Phish Summer Tour 2019: Fenway Night 1 – Setlist, Recap & The Skinny

By Aaron Stein Jul 6, 2019 9:31 am PDT

Just over a decade after kicking off their first tour of “3.0” there, Phish returned to Fenway Park Friday night in Boston. It’s kind of amazing to think about all the music the band has made since that night in the ballpark 10 years ago. Almost like it’s a different band altogether, as much as a baseball team might wear the same uniform and have the same name after a decade, but have a completely different makeup.

Setlist-wise, the first set of the show felt like a team playing “small ball,” getting runners on base with solid versions of “Free” and “Blaze On,” and later “Halfway to the Moon” and “Ocelot,” bunting them over and hoping to get one or two home. If that was the offensive strategy, on the other side of things, the Vermont quartet was more than sharp in the field. Trey Anastasio‘s fastball had some serious zing to it all night and his placement was controlled; behind the plate, Mike Gordon‘s catchers mitt bass cracked with each pitch; Page McConnell had the range and depth of an All-Star shortstop and Jon Fishman in center field showed that nothing was out of reach, loping all the way to the warning track and making some spectacular plays throughout the show.

The first set featured a couple of excellent two-out rallies to generate some numbers for the scoreboard. The “Tube” in the set’s clean-up spot was some peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jacks with the prize at the bottom all in one sitting. Page worked his way around his array of keys, bringing the jam from standard to exemplary, Fishman riding his cymbals like an All-Star and Gordon turning up chunks of turf with some heavy-funk bass playing. Trey followed along through the groove portions of the jam and then took control of the improvisation, shifting gears dark-to-light with some ecstatic Roy-Hobbs-knocks-the-cover-off-the-ball guitar playing that had the crowd roaring in approval. Anastasio took a short mid-set bow after that one and then walked over to someone in the front row, tossing a little kid a pick (what did you think, a foul ball?) much to his delight. Later in the first set, the band got around on a pitch with the jam in “Everything’s Right,” all four limbs of the band working in synchronicity, Page going from organ to piano, Trey’s tone going from fat to skinny, Mike reacting in opposite, Fish with trigger happy precision, eye-hand-coordination meets natural talent to send the ball over the left field Green Monster and out of the park. Of course, you follow up a hit like that with a nice trot around the bases and so, no better way to end the set than with a typically-rocking “Runaway Jim.”

When it comes to a Phish show, it’s always a let’s-play-two-affair and the foursome’s strong playing continued in the second set with several highlight-reel selections. Continuing the baseball theme, here are the Fenway Friday second set highlights as characters in Major League (for entertainment purposes only):

“Sand” is catcher Jake Taylor, a wily veteran who can get the job done in more than one way. Last night it was the second set opener, the sky finally dark, Chris Kuroda kicked in with yellows and reds and then aqua and lavender, Trey’s tone a funk gargle to start, but the jam quickly moving into the first of many full-band explorations. Here everyone was almost playing a completely different song — Page some jazz, Gordon some ghastly good horror movie sounds, Fishman with the Zigaboo groove and Trey hitting those happy, new age soul cleanse peaks — but it all clicked nicely. “Axilla” is Pedro Cerrano: big power fueled by some dark voodoo shit. As he did all night, Fishman once again provided the lumber for this one.

“Mercury” is Willie Mays Hayes, stretches a single into a double, moves over to third and, while you weren’t paying close attention, steals home. The set maybe didn’t open with “Mercury” Friday night, but any conversation about the show absolutely needs to lead off with it. “Mercury” has reached five-tool status in the Phish repertoire, combining multi-component composed sections with an opening to compelling improvisation like few of their songs do. Last night’s jam was some full-band mastery, a flawless musical narrative told by four voices simultaneously, five if you include Kuroda’s lighting artistry that decorated this must-listen version.

“Fuego” is Corbin Bernsen’s Roger Dorn, perhaps a little more style-over-substance at first glance, but then when push comes to shove, totally delivers. Kuroda seemed to play the band for this one at Fenway, first bringing the lights down low overhead, caging in the band who responded with some darker grooves. Later he “released” the music, the lights rising up to their full height, Trey and Co. following them up and releasing some blissful peaks into the Boston night. “Say it to Me S.A.N.T.O.S” is announcer Harry Doyle, you kind of have no idea what he’s talking about but he’s hilarious and, in the end, quixotically a key part of the team’s success. From midway through that “Fuego” to the end the band seemed to decide they were going baseball-stadium big and anthemic, the pennant in reach and the crowd more than happy to cheer their way to victory. “SANTOS” seemed to fully break the crowd who went wild for it, which fueled the band and got the park even more delirious.

Finally, bring in the closer, of course, it’s “Character Zero” as Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn who is there for one reason only: throwing nothing but the heater to finish things off. And that’s what it did Friday night, except Kuroda once again seemed to manipulate, his blues, purples and greens both low and high over the stage seemed to pull a little extra bit of nasty out of the band, Gordon going native first and then Trey and the rest of them following, a non-standard Zero that threw a few curves and maybe even a changeup or two before finishing things off in typical high-fastball fashion. The encore-closing “The Squirming Coil” was manager Lou Brown, an old veteran who somehow holds it all together in the end, the last one in the locker room after everyone’s gone home. This version was relatively flawless, opening into one of the few quiet moments of band interactions, then just Fishman and Page back and forth, finally just McConnell for a just-long-enough solo to finish a fun night at Fenway.

Phish returns to Fenway Park for another show tonight. A live stream is available via LivePhish.

The Skinny

The Setlist

The Venue

Fenway Park [See upcoming shows]

37731

1 shows — 05/31/2009

The Music

10 songs / 7:01 pm to 8:17 pm (76 minutes)

9 songs / 8:54 pm to 10:40 pm (106 minutes)

19 songs / 19 originals / 0 covers

2002

9.53 [Gap chart]

None

Brian and Robert, Wading in the Velvet Sea,

Brian and Robert - LTP 10/21/2018 (33 Show Gap)

Mercury -- 20:00

Brian and Robert -- 3:45

Lawn Boy - 1, Rift - 1, Billy Breathes - 2, The Story of the Ghost - 2, Farmhouse - 2, Joy - 1, Fuego - 3, Big Boat - 1, Misc. - 6

The Rest

86°F Scattered clouds at showtime

Koa 1

Capacity: 37,731

Phish From The Road Photos

Posters

JamBase Collections