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Published: 2009/03/16

The Phish Reports

_Photo by Jeff Kravitz,

This past weekend, Phish performed publicly for the first time in over four years at Virginias famed Hampton Coliseum. Relix and were onsite throughout the weekend, reporting on the weekends happenings from the surrounding area and twittering straight from out seats. In case you missed our daily coverage the first time around, or are looking for some good natured minutia while listening to those mp3s at home, weve archived last weekends coverage in a one, single feature. Also, just for old times, be sure to read our reviews of Phishs previous two shows in Coventry, VT. *The Phish Report Night 1: Disco Balls, Vacuum Solos and Fluffhead * *By Mike Greenhaus *

_Photo by Jeff Kravitz,

Phish surprised many by returning to the stage for the first time since August, 2004 with an on-point rendition the Junta epic Fluffhead a fan favorite which had not been played since September 29, 2000, despite considerable urging from fans throughout the post-hiatus period. The move sent a direct message to fans that Phish 3.0as many have affectionately dubbed the groupis not the unrehearsed, unresponsive band that toured from 2002-2004. The group also reconnected to its roots by returning to its classic pre-1999 stage configuration, with all four musicians positioned in an equal line near the front of the stage.
Helping restore the groups playful nature, Phish employed three of its best known onstage gags at various points throughout the night: Jon Fishman took a vacuum solo while Trey Anastasio played drums during I Didnt Know partway through set one, Anastasio and Mike Gordon debuted a new pair of trampolines during You Enjoy Myself at the climax of set two and all four musicians offered up a barbershop quartet version of the Undermind ditty Grind during their encore. The short, quirky song, whose only live reading took place on December 30, 1998, is the lone song from a post-hiatus recording the group played during its 28-song performance.
In sharp contrast to Phishs later years of 1997-2004, most of the groups first set was filled with long form epics like The Divided Sky, Oh Kee Pa Ceremony, Squirming Coil and David Bowie, which favor multi-part compositional structures over the loose, funky improvisation that defined most of Phishs arena years. The band did showcase its jamming abilities on a few occasions, however, particularly Stash and the latter portion of the set-closing David Bowie. Other first set highlights included a straight-ahead Chalkdust Torture, some synthesizer work from Page McConnell on Suzy Greenberg, an extended, percussion-heavy Rift and a slowed down take on Water in the Sky reminiscent of the songs pre-_Story of the Ghost_ incarnation.
The Vermont Quartet loosened up musical a bit second set, opening with the new Trey Anastasio/Tom Marshall original Backwards Down The Number Line, perhaps the only song of the night that lacked an arena-size echo. The group then launched into a long, dark Tweezer that placed particular emphasis on Gordons thick, funky bass lines and eventually uncoiled into the Latin-flavored Taste. The rest of the set was filled with crowd-favorites like the sing-a-long Possum, the euphoric Theme from the Bottom (which found longtime lighting director Chris Kuroda washing the room in purples lights that matched the hue of Gordons pants), an extremely groove-heavy First Tube (with Anastasio making use of his signature delay loop from 1999-2000), a short glowstick skirmish during Harry Hood and the Billy Breathes ballad Waste. Though Phish was clearly firing on all cylinders all night, the band flubbed the start of You Enjoy Myself and quickly restarted the trademark number, as they did when they returned to Hampton for the first time post-hiatus. Anastasio also missed the word god in the lyrical segment boy, man, god, shit, but joking changed the last part of the phrase to god shit.
Throughout the night, Kuroda also showed off several new light toys, including a group of large white balls that were released into the crowd during Bouncing Around the Room and a series of small disco balls that lit up partway through Harry Hood.
The night finally came to a close with a cover of the Rolling Stones Loving Cup, a showcase for McConnells work on the baby grand piano. Relix and will be reporting from Hampton, VA once again this evening. *SETLIST: * *March 6, Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA *
Set I: Fluffhead*, The Divided Sky, Chalkdust Torture, Sample in a Jar, Stash, I Didn’t Know#, Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg, Farmhouse, NICU, Horn, Rift, Train Song, Water in the Sky, Squirming Coil, David Bowie
II: Backwards Down The Number Line^, Tweezer, Taste, Possum, Theme from the Bottom, First Tube, Harry Hood, Waste, You Enjoy Myself
E: Grind**, Bouncing Around the Room, Loving Cup
_* Last played 9/28/2000 _
_# with Trey on drums _
_^New original _
_** Last played 12/30/98 _
_“Click here to read Randy Ray’s review of night one”: ********** *The Phish Report Night 2: More Ghost Stories * *By Mike Greenhaus *

