On Saturday night Phish took the stage in front of an arena packed full with party animals for the third of four Halloween weekend shows at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV.
After a thoroughly unpredictable fall slate, no one knew what to expect during the third quarter of this Halloween run. The earliest indicator of what was to come came by way of Trey Anastasio‘s wardrobe choice: this hoodie with a photo of a little pig on it. It’s from the same company that made Trey’s cat hoodie from 8/14/21 in Atlantic City. Page, for his part, donned the monkey shirt he “debuted” earlier this summer.
Confirming what many assumed after seeing their outfits—and after Thursday’s themed “numbers” show—the evening started with an animal song, “The Dogs”, which made its debut in the same room as part of Phish’s Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House Halloween in 2014. This version stretched out a bit, though not to the lengths of other recent early-show improv explorations. After a standard run through “Ocelot” and another past MGM Halloween debut, Kasvot Växt’s “Turtle in the Clouds”, the theme was locked in: the “Farmhouse” show had begun.
“Run Like An Antelope” gave the band its first chance to dig into something meaty. After meandering for a bit in a major key, the band fell back into the nasty, minor motif for which “Antelope” is known, the back half of the jam delivering on the promise this song always makes of high-gear energy.
Before the final notes finished ringing out, Trey started the slick groove of “Camel Walk”, which winded up being a bit rocky. Next up was yet another animal song debuted during a past Halloween show, “Wombat” from 2013’s Wingsuit set. As weird and wonderful as the song is, so was the jam that followed.
The prophecy set in motion by Trey’s hoodie was fulfilled when the band ripped through a solid version of “Guyute”. “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars” followed—extraterrestrial creatures are animals, right?—and contained more “Little Squirrel” call-and-response from Trey and bassist Mike Gordon. The trippy evil of “BBFCFM” stood in stark contrast to the next song, Lightnin’ Hopkins‘ “Shaggy Dog.” Mostly appearing in the 1980s, the band dusted off this light and breezy cover here for the first time since 6/22/12.
Nice passes through “Dog Faced Boy” and “The Sloth” preceded a proper (fast) “Llama”. After some terrific organ work by Page, Trey took the baton and elevated this one a notch above a traditional version.
Then, for only the fifth time ever—and the first time since 7/29/17 at the Baker’s Dozen—Phish delivered their take on the Magical Mystery Tour classic “I Am The Walrus”. The end of this tune is so compatible with Phish’s brand of hectic, psychedelic madness, it’s easy to see how much The Beatles influenced this band’s sound.
Phish – “I Am The Walrus” (The Beatles) – 10/31/21
10/30/21 presented 13-song set, a surprising notion considering how deep first sets have been this fall. The first two nights in Las Vegas gave us six- and seven-song first sets full of layered and focused improvisation. Up to this point on the tour, the most they’ve done in a first set is nine songs. This band has a lot of animal songs.
Phish got the second frame started with the fourth canine tune of the night, the supremely non-traditional set opener, “Dogs Stole Things”—in fact, this was the song’s first time opening a second set. Phish has conditioned us all tour long to abandon any expectations, so no one could assume that they wouldn’t extend the short blues number. Sadly, they did not.
The “Your Pet Cat” that followed, however, got a proper extension reminiscent of what you might hear during a “Tube” jam. Jon Fishman locked into a groove and didn’t alter it much for the duration. That steady pulse let Trey and Mike bat around a few different bouncy ideas while Page McConnell leaned on some of his new synths. At one point, it sounded like Trey wanted to take the band into “Mountain Jam”, but they never converted. Their patience paid off as this 15-minute “Your Pet Cat” eventually built to a soaring peak before Trey pulled everyone back into the coda to finish up what would end up being the strongest improvisational section of the night.
Though normally a big jam vehicle, the “Runaway Jim” that followed, though interesting, never broke from the mold and took a relatively shorter route home. “Piper” landed in the third slot. After a frenetic and blazing start, the jam broke down into a few distinct, mellower grooves before landing in “Birds of a Feather” via a masterful segue.
“BOAF” dropped into something different and distinct almost immediately. It was almost as if they had previously discussed taking the jam in a new direction. That direction led to some fantastic interplay between the band members until Trey unleashed some high-voltage sustain to bring the tune to it’s peak.
Then came the “Oom Pah Pahs” we had all been waiting for throughout the last few theme-heavy, “Little Squirrel“-referencing, often-puzzling shows. In this rendition, we found our main character, Jimmy, sitting on his computer doing his math homework, a wink at Thursday’s numerical show.
“The thesis that he’s writing is a load of shit, but we’re glad he finally finished it,” said Trey, winking at “Carini”. Jimmy’s thesis, Trey explained, was about numbers and animals, numerology and the natural kingdom. Trey pulled the crowd along, connecting the numerical and geometrical dots in the story with seemingly confident purpose. By the end of his extended epiphany—which left the audience with more questions than answers—Jimmy (via Trey) was confident: “Now, I know exactly what Phish is going to play on Halloween.”
