Phish storm Jones Beach: A night like no other

Written by Andrew Scott Blackstein / Photos by Andrew Scott Blackstein

July 12, 2012

 

Phish
Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
Wantagh, NY
July 3, 2012

 

 

After a lackluster display to close out 2011 at Madison Square Garden, many members of the ever so critical Phish faithful nation were left scratching their heads. It seemed as though Phish, our dearly beloved quartet, was somehow settling for mediocrity.

With “Bustout Season” pretty much over, fans began to feel as though they had little left to look forward to, sans the sonic uniqueness that only their favorite band can provide. Even more so than usual, message boards became overflowed with commentary that would make Andrew Dice Clay blush and for some, thoughts of “What if the trolls were right?” began to fleet. Perhaps we had seen 3.0 in its finest hour.  

This said, when Phish expectedly announced the 2012 summer tour via a Jon Fishman (drummer) training video, it wasn’t as though nobody bought tickets. After all, Phish on a bad day are better than most are on their best.

By the time that Phish entered the middle of set two of night one at The Centrum in Worcester, MA, it was obvious that the guys had come out to dispel any notion that their best effort was on display six months earlier in New York. The segue out of “Carini” and into a “Boogie On Reggae Woman” that took a turn into “Guy Forget” (though most setlists do not document it) courtesy of guitarist and vocalist Trey Anastasio. In retrospect, the inclusion of the in-jest song told a significant piece of the 2012 leg one story. Phish was having fun again, bantering amongst each other on a level that really has not been seen since the early and mid 90s.  (see also Tuck: example)

The following night saw “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)” with “Sex Machine,” “Sand,” and “Mike’s Song” teases along with a highlight of the evening, the first extended/Type II offering of “Roses are Free” by Phish in over a decade. (Perhaps it was a tribute to Gene Ween who recently broke up his band in spite of the fact that fellow Boognish creator, Dean, had heard nothing about it)

The rest of the summer told the same tale. Even the festival set at Bonnaroo was good. Our beloved Phish were back. Just when one began kicking his ass for missing a show, the next night would bring something special unto itself just the same, so when Mike Gordon (bass), Page McConnell (keys), Trey Anastasio & Jon Fishman rolled into Jones Beach to wrap up leg one and fresh off two killer sets from shows at Deer Creek and a less than provocative Alpine outing, expectations were high but reserved. After all, this was Phish, a band whose outings can never be predicted.

Opening up the ceremonies with Little Feat’s “Skin It Back,” a number that hasn’t seen the light of day since the year daddy Bush was elected, it was almost safe to say that things were going to get good. One song later, the Jones Beach gathered multitude was immersed in “Happiness is a Warm Gun,” a number that has not seen the light of day since the band covered The White Album in 1994; any lingering doubt about whether this show would be worth a damn was officially squashed.

The bustout heavy first set had the place buzzing at set break and the hope for one of those shows was palpable as fans either grabbed water or beer or relieved themselves of it.

As darkness swept over the beach and the tide that literally comes into the venue rolled in, the four gentlemen collectively known as Phish hurried onstage, seemingly very anxious to get things underway and back to business.

From the opening notes of “Chalkdust Torture,”  a grin adorned Trey beamed while teasing licks from “Skin It Back.” But the set really took off when the improv heavy and consummate jam vehicle of 3.0, “Sand” yielded into “Golden Age” via a space-filled but highly focused turn. The band was locked, tight as a tick, and that flow where one member effortlessly feeds off of his cohort took place.  

Aside from a short flub in “Wolfman’s Brother,” it was evident that the hose was on as Phish continued to relentlessly fire off one well-executed song after the next.

Phish are a band with renewed enthusiasm. Some attribute it to Trey’s symphony outings earlier this year, but for most, they are just glad. Let’s face it, there was a time not too long ago when all we hoped for was to see the guys share the stage again. To have them back in a shape that is all-new and harkens back to all eras is something that at one time, not too long ago in New York, seemed to be an impossibility. Then again,  if there are two words that absolutely have no business being breathed in correlation to one another, those words are “Phish” and “impossible.”

 

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Setlist (Courtesy of www.Phish.net)

 

(Soundcheck: Buffalo Bill, 46 Days)

I: Skin It Back, Possum[1], Tube, Happiness Is a Warm Gun, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Halley’s Comet > Axilla > Ya Mar, Joy, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Backwards Down the Number Line > Golgi Apparatus

II: Chalk Dust Torture[1], Sand[2] -> Golden Age, Wolfman’s Brother -> Walk Away, Bug > Fluffhead[3] > The Wedge, Run Like an Antelope

Encore: Character Zero

 

[1] Skin It Back tease.
[2] Izabella tease.
[3] Dave’s Energy Guide tease.

Notes: “Skin It Back” was played for the first time since July 29,1988 (1,417 shows). “Happiness is a Warm Gun” was played for the first time since October 31, 1994 (658 shows). “Possum” and “Chalk Dust Torture” contained “Skin It Back” teases. “Sand” contained an Izabella tease. Fluffhead contained a “Dave’s Energy Guide” tease.

 

Download: Soundboard, Audience

 

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Leg 2 of Phish’s summer tour starts on August 15, 2012 in Long Beach, CA and winds through the midwest before heading south through Birmingham, Atlanta & Charlotte over the weekend of August 24. The tour wraps with a three day stand in Denver, CO. Tickets are still available for some shows.

Log on to www.Phish.com for more info.

 

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Click the thumbnail(s) to view photos from the show by Andrew Blackstein