Sunday Strikes Again – Phish Closes Alpine Valley Run On A High Note

By Ben Greenfield Aug 9, 2015 9:00 pm PDT

In the back half of their two-night run at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Wisconsin, Phish threw down a show with bustouts and inspired playing that instantly made it one for the history books. The first set was so heavy on the #geekery that it actually included Trey sharing some Phish stats with the crowd from the stage. And the second set, true to this summer’s form, provided a clinic in rock improvisation, including the week’s second extended jam out of “Mike’s Song.”

Phish started the bustout extravaganza by dusting off “The Very Long Fuse.” First played in the haunted house last Halloween, the tune worked equally well in daylight, with Trey soloing over the song’s major chords. Things only got more serious from there, as the band launched into their first “Col. Forbin’s Ascent” since the JEMP truck set from 12/31/13. As fans crossed their fingers for a narration, Trey obliged, declaring, “I’m not much of a talker these days.” He went on to describe walking around the venue this morning to see things from the fans’ perspectives. He felt what he thought was a drop of rain, but turned out to be birdshit. He decided to turn it into birdshit-onade by playing “Famous Mockingbird” at the show tonight. He went on to list some factoids: that the band had played the venue 17 times, and that the 19th anniversary of the first Alpine Valley show was tomorrow night. He thanked the shitting bird, and the band went into a mostly well executed, always satisfying version of “Fly Famous Mockingbird.”

From there, the rarities kept coming. “Brian and Robert,” last seen 10/27/14, gave the audience a chance to catch its breath. Next was “Saw It Again” (last played on Halloween), which contained a couple false endings featuring reprises of its rocking jam. This was followed by “Esther” (last played 8/30/13), “Weigh” (8/3/13), and “The Sloth” (7/12/13) — all a bit rusty, but at this point, it hardly mattered. “Sanity” came next (last seen 10/28/13), and it included a “Very Long Fuse” vocal quote from Trey. And, to cap off this monumental first set: the tour’s highly anticipated first “Split Open and Melt.” The “Melt” jam was sinister and swampy, featuring extra- deconstructed beats from Fishman and a slew of wailing notes from Trey’s guitar.

The bustout-heavy set was one for the record books. The set’s ridiculously high Average Song Gap, 45.8 shows, didn’t best the Average Show Gaps of the top dogs in the statistic — 9/29/00 (138.93 shows) and 12/30/97 (102.8). But those numbers were inflated by mega-bustouts. This set was more comparable to 7/29/03, which included 11 songs that hadn’t been played that year, plus a debut.

The band threw the crowd one more surprise after setbreak, with the first “Run Like an Antelope” to open a second set since 8/11/04. The raucous, by-the-numbers “Antelope” was followed by a short “Carini,” which segued into “Waves” just as its jam was beginning to gain direction. The lovely “Waves” descended from its standard jam into an ambient space from which the snarling, down-an-octave-or-two opening notes of “Tweezer” bubbled up. The jam’s space-funk-laden first movement gave way to some major key butter that epitomized Phish’s bliss-jamming. The tour’s second “Dirt” brought the amphitheatre back down to Earth.

“Mike’s Song” launched it right back into outerspace. To many fans’ glee, the song’s second jam, which made its triumphant return last week in Nashville, appeared again tonight. This time, it went into a start-stop funk jam that saw Mike spitting out some scorching basslines over Fish’s hyperactive drumbeat, while Trey chorded along, with his Mu-Tron and delay effects activated. Out of the ensuing space came the night’s first 2015-debuted song, “Blaze On.” Short but sweet versions of this song and “Weekapaug Groove” preceded a “Tweezer Reprise” which blew the roof off for good. Those hoping for a Grateful Dead cover for the encore to honor the 20th anniversary of Jerry Garcia’s passing were disappointed. But a funky take on “Contact,” paired with the tour’s first “Frankenstein,” was a delightful, fitting alternative.

Phish returns to the stage on Tuesday in Philadelphia.



  • Venue Type: Outdoor Amphitheatre / 37,000
  • Previous Shows at Venue: 16 Shows – 08/10/1996, 08/09/1997, 08/01/1998, 07/24/1999, 07/08/2000, 07/18/2003, 07/19/2003, 06/25/2004, 06/26/2004, 06/20/2009, 06/21/2009, 08/14/2010, 08/15/2010, 06/30/2012, 07/01/2012 and 08/08/2015
  • Number Of Songs / Length – First Set: 10 / 7:45 p.m. CT – 8:57 p.m. (72 Minutes)
  • Number Of Songs / Length – Second Set & Encore: 11 / 9:29 p.m. CT – 10:59 p.m. (90 Minutes)
  • Total Number of Songs / Covers / Originals: 21 / 1/ 20
  • Biggest Bustout: The Sloth – 92 Shows (Last Time Played – 07/12/2013)
  • Average Song Vintage: 1993
  • Debuts: N/A
  • Tour Debuts: The Very Long Fuse, Colonel Forbins Ascent, Fly Famous Mockingbird, Brian and Robert, Saw It Again, Esther, Weigh, The Sloth, Sanity, Split Open and Melt, Contact, Frankenstein
  • Weather: 75°F and cloudy at Showtime
  • Guitar Used By Trey Anastasio: KOA #3, aka Ocedoc
  • Average Song Gap: 26.05
  • The Spread: Junta – 3, Lawn Boy – 2, Picture Of Nectar – 2, Rift – 1, Story Of The Ghost – 1, Farmhouse – 1, Round Room – 1, Misc. – 9, Covers – 1
  • Longest LivePhish Track / Shortest LivePhish Track: Tweezer 14:18 / Brian and Robert 3:55
  • Audio: Live Phish

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