Phish concluded their spring New York City run of shows yesterday and head north tonight for one final northeast show before tour turns south. Tonight’s show is the band’s debut performance at the Mullins Center, located in the college town of Amherst. A good “Runaway Jim” opens the first set. This is largely a standard “Jim,” though one passage does stand out. The build during Trey’s solo from 5:00-6:30 is vaguely ominous due to a droning bass line from Mike. It’s an effective segment, and sets this “Jim” apart in a small way. The role of the more subdued song #2 is filled by “Fee” tonight. The song is played well and the band treats us to a brief ending jam, beginning at 5:05. Page and Trey lock into a beautiful, interlocking, descending riff that is punctuated in bursts by Mike and Fishman. It’s a cool passage, but it fades out by 6:00.
The ending of “Fee” fades right into the debut of Hoist‘s “Axilla (Part II).” There’s some slight shakiness to the band’s performance, at times sounding like they’re reverting to the standard “Axilla,” but it’s energetic and fun nonetheless. I speculated in my review of Hoist about the possibility of the psychedelic outro being expanded on in concert, but the outro gets axed completely here during the song’s first live outing. Instead, the band moves straight from the end of the song into a mid-set “Rift.” I noted some minor timing issues with “Rift” a couple nights ago at the Beacon, but the song is cleaned up and sounds great tonight.
“Stash” is next, and easily the most exciting performance of the night so far. The jam begins at 5:00 and is initially driven by Trey riffing, but Mike steps up before too long and grabs hold of the jam for himself. He unleashes a flurry of melodic lines that take center stage, pushing Trey into a supporting role. The jam begins to take on a dream-like feeling as the full-band locks into a swirling psychedelia, reaching for the light by 7:30. After swimming about in this soundscape, Trey gently guides the band back into darker “Stash” territory by 8:20. Some brief shredding follows, but the jam quickly airs out to a minimal Trey riff while Page leads on high notes of his baby grand. The jam begins to build again around an angry, growling Trey riff that finally brings the band back to the composed ending of “Stash.” The final peak from 11:45-12:30 is intense and features unusually raw thrashing from Trey. This is a multi-segment “Stash” jam featuring both dreamy psychedelic space and angry, dark shredding, and might be the most creative “Stash” of the tour so far. Definitely worth a listen.
“Fluffhead” follows “Stash.” “Fluff” has only been lightly played on this tour so far, and the composition-heavy nature of the song works well here as a counterpoint to the more unstructured exploration of the previous song. The song is played well, and the ending positively bursts with energy as Trey delivers an exciting solo to bring the song to a satisfying conclusion. “Nellie Kane” is next, serving as a brief bluegrass interlude before the set-closing “Run Like an Antelope.” Like the earlier “Stash,” this “Antelope” is bursting with creativity. The jam begins at 2:55 with standard “Antelope” riffing for the first minute or so, but the band quickly coalesces around a simple, catchy, ascending Trey riff. This builds, then breaks back down at 5:20. The band begins to build again, but this time around an angry Trey riff. The jam begins to spiral in intensity, and soon the band reaches full-on, “Big Black Furry Creature from Mars”-levels of heavy metal anarchy. The band settles, slightly, around a descending Trey riff at 7:25. The mood is still angry and slightly dissonant. This builds to a roaring peak at 9:00 and the beginning of the reggae segment at 9:35. The band covers a lot of ground quickly in this “Antelope,” but does so fluidly.
This is another great first set, pulling even with or maybe even surpassing last night’s. The band delivers big, high-octane jams in both “Stash” and “Antelope” and otherwise puts together a well-played, energetic set. The prospect of a second set throwdown definitely seems at least within the realm of possibility based on this first half!
As fiery as the first set is, the start to set 2 is rather standard. The band chooses a pairing of “Sample in a Jar” and “Poor Heart” to begin, which goes about how you would expect. My ears perked up with the following “Tweezer.” Before beginning this blog I more or less assumed “Tweezer” would be in constant, heavy rotation the entire time, but the song has been curiously rare in setlists since August: this is only the second “Tweezer” of the tour. The jam begins at 4:35 with a driving, swaggering Trey riff. Mike contributes some chunky funk, giving the song a good bounce. Trey transitions into a more traditional solo by 6:00, and the jam soon begins to build around a soaring, ascending Trey line. The band plods along through good but standard “Tweezer” fare from there, before crashing into a big peak at 9:00. The song breaks down from there, transitioning into the composed ending. A minimal, slow funk jam develops around this composed ending, but that too quickly fades away into the beginning of “The Lizards.”
This “Tweezer” is hardly exploratory, and would have been considered a standard performance of the song a full year ago. Given the recent rarity of the song, however, it’s nice to hear at all. “Tweezer” is followed by a good performance of “The Lizards”; a pairing of songs that I always enjoy. “Julius” is next and, while a standard performance of the song, results in probably the best Trey moment of the set so far, as he builds his solo segment into a fun, raging peak. A quick “Bouncing Around the Room” brings us to the last big song of the night, “You Enjoy Myself.”
The band begins the “Vibration of Life” narration at 2:05 of “YEM,” near the beginning of the ‘bliss’ segment. This fun, spiritually replenishing bonus ends by about 3:50. Brad Sands reprises his appearance from a few nights ago to once again take Trey’s place on the trampolines as Trey continues to recover from his leg injury. Thankfully, unlike the last “YEM” when Page dropped out entirely during the trampoline shenanigans, he continues to solo tonight and delivers his best playing of the set so far prior to the beginning of Trey’s solo at 11:00. Trey follows his typical approach to his “YEM” solo tonight, but does so with an appreciated degree of patience. His segment breaks down quickly into a quiet, jazzy passage that develops nicely into a pleasant, clean jam by 12:30. This then builds steadily into a typical “YEM” peak, complete with a decent amount of shredding from Trey. The bass and drums segment begins at 16:00 and is longer than usual, with Mike delivering some unusually dark playing. The vocal jam begins at 18:00. Not a mind-blowing “YEM” by any means, but between the “Vibration of Life” goof and the satisfying Trey solo it’s probably the most memorable sequence of the set.
Eschewing a Henrietta segment entirely tonight, the band instead opts for a set closing sequence of “Squirming Coil” and “Tweezer Reprise.” Page’s solo is lovely and the most relaxing moment of the set, while “Reprise” does “Reprise’s” thing and ends the set with a bang in under 3 minutes. I’ll never complain about a Hendrix encore, which is what we get tonight by way of “Fire.”
I really wanted to love this show after the terrific “Stash” and “Antelope” jams in the first set, but the second set as a whole was a little underwhelming and lacked much improvisational meat to sink into. Those first set highlights are more than worth checking out, but the rest of this show does not depart much from typical fare for the tour.
- Show rating: 3/5
- Highlights: “Stash,” “Run Like an Antelope,” “You Enjoy Myself”
- Phish.net setlist
- Debuts: “Axilla (Part II)” (Anastasio/Marshall)
- First set length: 66 mins.
- Second set length: 76 mins.
- Encore length: 5 mins.
- This is the first time Phish performed at the Mullins Center. They will return on 11/3/94.
- The longest gap in this night’s setlist is “The Vibration of Life,” returning after a fifty-four show absence (5/3/93).
- The best represented studio album is A Picture of Nectar (4 songs).