After a funky jam-filled Friday night at Encore Park, Phish returned to Alpharetta on Saturday to an even giddier crowd. Although the show was equally as sold out as it was on the first of the three nights, Saturday’s energy appeared even stronger and the headcount even larger.
Phish has spent the last couple of weeks blazing a trail of hot first sets, therefore, fans were sure to wedge their way into the 12,000-capacity venue before the first note of “Bouncing Around the Room.” The last “Bouncing” opener was back in 11/28/03 during the 20th-anniversary tour and oh, the places they have gone since then. A mild opening song selection led to one of their more rocking tunes in the diverse repertoire with “Chalk Dust Torture.” After Friday night’s praise-worthy “Ghost,” the band once again got into it early with a ripping “Chalk Dust” out of the gate. Mike Gordon held down the fort with a chomped-out bass and built the bridge for Trey Anastasio to safely test his pedals on. Trey jerked and wailed throughout which may have sparked inspiration for the following NC-17 rated selection, “Fuck Your Face,” which gave the hyped-up venue an added bump of energy.
Gordon showed off his greased-up groove during “Wolfman’s Brother,” working together with Page McConnell as he revved up the Clavinet. Trey decided to melt a few more faces with a delayed Tru-Tron effect that high-stepped around the first half of the early-show funk. Page switched over to grand piano, cementing a foundation for Trey to make the guitar scream as the previous song suggested. The “Wolfman’s” served as the highlight of the no-filler first set and confirmed that the band was Gorilla Glue gelling with no end in sight. Page’s bouncy bluegrass “Things People Do” off the Big Boat album found Jon Fishman chugging along the tracks with a simple train beat before delivering a dreamlike vocal section in the form of “Lengthwise.” Following the Rift studio album guidelines of yesteryear, “Maze” followed and gave Page a chance to show off his maddening B-3 organ technique. Trey trailed behind Page to execute an unhinged guitar solo before handing the song back to Mike for the usual sludgy bassline.
“Waiting All Night” soothed the wound-up crowd and gave the dad-rock enthusiasts on the grass a chance to show off their socks-in-sandals dance moves. “Divided Sky” kept things light and airy. As per usual, the band took an extended pause to soak up the energy from the grateful and enthusiastic room. While there are only six words in the entire Junta released composition, it tells a beautiful story and gives each member of the audience time to drift away for about 16 minutes. Since stepping on stage in Georgia, Phish has displayed more soul, patience, and cohesiveness. The spot-on execution of a straight-forward “Divided Sky” gave way to a juiced-up “Character Zero.” As suggested in the lyrics, Trey did not rush out of the first set with this closer, but instead foot fucked the whammy pedal to funkify this commonly played ditty and douse the excited crowd before the break.
The commonly-covered Talking Head’s tune, “Crosseyed and Painless”, opened the second set to 12-minutes of fearless fury. The Trey-led fuzzed out transition into Type II terrain found the redhead leapfrogging on the pedals, modifying and thickening his tone ever so delicately. The jam lifted off thanks to Mike’s driving bass and ended with a boiling teapot effect courtesy of Trey and Page. While “Soul Planet” might sound more like a Broadway musical number and less like a jam vehicle upon first listen, it is important to remember that critics also had their opinions on “Light,” “Fuego,” “Gotta Jibboo” and a long list of other new songs before Phish proved them wrong. Once again on the Summer 2018 Tour, the quartet proved that this cuddle-puddle love fest of a song has legs, fangs, and the ability to kill. Space exploration was the overall theme here. The 23-minute full-band take-down was not only the highlight of this show but arguably the entire tour.
Trey was a man on a mission, inserting a fluttering guitar riff in between the storm of dank basslines and organ thumps from Mike and Page to begin the euphoric jam. Displaying patience on the Clavinet, Page created otherworldly lift-off that Fishman soon dissected into a bigger-picture map of peaks and valleys. Towards the end of this masterpiece, Gordon switched gears and made the bass sound more like a talking Gremlin which influenced Trey to experiment with his rig as well, leading to an extraterrestrial ending. The 35-minute “Crosseyed Soul Planet” magic is why fans run, fly, swim, drive, and couch surf for this band.
Keeping the ocean in site during set two, “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” allowed for more cosmic deep-sea Phishing. “ASIHTOS” didn’t drift too far from the shore, but the slow-skipping stone of a transition into “Piper” was a patient, collaborative effort that ensured night two, set two was another for the books. A slick echo effect provided by Trey signaled a swerving pit-stop and let Page take the wheel on several levels of the boards as Chris Kuroda guaranteed the installment was not only audibly, but visually stunning as well. Sailing upon a synth, “Piper” moved from a blissed-out safe space to something out of a sci-fi thriller. Mike rained down the fire bass sounds while Trey pierced the ears of attendees with pure diamonds before launching into another high-energy oldie-but-goodie in “Possum” for the third time this tour.
Honky-tonk Page showed up to hammer away the grand piano and kept the tune right where it belonged while the crowd sang along to one of the band’s oldest and most played tunes. Trey showed the south that when marsupials are hit by cars, northeastern jam bands are inspired to play party hymns in memory. “Slave to the Traffic Light” finished off an encouraging, decade-hopping show that gave the Phish community hope for the future as the strongest song was also the most recently debuted.
For those in attendance taking notes, Phish threw an inverted curveball when choosing Saturday night’s song placement, opening with the song that ends 1991’s Lawnboy (“Bouncing”) and closing the show with a song that introduces the album in “Squirming Coil.” Was there some type of intentionally-placed hidden message? The world may never know. Page finished the beloved “Coil” with a passionately executed solo as the rest of the band drifted off stage. The first two shows of the three-night weekend at Alpharetta have forcefully shifted the trajectory of tour and you know what they say about Sundays.
You can download last night’s show via LivePhish here. The band concludes their run at Alpharetta tonight.
Setlist: Phish | Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park | Alpharetta, GA | 8/4/18
I: Bouncing Around the Room, Chalk Dust Torture, Fuck Your Face, Wolfman’s Brother, Things People Do, Lengthwise -> Maze, Waiting All Night, Divided Sky, Character Zero
II: Crosseyed and Painless > Soul Planet, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing > Piper > Possum > Slave to the Traffic Light
E: The Squirming Coil