Phish just wrapped up the East Coast portion of their 25 date summer tour, and now head west for dates at famed venues such as The Gorge and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in the coming weeks. I hopped on tour for a five-show run beginning in Philadelphia on June 28, catching two shows at the Mann Music Center before truckin’ up to Saratoga Springs, New York, for three shows at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, or SPAC as it’s commonly referred to.
The two-night run at the Mann marked the third consecutive year Phish has done a multi-night run at the north Philly venue. The previous four shows played there have been widely praised for everything from song selection to improvisational jamming, including a jam-heavy five-song second set during their second show in 2015.
This year, the boys stayed the course by playing two solid shows, with both nights featuring new material mixed in with heavy hitters and jammed out staples. Despite a brief weather delay, Tuesday’s show began with the crowd-participation fave Wilson, followed by a ripping version of Funky Bitch. No Men in No Man’s Land, a tune they jammed out for over 12 minutes last year, fit nicely into the third slot of the first set. Before the next tune, Roggae, guitarist Trey Anastasio welcomed the crowd and bantered about the Mann being their favorite venue to play in the Philadelphia area, adding that the wood roof was so good and they looked forward to playing there each year. Roggae featured some nice guitar solo peaks backed by a couple of vibrating bass bombs from Mike Gordon, and this version was clean for the most part.
Nellie Kane brought the pace of the set back up, as the bluegrass ballad sung by Mike got everyone’s feet moving. Page McConnell worked the keys with his usual grace, while Jon Fishman kept things moving with his brisk work on the drums. As the band approached mid-set, they dropped a Gumbo which the crowd appreciated loudly. The sing-a-long continued with Birds of a Feather, and Page snuck in “They Attack!” as a nod to the Halloween 2014 The Birds.
The pace was brought back down to earth some with Sleep Again, a Trey Anastasio Band song from his fourth studio album, Shine (the Mann version marked only the fifth time Phish has played it). The easy melody allowed fans to take a breather before the boys debuted a new song, Things People Do. Another bluegrass-type tune, this time with Page on vocals, is a fun, fast paced ditty that should fit in to the Phish catelog nicely.
After Page thanked the crowd, Trey began the easily recognizable notes to Limb by Limb, another sing-a-long tune. As Fishman’s vocals faded away at the end of Limb by Limb, he picked right up on the intro to Split Open and Melt (SOAMelt), and the crowd immediately got down to the groove the band was rocking. Trey and company were just about spot on with the technical aspects of the complex tune, and again got the crowd to sing back up vocals. Stretching out over 10 minutes, Melt was the longest song played in the first set. They weren’t done yet, however, as a quick run through of The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony gave way to the final song of the first set, Suzy Greenberg, which featured a nice back and forth between Page and Jon as the song hit it’s peak before the boys left the stage for setbreak.
In 2015, Phish opened the second set of their first night at the Mann with a much-respected version of Fuego. They would follow suit on this night as well, with a 16 minute version that almost set my hair on fire. I am a big fan of this one, and it appears that Fuego is a big fan of Philly as well. Page and Trey had a nice back and forth mid-jam, and Mike got in on the action with Page as well. The interplay between the band during the Fuego jam was fun to watch (and hear), though I thought they transitioned into Runaway Jim a bit abruptly. The crowd didn’t seem to mind, however, as the rockin’ Jim was followed by an almost 9 minute version of Gotta Jibboo.
Breath and Burning, another new song, filled the fourth spot of the second set. This one will be remembered for the jam, as it took on my layers over the course of 9 plus minutes, including a dirty bass and guitar exchange. As the jam melted away, Trey picked up the intro to Timber (Jerry) to the delight of the crowd, which once again sang along accordingly. Slave to the Traffic Light followed, seemingly to end the show, but the band had one more in store as they delved into an 18 minute monster You Enjoy Myself. The heavy hitter was just that on this evening- well played with a sweet jam during which Trey put down his guitar and assisted Jon on the drums, playing the marimba lumina behind Fishman’s kit. The vocal jam brought the house down, and the crowd was all smiles. Phish came back out for the encore with a cover of Bob Dylan’s Quinn the Eskimo.
The Mann is proving to be a fan, and band, favorite venue. The new tunes were well played but not over zealous. Phish mixed in some fun, upbeat bluegrass, some dark funk, and some dirty jams for their first night in Philly. The crowd left happy and looking for more to come the following night.
Set I: Wilson, Funky Bitch, No Men in No Man’s Land, Roggae, Nellie Kane, Gumbo, Birds of a Feather, Sleep Again, Things People Do*, Limb by Limb, Split Open and Melt, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony, Suzy Greenberg
Set II: Fuego> Runaway Jim, Gotta Jibboo, Breath & Burning> Timber (Jerry)> Slave to the Traffic Light> You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Quinn the Eskimo