Vermont jam legends Phish returned to Austin360 Amphitheater at Circuit of the Americas Tuesday, July 31 for the first time since their inaugural appearance at the Grand Prix racetrack venue in 2015. After completing a 9 show West Coast run, Phish hit the ground running in Austin despite typically warm seasonal weather kicking off with a not-yet-played-this-tour, “Sample in a Jar” to the delight of the Phish faithful. Fans could be heard loudly singing the chorus,
“I wheeled around because I
Didn’t hear what you had said
And saw you dancing with Elihu
Up on Leemor’s bed
And I was foggy rather groggy, you helped me to my car
The binding belt enclosing me, a Sample in a Jar!”
The song was a signal the first set would be an upbeat one with a number of setlist debuts this tour, including the opener. The foursome followed with a rare first set appearance of “Light”. Euphoric after that incredible start, the audience settled in for the duration, taking in a groovy version of “The Moma Dance” before bassist Mike Gordon took over vocal duties on the soulful blues cover of “Funky Bitch” (Son Seals).
Also making setlist debuts this tour, the introspective song, “Brian and Robert” and “The Line”, which garnered a less enthusiastic response but honestly felt like a welcome break after the scorching solos unleashed by guitarist Trey Anastasio earlier in the performance. The red-headed six-stringer displayed his impressive chops throughout the evening, consistently wowing fans with his high-toned style.
Next, Trey introduced drummer Jon Fishman as “Moses Heaps, Moses Brown and Moses Dewitt” before the dress-wearing percussionist took up his trusty Electrolux for his usual vacuum-cleaner-assisted solo during “I Didn’t Know”. The group wrapped up set one with a rollicking “46 Days”. Light designer Chris Kuroda aka CK5 pulled out all the stops during the set closer, flashing strobes, constantly changing the configuration of the lighting rig throughout the set, and generally dazzling fans with his unparalleled, improvised visuals.
After a 30-minute set break the band got back to business with a Trey Anastasio Band cover, “Everything’s Right”, before delving into the reliable jam vehicle “Down With Disease”. The song saw Trey at his most expressive, letting loose guitar riffs that shook the ground with their intensity. Keyboardist Page McConnell gave an exemplary answer back to Trey’s solos with inspired underwater-sounding synth that morphed into spastic electronic organ sounds.
Later in the set, “Dirt” and “The Wedge” ramped up to an insane “Wilson” that fired up the already excited crowd, who went nuts for the amped up version of “Run Like An Antelope” the guys from Phish laid on the Austin crowd. They left the stage on a high, only to return a few minutes later for the band’s first cover of The Rolling Stone’s “Loving Cup” all year. It’s hard to say anyone was disappointed (because that would be a lie). Indeed, the show had all the energy, fun and great music the band made its reputation on. Phish came, saw, and conquered Austin360 Amphitheater Tuesday.
Photos courtesy of Austin360 Amphitheater