On Tuesday evening, Phish hit the stage at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT for the first time ever, coming off two days’ rest after a two-night stand at Fenway Park featuring a rain-delayed, one-long-set performance on Saturday night.
The band has been on a hot streak for much of this summer and these two indoor, midweek casino shows have been circled on many fans’ calendars since the tour was announced back in January. Indoor Phish during summer tour always feels like it has added potential for greatness, and the shows at the home of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun—which boasts the smallest capacity of any venue on the summer schedule—quickly sold out months in advance. With so much momentum behind the band this deep into the summer and so much hype placed on this Mohegan run, the sky was the limit at Tuesday’s performance.
Unsurprisingly, the band delivered in kind, offering up a thoroughly unique show loaded with old bust-outs, new repertoire additions, well-executed segues, rare setlist quirks, and plenty of the stellar playing that has made this tour one of the best in recent memory.
The band was already feeling loose when the stepped onstage for their opening number. “I just taught him this song, so we’ll see…you know it now, Mike?” asked Trey Anastasio with a laugh. Without skipping a beat, Phish launched into the long-lost cover, “Energy”. This “Energy” marked Phish’s fifth-ever performance of the Apples In Stereo tune and the first since the song’s brief tenure as an unexpected summer 2013 setlist staple (a gap of 226 shows).
Mike Gordon had no trouble picking back up on “Energy”, as he helped pilot the song straight into improvisational space. After working through Page McConnell led synth-funk, nimble Trey riffing, and some sonically dark spaces, the jam found its way into a familiar major key progression. Trey jumped on this intuitive opening, lobbing in the introductory chords to… “Weekapaug Groove”?! The rest of the band followed suit and soon enough, they were moving headfirst into the first-ever two-slot “Weekapaug”.
You could hear Trey laughing as he started to sing the song’s chorus, perhaps imagining the Internet freaking out as they tried to figure out the last time a “Groove” was played without a “Mike’s Song” before it (Note: The only other two instances in which Weekapaug” appeared in a setlist without “Mike’s” came back in 2003, and both made reference to the missing prelude, with 2/22/03‘s version capping a “Mike’s Groove” started the previous night and 12/2/03‘s featuring “Mike’s” lyrics in the “Tweezer Reprise” that followed “Paug”).
Riding the excitement of its unusual placement, Phish gave this “Weekapaug” some extra mustard, building the fast, funky vamp to the night’s first big white-light Trey peaks to close out a must-listen opening one-two punch.
After a pause to collect themselves, the band moved into “The Moma Dance”, the closest they’d come so far to “business as usual” first set fare. The energy remained high, however, as everyone—particularly a chatty Jon Fishman—continued to sound limber and relaxed.
As “Moma” wound down, Fishman settled into the opening drum line of “Maze”. However, rather than leading straight into the song, Fish took a moment to sing, layering a rare reading of “Lengthwise” over the rhythm. Without missing a beat, Gordon entered the fold with his ominous, pounding bass line. “Maze” was now off and running—and what a hot “Maze” it was.
“Petrichor” came next and sounded pretty despite not straying from its relatively stringent 17+ minutes of composed structure. A bit of a breather followed in Page-penned Big Boat ditty “Things People Do” (the first of the year) before a rocking “Sample In A Jar” led into one more first-set fire-starter—a lengthy, agile, tempo-shifting “Bathtub Gin” that built up and exploded the way great “Gins” do.
“Soul Planet” got the call in its increasingly customary set two-opening slot. It quickly and abruptly shifted into “Moma”-style wobbly funk, followed by a darker vamp driven by Baker’s Dozen-style Page ambiance. The brief but potent jam slinked and shifted angrily before picking up a march-like rigidness and flowing smoothly into the Phish debut of Ghosts of the Forest‘s “Wider”.
The segue into “Wider” was executed with precision, an excellent placement for its introduction to Phish. In fact, the whole segment felt less like a transition than a conscious continuation of the established “Soul Planet” jam. This one instantly felt like a perfect fit for Phish, more so than much of the other GotF material. Some of these new songs were bound to truly come into their own in the Phish arena, and after last night, you can surely add the smooth slide of “Wider” to that category.
