Congratulations! We made it. Another Las Vegas Phish run is in the books and with its successful conclusion, Fall Tour 2018 draws to a close. Is everybody ready to be spoon fed some perception? Long time readers of my recaps will know to either bail out now or start limbering up your fingers so they are ready to tap out some “Shade” about how you don’t want to know what I think about while listening to Phish work their magic, because you are just here to find out what happened during the show. In the simplest terms possible THEY CRUSHED IT...again...have a nice day!
For those of you who clicked through to the rest of my ramble, this show, like this tour, has a lot to unpack. Do that at your leisure. Listen repeatedly. All I ask is that you pay attention. Don’t believe your preconceived notions and just try to hear the notes they aren’t playing. A lot of what used to matter (song selection, placement, flow, depth and breadth of jams, frequency and severity of flubs) is now irrelevant. For the first time in a long time, I can say with unequivocal certainty, Phish is BACK! Every song played, whether you like it or not, has at least one bite of deliciousness to savor. So let’s dig in to our final plate from the buffet.
The "Moma Dance" opener is patient and precise with the cocksure swagger of all the fourth day funkateers parading through the Harrah’s Party Pit. "Kill Devil Falls" may be a bit wobbly at the outset but pulls itself together nicely before dropping into a splashtastic butterfly stroke in the deep end of the shark tank. "Roggae" establishes a seemingly ponderous pace, but that lattice of interminable seconds is then absolutely spray painted with a firehose of fluorescent brilliance for a solid 45 seconds. That may not seem like a long time, but try standing in front of a 5,000 PSI pressure washer for that long. You’ll be somewhere in Arizona before you regain consciousness.
"Water in the Sky" offers some great stickwork and a fast crank player piano if that’s your thing. The "555" is sung really well and is sufficiently menacing without veering into meanness. You were probably making a bathroom/beer/water run though...and that's OK too. Then came "Tube"...and oh man, does this one come hard. A space disco swirl that unpacks into a soaring revivalist elegy completely devoid of the dirty groove from which it was spawned. It is SO nice to live in a world where this song can once again go places...and in the first set no less. Switching gears seamlessly we are dumped back into the song proper and raunch and roll to completion.
Ready for a breather? Me neither. But that's what we get with a relatively sparsely decorated but undeniably warm and cozy "Farmhouse." Easy chair. Fireplace. Mug of mulled cider. Watching the snowflakes falling outside. THAT smell. You really do like it. Your secret is safe with me. But yeah...this is Vegas...you came to get sweaty and make bad decisions. So let's get some more of those dirty tricks that are really treats. In the set-closing assemblage, the pedestrian paint by numbers "Mike’s Song" is the trick. It takes almost the entire song to get THERE and by the time it does, it is over...sad trombone. "Lifeboy" is a treat, owing in no small part to its relative rarity, but this version is tender and cerebral and very well played. Color me touched. Lost in thoughts of the memorial service I attended earlier in the day, "Weekapaug Groove" launches out of the quiet reverie like a squadron of F-15 Eagles heading out on a Sunday morning sortie with full afterburner engagement. Looping barrel rolls pulling maximum Gs while buzzing the tower and going ballistic. A lot of notes in a short amount of time. End set.
Intermission is of course a time to refuel. I’ll spare you the recipe, but I got down on a bacon-wrapped tuna and radish kimchi roll with wasabi mayo. Pretty bomb Phish log I must say.
Set two muscles out of the break with a particularly virile “Carini” leading the way. A foreboding evil this way comes. So nasty. “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” indeed...but it is pretty fucking scary sometimes. “46 Days” seems exuberant and joyous by comparison to the preceding dark dankness. I LOVE the Faceplant influences that pervade the current Phish sound. Can’t stop listening to 10/31/18 set two. When I finally do, I will go back through the entire fall tour and relive the glory that was staring us in the face the whole time as we built toward that moment. Or I could just stop yapping and listen to THIS jam. Entirely type 1...but just crushing skulls, YAAAAAA get some! The transitional spacebience into “Scents and Subtle Sounds” is far too brief and the intro is trashed but who cares? The trail of treasure that follows the lyrical dreck is pleasingly ornate, undulating without spasticity, outside the box yet restrained, buzzed and beautiful.
"Crosseyed and Painless" has been a heavy hitter for a while now. Very reliable in the meat of the order. A slugger with speed on the basepaths. This song is the embodiment of self-determination. It has incredible drive. While it plays you can be anything you want to be for as long as you want to be. Unfortunately The Boys thought we were spending too much time in that place and beset by the seagulls from "Echoes" we dissolve into the disco groove of "2001" to see what that space smells like. Burning hydrocarbons, sulfurous metal, and seared meat mostly. No wait...that’s a "Possum" road patty...not space. I love this song, Go on and get your down on it. I’ll wait.
If you are the type of Phish fan that wants the prime cuts only, go IMMEDIATELY to the “Split Open and Melt” that ends the show. Yes, I know there was a “Wading in the Zero” encore, but really? This “Melt” was the real grand finale to the entire tour. Considered by some to be a game-day lock of the week to join the other bolded heavyweights in this tune’s jam chart. It’s good, but maybe not that good. Initially dark and growling, the jam yields to a soothing palpation of the prefrontal lobe. The mind massage gives way in turn to a brief rockslide before seemingly concluding in an ambient wash of unfinished...he SPIKES THE LANDING. End set.
Yeah, sure...you thought I’d dismiss the encore. But I’m not that type of guy. Much like the preceding version of “Melt,” the chilly, ankle deep wash of “Velvet Sea” always makes me think of Coventry. Man, that time is so far in the past now. Where there was certain death, there is now nothing but life. Really happy about where the band is musically. This version is beautiful and deep and passionate. Just something about the tone. And I’d take a “Character Zero” encore every night. But I like to Faceplant into ROKK! It is what geologists do. Enjoy your B-12 transfusion and safe travels back home.
See you for the last NYE run at MSG ever!!! Did I say that out loud? Shhhhhhphere.
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March 27, 1993
25 years ago
Set 2: Buried Alive > Halley's Comet > It's Ice > Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin' Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Poor Heart > Golgi Apparatus
 Beginning featured Trey on acoustic guitar.
 Fish on trombone.
 All Fall Down signal in intro.
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