We continue our journey up the west coast with tour’s first stop in the state of Washington, not far from the Canadian border. The longest gap between performances for a song played in tonight’s first set is only 3 shows, so buckle in for a set full of tour standards. “Buried Alive” opens the show and sounds a little loose, but the band tightens up by the end of the following “Poor Heart.” Another well-played “Foam” is up next, before the band takes a breather with “Bouncing Around the Room.”
“Divided Sky” anchors the middle of the set and is a solid version. Fishman chooses a washboard for his solo during “I Didn’t Know,” a song appearing earlier in the set than usual. Standard performances of “It’s Ice” and “Sparkle” lead into “Maze,” rounding out a trio of Rift songs. Page’s solo in “Maze” starts more subdued and peaks a little harder than usual, while Trey’s solo sounds fairly standard. Winner of the “Maze” duel is Page tonight. A fast and energetic “Golgi Apparatus” closes the set.
As my concise recap indicates, this is far from the most interesting set of tour. This set is comprised of songs we have been hearing a lot, and the band isn’t doing anything new with them. The band does sound tight for most of the set, but there’s little improvisation to speak of outside the “Maze” solos. The flow of the set is decent, but there’s nothing really to pick out as a clear highlight. Hopefully the second set will deliver more in the way of memorable moments.
“Don’t do anything we wouldn’t do…and we’ll be right back!”
“Runaway Jim” opens up the set on the right foot. Trey delivers a strong, rocking solo to set the energy level high early in the set. “Sample in a Jar” is song two, and the band flubs the the transition into the last chorus. Just like the good old days of February, when the band struggled with the song’s debut! “Uncle Pen” carries us into a particularly good “Llama.” Trey’s solo sounds darker and more intense than in your typical “Llama.” I recommend this performance for fans of the song. It’s delivered at your typical blistering pace.
“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” calms everyone down down after the excitement of “Llama.” This “Horse” is quite long (2:26) and has a lot of Trey noodling on his acoustic guitar. A big Mike’s Groove is next and unquestionably the centerpiece of this set. The “Mike’s” jam starts at 2:38, with Trey joining in at 3:15. After a solid Trey solo they begin the end chords at 4:50. A “Simple”-esque, second jam begins at 5:05. This is initially driven by a melodic, poppy bass line from Mike as Trey just wails away and Page plays dissonant fills. Trey eventually settles on a fast, ascending line that the rest of the band latches on to and builds off of. This leads to a solid peak to this second jam before the end chords come in again at 7:28. This is a good “Mike’s” jam that has a second jam with more purpose and movement than I’m used to hearing.
The jam in “Weekapaug Groove” is standard for about a minute, but around 3:30 Trey begins playing a riff that sounds atypical for “Groove.” The band begins to quiet down at about 4:20 while Trey still leads the direction of the jam with his riffing. This develops into a minimalist, Talking Heads feeling groove by 5:40. They start to experiment and drift away from this theme at 7:00 and and end in an airy, serene passage at 7:50. The jam fades out here almost entirely before the band roars back in with a dissonant, ‘plinko’ groove. There’s a Secret Language signal at 9:45 before Phish crashes back into the “Weekapaug Groove” theme at 10:20. The last refrain of the song is dragged out and altered as the band experiments with their singing of the song’s lyrics. There have been many great “Weekapaugs” on this tour, but on first impression this is one of the best and most creative of the bunch.
A well-played “The Lizards” follows Mike’s Groove and is a perfect coda to a terrific mid-set sequence. “Big Ball Jam” brings us to the Henrietta sequence, tonight featuring “Bike” and an unusually melodic vacuum solo from Fishman. “Chalk Dust Torture” ends the set on a sharp and fun note, and the show comes to a close with an “Amazing Grace” and “Rocky Top” encore.
In the context of this tour, I find most of tonight’s first set (and the beginning of the second) to be fairly unremarkable. The playing is tight, but we have heard these songs a lot and there is little improvisation. However, you can start to hear glimmers beneath the surface with great solos from Trey during “Runaway Jim” and “Llama.” This culminates in one of the best Mike’s Grooves of tour. “Mike’s Song” is nothing too extraordinary, but has a more purposeful second jam than usual, while “Weekapaug” is very creative, type-II, and the clear improvisational highlight of the evening. I would recommend this sequence to any Phish fan. That being said, you won’t miss out on much unique playing if you give the rest of the show a pass.
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 61 mins.
- Second set length: 91 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Mt. Baker Theatre.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Bike,” returning after a fourteen show absence (3/16/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (5 songs).