[Thank you @bl002e (Brian Levine) for recapping last night's show in Uncasville, CT. Please note that the opinions expressed by a recapper for a show on this blog are not necessarily those of any volunteer who works on Phish.net. We are all fans with varying opinions, just like you. -Ed]
The core of any game you’ll find in a casino is mathematics. Every card or die is given a numerical value. Vital to any winning strategy is knowing the percentages of probability. Personally, I’m not much of a gambler. However, as a big fan and participant of the maths, here’s a fun fact for my fellow numberphiles: last night marked the first time in exactly three years that Phish played a show in the Nutmeg State, continuing their 2010s trend of only playing Connecticut in years divisible by three (2010, 2013, 2016, 2019; three is indeed everywhere.) Moreover, it had been over 19 years since a CT venue made its debut; the following year saw the grand opening of Mohegan Sun Arena, our host for last night’s Phish show.
The aesthetically-pleasing sleek exterior of the Mohegan Sun casino envelops the arena. Walking around after a long, slow, claustrophobic crawl to enter, I was surprised at how closely it resembled the single-concourse hockey sheds of the Northeast built in the 1970s and 80s that I grew up with. This place has at least as many toilets as any of those larger arenas, and the concourse was roughly twice as wide. So far, so good.
Before I get into the show review, I need to be honest. Given enough danceable songs and enough room to flail about at a Phish show, I’m going to dance. Hard. I can get pretty lost in the music, lost in my head in an-almost meditative way, and miss some of the details. This is not ideal if you’re tasked with writing a review of the show the next day. Since I had a general admission floor ticket, I’ve got a foolproof plan: I’ll take notes on my phone throughout the show. Brilliant! And to avoid distracting those around me, I’ll turn the brightness way down. Courteous!
Lights. An unfamiliar tune begins. Trey steps to the mic. “And the world is made of energy.” At a gap of 226 shows, our first stop is Bustout City. Let’s consult those notes for some in-the-moment insight.
Oh…’kay. Was I wondering whether the song was the Apples in Stereo cover “Energy”? For sure. Was I wondering whether the song was the actual show opener? Yikes. Probably not?
Glad they brought this song back from hiatus, in a possible nod to the similarly rain-filled summer of 2013. I can imagine a conversation between Trey and [insert band member here] as lightning crashed last Saturday evening on Yawkey Way. “We haven’t dealt with this much rain since the tour that the Toronto show got postponed.” “What year was that again?” “No idea. Whatever year we played that ‘Energy’ cover.” “Why’d we stop playing that one anyway?” And scene.
As Energy pushed the ten-minute mark, they somehow stumble upon a “Weekapaug”-like jam. You can’t help but pointlessly hope that they’ll go into the actual song, as if they’ll ever actually do that, and then -- oh, wait, they actually did do that! Great segue into a standard-good “Weekapaug”, if we can even categorize a “Mike's”-less “Weekapaug” played in the #2 slot as standard-anything.
Up next is “Moma”. Ho boy. Notes please.
Mona 97 in a bottle
The hell? Mona 97? And the notes end there. Not the “Moma” notes, the entirety of the notes I took. Brilliant.
Depending on whether you go by the .Net setlist or LivePhish tracking, the next song up was either an extremely narrow sliver of “Maze” or the eighth “Lengthwise” of the 3.0 era. Few people would bother debating such minutiae; as one of them, this is the one example in 100 where I’d side with the official tracklist. Listening back, Fishman is singing the lyrics from the first drumbeat.
As “Petrichor” began, I made a beeline for the facilities. Listen, it’s not that I dislike the song; on the contrary, since New Year’s 2016, I’ve got plenty of fondness for it. But if I know that a song I’ve seen before is going to have a big chunk of time devoted to a composed section, I’m going to invest in my future comfort and well-being and take a leak. So let’s just all assume that “Petrichor” was flawlessly played and move on.
“Things Something Something.” This was a song.
