photo by Rene Huemer (via Phish From the Road on Twitter)
Phish played a nearly perfect show on Sunday evening at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, WI, closing out their first run at the venue since 2015. Both sets were filled with bustouts, and the show was highlighted by a 38-minute version of “Ruby Waves,” the seventh-longest single-song jam in the band’s history and longest of the 3.0 era.
The first set began with “The Landlady,” making it immediately clear that the band meant business. While not the tightest version ever, this “Landlady,” the first since July 10, 2016, contained fierce playing from all four members. What came next had to be seen to be believed: the first “Olivia’s Pool” since November 11, 1997—a gap of 692 shows (the song has since been reworked into “Shafty,” which itself has not been seen since Bonnaroo 2012). Again, the group offered some fantastic playing during the improvised section, particularly from guitarist Trey Anastasio. The bustouts continued next with “The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday” > “Avenu Malkenu” > “The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday,” not seen since August 21, 2015, at Magnaball (a gap of 147 shows). The band nailed the difficult composition, which allowed its beauty (and grittiness during “Avenu Malkenu”) to fully manifest.
“Meatstick” then allowed fans a moment to catch their breath, before the band began another relative rarity, “Vultures,” making its first appearance of the tour. “Spock’s Brain” continued the setlist insanity, followed by the second “Pebbles and Marbles” of the tour. “Glide” was played quite well, driving home the feeling that the band was on another level, as this song often gives them (particularly Anastasio) trouble. “About to Run” allowed Anastasio a chance to blow off some steam as he shredded over the bluesy solo section. Next came “Strange Design,” not seen since July 8, 2016 (a gap of 124 shows), followed by a rocking rendition of “Timber (Jerry the Mule).” “I Didn’t Know” featured the typical Jon Fishman vacuum solo, and a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” brought the thrilling set to a close.
After a first set like that, it would have been understandable for the band to take a breather during the second frame, but instead they delivered some of the finest improvising of the 3.0 era. The set began with “Mercury,” which quickly faded into “Ruby Waves.” The band has played the song only six times ever, all during this tour, and each has yielded quality jamming. But this version was beyond simply quality. Clocking in at 38 minutes and 8 seconds, this “Ruby Waves” featured multiple modulations and multiple moments where the band could have abandoned the jam but instead forged ahead. It featured blissful peaks, reggae breakdowns and vicious, metal-inspired jamming. The Alpine “Ruby Waves” is not only the longest jam of 3.0, it is also the longest jam since the August 3, 2003 version of “46 Days” (which was 38 minutes and 30 seconds). It is, simply, must-listen Phish.
As the jam finally settled down, Anastasio began a celebratory “Twist,” followed by a cool-down of “Swept Away” > “Steep.” A well-placed “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” felt like it might close the set, but the band was far from finished. Upon completing the Kasvot Växt favorite, Anastasio gently strummed the opening chords to the much-sought-after “Icculus,” played last during the JEMP Truck Set on December 31, 2013 (last night’s version included a narration section about drooling). Next came “Buffalo Bill,” which featured an “Icculus” tease at the end. Next came what seemed to be a fitting cap to an all-time great set, “You Enjoy Myself.” However, during the jam section, Anastasio began singing the lyrics to another bust-out, “Catapult,” last heard on July 27, 2014. During the ensuing rendition, Anastsio told a story about a couple he had met in his hotel who had promised to marry if bassist Mike Gordon sang “Contact.” Sure enough, the band transitioned to the song, with Anastasio adding some “Bridal Chorus” teases as the song ended. Anastasio then signaled to Fishman, and the band launched back into the “YEM” jam section, eventually concluding the unbelievable set with a spirited vocal jam. A short “More” began the encore, and “Tweezer Reprise” fittingly closed the incredible show.
Check out the full setlist below as it appears in our Box Scores section, along with fan-shot video and pro-shot footage of each set opener via LivePhish’s webcast. Phish are on a break until they wrap up their summer schedule with a three-night Labor Day weekend run at Colorado’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park starting Aug. 30.
Alpine Valley Music Theatre – East Troy, WI
Set I: The Landlady, Olivia’s Pool, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, Meatstick, Vultures, Spock’s Brain, Pebbles and Marbles, Glide, About to Run, Strange Design, Timber (Jerry The Mule), I Didn’t Know, Good Times Bad Times
Set II: Mercury > Ruby Waves > Twist > Swept Away > Steep > Death Don’t Hurt Very Long, Icculus, Buffalo Bill, You Enjoy Myself > Catapult > Contact > You Enjoy Myself
Enc: More > Tweezer Reprise