Phish’s Halloween Weekend in AC Surprises, Amazes

Anticipation mounted on the day of Halloween. As thousands of people stood in line to get into historic Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, people took to Twitter to see if there was a leak for what Phish would play as its musical costume on Halloween.

Around 6:38, just eight minutes after the doors opened, pictures and reports of Phish’s second set were officially made known, and it was a curveball. Since Phish never really promised a costume of some over-played classic rock album, they decided to take the ballsier route and debut a set’s worth of new music – an album called “Wingsuit.”

Phish hasn’t even tested the new material in the studio yet but they wanted to do something special for the fans who have followed them loyally for 30 years. The new music was fun, and a lot of respect has to be given to the band for doing something so risky. Some are still disappointed – many who didn’t even go to the show and have no right to complain – but the consensus in that arena that night was love for the new material.

The first set was fast and a little rushed, which was obvious with the band nervous heading into their second set. “Heavy Things,” the band’s only radio hit, “Moma Dance” and a rushed “Poor Heart” started things off. They were followed by “Back on the Train” and a “Horse”-less “Silent In the Morning.

The band finally fired up when they went into “Kill Devils Falls,” which brought some serious heat. They rode that into a good “Mound” and “Camel Walk” before a very neat “Stash.” “Golgi Apparatus” was destined to close the first set but the band ripped into a “Bathtub Gin” that was absolutely incredible and one of the show’s highlights.

The new album was next, and it did not disappoint. “Wingsuit,” the title track, kicked off with an airy Pink Floyd-like sound. That was followed by the album’s best song, “Fuego,” which is going to be a show highlight every time it’s played. It’s that darn good. That was followed by a solid song dedicated to Memphis basketball alum Darius Washington Jr. (story) called “The Line.”

The first of three acoustic songs made it’s debut in “Monica,” which sounded like a 60’s single. “Waiting All Night” and “Snow” sandwiched the other show highlight, “Wombat,” which hilariously featured Abe Vigoda dressed as a wombat and the Abe Vigoda Dancers. (The dancing wombat was not Vigoda, who came out after the song in the same costume as a joke.)

The rest of the album was “Devoted to a Dream,” “555,” “Winterqueen,” “Amidst the Peals of Laughter,” and “You Never Know.” 555 was a funky jam that will turn into another album highlight, and Amidst… will turn into a gorgeous acoustic duet between Trey Anastasio and Paige McConnell.

The band, finally free of the jitters it had going into the second set, exploded during a fire-heavy third set. They kicked off with a 35-minute combo of “Ghost” and “Carini,” which brought some serious energy to the crowd. “Birds of a Feather” kept the crowd rocking before another show highlight, “Harry Hood,” soared with McConnell’s fantastic keyboard work.

A fantastic “Bug” followed before the band ended the third set with a high-octane “Antelope.” Then encore was short and sweet with the Bob Dylan-penned “Mighty Quinn,” a fun song that needs to be paired with another song.

I did not attend Friday’s show, which was the consensus best show of the weekend. The setlist can be seen here. The show featured a fantastic second set with a soaring “Chalk Dust Torture” and excellent encore of a jammed-out “Sneakin’ Sally.”

Saturday’s show didn’t disappoint either. “Wilson”-int0-“Rift” kicked off the show. A standard but nice “Ocelot” followed with a fantastic “Water In the Sky.” “Sample In A Jar,” “Funky Bitch,” and “46 Days” kept the energy up before the highlight of the night, a “Theme From the Bottom” that oddly turned funky as ever.

“Yarmuth Road” and “Limb” were nice set additions before the triplets of “Mike’s Song,” an airy “I Am Hydrogen” and “Weekapaug Groove” ended the first set.

The second set continued to keep the crowd happy with a nice, long “Down With Disease.” That carried into a beautiful “Piper,” excellent “Roggae,” and “Waves,” before getting the crowd ramped back up with a fantastic “Tweezer.” As Tweezer concluded, “Julius” got the crowd back into a dancing mood before “Backwards Down the Number Line” soared with Anastasio’s solo. Backwards was oddly placed at the back-end of the second set, but it’s a great song and people enjoy it.

“Character Zero” ended the second set. “Sleeping Monkey” kicked off the encore with drummer Jon Fishman leading the crowd during the chorus. After a misfire on the home stretch, the band fired off the ending solo before ending the show with a “Tweezer Reprise.” The placed absolutely exploded when the band kicked into the main jam of the song, leaving everyone sweaty, tired and happy with how the mini Fall Tour ended.

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