After a couple days off, we return to tour with a one-set performance that was part of the “H.O.R.D.E. Festival.” The set is full of tour regulars, with all of the songs played tonight also played within the last couple of shows. Phish opens the set with “2001,” which should come as no surprise to anyone reading this blog. The tape I’m listening to doesn’t start until a few seconds into the song, but this more or less sounds like the same “2001” the band has played the last couple shows. Reprising a pairing I liked a lot on the 16th, the band slides right into “Split Open and Melt” without missing a beat.
This is a messy but interesting “Melt” that I enjoyed quite a bit. The jam starts at 4:00 with chunky riffing from Trey. Fish starts to break down and experiment with his rhythm at 4:30, and Trey responds by pushing the jam in a more dissonant direction. At about 5:45 Mike lands on and sustains a note that changes the inflection of the jam, pushing it in a more major-key direction. It sounds briefly like this will cause the jam to break structure entirely. The band never leaves the “Melt” framework entirely, but the next couple minutes are quite hairy as Trey shreds over the rest of the band pushing and pulling at this new direction for the jam. Trey starts to bring the jam home at about 8:00 and leads the group into a big and exciting peak. At times it sounds like Trey and the rest of the band are pulling in different directions, so this isn’t exactly the most coherent “Melt.” That being said, the experimentation going on here is quite interesting to hear, and it culminates in a satisfying peak. Hopefully this jam is a sign of even wilder “Melts” to come over the course of this tour.
“Sparkle” keeps the energy high after “Melt,” before “Squirming Coil” serves as an early cool-down. “Coil” is standard for the most part, but Trey provides some nice drones over the early part of Page’s solo that I feel he normally doesn’t add. It’s a nice touch. “Maze” is next, and the longest song of the evening. Page’s solo is satisfying tonight, but he blows the peak slightly. Mike and Fish add some extra emphasis during Trey’s solo, which is fun and increases the intensity. Trey’s solo is relatively standard though. I have to call this “Maze” duel a draw tonight. So far tonight the band has sounded a bit looser than they have on this tour, and that unfortunately causes issues with the next couple songs. Trey flubs a good amount during the back half of “Glide,” and the band briefly has some issues halfway through the subsequent “Rift” as well. The songs are still enjoyable for the most part, but given how tight the band has sounded so far this summer it’s still a little disappointing.
“Bouncing Around the Room” gives the band an opportunity to right the ship, and eases us into the back half of the set. “Runaway Jim” is the final moment of musical heft. It’s a fairly standard performance, but Trey builds his solo into a big, swirling peak. It’s probably his best moment of the evening, and provides some redemption for the rockiness of the middle of the set. The balls then come out for “Big Ball Jam.” Obviously this “song” never translates perfectly on to tape, but it sounds a little disjointed after “Jim.” The night’s Henrietta segment is next, with Fishman taking the front of the stage for “Purple Rain,” a song which has quickly become a setlist staple. After a brief tease of “Hold Your Head Up,” someone audibly yells “5 minutes!” and the band rather abruptly ends the set with a quick “Daniel Saw the Stone.” A typically-ripping “Chalk Dust Torture” is the night’s sole encore.
This set starts off strongly with the second pairing of “2001 > Split Open and Melt,” which gives us the most interesting and experimental “Melt” of the tour so far. The set kind of fizzles from there though, with some odd song placements (“Bouncing, Jim, Big Ball Jam”?) and playing that is not as tight as I’ve come to expect from this tour. It’s not an objectively bad show, or unenjoyable to listen to, but it’s hard not to see tonight as an off-night. The band will travel 300 miles overnight after this show, in order to prepare for the first Vermont show of the year tomorrow night.
- Show rating: 2/5
- Highlights: “Split Open and Melt”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 80 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Orange County Fairgrounds.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Split Open and Melt,” “Glide,” and “Bouncing Around the Room,” all returning after a three show absence (7/16/93).
- The best represented studio album is Rift and Lawn Boy (3 songs).