On August 14th, I made the three hour trek from Charlotte to Raleigh, NC for what would be my seventh time seeing jam band legends, Phish. Most people wouldn’t find seeing one band more than once or twice necessary, but seven is actually a small number for a “phan.” You see, there’s a complete culture that surrounds a band with such a loyal following. Thousands of people follow Phish around the country each summer to catch as many sets as they can and witness the band’s spectacular live energy.
It seems as though there’s been a special aura amidst the lots at Phish shows this year. This may be due to the band’s guitarist, Trey Anistasio, coming off of a five show run with the remaining members of the Grateful Dead for the “Fare Thee Well” shows in San Francisco and Chicago earlier this summer. Or maybe the band has finally found the collaborative spark they’ve needed since returning from a five year hiatus in 2009. Whatever the case, the summer 2015 tour has not been disappointing for long-time phans or first time attendees.
My 18-year-old brother was one of the many first timers at the show in Raleigh. Although not a huge fan of jam bands, I invited him because I knew he would have a great time. From the lot scene where travelers sell everything from food to merch to substances I probably shouldn’t mention, to the venue lawn where sound and light and outrageous dance moves all blend together into one living, breathing, organic being; it’s very difficult not to enjoy one’s self at a Phish concert.
The band took the stage under their gargantuan light rig and started off the night with a funky, half-time rendition of an older song, “Llama.” It took me a minute to recognize the song, having only heard it once or twice before, but it was well-received by the veteran Phish heads around me. They then proceeded to bust out several audience favorites throughout the first set, peppering in a few new songs here and there.
In recent years the band has preferred newer songs to use as improvisational vessels, which many followers have not been very fond of. That was not the case that Friday night, as heavy-hitters such as “The Moma Dance,” “Wolfman’s Brother” and “Ghost” stood out, having some of the best jams of the evening. Surprisingly, only three new songs were played in the first set and the second set was reserved for crowd-pleasing originals and a few covers.
TV On The Radio’s “Golden Age” was the first cover to appear, early in the second set. I’ve always liked Phish’s version of this song more than the original and they played it particularly well, extending the jam into 13 minute territory and eventually segueing into their classic original “Reba.” The end of the second set gave way to a rare cover of Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter,” which keyboardist Page McConnell sang exceptionally well. Classic rock covers have always been favored by the band and they rarely disappoint. The second encore was Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” which allowed Trey to end the show with some serious shred. Say what you will about Phish and jam bands in general, but Trey Anistasio can really play the guitar like none other.
I don’t care who you are, how you were raised or what kind of music you listen to, there’s no excuse. Next time Phish is playing a venue near you, GO! I guarantee you will enjoy yourself and you may even develop an appreciation for a band and scene you never thought you would want anything to do with. The bottom line is; Phish and similar jam bands are for music lovers. I am a fan of all different kinds of music, which is why Phish will always be one of my favorites and I will continue to see them as many times as I possibly can.
Here’s the set list from the night:
Chalk Dust Torture
The Moma Dance
Bouncing Around the Room
Waiting All Night
Devotion to A Dream
– Submitted by Mark Cichonski, Audio Production