_Photo by Jeff Kravitz,

Phishs three night reunion run continued with another meaty, extended performance that found the Vermont Quartet focusing heavily on the funk-based material documented on 1998s Story of the Ghost. Like Friday nights reunion show, Phish favored relatively short, concise jams over the long improvisations that characterized the years immediately precededing its breakup, though the groups second set, in particular, opened up on several occasions.
Much like Friday nights performance, Phishs first set stretched well past the hour mark, peaking several times before coming to a climax with a tight, high-energy rendition of the early favorite Run Like an Antelope. The set opened with a funky Back on the Train, which nodded to the weekends overarching theme of reunion with the line it took me a long time to get back on the train (a phrase that was met with some of the evenings loudest cheers). Oddly enough, though the Farmhouse number began its life as a solo acoustic song on Trey Anastasios 1999 solo tour, the cuts current, groove-heavy incarnation is tangible proof that Phish is once again a band of equals. From there the band then moved into the jam-vehicle Runaway Jim, but kept the songs improvisational sections relatively short and focused, before coming to a halt with a slowed down, dreamy version of Brian and Robert reminiscent of the groups three-night, 2004 run in Las Vegas.
The rest of the set mixed pop-ditties like Heavy Things and Mexican Cousin with mid-period favorites like a synth-laden Gumbo and choice examples of Anastasios early-period compositional prowess like Reba and Guelah Papyrusthe latter of which had not been placed since September 18, 2000. Highlights included a tight, heavily rhythmic take on Split Open and Melt and a Page McConnell-led Its Ice that gradually opened up into a dark, eerie jam. McConnell also offered Beauty of a Broken Heart, a number from his self-titled 2007 solo album, leading many to believe that the four musicians will continue to dig into their respective solo canons at future shows.
In addition, Phish pulled over a few novelties at various points in the night: Anastasio and Gordon danced during the Landlady section of Punch You in the Eye, remembered the shuffle to Guelah Papyrus and McConnell moved to the front of the stage for the mock lounge singer favorite Lawn Boy (which is now lit by the bands new mini-disco ball).
As many expected, Phishs second set was looser and more focused on freeform improvisation, though the bands new jamming style on the whole feels shorter, punchier and more rehearsed. The bands truncated jams felt like blessings in disguise, however, as the four musicians slowly become reacquainted onstage and continue to sharp their songs structural nuts and bolts. The best example of this may have been Birds of a Feather, a song that began its life as a short, radio-friendly rocker and gradually uncoiled into a valued jam-vehicle, only to be shortened into a "Chalkdust Torture"-like rocker.
Unfortunately, Anastasio stumbled several times throughout the set, beginning with an aborted version of Piper. He also seemed tepid at the start of both Wolfmans Brother and Price Caspian," but rapidly improved as the band gained confidence as the set progressed. Likewise, Rock and Roll and "Ghost contained some focused jams by all four musicians, especially McConnell, who has made an early case as Phish 3.0s MVP. Phish then brought its second set to a close with a classic "Mikes Groove that found Gordon taking a strong bass solo during the introduction to Weekapaug Groove, as well as the anathematic Character Zero.
For the second night in a row, Phish used its encore to play a rarer number, dusting off their once trademark cover of the Beatles A Day in the Life for the first time since September 30, 2000. *SETLIST: * *March 7, Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA *
Set I: Back On The Train, Runaway Jim, Brian and Robert, Split Open and Melt, Heavy Things, Punch You in the Eye, Gumbo, Reba, Mexican Cousin, It’s Ice, Halley’s Comet, Beauty of a Broken Heart#, Guelah Papyrus*, Lawn Boy, Run Like An Antelope
Set II: Rock and Roll, Limb By Limb, Ghost, Piper, Birds of a Feather, Wolfman’s Brother, Prince Caspian, Mikes Song>I Am Hydrogen>Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero
E: A Day in the Life**
_#First time played, Page solo song _
_*Last Played 9/18/00 _
_**Last played 9/30/00 _
_“Click here to read Randy Ray’s review of night two”: ********** *The Phish Report Night 3: I Feel the Feeling I Forgot * *By Mike Greenhaus *

