After our long journey around the continental United States, we finally find ourselves back in the familiar confines of the northeast. The band last played a show in the state of New York on February 12th. Tonights’ show brings us to a gymnasium at Colgate University. The show opens with the same trio of songs that opened the 4/20 show in Columbus: “Runaway Jim > Weigh > Sparkle.” The “Jim” features a good solo from Trey that builds to a solid peak, making for a strong start to the show. “Split Open and Melt” follows this sequence, making its first appearance since the wild 4/20 performance. While not quite as experimental as that outing, the band has clearly learned a new approach for this song. The jam starts at 4:12, and once again the band locks into fast Trey riffing to break somewhat from the song’s structure into a more open jam space. This isn’t quite ‘type-II’ jamming as much as carving out more space within the song’s structure to work with. There’s an intense, Trey-led passage from 6:00 to around 7:00 that is thrilling. This works into a strong peak with lots of guitar heroics from Trey, as the rest of the band barrels towards the end of the song from 7:45-9:00. Again, this “Melt” isn’t the revelation the 4/20 version was, but it’s another good outing that features some intense jamming.
The next half-hour of the set shows the band working through some of their through-composed, complex songs with a “Fluffhead, My Friend My Friend > Divided Sky” sequence. It’s all well-played and nice to hear, but there’s nothing too memorable about these specific performance (“My Friend” does not have much of an extended outro tonight). “Guelah Papyrus” makes an unusual late-set appearance before a nice and relaxed “Lawn Boy” that is dedicated to Fish’s parents, who are in attendance tonight. “Chalk Dust Torture” makes its third appearance in four shows to end the set on a rocking note. Overall, I certainly wouldn’t name this as one of my favorite first sets of tour. It’s still a solid set though. The “Melt” is intense and encouraging, because it shows the band building on the breakthrough the song had on its last outing. The rest of the set is well-played, though not particularly notable.
Set 2 opens with “Golgi Apparatus” before an early second set “Maze;” not a first for “Maze” on this tour. There’s nothing experimental here, but it’s a fun “Maze” with good solos from both Page and Trey. I think Trey wins the duel tonight; his solo builds to a very satisfying peak. I’m not a big fan of “The Ballad of Curits Lowe,” which follows “Maze,” but it works well here as a nice, poignant ballad following a couple of intense solos. “Curtis” also adds some freshness to the setlist, as only the second performance of the song on this tour.
“It’s Ice” is next and is an interesting performance tonight. The underwater segment is very extended, from 5:00 to 6:15, and features only sparse Page ambience over the tick-tock beat. Then from 6:15 – 6:45 I can’t tell if they go into a full band jam of sorts to transition out of the underwater segment of if someone just screws up (Fishman changes beat too early or Trey messes up his run?). Either way, they’re back on track to the ending at 6:45 and the rest of the song sounds good. “Paul and Silas” works well coming out of “Ice” as a straightforward bluegrass counterpoint to the eccentricity of “Ice.” I’m enjoying the yin/yang flow of this set.
“Big Ball Jam” brings us to the night’s Mike’s Groove, the clear highlight of the night. The first jam in “Mike’s Song” emerges into a dissonant groove from 3:20 through 4:30 that’s led by ‘plinko’-esque riffing from Trey. This develops into a very rocking peak before the end chords come in at 5:05. A second jam starts at 5:30, this time not centered around the riff that will become “Simple.” The second jam is its typically chaotic self, and builds on the tension of the first jam. The second set of end chords come in at 8:10 to end the song. The second jam is typical, but I really enjoyed the first jam tonight and found it more interesting than most.
“Hydrogen” bridges us into “Weekapaug Groove.” The “Weekapaug” jam starts at 1:20 and goes into an upbeat, driving ‘bliss’ jam at 2:45. This sets the mood for the rest of the jam. They snap back into the “Weekapaug” theme at 3:30 for a Trey solo. After some brief ‘hose’ playing from Trey the jam gets sparse and jazzy at 4:30. This segment builds slowly into more full-on, celebratory soloing from Trey at 7:20 that takes the jam almost fully into ‘type-II’ territory. A stop/start jam at 10:15 brings us back into a sparse take on the “Weekapaug” verse to end the song. This is a great “Weekapaug” jam, and while there have been many great “Weekapaugs” on this tour, this one stands out by being great in a different way. It’s rare to hear Trey unleashing such melodic and upbeat solos for as long as he does here outside of “Reba.”
The Henrietta segment follows Mike’s Groove, and Fishman’s mom Mimi comes out for the vacuum solo during “Lengthwise.” Fishman notes that “Lengthwise” is “not necessarily dedicated to my mom” then mumbles “…it’s dedicated to someone else.” Thanks for clarifying, Fish. After Mimi’s first vacuum solo, Fishman instructs her to “keep blowing Mom,” and she has at it for a while. A pleasant “Squirming Coil” and the arena rock romp of “Highway to Hell” ends the set. “Highway” seems to have returned to a regular rotation after its big bust-out in Iowa. A similarly rocking “Fire” is the lone encore.
Similar to last night and some other recent shows, the second set is what I found to be most exciting tonight. The Mike’s Groove is top-notch, with a very blissful and almost fully type-II “Weekapaug Groove.” The flow of the set is also great, and features fresh setlist choices like “Curtis Loew,” “Highway to Hell,” and “Fire.” The first set, while not as memorable, does have a great “Split Open and Melt” that builds on the progress made in the 4/20 performance, as well as good performances of classics “Divided Sky” and “Fluffhead.” All in all, a good night in upstate New York.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Split Open and Melt,” “Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 75 mins.
- Second set length: 88 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at Cotterel Court.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “The Ballad of Curtis Loew,” returning after a twenty-nine show absence (3/14/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift (7 songs).