Phish continued a setlist-bending fall tour on Saturday night with a stop at the North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA, the band’s first visit to the San Diego-area venue since 2016. Fans of acronyms were quick to note that venue’s name can be abbreviated to the NICU Amphitheatre, and the band certainly took advantage of this, putting “NICU” on full display throughout the performance.

The show began with a hearty “Fluffhead”, an opener choice reminiscent of the very first notes of the 3.0 era (even though it was played as a show opener as recently as 2019). While the composed section of “Fluffhead” wasn’t flawless, the version was noteworthy as the band departed from the song’s traditional ending and instead locked into funky jam. This improvisational detour was brief, however, as the band soon transitioned into the opening riff of, you guessed it, “NICU”.

Phish – “NICU” [Pro-Shot] – 10/23/21

This was no ordinary “NICU”. Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell broke out from the midsection into an exploratory, Type II jam that found the band toying with the melodies of “NICU” throughout the second straight 17(ish)-minute tune of the evening. The ‘Jam Chart’ for “NICU” only had four entries before 10/23/21. This one will no doubt make number five.

Phish slowed down and made room for Jon Fishman to lead the band through his own “Bye Bye Foot”, a bust-out ballad played for only the second time in this millennium and the sixth time ever. “Tube” was next, quickly building up the energy in the room. The band took this song out for a walk, too, emerging from the stupendous verses with a funky jam powered by Mike Gordon on the low end. The thick funk moved into a lighter, melodic jam in which Trey played soaring notes and Page lit up the room with bright piano chords and echoing synthesizers. Just when the music was getting spacey, Fish brought the band back down to Earth and into the ending of the song. Trey dropped three “NICU” teases in that jam, by my unofficial count.

Next up was “Slave to the Traffic Light”, placed in an earlier-than-usual spot in the setlist. As Phish continues subverting setlist tropes, fans can’t help but speculate whether this will have any bearing on the upcoming Halloween performance in Las Vegas.

The set continued with slow “Llama”, the alternate, somehow-even-funkier arrangement of the classic Phish tune that has been played a handful of times in recent years. Trey was all smiles as Page dazzled on the piano and the Gordo/Fishman rhythm section drove the brief jam.

The band closed out set one with “Rise/Come Together”; the hopeful 3.0-era song was peppered with fresh “NICU” teases during its final refrains. Phish went into halftime having played seven songs in total—and only one from the post-reunion era—with lots and lots of “NICU”.

Phish wasted no time getting back to jamming on the second set’s opening “No Men in Men’s Land”, which leapt from its opening verses into a lengthy improvisational section that had Fishman in the driver’s seat from start to finish as the band explored themes both light and dark. The drummer only slowed to usher in the second song of the set, “Free”. It was Gordo who led the band into the jam here, though not without another quote of “NICU” by Trey. The jam peaked in a bright melodic space before the group returned to the ending of “Free”—more than 16 minutes after it began.

The set continued with heart-wrenching ballad “Joy” before moving into the funk-laced tones of “Sand”. The improvisational portion of “Sand” mostly stayed within the lines, powered by Gordo’s rich bass work. The band switched to a major key near the ending of the “Sand” jam, allowing Trey to strum the opening chords of “Piper”.

One of the highlights of the night, this “Piper” veered into deep space exploration. The jam gave Chris Kuroda a noteworthy opportunity to work his magic with the lighting rig. Dark, brooding, and tense, the “Piper” jam peaked into sonic mayhem before the band settled down into “Scents and Subtle Sounds”, complete with the intro section. The “Scents” jam was bright and melodic, and Trey concluded the song and the set with one final nod to “NICU”.

Phish returned for two final songs, including “Lonely Trip”, the mellow title track from Trey’s quarantine album project, and “First Tube”, the fast-paced and energetic instrumental. The two encore songs capped off a jam-heavy evening that had fans happily grooving along down in southern California.

The band continues a four-show, four city run tomorrow, October 24th at The Forum in Inglewood, CA, before continuing up the coastline to Santa Barbara, CA. From there, Phish will wrap up fall tour 2021 with a four night stand in Las Vegas, NV. For a full list of upcoming dates, head here.

Listen to a full audio recording of the show via LivePhish.

Click below to revisit Live For Live Music‘s full coverage of Phish fall tour 2021 including photos, videos, and concert recaps.

Phish Fall Tour 2021 Recaps

10/15/21 Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA – Recap
10/16/21 Chase Center, San Francisco, CA – Recap
10/17/21 Chase Center, San Francisco, CA – Recap
10/19/21 Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR – Recap
10/20/21 Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR – Recap
10/22/21 Ak-Chin Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ – Recap
10/23/21 NICU Amphitheatre, Chula Vista, CA
10/24/21 The Forum, Inglewood, CA – Recap
10/26/21 Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA – Recap
10/28 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Recap
10/29 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Upcoming
10/30 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Upcoming
10/31 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Upcoming

View Fall Tour Coverage

Setlist [via]: Phish | North Island Credit Union Ampthiteatre | Chula Vista, CA | 10/23/21

Set One: Fluffhead > NICU > Bye Bye Foot, Tube > Slave to the Traffic Light > Llama > Rise/Come Together

Set Two: No Men In No Man’s Land > Free > Joy > Sand -> Piper > Scents and Subtle Sounds

Encore: Lonely Trip, First Tube

Notes: Tube, Rise/Come Together, Free, and Scents and Subtle Sounds had teases of NICU from Trey. Llama was the slow arrangement.