[Thanks to Brandy Davis, @smilercontrol, for recapping last night's show for the blog. -Ed.]
As I am sure you have heard by now, Phish started the east coast leg of the 2018 Summer Tour hot in Hotlanta on Friday night, leaving fans greatly satisfied, but also wondering what kind of Saturday night throw-down could top it. Before the show last night (the second of three shows at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre At Encore Park in Alpharetta, Georgia), fans basked in the afterglow of greatness, and Shakedown and the lot surrounding the venue were full of suspense and a definitive party vibe. The tailgating game was strong in the afternoon, with fans new and old coming together to celebrate a successful start to a historically great weekend for the Phish from Vermont.
Staying true to tradition, Phish presented us once again with greatness, but with a more exploratory expedition than that of Friday night's dance party. In sum, Saturday’s first set was sprinkled with rarities and classics, with jam highlights in “Chalk Dust Torture” and “Wolfman’s Brother,” while the second set screamed through space in “Soul Planet” and “Piper.”
“Bouncing Around The Room” began the evening with a smile and a hug. “Chalk Dust Torture” immediately followed, providing the first heavy hitter of the evening. Trey wasted no time, jumping right into the shred. “Can’t I live while I’m young?” indeed. Mike wowed the crowd with deep vibrations, as Page and Jon held down the fort. Trey explored several variations of sound before climbing the “Chalk Dust” mountain to its glorious pinnacle.
The band took a moment to chat, and then decided on Mike’s college boy classic and rarity, “Fuck Your Face,” to the delight of the crowd. Keeping the energy flowing, “Wolfman’s Brother” claimed the fourth spot of the set, beginning the show's second improv journey. Page led the jam on the Clavinet, creating an open and airy space for the sound to build. Trey then came in, telling a bold story with soaring guitar work. Page switched to the piano as the jam segued into familiar Phishy territory, building to a pretty peak. Meanwhile on the lawn, the rain came down, giving fans a much-needed cool-down from the Georgia heat and the “Wolfman’s” funk.
A little bluegrass is always welcome in Georgia, and Page’s “Things People Do” came next in the set, followed by a surprise bust-out of “Lengthwise,” a Rift rarity not played since October 15, 2016 (55 shows ago). After this treat, another Rift classic, “Maze,” began, and Page led its jam with furious playing on both Hammond and grand piano, creating the energy the “Maze” needs for proper blastoff. Trey came in heavy, climbing to the steepest, wildest, and most lofty peak of the night. A personal favorite, every “Maze” I am present for feels like the “best ‘Maze’ ever!!” and this one was no different. Faces melted, minds exploded, this "Maze" delivers.
“Waiting All Night” provides a late-set breather, filling the room with soft and sweet ambiance and leaving everyone (who is not in the bathroom line) feeling warm and fuzzy. After this heartfelt number, “Divided Sky” started and was greeted by a great hurrah. With the song played to near perfection, "the pause" found fans happy to oblige, and there were three waves of ever-increasingly-loud cheers before Trey dropped that little "note" we’d all been waiting for. The second half of the song is also beautifully played and beautifully peaky, and Phish then celebrated the triumph of a strong set by bringing down the house with the ever-energetic “Character Zero” to close.
Phish returned to the stage to forcefully open the second set with Talking Head’s “Crosseyed and Painless," the first cover of the night. Only a 12-minute version, it was more low-key than we've come to expect from it (particularly when opening a set), but it did enter uncharted territory when Page decided to fire-up the space ship with his synth, and--as captain of the ship--Trey then drove the jam smoothly into “Soul Planet," the third of the tour.
After singing enthusiastically about “screaming through space," Trey followed his words with guitar work that did just that. In short order, the jam landed in a tranquil universe of wompy bass, steady beats, and soulful melodies from Trey. Page kept things spacey on the synth, then Trey changed his tone to take us to a darker side of the planet. There is clearly much to explore on a “Soul Planet,” and Phish led us through many new environments in this stand-out version. The jam threatened to fizzle-out in a few spots, but it never let go, leaving us with dynamic changes throughout. The lofty peak on this “Soul Planet” was dark and dramatic on the down side, eventually sliding all the way into the watery depths of “A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing.” The jam floated along in the ocean of love, until quickly picking up the gentle threads of a building “Piper." This nearly 14-minute version continued the space theme with loops, synths, bouncy bass lines, and a steady beat. Many a fan got lost in this one, asking the age-old question, “What song is this again?”
As “Piper” disintegrated, with fans wondering where their minds had gone, Trey picked everyone back up with the opening notes of “Possum.” Few can resist the groove, and Encore Park exploded into a down-home dance party. The ever-beautiful “Slave To The Traffic Light” followed, closing the set with its refreshing and joyful melodies, and giving us one more mountain to climb, with its high peak and glorious vista.
An eager crowd awaited the encore, and was rewarded with “The Squirming Coil," another well-executed classic. Page woo'd his fans, wrapping up the night with a particularly lovely piano solo.
Two great nights of music have solidified Alpharetta’s lofty place in the ranking of classic Phish venues, delivering the greatness many have come to expect from Phish in Alpharetta. But there's still a lot on the table for Sunday's show: a show that I 'm told should never be missed. Stay tuned!
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