Following last night’s underwhelming Saturday night in Columbia, Maryland, Phish returned to the stage at Merriweather Post Pavilion with rocking back-to-back setlists, highlighted by a threeprise “Tweeprise” to close out the east coast tour before heading to their 11th music festival, Curveball, in Watkins Glen, New York.
Phish took the stage with an opener we don’t hear much these days, “Llama”–marking the first of four consecutive tour debuts. Though considerably slower than the mid-90s animal, the tune is always a hot start to the night. Summer 2018 Trey loves leaning on the delay pedal, and it was no different for his comping during Page McConnell’s B3 solo. With touches of atonal darkness, Trey Anastasio took his solo, and then they wrapped it up, to boot.
For the second song of the night, the rare, psychedelic, power-chord heavy, “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars”–a tune that would make Col. Bruce Hampton smile–was rounded out with mind scrambling work from Chris Kuroda. After the ripping start, Trey mentioned they wanted to kick it up a bit, and the band went into the mellow and drippy “Meat”. Highlighted by some nice B3 action from Page, the jam itself didn’t provide much meat.
The New Orleans-esque piano chords of “Alaska” fell into the fourth slot of the night. They did what they often do with this one, which is some nice 3.0 pocket-rock, leaning on Jon Fishman’s backbeat, giving Trey some room to shine. “Alaska” was short and sweet, but definitely a different vibe than the trippy first chunk of the show.
An oddly placed, though certainly welcome first-set “Tweezer” came next, bringing the tour debut streak to an end. Back to the psychedelia, “Tweezer” started with Mike Gordon and Fish driving while Page and Trey danced on top, teasing The Doors’ “LA Woman”. Page hung on the wurly for a bit until deciding on the piano, and Trey ran through some of his toys (his EH POG2 and a reverse effect) until finding the signature 2x tube-screaming, distorted sustain we all know and love.
When “Tweezer” didn’t turn into the monster most were hoping for, Trey steered the band into the highlight of the first set, “Bathtub Gin”. Page once again began his quest on the Wurlitzer, before quickly moving to the piano while Fish hung on the hi-hat, leaving Mike and Trey to explore a bit. The jam built and built, and right after its apex, the band slid nicely back into the top of the form to close it out.
Next up was “The Curtain With”, most likely dashing the hopes of many who hoped to hear this at Curveball. Trey had some trouble at the top, but seemed to recover nicely. “The With” (the part that eventually became “Rift”) was highlighted by some big, dirty chords by Trey. The jam that followed began with Page playing the Rhodes through his MXR Phase 90 pedal along with some delicate guitar work by Ernie, though Fishman deserves the award for MVP on this one.
“I’d rather not have a Chalkdust set closer,” said no one ever. Trey’s tone seemed to be really dialed in lately, and that was evident here. The jam took a minute to come together, as Trey opted for the POG2 octave pedal again, but the band followed him into the dirty darkness. Reminiscent of an old school “Stash”, Fishman kept pushing as the band raged through the atonal tension, culminating in a monster release back into the coda.
This is what first setlist dreams are made of.
“Tweezer Reprise” has only opened a second set once (12/15/95) … until tonight. This is its 3rd showing of summer tour, and at this point, it has only once landed in its traditional, encore-closing slot. It was a stock version, sliding nicely into the boogie of “No Men In No Man’s Land.” NMINML opened with some tasty interplay between Trey’s delay and Page’s clav, with Mike really shining here for the first time of the night. His octave pedal and envelope filter gave the jam some low-end teeth as Trey leaned on the whammy pedal. After a few minutes of major key Phish, the band changed directions and Trey brought them into minor world to close it out.
The familiar chords of “Twist” emerged out of the swamp–the band pulling way-back as they entered the jam and stayed patient during an effect-heavy guitar exploration while Mike and Fish locked into a dark, thumping rhythm. An interesting “Twist” for sure, though the jam never really developed. Then, Trey started playing the two chords that signaled the band to go into what became a rather delicate “Prince Caspian.”
“Piper” was on deck–the red red worm showing its face for the third time this summer. You could tell the band was having so much fun that they didn’t want to stop playing this one. Some minor key raging really opened up when Trey took the band into D major, quickly switching back to the minor. The roof came off when the band segued into a reprise of “Tweeprise”, with Page lifting it to new heights on the synth– bringing us all back to the second set “Tweezer” marathon from 7/27/14 at the same venue.
“Backwards Down The Number Line” followed. Nothing out of the ordinary here, but it kept the energy high which continued as the band sprung into a dancey “2001.” Summer 2018 Trey’s delay was in go-mode here, creating echoey textures as Page did what he does to the Fender Rhodes. Mike, though, was the one who really held this together. To “woo” or not to “woo”? In this “2001” the answer was “woo” as the band created a moment for the audience to indulge themselves. The set was topped off by a beautiful “Harry Hood” led by a fully focused Trey and welcomed by a fully accepting audience.
For the encore, the band offered a rather disconnected “Heavy Things” followed by a standard but rocking “Bug” that brought the crowd back to life before the not-so-surprising threeprise “Tweeprise” whipped the fans into a frenzy before the band bid them farewell. All in all, the band delivered huge Sunday show, with great setlists, after what some saw as a disappointing Saturday night in Maryland.
Phish is greasy and locked in after this summer tour, and one can only imagine what they have in store for us next weekend at Curveball.
A full soundboard recording of tonight’s performance is available to stream via LivePhish.
Setlist: Phish | Merriweather Post Pavilion | Columbia, MD | 8/12/2018
I: Llama, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Meat, Alaska, Tweezer > Bathtub Gin > The Curtain With > Chalk Dust Torture
II: Tweezer Reprise > No Men In No Man’s Land > Twist > Prince Caspian > Piper -> Tweezer Reprise > Backwards Down the Number Line > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Harry Hood
E: Heavy Things, Bug