Phish kept their 2019 summer tour rolling on Wednesday night with their return to Blossom Music Center. The gorgeous Cuyahoga Falls, OH venue, which has now hosted Phish nine times dating back to 1992, saw the band predominantly focus on newer material, with eleven of the show’s nineteen songs having debuted in 2009 or later. Of course, Phish still left plenty of room for improvisation, as they also delivered their longest jam of the summer so far in addition to a special encore during what was certainly a unique night in Cuyahoga Falls.
Phish kicked off the first set at Blossom Music Center with a fun version of “Soul Planet”, delivering a spirited yet brief jam before they cued up the reliable first-set favorite, “The Moma Dance”. “Kill Devil Falls” gave guitarist Trey Anastasio an opportunity to take charge, as he confidently led the band through the Joy favorite. “Your Pet Cat”, the goofy, cat-themed song from the Phish’s 2014 Thrilling, Chilling Sounds of the Haunted House Halloween show, occupied the cleanup slot, giving the band and fans alike an opportunity to let loose, with bassist Mike Gordon offering up a healthy dose of Cactus-funk along the way.
The shuffle of “Back On The Train” kept things chugging along before the band leaned into a run of their fresher material in quick succession. First, a bright white light shined right between Page McConnell‘s eyes in the form of the second-ever performance of “Everything is Hollow”, one of the songs from Phish’s 2018 Kasvot Växt Halloween show. This was a strong rendition of the song, with Jon Fishman, in particular, delivering a dynamic performance. Anastasio’s “About To Run”, a dark, gritty number from his recent new solo project, Ghosts of the Forest, was up next, marking Phish’s second attempt at the song after its debut last week in St. Louis. Phish is clearly still wrapping their heads around Anastasio’s new solo material, but the songs certainly feel at home on stage with Phish, with “About To Run” perhaps the best fit of the bunch so far.
Phish then turned to one of the most important songs in their songbook, the instrumental classic, “Divided Sky”. While “Divided Sky” is one of the most-played songs in Phish history, it’s been put on the backburner the past few years, so it’s always a welcome treat when the band decides to play it. This was a particularly strong version, with the perfectly-played composed section setting the table for a euphoric closing jam. Following the exciting classic, Phish offered up a short rendition of “I Didn’t Know”, and when Anastasio announced “a rare appearance to suck for your pleasure, Jon Sullen Melancholy!”, Jon Fishman emerged for his trademark, timeless vacuum solo. Following Fishman’s vacuum shenanigans, Phish closed out the first set with a raging version of their multi-sectional set-closing go-to, “Walls of the Cave”.
After a short set break, Phish returned to the stage with their first version of “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan” of 2019. While the song has fallen out of regular rotation in recent years, you couldn’t tell from this version at Blossom, which saw the band as comfortable as ever with the song’s bouncy and powerful rock vibes.
“Faulty Plan” perfectly set the table for the show’s centerpiece, “Birds of a Feather”. This impressive rendition of the song was an instant classic, clocking in over 23 minutes in length, making it the second-longest version of the song to-date (following the version on 7/23/99). This version produced an ever-evolving piece of improvisation, with all four members showcasing a sort of musical telepathy as they listened intently and followed each other’s leads. Anastasio’s powers were on full display here out of the gate, leading the band on an intergalactic journey in the first section of the “Birds” jam. The improvisation moved into type-II territory for an extended period of time, with plenty of opportunities for all four members of the band to show off their improvisational skills.
Phish – “Birds of a Feather” [Pro-Shot]
The “Birds of a Feather” jam slowly transitioned into Gordon’s “Crazy Sometimes”, which turned out to only be a brief interlude before Phish returned to some more full-band improvisation. After a heartfelt take on the Big Boat ballad “Miss You”, Phish performed the third version of “Everything’s Right” of the summer. This edition of the song didn’t reach the heights of last weekend’s exploratory version at Bonnaroo, as the song’s jam was quickly brought to an end in favor of a powerful version of their rock and roll classic, “Chalk Dust Torture”. Following a brief jam, the band slowly shifted from “Chalk Dust” to the beautiful fan-favorite, “Slave To The Traffic Light”, which, as always, built to an intense jam and beautiful set-closing peak.
For the encore, Fishman surprised the audience by starting up the always-dark-and-exploratory “Split Open and Melt”. The improv-laden number hadn’t appeared in the encore slot for Phish since all the way back in 1991 (11/12/91, to be exact)! Following the exciting, exploratory “SOAM”, the band finished things up with a strong first-ever Phish attempt at Anastasio’s Ghosts of the Forest power-ballad, “A Life Beyond The Dream”.
In the end, Phish offered up a mixed bag last night at Blossom Music Center. While they played with passion and precision, the setlist lacked the “wow factor” of some other shows from this tour. With so much new material added to the band’s repertoire over the past two calendar years, it will take some time for the new songs to truly find their place in the Phish rotation, and last night’s show showed some mild signs of growing pains. Even so, if Phish is going to create all-time improvisational moments like last night’s “Birds Of A Feather” jam while going through “growing pains,” then the band is going to be just fine.
Phish continues their summer tour this weekend with a show at PNC Music Pavilion in Charlotte, NC on Friday evening followed by two nights at the beloved Frank-Gehry-designed amphitheater, Merriweather Post Pavilion, on Saturday and Sunday. For a full list of upcoming dates, head here.
Each show on Phish’s 2019 summer tour will be rebroadcast on SiriusXM Phish Radio (Ch. 29) at 12:00 ET the following day. Subscribe here.
Setlist: Phish | Blossom Music Center | Cuyahoga Falls, OH | 6/19/2019
Set One: Soul Planet, The Moma Dance, Kill Devil Falls, Your Pet Cat, Back On The Train, Everything Is Hollow, About To Run, Divided Sky, I Didn’t Know, Walls Of The Cave
Set Two: Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan > Birds Of A Feather > Crazy Sometimes, Miss You, Everything’s Right > Chalk Dust Torture > Slave To The Traffic Light
Encore: Split Open and Melt, A Life Beyond The Dream
A full soundboard audio recording of the show is available to stream via LivePhish