Spawning from humble beginnings in Burlington, Vermont in the early eighties, Phish spent two decades playing sold out shows across America before taking a couple of short hiatuses. Back to touring and psychedelic as ever, the band played the first night of a two day showing at Verizon Wireless Encore Amphitheatre, in Alpharetta, GA on Tuesday, June 14.
Known predominately for its extended improvisational “jams,” Phish did not disappoint, playing two sets and an encore that spanned for the better half of three hours. Throw in an amazing light show and the speakers turned up to what felt like the unattainable eleventh dial and you have a good recipe for one rocking show.
It’s dedicated fan base, often playfully referred to as “Phriends,” came along for the ride, setting up camp in the parking lot. Psychedelic t-shirts and steak and cheese fajitas were among the goods that were being sold.
Front man and lead guitarist Trey Anastasio, often called the creative power behind Phish, kept the crowd bobbing and weaving from the show’s opener “Dinner and a Movie” till its closing song, “Quinn the Eskimo.” The band has retained its main lineup throughout nearly its whole career: Anastasio on guitar, Mike Gordon on bass, John Fishman on drums and Page McConnell on keyboards. Anastasio and company grooved together in front of a packed and raucous crowd, composed of very diverse demographics.
Often a band in its third decade of existence seems to lose its edge after too many shows to count and hundreds of thousands miles on the road. Phish, however, remained tight throughout the entire show, rarely drifting into long, spacey jams. It was live music at its finest. As is customary at a Phish concert, the music touched all different genres; from jazz, to folk to good old rock and roll. Whatever the song, one could be sure that the crowd was dancing to it.
After an impressive first set containing such Phish stalwarts such as ‘Ocelot’, ‘Fluffhead’ and even an extended cover of Traffic’s ‘Light Up or Leave Me Alone,’ the band returned for a second set.
Anastasio really got working on the guitar with scorching, high energy jams during renditions of ‘Sand’, ’Down With Disease’, ’Maze’. Always with a smile on their faces, the band seemed to be having as much fun as the audience. The grooves and guitar licks were clean and tight, avoiding any long “feedback” periods that often come customary with jam bands. They were at their best during the improvisational work, following guitar solo, with keyboard solo and fantastic bass work. Highlights of the second set also include a rarely played ‘Meatstick’ and a cover of The Beatles classic ‘A Day in the Life’.