On Wednesday night, Phish capped the east coast leg of their tour with their final midweek performance of the summer at Mohegan Sun Arena. Following Tuesday’s convention-breaking debut at the Uncasville, CT casino resort, expectations were high for Phish’s sold-out second night on the Mohegan Indian Reservation.
The first set kicked off with “Buried Alive”, a well-known fire starter in the opener slot. The band kept the energy high with “Cavern” next, followed by the first rendition of the clepto-canine blues rocker “Dogs Stole Things” since it opened the final night of the Baker’s Dozen on 8/6/17 (a gap of 69 shows). Not even the often-tricky “Sugar Shack” could dull the early momentum of this show, as the band delivered one of the more solid renditions of the Mike Gordon-penned Joy track in recent memory.
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While the first four songs of the set were undoubtedly hot, the real meat of Wednesday’s first frame was still to come. “Stash” was the first song of the night to break through to the other side, as the band leaned into its Latin groove for an ominous and unhinged ride that stretched past the 13-minute mark. Coming in the wake of two stellar versions earlier this tour in Toronto and St. Louis, the Mohegan “Stash” further cemented the A Picture of Nectar classic as a summer 2019 standout.
Next up was “Wingsuit”, a song that lends itself perfectly to the fast-fingered Trey Anastasio riffing that’s figured in prominently this summer in the wake of his Ghosts of the Forest tour this past spring. In fact, listening to the song’s wailing climax, it was easy to imagine this song as a sort of spiritual precursor to the GotF material that now seems to have found a home in the Phish repertoire.
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“Limb By Limb” came next, giving way to a brief, pretty jam that floated gracefully within the song’s composed structure. “Gumbo” followed from there, keeping the crowd singing and dancing along to the lively interplay between Trey and Page McConnell.
The second “dog” song of the evening was up next with Kasvot Växt rocker, “Stray Dog”. While various other songs from the band’s 2018 Halloween “costume” have become setlist staples in the ensuing months, this marked just the second rendition of the song outside its Halloween debut. In a moment of levity during the tune, Trey changed the “It’s over here, it’s over there” lyrics to “It’s f*ckin’ here, it’s f*ckin’ there,” barely making it through the segment before bursting out in laughter.
A slow-burn “Steam” followed from there, building up to a cacophonous peak before settling back into the song’s theme and, finally, giving way to a fantastic, set-closing “David Bowie”. It’s been widely noted that “Bowie” is LD Chris Kuroda‘s favorite Phish song to light, and this version once again confirmed that notion in no uncertain terms. Hats off to CK5—this year’s light rig may be your most exciting one yet. Hot damn.
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Phish returned from setbreak with a call for shenanigans in “Party Time”. Page led the way on the organ while Jon Fishman kept the song light on its feet from behind the drum kit. The crowd let out a roar of appreciation as the band moved into “Chalk Dust Torture”. While this one was relatively brief in the second set two-slot (clocking in under 12 minutes in length), the band made full use of their time, pushing the jam to a few distinct, interesting places powered by an unrelenting Fishman before finally drifting into “Ruby Waves”.
While it was first played by Trey Anastasio Band during a show in Burlington back in 2008, “Ruby Waves” was revived in full as part of Trey’s Ghosts of the Forest project earlier this year. This marked the third time “Ruby Waves” has appeared in a Phish setlist this summer, and while it didn’t (initially) venture as far into the depths as the previous versions, this wasn’t the last we’d hear from the song on Wednesday. More on that later…
Coming out of “Ruby Waves”, Phish dusted off fan-favorite “Seven Below” for the first time since New Year’s Eve. As Mike and Fish held down a malleable rhythmic base, Trey and Page traded lead lines and cycled through tones and textures, making for a beautiful—albeit brief—improvisational expedition.
After “Seven Below” faded to a full stop, the band launched into “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan”. Normally a first set song, this marked the second straight time “Stealing Time” has appeared in the second half of a show. The Joy track has certainly always been a candidate for a full Type II treatment, but this would not be its night. Before too long, the song faded out and “Piper” slowly entered the fold. After taking their time with the song’s lead-in, the band quickly got to work on this “Piper” jam, squeezing in some creative improv before following the current back into “Ruby Waves” for a quick reprise of the song’s chorus.
From there, the band rode the ambient remains of “Ruby Waves” into the robotic freakout of “I Always Wanted It This Way”. Finally, Phish dove into multi-part Ghosts of the Forest composition “Drift While You’re Sleeping” to cap the set. This marked the fifth rendition of the uplifting tune this summer, and all five have served as either a set-closer or encore. Some fans may still be getting used to the new song and its new set-closing function, but it continues to thrive in its new Phish role.
After a show filled with darker jams, “Bouncing Around The Room” seemed like an odd choice to kick off the encore. However, evil Phish quickly reared its head once again as the band dove into “Saw It Again”. After a few minutes of the menacing tune, a laughing Trey began to recite the scripture of “Kung” on top of it, Fishman echoing each line with maniacal howls while Page peppered in “Haunted House” shrieks. Trey altered the lyrics of the chant to reference the venue’s unusual policy banning sitting on the floor (“Don’t sit down during setbreak… Stand up! … Taste…the humidity!”), barely keeping his composure as he fought back laughs and Page launched “The Final Hurrah” and “The Birds” vocal samples. The hectic segment delivered in spades—this is exactly the kind of bizarre, what-the-hell-is-going-on type of moment fans always hope to catch.
With time for one more, the band traded the darkness of “Saw It Again”/”Kung” for the light, opting for a beautiful, show-closing “Slave”.
Phish will close the main leg of their summer tour this weekend with a three-night run at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Elkhorn, WI. For a full list of the band’s upcoming tour dates and ticketing information, head to Phish’s website.
Setlist: Phish | Mohegan Sun Arena | Uncasville, CT | 7/10/19
SET 1: Buried Alive, Cavern, Dogs Stole Things, Sugar Shack, Stash, Wingsuit, Limb By Limb > Gumbo, Stray Dog, Steam, David Bowie
SET 2: Party Time, Chalk Dust Torture > Ruby Waves > Seven Below, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan > Piper -> Ruby Waves > I Always Wanted It This Way > Drift While You’re Sleeping
ENCORE: Bouncing Around the Room, Saw It Again -> Kung -> Saw It Again > Slave to the Traffic Light
 Sung over Saw It Again music.
Trey teased San-Ho-Zay in Seven Below. Kung was performed over Saw It Again and featured a Final Hurrah quote, Final Hurrah and The Birds samples
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