Phish 7.18 - 7.20.14
FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island
Words & Photos By Nicholas Stock (Fat Guerilla Productions)
Friday July 18th:
Each night the band emerged around a quarter to 8 PM while the sun was hanging low in the sky. The golden hour basked the audience in a warm light as Phish ripped into the new Gordon sung, “555.”
Set One: 555, Kill Devil Falls, Bouncing Around the Room> Reba, Waiting All Night, Birds of a Feather, Halfway to the Moon> Sparkle> Sample in a Jar, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing> Stash, The Squirming Coil
Set Two: Golden Age> The Mango Song, Sand-> Piper-> Halley’s Comet-> Wombat> Chalk Dust Torture> Slave to the Traffic Light
This first night was a mixed bag of nuts. Incredible highlights juxtaposed against some sloppy transitions made for an interesting experience overall. The first set began in a routine manner with a heavy “Kill Devil Falls” and a clean “Bouncing Around the Room.” The “Reba” was the first curveball stretching on with a tight buttery jam. We were treated to another new tune with “Waiting All Night” which included some striking vocal harmonizing. “Birds of a Feather” was an excellent touch, while the “Halfway to the Moon” took on a brooding tone. “Sparkle” into “Sample” again stuck to the script. “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” seems to be becoming a bit more common having already appeared twice this summer. The segue into “Stash” was tasty, but “The Squirming Coil” was a delicious close to the first set. The band left Page to his own devices to finish the song and his piano solo seemed to go on and on much to the delight of the enamored audience.
Saturday July 19th:
Once again the weather would be perfect all night long. This was a relief for those that made the inaugural trip to Northerly with Phish in 2013. Torrential rains throughout that weekend actually stopped the band from playing a second set on night one. They returned with three sets on Saturday to make it up to fans. While a three set show was an extraordinary experience for those in attendance, I was much happier to just have three shows go off without a hitch in the weather. Like night one, the show would feature a song-heavy first set and some focused jamming in set number two. They started the night funky with a dirty “Moma Dance.”
Set One: The Moma Dance, Wolfman’s Brother, Devotion To a Dream, 46 Days, Yarmouth Road, Brian and Robert, Wingsuit, Tube> Free> Roggae, Heavy Things> Run Like an Antelope
Set Two: Carini > Waves> Fuego> Twist> Light> Twenty Years Later> Harry Hood> Cavern
Encore: Grind, Bug, Suzy Greenberg
This show shook off the ghosts of night one by taking us on a musical journey that will not be soon forgotten. The funk continued gracefully through “Wolfman’s Brother." The parade of new songs off of Fuego continued with “Devotion To A Dream.” Phish took the opportunity to rock out on “46 Days.” Original Mike Gordon Band tune, “Yarmouth Road,” has found a good fit with Phish. “Brian and Robert” served as a nostalgic breather before the boys took off again on the title track that never was, “Wingsuit.” “Tube” got weird and contained a massively appropriate “Smoke On The Water” tease. They transitioned marvelously into a cathartic “Free” that felt more like church than a rock concert. They again took us back down with a well-timed “Roggae.” Phish continued with a straightforward “Heavy Things” that transformed into a decisively executed “Run Like an Antelope.”
The second set took us into the upper stratosphere of musical possibilities. They took us down a dark road with their set opening, “Carini.” This tune has become a means for the band to give us a heavier style of improvisation, which was the case again in Chicago. The beautiful “Waves” could not extinguish the blistering “Fuego which saw Fishman giving us a “Little Drummer Boy” tease. The set continued unmitigated with an animated “Twist.” They went into a huge “Light,” which continues to be yet another tool in the box for musical extemporization; this time lasting well past expectations. “Twenty Years Later” worked as a transition to the show peak “Harry Hood.” This particular “Hood” was a deep trip down the rabbit hole with some extensive Type II jamming. They closed the second set with an explosive “Cavern.”
The encore felt like another mini set starting with the acapella song, “Grind.” Afterwards they retreated to their instruments for a spicy “Bug.” This tune has evolved from its nascent roots as borderline pop into a real showstopper. Phish finished strong with a punchy “Suzy Greenberg.” This was a distinctive night two show from the boys from Vermont. It had everything, crowd-pleasing classics, gigantic jams, and a nice spattering of new tunes. With two nights down, we could only imagine what would float to the shore for the last hurrah.
Phish After Show with Particle + DJ Logic:
The boat itself was posh to say the least, complete with multiple bars and a catered food. The original cost of $100 a ticket my have deterred some would be sailors, but I’m glad we managed to hop on this ride. The boat undocked and headed out into the darkness of Lake Michigan. We drifted out a bit giving us a panoramic view of the city, which alone was worth the price of admission.
The music stretched on even after we made it back to Navy Pier. It was a great jam session and a wonderful way to end the night. Now finding a cab afterwards was a different story.
Sunday July 20th:
Phish’s final night at Northerly Island was arguably the best of the three-night run. It most certainly featured some of the most extraordinary jamming of the weekend. They opened with “Gumbo” for the first time since 1998.
Set One: Gumbo> Runaway Jim, Tela, The Line, Scent of a Mule*> Bathtub Gin> Silent In The Morning> Maze> Ocelot> Walls of the Cave
Set Two: Down with Disease**> Winterqueen> Theme From the Bottom> Mike’s Song> The Wedge, Ghost> Weekapaug Groove, First Tube
Encore: Character Zero
*Fish on Marimba Lumina and all four band members on Fish’s drum set.
The soup drained into an energetic “Runaway Jim.” The somewhat rare “Tela” had not been performed in almost a year, this particular version was a nice touch that seemed to float over the crowd. New song, “The Line,” appeared giving us our first taste of Fuego for night three. Phish then proceeded to launch off into one of the most dynamic and musically innovative “Scent of a Mule(s)” since their return. The “Mule” riffing continued in a tremendously timed “Bathtub Gin.” They segued smoothly into the more relaxed “Silent In The Morning.” I’m still waiting for the return of “Horse.” The band threw down the gauntlet with a tight “Maze” before moving on to a vibrant “Ocelot.” They closed with a dark “Walls of the Cave.” This song too seems to be making a comeback on set lists as of late. The first set featured some awesome give and take along with otherworldly improvisation. Set two would take it up another notch before we would all say our goodbyes.
After a first night with a couple of aborted jams, Phish set down a path to focus on putting on two stellar shows against the skyline of Chicago. The weather was absolutely perfect for all three nights. The venue was an experience in itself. Standing on the grandstand while random fireworks blasted off in the distance on night two was a personal highlight. Phish is an unstoppable musical force capable of absolutely anything. Over the course of three nights in the Windy City, they proved that one more time.