There is always an element of excitement when Phish comes to your town to help you party down, but when one of the professional home teams also happens to be playing for a championship on the same night, the beautiful buzz is elevated to unimaginable levels. Wednesday night at the Chaifetz Arena will be one that St. Louis Blues fans will not soon forget—and enjoying their Stanley Cup victory with help from Phish was just icing on the cake.
In an attempt to match the ecstatic energy of the city, Phish came out of the gates with the always high-impact “Chalk Dust Torture” followed by the standardly funky “Moma Dance”. “Waves” saw the first set for the first time since the band’s 2.0 era at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (6/20/2004) and it quickly moved into the radio-friendly “Bouncing Around the Room”. Trey Anastasio utilized his multifaceted guitar rig to enhance the choppy plinko effects in “Undermind”, and Jon Fishman finished out the 2004 tune out with some synthesized percussion from around the world via his electronic drum pad.
Page McConnell added some extra weight to “Heavy Things” with the Hammond B-3 organ before the band turned things down a notch with the mellow Story of the Ghost original, “Roggae”. “We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains” added some Kasvot Växt to the mix as Page, Trey Anastasio and Jon Fishman grinned and adlibbed through its slightly extended “I’m a glue in your magnet” refrain. Mike Gordon took over lead vocals on Son Seals’ “Funky Bitch” featuring some fiery guitar peaks from Trey. The band extinguished a standard first set of old and new with a basic but rocking “Set Your Soul Free” and a red-hot “Run Like An Antelope.” During “Antelope,” lighting designer Chris Kuroda turned the arena into an arcade as the band tore through their lively summer staple with ferocious energy.
Throughout the first set, each time the Blues would score a goal, the crowd would erupt in cheers. As the game wound down during “Run Like An Antelope”, Trey tossed in some teases of 80s pop hit and newly minted Blues victory anthem, “Gloria”—a sign of what was to come.
During the setbreak, hockey fans were glued to the arena televisions and rejoiced as the St. Louis Blues won their first Stanley Cup in the franchise’s 52-year history. Similar to their 10/29/14 show in San Francisco on the night the San Francisco Giants took home their World Series victory, Phish brought good luck to the hometown championship contender. While it is insanely superstitious to think that Phish was the reason for the Blues’ Game 7 victory, no one can wholeheartedly confirm that it wasn’t because the boys were back in town.
To a non-hockey fan, Laura Branigan’s radio hit “Gloria” may have seemed like a very odd choice as a second set opener (even for Phish), but for hockey fans in St. Louis on Wednesday, June 12th, it was all too perfect. For those that don’t bleed blue, “Gloria” has become more than a simple dive bar DJ request, but an unlikely anthem of victory that the team and fanbase have come to adore this season. The Boston Red Sox have “Sweet Caroline” and the New York Yankees have “New York, New York”, but after the Blues’ Game 7 Stanley Cup victory, the city’s new anthem got some extra Phishy love as McConnell belted the “Gloria” lyrics in glorious fashion.
As if the crowd wasn’t feeling euphoric enough, the band whipped out another appropriately-placed cover with the Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup,” and the people went crazy. Trey is a known hockey fan and has been spotted wearing his Philadelphia Flyers jersey in Pennsylvania and a New York Rangers beanie at Madison Square Garden, but his all-around love for the NHL brought joy in St. Louis during the second night of the 26-show tour. Not only was the (Loving) “Cup” significant from a hockey standpoint, but this version ventured into Type II territory for the first time since its debut 26 years ago. Gordon held down a fatty bass line that complemented McConnell’s heavenly board-hopping nicely before Anastasio moved the band into “Twist” (perhaps a nod to former Blues enforcer Tony Twist) to end the celebratory hockey references.
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The 14-minute rendition of “Twist” gave the guitarist plenty of time to shine as the jam followed various peaks and valleys before landed in a bubbling cauldron of funk thanks to Gordon’s chunky bass and McConnell’s stocky B-3 chops. Anastasio cranked up the trippiness with delays and psychedelic wah that brought “Twist” to complete silence. For the second Ghosts of the Forest debut of the tour, the band chose “About to Run”, with its emotionally charged lyrics and gritty, ominous guitar fireworks. For the third time in the 3.0 era, “Mr. Completely” got second set attention to the delight of the crowd, complete with “Gloria” teases to add extra smiles. The Anastasio-penned number dove into spacey terrain with help from McConnell’s Yamaha synthesizer and Gordon’s throbbing bass effects. Throughout the set, the band played with a patience and focus typically reserved for the middle- to the end of tour, and they didn’t waste any time utilizing their expansive instrument rigs.
“Light” delicately weaved its way into a solid second set and slowly morphed into a dark and meaty full-band Type II jam complete with Fishman’s acid jazz experimentation on percussion. On a dime, the Vermonters returned to the luminous lyrics as if they hadn’t just scared the shit out of some of the audience members by taking them down a haunting improvisational rabbit hole. To ease people back to reality, they went into the most popular Phish-lover’s wedding song, “Waste”. The Stanley Cup Champions got more love during the set-closing “Suzy Greenberg”, as Fishman proclaimed, “Neurologist, how about those Blues?!” McConnell got one last chance to octopus his way around his updated rig, and Anastasio congratulated the crowd on an epic win and executed one more “Gloria” tease before exiting the stage.
The encore (brought to you by the letter “F”) started soft and ended hard with a lovely “Farmhouse” and a searing “First Tube”. Of course, no 2019 summer tour gig would be complete without McConnell sneaking in at least one “Faceplant Into Rock” (“The Final Hurrah”) sample, and he did just that during the closing “First Tube”. While the raging show closer might have signaled bedtime for the middle-aged band members, staff, and crew—it was just the pre-game for a legendary night out in St. Louis.
What should have been a couple of practice shows before their two headlining performances at the mega-festival known as Bonnaroo, the tour-opening run gave fans a first set on night one and a second set on night two filled with career-spanning magic. As Bonnaroovians begin arriving in Manchester, Tennessee with their costumes, glowsticks, bottled water, and blinking tiaras, we hope they remembered to bring a helmet—because they’re about to faceplant into rock (cue Page).
Below, you can watch a pair of pro-shot videos and check out a gallery of photos from the show courtesy of photographer Keith Griner.
Phish – “Chalk Dust Torture” [Pro-Shot]
Phish – “Gloria” [Laura Branigan cover, Pro-Shot]
Phish – “Gloria”, “Loving Cup”
[Video: Jason Briggs]
For a full list of Phish’s upcoming tour dates, head here.
Setlist: Phish | Chaifetz Arena | St. Louis, MO | 6/12/19
Set One: Chalk Dust Torture, The Moma Dance, Waves > Bouncing Around the Room, Undermind, Heavy Things, Roggae, We Are Come to Outlive Our Brains, Funky Bitch, Set Your Soul Free, Run Like an Antelope
Set Two: Gloria, Loving Cup > Twist, About to Run, Mr. Completely > Light > Waste, Suzy Greenberg
Encore: Farmhouse, First Tube
This show was webcast via Live Phish. Trey teased Gloria (Laura Branigan) in Run Like an Antelope and in Suzy Greenberg. The second set opened with the Phish debut of Gloria (the St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup during setbreak and Gloria had become the team’s victory song during the season). Trey teased Dave’s Energy Guide in Light. The Final Hurrah was quoted in First Tube.