On Wednesday, Phish returned to Shoreline Amphitheatre to round out a two-night, midweek run at the Mountain View, CA shed following a venue switch-up due to the devastating wildfire affecting the Lake Tahoe area, where the Tuesday and Wednesday shows were initially set to take place.
The band’s gratitude for the opportunity to change course was on full display on Night 1, both verbally and musically, as Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, and Jon Fishman delivered a stellar performance filled with rare songs like the long-shelved “Axilla (Part II)”, a steaming “Stash”, a “Harry Hood” for Lee “Scratch” Perry, and a mammoth, 47-minute “Soul Planet” voyage—the third-longest Phish jam on record.
— Phish: From The Road (@Phish_FTR) September 2, 2021
The night after a consensus “great” show always stands in its predecessor’s shadow to a certain degree, and fans from Shoreline to their couches speculated widely on how Phish might be able to top Tuesday’s performance on Night 2. Phish responded with yet another strong performance featuring a number of the band’s beloved classics, deep jams on “Cities” and “Tweezer”, and more.
The show got underway with funky purpose early on with an extended “Mike’s Song” jam. After some reverb-laden staccato patterns set the train in motion, Gordon’s plodding bass helped set up a frantic launchpad for a nice early-show peak. This “Mike’s Groove” was destined to be unique, as “Mike’s” moved not into the classic “I Am Hydrogen” but rather into “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday” > “Avenu Malkenu” for the first time since 1994. Following the Gamehendge/Hebrew School combo, the band completed the segment with a well-constructed “Weekapaug Groove” that deftly moved from pleasant and pretty to down and dirty to soaring and searing in less than ten minutes, Chris Kuroda‘s rig beaming orbs of light across the stage all the while.
Phish – “Mike’s Song” [Pro-Shot] – Mountain View, CA – 9/1/21
A brief breather ensued as the band worked through the first “Brian and Robert” since December 2019. Fishman, arguably the MVP of the Shoreline run, picked the energy right back up with the distinctive opening beats of Sigma Oasis favorite “Thread”. A “darker” song by nature, “Thread” benefitted from summer 2021’s wide palette of low-end effects as it gurgled and howled its way through nearly ten minutes of ominous improv.
After moving swiftly through “The Wedge”, Trey fired up another tour debut, Talking Heads‘ “Cities”, seemingly recognizing the thematic symmetry of “finding a city to live in” at a show that quite literally had to find a new city in order to take place. Led by some melodic, low-register guitar synth leads from Trey, this “Cities” drove the roaring crowd through creative back roads and funky scenic routes throughout its 16-minute joyride.
— Phish: From The Road (@Phish_FTR) September 3, 2021
As a piano-forward motif developed in the “Cities” jam, Page and Trey guided the momentum through a smooth segue into OG Kasvot Växt set closer “Passing Through”, which felt thoroughly fitting as a musical bridge from “Cities” to the set’s final song, an emphatic “Fluffhead”. Of note, this marked the third “Fluffhead” of the summer (after Nashville Night 2 and Atlantic City Night 3), making this the first tour since summer 2016 during which the formerly elusive Fluff has been played three times.
Continuing the Gamehendge-heavy Shoreline song list, Phish returned to the stage following the intermission and dove into “The Lizards”. The anthemic composition typically serves as a late-show surprise or a climactic set-closer or encore, and its rare appearance to open the set—the first such placement of the song since March 1990 at New Haven’s Toad’s Place—sent the crowd into hysterics.
Phish – “The Lizards” [Pro-Shot] – Mountain View, CA – 9/1/21
While “The Lizards” unsurprisingly didn’t lead to any improvisation of its own (despite being brilliantly played), this early-show placement would go on to pay dividends during the monster “Tweezer” that followed. In addition to winding back through snippets of “The Lizards”, this jam—heralded by a Fishman “YEAH” sample and swirls of synth texture from Page—got its footing under a power chord riff that first resembled “Soul Planet”, then “American Woman” (so much so that Trey cooed a few of The Guess Who song’s lyrics). Once again, the drummer was in control here, pushing the unit to explore a given tangent or re-route toward something new. Moving from pleasant pools of pretty tones to urgent, driving grooves to industrial effects to stop-start “woos”—an appropriate nod to the famed “Tahoe Tweezer”—and beyond, this enthralling “Tweezer” stretched past the 34-minute mark, making it an excellent companion piece to this summer’s other big “Tweezer” jam from Alpharetta Night 2.
When all was said and done and the band was ready to step back out of the freezer, Anastasio guided the group into the sentimental sway of “Miss You”, which soon gave way to a peppy “Piper”. Once again drawing power from the human drum machine known as Henrietta, this “Piper” drilled away at the Earth for ten minutes before flowing into a brooding “Twenty Years Later”. Finally, a quick pass through “Twist” set up a set-closing “Backwards Down The Number Line”.
Following a brief encore break, the band returned for a run through uplifting Ghosts of the Forest tune “A Life Beyond The Dream” and the obligatory “Tweezer Reprise” sendoff.
While perhaps not as strong front-to-back as Tuesday night, the Wednesday evening Phish show in Mountain View offered up enough big highlights to bolster a strong case for Shoreline as the run of the summer—and all this from a run that wasn’t confirmed until last Wednesday.
These are strange times, folks. Last week, we thought we’d be finishing a midweek run in Stateline, NV and heading to DICK’s tomorrow for the big summer finale. Instead, we’re wrapping up what felt like a statement stand in California and heading into DICK’s with comic book thought bubbles etched over our heads: “How on Earth are they going to top Shoreline?”
Luckily for us, Phish always seems to have an answer to those questions. Phish’s 10th-anniversary run in Commerce City, CO kicks off on Friday. See you out there.
For a full list of upcoming Phish tour dates, head here.
Setlist: Phish | Shoreline Amphitheatre | Mountain View, CA | 9/1/21
Set One Mike’s Song > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > Weekapaug Groove, Brian and Robert, Thread, The Wedge, Cities -> Passing Through > Fluffhead
Set Two: The Lizards, Tweezer > Miss You > Piper > Twenty Years Later, Twist > Backwards Down the Number Line
Encore: A Life Beyond The Dream, Tweezer Reprise
Trey teased Walk This Way in Mike’s Song and Passing Through. Trey teased and quoted American Woman and teased The Lizards and Dave’s Energy Guide in Tweezer. This was the rescheduled date from the show that had been postponed due to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak in 2020. The new date was originally supposed to occur at Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys in Stateline, NV but was changed due to wildfires in the area.
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