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Published: 2016/07/18
by Dan Warry-Smith

Phish in Syracuse

Phish, Lakeview Amphitheater, Syracuse, NY- 7/10

Of all the guiding principles that Phish followers employ in selecting which dates to attend, one credo reigns supreme: “Never miss a Sunday show.” While this approach may not pay off every time, it certainly did in the band’s debut performance at Syracuse’s new Lakeview Amphitheater, where fans were treated to a slew of rarely-heard songs and enthusiastic overall playing from the band. The visit to drummer Jon Fishman’s hometown set a jovial tone from the first note, and combined with a gorgeous sunset to create an indelible experience in closing out Phish’s East coast summer jaunt.

Guitarist Trey Anastasio and bassist Mike Gordon kicked off the festivities with the charming dance that accompanies “The Landlady”— a sought-after instrumental number and the first of many surprises to come. Crowd-pleasers rang out early and often with the Fishman-penned “Ha Ha Ha”, Gordon originals “Destiny Unbound” and “Mound” and the whimsical “Mango Song” all appearing for the first time this year. Newer tunes “Blaze On” and “Winterqueen” were imbued with heartfelt emotion, while tried-and-true staples “Tube,” “My Friend, My Friend” and “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan” kept spirits high with precision and gusto.

And then there was the trio of covers that highlighted the first set. Beginning with the depression-era mule tribute “Timber (Jerry)”, cunningly bookended by the return of the band’s own “Timber,” the Central New York evening was blessed by borrowed material as a swirl of sundown colors melted into the night sky. The Lynyrd Skynyrd memorial “The Ballad of Curtis Loew,” beautifully sung by keyboardist Page McConnell, had some folks scratching their heads and plenty more celebrating its scarce deployment. Finally, McConnell introduced the set-closer as a composition by one of Phish’s “favorite composers” as he led his bandmates through a scintillating take on the Jimi Hendrix masterpiece “Bold As Love.” Half way in to their maiden Lakeview voyage, the members of Phish had already conquered Onandaga Lake.

They wouldn’t let up in the wake of intermission, unleashing a fiery version of The Who’s “Drowned” and segueing into an Anastasio-helmed “Twist” that grooved and peaked its way to brilliance before a well-placed “Waste” got fans swaying and singing in the cool breeze. “Breath and Burning”—a reggae-tinged rookie of the 2016 class—fit right in with the meat of set two and gave way to a breakneck-paced “Rocky Top” cover. Phish then milked a recent trend in switching instruments during the jam section of “Martian Monster,” this time allowing Gordon some time on guitar and McConnell a turn at the bass while Anastasio returned to his familiar perch behind Fishman on marimba lumina. The vocal sample repeating “your trip is short” may well have been a cheeky poke at those dedicated souls preparing to drive all the way West for the next show in Washington State, but no one was complaining.

Having aborted an attempt at the Edgar Winter Group’s “Frankenstein” earlier in the night, the band followed a celebratory run through “Golgi Apparatus” with a typically fun delivery of the classic rock monster to end the set with a bang. A textbook “Character Zero” allowed Anastasio one more taste of rock-god glory as the night drew to a close, sealing a well above-average experience in a setting Phish is bound to circle back to in the coming years. Fishman’s childhood stomping grounds were soundly satisfied, and the exalted reputation of the fabled Sunday show was authenticated once more.

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