And just like that, the 2019 Phish summer tour is over. With the annual Labor Day Dick’s Run still a month and a half away and no foreseeable plans for a fall tour, Phish left it all on the stage at Sunday night’s instant classic performance at Alpine Valley Music Theatre.
Everyone has a different reason they enjoy a show, and Sunday offered something for everyone. Some are there to catch a bucket list song they have been chasing. Some are only there seeking monster 30+ minute jams, otherwise deeming the show “unrelistenable.” Some are there for the over-the-top jam sandwiches, where the band breaks up original tunes by weaving additional songs into the regularly scheduled composition. Sunday would make even the most critical of fans exit the Wisconsin venue with a smile.
Opening with the first “Landlady” since 2016, the bust-out-heavy first set was only just getting started. Next up was “Olivia’s Pool”, which only saw the light of day in 1997 prior to morphing into the murkier musical restructuring found on The Story of the Ghost in the form of “Shafty”. Fans may recognize this rarity from the infamous Live Phish Vol. 11 release, and those that have been chasing it for 22 years finally got their wish.
Phish – Alpine Valley – “The Landlady” [Pro-Shot]
The band took the Alpine Valley crowd to Gamehenge next with another bustout in “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday”, played for the first time since the Magnaball in 2015. With the reappearance of this classic pairing, fans were already feeling transported back to the ’90s at the historic venue.
Even Sunday night’s “Meatstick” was noteworthy as it thrust its way into the first set for the first time since 2013 in Rochester. Next up, Trey Anastasio and Jon Fishman dug their talons deep into “Vultures” as Trey rocked to and fro at center stage. Surprisingly, the second “Spock’s Brain” of 2019 graced the setlist after having gone missing for more than 15 years prior to this year’s Mexico run. However, if there was any place for these rarities to converge this summer, it was Alpine—a venue that’s seen its fair share of unusual Phish setlists dating back to 1996.
2.0 favorite “Pebbles and Marbles” off Round Room made its Alpine debut next, marking the first original of the night which debuted after the new Millennium. The first “Glide” since the Baker’s Dozen in 2017 paid tribute to the loyal fans that have been following the band around the country on this tour since early June, the band appearing more glad, glad, glad than ever as they smiled through the tricky A Picture of Nectar ditty.
Ghosts of the Forest rocker “About to Run” was played for the fifth time this tour, adding a touch of the modern canon to the mostly old-school setlist with a powerful guitar solo and heavy B-3 organ work by Page McConnell. Next up, Page took over on lead vocals for the first “Strange Design” since 2016 which led into “Timber (Jerry the Mule)”, one of the longest-tenured tunes in Phish’s animal-based live catalog. “I Didn’t Know” was complete with cleaning machines as Fishman (who Trey introduced as Jon Sullen Melancholy) gave the crowd a vacuum solo to remember on the final night of the tour’s main leg. Led Zepplin’s “Good Times, Bad Times” closed out a first set filled with bucket list songs, allowing Trey to get the led with a searing guitar solo before exiting the stage for a quick break.
“Mercury” kicked off set two and gave Trey five minutes to play with his effects pedals as Chris Kuroda brought his imagination to life through his impressive light rig. “Mercury” moved into a soothing space, but the set-opening and shorter-than-usual jam vehicle soon gave way to the jam of the night and longest one of the tour in “Ruby Waves”.
Phish – Alpine Valley – “Mercury” [Pro-Shot]
This “Ruby Waves” was the highlight of the show, the run, and the entire tour. The first section of the multi-layered jam took a dark turn, exploring the hallways of Area 51 as Page followed Trey’s hollow guitar effects with fuzzy synth notes. Gordon added a juicy bass groove as the band mellowed into a lighter, dreamier section reminiscent of the “you can feel good about Hood” peak of “Harry Hood”, adding a familiar flavor to the Ghosts of the Forest tune. Trey then cranked up the heat with a straightforward rock and roll guitar riff complemented by driving organ work by Page and uptempo drumming by Fishman. The drummer moved into a cymbal-heavy beat as Trey refocused the energy back to a high-note celestial space.
