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Chasing Phish Through The Southeast: Atlanta: Night 1 August 07, 2015 17:03

Written by Jordan Kirkland - Live & Listen

Photos by Live & Listen

Just when we thought that the month of July couldn't get any better, last weekend brought about our favorite annual summer tradition: Phish in the Southeast. For the dedicated following this band has built over 30 years, the 2015 Summer Tour has justifiably created as much hype and anticipation as any previous tour. After finishing 2014 with a legendary three-night Halloween run in Vegas, and another amazing four-night New Years' run in Miami, we had all been counting the days until the boys hit the road again. Trey Anastasio's role and performance in the "Fare Thee Well" Dead 50th anniversary shows only fueled the fire that much more, giving us all reason to believe that this tour would be one for the books.

Just as the lawn began to fill, and the sun began to set, the Southeastern run was underway with the weekend's first bust-out, "Prince Caspian." Rarely even placed in the first set, much less as the first song, “Caspian” provided for a smooth intro to the night and appropriately foreshadowed an evening full of surprises. "No Men in No Man's Land" made for an instant dance party, a new tune that seems to have already been universally embraced, as this was its third appearance in just seven shows. The energy and vibe of this night would only build from this point. A 13-minute "Ghost" would follow with "The Wedge" and "The Moma Dance" not far behind, keeping up the energetic start to the set. Mike Gordon's "How Many People Are You" made its second summer appearance just before "Rift," which can almost always be expected early in the night. It was at this point that Trey addressed the crowd and said something along the lines of, "Now we're gonna pick up the tempo!"

After the "Mike's > Wedge > Fuego > Shade > No Men's > Weekapaug" in Bend, it was to be expected that the classic "Mike's > Hydrogen > Weekapaug" was coming at some point this weekend. The opening notes to "Mike's Song" took an interesting turn as (Jon) Fishman led some major "false starts" with the tempo (Was that the intro drum roll to "My Sweet One?"). A slowed-down, reggae-ish groove would ensue before the band erupted into the standard flow of "Mike's Song." The always peaceful, breath-of-fresh-air "I Am Hydrogen" gave us all a moment to collect our thoughts before "Weekapaug Groove" sent the entire venue into a frenzy and wrapped up a stellar first set, full of hits from every era of this band.  

If you follow Phish in any capacity, it would have been hard to have missed the enthusiasm surrounding Friday night's second set. "Kill Devil Falls" went places we never imagined, and it's difficult to think that this particular tune will not be forever tied to 07.31.15. As the song progressed from the normal rhythm of KDF, Trey seemed to utilize an effect we hadn't yet heard, while Page moved from the piano to the organ. Carrying on for nearly 24-minutes, a sufficient dose of "type-2 jamming" ensued, developing into one of the summer's biggest moments thus far.  Just when we thought we had a moment to rest our dancing legs, (Page) McConnell triggered the narration/intro of "Martian Monster," the final song of the band's 2014 Vegas Halloween 2nd set. I'm not sure there could have been a better call at this moment, and I'm convinced that the echo of the crowd reaction was likely heard 20-miles north in Alpharetta. The "rotation jam" performed at this point began with Trey and Mike playing behind their backs, before Trey would ultimately stand behind Mike while playing his bass. He then moved behind McConnell to play keys, before meeting Mike back behind the drums, while Fishman moved up front to play bass. Mike was now on lead guitar, and the rotation was in full effect.

After returning to their normal positions, the subsequent segue into "Twist" was executed perfectly. "Twist" has always felt like the perfect party tune, as Trey's main riff almost seems to wind you up, all the way until it's time to scream "Woo!' After a solid 10-minute jam on "Twist," the familiar sound of "Back on the Train" was born. I guess you would call this the "breather" of the second set, which feels like an absolutely ridiculous thing to say. One of the finer executions of "Reba" would follow where we would witness Trey absolutely go off on this famously beautiful solo. My biggest concern at this point was whether or not the classic "Reba" whistle jam would occur, and it seemed as if it would not. The first and only pause of the set came before firing into "Bathtub Gin," which was placed as the second set closer for the first time in Phish history. This was also the first Gin to follow a Reba in 25 years (+1 to Phish.net). To make things even sweeter, the Reba whistles surfaced after the first verse of Gin. The whistles continued throughout Gin, which carried on for nearly 15-minutes, without one band member skipping a beat. The closing jam of Gin that we all know so well was as crisp and clean as any I have ever heard.  

Throwing "Farmhouse" into the encore was undoubtedly an interesting call. While it's not ever going to be my personal favorite, if there is a time and place for it, that may be towards the end of a show of this magnitude. There was absolutely no doubt that something huge would follow to finally put this party to bed. "Character Zero" was the right call and seems to become more and more explosive the later in the set it is played. The final roars of this song made for the perfect ending to what many are calling the show of the summer.  

The level of expectation approaching this show was unrealistically high, and of course, this band found a way to exceed those expectations. From the “Caspian” opener to the first ever second set “Gin” closer, this show was living proof of how creative this band continues to be. Knowing that there were two (possibly three) more shows ahead, gave us all a level of satisfaction like no other. The level of effort and strategy that they continue to give with each passing show, even with the most minor details, is what keeps me chasing them as often as possible.  

Stay tuned for our recap of Night 2: Atlanta, Night 3: Tuscaloosa, and Night 4: Nashville in the coming days!