Though it can still be a Type-II monster from time to time, as a set one closer “Bathtub Gin” is typically an exhilarating point-A-to-point-B ride, with nary a detour to be made. Not last night’s version. Starting with a mellow groove led by Page’s impressive work on the Rhodes, Fishman returned volley with an increasingly-tightening disco beat. Mike’s got some seriously melodic playing in this section, as Trey laid some 1997-worthy funk rhythm guitar on top. The groove tightened, morphing quickly into more standard “Gin” rock territory, with a few more angles explored before peaking. A set highlight for sure. “They had to butter us up for that Petrichor,” said a friend of mine at its conclusion. I asked if I could quote him on that; he agreed, on the condition that I refer to him as “the Jambrologist.” Ugh. Let’s move on.
At set break, the guy in front of me in line for refreshments was clearly having a ball and a half, and suddenly turned around. I had on a Dead shirt of a ‘67 Fillmore show poster featuring a beardless Jerry; he eyed me up and down with some effort, and with a surprisingly clear voice asked me, “Did you see Jerry throw that strike?!” Uh, Garcia? I know he sang the anthem with Bobby and Vince at that Giants’ game, but unless they rolled out a scuba tank onto the field, I can’t imagine a 1993 Garcia physically capable of successfully throwing a baseball and hitting a target 60 feet away.
“No, Seinfeld!” Oh, he saw my Mets cap. Last Friday, to celebrate Seinfeld’s 30th anniversary they gave away a Jerry Seinfeld bobblehead. I told him I didn’t know he was throwing the first pitch as well.
“Yeah! I’ll pull up the video and show you.” Loading.
I asked him if he was a Mets fan. “Huh?” After a beat, “Ohh. No, Seinfeld fan.”
The video finally loaded, and he was absolutely right -- Jerry nailed it! Full windup, sidearm delivery, 40 mph heat down the middle. If you’re out there, thanks again, Seinfeld guy. You would have been proud of me post-show, when I performed a one-man reproduction of “The Parking Garage.” Today I’ll be sure to note that I parked in the Itchy lot.
Opening the second set with a … “Soul Planet”. To be honest, I’m a bit indifferent to the song, but it certainly jams, and as we reach the 11 minute mark, Trey is clearly playing the riff to another song. A slick segue into the Phish debut of the Ghosts of the Forest song “Wider,” which soon enough segues neatly into “Undermind.”
I wasn’t immediately enthralled with the call of “The Final Hurrah” in the meat of set two. Short, but ‘least it smoked, which was more than I could initially say for the subsequent “Beneath a Sea of Stars.” “There’s no saving this set now,” said the Jambrologist. “Start the car.” While I wasn’t about to go that far, I may have eyed the pathway to the concourse once or twice. But to my absolute surprise, this ended up being the highlight of the show for me. This may be due to my unfamiliarity with the Ghosts material. I was supposed to go to one of the Ghosts shows in New York, but plans fell through. I still haven’t listened to the album all the way through or any of the shows. Last night’s “Stars” jam will be changing that.
Another highlight was the next pair of songs, featuring yet another full-out segue: “Ghost” and “Birds of a Feather.” It’s great that they’ve been recently treating the latter song like the improvisational vehicle is truly is. The “Waste” / “Golgi” closing pair was well-earned.
I was thrilled once “Foam” opened the encore, despite several sections being mangled. Another rarity followed in “Contact,” to the excitement of most of the crowd. The Jambrologist was not pleased. “Unpopular opinion: I hate ‘Foam’ and ‘Contact’.” The hell? Familiar with some of his odder tastes, I asked if he’d prefer a “Bug” > “Joy” encore over this one. “‘Bug’ > ‘Joy’ 1000%” You’ve got major issues, JB. “This is your song too, guy.” Touché.
One “More” song after that. One more show to go, then three at Alpine and three at Dick’s. See? Three is everywhere.
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