Thursday 07/29/2021 by phishnet

ARKANSAS RECAP: WELCOME BACK!

[Phish.net thanks volunteer recapper Michael Ayers (@yhgtbfkm) for writing this recap. PhishNet depends on volunteers to recap shows, and opinions offered herein do not necessarily reflect those of PhishNet and our volunteer community. On behalf of fans everywhere, it sure is good to be back! -Ed.]

Welcome back everyone!

Tonight marks the first time Phish is playing in The Natural State, one of a handful of states that the band has never played.

There’s always an air of mystery surrounding tour openers, but given everything that’s occurred over the past 18 months, I’m sure everyone had more questions than normal. What would the band open with? Would they be rusty? Would the venue still be selling $15 Bud Lights? (Spoiler, they were and they were just as bad as you remember them).

With all of these questions and more bouncing around in my head, my friend and I took up residence Page side on the lawn at the Walmart AMP (a surprisingly nice little venue that I later found out stood for “Arkansas Music Pavilion”) and got settled in for what was sure to be an interesting night.

© 2021 Phish - Rene Huemer (used with permission)
© 2021 Phish - Rene Huemer (used with permission)

Around 7:30pm local time, the house lights dropped and the band came out to the roar of the crowd. Everyone gets into their familiar spots on stage, instruments in hand, and without further ado, the first Phish song of the 4.0 era is….

(checks Phish show opener bingo card)

(checks 8 other Phish show opener bingo cards)

"I Never Needed You Like This Before!" Arguably not a song too many would have predicted the band would open the tour with (I’m sure somewhere deep on Reddit somebody did and is now bragging to all of their friends how they totally called it), but considering the moment, a song that makes perfect sense.

© 2021  Kevin Umberger (used with permission)
© 2021 Kevin Umberger (used with permission)

"Tube" follows "INNYLTB," and the band is already grooving. "Tube" brings the funk and then the band changes gears and starts up "Free."

One thing I want to point out is just how GOOD the band sounds, both musically and vocally. I was re-listening to the show on the drive home this morning, and I just couldn’t get over how good they sounded for having been off for so long. "Free" especially sounds great, and I was really impressed with how most everything gelled. Normally, you expect a tiny bit of rust the first few shows while the band gets their tour legs underneath them, but they came right out of the chute firing on all cylinders.

Following "Free" are standard but well-played versions of "Bouncing Around the Room" and "46 Days."

The band closes out the first set with "Limb By Limb," "Wolfman’s Brother," "NICU" and a rousing rendition of "Drift While You’re Sleeping."

Set break gives us all a much needed break to sit down and cool off. Even though the sun’s gone down, it’s still blazing hot on the lawn, and the lack of a breeze isn’t making things any easier.

© 2021 Phish - Rene Huemer (used with permission)
© 2021 Phish - Rene Huemer (used with permission)

After thirty minutes or so, the house lights go down and the band comes out. Mike picks up his bass and starts smacking his fist against it, signaling to all of us that "Down with Disease" is about to start. "Disease," a song many predicted would open the show, is well-played. All of the energy from the first set carried over into "Disease," with the band (and the audience) cooking.

Trey eventually starts up the opening riff to "Simple" and the jam quickly downshifts into something more melancholy. At about the 14 minute mark of "Simple," I start to hear what sounds like Trey teasing "Fuego."

Trey: I’m a sailor’s girl, the best is yet to come…

Oh, so I guess they’re playing "Fuego" now. I think the audience realized what was happening about the same time as the rest of the band did because the start was a little choppy but hey, like Primus said, they can’t all be zingers.

© 2021 Phish - Rene Huemer (used with permission)
© 2021 Phish - Rene Huemer (used with permission)


"Fuego" (more like Fueg-ugh, amirte? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) transitions into "Plasma," which then shifts into "Runaway Jim," which contains a delightful, but brief, segue into "Weekapaug Groove" before transitioning back into "Jim." Up next is "Rift," making a rare second set appearance.

The band closes out the night with wonderful renditions of "If I Could" (one of my favorite Phish songs), "Rise/Come Together" (with especially spirited singing from Trey and Page) and "Slave to the Traffic Light," a perfect way to end a perfect evening.

After a brief break, the band comes out, gives thanks to everyone for coming out and for how much they have enjoyed playing in Arkansas, and then launches into "Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S" to close us out and send us our merry way.

© 2021 Phish - Rene Huemer (used with permission)
© 2021 Phish - Rene Huemer (used with permission)

If this show is any indication of how the rest of the tour is going to go, we are in for one hell of a summer. A solid setlist containing a wonderful mix of old and new tunes, combined with some absolutely stellar playing and singing, can you really ask for any more? I know I can’t, and with nine more shows left to see, I cannot wait to see what the band has in store for us.

For those of you heading to Alabama, be safe, hydrate and have fun. I will see all of you back in Noblesville.

