Chasing Phish Through The Southeast: Atlanta: Night 2 August 10, 2015 15:31
After what seemed like a nearly impossible night to top, Saturday, August 1st was officially upon us, and it was time to see how Trey, Mike, Page, and Fish would follow up Friday night’s monster performance. Having the luxury of a multi-night Phish run with at least two-nights being in the same city always makes the experience that much better. Sleep in (hopefully), find a good spot for brunch (Atlanta’s options are endless), and make your way to the lot. It was another scorching hot summer afternoon, but the heat and humidity would in no way affect the buzz in the air at Lakewood. Many were discussing the fact that it was Jerry Garcia’s 73rd birthday, as we were last year in Orange Beach, AL. I, for one, do not expect to hear a single Dead tune this summer, but I’ll be as elated as anyone in the event that it occurs. Trey, of course, found a much more creative way to pay homage to Jerry on this night.
The first set started in classic fashion with “Runaway Jim,” an opener which I seem to catch about once every four shows, but Jim is such a perfect way to start a show. Trey gives the latter end of the jam such a pyrotechnic feel, just before its time for “By the time he came home he was seventeen!” This one was that much more fun as my friend Andy Greenberg, front man of Phish tribute band Runaway Gin, joined us in the pit just before show time. It wasn’t long before “Undermind” made its second appearance of the summer. The entire Undermind album is one that I’ve always felt that a lot of Phish fans sleep on, but we are reminded just how fun it is to sing along with every time it is played. As “Undermind” came to an end, Mr. Greenberg looked at me and asked “How ‘bout some Nellie Kane?” and I’ll be damned if he wasn’t spot on. The “bluegrass” tunes which Mike tends to take lead vocals on make for a nice change of pace and showcase the vast range of this band. “Blaze On” seems to the anthem of the 2015 Summer Tour, and I couldn’t be happier about that. Not quite as repetitive as “Fuego” in 2014, but this made for its fourth appearance in just seven shows. Atlanta’s “Blaze On” was shorter than those of Bend, Shoreline, and Austin, but they have made it perfectly clear that this song will be a major jam vehicle.
Every set tends to have a “breather” moment, and “Halfway To The Moon” typically provides just that, right in the middle of a set. A beautiful, Page-led tune always makes for a nice transition. Once “Ocelot” came out to play, we saw yet another moment which directly reflects the amount of time Trey has put in this year. He is consistently finding a way to take these songs to new heights every night. The solo went way further than I can remember in the past, and I have found myself re-listening to Saturday’s “Ocelot” as much as any song. “Heavy Things” carried the fun, sing-a-long vibe, and I truly believe even those who are exhausted with this song find themselves singing ending melody every time. There was a clear “Happy Birthday” tease during this one, which many felt as a nod to Jerry.
The combo of songs chosen to close the first set was as powerful as any in my opinion. “Theme From The Bottom” is one of my all-time favorites, and the gradual buildup of this ballad was as clean as any I have heard. The chorus of Theme makes for one of the most uplifiting, euphoric moments I’ve found from any band. “Run Like An Antelope” was then delivered in such powerful fashion; one of those songs that just seems like it has to close a set. I think we can all agree that we’ve earned a breather/bathroom break/cold beer after an Antelope.
A two-night stand in Atlanta would not have been complete without a “Tweezer,” and could there be a more dynamic way to start a set? This was one of those monster versions that we have come to expect, clocking in at 26-minutes, containing so much space, communication, and creativity. Trey definitely leads the pack here, but Mike also provided numerous notable moments in the midst of the darker jam about half-way through. The ultimate landing into “Waiting All Night” was seamless, and while I’ve been critical of this song in the past, it was perfectly placed for this set. Speaking of which, let’s go ahead and move on to “Backwards Down The Number Line,” another “newer” 3.0 tune which draws a whole lot of mixed feelings. Always developing into a beautiful, nostalgic jam, this one was really special. The closing jam was so polished and went to new heights. Perhaps the “birthday” element was another nod to the “birthday boy.” Regardless, this was another song from the weekend that I will forever associate with Atlanta 2015.
Deep into the second set, it was time to blow the roof off, and what better way than the opening notes of “Carini.” The expectations on this one are always sky high, and while this wasn’t a record breaker, it was nasty, dark, and without a doubt satisfying. The jamming was kept tight and concise, and similar to “Tweezer,” the landing into “Waste” was perfect. One of Phish’s most notable ballads, and much more rare these days, “Waste” was a soothing landing spot out of “Carini.” There were no stops in this set, and the summer’s second “Sand” served as yet another perfect call. Being the opening song of the Summer Tour in Bend, we were all due for a late night “Sand,” a chance to groove on it well after the sun had set, allowing Chris Kuroda (lighting designer) to work his magic. They ran with this one a little longer than any other second set tune, with the exception of “Tweezer.” This was ultimately a build up for “Tweezer Reprise” to close the second set, which has been the pattern on this tour thus far. You can’t help but wonder what they are working up, but at some point this summer, there will be a Reprise like no other to end an encore. Throwing in Velvet Underground's "Rock And Roll" for the encore was quite a treat, and yet another curve ball as this particular tune is a very rare encore, and Phish is playing very few covers.When looking back and assessing any multi-night run, it is always an interesting, tough call. Each set always ends up having a handful of songs that I go in hoping for, and there is usually at least one moment that throws me off guard. Friday night's second set in Atlanta was definitely an exception, and without question one of the best sets I have seen from Phish. Saturday night saw several unforgettable moments, most notably with “Theme>Antelope” to close the first set, only to be followed by a 26-minute “Tweezer” to kick off the second half. The strategic song selection that we are seeing every single night this summer speaks volumes about the state of Phish. It’s difficult to think that during any era, every set was flowing this well, while continuously surprising those at the show, as well as the thousands watching/listening at home. The quality of every show this tour has been nothing short of remarkable, and it’s truly inspiring to see this band enjoying it even more than we are.