The next movement brought a tropical, reggae-influenced groove to the monstrous jam as Gordon slapped a ground-shaking effect onto his bass and went for a ride. Glowsticks and smoke billowed through the air as hard-rocking Type II jamming vibrated throughout the field and sounded like the balls-to-the-wall Hell metal you may hear at Tool concert. Right as it sounded like the band was putting this “best ever” rendition to bed, Trey entered yet another space accompanied by Page’s octopus-like simultaneous playing on the synth and piano. Trey played like he was revving up a car engine as Page zapped laser sounds across the stage to add to the fast-paced fun. The final section eased into “Twist” as fans stood stunned at what they had just witnessed: In short, a 38-minute odyssey—the longest Phish jam in the 3.0 era. You can watch a full pro-shot video of the incredible jam below:
Phish – Alpine Valley – “Ruby Waves” [Pro-Shot]
The short-lived “Twist” transitioned into the first “Swept Away >Steep” of the tour, which ventured in turn into the now commonly-played Kasvot song, “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long”. Continuing the string of bucket list bustouts, Trey and Fishman discussed drooling, reading (a specific book, that is), and picking up the imporant things in life during the first “Icculus” since the New Year’s Eve 2013-14 “JEMP Truck Set” at Madison Square Garden.
Phish – Alpine Valley – “Icculus”
Yet another rarity made its debut in this wild setlist next with “Buffalo Bill”, followed by another thrilling song sandwich with “You Enjoy Myself -> Catapult > Contact > You Enjoy Myself”. Adding to the rarified nature of this instant classic show, this marked the first time “YEM” had been broken up since New Year’s Eve 2010 at MSG and the first “Catapult” since the infamous Merriweather “Tweezerfest” in 2014. Trey went back into narration mode to introduce “Contact” to the crowd, mentioning a couple he met in the hotel lobby planning to get married if Phish played the Junta sing-along that night. The pressure is on now, lovebirds…
After a crazy show filled unpredictable song choices, the Vermont foursome set up a relatively straightforward encore with “More” into “Tweezer Reprise”, completing the “Tweezer” combination set up during Friday night’s first set. After 23 years and 20 shows at Alpine Valley Music Theatre—many of them undeniably great—Sunday, July 14th, 2019 is arguably the most memorable. The Gamehendge time travel, the bustouts, and the “Ruby Waves” tsunami instantly bookmarked the show in the “greatest hits” section of “the book.” Read it!
Phish – Alpine Valley – “More”
Phish – Alpine Valley – “Tweezer Reprise”
Check out some photos of the Phish Alpine closer below courtesy of photographer Keith Griner.
Following several weeks’ break, Phish will return to the stage in late August for their annual three-night Labor Day Weekend run at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO. For a full list of the band’s upcoming tour dates and ticketing information, head to Phish’s website.
Setlist: Phish | Alpine Valley Music Theatre | Elkhorn, WI | 7/14/19
Set One: The Landlady, Olivia’s Pool, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Meatstick, Vultures, Spock’s Brain, Pebbles and Marbles, Glide, About to Run, Strange Design, Timber (Jerry The Mule), I Didn’t Know, Good Times Bad Times
Set Two: Mercury > Ruby Waves > Twist > Swept Away > Steep > Death Don’t Hurt Very Long, Icculus, Buffalo Bill, You Enjoy Myself -> Catapult > Contact > You Enjoy Myself
Encore: More > Tweezer Reprise
Notes: This show was webcast via Live Phish and featured several bustouts: The Landlady (first since July 10, 2016, or 122 shows), Olivia’s Pool (November 17, 1997, or 692 shows), The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday and Avenu Malkenu (August 21, 2015, or 147 shows), Strange Design (July 8, 2016, or 124 shows), Icculus (December 31, 2013, or 210 shows), and Catapult (July 27, 2014, or 191 shows). Trey teased Dave’s Energy Guide in Ruby Waves. Icculus was teased after Buffalo Bill. Prior to Contact, Trey mentioned meeting a couple in his hotel lobby the day before where the man said he would propose to his girlfriend if Mike sang Contact on Sunday night at Alpine Valley. Trey teased Bridal Chorus at the end of Contact.