BEING THERE: Phish @ The Met

Phish Perform Live Exclusive Concert For SiriusXM And Pandora Listeners At The Met In Philadelphia

Photo by Kevin Mazur for Getty/SiriusXM

Beyond the givens when seeing Phish— long improvisational grooves, setlist gags, middle-aged fans huffing Hippy Crack after the show, and the day-after ache in my legs from three hours of channeling my dance moves from the spirit of Vincent Vega— no one knows what to expect from a Phish show, and anyone tells you otherwise is a liar. There was a little bit of online controversy surrounding their show at The Met last night. Because the concert was a SiriusXM promotional event, no tickets were put on sale for the general public. Instead, tickets were only available via internet radio sweepstakes, which is a little odd for a band so interested in fan-service.

Be that as it may, for a band that has consistently sold out four-night New Years Eve runs at Madison Square Garden over the past decade, the 3,500 capacity is tiny. Phish has not played venues that small since the Japan tour in the summer of 2000, where the band’s trademark raging, shredding grime was often transfigured into a soupy, spacey jam segment. Those shows are some of my personal favorites, especially because the band’s ambient psychedelia, driven by intense feedback and delay-loop heavy improvisation, was completely brought on by the intimate size of these venues.

Last night, the boys did not disappoint. I thought they were unbelievably tight right out of the gate and judging by the ecstatic response of the 3,500 sardines in attendance last night, I am not alone. The crowd roared as the lights dimmed and Phish walked on stage, but something was different this time: everyone, including the band, seemed to recognize their close proximity to one another. As if a testament to the audience/band bond, the crowd quickly quieted as guitarist Trey Anastasio’s wheezing harmonica kicked off an acapella version of “Hello My Baby,” its first live appearance in ten years. The crowd exploded when the band started into “Tweezer,” a funky setlist staple elongated with extensive jams. The funk train didn’t let up in the transition to a solid version of “Blaze On,” with a thick groove laid down by Mike Gordon while Trey, half-smiling and half-mouthing the sounds of his guitar, took us to a soaring peak.

Then came the warmly welcomed “Jesus Just Left Chicago,” a song they have not performed in five years. A brief reprise of “Tweezer” built up to a gnarly, hypnotic moment where keyboardist Page McConnell’s droning synth merged with Trey’s distorted feedback screams, and Gordon hopped on to drop bombs in tandem with drummer John Fishman’s percussive trance. A solid, emotionally apt version of “Drift While You’re Sleeping” closed out the first set, but I was still caught up in that brief moment of incredible drone noise that was like a revised, heavier version of the late nineties ambient drone.

Set two was strong beginning to end, starting off with a version of “Chalk Dust Torture” that brought on numerous, abnormally funky peaks.Throughout the whole show, Mike’s basslines never let up the stank, more than evident in his solo intro to “Weekapaug Groove.” “Twist” took us deep into psychedelic territory while a wonderful cover of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” was the perfect sing-along track. A completely unhinged cover of the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey may very well may have been the highlight of the show. And I was thrilled that “Waste” kicked off the encore, followed by the ultimate closer, “Tweezer Reprise.” — PEYTON MITZEL