The beloved jam band Phish kicked off a three-night weekend run at Deer Creek, er, the Ruoff Music Center in Noblesville, IN last night, marking the final shows of a short-but-sweet spring 2022 tour. After the first five nights of the tour—three in Alabama and two in South Carolina—fans went into the show eagerly expecting a great performance.
It was “Theme From the Bottom” that would open the show, played for the first time after a surprising gap of 31 shows, the longest since 1998 (33 shows). The version was highlighted by some roaring guitarwork from Trey Anastasio but was otherwise standardly played, despite the band’s recent trend of playing long jams to open shows. From the bottom, from the top.
Phish – “Theme From the Bottom”
A cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Boogie On Reggae Woman” followed, with bassist Mike Gordon laying down the typically-funky opening groove. Trey took a moment during the song’s intro to play the melody to “Happy Birthday” in honor of Gordo’s 57th. Happy Birthday, Mike! This “Boogie On” opened up into a funky and energetic jam session that stayed in “Type I” territory before concluding.
The uplifting Sigma Oasis track “Everything’s Right” was next, bringing its typical feel-good lyrics and a feel-good, free-flowing exploratory section, quickly breaking from the song’s structure into a bright, major key jam highlighted by Page McConnell’s work on the Yamaha grand. It was Trey that pivoted the band into a darker section of the jam at roughly the 13-minute mark, leading with a wailing solo before singing an impromptu “It’s gonna be alright” refrain that took the song to its conclusion.
Page then played the opening organ melody of the Junta song “Esther”, a fan favorite that was greeted with hearty applause. The song was played well and, at its conclusion, the band segued seamlessly into a rousing take of the instrumental “Buried Alive”. Trey kept this version light and loose, adding some flair in the fills throughout the song.
It was Page who led the band into “Alaska” with a lengthy, bluesy piano melody, and it was drummer Jon Fishman that kept the group in the pocket as they ripped through a fun and upbeat jam session that stayed in the lines. Next was the Gordo original “Mull”, played for the fifth time ever. The song saw the band get into a funky groove highlighted by Page’s clavinet before dropping into more exploratory waters. The sun had mostly set by this point in the evening, making Chris Kuroda’s spectacular light show a more prominent backdrop for the heady jam.
As the band crossed the double-digit minute mark in the “Mull” jam, it was Gordo who signaled the band out of the jam and into the next song, leaving space for Trey to strum out the opening riff of “Birds of a Feather”. The energetic song featured some quick guitar picking from Trey, who sat in the driver’s seat throughout the entire composition. After the triumphant conclusion of “Birds”, the band dropped into the rocker “Cavern”. Whatever you do, take care of your shoes, right? “Cavern” would mark the finale of set one.
Phish returned from the set break with the funky Big Boat jam, “No Men in No Man’s Land”. The band took this version for a walk, starting with some tight interplay between Trey and Mike before Trey took off, getting the set cooking with a climactic solo. Settling on the other side of the peak, the band looped back into a pocket funk jam before returning to the “No Men” opening refrain and closing out the song.
Phish – “No Men in No Man’s Land”
After a floating, spacey moment, it was Gordo that led the band into the next song, “Down With Disease”. Following the composed section, the band settled into a sweet, melodic jam before pivoting into some musical weirdness punctuated by echoing guitar licks and heralded by Page’s work on the electric keys. Deep into the otherworldly jam, the band pivoted into a funky jam segment with thick, swampy tones and a mesmerizing light display. This was the highlight jam of the night, 17 minutes of pure Phish goodness. You know it’s worth a re-listen if the band never makes it back to the ending of a song.
Eventually the session faded out and Trey swept in with the poignant ballad, “Joy”. The title track from the band’s 2009 album was a mellow moment after 30-ish minutes of fire. The emotional moment was short and sweet, as the group swept into “Ruby Waves”. This was an energetic rendition and, while the Ghosts of the Forest track is perhaps best known for the 38-minute version back in 2019, the band mostly stayed in familiar territory here. Nevertheless, Phish brought the jam to a peak before letting the “Waves” fade to sea.
Next in the setlist were two of the band’s most beloved 1.0-era compositions: the Gamehendgeian “The Lizards” and Junta track “Fluffhead”. The two were truly welcome additions for the second half of the second set, each played well (albeit, not perfectly, but I’m not complaining). No one would’ve expected either of them, let alone both—a memorable moment, to be certain.
Phish closed out set two with a straightforward, rockin’ rendition of “Chalk Dust Torture”. Don’t get me wrong, I love an exploratory 20+ minute jam session as much as the next Phish fan, but there’s something to be said for a quick and emphatic “CDT”. Trey ripped through the closing riff, thanked the fans, and descended backstage for a quick break.
For the encore, Phish brought out its third Junta track of the night: “Contact”. This was an exceptionally playful rendition of a playful song, with Trey again musically wishing the bassist a happy birthday. The group led a hand-waving dance throughout the crowd, leaving fans smiling ear to ear at the end of the night. Finally, just to end the show with a bang, Phish broke out the high-energy song “First Tube”. As the song concluded, Trey held his guitar up to the crowd as feedback rang from the amplifier stack behind him. A potent ending to an overall great performance.
Phish returns to the Ruoff Music Center tonight for night two of the three-night run. After this weekend, the band returns to the road on July 14 for a 26 show tour across the country. Check out last night’s full setlist, fan-shot videos, and photos courtesy of photographer Keith Griner below.
Phish – “Down With Disease”
Phish – “Buried Alive“
Setlist [via phish.net]: Phish | Ruoff Music Center | Noblesville, IN | 6/3/22
SET 1: Theme From the Bottom, Boogie On Reggae Woman (Stevie Wonder) , Everything’s Right, Esther > Buried Alive, Alaska, Mull, Birds of a Feather, Cavern
SET 2: No Men In No Man’s Land > Down with Disease  > Joy > Ruby Waves > The Lizards, Fluffhead > Chalk Dust Torture
ENCORE: Contact  > First Tube
 Trey teased “Happy Birthday”.
It was Mike Gordon’s birthday.