Phish Closes Two-Night Stand In Charleston With Sci-Fi Soldier Songs, Big “Simple” Jam [Photos/Videos]

Phish crossed the halfway point of its brief spring 2022 tour on Wednesday in Charleston, SC, completing the fifth show thus far this stretch with no repeated songs. The band’s first gigs at the Credit One Stadium proved a great success overall, with many fans saying the intimate tennis facility’s stadium setup reminded them of a scaled-down version of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO.

The band kicked off the night nodding to the sore late-spring temps with a cover of The Velvet Underground‘s “Cool it Down”, played for only the 11th time since it first debuted in Las Vegas on Halloween night 1998 during Phish’s full-album cover of Loaded, In terms of setting the tone for a tight, fiery night, it was an obvious choice in hindsight and makes one wonder why it doesn’t show up more often.

Phish – “Cool It Down” (The Velvet Underground) [Pro-Shot] – 6/1/22

Next came “Foam”, one of the band’s more intricate compositions and one that bassist Mike Gordon had been sharing footage of himself practicing on social media as of late. That woodshedding paid off, as this was easily the most precise execution of the song the band has played in years. Phish absolutely nailed it and gave the message that things would be all business this night. Or at least, as much “all business” as a Phish show could ever be.

Keeping things interesting, the group moved into “Knuckle Bone Broth Avenue”, the opening song from last year’s Halloween Sci-Fi Soldier set. Though it had been sound-checked at shows prior, this marked its first time showing up in a set since its maiden voyage. Fan reaction still seems somewhat split on this one, but if you must choose some nonsense to sing over a funk jam, then “Knuckle Bone Broth Avenue” works just fine. Besides, once keyboardist Page McConnell started playing the synth sweeps on his Moog, it was hard to focus on anything else. The jam out of “KBBA” took a bit to find its legs, but once it did it led to some fine experimental shredding from guitarist Trey Anastasio,

As the sun began to descend behind the top of Credit One Stadium, the band landed in the beloved ballad, “Dirt”. A sunset “Dirt” is the ideal landing platform for anything, and this one was as elegant as always. A strong rendition of Gordo’s “555” popped up next in the five-spot before moving straight into “Gumbo”. One of the definitive Phish grooves in the catalog, this version was solid, albeit lacking in the extended closing jam everyone always hopes for. On the second verse of “Gumbo” Trey also pulled that new thing where he suddenly tries singing up a full octave higher than normal, and… well, I’m just not sure why he keeps trying that move; that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Related: Phish Makes Credit One Stadium Debut With 22-Minute “Set Your Soul Free” Opener [Videos]

“Backwards Down the Number Line” came next and played its reliable sing-along role before melting into “The Wedge”, which similarly sounded like its normal, absolutely perfect self. Anastasio then locked in for “About to Run”, the heaviest rocker from his Ghosts of the Forest project and one of the handful of tunes from GOTF that has now fully established itself in the Phish repertoire. Despite all the technical intricacies he can display, sometimes there’s nothing better than hearing Trey rip a straight-ahead shredder, and this was no exception.

The first set finally closed out with “Divided Sky”, somehow the song’s first time taking that placement since 2003. By this point nightfall had near-fully descended, allowing lighting designer Chris Kuroda to jelly with the band for the first real time of the night. The “fifth member” of Phish helped launch things into awe and splendor in tandem with Anastasio’s inspiring guitar lines.

Phish – “Wilson” [Pro-Shot] – 6/1/22

The familiar call to arms of “Wilson” fired off the second frame in Charleston, staying within the confines of its form but still gloriously slamming against the walls. But when the opening riff of “Simple” started up next, there was a collective tingling of hairs, the air was primed for a journey of mutant expansion. These early second-set “Simple”s tend to do that, and this one, clocking in at over 23 minutes, did not disappoint.

After the quartet moved through the verses, a dark groove began to take hold. Morphing between major and minor keys and back again—moments of comfortable terror met with respites of bittersweet suspension—this jam touched upon a plethora of different ideas. Trey used his phaser pedals to drive things with authority, and subtlety was nowhere near part of the plan.

