Friday, Aug. 5, 2022
There are many traditions from the Grateful Dead era that have carried over to the Phish tours including the phrase – “Never miss a Sunday show.” Fridays may be a new favorite amongst fans of Phish after the band bombed the beach with beats on its first night in Atlantic City.
The band’s second three-night run of shows on the sand between the Pier at Caesars and Central Pier in as many years was met with the usual phanfare.
Shakedown Street, another carryover from the Dead touring days, was getting set up just after sunrise just off the boardwalk as tents and RVs were parked and positioned for the traveling flea market.
Phish, the jam rock band from Burlington, Vermont has performed throughout the city over the years including for three-night runs around Halloween in 2010 and 2013, as well as three nights at Bader Field in 2012, the former municipal airport on the bay, before settling in the sand. As the saying goes, once you get sand your shoes, you always come back.
After seeing the band perform all three nights last year, I was familiar with the setup and it became apparent to me that after this weekend, I will have seen Phish more times than I have been to the Philadelphia Folk Festival.
However, the one thing that was different this year was ticketing. Ticketmaster and Live Nation decided to provide digital-only tickets, so the only attendees with physical tickets were the lucky ones who won the lottery to get their tickets directly from the band.
I didn’t think much about getting tickets until it was getting close to showtime. As I told people last year, the beach doesn’t sell out, so tickets were in abundance. While waiting in line with a dozen people who decided to wait for the gates to open, one guy told me that walked down the Boardwalk last year trying to give away a spare ticket.
This year was the opposite as the online reseller market was taking advantage of having a near monopoly over tickets for the show, with ticket prices on the secondary market fluctuating between $175-$375 for a 3-night pass in the days leading up to Friday before skyrocketing to more than $600 in the hours before showtime.
One person from Texas said he always booked everything in advance for all of the Phish shows that he had seen since the 90s, but enjoyed the hunt for getting his ticket on site. This year, he couldn’t find any and said overall ticketing was a stressful process.
However, once the band took to the stage at 8:07 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5 with a cool Atlantic Ocean breeze washing over the crowd, everyone’s worries were erased with the first note.
Lead singer and guitarist Trey Anastasio was decked out in his casual wear in a white Tommy Bahama-style button-down shirt while he lit the beach on fire with his fingers with the intensity of an arsonist leading the band into “Chalk Dust Torture.”
The crowd immediately knew its cue to chat the opening lines to “Wilson” as the band flowed into its second song. The song hit hard with keyboardist Page McConnell, who grew up in Philadelphia and Basking Ridge, New Jersey, picking up steam.
McConnell matched Anastasio’s style with a similar-type funky-patterned vacation shirt that, when paired with the fans blowing into his face, could have placed him on the deck of a cruise ship if he weren’t surrounded by a cubical of keyboards.
The crowd was surging by the time the band got to “Sand,” which was appropriate since the guy in front of me was wearing a shirt that read “No talking during Sand.”
Bassist Mike Gordon, who was like the Yin to Anastasio’s Yang dressed in all black and stoic in his facial expressions and body movements, even seemed pleased with himself after rocking hard for nearly 22 minutes on “Sigma Oasis.”
The light show yet again was another stellar aspect that added to the music as the stage was painted with green and purple stripes and enough black light to make the yellow doughnuts on drummer Jon Fishman’s dark green muumuu glow in the dark.
By the end of the first set ended at 9:26 p.m. with Anastasio giggling to himself playing “More,” the crowd was left turning to one another saying – “Did you just see that?”
The second set began at 10:05 p.m. slow and jammy with some super deep bass with just set up Gordon to go off for the third song “Down With The Disease.” The song was so intense that the band has to take it down as it went into “Ghost.”
The diversity of these musicians is what makes their energy on stage so wonderful. Fishman plays the drums like a jazzhead and throughout the show I noticed him mouthing noises like Keith Jarrett.
Anastasio knows just the right moment to attack his guitar and gently guide it into the night. However, I have heard anything so metal as the guitar solo that he pulled out during “Ghost.” It was like he was channeling both Dimebag Darrell and Frank Zappa. It had him giggling to start “Harry Hood,” which closed the second set at 11:28 p.m.
The encore included “Sleeping Monkey” which had the crowd cheering when Anastasio said “Down the shore, that’s the Jersey Shore,” and “Free,” which included the meta lyric “In a minute I’ll be free and you’ll be splashing in the sea,” as Atlantic City Beach Patrol lifeguards overlooked Phishheads cooling off in the ocean.
Friday, Aug. 5, 2022 setlist
Chalk Dust Torture
Theme From the Bottom
Back on the Train
Axilla (Part II)
Down with Disease
Down with Disease
Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022
For night two, somehow I got there early. I managed to shimmy through Shakedown Street which happened to be behind the office for my day job just off the Boardwalk and I was one of the first people in line.
The nice CSC Security Guard guard offered to make me her test subject in line since she didn’t have anyone else to play with. She mentioned that she was called in from New York City because the security was too lax on Friday evening.
Once I was thoroughly tested and re-tested, I was released into the general population of Phish who were swimming between the Boardwalk and the ocean.
Somehow, I managed to find the same crew that I met from the previous night – Rob and his wife Gina from near Akron, Ohio, and Andy, from North Jersey, who we were together on the Page side, stage right, inside Gate 2.