Of course, the equations were a mislead, a troll of our collective, fruitless detective work when it comes to anything Phish. Numbers, animals, breadcrumbs, clues, donuts, theories, guesses, 468(0), the voice of Icculus (a.k.a. Holy Blankenstein) via Fishman’s sample pad… The band has the upper hand and always will, but the unknown is the best part of it. Not knowing what’s going to happen is the biggest source of joy, both for us and them.
But tonight, Poster Nutbag’s dutiful owner saw the light and deigned to finally divulge some details. So, as Trey explained, he created an Instagram account with the handle @jimmyposterdad to show us. For real—that’s what he said.
“Now, you probably thinking, ‘you’re fucking with me, because every year you guys fuck with us,” joked Trey, “so if I say he’s actually writing, right now, what we’re playing, clearly he isn’t, because I would never say that … but, that’s how I’m fucking with you this year. We’re telling you what we’re playing on Halloween, it’s on @jimmyposterdad on Instagram, right now, he is typing furiously, when all of a sudden… there’s a knock on the door,” some bad news from dad about Poster. You know how the rest goes.
A quick note here: the Instagram handle Trey said was “jimmyposterdad.” In another layer of confusion, it seems he may have actually misspoken. Fans quickly headed to the Instagram account in question, where a photo of Huey Lewis and the News‘ Sports album cover had been posted. Was it really going to be this simple?
Well, no: the “@jimmyposterdad” account seems to have been created by a quick-fingered, enterprising fan. A quick search turned up another new account on Instagram, “@jimmypostersdad” (“s” after “poster”), likely the account Trey/Jimmy meant to point us to. With the regal feline Anastasio, Joey, as the profile picture and a single, text-based note about a knock on the door—posted before Jimmy’s dad “knocked” in real-time—it’s pretty clear that this is the account to really keep an eye on. Despite Trey’s promises, however, it seems as though Dad’s interruption may have prevented Jimmy from letting us all know what to expect on the 31st.
Yes, at the moment of this writing, we are all still being fucked with.
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Phish – “Harpua” (narration) – 10/30/21
[Video: super vince]
On the backside of “Harpua” was a short and soaring version of “Bug”, followed by crowd-favorite “The Lizards”. Appropriately wrapping up the animal-packed set was a beautiful and subtle take on “Farmhouse”.
For the first during an encore, Phish delivered a solid version of “Vultures”—highlighted by some extra Fishman fireworks—before a delightful pass through “Sleeping Monkey”. The “Possum” most were expecting earlier in the night finally appeared as the final song, putting a scorching bow on the longer-than-usual evening that ran past midnight Pacific Time.
A lot happened tonight. So, what will happen tomorrow? Will it have anything to do with any of the numbers? Were all the “Little Squirrel” callbacks in service of the “Farmhouse” show? Does anyone know what to think? For what it’s worth, I hope we get Wish You Were Here tonight, but I know we wont. Phish will keep trolling us until the end, and we’ll eat up every last bite of it.
Happy Halloween, everyone. Please be safe out there and take care of one another.
Click below to revisit Live For Live Music‘s full coverage of Phish fall tour 2021 including photos, videos, and concert recaps. For more information on upcoming Phish tour dates, head here. Listen to a full audio recording of the show via LivePhish.
Phish Fall Tour 2021 Recaps
10/15/21 Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, CA – Recap
10/16/21 Chase Center, San Francisco, CA – Recap
10/17/21 Chase Center, San Francisco, CA – Recap
10/19/21 Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR – Recap
10/20/21 Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR – Recap
10/22/21 Ak-Chin Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ – Recap
10/23/21 NICU Amphitheatre, Chula Vista, CA – Recap
10/24/21 The Forum, Inglewood, CA – Recap
10/26/21 Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA – Recap
10/28 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Recap
10/29 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Recap
10/30 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV
10/31 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Recap
Setlist [via phish.net]: Phish | MGM Grand Garden Arena | Las Vegas, NV | 10/30/21
Set One: The Dogs > Ocelot, Turtle in the Clouds, Run Like an Antelope, Camel Walk, Wombat > Guyute, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Shaggy Dog, Dog Faced Boy, The Sloth, Llama, I Am the Walrus
Set Two: Dogs Stole Things, Your Pet Cat > Runaway Jim > Piper -> Birds of a Feather, Harpua > Bug > The Lizards, Farmhouse
Encore: Vultures, Sleeping Monkey > Possum
Big Black Furry Creature From Mars and Harpua contained Little Squirrel quotes. Shaggy Dog was played for the first time since June 22, 2012 (331 shows). I Am The Walrus was played for the first time since July 29, 2017 (130 shows). Runaway Jim was unfinished. Harpua was performed for the first time since July 30, 2017 (129 shows) and featured Carini and Your Pet Cat quotes.