On Saturday night in Los Angeles, The Forum was treated to the final of four California Phish shows this summer. Sporadic and unique song placements appeared to be the theme of the night as “Julius” opened the show for the first time since October 2013 at Hampton. The well-rested Saturday crowd was ready to rage after Friday night’s high energy show and “Suzy Greenburg” followed which made note takers think Phish might be playing some sort of reversed set. “Suzy” may be placed in exit roles normally, but regardless of where they put this vintage tune, Page McConnell always knows what to do. Saturday night was no different as he was on fire and annihilated the keys, one board at a time.
Fans chasing “Timber Ho!” were treated to a version complete with Donovan’s “There Is a Mountain” teases from Trey Anastasio, a song that will live in jamband infamy thanks to the stellar inspiration it provided to the Allman Brothers Band’s “Mountain Jam.” The fourth installment, “Soul Shakedown Party,” is proof that some of the whitest dudes on Earth can play a classic reggae song and still make it sound Marley-esque. “Kill Devil Falls” took the fifth spot and the extended version was sandwiched as the highlight of the first set. Trey came to play and utilized Jon Fishman’s forceful progression to lead the band into a sizzling “KDF.” Hard to believe that next year, this once “new tune” will be celebrating its 10th birthday and there are sure to be more memorable versions to come.
Judging by Mike Gordon’s attire, he spent the daytime traveling to a European rave in the late-90’s, but he did make it back in time for the show to perform a standard version of his original “555.” In the absence of Bob Barker, Page reminded the crowd to have their pets spayed or neutered during the funkified and screeching “Your Pet Cat.” Nothing overwhelming about this cat-lovers anthem, but just imagine what older LA Laker fans would think if they heard their beloved home court was now being used as a concert venue for Vermont bands to sample feline noises!
After the slow-paced and relevant ocean tune, “Tide Turns,” Phish dissected “No Men In No Man’s Land” to give the crowd some room to dance. The 20-minute “NMINML” and “Bathtub Gin” combo to end the first set gave Chris Kuroda some extra juice for the stellar indoor light show and he did not disappoint as Trey gave the fans what they wanted with classic sounds mixed with a plethora of effect pedal play. A fine line was drawn in between “Soul Shakedown” and “Kill Devil Falls” between pre-3.0 and post-3.0 Phish, but “Bathtub Gin” was the perfect way to get jaded tour vets and new listeners on the same page before the set break.
The second set began with a “Gotta Jibboo” that quickly transitioned into Type 2 terrain with the entire band practicing a crafted patience and ambient solidarity. After the interstellar delay loops and bouncing bass plucking, Trey continues his reign from the first set, challenging Kuroda to keep pace on lights while massaging the bottom of the guitar neck to get the fans going prior to phasing out the Farmhouse favorite. While it didn’t touch the Madison Square Garden “Jibboo” that closed out 2017, it was the needed spark for the next song, “Fuego.”
Fuego started out straightforward with its ambitious structure and playful lyrics but was steered into an incredibly different direction. During the second set highlight jam, the normally rocking “Fuego” contained softer psychedelic elements of “Norwegian Wood” meets “Squirming Coil.” Blissed out fans were treated to something special as the 2013 track went from a massive roar to a bed of gorgeous glowing embers, keeping the entire room comfortably warm during its delicate duration of full-band cohesion.
“Bird of a Feather” was introduced with a “They Attack” quote from Page, but before allowing any time for the bird to take flight, Trey shot it out of the sky faster than an NES Duck Hunt gun. “Meatstick” came up as the second song in a row that is normally reserved for a brief appearance in the first set. Instead of gaining any ground, Trey prematurely pulled out and jumped right into “Soul Planet.” While older fans going to shows to hear a 30-minute “Carini” might moan about the peaceful lyrics and sunshine-daydream-like composition of “Soul Planet,” they may want to reconsider the song for two reasons; the jam vehicle potential and the fact that when Trey is in love with a new song, he is willing to take it anywhere.
Page executed a short grand piano solo that got the Pacific Ocean-based crowd into the groove and compared to the previous two song choices, saw a band focused and determined. Fishman held down a beefy drumbeat that instantly brought them into full Type 2 orbit. Page circled the rig, hovering between a spacey synth and airy keyboard. Ultimately, it was Trey that peaked with a foaming tidal wave of energy that eventually dissolved with echoing distortion accompanied by a deep organ vibration from Page. On paper, the set was probably the most confusing of tour thus far, but all bets were off as they hit the “Soul Planet” and “Wingsuit” that followed, two songs with generally mixed reviews. The “Wingsuit” climbed from its usual mellow tone to a hard-rocker screwed down with a bass drilling from Gordon.
“Cavern” gave Trey a big chuckle as he didn’t just flub, but completely forgot an entire verse. Had he not been hysterically laughing at himself with some rail-riding LA ladies, he may have had a chance of saving it, but when Trey has fun, so do the fans and it didn’t appear to hurt anyone’s feelings after a second set of unpredictable strength and diversity.
The encore immediately confronted the “Cavern” lyrical debacle when the band described someone laughing, laughing and falling apart during “Sparkle.” A standard Saturday night encore staple with an extraordinary amount of energy came in the form of “Character Zero,” allowing Kuroda to light up the Golden State crowd one last time this summer. The band didn’t go quietly and neither did the amped-up guests of The Forum as Trey wailed his heart out, creating an energy that would flow outside with the attendees long after the show ended.
After the career-spanning eighth show of Summer 2018 and their sixth at The Forum ever, Phish gets a few days off before hitting the Austin360 Amphitheater in Texas on Tuesday, July 31st.
Setlist: Phish | The Forum | Inglewood, CA | 7/28/18
SET 1: Julius, Suzy Greenberg > Timber Ho!, Soul Shakedown Party, Kill Devil Falls, 555, Your Pet Cat, Tide Turns, No Men In No Man’s Land > Bathtub Gin
SET 2: Gotta Jibboo > Fuego > Birds of a Feather > Meatstick > Soul Planet > Wingsuit > Cavern
ENCORE: Sparkle > Character Zero