’s still a little messy after that, before the end chords return at 8:50, but this is nevertheless a good and (relatively) tight “Mike’s Song.”
The “Weekapaug” jam starts with a Trey-led solo. Fishman mixes up the beat at 3:50 which leads to another brief “Ob-La-Di” tease. Shortly after this the song subdues at 4:50, leading Page to briefly take the spotlight. The jam starts to build again not long after around 6:30 and Trey plays some interesting riffs before taking the jam home with a final, brief solo. The final verse collapses into a brief vocal jam. This “Weekapaug” is not as experimental as some of “Weekapaugs” we have heard recently, and the initial Trey solo leading to a Page-led breakdown before a final Trey solo has become the routine trajectory for the song. This arc for the jam works though and this “Weekapaug” includes the most fun improvisation of the set. I wonder if placing Mike’s Groove at the end of the set, as they have done the last couple shows it has appeared, instead of in the middle of the set, causes them to keep “Weekapaug” on a bit of a shorter leash. A well-played “Golgi” ends a second set that lacks an appearance from Henrietta. “My Sweet One” starts off the triple encore and goes right into a “Big Ball Jam.” Playing this in the encore seems a bit strange to me. Between the lack of Henrietta in the second set and the big balls coming out in the encore I feel like the band probably went off script during the second set. A quick “Sweet Adeline” sends the audience home.
Outside of the famed Gamehendge show this is certainly one of the best California shows so far. The first set is all-around excellent and has perhaps the best “Stash” of tour to date. The second set has a very entertaining Gamehendge narration that includes “Kung” and an always-entertaining bust-out of “Icculus.” I gave this show a 4 instead of a 5 because I felt the second set lacked really memorable improvisation. However, the playing tonight is spot-on throughout and the show is entertaining from top to bottom.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Stash,” “Run Like an Antelope,” “Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Kung > Icculus > Fly Famous Mockingbird,” Mike’s Groove
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 76 mins.
- Second set length: 86 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Icculus,” returning after a one hundred and nineteen show absence (5/2/92).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).