Phish – American Airlines Arena – Miami, FL 1/2/15 (SHOW RECAP)

You never know what you’re going to get at a Phish show. Without placing absolutes on something that in spirit is best served organic, that’s the way it should be. This is not to say that the whole third offering from Phish’s four-night run in Miami, FL provided spontaneous energy, excitement, and music at American Airlines Arena. What it does say is that particularly in set two last evening, show goers and streamers were treated to fresh ideas and ultimately some high grade Phish.

 

Highlights

  1. Set Two. It’s the second truly memorable set from the run, start to finish, including a major highpoint in “Weekapaug Groove”. As old as it’s getting to look past first sets into the second frame for the guts of a modern day Phish show, live and in the moment, when the magic unfolds before your eyes there’s nothing like it. Until the breather before “Fuego” the band and its fans were locked and loaded. While the latter half of the set wasn’t quite the fire of the first half, cumulatively, understood by three distinct breaks of about thirty-eight minutes, twenty minutes, and seventeen minutes, this set rocked, is a total keeper, and it continues to remind the faithful that there’s always a chance for something special at a Phish show.
  2. “Mike Song”. Really, it was all about the Mike’s Groove last night, but to be fair the “Mike’s Song” individually set the tone for the set and the close to forty minutes of ensuing high quality music. In fact, before the move into “46 Days”, it felt as though “Mike’s” was going off on its own to pioneer something otherworldly as Trey was firing, and the band was fully cohesive in their exploration. It scraped such intergalactic realms, but before getting planted, the band dropped into “46 Days”.
  3.  “46 Days”. While only weighing in at close to ten minutes, to be blunt, “46 Days” was abstract, drippy pscyedelia. The band hinted at space travel in the opening tune, but it was here that the crowd was treated to Phish fully taking chances. It’s the opposite of what was offered in the initial frame, and again while short, those ten minutes were as necessary for this run as they were mind-melting to enjoy. The move into “Paug” at the time felt premature, but who’s to say any move by Phish is faulty when the result is as unique as it was last night?
  4. “Weekapaug Groove”. Phish provides eye candy, facilitated nightly by CK5 behind the lighting rig, and while it’s all about the music, if you didn’t see this one live last night it’s worth the time to both watch and listen today. With Trey making the move to the Marimba Lumina during the “Paug” jam, and Mike picking up Trey’s guitar, chances were being taken, the music was inspiring, and the band was winning. It was fun to watch, but for the first time in…far too long, “Weekapaug Groove” actually got its groove on. Even if you didn’t watch and just listen back, the jam is edgy, compelling, and punctuated some of the best playing of the run.
  5. Second half of set two. After the Mikes Groove it was a matter of is this show going to take a dive from here, sustain, or explode into epicness? It stayed around the sustain category, mostly, but as mentioned above, after a complete trifecta to start, there were two more defined pieces of great music to this set. None of the songs were salient themselves, but “Fuego” into “Slave to the Traffic Light” worked. “2001” started a bit randomly after “Slave”, but as a majority of fans know and love, if you want an instant dance party to ensue, insert “2001” and start getting down. “Walls of the Cave”, which has seen more runs as of late to close a first set, was reminiscent of night two’s high energy rockers to end the show as well. Both of these twentyish minute segments weren’t anything as special as what went down in the first half of the set, but combined as two duo’s to accentuate the Mikes Groove this is a complete set of Phish and a welcome offering after a largely improv-lacking night two in Miami.

 

Lowlights

Set two wasn’t perfect as nothing is, but it was a complete set of Phish. However, the predictability and emotionless first sets; when will it stop? Night two saw a much different set one than what was offered on night three, and while Phish fans in the now are once again, becoming very accustomed to a formula of jamless, largely uninspiring first sets, from a holistic perspective that’s not a sustainable outlook for this band. As a long time fan and reviewer, I’m not one to live in the past, although it’s impossible to forget those shows in years past when right from the start of note one on a given night, Phish was taking you on a journey, one that in the present most fans expect, if they’re lucky, to take place in set two. In a supportive sense, ending the set with “Squirming Coil” was nice, and “Roggae” had a little sway to it, but you have to wonder what the band is thinking when it continues to feel like set one and set two are two different bands playing two different shows. That said, if the final show of the four night runs builds in anyway off of set one from night two, and the second sets from night one and night three, show goers are in for a major treat tonight in Miami!

SETLIST – 1/2/15

Set 1: Free, The Moma Dance > Possum, Roggae, Stash, Back on the Train, Sugar Shack, The Line,Ocelot, The Squirming Coil

Set 2: Mike’s Song > 46 Days > Weekapaug Groove[1], Fuego > Slave to the Traffic Light, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Walls of the Cave

Encore: Sleeping Monkey > Rocky Top

[1] Trey on Marimba Lumina, Mike on guitar.

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