Disclaimer: I go to shows to have fun. I don’t take notes. I dance, I drink, and I’m probably writing this hungover. I don’t use a thesaurus, I call em’ like I see em’. This is what I thought.
This past weekend, Atlantic City hosted a three-day Phish extravaganza of rock n’ roll, partying, and perhaps just a little bit of gambling. When Phish comes to a resort city like A.C. – where the casinos stay open all night, and the party lasts until the early morning – each day tends to blend together. Atlantic City is the perfect place for three nights of Phish. There are more than enough hotels to accommodate the massive influx of fans, enough cabs to get everyone to and from the venue, and so much to do that there is never a dull moment. Atlantic City residents and employees really enjoyed hosting Phish and their fans, and we enjoyed their city right back. For a relatively new venue, Bader Field had everything under control. Lines were short and, for the most part, orderly. Vendors were not packed, and security was relaxed. The giant, glowing Ferris wheel added to the festive atmosphere, and though it did not actually spin, the lights that were attached created a mesmerizing and nostalgic backdrop.
Friday night began with a choice selection of fan favorites – The Sloth, 46 Days, Camel Walk, Tube, Cities – starting the weekend off in fine fashion. The night really picked up once the first extended jam emerged in Stash. That was followed up by a solid Simple, which got everyone in the crowd singing along. Squirming Coil saw Page take the crowd into a dream-state with his magnificent solo, which led into set break. Once the sun went down, fans were treated to Chris Kuroda’s new lighting rig. These new lights, that provide a radiant backdrop directly behind the band, add a whole new element of visual delight for fans. There were times throughout the weekend when you caught yourself just standing and staring wide-eyed at this new setup, as if you were in 2001: A Space Odyssey, being completely brainwashed. As the summer continues, it will be interesting to see how these lights evolve behind the genius that is CK5.
To say that Saturday night’s second set exceeded everyone’s expectations is a gross understatement. What happened during this set was pure, unadulterated Phish at their very best. Beginning with an awesome Crosseyed and Painless, the band segued smoothly into a majestic Slave to the Traffic Light which blew minds, and melted faces. This was, arguably, the most beautifully played, and well-placed Slave in years, continuing the surprisingly remarkable placement of many songs. The star of the show, however, was Light, which has clearly become the best jam vehicle from ‘Joy’. Since its debut, the song has evolved from just another overlooked studio song into a ‘highlight of the show’ contender nearly every time it’s played. Here, the jam featured segments from Crosseyed and Painless as well as a full Manteca jam with lyrics in the middle. The Crosseyed chorus returned again in the middle of a silky-smooth Sand later in the set, which again had jaws on the floor. A slightly misplaced, though well-played, Backwards Down the Number Line followed Sand. It seemed the boys needed a minute to breathe after annihilating the set up to this point. But the magic of the Crosseyed>Slave>Light segment was never quite matched despite a rocking Antelope to close. Good Times Bad Times finished out the night, and saw Trey play like a rock-God as he channeled his innermost Jimmy Page. The precision with which he is playing right now should give fans plenty of hope for this to be one of the best summer tours in a long time.
The second set on Sunday, like the day before, also opened with a big time cover; this time, a nicely jammed version of The Who’s Drowned. 2001 (Also Sprach Zarathustra) was about as funky as it gets; the energy during this song was as high as it got all weekend. Following 2001, a mid-set Reba upped the ante on the entire show. For a weekend that boasted highlight after highlight, Reba took the cake in many fans minds; it was played to utter perfection. Sticking with the theme of the night – which was simply playing the hell out of every song – Phish followed up with stand-alone versions of Roses are Free, and Chalkdust Torture. Other moments of note – Prince Caspian remained unfinished as it segued perfectly into Silent In The Morning, making it one of the few times a song preceded ‘Silent’ besides Horse, clearly referencing the aborted version from the night before. This was followed by an extremely enjoyable Bug and high-energy A Day in the Life. The recognizable opening notes of Down with Disease had everyone in a frenzy, as we knew that this would close out the set. The curiously placed Disease was the first time the song had ended the second set in nearly a decade. One of the best Gotta Jibboo’s ever made only its second encore appearance in history. Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn) followed Jibboo, and ended the weekend in explosive fashion, leaving every single body in the crowd smiling and wanting more Phish.
