Night 2 in the Volunteer State brings us to Antioch for a show literally played in the concession stand area of a larger venue. Phish might be starting to break through to larger venues on this tour, particularly in the northeast, but clearly they still have work to do in the south. “Contact” opens the show tonight, the first time the song has taken the opening slot all year. The song features an extended bass intro from Mike, and feels like it’s played at a slightly more relaxed tempo than it usually is. The end of “Contact” drops straight into a fiery “Llama,” which brings the energy up after the languid feel of the opener. Together I found these two songs to be a very fun opening to the show. A well-played performance of the always-appreciated (at least to me) “Horn” is next. “Uncle Pen” follows “Horn,” and like “Contact,” also feels like it’s played at a slightly more relaxed tempo. The song serves as a pleasant southern-tinged interlude, and brings us to the first real chance for improvisation tonight: a mid-set “Stash.”
…and “Stash” does not disappoint. The jam starts at about 5:10 and is initially very quiet and subdued, matching the vibe of the night so far. The first minute consists of lazy riffing from Trey that is accompanied by great fills from Page. Mike starts to match Trey’s playing, and the band starts to add some soft vocal wailing on top as the jam slowly but steadily picks up steam. The band enters into a passage led by dissonant riffing from Trey. This passage builds and builds, and sounds like it’s peaking by 8:50. Trey just keeps pushing, however, until finally the jam explodes at 10:20 as the band shifts out of this dissonant passage back into the “Stash” progression while Trey squeals away. After some triumphant soloing from Trey it sounds like the band is about to bring this one home, but the band has one last trick up their sleeve. At 11:30 the jam breaks back down into the quiet, subdued mood that initially began the improvisation. The band then proceeds to play a slow, moody version of the song’s ending. This “Stash” features engaging dynamics and a real sense of progression. An excellent jam!
This quiet end to “Stash” flows well into the organ intro of “Esther.” “Esther” is concisely played tonight, but it sounds good and adds some compositional heft to the set. Trey starts up “Chalk Dust Torture” during the ending of “Esther” to assure everyone in attendance that yes, they were actually at a rock show. There’s nothing too special about “Chalk Dust,” but Trey takes his time with the solo, building it to a satisfying peak. “I Didn’t Know” is next, taking one step away from its usual setlist position as penultimate song of the first set. This “IDK” features a little extra silliness, with a longer-than-normal intro from Trey to Fish’s washboard solo.
The reason “IDK” is not played in its normal set is because we get treated to the first “Reba” in ten shows! That’s an unusually long gap for this song, at least at this time, and it’s only the second “Reba” of summer. The “Reba” jam begins at 6:12, and like “Stash” before it, begins very quietly (though with a much more blissful feel than the prior song). The jam breaks down to near silence by 7:10 before the band very steadily starts to build it back up. There’s a jump in energy at about 9:00 as the band inexorably marches towards the jam’s peak. This peak begins at 10:00 with uplifting wailing from Trey. Many “Rebas” this year have ended quickly after peaking, but not this one. Trey just keeps pushing and pushing, with wonderfully blissful shredding. Fishman deserves credit for letting Trey rip, and not prematurely signaling the end of the jam. After several glorious minutes, Fish finally signals the end of the jam at 12:15. The wait was worth it; this is an excellent “Reba.” A quick “Cavern” puts a bow on the set.
Wow; what a step up from yesterday! This set is perfectly paced with a fun beginning, seriously good improvisation in both “Stash” and “Reba,” compositional heft (“Esther”), and some good, old-fashioned rock (“Chalk Dust Torture,” “Cavern”). The set has a slightly more relaxed feel than the sometimes-frantic nature of first sets on this tour, but that just lets the highs burn even brighter.
“2001” returns to its routine set-opening position after taking a night off yesterday. The band isn’t pulling their punches tonight, so they drop right from “2001” into a hefty “Tweezer.” The jam starts at 4:30 with just minimalist guitar scratching from Trey over Mike and Fish’s groove. This segment sounds almost Beastie Boys-esque, and lasts a good minute before Trey starts up some subtle riffing. Fish changes up the beat after 6:00 to push the jam in a funk direction, setting the mood for the next couple of minutes. Trey starts to solo over this chunky segment, building up a good head of steam by 8:00. After a dissonant run the jam enters into a quick peak at 9:00. This doesn’t last long, for Trey starts some heavy-metal riffing at 9:30 that leads into an exhilarating tremelo-picked run. Trey brings the jam to a final peak at 10:30. It sounds at this point like the band is going to drop into the composed ending of the song, but instead they start up a chordal, dirge-like outro at 10:50. This segment slows down gradually, giving Trey an opportunity to pick up his acoustic and transition into “The Horse.” This “Tweezer” is not exactly mind-blowing, and is a little overshadowed by the stellar “Stash” and “Reba” from the first set, but it still contains a solid jam that moves through multiple fun segments and multiple peaks.
A snappy “Poor Heart” follows the “Horse > Silent in the Morning” breather, and drops into a mid-set “Fluffhead.” The whole “Fluff” composition is well-played, culminating in an exciting and energetic solo from Trey. At the end of the solo, Trey picks up his acoustic guitar for a pleasant rendition of the song’s outro that segues smoothly into the intro of “My Friend, My Friend.” “MF,MF” is standard tonight. This is a composition-heavy middle to the second set, but “Fluffhead” is played so well that it works as an anchor for the set. “Golgi Apparatus” rounds out this segment of largely through-composed songs.
A fine outing of “The Squirming Coil” brings us to the end of the set…or does it? The band ends the set with two closers by sneaking in a bonus “David Bowie” after “Coil.” This “Bowie” is on the short side for the song, and the jam is more or less a direct line towards the song’s peak. That said, the jam is quite energetic, and the final build from about 8:15 to 9:15 is quite thrilling and a great way to cap the set. The always-fun “Walk Away” makes a somewhat rare encore appearance before “Amazing Grace” sends the crowd home.
Like last night, I think the first set of this show actually edges out the second half, due to the excellent jams in both “Stash” and “Reba.” Unlike last night, however, both sets are filled with legitimate highlights and a lot of fun to listen to. It’s great to hear the band bounce back from something of an off-night yesterday to treat Tennessee to a legitimately great show, before moving on further south for tomorrow night. This was undoubtedly a fun Friday night in Antioch for all ~1500 people that showed up.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Stash,” “Reba,” “Tweezer,” “Fluffhead,” “David Bowie”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 69 mins.
- Second set length: 82 mins.
- This is the first and last time Phish performed at the Veranda at Starwood. They’ll play Starwood Amphitheatre proper on 5/3/94.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Reba,” returning after a ten show absence (7/17/93).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (6 songs).