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Comments

, comment by yem1991
yem1991 Not much of a review. Basically just a long-form version of the setlist lol
, comment by Patwich
Patwich The bands first show since February of 2020 and this is all you have to say? What about the depth of jamming? You spend a whole 5 sentences from the start of DWD to the transition from Simple to Fuego and don't really paint any sort of a picture for the reader. What was it like pre-show in the lot and venue? What was it like post show? Paint me (the reader sitting thousands of miles away on their couch) a picture of what it was like.
, comment by Garrett
Garrett I watched via webcast and I didnt think they were as in sync as the write up notes. But you gotta love it at the same time cause you can see it in their faces and trey's laughter on any slip up is great. Wolfman was highlight of the show. They found a solid groove for a while then trey broke them out of it into a nice solo. Runaway > Weekapaugh > Runaway was cool just because well...it happened. I didnt get to listen to the 2nd set full, but for a first night and where they were taking these jams to all different sounds was pretty cool...
, comment by munrosa
munrosa Thank you for taking the time to write this recap Michael. Much appreciated!
, comment by ucpete
ucpete Let's be realistic - there was a TON of slop in this show: missed changes, flubs galore, technical issues - but there was more than enough Phishy goodness to keep us excited for what's to come

And for what it's worth, @Bizarro_Jerry totally called the opener:
https://twitter.com/bizarchive/status/1420499048038076417?s=20
, comment by FunkyCFunkyDo
FunkyCFunkyDo @ucpete Yeah from a technical standpoint, they did not seem polished... at all. Fish seemed way-too-excitedly all over the place (but I can't really blame him, knowing his 2020/21 personal stressors on top of the pandemic stressors - I am sure this was a huge 'blowing off steam' experience for him). Trey seemed almost timid, overthinking, perhaps - he forgot the closing trill to Bouncing and tried to cover it up, among the most obvious of many misses.

However, Trey's tone was top-notch. His sound and rig was dialed into perfection, and, to my ears, it sounded almost identical to his 1998 Island Tour tone: warm, soft, mellifluous. I hope this stays, because he has got a great sonic foundation with which to build and grow as the tour progresses.

Mike and Page, as always, were the stalwarts of the modern iteration of Phish. They both looked and sounded ready. I cannot overstate how their role has shifted from support to lead in the last decade, and they are embracing this with gusto and confidence.

From an improv standpoint, man, can't really ask for much more for the first show back in 17 months, especially with the pandemic still rampaging throughout the country, and more scarily, in this exact locale. 46 Days got really dense and thick - a morass of darkness. A midnight forest, right before a storm. Wolfman's toyed between getting fully extended and staying within its "usual" framework, and this duality worked well! Inventive, original, and playful! But the real treat was the later half of DWD and then its -> Simple > Fuego > Plasma. Simple, especially, featured eerily reminiscent styles of the Storage Jam, the 2014 Haunted House Set, and a touch of my favorite Summer 2003 ambience. Dark! Fuego and Plasma continued to rummage through the darkness with captivating tension, as did the back half of a fun-filled Jim.

Jamming-wise, the feel was a combo of Summer 98 and Summer 03... albeit with far less depth and exploration (it is just one show, their first show, after all). But, this courage to explore darkness feels all too right and necessary right now, and I am happy Phish is captaining our journey. Pretty stoked to see how this sound evolves.

Oh, the new LED strips/bars are a FANTASTIC addition to Kuroda's rig. The amount of moving parts... I mean, I was floored watching it from my couch. I cannot believe the three dimensional depth and patterns he creates with light. My eyeballs needed a cigarette after watching that thing.
, comment by gringojim
gringojim Thanks for the recap Michael. After what we’ve all been through, it’s great to be at a point where we’re experiencing live shows again. We’re lucky compared to the rest of the world. Enjoy this band while we can. Looking forward to Noblesville.
, comment by SkyBallz
SkyBallz I thought their jamming was surprisingly adept for having all that time off. As soon as they downshifted for the "Simple" jam, I said to my buddy, "THIS is what they've been waiting to play". An emotional return turned, intentionally, into joy and camaraderie. Glad I got to couch tour with you all!
, comment by KingofPhrance
KingofPhrance This is the worst take on a show I have ever read in 28 years as a fan.
, comment by kipmat
kipmat Michael, great job, thanks taking the time to write this recap. @KingofPhrance, it looks like you were in attendance, what's your recap of this show?
, comment by Wombat_en_Fuego
Wombat_en_Fuego @yem1991 said:
Not much of a review. Basically just a long-form version of the setlist lol
I was thinking the same exact thing.
, comment by radio_unfriendly
radio_unfriendly @ucpete said:
Let's be realistic - there was a TON of slop in this show: missed changes, flubs galore, technical issues - but there was more than enough Phishy goodness to keep us excited for what's to come
Finally someone who knows what they're talking about.
, comment by experiencechuck
experiencechuck @Wombat_en_Fuego said:
@yem1991 said:
Not much of a review. Basically just a long-form version of the setlist lol
I was thinking the same exact thing.

it’s a good thing it’s clearly labeled “recap” and not “review” then, cuz they’re spot on :D

thx for the recap! & @ucpete is right on per usual
, comment by Shockedandpursuaded
Shockedandpursuaded Bueller here I guess. Simple Jam into Fuego was ripping. A highlight of the playback I heard.
Odd dark jazz musicians on intravenous drugs type of dialogue between jokesters who practice their language longtime!
@Funkycfunkydo is pretty on point with the tonal love.
From Fuego to quickly paced Plasma they really turned it on IMO.
Jim is so fast paced that long versions get boring. This was quicker than a teenaged cheerleader fantasy. That worked as well as the Hot For Teacher video.
Pretty damn cool show! DWD is often the carrier but maybe too obvious of a song. Didnt quite get to me but Damn I’m glad glad glad theses fellas are back even if I didnt get to go!
Enjoy your shows kids!
, comment by lbag420
lbag420 Plus one dude
Thanks for the review
, comment by dmweinberg1
dmweinberg1 Posting because I don't see it mentioned above.... I think my favorite song from this show was the very bluesy Wolfman from the 1st set.
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