On Friday night, Phish kicked off its highly anticipated three-night run on the sands of Atlantic City Beach in Atlantic City, NJ following a two-night midweek run at Hersheypark Stadium.

In a similar configuration to the band’s concerts in Riviera Maya, MX, the band performed on a stage perpendicular to the coastline, with the boardwalk and casino towers off to Mike Gordon‘s left, “Page Side, Wave Side” in full effect to Page McConnell‘s right, and a sprawling, eight-block expanse of beach space stretching back from the band behind rows of delay towers. In a nod to the tens of thousands who made their way to the Atlantic coast by way of the New Jersey Turnpike, Trey Anastasio made the call for “a hometown favorite” in the opening slot with “Cars Trucks Buses”.

Phish – “Cars Trucks Buses” – 8/14/21

[Video: Nevaklass]

An early-set “AC/DC Bag” helped get the show on the road, with Trey taking visible pleasure in changing the lyrics to “put ’em on a beach and let ’em fight it out.” The location-specific ad-libs continued on the ensuing “Blaze On” as Trey changed the “we’ll be dancing in the field” line to “dancing on the beach” before helping lead the tune into some rocking improv. After nearly 14 minutes, “Blaze On” finally gave way to a powerful rendition of “Wolfman’s Brother”.

The tour debut of “I Didn’t Know” was up next, giving Trey a chance to roll over to the drum kit and freeing up Jon Fishman (a.k.a Moses DeWitt) to deliver one of his patented vacuum solos. After returning to their normal instruments, Trey ripped into the piercing guitar riff intro of “Funky Bitch”.

As the end of the set was nearing, the wave of rhythmic intensity that is “Rift” shocked and persuaded the crowd on the coast to ignite and blast off. When they landed back in yet another beach-oriented song selection, the always-rocking “Sand”, Trey’s sharp and dynamic lead guitar work drove the first of six Atlantic City sets home.

Even with the rotation remaining tight (every song from the second set and encore had already been played at least once on this tour), not even the most jaded of fans can argue with a “Tweezer” jam to open the second set. Trey showcased the signature song with fast-fingered solos and further exploration of the dark, pitch-shifting tones he has employed all summer. Though not as long and perhaps not as cohesive as its hulking cousin from Alpharetta, this 22-minute expedition showed a glimpse at the fireworks sure to come this weekend.

Page’s piano took the spotlight from there for “Bathtub Gin”. While the song has now showed up at four separate tour stops this summer, the band surely wasn’t going to miss a chance to let fans sing “we love to take a bath” with their toes in the ocean. This one served up some nice improv as well, with the roughly 36-minute “Tweezer”/”Gin” segment comprising what would become the show’s biggest highlight.

When the band moved into “Everything’s Right”, fans braced themselves for a third straight exploratory jam on the Sigma Oasis improv vehicle. Rather than taking the song out into the ether, however, the band changed course and dove into “Possum”.

A short and sweet “2001” dance party kept up the momentum, even as the band shifted from the road rock of “Possum” to the space funk of “Also Sprach Zarathustra”.

Phish – “2001” – 8/13/21

[Video: Ryan Mogel]

A creative segue into “Rise/Come Together”, with its thoroughly relevant lyrics (The ocean is only a lot of drops of water / And the land is only a lot of grains of sand), helped set up a climactic “Harry Hood” featuring some pretty Trey/Mike interplay.

While “Hood” felt like it should have closed the set, Trey opted to tack on one more tune with the Big Boat sing-along, “More”. Finally, the band returned and offered more thanks to the sandy masses before rounding things out with an encore cover of The Rolling Stones‘ “Loving Cup”. The lights came up without the obligatory run through “Tweezer Reprise”, leaving the climactic card up the band’s sleeve to play later this weekend.

While yesterday was a scorcher on the Atlantic City boardwalk, Friday night’s show presented a band just heating up for what promises to be a memorable weekend on the beach. See you back there for night two tonight.

Below, check out a gallery of photos from the show courtesy of photographer Andrew Blackstein.

Setlist: Phish | Atlantic City Beach | Atlantic City, NJ | 8/13/21

Set One: Cars Trucks Buses, AC/DC Bag [1] > Blaze On, Wolfman’s Brother, I Didn’t Know, Funky Bitch, Rift, Sand

Set Two: Tweezer > Bathtub Gin > Everything’s Right > Possum > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Rise/Come Together > Harry Hood > More

Encore: Loving Cup

[1] Lyric Change to “Put ’em on a beach.”