Deep inside the 40-acres of Maryland’s gorgeous Symphony Woods, you’ll find Merriweather Post Pavilion—one of the most played venues of 3.0 Phish, only behind Madison Square Garden, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. A fan and band favorite, this venue is known for high-quality sound and beautiful architecture. The nature-filled lot scene smack dab in between D.C. and Baltimore makes it a finest-in-the-nation summer tour destination and on Saturday night, Phish welcomed fans new and old to their two-night 2019 stand. The evening can be summed up with a standard “play the hits” first set, a soul-freeing jam in the second set, and a feel-good ending to wrap up a show that contained two dozen songs.
A funkified three pack of songs kicked things off. 2004’s “Undermind” allowed Trey Anastasio to get to work immediately channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix (who has also played at MPP) for a brief moment. Jon Fishman uses his Roland electronic percussion pad to pull artificial, intercontinental sounds into a song not commonly categorized as “world music,” but it worked well to finish off “Undermind.” A light-weight, yet jammy “Tube” gave Mike Gordon time in the spotlight and provided a dance groove that even Steely Dan-loving dads could get down to. A well-executed, yet slow-moving jam hovered between Type I and Type II territory and was accented nicely by Page McConnell’s grand piano—an instrument rarely associated with recent “Tube” jams.
“Funky Bitch” kept the party going as Page went to work on the B3 organ, bringing soulful funk to the stage before it was covered in thick air from the vapor machines that ushered in “Steam.” Trey went with his signature plinko-effects and Gordon followed along on bass to create a dank “Steam” jam that sounded like a 90s video game soundtrack. The band showed extra dedication during their most Broadway-like song in terms of stage theatrics (it’s a shame they don’t have a song called “Pyrotechnics”) and extended it past the 10-minute mark.
A standard “My Sweet One” and “NICU” led to a Phish debut in “Friend.” The heart-felt ballad was the fifth Ghosts of the Forest original played this tour and told a story of true friendship—complete with the heavy guitar distortion and a blazing solo from the composer himself. “No Men In No Man’s Land” returned to MPP once again as Trey tipped his cap to the start of summer with an extended “Blister in the Sun” tease. Rift’s dynamic duo of “Horse” into “Silent in the Morning” turned the electric energy down before Junta’s “David Bowie” turned it up two more notches. While it didn’t slice very deep, it fit nicely into the four-pack of songs from 1.0 studio albums to shut down the first set. The always-welcomed “Squirming Coil” from 1990’s Lawn Boy gave the “Chairman of the Boards” some alone time during the delicate solo before he joined the rest of his bandmates off stage for set break.
Phish – “No Men In No Man’s Land”
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
“Ghost” eerily opened the second set as Page created a haunting vibe with massive synth accented by Gordon bass-effects, who made his presence known early on. Lighting designer Chris Kuroda turned the light rig into a carousel of color as he lifted and dropped them above the stage to make new audience members ask each other, “Wait, are those moving?” Trey took over to develop the next layer of the Type II jam by hitting high notes that fluttered and drove the 14-minute piece to a rocking and abrupt finish just as things were really heating up. The band kept the water boiling with a standard “Axilla” that made way for a newer jam vehicle in “Set Your Soul Free.”
The second-set highlight was laced with big B3 organ, plinko-jamming, and silky smooth textured transitions into Type II terrain. Compared to the mid-90s set opener, the newer tune showed a band with younger energy—motivated to develop a happy-go-lucky dance sequence for fans. Page took the Maryland crowd to church with his celestial organ as Trey moved through on a blissed-out solo. Gordon jumps in to create a Zen garden of sound that elevated the jam to new heights. After a dozen performances, this song has become a band favorite (including CK5) when it comes to improvisation and creativity.
After 14-minutes of soul-freeing fun, the Vermonters segued into “What’s The Use?” from The Siket Disc. The fan-favorite “Billy Breathes” followed, adding yet another 1.0 studio tune to the rapidly rotating setlist. For the 18th-straight show since the i rokk debut on Halloween, Phish added elements of Kasvot Växt to the setlist with “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long.” This particular version began with Trey and Fishman whispering the lyrics into the microphones (presumably to freak out the audience). The whispers may have thrown off Fishman as he initially flubbed the lyrics, which lead to Trey’s devilish vocal takeover. Even when the Kasvot tunes are occasionally misplayed, the band appears to be having so much fun with them, the crowd doesn’t seem to mind. Happy Phish, happy tour!
Phish – “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long”
[Video: Fred Ramadan]
“Backwards Down the Number Line” brought fans back to the Joy-filled early years of 3.0. Trey dug his claws into the solo and made way for an oldie-but-goodie in “Harry Hood”, as it soared into the song-heavy second set. Mike dropped chunky bass bombs prior to the “You can feel good” section to close out an innovative “Hood.” Speaking of feel-good songs, the band ended the second set with”Rise>Come Together” into the high-energy “Golgi Apparatus.” Trey struggled through the “Golgi” composition, but the pavilion people didn’t seem to care as they jumped and screamed at the refrain that ended the Junta original.
The standard encore double-decker of “Bug” and “Character Zero” sent Saturday night’s crowd home and gave them hope for an even stronger Sunday. Phish continues their 2019 summer tour tonight (Sunday) with their 15th 3.0 performance at Merriweather Post Pavilion. For a full list of the band’s upcoming tour dates and more information, head here.
Each show on Phish’s 2019 summer tour will be rebroadcast on SiriusXM Phish Radio (Ch. 29) at 12:00 ET the following day. Subscribe here.
Setlist: Phish | Merriweather Post Pavilion | Columbia, MD | 6/22/2019
Set One: Undermind, Tube, Funky Bitch, Steam > My Sweet One > NICU, Friend, No Men In No Man’s Land, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, David Bowie, The Squirming Coil
Set Two: Ghost > Axilla > Set Your Soul Free > What’s the Use? > Billy Breathes, Death Don’t Hurt Very Long > Backwards Down the Number Line > Harry Hood > Rise/Come Together > Golgi Apparatus
Encore: Bug > Character Zero
 Phish debut.