As pretty tones from Trey and Page played out in counterpoint to Mike’s jagged bass line, notes of “Undermind” began to bubble up from the jam. Before long, the band moved into the song in earnest, Page adding some bounce via a saloon-style piano solo.
“The Final Hurrah” came in a little scattered—maybe a little slower than they’re used to playing it. By the time Trey’s solo came around, the band had mostly righted itself, but this remained one of the more reigned-in versions yet of the “faceplant” rocker. It did, however, hit some nice “Blaze On”-like points as the tension slowly built to a satisfying Trey peak, Page and Fishman both shining underneath.
The segue from there into the Phish debut of Ghosts of the Forest’s “Beneath A Sea Of Stars Pt. 1” perhaps didn’t flow as nicely as the one into “Wider”, but the Ghosts of the Forest album’s lengthy closing track was still a pretty fit. As the song moved along, the band toyed freely with amelodic tonal texture and fluttery layers of sound—as if a Grateful Dead “Space” jam went out and bought itself a Languedoc. It’s intentionally a little directionless—an interesting creative exercise—though its freeform nature may have left a little to be desired. No matter—the crowd was audibly thrilled by the experiment in texture by the time it was finished.
Next, after a run of newer songs to open the set, the “Ghost” left the forest and found its old story for a funky trip to the casino. Page shined on this “Ghost”, with Trey lending it a little rock and roll abandon with fiery licks sprinkled on top. Mike kept the improv chugging along, leading briefly back into a full-band “Weekapaug” jam before eventually crashing into “Birds of a Feather”.
A welcome addition to the set, “BOAF” has done some interesting things in its two prior appearances this summer, from the monster version at Blossom to the tease/sample/lyrical adlib-laden rendition at Camden Night 1. This one featured the now-customary “The Birds” teases (“they attack,” story narration samples) and “Third Stone From The Sun” (a nod to the venue?) teases by Trey before the guitarist turned up the sustain for a hair-raising build-up to a soaring peak. After shifting back to a more mellow, ambient space and devolving into evil, atonal chaos, the band slinked back into the song’s closing coda. That’s three great “Birds of a Feathers” in three attempts this tour, for those keeping track, putting it squarely in the running for “strongest jam vehicles of the summer.”
A breather came next with sing-along slacker ballad “Waste” before “Golgi Apparatus” took fans back to the early days to close out set two. As the band took their places for the encore, Trey asked the crowd, “You guys in a rush to get out of here?” As a resounding “no” echoed back from the crowd, the band treated them with the feverishly-sought “Foam”. This “Foam” marked the first-ever encore rendition of the ’80s-vintage Phish classic, as well as its first appearance since 7/22/17 during the Baker’s Dozen (a 79-show gap, the second-longest gap between “Foams” in the song’s history). The “Contact” and “More” that closed out the three-song encore were simply icing on the cake.
The show had a few unusual ups and downs, but was overall an extremely well-executed, convention-breaking, top-notch Phish show—even among the stiff competition of the rest of this fantastic tour. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday night. See you there again tonight for round two.
Below, you can check out a beautiful gallery of photos from the show courtesy of photographer Andrew Blackstein.
For a full list of the band’s upcoming tour dates and ticketing information, head to Phish’s website.
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 | Mohegan Sun Arena | Uncasville, CT | 7/9/19
SET 1: Energy -> Weekapaug Groove, The Moma Dance, Maze -> Lengthwise -> Maze, Petrichor, Things People Do > Sample in a Jar, Bathtub Gin
SET 2: Soul Planet -> Wider -> Undermind, The Final Hurrah, Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1, Ghost -> Birds of a Feather, Waste > Golgi Apparatus
ENCORE: Foam, Contact, More
This show featured the first Energy since August 4, 2013 (226 shows), the first Foam since July 22, 2017 (77 shows), and the Phish debut of the Ghosts of the Forest song Wider. Ghost contained an Under Pressure tease and a Weekapaug Groove jam with lyrics. Birds of a Feather featured The Birds samples from Page and Third Stone From the Sun teases from Trey.