While Phish is known for its plethora of inside jokes stemming from nearly 40 years of history, the band took it to a new level with Saturday’s show at Alpine Valley Music Theatre. The penultimate run of the band’s 2022 summer tour began with a trifecta of songs pointing back to the group’s famous July 24th, 1999 trip to the East Troy, WI shed, heralded for its “Fluffhead”.
Phish began Saturday’s show with its fourth-ever cover of Prince‘s “1999”, the first since the 10/28/21 numbers show in Las Vegas. As Chris Kuroda fittingly caked the band in purple lights, Page McConnell‘s jubilant synths got everyone—even those of us at home—in the dancing spirit.
Out of the Prince cover, Phish segued into “Fluffhead”. Peculiar setlist placement would prove a recurring theme of Saturday’s show, but the one-two punch of “1999” and “Fluffhead” right off the rip immediately established this would be a special show. Following the well-executed composed sections, Page fit in a funky Wurlitzer walkabout between Trey Anastasio‘s fierce guitar phrasings. An enjoyable if understated jam then developed as Trey built around a central riff while Page developed texture on his grand piano before moving back to the Wurlitzer that so far had proved the evening’s favorite.
Once Trey kicked on his low octave pedal the band arrived at a deep, dark, beautiful jam fit for a second set though the clock had only just struck 8 p.m. The waning Wisconsin daylight made Kuroda’s alien abduction lights all the more prominent as Page laid on the intergalactic synths, until finally after 22 minutes the band members segued into “Saw It Again” to keep the darkness of the jam going.
Phish – “FLuffhead” > “I Saw It Again” [Pro-Shot] – 8/13/22
The lights remained a prominent feature of the jam as blood-red colors fanned Trey’s brooding guitar solo. The band’s fifth member continued to push a Close Encounters of the Third Kind aura that kept Trey, Page, Mike Gordon, and Jon Fishman submerged in the depths of evil Phish.
In addition to being a terrific, uninterrupted opening statement of music that balanced light with darkness, “1999” > “Fluffhead” > “Saw It Again” can be interpreted as a callback to the band’s famous 7/24/99 show at Alpine Valley. In “1999” the band played an improvisationally profound “Fluffhead” (also in the two slot of set one) and here we are now in 2022 where we “Saw It Again”.
Continuing on with “Leaves” from 2020’s Sigma Oasis, the backdoor for more dark jams was left open, though a bit of momentum was lost following the first stoppage in play. “Leaves” is a different kind of dark, whereas “Saw It Again” recalls heavy prog rock “Leaves” is more like a sad painting. Jon Fishman pushed this improv to take off by laying down his sharpest drum fills, thereby fanning the flames beneath Trey.
Unfortunately, Trey had different plans and forced the band into “Back On The Train” just as the “Leaves” jam had hit its cruising altitude. It’d be one thing to dish out this sing-along if this was some ordinary first set, but the band members had already struck a tone that they were going to dive straight into the jams. But here we are, putting our shorts back on and going backward into foreplay.
“Taste” followed, an idyllic first set meeting ground of sing-along lyrics and compositional complexity. As the final notes rang out, Fishman took his place at the Marimba Lumina to open “Petrichor”. While I’m sure the bathrooms at Alpine Valley became a mob scene at this point, I for one love this orchestral masterpiece. Between “Fluffhead” and “Petrichor”, Phish went composition-heavy in the first set, with this Big Boat track taking set one past the 60-minute mark as it began. After that, the Chairman of the Boards took us into setbreak with his walk-off piano solo on “The Squirming Coil”.
Phish – “Petrichor” – 8/13/22
Returning for set two, Phish threw a major league curveball by opening with “Backwards Down the Number Line”. By taking this one off the board immediately, it ensured that no song would get “Number Lined” mid-jam, but in a twist indicative of Phish’s “anything can be a jam” motto these past couple years, the birthday song opened up into a noteworthy jam. Trey darted across the surface of Page’s grand piano bedrock while Fishman reigned down flurries of cymbals for a version that would total 14 minutes.
Fishman’s kick drum and Trey’s distorted guitar then led the band down a dark corridor and into “Maze”. The guitarist was shaky on his entry, almost as if he were trying to resurrect the slow “Maze” from Noblesville, IN on 6/4/22. Fishman was not having it, as he maintained a rock-solid tempo. Page instead took up the mantle, bringing some order to the chaos with his B3 organ until he went full mad scientist, tossing off his safety goggles and throwing in every element on the table into his keys. The ensuing insanity woke Trey from his daze as the band communally caught fire with Fishman dumping gasoline onto what became a raging inferno by the time the crescendo came.
Jon Fishman’s rattling snare drums then brought up “Mr. Completely”, as the rhythm section pushed set two along while Trey amplified the rest of the band with his minimalism. Big Red did throw out some “Crazy Train” teases while equipped with his octave pedal, ultimately engaging in a low-end conversation with Mike before rising above the water to push the jam forward with Page’s synth.
This led into “Roggae” which contained a recalibrating jam where everyone reconnected and found their proper footing. By the time the following “About To Run” came along, the second set had taken on a recognizable form as the reliable late-show rocker swiftly navigated a roaring jam that sought climax early.
After treading water upon the “Waves”, Phish took the plunge into improvisation one last time by emerging through the undertow into “Undermind”. Page once again steered this ship with his B3, as Trey used his octave pedal as a shortcut to a subterranean flirtation with darkness. As the band rang out the final notes, Fishman fit in as many samples as he could before breaking for encore. Taking the Alpine Stage one more time that evening, Leo blazed on the grand piano to end the second of three shows in East Troy.
For a full list of upcoming Phish tour dates, head here. To order your LivePhish webcast for any of the band’s upcoming summer shows, head here. To sign up for a free trial membership to LivePhish+ and listen to the whole summer 2022 tour and more, head here.
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Setlist [via phish.net]: Phish | Alpine Valley Music Theatre | East Troy, WI | 8/13/22
SET 1: 1999 > Fluffhead > Saw It Again, Leaves -> Back on the Train, Taste, Petrichor, The Squirming Coil
SET 2: Backwards Down the Number Line -> Maze, Mr. Completely > Roggae, About to Run, Waves > Undermind
ENCORE: Blaze On
Trey teased Crazy Train in Mr. Completely.