Phish Summer Tour 2019: Bangor Night 1 – Setlist, Recap & The Skinny
Maine has been a strong touchstone for Phish throughout the band’s history, from Amy’s Farm to Lemonwheel and from the Great Went “Bathtub Gin” to the Bangor “Tweezer.” Guitarist Trey Anastasio made a point to start the recent Ghosts Of The Forest tour in Maine, citing how special the state is to him. Yet Maine has been neglected for much of 3.0, for a host of reasons within the band’s control and likely outside of it. A late-June stand at Bangor’s Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion that started on Tuesday night is the band’s first two-night stand in Maine since the It festival way back in 2003, and first concert in Maine since a poorly received Portland performance in 2016.
Expectations ran high — in addition to the notion that Maine is “due,” it is also the farthest many East Coast fans would travel to see Phish this summer, and soggy weather conditions (it would rain for much of the night) always seems to increase the band’s obligations to deliver something special. The high expectations were met, and fans were rewarded with yet another peak on what has been a consistently strong summer tour.
The first set delivered all you could hope from a Tuesday opening frame: an imaginative and eclectic array of songs, nicely sequenced, and generous with no-frills jamming. “46 Days” and “Back On The Train” eased listeners in to a high-energy evening, although the improvisational portions stayed close to home. Trey then introduced a local politician, drummer Jon Fishman of Lincolnville, Maine’s Select Board, to sing “Ass Handed,” which could be considered the band’s most political song.
From there, Phish took the first deep dive of the evening, with “Bathtub Gin.” In recent years, “Bathtub Gin” has been asked to bear a lot of weight in second sets and closing spots, but this is the ideal spot for the song: batting cleanup in the first set, free from expectations and with space to stretch out. The band pulled the song slightly in Type II territory, limbering themselves up for bigger jams to come.
“The Dogs” and “Waves” were both highly welcome, but weren’t given much to do. The “Mike’s Song” that followed was also brief, but featured several minutes of funky organ playing from evening MVP keyboardist Page McConnell. Fans were shouting for a second jam, but Page instead let the shower of piano notes fall for a fast rendition of “Water in the Sky” — by this point, the mist in the air had begun to evolve into rain. The sky finally opened up in the “Limb by Limb” that followed, as did the first top-shelf jam of the night.
Bassist Mike Gordon‘s playing was heavily foregrounded, and he steered the band into psychedelic territory. Trey and Page were spare in their phrasing, and Gordon painted this empty canvas with lovely fills. When they all came together, it crescendoed beautifully, making even an excellent “Weekapaug Groove” and blistering“Julius” (the first in 29 shows) mere cherries on the sundae.
The second set plunged even deeper into improvisational exploration, opening with a “Down With Disease” that pushed the 20-minute barrier. Once more, it was Mike and Page pushing the band further out into space, while Fishman grounded the jam with a steady, danceable beat that the other three members could orbit around with a colorful array of sonic and polyrhythmic interplay. The Kasvot Växt tune “Play By Play” followed, and while fan expectations ran high after the band heavily jammed the song in soundcheck, they kept the gem of a composition to a staid six minutes, with Trey ripcording it into the “Simple” riff.
“Simple” proved to be the jam that “Play by Play” wasn’t. After some gorgeous, melodic play by Trey wound the Type I “Simple” groove down at around the eight-minute mark, Page and Fishman eased the music into an ambient zone that they sustained for several blissful minutes. The band built this foundation back up into a powerful climax at around the 15-minute mark and then, miraculously, let the song sink into an evil post-peak jam for five more minutes. It was the high point of the evening, an undeniable “this is why we do this” moment.
They followed this with a perfectly deployed “Piper” and then the ballad “Miss You,” which created a stampede for the port-o-johns (a credit to the “Simple” as much as a knock on “Miss You”). Nonetheless, it was an emotive, beautifully played performance, which some fans even took as a nod to the recent passing of beloved bluegrass musician Jeff Austin. It’s unknown whether this is the case, but it proves how universal the song’s sentiment is. After that came a warp-speed “Llama.” A fast version of this song feels like a miracle to witness in 2019, and it put a smile on many faces, be they old heads or new. “Meatstick,” “Rise/Come Together” and a potent “Slave to the Traffic Light” closed things out.
Fans have expressed frustration online about fourth quarters plagued by this kind of a jukebox feel, but it’s been happening long enough that it should be considered the new normal, with increasingly rare exceptions. This space is now often occupied by ballads, crowd-pleasers and whichever five-minute song the band fancies on any given night. If this comedown is the price we pay for third quarters as strong as we’ve been getting, then it’s a fair tradeoff. As a fan, I’ve been thinking of the fourth quarter as a “first encore” of sorts — in the case of this evening, the second set essentially ended with “Llama” and “Meatstick,” “Rise/Come Together” and “Slave” are more or less the first encore, with “Loving Cup” the second encore. Your mileage may vary.
Nonetheless, even the most jaded fan would concede these are minor quibbles. With the band playing like this, with one more night in Maine, and three hotly anticipated Camden dates looming, everything is pretty stellar in the world of Phish right now.
Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion [See upcoming shows]
1 shows — 07/03/2013
11 songs / 7:07 pm to 8:25 pm (78 minutes)
10 songs / 8:56 pm to 10:29 pm (93 minutes)
21 songs / 20 originals / 1 cover
10.86 [Gap chart]
Ass Handed, The Dogs, Water In The Sky, Julius, Play By Play, Llama, Meatstick
Julius -- 29 Shows (LTP - 10/17/2018)
Down With Disease -- 19:46
Ass Handed -- 2:00
Lawn Boy - 1, A Picture of Nectar - 1, Hoist - 2, The Story of the Ghost - 2, Farmhouse - 2, Round Room - 2, Big Boat - 1, Misc. - 9, Covers - 1
64° and Drizzling at Showtime
Phish From The Road Photos
Tour Dates for