After two hot nights in Atlantic City that solidified this tour as one that makes you question any prior expectations for a Phish show, the once-Vermont foursome returned to the Jersey Shore for the Sunday run closer. With all the unexpected placements of jams that have emerged thus far, an AC Sunday show seemed like the kind of place where it wouldn’t be surprising to hear even stage banter turn into a 20-minute jam.
Completing the trifecta of cabana-wear he chose for the weekend, this time in his finest Idris Elba Booking.com commercial costume, Trey Anastasio led the band through “Wolfman’s Brother” to kick things off. Arguably the most consistent compact-jam vehicle in the band’s catalog, this one opened up a little broader than normal but still hung pretty close to home.
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Going for a solid one-two punch of reliable dance floor strutters, Phish opted for “Tube” next, leading into an expansive and natural jam that moved through three unique passages and garnered a certified “Yes!” from the DidTheyJamOutTube? Twitter account.
— DidTheyJamOutTube? (@TubeJamUpdate) August 8, 2022
Next came an ideal placement of late-’90s ballad “Mountains of the Mist”. Marking its fourth appearance this year, the song has now been played more times in 2022 than in any year since 2003. The floating outro jam of “Mist” bears ample similarities to “Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1”, a song that’s seen some deep journeys since its debut three years ago, indicating that “Mist” seems due for its own moment of rising to the ether. This would not be the one to break free, however, as the well-played rendition quickly descended back to sea level.
After being seemingly ubiquitous in the first few years of 3.0, “Ocelot” has appeared less frequently as of late, so its subsequent arrival felt more welcomed by the crowd than in years passed. A creative version that built to a satisfying peak, this “Ocelot” warmed things up nicely for the “Fluffhead” that came on its heels.
In my opinion, this is the perfect spot for “Fluff”: mid-first set, where all the pressure that comes from nailing a complex composition in a high-profile setlist position is completely eliminated. It felt comfortable from the drop, and the same goes for the mid-first set “Mercury” that came after.
This was the most relaxed “Mercury” you could dream of. Without the onus of taking it deep in its typical second-set role, Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Jon Fishman, and Page McConnell could focus on their inter-verse dynamics, which were glowing here. The flip-side is that once again there was no jam, a trend that has continued throughout the summer, and seems to insinuate that “Mercury” has taken on the odd role of being a Phish song that is contracting rather than expanding as it ages.
“Gumbo” came next, and I never even had a chance to ponder whether it would find its legs on this night as Trey’s puzzling, off-the-cuff vocal transpositions seemed to distract from an otherwise well-played rendition—all due credit to the Chairman of the Boards.
The set closed with “Carini”, a song that seems to appear more and more frequently these days. If it feels like we’ve been seeing a lot of Lucy and her lumpy head these days, you may be right. Much of the rare magic the song used to hold may be getting drowned out by its current frequency. This perfunctory rendition, though not without its bright spots, felt more like a “Character Zero” or a “Loving Cup” than the recitation of a darkened curse it once embodied.
Following one final sandy setbreak, the second set kicked off with a good ole’ “Mike’s Song” > “I Am Hydrogen” > “Weekapaug Groove”. All three parts of the grouping were about as standard as you can get—which of course would mean “phenomenal” for any other band—but it came off as pedestrian in the midst of a Phish tour that’s been blessed with a constant onslaught of Type-II jams and some particularly creative “Mike’s Grooves”.
The ensuing “A Wave of Hope”, on the other hand, was as far from standard as you can get for a song that’s only been played nine times. I take no shame in occasionally letting my jaded vet-ness ring out loudly, and the standard rebuttal I get when criticizing some of Phish’s newer songs is, “But what about the jam?” Frequently, these newer songs are so open-ended that the jams they fall into have absolutely nothing to do with the preceding song structure and could have thus emerged from any song.
While I’m still not sold on the lyrics, “A Wave of Hope” has an arrangement and drive that quickly brings it to a more unique place than any of its modern peers. In fact, you could lay out a convincing argument that it has thus far been the jam vehicle of this tour. This version evolved into some intentionally odd guitar riff syncopation from Trey. Embracing the rhythmic discord, the jam went into an askew, abrasive groove that wouldn’t have been out of place on a 1994 Phish stage. I’m not quite sure how each band member knew when to drop into “You Enjoy Myself” out of their demon trudge, but they did, and it was glorious.
Phish – “A Wave of Hope” [Pro-Shot] – 8/7/22
There have been some new changes to old songs happening as of late, but the one alteration I hope sticks around is the new post-vocal jam instrumental tangent in “YEM”, the longtime closer that has now taken up frequent residence in the middle of sets. Instead of the vocal jam acting as an open canvas for abstract design, it now serves as a sampling ground for Jon Fishman to develop a novel groove. Again, this leads to some untouched territory for the band—the 43 minutes Phish spent between “A Wave of Hope” and “YEM” were easily some of the most eccentric jamming of the summer. A cookie-cutter “Suzy Greenberg” finally closed the set.
As the opening notes of a “Wading In The Velvet Sea” encore rang out over the beach, a noticeable contingent of revelers turned on a dime and sprinted toward the shoreline to appropriately take in the tune with their toes in the surf. As the encore moved into a “First Tube” finale, lifeguards trolled the waterline and tried, with middling results, to push the wading revelers back onto the sand. Their whistles only seemed to add to the frenzy of “First Tube”, amusingly mirroring the cacophony of the Cyro Baptista-added shrieks and crashes that typically accompany Trey Anastasio Band versions of the perennial show-closer.
Any damage had already been done at this point, though, and it’s the “Wave of YEM” that rang out as the talk of the boardwalk post-show. In a way, on this night it seemed like the band, and Trey especially, was testing the willingness of the audience to get weird. After three nights in the sun and the sand, the response was one of emphatic approval.
Phish – “First Tube” – 8/7/22
Check out a gallery of photos from the final night of Phish on the Atlantic City Beach below via Dylan Eddinger. Phish tour continues this week with the band’s sole summer show north of the U.S. border in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 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.
For a complete directory of Live For Live Music‘s Phish summer tour 2022 coverage, head here.
Setlist [via phish.net]: Phish | Atlantic City Beach | Atlantic City, NJ | 8/7/22
Set One: Wolfman’s Brother, Tube, Mountains in the Mist, Ocelot > Fluffhead, Mercury > Gumbo > Carini
Set Two: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, A Wave of Hope > You Enjoy Myself > Suzy Greenberg
Encore: Wading in the Velvet Sea, First Tube