Saturday 02/24/2024 by phishnet


[We would like to thank user @Laudanum (Jon Allison) for this recap. -Ed.]

The normal mix of anxiousness and anticipation surrounding a Phish show gets dialed up a notch or two when you know you’re going to be recapping it. Moreso when it’s your first time. Will I get a dud and be forced to trash my favorite band? A middling show with nothing much to say about it either way? Or a good to great show, easy to write about, but carrying some small measure of responsibility to capture it for the ages?

© 2024 PHISH (Alive Coverage)
© 2024 PHISH (Alive Coverage)

Reality,” of course, is never that simple, and I find myself left with the daunting task of rendering into words a show which for one reason or another will be forever chiseled into the annals of Phish lore.

Honestly, I’m not sure I’m up to it. But I’ll try.

First set kicks off innocently enough with “Set Your Soul Free,” laid-back and groovy, and the jam that ensues fits comfortably into the model for first set jams as of late, pleasant and relatively unchallenging, an easy welcome to the show. The true segue to “Ghost” that follows, however, is not a common occurrence in first sets, and a sign, perhaps, of the band’s intent to set this show apart as something special.

That intent becomes clearer with the “Ghost” jam, which slows and opens up, Mike hits a few harmonics, and the music swirls around like weather, airy and atmospheric. The transition, when it comes, to “Fast Enough For You” feels natural, as the tone and timbre of the preceding jam had all but suggested it. This is a gorgeous sequence, making up for what it lacks in thrills with a delicate beauty and simple elegance.

© 2024 PHISH (Alive Coverage)
© 2024 PHISH (Alive Coverage)

The first true stoppage in music after “FEFY” leads to “Evolve,” which somehow manages to mix bluegrass and island vibes, much as its lyrics mix science and religion. Trey plays some fluttering lines in the outro worthy of a Nashville session guitarist, adding to an already polished performance.

Mull” is next, a Mike song charming in its weirdness (aren’t they all), and while it maintains the polish, it disappoints a bit by coloring inside the lines, as opposed to, say, the spectacular version from Merriweather Post Pavilion in ‘22. Mike’s lyric about tacos draws an obvious cheer. Fun, if perfunctory.

46 Days” provides a needed shot of juice to the set, and Trey plays his line from “Mull” in the intro to good result. The jam immediately recalls the swirling atmospherics of the previous “Ghost,” and I swear you can hear the music breathe when they’re playing like this. Its swells and ebbs are those of a living thing, and, though short, this jam nearly busts its tethers before they can throw a tarp over it to keep it under wraps.

Things are cooking now, And while “Kill Devil Falls” has a few nervous moments (sparking a laugh from Trey) its looseness is a boon to the set. Trey plays around with the effect that makes his guitar sound like a singing saw in the jam, before devolving into a melange of echoes and loops, with mad texture from Page and some Tony Levin-esque playing from Mike. Fish settles into a pattern of rolls and groove and the whole thing melts into….

Wading in the Velvet Sea,” which isn’t in a bad spot and fits the set’s tone (and location) quite well. “FEFY” and “Velvet Sea” together in the same set are a bit much on the ballad front, however, and the closing “Sigma Oasis” has too much of the polish of “Evolve” and “Mull” to spark the fire the set needs to fulfill its earlier promise.

The set as a whole, if a bit sedate at the end, seems of a single piece. That's one of the qualities that’s really elevated many of the first sets of the past few years, and this one’s no exception. You could imagine an album with this order and runtime.

But wait, you might be saying at this point, this seems like a pretty normal-to-good Phish show. What was all that about the annals of Phish lore from the intro?

Well, get ready. Here come the histrionics.

© 2024 PHISH (Alive Coverage)
© 2024 PHISH (Alive Coverage)

Though not for the “Blaze On,” which draws the curtain on set two. A decent enough version, but it feels cut from the same cloth as set one: polished and professional. Things just begin to get interesting when it gets sucked into “Chalk Dust Torture,” the supermassive black hole at the heart of this show, and the jam upon which I’m about to blow all of my remaining writerly capital.

“CDT” is that which most of us are chasing, whether we know it or not. That connection to the universe–the ultimate–that Phish, when they're on, are lightning rods for: drawing energy down from the cosmos, down from the moon and sending it sizzling straight up your spine, a hotshot of the terrible glory of creation.

The song portion of “CDT” lasts a mere five and a half minutes, so eager is the band to get to the jamspace which has been waiting for them all night, lurking. They flow from weaponized yacht rock reminiscent of “On Broadway” to an alley cat strut; from deep, formless space to Trey alternating blistering rock god lines with open-beam communications to galactic center. The closing doom metal dirge places you back at the birth of intelligence, under the brilliant stars above, awakening overtaking you, an ape staring at the monolith.

It’s the longest “CDT” of all time. It’s the eighth longest jam of all time. It is, in all ways, titanic. And reading back, I’ve failed to do it justice. Forgive me.

The rest of the show is great, if not so earth-shattering. “Beneath a Sea of Stars Part 1” is a likely port after “CDT’s” cosmic storm, and in some ways the obvious choice. You can argue that the first set’s atmospherics predicted it all along.

Backwards Down the Number Line” has all the sparkle and joy a cabalistic birthday song should, and radiates the energy the earlier “Sigma” did not. “Harry Hood” continues the marvelous return to form hallmarked by the standout 12/29/23 version. You can definitely feel good about this Hood.

When the Circus Comes” and “Character Zero” provide a double shot of ‘98 for the encore. I feel like they earned this Zero, and the crowd reaction confirms it.

Phish history is marked by a number of these sorts of shows: really good shows which harbor an all-timer jam singularity at their center. 11/28/94, 7/31/13, and 8/31/21 all rapidly spring to mind. But this show has a little more, I think, lifting it to the realm of shows like 7/14/19. Like I said, annals of Phish lore.

Look, I’m a heretic, an apostate, a 1.0-er who feels the band’s as good now as they’ve ever been. Hell, better in some ways. So take what I’m saying with a grain of salt. But you need to hear this “CDT.” It’s as monumental and consequential a jam as they’ve played this century, and you need to plan a night out, laying flat under the stars, with this music coursing through you.

It’s why we Phish.

© 2024 PHISH (Alive Coverage)
© 2024 PHISH (Alive Coverage)

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, comment by CarrotEyes
CarrotEyes Nice review!
, comment by raidcehlalred
raidcehlalred JCs & the birth of intelligence/why I stick around; great review .... 11.28.94 is where I'm going pre-show ....
, comment by spac_melt
spac_melt Beautiful/detailed review, good sir. One of the finest writers on our beloved site! Thank you for the time & thought put into it.
, comment by digunderrocks
digunderrocks Noice! “Weaponized yacht rock” is sure to be a sticker next year.
, comment by hairy
hairy Sentiments echoed. That review pretty much sums up last night. I’m also a 1.0er in agreement that Phish, thanks to musical maturity, is playing as well as any point in their career. Enjoy them in every way possible while the crown is still in their possession.
, comment by Nomidwestlove
Nomidwestlove I think the the first set had a better flow from Set 1 from the previous night. I for one think FEFY is criminally underplayed and it was gorgeous. Loved the recap all in all, and would invite you to keep signing up for them— I enjoyed your prose immensely.
, comment by SawItAgaaain
SawItAgaaain Doom metal dirge is precisely it. Great first review that describes the dish to perfection.
, comment by Lydos
Lydos Tall order to review that show, beautifully done, your fellow apes thank you!
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