Feels Good To Be SPAC: Phish Saratoga Springs Night 1 – Recap, Setlist & The Skinny

By Andy Kahn Jul 1, 2016 9:07 pm PDT

Phish took the stage at Saratoga Performing Arts Center Friday night after a major storm system dumped heavy rain on Upstate New York. The bad weather briefly delayed opening the gates at SPAC, where Phish was returning for their first shows since taking last summer off from venue they first performed at in 1992 and have regularly played nearly every year since 2009. The first set featured the debut of a promising new original as well as a bonus closer and the second set was highlighted by a 20+ minute portion of improvisation during which the members of the band teamed up on percussion and keyboards.

“Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan” took on the role of opener, giving each member of the quartet a chance to warm-up behind the high-energy rocker. Regularly teased since its lone performance on Halloween in 2014, the second rendition of “The Birds” came as the second song of the set with sampled shouts of “They attack!” firing from Page McConnell’s keyboard throughout the brisk burst of funkiness. Longtime first set staple “NICU” made its first appearance of the summer ahead of their typically relaxed arrangement of Talking Heads’ “Cities.” Guitarist Trey Anastasio settled into a mellow solo and the other three onstage followed suit for a concise conclusion to the cover.

The audience erupted along with the band’s launch into “David Bowie,” primed by drummer Jon Fishman’s customary pre-song cymbal work. The well-executed “Bowie” foreshadowed an equally enthusiastic rendering of “Free” which provided Mike Gordon an outlet to supply a punchy, bubbly bassline. Gordon then took lead of the Bill Monroe bluegrass favorite “Uncle Pen.” Next, it was Page’s turn to sing lead, taking the group through his “Halfway To The Moon.” Sung by Mike with call-and-response additional vocals from the other members, the debut of “Let’s Go” (which was soundchecked earlier in the day) showcased an upbeat tempo and rocking middle section that came back around for a recall of the chorus at its conclusion. The ballad “Waiting All Night” trailed the new song, which then was followed by “Bathtub Gin.” Trey and Page took little time locking in on the “Gin” jam, as the guitarist continued to incorporate the song’s main riff during the ensuing bit of improvisation.

The fun sing-a-long “Golgi Apparatus” gave every indication of being the set closer. Trey thanked the crowd after a “big finish” ending but instead of bowing and heading backstage he indicated time remained for one more song and “The Squirming Coil” took over the closer slot. After his clapped-along-to piano solo, Page’s promise of “that’s really it” confirmed the true end of the first set.

A funky, sharply focused jam arose from the second set opening “Sand.” Gordon’s relentlessly rhythmic playing and Fish’s equally pressing beat gave Anastasio and McConnell a field to develop chunky melodic layers. The improv eventually stepped aside for a moment to allow for the in-your-face opening of “Carini.” Anastasio quickly led the foursome back into an intense jam, building on the song’s dark undercurrent with an intricate, deliberately unfolding solo. Following Trey’s patient playing, a sublimely ambient soundscape emerged among the foursome’s egalitarian jamming. The blissful excursion was abruptly brought to an end by the fiery start of “Chalk Dust Torture.”

The foursome quickly engaged back into more of the eerily rich jamming that had dominated the set to that point. The “Chalk Dust” jam moved into a syncopated, effects heavy groove that stayed on a singular pulse until building to a glorious, almost Allman Brothers-like peak. Trey put down his guitar and joined Fish to play the Marimba Lumina and soon after Mike joined Page at the keyboards to play piano, resulting in a captivating instrument-pairing jam. Trey and Mike retook their normal spots for a take on the subsequent “Prince Caspian.” The sentimental anthemic vibe continued with the trailing performance of “Bug” and the rousing cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Shine A Light.” An unexpected “My Sweet One” – the first second set performance in 16 years – had Anastasio calling for and getting a Fish drum solo. “Sleeping Monkey” started before the final “Name” lyric that ends “MSO” which was added along with a bit of Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name.” More dark and grooving funk was to be had inside the “2001” that darted into a spirited cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” to close the monster second set. Go-to encore rocker “Character Zero” brought the first night at SPAC to an end.

Phish returns to SPAC again tomorrow and Sunday. A webcast is available from LivePhish.

The Skinny

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The Setlist

The Venue

Saratoga Performing Arts Center [See upcoming shows]


17 shows — 07/27/1992, 07/10/1994, 06/26/1995, 06/19/2004, 06/20/2004, 08/16/2009, 06/19/2010, 06/20/2010, 07/06/2012, 07/07/2012, 07/08/2012, 07/05/2013, 07/06/2013, 07/07/2013, 07/03/2014, 07/04/2014, 07/05/2014

The Music

13 songs / 8:21 pm to 9:50 pm (89 minutes)

11 songs / 10:25 am to 11:52 am (87 minutes)

24 songs / 19 originals / 5 covers


12 [Gap chart]

Let's Go

Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, The Birds, NICU, Cities, David Bowie, Let's Go, Golgi Apparatus, The Squirming Coil, Prince Caspian, Bug, Shine a Light, My Sweet One, Sleeping Monkey, Fire

The Birds - LTP 10/31/2014 (45 Show Gap)

Chalk Dust Torture - 22:37

My Sweet One - 1:59

Junta - 2, Lawn Boy - 3, A Picture of Nectar - 1, Billy Breathes - 3, Farmhouse - 2, Joy - 1, Fuego - 2, Misc. - 5, Covers - 5

The Rest

66° Light Rain With Thunder

Koa 1

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More Skinny


[Cities | Captured by rdeal1999]


[Carini | Captured by rdeal1999]


[Bug | Captured by rdeal1999]


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