Phish headed to Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene on Tuesday evening to open a two-night run. The show marked the first for Phish at the University of Oregon basketball arena since a one-off in 2014 and the band’s first Oregon gigs since a two-night, tour-opening run in Bend in July 2015. The show also saw Trey Anastasio speak on behalf of the band about the incidents at Sunday’s show in San Francisco that resulted in the death of one fan and the injury of two others.
“Down With Disease” opened the show for the first time since 6/10/12 at Bonnaroo, continuing this fall tour’s peculiar trend of typical “second set” songs falling early on in shows. At this point, it seems pretty clear that it’s a conscious effort. We’re looking forward to seeing where this experiment goes as the tour progresses.
What made this “Disease” remarkable, however, was not its placement but its improvisational creativity. In a notable contrast to the darker, texture-focused jams to which fans became accustomed this summer, this 25-minute expedition drifted with pleasant purpose through multiple melodic, major key sections without ever straying more than a step or two into the sonic shadows. The stylistic approach—that commitment to a lighter, more calming tone—would wind up being a theme of the evening.
After an entrancing ride, this unfinished “Down With Disease” gave way to a short and sweet “Runaway Jim” that quickly accelerated to a satisfying peak. The light-hearted tone continued with “Ocelot” as a quick-fingered Trey Anastasio and a full-throttle Jon Fishman pushed the plodding groove through cresting waves of guitar riffs.
“Rift” came next—complete with some textbook flubbing—followed by an always-welcome “Horn”, marking just the second version of the song since fall tour 2019. “Ya Mar” kept the positive vibes coming, Page McConnell shining on his customary organ solo following Trey’s invitation to “Play one for your grandpa, Leo!”
The hands-down musical highlight of the evening came next with “Stash”. Trey was visibly feeling it during the composed section, nodding and smiling as he played. Fishman clearly was, too, as he peppered in a well-timed “YEAH” sample on the “troll pad” that elicited delighted cheers from the crowd.
Rather than going dark—as many a “Stash” might do—this one moved into a more meditative breakdown, Trey once again guiding the band into major key space behind gorgeous piano accompaniment from Page. After picking up some staccato Latin vibes courtesy of McConnell, the song built some rock n’ roll steam thanks to a grinding Mike Gordon bassline as Chris Kuroda‘s awe-inspiring lights towered over the beings below. A hero’s entry back into the “Stash” structure served as an appropriately valiant victory lap for the top-notch jam.
When the dust cleared, Trey stepped to the mic to address the elephant in the room following the heartbreaking events in San Francisco. “Thanks, everybody. Thanks so much. So very, very happy to be here,” he said, his pained body language starkly contrasting his spoken words as he ran a restless hand through his hair.
“I just have to take… I can’t not… speak a little bit from my heart in this moment, if you guys will just bear with me and let me say a few words to our beloved Phish community.” Seemingly battling back tears, Trey continued, “At our last show, we had some really awful stuff that happened, and I just need to… we’ve all been… just, say a couple of words about how heartbroken we all are that the events in San Francisco took place.”
“First of all, I just want to name a couple of names here,” he said. “One of the gentlemen who went through the… that had this happen… is a guy named Keith Thompson, and just to show you how tightly-knit our community is, his wife, Carrie, is the event manager for the Sacramento Phish concert that we did. This is how close we all are. So our event manager from the Sacramento concert’s husband, Keith, is in the hospital right now and he had an accidental… it was just… he fell… and we want to send our love to him, and to Carrie.”
“And then,” he continued, “I’m gonna also send love to Evan Reeves, who was also involved in the accident, and was able to come back last night and sit over there afterwards, so go Evan! We love you!”
“I also want to say a few words for Ryan Prosser, the gentleman who passed away, and the Prosser friends and family,” an emotional Trey added as he fiddled nervously with his top shirt button. “I also want to say very quickly some words to all the people who… I know this affected everybody… and some of the people who were nearby this event, I know, had a lot of feelings… and they experienced this thing. So I’m sending out my love—we all are, I’m speaking for the band—sending our love to everybody in the whole community.”
