Phish | Halloween 2010 | Review | Pics

Words by: B. Getz | Images by: Dave Vann

Phish :: 10.29.10-10.31.10 :: Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall :: Atlantic City, NJ

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Like a whirlwind of ocean and sand, the tidal wave that is Phish 3.0 stormed into Atlantic City for a Halloween weekend to close their fall tour. Halloween runs are always an event for the band and its minions; this would be no different as the boys gave new definition to "Boardwalk Empire." Phans descended on the nearly century old Jersey Shore landmark, funneling a much needed boost to the off-season economy of this blue-collar destination while also taking full advantage of its 24 hour playground. The hotels, casinos and nightclubs were crawling at all hours with revelers, costumed and imbibed like only we do.

Friday, October 29

Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2010
An elated, palpable excitement permeated the salty ocean air as people filed in for the first gig. Though a sea of heads clogged the boardwalk outside the venue all three nights, the stately hall slowly filled as tickets were hard to even give away Friday. Yet once the band lined up for a barbershop quartet "Star Spangled Banner," everything was set in place for an blockbuster weekend.

The first set of music started out innocently enough, brevity and excitability contained within spirited takes. "Light Up or Leave Me Alone" shifted gears quickly, a sonic foreshadowing of treats to come, Page's gleeful verses and choice Fender Rhodes Winwood-isms sparking the twilight. The second portion of the first frame sought to harness the frenetic energy within the room. "Timber Ho," "Axilla" and "Rift" saw Trey Anastasio charging with fierce Languedoc tones, leading the tightly wound troupe into proper funk. "The Moma Dance > Cities > 46 Days" only served to up the ante, low-rider, uptempo cow-funk giving way to raging arena rock bombast, a collective effort in spades. The first set displayed command of some of their dramatic yet cohesive amalgams of style and substance.

Friday's second set saw more sonic diversity, showcased by the devastating "Sand > Carini." If the stutter-step crunk of 3.0's "Sand" is criminology, then this is Exhibit A. The intoxicating dance riddims and sensual aural layers detonated an aggressive, steppin' groove. Trey juxtaposed a forceful metallic vengeance - a "Carini" segue wrought with rampant redhead riffage as Cactus digi-bombs bludgeoned and shared descending insanity culminating in a clav-drenched milieu.

To steer into port, the boys demonstrated distinct intent with a masterful tandem of "Slave" and "Fluffhead." The former was a beacon of 3.0 reinvention, blissed-out and ethereal in flight, its emotional command tangible. "Fluffhead" was a love letter from the boys, signed, sealed and deliberate, as was the atypically tipsy "Loving Cup" that kissed us off into the windswept midnight Jersey shore.

Friday Setlist
Set 1: The Star Spangled Banner, My Soul, AC/DC Bag, Ocelot, Sample in a Jar, Light Up Or Leave Me Alone, Sugar Shack, Timber (Jerry) > Bouncing Around the Room, Axilla > Rift, The Moma Dance > Cities > 46 Days
Set 2: Punch You In the Eye > Sand -> Carini > Prince Caspian, Corinna, Piper > Theme From the Bottom > Golgi Apparatus > Slave to the Traffic Light > Fluffhead
E: Loving Cup

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Saturday, October 30

Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2010
Despite the typically great opening night, nobody could have dreamt the magic of the penultimate show Saturday night. After a soundcheck filled with their songs and a heavy-traction rumor that picked up steam, "Zeppelin" was on the tips of many tongues. On this marvelous evening, Boardwalk Hall would be adrift, a Mischief Night passage to a haunted house of the holy.

The punked-up bluster of "Cavern" announced an early fever, a tightly wound "Guelah Papyrus" scorched with concision. As the band careened skyward during "Chalkdust's" fierce jam, Trey and Mike hijacked the vehicle with a potent "Whole Lotta Love" riff and the boys initiated a weighty liftoff. The 'trick' was unveiled with this vigorous verse, only this was a mission not a small time thing. A crunk detour in "Ha Ha Ha" and an anthemic "Walk Away" marched to an uber-funky ‘Wolfman's." Toward the end of this boogie hustle, a peculiar vocal jam began bleeding into focused, mathematical cyber-funk sonic malevolence. This wicked display piloted into a phenomenal take on "Undermind." With such first class Phish on display throughout the first frame, unmitigated bliss permeated the setbreak, and it seemed the band was keen to treat fans maybe not blessed with a Halloween ticket to their own magic carpet ride on this chilly Saturday night.

A second frame opening "Tube" was a proper funk workout, a lesson in premeditated groove science, but it was the open-ended "Tweezer" that set the room ablaze with an endless spate of getting the Led out. Portions of "Heartbreaker," "Ramble On" and the exquisite "Thank You" were all stuffed inside the Zepplified "Tweezer," only to cap the madness with an emotive rendering of "Stairway to Heaven's" final coda, complete with Robert Plant-ish crooning and proper Jimmy Page-like wailing.

Lighting director Chris Kuroda was locked and loaded in furthering this mission, and per usual his accompaniment was indescribable visual delight. Phish fulfilled the Zeppelin rumor by bringing it to fruition - Halloween delivered early-style with gusto. The room was still reeling as "2001" announced more funk ferocity, the band one nation under a groove, a collective in the zone, rolling into a magnificent "Bowie." In suitable fashion, the evasive "Sleeping Monkey" settled back down to earth, with a colossal "Tweeprise" the exclamation point on a ridiculous penultimate journey.