Emerging on the other side of Jon Fishman‘s rolling-thunder pocket and Anastasio’s tasteful but intimidating trills, the four-man hose truly clicked in the final few minutes of this “Simple” jam, reminding all bearing witness that no other band can reach that place quite like Phish does at its collective peak.

The opening strums of “Prince Caspian” initially felt oddly placed, but with Trey in attack mode, all bets were off. This “Caspian” jam did start to fall apart a little before Anastasio figured out it could segue perfectly into “Egg in a Hole”, another Sci-Fi soldier song that fit in well with the aggressive nature of the set. The brief, subsequent jam seemed to lean toward a return to “Caspian”, but quickly led straight into “Piper”.

This “Piper” jam felt equally as truculent as its preceding jams and quickly moved into a Fishman-driven power shuffle. It was one of those moments where you say, “Oh yeah, that’s why they named the band after him.” At one point, the whole band seemed to flirt with the groove to “Guy Forget”—which was teased and quoted at soundcheck—before dropping into a pocket that felt like underwater capoeira. It was fierce, it was glorious, but it was unfortunately followed by a forced return to “Caspian” by Anastasio—another move he’s been pulling as of late that tends to damper the flow of a set.

Trey’s pandemic-penned “Lonely Trip” then eased things back a little. This tune seems to be finding its role in the late-second-set ballad spot, which is great, but on this night it signaled the end to the exploratory portion of the evening. “Back On the Train” got a warm welcome next, and like most every song in the set, was swinging for the fences out of the gates. Then came one of Page’s Vida Blue tunes, “Most Events Aren’t Planned” which has showed up at Phish shows with increasing frequency in the past few years. This version felt like the band as a whole was more comfortable playing it, as if the code to the groove had finally been cracked.

All three versions of “Blaze On” played thus far in 2022 have fallen in the set-closer position, but this one went out like it had something extra to prove. The second half of this set may have lacked a cohesive flow, but each song was so independently strong that it really didn’t matter. The “Blaze On” felt like one last serving of raucous joy.

A 4-song encore started off with “Nothing”, a 20-year-old song that’s never really found its footing. This marked just its eighth time ever played, its first time in 158 shows, and its first time in the encore slot. While its lyrics are some of the most underrated in the band’s stable of songs co-written by Marshall, the simplicity of the song structure has made it hard for it to find its spot. Encore may just be the way to go, though. the tender Los Lobos ballad “When the Circus Comes” came next, and probably would have been more excitedly received if it hadn’t been proceeded by a similarly delicate song.

The night officially wrapped up with the classic pairing of “The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony” and “Suzy Greenberg”, the 138th time they’ve been played together as well as “Oh Kee Pa’s” first time out in 108 shows. Everybody loves a “Suzy” sendoff, and it felt like the perfect cap to the evening. Despite the last quarter of the show veering into “Jukebox Phish,” everything felt like it had a little extra sauce on it in South Carolina. Things are rolling strong into the upcoming Deer Creek run.

For a full list of upcoming Phish tour dates, head here.

Setlist [via Phish.net]: Phish | Credit One Stadium | Charleston, SC | 6/1/22

Set One: Cool It Down, Foam, Knuckle Bone Broth Avenue, Dirt, 555 > Gumbo > Backwards Down the Number Line > The Wedge, About to Run, Divided Sky

Set Two: Wilson > Simple, Prince Caspian -> Egg in a Hole > Piper > Prince Caspian, Lonely Trip > Back on the Train, Most Events Aren’t Planned, Blaze On

Encore: Nothing > When the Circus Comes, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg

Mike teased Do You Feel Like We Do before Dirt. Trey teased Prince Caspian near the end of Egg in a hole. Piper contained Guy Forget teases and quotes from Page and Manteca teases from Trey. Nothing was last played on January 15, 2017 (158 shows). The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony was last played October 20, 2018 (108 shows). The soundcheck’s My Soul had Guy Forget lyrics from Fish.

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