On November 2nd, 2018 Phish returned to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV for the penultimate show of their 2018 fall tour. Even within a run—and a tour as a whole—that stood out from the pack, Phish’s 11/2/18 performance was a clear highlight, a show that begs to be relistened to from start to finish on multiple occasions.
From a first set featuring a rocking “Cavern” opener, the first “If I Could” since 2014, a searing “Sand”, a nearly-25-minute “Mercury” jam, and more to a second set studded with stellar jams and zero filler, this show was already cemented as a gem of a performance before the band stepped back onstage for their encore. Anything the band played for their curtain call on this night would have sufficed, but Phish had a few more tricks up their sleeves.
When Trey Anastasio took a seat behind Jon Fishman‘s drum kit, it quickly became clear that this would not be your ordinary encore. As the drummer strolled to center stage, the band began “Hold Your Head Up”—a known portal to memorable Fishman antics. So the story goes, in their early days, the band would play this song at rehearsals when it was time to get serious. Trey, Mike Gordon, and Page McConnell used to find it hilarious. Fishman, not so much: the song would often prompt him to storm out of practice. From that inside joke, a live Phish tradition arose: When Argent‘s “Hold Your Head Up” pops up, Trey pulls out a Fishman nickname and Fish takes his turn in the spotlight for a light-hearted cover before running like an antelope out of control all around the stage. Whether Fishman still hates it or not, we can’t be sure. What we do know is that it brings out his silliest side, and that’s never a bad thing for those in the audience.
Back to 11/2—With the “Hold Your Head Up” stage set, Trey introduced the man in the dress: “Ladies and gentlemen, put your “Faceplant Into Rock” hands together for Mr. Bob Weaver!” Fish responded in kind to Trey’s call to shenanigans: “The pressure is unbelievable. Thank god I don’t take anything seriously… Except music. I take music seriously. Now, now…and pretty much nothing else.” From there, Fishman led the band through an animated take on Syd Barrett‘s Piper At The Gates of Dawn chestnut “Bike”—his first rendition of the tune since Dick’s 2015—before serving up an actually-not-so-bad vacuum solo.
Of course, no “Hold Your Head Up” sandwich is complete without the freak-out that follows, and this Fishman dance party did not disappoint. After showing the audience his appreciation (“This is the funnest job in the world. This is the funnest band in the world. Thank you so FUCKING much!”) and warning that he can’t really run around “because [his] hip sucks,” Fish commenced with some hilariously flailing dance moves. That dance quickly turned into a full-fledged twerk as Trey encouraged him from behind the drum set, fighting back laughter (“Twerk it! Twerk it! Twerk for the people, Bob Weaver!”).
Energized by the crowd (and the twerking), and in spite of the fact that his hip sucks, Fishman delivered his crazed “HYHU” finale, taking a lap around the stage before winding up on top of Page’s piano with his arms triumphantly raised above his head. “Thank you,” he mused as the crowd roared. “That’s the most exercise I’ve had in a year.”
As Fishman returned to his rightful spot behind the drum, a still-laughing Trey pondered “Where do you go after that, I mean, god damn. Bob Weaver! …Agh…I’m sorry, you guys, gimme a second here. It’s not often that you get to see something like that…Bob Weaver…”
After another moment to collect his composure, Trey continued, “Fuck it, this is, like, an old show. Let’s do an old one…Agh…I don’t remember this one…We’re gonna try it,” before launching into Led Zeppelin‘s “Good Times, Bad Times” to cap the fantastic show.
You can watch a full video of the “Hold Your Head Up”/”Bike” antics as well as close-up videos of Jon Fishman’s twerking prowess below:
Phish – “Hold Your Head Up” > “Bike” > “Hold Your Head Up”
[Video: Live For Live Music]
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Setlist: Phish | MGM Grand Garden Arena | Las Vegas, NV | 11/2/18
Set One: Cavern, Beauty of My Dreams, If I Could, Weigh, Sand, Back on the Train, Martian Monster, Mercury > Suzy Greenberg
Set Two: Soul Planet > Down with Disease > Guyute, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > Light > Slave to the Traffic Light
ENCORE: Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up, Good Times Bad Times
This show was webcast via Live Phish. If I Could was played for the first time since July 29, 2014 (159 show gap). DWD included In the Summertime and Oye Como Va teases from Trey and was unfinished. Trey quoted Everything is Hollow in Sneakin’ Sally. The first HYHU contained a The Final Hurrah quote. Bike was played for the first time since September 4, 2015 (113 shows).