On Tuesday night, at long last, Phish returned to the spotlight at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s in Stateline, NV to begin their 2018 summer tour. At a few minutes after 7 p.m. local time, Trey AnastasioMike GordonPage McConnell, and Jon Fishman took the stage and, after a year spent mostly indoors in 2017, opened the summer with “Free”. Feel those feelings you forgot, Phish. We’re happy that you’re here.

An energetic, if straightforward “Possum” followed, the band breaking down the song’s groove and patiently building it up to a peak. Trey’s playing on “Possum”, and throughout the set, was nimble and quick, and the rhythmic pocket Fishman forged was impregnable. After a pause, Page pushed the band into “The Moma Dance” to begin one of the more interesting segments of the evening. After pressing on through some early vocal struggles with sheer energy and enthusiasm, the “Moma” jam pushed into wonderfully murky, sinister Type I space, Trey soloing with a loose confidence as the jam expanded in sonic breadth.

From there, the band began a more-than-welcome mid-first-set “Ghost”, which quickly moved into pretty, light-as-a-feather major key jam space. The jam picked up a harder edge as it went on, exploring several distinct sonic textures before dropping back into the “Ghost” theme. All told, the “Moma”/”Ghost” segment clocked in at just over 30 minutes of exceedingly-solid-for-opening-night-set-one Phish.

As “Ghost” faded into the ether, Trey and Fish pushed the band into “Funky Bitch”. This feels like the appropriate time to mention the wardrobe of a certain Mr. Mike Gordon on this evening. Mike earned big cheers leading the song on vocals as he rocked his own new fancy clothes unapolagetically.

Mike Gordon: Fashion Icon #phishseason #tahoe

A post shared by Mike Aspite (@mikeaspite) on

After the quick “Funky Bitch” romp, Trey counted off the opening notes to “Stash”. Save for a couple odd flubs (it’s not an easy song to play, shit happens), Trey patiently led the band on an extended excursion, making full use of a variety of tones, sustain, and feedback throughout, before…wait, was it time for “Character Zero” already? It appeared so—the first frame of the tour seemed to fly by, but this fiery “Zero” saw Trey unleash the beast, turning the song into a barn-burning howl, ending a set comprised entirely of songs debuted in the 1.0 era (1998 or before) on quite a high note.

“No Men In No Man’s Land” got the call to start set two, appearing in the same slot it manned in Trey’s solo show in Central Park with his other quartet earlier this month. The band wasted no time taking the Big Boat heavy hitter into improvisational territory featuring some excellent Star Trek-style synth swells from Page. From there, they locked into a plodding groove that quickly inflated into a full-blown white-light peak from Trey. Following a quick pit stop back in the “No Men” theme, Phish dove right back into the improv, Mike and Fishman steering the ship. After more than 15 minutes, a cacophonous grating sound paired with whale calls, sirens and more began to bubble up from the depths, dissolving into a submerged, “echolocation” jam and, eventually, into the ominous opening chords of “Carini”.

This “Carini” was unhinged as good “Carini”s always are, Page setting the dark and mysterious ton with his quivering “No Quarter”-style keys. After several minutes of delightfully strange synth sounds from Page, Trey floated up through the static with the sublime opening notes to “Slave to the Traffic Light”. Despite some vocal snafus, Trey was astutely dialed in on the classic composition, approaching its soaring guitar lines with quick-fingered, light-footed creativity and variation. Gordon shined on “Slave” as well, offering a beautiful solo and communicating freely with Trey as they moved intently toward the song’s always-powerful climax.

After a “Bouncing Around The Room” breather, the band dove into “Soul Planet”, marking both its second-ever Phish performance and its second appearance in as many shows after anchoring last year’s New Year’s Eve gag at Madison Square Garden. However, while the song has been met with some mixed reviews from fans, this version served as a launch pad for some interesting improv, meandering through tension-building dissonance with more whale calls, slinky organ lines, and Baker’s Dozen-like cocktail-lounge-on-Mars thematics before slithering into a compact but potent “Steam”.

With time for one more big number, the band opted for fan-favorite “Harry Hood”, which would go on to join the renditions from 7/3/13 and 7/1/14 in the pantheon of fantastic “Hoods” at 3.0 summer tour openers. This elegant 16-minute version had it all, from delicate dynamics to patient, melodic soloing from Trey to particularly powerful piano work from Page. It even featured some 2/3-capacity bass bombs from Mike—we’re not shaking amphitheater foundations yet, but the tour is exceedingly young, and it’s assuring that some of our favorite tools are already being utilized. The Mike bombs will be turned up to 11 before you know it.

The crowd sang along as “Hood” underwent its always-thrilling build and familiarly cathartic release, Trey wrangling his sustain like only he can, honing its emotional punch. You can feel good about this “Hood”. You can feel good about the fact that summer tour has officially begun. You can feel good about this show, though it certainly left room for Phish to reach higher highs as the summer goes on. After a quick break, Page highlighted the “Contact” encore opener, even helping push the song into a brief, funky jam, before a typically rocking “Julius” closed out the tour’s first night with a dance party.

On the first night of tour, Phish showed a whole lot of promise in a solid show, with a much-better-than-average, old school set one (featuring an excellent “Moma” > “Ghost” > “Funky Bitch” segment and more) and a thoroughly enjoyable set two that saw the band take some risks (particularly on “NMINML”, “Soul Planet”, and “Hood”) as they warmed up their group improvisational efforts. We haven’t achieved liftoff just yet, but night 1 in Tahoe was a fine start…and it’s only going to get better from here. Look out, summer 2018. Phish is coming for ya.

Watch a selection of fan-shot videos from Phish’s Tahoe opener below:

Phish – “No Men In No Man’s Land” > “Carini” (partial)

[Video: Gregory Marcus]

Phish – “Harry Hood”

[Video: Dr. Randy’s channel]

Summer tour continues tonight with Phish’s second and final performance at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s. For a full list of upcoming dates, head here.

Setlist: Phish | Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s | Stateline, NV | 7/17/18

Set 1: Free > Possum, The Moma Dance, Ghost > Funky Bitch, Stash > Character Zero

Set 2: No Men In No Man’s Land > Carini -> Slave to the Traffic Light, Bouncing Around the Room, Soul Planet > Steam, Harry Hood

Encore: Contact > Julius

A full soundboard recording of the performance is now available to stream via LivePhish.com