Night 2 in Michigan brings us to Phish’s last ever performance at the Meadow Brook Music Festival, an amphitheater on the campus of Oakland University. The show opens with the rare “AC/DC Bag.” The song sounds good in what I think of as its traditional show-opening position, and features a slightly extended, jazzy outro. This outro provides a perfect set-up for a very early-in-the-show “Reba.” The “Reba” jam begins at 6:20, with great interplay between Mike and Trey kicking things off. Mike sticks with the groove he develops here, as Page and Trey begin to swirl about on top. This playing between Page and Trey builds up a good amount of energy and forward-momentum by 8:00. After treating the audience to several minutes of glorious, beautiful playing, the band begins to break the jam down at 9:35. The jam becomes very quiet again, before building up around a repeating Trey riff. The attitude of the band’s playing is much more aggressive here than in a typical “Reba,” and gets increasingly dark as Trey kicks on some pitch-shifting effects. Some terrifying shredding from Trey brings us back into the “Reba” progression with a burst of energy at 12:45. A quick peak brings the jam to a close at 13:15.
This is an incredibly adventurous “Reba,” and certainly the most experimental performance of the song I can think of this year. The band goes essentially full-on ‘type-II’, pushing the jam in an aggressive and dark direction after some initial bliss. I highly recommend this “Reba,” and it’s all the more impressive for being only the second song of the evening.
“Chalk Dust Torture” is song three, and works well as a straight-ahead, energetic rocker after the extended excursion of “Reba.” “Guelah Papyrus” and “Nellie Kane” follow, both of which are played with technical precision. The first “Split Open and Melt” since the highly improvisational performance of the song in Toronto anchors the middle of the set. The jam begins at 4:20, and is initially driven by a forceful, energetic “Melt” groove. Trey has been on-point all night long, and that continues here with lots of quick, precise solo runs. The jam seems to be breaking structure and reaching for the light at 7:00, but rather than totally breaking from the “Melt” groove the band instead weaves in and out of the song’s theme. This is an intense segment, and driven primarily by Trey. The jam breaks way down at 8:55, before being built back up around a growling, dissonant Trey riff. This leads into a series of fake-outs at 10:30 as the band teases the end of the song without actually committing (fans of the fantastic 7/6/13 “Melt” will know what I’m referring to). The band begins to jam in and out of the ending of the song, before playing a soft, mellow version of the song’s outro at 11:50. While this is less ‘out-there’ or experimental than the previous “Melt,” the way the band manages to continuously weave in and out of the “Melt” progression throughout this jam is very exciting to hear, making this another high-quality outing of the song.
“The Horse > Silent in the Morning” provides a welcome breather after the intensity of “Melt.” A quick “Poor Heart” gives way to a very pleasant “Squirming Coil” closer. “Coil” is extended a bit tonight, with the rest of the band sticking with Page for a while at the end of the song instead of dropping out immediately, creating an excellent coda for the set.
This is an excellent, flowing first set. Both “Reba,” the second song of the evening, and “Split Open and Melt” deliver impressive jams, while even the ‘standard’ songs (e.g. “Chalk Dust,” “Squirming Coil”) pop tonight. There’s not a lull in the setlist. Trey is definitely the MVP so far, but the rest of the band sounds on their game as well. Altogether, a very good show far.
“We’re gonna take a break, thank you! Stick around…”
Set 2 opens with the longest “2001” yet. It’s still less than five minutes in length, but it has an extended, spaced-out intro and more of a Page solo than usual. This may be because Trey seems to have some guitar issues at the beginning of this set. His guitar drops out entirely during one of the “2001” builds. The issues are resolved by the end of the song, however, and no more issues arise the remainder of the night.
The band drops into “The Landlady” at the end of “2001,” which makes for a somewhat awkward transition. “Tweezer” takes the three slot. The jam starts at 4:20, and after some initial space, Trey locks into a hard-driving riff at 4:50. This riff propels the first segment of the jam. Fish is really a star here; he goes to town with a thick, funky groove that gives this jam a lot of bounce. At 6:30 the band begins to search for new ideas. This develops into an intense build. After the build it sounds like the band is going to take the jam home to the composed “Tweezer” ending, but there’s instead a sudden shift at 8:40. Arising from dissonance is a blissed-out, upbeat, sparse groove. The band rides this out for about a minute, and the reggae feel of the segment makes a segue into “Makisupa Policeman” seem possible. Instead, the band crashes back into “Tweezer” at 10:00. The band plays some mind games at this point, moving back and forth between a high-energy “Tweezer” solo and reprises of both the sparse, reggae segment and “The Landlady,” before finally bringing “Tweezer” to a close at 12:42.
There’s a lot to like in the first half of this jam, but the transition at about 10:00 out of the cool, blissed-out groove the band had developed into “Tweezer” is jarring in the same way that the “2001 > Landlady” transition was jarring. This is still a cool “Tweezer” with some quality jamming, but I wish they had explored that interesting space they found in this jam a bit further.
“The Lizards” is next, and a nice compositional counterweight to the hijinks of “Tweezer.” Songs named after animals continue, with a standard, mid-set “Sloth.” “Maze” follows, in a somewhat unusual late second-set position. “Maze” follows its standard progression. Everyone has been sounding great tonight though, so it’s no surprise that both Page and Trey deliver excellent, high-energy solos. Instead of a Henrietta segment tonight we get a Page segment instead, with the chairman of the boards taking the spotlight for a soothing “Lawn Boy” interlude.
“Big Ball Jam” leads into the penultimate song of the set, “Golgi Apparatus.” “Possum” closes the set. Trey’s solo begins with a “Tweezer Reprise” tease in lieu of a performance of that song in full. After the “Tweeprise” fun, the song becomes very quiet and sparse. Trey takes his time building his solo over the next several minutes, delivering an exciting and satisfying end to the set. Trey’s relentless playing has been a strength of this show from the very beginning, so “Possum” is a fitting choice to end the set. The band chooses to encore with a Hendrix song two nights in a row, with “Fire” taking the first encore slot. Another a-cappella ‘performance’ of “Free Bird” sends the crowd home.
I found the first set of this show to be more consistent than the second, and another chunk of excellent, August ’93 goodness. “Reba” and “Split” contain tasty jams, and the rest of the set pops too. The second set contains highlights too: the “Tweezer” is a wild ride, even if I didn’t find it as satisfying as the first set jams, “The Lizards” is always a treat, and the set-ending “Possum” has some real fire. I would definitely rank some other sets from this month higher than the second set of this show, but given the quality of the shows this month, that’s hardly a complaint.
- Show rating: 4/5
- Highlights: “Reba,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Tweezer > The Landlady > Tweezer”
- Phish.net setlist
- First set length: 72 mins.
- Second set length: 65 mins.
- Encore length: 10 mins.
- This is the second and last time Phish performed at the Meadow Brook Music Festival.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “Fire,” returning after a thirty-six show absence (4/23/93).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (5 songs).