Phish rolled into Nashville, TN with high expectations. Having just completed a generally well-regarded three-night-run at the beloved Hampton Coliseum, the band touched down at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater last night for the first of two shows, picking right up where they left off at The Mothership. Night one in Nasvhille saw an impressive 200+ show bust out, a killer second set “Mike’s Groove” featuring several standout jams, and an overall high level of energy from both the band and crowd alike, making for a special night at the smallest venue on their 2018 Fall Tour.

Phish finished their final night at Hampton Coliseum with a rare second encore of “You Enjoy Myself”, however, they left some fans wanting more as they curiously did not play “Tweezer Reprise” following a huge “Tweezer” on Saturday night. Fans who were upset to not get “Reprise” in Hampton didn’t have to wait long for it in Nashville, as the band opened their first set with the high-octane rocker. Typically found in the encore, this marked the first time “Tweeprise” opened a show since 6/19/2010 at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Afterward, drummer Jon Fishman wasted no time starting “Party Time”, which always acts as a catalyst for crowd energy–especially when keyboardist Page McConnell shows off his chops on the clavinet and the organ–and that energy was harnessed perfectly as the band moved into “Free”.

Phish then offered up “Old Home Place” for the first time in 2018, before turning in a decidedly standard take on “Lawn Boy”. Next up, the band busted out the Velvet Underground classic “Cool It Down”, a song that harkens back to the band’s 1998 Halloween cover of Loaded. The rarity, played only eight times total since its original Halloween debut, was last played in Long Beach in 2012, with the 229 show gap making “Cool It Down” Phish’s second biggest bust out of 2018 (Mellow Mood on 9/2/2018 had a 257 show gap).

After raucous versions of “Theme From The Bottom” and “Funky Bitch”, the band really let loose with an exploratory “Kill Devil Falls” that saw them flex their improvisational muscles. Trey Anastasio danced his fingers up and down the neck of his guitar while McConnell pounded on his grand piano, with the two intertwining for a short-but-significant effort. “Wolfman’s Brother” allowed the band to lock in for a funk rock jam, with McConnell once again laying down the foundation as Anastasio filled in the melodic blanks, pushing things into another gear with a raging solo. Finally, the band ended the first set on a high note with a particularly rocking version of “Character Zero”.

“Mike’s Song” kicked off set two, with the band launching into some intergalactic improvisation right out of the gates. This version featured a type II first jam, and a coveted “second Mike’s jam” at the end of the song, with drummer Jon Fishman landing on a repetitive percussive groove as the band pushed into a supremely dark vibe. McConnell led the band through the darkness towards a slick transition into a spooky, funkified “Ghost”. As the band pushed further and further into dark psychedelia, Anastasio was locked in, focusing on his delay pedal in a way that allowed the rhythm section to coalesce around Mike Gordon‘s foundational bass licks.

Following the powerful thirty-minute one-two punch to open the set, the relatively well-liked newer song “Everything’s Right” kept things moving, with more funky bass licks from Gordon, ethereal guitar playing from Anastasio, and McConnell leaning deeply into his arsenal of synthesizers. Just as things started to get really weird, the chunky guitar intro to “Set Your Soul Free” emerged. The band wasted little time here, as they quickly worked through the song and went right back to their locked-in improvisation. Following a quick trip to his pedal board, Anastasio’s guitar sound pierced through, with McConnell again utilizing his grand piano, the two of them encouraging the rest of the band to push their intensity more and more. The pair chased each other around the jam, trading off leading and following as they latched on to each other’s melodies and rhythms.

McConnell switched over to his electric piano, moving the jam into a more ambient space, eventually dissolving into a rare version of “When The Circus Comes” by Los Lobos, the first version since last summer’s Baker’s Dozen residency at Madison Square Garden. The band kept “When The Circus Comes” short and sweet, with Fishman starting the familiar opening drumbeat to “Weekapaug Groove”, which would act as the second-set-closer. This version of Weekepaug saw McConnell take the lead, once again pushing the band with his playing on the grand piano, his go-to weapon all night long. Anastasio offered up Plinko-style comping, letting his rhythmic playing do the talking before the jam moved into a blissful state, with a prominent tease of “Third Stone From The Sun” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience guiding the band towards a massive peak.

For the encore, the band turned to an old favorite, “Loving Cup” by The Rolling Stones, perhaps the perfect choice to end the show following such an ambitious second set. Always a reliable closer, “Loving Cup” surely didn’t disappoint, with Anastasio delivering fiery blues licks throughout as the band brought the marvelous mid-week show to an end.

Phish was certainly in fine form on night one in Nashville, continuing the trend from this past weekend’s shows at Hampton Coliseum in a big way. Phish returns for night two at the Ascend Amphitheater tonight (Wednesday, October 24th), before hitting the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, IL for three nights. Of course, this is all leading up to Phish’s big four-night Halloween run at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, set to take place October 31st – November 3rd.

“Set Your Soul Free”

[Video: Gregory Marcus]

Weekapaug Groove

[Video: Gregory Marcus]

Setlist: Phish | Ascend Amphitheatre | Nashville, TN | 10/23/2018

Set I: Tweezer Reprise > Party Time, Free, Old Home Place, Lawn Boy, Cool It Down, Theme From The Bottom, Funky Bitch, Kill Devil Falls > Wolfman’s Brother > Character Zero

Set II: Mike’s Song -> Ghost, Everything’s Right > Set Your Soul Free > When The Circus Comes > Weekapaug Groove.

Encore: Loving Cup