It is no secret that Sunday is a favorite night of the week for Phish fans. That is especially true when they are in one of the most beloved venues in the band’s history. With only a handful of Sundays remaining on the summer schedules, the crowd at Merriweather Post Pavilion gathered in the lot on a beautiful early-summer day hoping their beloved band would once again bring something unique to the MPP stage. While the somewhat segmented first set went from 1.0 songs to 3.0 songs then back into 1.0, the smoking hot 6-song second set and four-song, 25-minute encore truly offered something for everyone.
For the second time this tour, “Carini” was used as the lighter for a gasoline-soaked fire to kick off the first set. If Bonnaroo’s Friday night set was the blueprint for what was to come, Maryland’s favorite shed was going to have an incredible Sunday night. The dark and heavy rocker broke away from its common identity fairly quickly and transformed into a blissful, beachy jam through Page McConnell’s soulful B3 organ and Trey Anastasio’s airy and joyful guitar playing. The non-lumpy segue into “My Soul” made people dance and holler to the familiar Clifton Chenier cover for the first time since the 2017 Baker’s Dozen run at Madison Square Garden, and Trey clearly felt the energy of Merriweather as he slayed a fast-moving solo.
Another clean transition moved “My Soul” into another song with “My soul” in the lyrics. A standard and well-executed “Rift” kept the 1.0 Phish tunes echoing through the Symphony Woods. Hopefully, Sunday night’s crowd was hungry as Phish cooked up a nice version of “Gumbo” for them to savor. This 29-year-old funker never found its way onto a Phish studio album, but the “Chairman of the Boards” etched its name into the memorable Sunday night version at MPP. The loose plinko playing by Trey and clavinet execution by Page showed signs of exploration from the start of the jam, but it didn’t extend into the big “Gumbo” space we’ve seen in the past. After a long pause and the apparent end of the song, Page dropped back into the composition while Trey laughed and added “My Soul” quotes to officially finish the tune before giving a shout-out to the keyboardist.
Another oldie-but-goodie came in the form of “It’s Ice”, with Page once again standing out as the first-set MVP at MPP—apparently when he wears his “101 Dalmatians” shirt, he is ready to bring the heat. Page used the clavinet to bring some danceable grittiness to the otherwise standard “It’s Ice”. On paper, this 2019 setlist could be confused with something from the ’90s, but that all came to an end with the Fuego original, “Winterqueen”, to give the crowd a breather. Trey was the center of attention as he scaled his guitar neck with patience and precision during the feel-good Type I jam. Mike Gordon took over on lead vocals for the first “Yarmouth Road” at MPP since the second-ever performance in 2013. The reggae-influenced, organ-forward Gordon original kept the chiller vibes going through the middle of the set before ceding the spotlight to the Anastasio/Marshall-penned “Shade”.
Another summer tour debut came in the form “Halfway Home” from Ghosts of the Forest and as expected, Trey infused heavy distortion into the guitar-focused composition. The clearly-categorized song placement that traveled from 1.0>3.0 in the first set returned to the 1.0 roots with “The Wedge” and “Run Like an Antelope” to close it out. Jon Fishman added some extra hot sauce to the high-energy rocker early on as he explored the entire kit like a four-armed multi-beast. Trey’s evil-sounding guitar playing added some serious tension to the classic composition before they dropped in the “Rye, rye, Rocco” lyrics to cool things off.
Talking Heads‘ “Crosseyed and Painless” opened the second set for the 21st time in 3.0. The multi-layered jam was highlighted by a blissful, patient build-up and influenced the light-designer, Chris Kuroda, to cast blues and purples across the ceiling of the pavilion, feeding off the ethereal feel of the music. Trey dipped into his big bag of effects and caught a grittier wave before seamlessly driving the jam into “Everything’s Right”. Gordon’s presence could be felt as he created a dank groove with Fishman. Page jumped from the grand piano to organ to signal the next Type II layer as Trey utilized his shimmering echo effects. Gordon made sure the first performance of “Everything’s Right” at Merriweather was a memorable one by anchoring the jam with thick and driving bass effects to work around Trey’s “Still waiting,” vocal teases, callbacks to the set opener. The jam traveled through several layers—from heavenly and soulful to dark and haunting—until it transitioned into another Ghosts of the Forest tune with “Ruby Waves”. McConnell added extraterrestrial effects to the jam by way of Moog synth while Trey developed a dark and stormy tone driven by Fishman’s exceptional kit work.
Laced with additional “Still waiting” vocal quotes, the band peacefully settled into a sweeter groove as Kuroda turned the suspended light-rig on a 45-degree angle above the stage. Fishman felt it was the right time to summon the “woos” as Trey worked on a driving riff similar to “Crosseyed”, nicely blending “Ruby Waves” into “Twist” (where wooing is welcomed and encouraged). Gordon bounced fat bass notes off of McConnell’s organ/piano combo to create a solid early-jam foundation. A hush filled the room as Trey dropped bluesy riffs over some more “Still waiting” teases and initiated a full-audience singalong. When “Twist” came to a close, “2001” blasted off. The hazy, fog-filled stage gave the song a moon landing feel that was extravagantly decorated by Gordon’s vibrating bass. Phish returned from outer space by launching into the fun-loving “Blaze On”. For the first time since its 2015 debut, the band chose to close out the second set with the 3.0 go-to. Fishman was in the zone and led a full-band collaborative jam that didn’t break too far from its structure but kicked enough ass to keep fans roaring and shaking.
As the MPP audience cheered for the Vermonters to return for an encore, they expected to hear one song, maybe two, as is the norm. What they got was four. Returning to their 1.0 setlist choices, “Maze” made its way into the encore for the first time in its 27 year existence and Page annihilated the keyboard-heavy, uniquely-placed version. The loveable “Waste” led to the amusing “Sanity,” which included over-the-top shenanigans and “Chilling, Thrilling” quotes from Page. Finding the encore slot for the second time at MPP (see 6/12/2011), there appears to be something about the stars sucking in Maryland that gets “Sanity” attention at this venue. The age old question of, “Can you still have any fun?” was answered in the official show finale, “Wilson”. A few minor lyric flubs didn’t seem to bother anyone as the pavilion, as Trey kept the theme of the set alive with one more “Still waiting” quote before the band called it a night.
You can watch a selection of videos from the show below:
Phish – “Carini” [Pro-Shot]
Phish – “Halfway Home”
[Video: M G]
Phish – “Crosseyed and Painless” [Pro-Shot]
Phish – “Sanity”
[Video: M G]
Phish continues their 2019 summer tour in Jon Fishman’s home state of Maine on Tuesday and Wednesday at Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion in Bangor. For a full list of upcoming tour 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. Start listening here.
Setlist: Phish | Merriweather Post Pavilion | Columbia, MD | 6/23/19
SET 1: Carini > My Soul > Rift, Gumbo, It’s Ice > Winterqueen, Yarmouth Road, Shade, Halfway Home > The Wedge > Run Like an Antelope
SET 2: Crosseyed and Painless > Everything’s Right > Ruby Waves > Twist > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Blaze On
ENCORE: Maze, Waste > Sanity > Wilson
 Phish debut.