Saturday Setlist
Set 1: Kill Devil Falls, Cavern > Foam, Guelah Papyrus, Chalk Dust Torture > Whole Lotta Love > Chalk Dust Torture, Ha Ha Ha, Walk Away, Wolfman's Brother > Undermind > Bathtub Gin, The Squirming Coil
Set 2: Tube > Possum > Tweezer > Heartbreaker > Ramble On > Thank You -> Tweezer > Stairway to Heaven, Halley's Comet > Also Sprach Zarathustra > David Bowie, Show of Life, Backwards Down the Number Line > Good Times Bad Times
E: Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise

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Sunday, October 31st

Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2010
After arriving and receiving the welcome news (via the PhishBill) that the musical costume was Little Feat's 1978 live album Waiting for Columbus , the anticipation was bountiful. Boardwalk Hall was levitating as, appropriately, Page McConnell's keytar-led "Frankenstein" ushered in the final excursion. Halloween had arrived and the natives were restless. Costumes were plentiful and more than creative, the sold-out AC massive quaking in its boots. After the astonishing Saturday show, the bar was more than raised for the last gig of the tour. An early and snaking "Ghost" traversed slowed-funk riddims as Trey unveiled "Spooky" to fit the premise. "Divided Sky," "Roses are Free" and "Boogie On Reggae Woman" also brought the goods. This particular trifecta was intricately woven, disparate in design yet similarly methodical - wide-ranging, cohesive jamming, all strikingly diverse intentions extremely well executed. Surprisingly, it was the dark, foreboding jam tucked within "Stash" that not only illuminated the night's haunted aura, but most defined the limitless potential of a reinvigorated foursome.

I would like to add to the chorus of applause for this musical costume. Little Feat's seminal double live record, recorded in London and Washington D.C. in 1977 was a perfect marriage of styles, song craft and spirit for Phish to tackle. Augmented by a five-piece horn section consisting of Aaron Johnson, Stuart Bogie, Ian Hendrickson, Michael Leonhart and Eric Biondo for several tunes, the band was ably assisted by Giovanni Hidalgo on percussion for nearly the entire set. From the opening "Fat Man in a Bathtub," the vibe peaked with a strong, emotional expedition through this great record. Highlights speckled the whole frame, and included the Cajun-fonky "Oh Atlanta" and the familiar "Time Loves a Hero" and "Dixie Chicken".

However the strongest for this writer was the excruciatingly dirty swank of "Spanish Moon." Fish carried a drunken funk swagger while Hidalgo mixed it up in the space between as Gordon laid down merciless grooves, half steppin' along as they let the horns blow. Later, "Willin'" simply wowed; masterfully introduced by Mike Gordon's sublime piano and expressively crooned by Fishman in full frontman mode. The band in full even took a victory lap around the arena wearing shit-eating grins. From start to finish Waiting for Columbus was an absolutely ideal collection of songs and jams that was expertly executed by Phish with extraordinary accompaniment.

Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2010
The final set of tour was a celebration of sorts, a fantastic voyage through the Phish songbook. A restarted "Disease" settled into a jovial "Jiboo" that saw climatic band interplay achieve a galloping pace. Beginning with the swagger-funk of "Camel Walk," bubonic Gordon bombs crunched Red's descending riffage with authority, culminating in a sinister, grinding "Wilson" metal jam that pulverized the venue to the core, Trey's leads channeling the ghosts of Hendrix and Stevie Ray. "Hood" and "Silent" offered introspection and an emotive dalliance, and "YEM" was what Phish is in its essence - a passionate, joy-fueled romance between a band and its audience.

The "Julius" encore was icing, with the full complement of horns and Hidalgo returning for a feisty rollicking sendoff that may have been the finest rendition this writer has heard.

There were few walking out of the venue not completely blown away by this incredible three-day Phish display. Even the most jaded tour veterans were nearly speechless, delighted, cheesy grins abounded as full-blown dance parties ignited at the bars and casinos that dotted the boardwalk. Magic was in the salty ocean air as people traded superlatives to describe their own takes on the "Zeppelin trick" or "Little Feat treat." Nights, weekends and tours like this solidify the arrival of a new era for this band. The comeback sun has set, and as hoped, IT happened - once again.

Sunday Setlist
Set 1: Frankenstein, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Ghost > Spooky > The Divided Sky, Roses Are Free > Funky Bitch, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Stash, Character Zero
Set 2: Fat Man in the Bathtub, All That You Dream, Oh Atlanta, Old Folks Boogie, Time Loves a Hero > Day or Night, Mercenary Territory, Spanish Moon, Dixie Chicken > Tripe Face Boogie, Rocket in My Pocket, Willin', Don't Bogart That Joint, A Apolitical Blues, Sailin' Shoes, Feats Don't Fail Me Now
Set 3: Down with Disease > Back on the Train > Gotta Jibboo > Camel Walk, Suzy Greenberg > Wilson > Harry Hood > The Horse > Silent in the Morning > You Enjoy Myself

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