Phish: Atlantic City 6.16.12
Atlantic City, NJ
Words by Benjamin Wilkerson
Photos By Jim Piermarini Jr.
Congregating fans amass outside the gates in the lots of Bader Field under the pleasant New Jersey sun and around food trucks, picnic tables, and parked cars. With many planning attendance for all three nights, they are no doubt waiting in anticipation of what should be another colorful and exuberant evening with Phish.
Set 1: Mike's Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Gumbo, Halley's Comet > My Friend, My Friend, Wolfman's Brother, The Horse, Lawn Boy, Possum > Punch You In the Eye > Ocelot, Suzy Greenberg
Set 2: Crosseyed and Painless > Slave to the Traffic Light > Light -> Manteca -> Light > Theme From the Bottom > Golgi Apparatus > Sand > Backwards Down the Number Line > Run Like an Antelope
Encore: Good Times Bad Times
 Nellie Kane tease.
 Lawn Boy and Stash teases.
 Crosseyed quotes.
 Manteca tease; Crosseyed quotes.
The band kicks off with a musical selection that feels more like a third set of one show and a true continuation of the day before with the song-sandwich known as Mike’s Groove. The first of the three tunes, “Mike’s Song” has only been played in the first position of the first set a handful of times in Phish’s twenty-plus year career. “I Am Hydrogen” serves as the filling for this three-hit jam combo, and is only played as a standalone in Mike’s Groove about one in every four appearances in recent years. A succinct “Gumbo” is served up next before the food-for-thought of “Halley’s Comet” blasts off and lands into “My Friend, My Friend.”
The ubiquitous giggle at the end of “My Friend, My Friend” sets up a series of repeats and throwbacks throughout the weekend (akin to ‘Woo!’ shouts from the previous days’ “Twist”, and even their “Saw It Again” spoof on 6/27/2010) and this sound later prompts some hilarious banter when the mere thought of the noise causes Trey Anastasio to kill the intro to “The Horse” and start talking. In a set already featuring Mike Gordon prominence and with drummer Jon Fishman volunteering his opinion of the ending being discussed, Trey poses the question to Page McConnell which spontaneously brings them all into his favorite, the lounge ballad “Lawn Boy”, which he sings. After a deep bass solo in “Lawn Boy”, “Possum” re-launches the big improvisations and includes teases from “Lawn Boy” and “Stash” played the previous day, then segues in “Punch You In The Eye”, and finishes with a definitive version of “Ocelot” that clocks in alone at over eleven minutes and easily stands out as a set highlight. Finishing off round 1 (or is it 3?), “Suzy Greenberg” is presented as a classic bookend and also featured some hot licks on the keys by Page ‘The Chairman of the Boards’ to close out the first set.
Since playing the entire Remain in the Light album as a Halloween “musical costume” by eighties new-wave legend Talking Heads, Phish has added songs like “Crosseyed and Painless” to their vast repertoire. With Fishman singing the characteristic rap/rant, the band jams right on through the ‘Still waiting’ lyrical chant, includes more musical throwbacks to the last three sets, and even inserts some more ‘Woo!’ yells a la yesterday’s “Twist”. Phish holds no pause for applause and jumps right into symphonic melodies of “Slave to the Traffic Light”. They continue the segue trend through the rest of the entire set; next into “Light” which seamlessly blends into a brief take on Dizzy Gillespie’s “Manteca”, and then flows right back into the ending of “Light”. The second portion of Light sees more big improvisation that has “Stash”, “Birds of a Feather”, and “Manteca” riffs and ‘still waiting’ quotes from “Crosseyed and Painless” before Page hits keys on the down-tempo, leading the music to ambient spaces and then into “Theme From the Bottom”.
After running through fairly standard renditions of “Theme From the Bottom” and “Golgi Apparatus”, the band shifts gears up high into ten minutes of the funk vehicle “Sand" that sees more “Crosseyed and Painless” quotes among the oozing organ and popping bass. A poignant ballad, “Backwards Down The Number Line” lyrically captures the happiness of longtime friendship and Trey even laughs a little while singing the chorus before his solo. The silly energy of “Run Like an Antelope” caps off a stellar set, and Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” rocks the encore crowd out into the night and streets of Atlantic City, once again. Judging by the comedic banter alone, the band is clearly relaxed and having fun while still delivering a dazzling performance, and this leaves many fans very excited for the finale of day three.
Notes: "Weekapaug" contained a Nellie Kane tease from Trey. "The Horse" was quickly aborted with Trey saying instead of playing "Horse," he started thinking about how stupid the ending to My Friend, My Friend was and it threw him off. Fishman said that he thought the ending was the greatest ending in rock history, that he loved it, and it was his favorite ending. Trey said "Maze" was his personal favorite, prompting quick teases of the end of Maze by himself and Page. Trey asked Page what his favorite song was and Page responded with "Lawn Boy," which the band subsequently played. "Possum" contained "Lawn Boy" and "Stash" teases. "Light" contained a "Manteca" tease from Page and "Crosseyed and Painless" quotes. "Sand" also contained "Crosseyed and Painless" quotes. (Courtesy of Phish.net)