Phish @ Boardwalk Hall – October 30, 2010
Since the begining of the Halloween Musical Costume tradition, Phish has historically taken the night of October 30th off, playing only two pre-Halloween shows (1998 and 2009). So coming into Saturday in Atlantic City on the coat tails of an epic week and red hot Friday night, all signs seemed to point towards two sets of energy conservation; the quiet before the storm.
[Photo by Regan Teti Marscher from 10/29]
Enter Boardwalk Hall. The pre-show energy from Saturday night’s crowd was formidable and the impromptu cheers seemed to be on the level of a New Year’s Eve show at MSG. As a new venue, Boardwalk Hall is an instant favorite. The inside of the venue looks like a cousin of Hampton Coliseum, with the ceiling of Radio City Music Hall and the vibe of a 1920’s dance hall. As the house lights dimmed, the roar of the crowd shook the scaffolds and the merry pranksters took the stage with big smiles and a few waves.
The opening notes Kill Devil Falls sucked all the energy up and spit it right back, sending the crowd into a dancing frenzy. Rather then rifling through the first set, the band took their time and a number of giddy Trey/Mike exchanges took place between each song. It was clear the band was going with the flow and playing whatever felt right. Towards the end of Guelah Papyrus, the crowd exploded into an impromptu, music-less, Kuroda-less, glow-stick-war to the delight of the band – who seemed to stand back and take it all in. READ ON for more on Saturday night’s show…
Considering its similarities to Kill Devil Falls, the inclusion of Chalkdust Torture early in the first set – along with Trey’s mile long grin – was an early indication that there was something awry. As Chalkdust entered a ’94-esque tension and release segment replete with odd time signatures, Trey led the way into and out of Led Zeppelin’s Whole Lotta Love. Following the close to Chalkdust, the band let us all know the prank was on via the Fishman original Ha Ha Ha immediately dispelling any worries about a standard show.
The high energy vibe continued throughout a nicely crafted first set and included a stellar Wolfman’s Brother that took on a vocal jam improvised segment. As the vocals tapered off, the band wandered through a familiar yet somewhat adventurous territory that was led by Mike Gordon’s rumbling bass and supported by what sounded like an eight armed Jon Fishman. Things fell apart a bit toward the end of the exploration in Wolfman’s Brother but this created a blank canvas that provided for an incredible version of Undermind – a song that has seemingly taken on a few different personalities since the bands return in 2009. Led almost entirely by Fishman’s rollicking fills and even a few drum solos, Undermind was almost unrecognizable compared to its album form. Clearly enjoying the new take, Big Red went into machine gun mode, sans whale calls and dying dinosaurs.
After a Zepped outro to Bathtub Gin, Page closed the first set with a beautiful Squirming Coil that sent the crowd reeling with excitement into the corridors to gush over what wasn’t going to be played on Halloween.
Phish opened the second set with a tight and funky Tube that gave way to a speedy Possum that ultimately set the pace for the set. Everyone knew we were due for a Tweezer and when it hit, Mike Gordon dropped bass bombs everywhere. As the band entered into the initial creative calm of Tweezer, the jam was cut short as Trey rolled into the main riff from Zeppelin’s Heartbreaker. What seemed to be just-another-tease was soon accompanied by lyrics. No sooner could you get excited before they dipped right back into the Tweezer jam. And so it went….a trip down the bands collective memory lane and garage band days began as they tore through a Zeppelin medley: Heartbreaker > Ramble On > Thank You > Tweezer > Stairway to Heaven.
In a few cases, the execution was more Phish then Zeppelin but you could tell they had spent some time spare time getting the prank together. The whole medley wasn’t memorized but it was certainly from memory and what emerged was not perfection, but pure unadulterated fun. It was one of those great moments where Trey and Page could barely sing through their smiles as they belted out lyrics in unison.
The end of the set was anchored by an incredibly purposed 2001, the likes of which could easily have found its place in the sets of Fall 1997. Trey spent the majority of his time in the murk, constructing a sonic canvas that allowed Mike and Fish and Page to unearth the funk. Once the setting was established and a couple teases were snuck in, Trey dug in and blasted off.
While the close of the set lacked in song choice, they were well played and by no means killed what energy was left, the Sleeping Monkey > Tweezer Reprise encore was proof of that.
The band showed that they are currently in a state of invincibility, displaying full confidence that they can pull “it” off – or at least enough confidence to try. Most importantly, they showed they can still have fun.
10/30/2010 Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall
Set 1: Kill Devil Falls, Cavern > Foam, Guelah Papyrus, Chalk Dust Torture -> Whole Lotta Love > Chalk Dust Torture, Ha Ha Ha, Walk Away, Wolfman’s Brother -> Undermind > Bathtub Gin, The Squirming Coil
Set 2: Tube > Possum > Tweezer -> Heartbreaker -> Ramble On-> Thank You -> Tweezer -> Stairway to Heaven, Halley’s Comet> Also Sprach Zarathustra > David Bowie, Show of Life, Backwards Down the Number Line > Good Times Bad Times
 One verse only.
 Vocal jam.
 Whole Lotta Love tease.
 Whole Lotta Love and Sneakin’ Sally teases.
 Phish debut; Incomplete.
Whole Lotta Love was incomplete (one verse only) and was played for the first time since March 1, 1991 (1,033 shows). Wolfman’s contained a vocal jam. Gin, Possum and Tweezer and Tweezer Reprise all contained Whole Lotta Love teases. The incomplete versions of Heartbreaker, Thank You, and Stairway to Heaven were all Phish debuts. Ramble On was played for the first time since August 12, 1998 (305 shows). After Stairway to Heaven, Trey joked, “Happy Halloween! See you all next year.” Appropriately, Whole Lotta Love was also the post-show music. From the soundcheck, Ramble On and the second and third versions of Whole Lotta Love were incomplete. Destiny Unbound (in the soundcheck) was played by only Mike and Fish.