_Photo by Jeff Kravitz,

Phish brought its three night, six-set reunion run to a close Sunday night with arguably the weekend’s tightest and overall strongest performance. While Fridays reunion show contained more energy and Saturdays performance took more risks, more than any other show Sundays finale utilized Phishs extensive songbook to truly explore the bands eclectic nature.
Opening with Sanity, a collaboration between Phish and the Dude of Life that slipped out of rotation after November 27, 1998, Phish used its first set to pull out a few of the few remaining crowd favorites from its extensive canon: an area-ready Wilson, a Page McConnell-heavy version of Foam, a relatively short and funky Tube, the MMW-approved Cars Trucks Buses and a slimmed down, rocking Free that earned some of the weekends biggest cheers thanks to the lyric I feel the feeling I forgota line that may continue to trigger a crowd response moving forward much like the Everglades allusions in Water in the Sky. The band also managed to turn heads thanks to a tight Maze that featured McConnell prominently in the mix. Keeping in line with the groups precise delivery of Trey Anastasios early compositions all weekend, Phish also offered on point versions of Bathtub Gin, My Friend, My Friend and AC/DC Bag that stripped away any post-1996 structural changes.
Likewise, Phish continued to roll out the quirky tricks it largely jettisoned from 1997-2004 in favor of a denser, more aggressive style of improvisation. Most humorously, McConnell strapped on a keytar and moved between Anastasio and Mike Gordon during a particularly strong, set-closing Frankenstein. Anastasio and Gordon also entertained fans with their customary dance during the klezmer section of Scent of a Mule, and the band finally debuted the title-track to 2004s Undermind. Like the Trey Anastasio Band version of Undermind, the number begins with some poppy clavinet coloring, before shifting into funkier territory for a brief jam. In fact, the only time the rooms energy waned was on the latter day ballads All Of These Dreams and Army of One, as well as a cover of George Jones She Thinks I Still Care that owed more to straight-ahead country than bluegrass.
Phish truly embraced its space and funk leanings second set for the first time all weekend, beginning with a set-opening Down with Disease that gradually uncoiled into an entire improvised sequence easily classified as Type II jamming. The group then plunged into the Round Room chestnut Seven Below, before slowing down for a segue from The Horse into Silent In The Morning. The cerebral numbers led into a meaty funk segment that included Twist, 2001 and Moma Dance. Like many of the weekends strongest jams, McConnell led his bandmates as each song moved past its composed sections. ‘Twist, in particular, benefited from McConnells more pronounced role in a reunited Phishs jams. However, unlike Saturdays jam-heavy second set which took greater risks but also fell flat on several occasions, all five jam-vehicles were executed with precision and, in line with Phish 3.0s cleaner sound, felt cohesive and focused.
Later in their career, especially in their post-hiatus period, the members of Phish tended to end shows with either long, reflective ballads that slowly build to a crescendo or short, guitar-heavy rock songs. With that in mind, Phish faked the audience out on two consecutive occasions by covering the Beatles While My Guitar Gently Weeps and running through its own Wading in the Velvet Sea, only to bring the show full circle with another composition-heavy collaboration co-written by the Dude of Life, Slave To The Traffic Light.
For the first time since Phish announced its reunion, Anastasio directly addressed his audience at the outset of the encore, describing the weekend as amazing and touching upon the three-night runs spirit of reunion. He also wished Jon Fishmans father Leonard a happy birthday, before joining the members of Phish and the crowd in area-size rendition of Happy Birthday. The band revisited the birthday theme at the end of Contact, with Gordon using his foot bell as an exclamation mark at the end of the jam. The weekend then came to a close during a charged Tweezer Reprise that peaked as crew members released huge, white balls into the crowd as part of the bands new light show. *SETLIST: * *March 8, Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA *
Set I: Sanity*, Wilson, Foam, Bathtub Gin, Undermind#, AC/DC Bag,My Friend, My Friend, Scent of a Mule, All Of These Dreams, Maze, She Thinks I Still Care$, Army of One, Tube, Cars Trucks Buses, Free, Frankenstein**
Set II: Down With Disease^, Seven Below, The Horse >Silent In The Morning, Twist, 2001, Moma Dance, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Wading In The Velvet Sea, Slave To The Traffic Light
E: Happy Birthday$$, Contact>Birthday Jam, Bug, Tweezer Reprise
_* Last played 11/27/98 _
_# First time played _
_$ First time played, George Jones cover _
_** With Page on keytar _
_^ With long spacey outro jam _
_$$ Crowd and band sing Happy Birthday to Leonard Fishman, Jons father _
_“Click here to read Randy Ray’s review of night three”:

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