“So, you know,” he added, “any time you have a series of events with large groups of people, things are gonna happen, but I don’t know if I can express how much we feel a part of this group of people who are here tonight and every night. And the people who can’t be here, watching on TV. We very much know and feel that we’re just four more people in this group who happen to be up here and you guys are standing there, but when something like this happens, it hurts us very deeply, and we want to send our love. Please be safe, and everybody have a great time.”
Trey Anastasio is not one to shy away from talking to his audiences—from decades of Phish narrations to the free-wheeling storytime of his solo acoustic shows to his tangent-prone chat section interactions during The Beacon Jams—but this address was different. He seemed uneasy, traumatized, heartbroken—the very same feelings that have pervaded the Phish fanbase since Sunday night. It’s no wonder the guitarist seemed set on steering jams toward the light all night long: there’s been too much darkness in our family these last few days. What we needed was some healing.
“I guess we’ll play one more song,” Trey concluded. “I don’t know what the song is gonna be. We’ll play something else here and then we’ll take a break and come back and play more. But we love you, please be safe, thank you.”
McConnell seemed to answer the call with “Walls of the Cave”, a common set-closing song that has perhaps never felt so wrought with emotion. Trey’s raw, vulnerable speech echoed in the minds of fans everywhere as he sang: “I know you heard the question but you didn’t make a sound / And when it fell you caught my heart before it hit the ground / But if you ever need the names of those you couldn’t save / You’ll find them on the walls of the cave.”
Trey Anastasio Addresses SF Incidents In Eugene
[Video: Noshua Narmer]
After a top-heavy first set highlighted by 25-minute “Disease”, a remarkable “Stash”, and some devastating “real talk” with Trey, the show’s second set seemed to fade into the background. A slow, winding “Twist” opened with some meditative percolation thanks to the rhythmic superpowers of Jon Fishman. Some atonal dissonance eventually gave way to a segue into “Blaze On”.
Another happier tune, “Blaze On”, went for a relatively quick jaunt before sliding seamlessly into “Plasma” [Fun fact: The first Phish performance of “Plasma” took place almost exactly 7 years prior in this very building]. This version searched and probed as Gordon led the way, Trey applying a delicate touch to his showering guitar lines.
Sigma Oasis standout “Leaves” followed, Page and Trey’s vocal duet connecting on a particularly deep level on this emotional night. Trey unleashed the full breadth of his famous sustain here for a cathartic, flowing, rendition—perhaps the best version in this song’s still-brief history.
Keeping with more recent material, the set moved into the Phish debut of Trey quarantine tune “I Never Left Home“. This moody vamp seemed to come into its own with Phish in Eugene following a trio of recent Trey solo band renditions with different lineups—from Beacon Jams to full TAB to Jon Fishman’s Almost TAB.
A quick “Sparkle” led to a patient, funky “2001” replete with several bonafide “holy sh*t” moments courtesy of the man behind the light board. The incredible rhythm section of Gordon and Fishman finally coaxed Anastasio into the murk on this space voyage, allowing for some spectacular Mike/Trey interplay.
After hinting at a few different landing spots, the band found “Sigma Oasis” in the set-closing position for the first time ever. A “Drift While You’re Sleeping” encore added one final dose of love to a show that wore its heart on its sleeve from its very first notes.
Phish fall tour 2021 continues tonight, Wednesday, October 21st with another show at Matthew Knight Arena. For a full list of upcoming tour dates, head here.
Click below to revisit Live For Live Music‘s full coverage of Phish fall tour 2021 including photos, videos, and concert recaps:
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
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 – Upcoming
10/30 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Upcoming
10/31 MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, NV – Upcoming
Setlist [via phish.net]: Phish | Matthew Knight Arena | Eugene, OR | 10/19/21
Set Two: Down with Disease -> Runaway Jim, Ocelot, Rift, Horn > Ya Mar, Stash, Walls of the Cave
Set One: Twist, Blaze On -> Plasma > Leaves > I Never Left Home, Sparkle > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Sigma Oasis
Encore: Drift While You’re Sleeping