Midway through the first set of Phish’s tenth festival, guitarist Trey Anastasio paused to greet the tens of thousands gathered to hear him perform. Reflecting on festivals past, Anastasio led the crowd in a round of “Happy Birthday” to celebrate his daughter’s 20th. Her first birthday was just three days after the Clifford Ball.

Phish returned to the Watkins Glen International raceway in New York for the first time in four years, bringing a caravan of (reportedly) 30,000 adoring fans to the remote, pristine location. Woodlands surrounding, the site is prepped and ready for the perfect Phish weekend getaway.

The band started their festival with “Simple”, delightfully singing “We’ve got it simple, because we’ve got a band!” The line felt symbolic, considering just how much fun Phish has been having on their summer tour.

“The Dogs” came next, bringing some Halloween jams to Watkins Glen, NY. From new to old, as Phish went into one of their oldest songs, “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday”, complete with a powerful “Avenu Malkanu” section. Mike Gordon led the charge on the first big bust out of the show, as TMWSIY hadn’t been played in 124 shows (since 2012).

“Free” and “The Wedge” followed, both with some extra oomph for the occasion. The next selection was perhaps the most surprising: “Mock Song”. A ‘Round Room’ song by Gordon, “Mock Song” had only been played once before… in 2003.

After a mellow “Roggae” and an energetic “Rift”, Phish closed out set one with the biggest jam of the set in “Bathtub Gin”. With several distinct-yet-flowing sections; Page McConnell dabbling on the clavs, Trey floating great melodies, and Gordo dropping bass bombs on the land. What an excellent closer of a first set, stretching 20+ minutes and into space and back.

Set two picked up where the first left off, with a monster “Chalkdust Torture”. Another 20-minute jam, the give and take between Gordon and Anastasio kept the creative improvisation flowing. The jam segued into “Ghost”, drawing the group into a funk free for all. McConnell laid down some thick keys, keeping up this super groove.

With a sleek change, Anastasio launched into “Rock and Roll”, The Velvet Underground cover. This is simply a fun song, and the jam was an upbeat one. It was drummer Jon Fishman who capped that session off, slinging the band into the opening bars of “Harry Hood”. Complete with a spacy jam that dropped into a beautiful ending of the song.

With some post-Hood psychedelic noodling, Anastasio led the band into a moving version of “Waste”. The respite was brief, however, as Phish jumped into the new original “No Men In No Man’s Land”. This was a particularly funky type-I version that kept on keeping. “Slave to the Traffic Light” put the finishing touches on an incredible second set.

With a “Farmhouse” and “First Tube” encore, Phish finished up a very strong opening night at Magnaball. The band is scheduled to perform an afternoon set today, August 22nd, followed by a full evening of music. Get ready!

Set 1: Simple > The Dogs > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday >Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Free, The Wedge, Mock Song, Roggae > Rift, Bathtub Gin

Set 2: Chalk Dust Torture > Ghost -> Rock and Roll > Harry Hood ->Waste > No Men In No Man’s Land -> Slave to the Traffic Light

Encore: Farmhouse, First Tube

Notes: This show was webcast via LivePhish and was the first show of the Magnaball festival. TMWSIY and Avenu Malkenu were played for the first time since July 4, 2012 (124 shows). After Free, Trey asked the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to his daughter, Eliza, who briefly joined him onstage. Mock Song was played for the first time since July 12, 2003 (320 shows), and featured a lyric change to “Clifford, Super, Magnaball.” CDT and Ghost both contained What’s the Use? teases. Hood contained a CTB tease from Mike. 

[Cover photo by Dave Vann]