Last night, Phish played the second show of a two-night run at Camden, New Jersey’s waterfront BB&T Pavilion. Opening with “The Moma Dance” for the first time since 2016, the band immediately set a funky vibe for the evening. While this was a mostly standard version which didn’t reach the lengths of Tahoe’s “Moma” from earlier this summer or the “Baker’s Dozen” version from last year, drummer Jon Fishman’s excited yelling throughout the tune paired with a little extra jam towards the end made it feel like it got slightly more loving than usual. “Free” came next, following “The Moma Dance” for only the third time ever and keeping the funk going.
After a spacey little interlude, during which the band seemed to be trying to decide what to do next, they broke into “Undermind.” Perhaps due to extra percussive fills from Fishman, this version sounded more like the album version than most others. Guitarist Trey Anastasio took this opportunity to drop ploppy, spacey notes over keyboardist Page McConnell’s solo before taking a solid solo himself, making this a standard, yet well-played take on the song.
Following an extended pause, “Theme From The Bottom” began, possibly worrisome to those who have been harping on Trey’s flubs as of late and are familiar with his rocky history with the instrumental section before the jam. Luckily, Trey nailed that section flawlessly and continued on to peak the tune nicely. Some energy-building bluegrass followed as Page gave some extra special treatment to “My Sweet One,” garnering well-earned hoots and hollers from his fellow band mates while doing so. The seemingly-more-appropriate-than-ever “Steam” then filled the overwhelmingly sticky, muggy venue, beginning a little more delicately than usual. Page started out leading this jam until Trey took over with his gritty tone, teasing Frank Zappa’s “Apostrophe” and peaking the jam before the whole band came back together to close out the tune. A faster-than-average although less-than-perfect version of “Train Song” came next, lacking many of the notes the tune usually contains. Shaking it off, bassist Mike Gordon’s vocals then began the funky groove of “Halley’s Comet,” as fans crossed their fingers that maybe this would finally be the version that got jammed out. Clocking in at six and a half minutes total, that was yet again not the case.
Looking at the clock, it started to become clear that the set would be drawing to a close soon, however there had yet to be any real, solid jams to take away from this first set so far, an uncharacteristic trait of 2018 Summer shows up until this point. And that’s exactly where “Everything’s Right” comes in. This tune, which made its debut in Chicago last summer, has delivered something special each and every time it has made an appearance and last night’s version was no exception. At 16 minutes and 41 seconds, this jam was the longest of the evening. After a spacey Mike and Page-led intro to the jam, Trey began modulating to a major key to find some familiar, joyously exuberant peaks before really letting loose on the crowd with a full blown bliss jam. The band then came back together to settle, allowing Page to take center stage with his slanky synth sound, as Trey set a gnarly tone to match this grit. Mike joined in, dropping some heavy bass notes as Fish pushed this jam harder towards more and more glorious, rocking peaks. Then, in a move that Phish has been pulling throughout this entire summer tour so far (although, bewilderingly enough, not for the prior night’s “Down With Disease”?), Trey slammed on the breaks of the jam to reintroduce the lyrics and finish the song. As forced as it may have seemed, the magnificent jam that preceded the crash landing more than made up for it. A successful take on that tune, once again!
The second set opened in an unconventional manner, as the upbeat “Julius” kicked things off in an exultant way. Some standard yet enjoyable jamming from Trey lead to a few peaks that warmed the crowd up for the ferocity that was about to come next. The hard-hitting “Carini” then entered the ring, with its intense opening chords, Chilling, Thrilling ghost samples and Fishman’s yelling getting everyone on their feet, rocking out. The jam began with Mike immediately taking things to the dark side into a deep bass groove. After a bit of what seemed like everyone touching on their own thing while still staying together, the improvisation then took on an underwater feel. This didn’t last long, however, as Fishman began pushing faster and harder and the jam itself descended into madness. Fishman relentlessly pushed the pace and the whole band kept in time, creating a super fast paced jam for this tune. After peaking this once, Fish toyed with the tempo, slowing the groove down a bit before picking things right back up again. More high energy peaks came before the jam fizzled into “Set Your Soul Free.” Another newer tune that already has an impressive track record, this funky number is a powerful song and deserving jam vehicle that has proven its versatility and staying power throughout the fanbase.
A long pause and cymbal count off signaled “Wingsuit,” a necessary breather after the one-two punch of “Carini” and “Set Your Soul Free.” A standard version with some characteristic Trey wailing towards the end of the jam (and of course, Mike on drill) led into one of the most sought after sections of Phish’s music out there … the intro to “Scents & Subtle Sounds.” Considering the last six times this tune was played, it was performed without the intro, the inclusion of the intro was a pleasant and delightful surprise to those in attendance. Clocking in at 12 minutes and four seconds, this jam is the second longest of the night and absolutely a highlight of the evening. While it started off delicately beautiful, it quickly picked up to a more driving, rock groove, with Trey and Mike handing off the lead to one another and creating a gorgeous jam absolutely worth revisiting.
After “Scents” ended, Trey switched guitars before beginning “Waste.” This version was really well-played and Trey even nailed the outro, which he had been recently skipping playing during his acoustic tour. Switching gears entirely, the band dropped into the always nasty “Split Open and Melt” which produced another highlight of the evening. Similar to The Gorge version, this “Melt” jam really got out there, with evil discordance, uncomfortable aggression, and tension build up which came to a maddening head before cleanly returning to end the song. Feeding off that frenetic energy, the band called upon “Character Zero” to close the set, taking it out for more of a walk than they usually do, letting Fishman show off his chops with some extra drum fills and even getting Trey some “woos” which he loves so much.
The band chose the reliably high energy “Suzy Greenberg” for the encore slot, showcasing “The Chairman of the Boards’” skills one last time before closing the book on this Camden run. While song flow may have not been the strongest for these shows, the highlights and monster jams that came out of them will most certainly hold up down the road.
Phish returns to the stage on Friday night in Raleigh, North Carolina. A free webcast is available thanks to LivePhish.
BB&T Pavilion [See upcoming shows]
11 shows — 07/10/1999, 07/03/2000, 07/04/2000, 07/30/2003, 07/31/2003, 08/12/2004, 06/07/2009, 06/24/2010, 06/25/2010, 06/10/2011, 08/07/2018
9 songs / 8:17 pm to 9:28 pm (71 minutes)
8 songs / 10:05 pm to 11:32 pm (87 minutes)
17 songs / 17 originals / 0 covers
8.44 [Gap chart]
Train Song - 28 Shows (LTP - 7/29/2017)
Everything's Right - 16:48
My Sweet One - 2:09
Lawn Boy - 2, Hoist - 1, Billy Breathes - 5, The Story of the Ghost - 1, Undermind - 2, Fuego - 1, Misc. - 5,
86° and partly cloudy at showtime
Koa 1 (Except Blonde 1, "Mar Mar" For Waste)