When the band took the stage at 8:08 p.m. McConnell waved to the crowd wearing a button-down shirt bearing a dark green leaf pattern.
Anastasio again was wearing his Aloha wear with a yellow and pink Hawaiian-style polo shirt with white pants and shoes and was matched by Gordon who was wearing a white button-down shirt with a black pattern, white pants and a fancy pair of red sneakers. Fishman was rocking a dark blue muumuu with glowing orange doughnuts.
Trey immediately began melting the collective crowds’ faces with his guitar solo for “46 Days.” The band seemed set in its groove as it tore through “The Moma Dance,” “Olivia’s Pool” and then drifted into “My Soul.”
On “NICU,” McConnell really set the tempo with a funky organ solo and then followed up with hitting the piano keys hard to begin “Bathtub Gin,” which itself contained an intense jam that broke down to lead into “Heavy Rotation” which transitioned into “Character Zero.” the band played “Moonage Daydream,” under a hazy moon hovering over the former Pier One Mall with Gordon hitting the lower register hard enough to make the sand shake.
For the second set, the band went super psychedelic opening up with “No Men In No Man’s Land” and then rocking through “Tweezer.”
The boys got their rocks off during “Simple” with McConnell soaring above the crowd with his keyboard stylings and Gordon taking a cordless drill to his bass strings to drag the song into the deep, murky waters.
Everything cleared up for a bopping version of “Backwards Down The Number Line” and then the band played “Golgi Apparatus” and closed the second set with “Slave To The Traffic Light” at 11:21 p.m. before taking a 3-minute break before retiring to play “A Life Beyond The Dream” and “Tweezer Reprise” for the encore. The encore was a repeat of the same two songs the band played Saturday night on the beach the previous year.
Saturday, Aug. 6, 2022 Setlist
The Moma Dance
No Men In No Man’s Land
Set Your Soul Free
Backwards Down The Number Line
Slave To The Traffic Light
A Life Beyond The Dream
Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022
The energy from the first two nights of Phish in Atlantic City nights flowed right into Sunday. Phans, who seemed to be in the minority on Friday afternoon with people openly asking on the Jitney and Boardwalk “What is Phish.”
After seeing my 13th show since 2009 on Sunday night on the beach, and my 12th in my hometown, I am still not really sure.
The High Note correspondent Heather Reo joined me to help me try to make sense of the third evening for psychedelic-infused rock ‘n’ roll, blues, jazz and reggae music as she had the previous year and to help confirm if the things that I saw over the previous two nights were in fact, real.
We began with the amazing second day of PhanArt Atlantic City, a collection of artwork and merchandise created by fans who are as talented as they are as passionate about the band.
As I did the previous two nights, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went through security. This time, it started to feel like every other concert with the hustle beginning at the gate as I paid a small toll of a joint as I walk through. I had only 11 left for the show.
I settled into my spot on the McConnell side in the pit and found Andy, one of the friends, who I had made during the weekend, who was flying solo for his final night. The crowd seemed as large as Saturday but a bit more spread out, but this was bubble and balloon territory.
People were largely positive despite the horror stories I heard from people who were trying to get tickets – although I heard a rumor that the same security guard who shook me down for some weed was taking two $20 bills instead of tickets.
The band hit the stage at 8:11 p.m. jumping into “Wolfman’s Brother” wearing their Sunday best. Trey was wearing a black shirt with white waves, white pants and shoes.
Fishman was wearing his purple muumuu with green doughnuts and Gordon was wearing a blue, long-sleeved button-down shirt rolled up to his elbows, blue jeans and green Air Jordans that were the same color as Fishman’s doughnuts, with red socks.
Gordon was feeling the groove from the beginning and was sliding up and down his bass with fervor for “Ocelot” giving a small child on his mother’s shoulders a solid beat to bounce with.
Anastasio really started to heat up during “Ocelot” which only encouraged McConnell to step up to another level on “Fluffhead.”
Fishman broke out the marimba on “Mercury,” which was delightful and Gorder was sending things down into the lower register for “Gumbo.” The band performed a spooky “Carini” complete with effects with Anastasio emerging out of the dark like a hero in a slasher film complete with a sick guitar solo in which I heard notes of Eddie Van Halen.
With the way that Gordon was grooving all weekend, it was no surprise that the band opened up the second set at 10:06 p.m. with “Mike’s Song.”
They powered through picking up speed until “You Enjoy Myself” which featured a funky vocal improvisation, trampolines and a sick jam to close the song.
The band broke right into “Suzie Greenberg” to close out the second set, almost abruptly at 11:13 p.m. leaving the crowd waiting a mere 3 minutes before returning to the stage for “Wading in the Velvet Sea,” another one of Reo’s favorites to open the encore.
Finally, the band closed its weekend on the beach with a searing version of “First Tube” that had even had Lucy the Elephant wagging her tail down in Margate City.
Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022 Setlist
Mountains in the Mist
I Am Hydrogen
A Wave of Hope
You Enjoy Myself
Wading in the Velvet Sea
See Phish at the Budweiser Stage Wednesday, Aug. 10 at the Budweiser Stage in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Aug. 13-14 at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin and Sept. 1-3 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. See Phish.com for tickets.