There are so many different adjectives to describe how Phish played this weekend; the one that seems to do the most justice is….Inspired. For those of us that have been to countless shows and festivals over the years, and those that are just joining for the first time, it doesn’t get much better. Most post-show conversations in the casinos were about how incredible Phish played. Some said it was reminiscent of how Phish played during their 2003 IT festival or last summer’s Superball IX; this weekend proved that our band is back for summer, and better than ever. We don’t need to hop in a DeLorean and go back to the future; we don’t have to yearn for the days of old, or that ’96-’98 time period when they brought the funk (though it surely was an epic time); we don’t have to worry about whether or not Trey is going to be “On” or not; all we have to worry about is how the hell our asses are going to get to the next show, because we simply cannot miss a note of the fire that Trey, Mike, Page, and Fish are currently bringing. The deep-pocket grooves that they are finding, the space that they are allowing each other to play within, along with the total cohesiveness of this musical unit, is something that we can clearly look forward to for the rest of the summer. If Worcester was the initial statement of what to expect this summer, Atlantic City was about ten exclamation points to end that statement. It’s phixin’ to be a grand summer after all. See you all out there!
Setlist Friday 6/15/12:
Set 1: The Sloth, My Sweet One > 46 Days > Camel Walk, Tube > Cities > It’s Ice,Ginseng Sullivan, Stash, Simple > The Wedge, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan,The Squirming Coil
Set 2: My Soul, Birds of a Feather -> Back on the Train > Heavy Things > Twist >Piper > Billy Breathes, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley > David Bowie
Encore: First Tube
 “Woo!” quotes from Twist in intro.
 Stash, It’s Ice, Birds of a Feather, Simple, and Ginseng Sullivan teases. Wedge tease from Fishman.
 “Woo!” quote from Twist.
Notes: Birds of a Feather was unfinished. Piper and First Tube contained “woo!” quotes from Twist. Bowie contained Stash, It’s Ice, Birds of a Feather, Simple, and Ginseng Sullivan teases and a Wedge tease from Fishman.
Setlist Saturday 6/16/12:
Set 1: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Gumbo, Halley’s Comet > My Friend, My Friend, Wolfman’s Brother, The Horse, Lawn Boy, Possum > Punch You In the Eye > Ocelot, Suzy Greenberg
Set 2: Crosseyed and Painless > Slave to the Traffic Light > Light -> Manteca -> Light > Theme From the Bottom > Golgi Apparatus > Sand > Backwards Down the Number Line > Run Like an Antelope
Encore: Good Times Bad Times
 Nellie Kane tease.
 Lawn Boy and Stash teases.
 Crosseyed quotes.
 Manteca tease; Crosseyed quotes.
Notes: Weekapaug contained a Nellie Kane tease from Trey. The Horse was quickly aborted with Trey saying instead of playing Horse, he started thinking about how stupid the ending to My Friend, My Friend was and it threw him off. Fishman said that he thought the ending was the greatest ending in rock history, that he loved it, and it was his favorite ending. Trey said Maze was his personal favorite, prompting quick teases of the end of Maze by himself and Page. Trey asked Page what his favorite song ending was and Page responded with Lawn Boy, which the band subsequently played. Possum contained Lawn Boy and Stash teases. Light contained a Manteca tease from Page and Crosseyed and Painless quotes. Sand and GTBT also contained Crosseyed and Painless quotes.
Setlist Sunday 6/17/12:
Set 1: Brother, Runaway Jim, Dogs Stole Things, Boogie On Reggae Woman > NICU, Foam > Wilson > Timber (Jerry), Fluffhead, Walls of the Cave > Character Zero
Set 2: Drowned > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Reba, Roses Are Free > Chalk Dust Torture > Prince Caspian -> Silent in the Morning, Bug > A Day in the Life > Down with Disease
Encore: Gotta Jibboo > Quinn the Eskimo
 Contained brief ending similar to Brother.
 No whistling.
 Ending similar to Brother mixed in with normal DWD ending.
Notes: For the fourth Father’s Day in a row, Brother was performed and featured all of the band’s children on stage and subsequent introductions (which included a Charge! from Page). After Timber, Trey sang the ending notes to Brother. Trey then said he had a trivia question for the crowd and asked “how many songs end like this?” and the band sang the ending of Brother again. He answered the question by saying the songs were My Friend, My Friend, Rift, and Brother (all of which had their endings “sung”). Trey added that tonight was special because from now on, Timber would also end with the Brother ending (which was sung again). Trey said Page could also end Lawn Boy that way from now on, prompting a Lawn Boy quote from Page. Mike then teased Ha Ha Ha. Trey went on to say that Metallica would be playing at Bader Field soon after Phish and that he didn’t think they ended a single song like the ending of Brother (Trey sang the ending). Trey said if everyone wrote Metallica a note saying “Dear Metallica, please end Master of Puppets like this” (singing the ending one final time), if they got 20,000 notes, they just might do it. Fluffhead and Down With Disease subsequently had endings similar to Brother mixed in with their normal finishes. Reba did not contain the whistling ending and Caspian was unfinished.