Jones Beach Theater is located on the shores of Long Island Sound in Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, NY. This outdoor amphitheater is one of two “large” outdoor venues in the Greater New York City area with the Garden State Arts Center being the other one, located on the opposite side of the city. With a capacity of approximately 15,000 people this venue attracts a wide variety of performers and has been a mainstay of the summer season since opening in 1952. There have been several updates and additions to the venue over the years including a smaller “theater” setting that seats approximately 5,000 people but that venue is not one where Phish has performed. In 2012 the venue was inundated with water from the storm surge related to Hurricane Sandy resulting in a $20M project to repair the theater in advance of the 2013 season. Phish has played here in two of the three main eras of their career with the majority of the performances occurring since The Return in 2009.
The fourteen shows Phish has played at Jones Beach have all been in the summer months with the first two in 1992 being single set performances on other tours (i.e. not as part of a Phish Summer Tour). The initial performance took place as headliner for the H.O.R.D.E. tour while the second was a set opening for Santana later that same month. All subsequent performances have been Phish-only two set shows with single night visits in 1993, 1994, and 2013 and multi-night stands in 1995, 2009 (3 nights), 2010, and 2012. While Friday is the most common day for Phish to play here with five such shows all other days of the week except for Monday and Saturday have witnessed Phish on this stage. Coincidentally, the first and last performances here both occurred on July 12th.
07.12.1992 Phish’s first visit to Jones Beach was a single set performance as part of the now defunct H.O.R.D.E Tour (Horizons Of Rock Developing Everywhere – anyone else remember the ‘theme’ song?), Jon Popper’s brainchild that helped spur the jamband movement in the early 90s by getting like-minded bands and fans together for shows at the large outdoor sheds around the country instead of cramping into small indoor venues. That’s putting it very simply but I’ll recommend you do a little internetting if you are curious about the development and evolution of the concept. For this show Phish had the headliner slot as it would be their final performance with the traveling fest before leaving for a few small theater shows ahead of their gig opening for Santana later in the month. They came out wearing large papier-mache masks and opened with a mic’d a cappella performance of Adeline after which they apparently gave those masks out to folks in the first row. After fun runs through Chalkdust and Bouncin’ they get to the meet of the set (remember, this is not the open jamming band we know now as the name of the game was precision, energy, and playful creativity at this stage) with Divided (a mere 15 second pause!) and Fluffhead. Both of these are well played if a tad loose, showcasing the compositional prowess and ease of connection between the four musicians. Covering the gamut of their stylistic palette of the time they play their cover of Uncle Pen next and follow it up with the contained madness of Maze where Page shines brightly in his turn at soloing. Glide then induces the sing-along mode and gets some of that patented Phish tongue-in-cheek humor as Fish takes a vac solo in the end pause before they come back to finish it up. They close the set with a rocking Possum that has several bits of Secret Language and a tease of Blues Traveler’s But Anyway in the intro before Trey runs roughshod over the song with his solo before giving some thanks and closing up shop for the night, sans encore. Fun little time capsule set but you won’t be spinning this one otherwise.
07.24.1992 A mere twelve days later the band was back here for one of those Santana opening sets, the sixth such show of that tour run which extended into late August of that year. Because I love it so much, I have to link what exists of their previous day’s adventure as the house band for the Hangin With MTV show. It is a wonderful snapshot into just how not part of the mainstream we all were back then. Anyway, this short single set show starts off with MSO after which Trey thanks the crowd before starting into a bouncy version of Foam. Next up is a serious bit of shred in Tweezer as Trey shows off a bit for the crowd gathering for the main set performance and then Page gets his turn to shine when they follow it up with Coil. They continue the string by going right into YEM and here we have perhaps the best tune of the night as they put together a very energetic run through the song on the way to a hilarious ‘french hairdo’ tinged VJ. The set closes with Reprise but they were not finished for the night as Carlos invited them out for a five song sequence during his set later in the evening. I have yet to find tape of that sit-in by Phish but I’d guess it is akin to others from this tour so check em out if you feel like hearing them trade licks with Santana’s band. Again, this single setter is a relic more than something you’ll seek out.
07.23.1993 Summer 1993 gave Phish their first full show headlining visit to Jones Beach as the band came here in the middle of the tour and not too long preceding a stretch run in August that I often mention as one of those big time evolutionary peaks in the band’s history. Buried Alive starts us off with Trey sustaining notes to up the tension and setting the tone for the evening. Typical of the time, they string this together with two more songs as a form of ‘triple opener’ with Rift and the now long lost jazz standard Caravan completing the string before they play the newer (to them) bluegrass cover Nellie Kane. Nellie drops to a shreddy Maze (are there any other kind?) and then following Horse>Silent (wherefore hast thou gone, oh acoustic Horse intro?) they destroy an extremely fast paced PYITE just plain showing off their youthful vigor and dexterity. Jim gets one of those compact jams that we talked a bunch about in the Spring ’93 reviews, Ice sees Mike and Trey on the exer-gliders (such as in this Glide from a couple days earlier), with Lawn Boy and Cavern ending a fun-filled set. There’s nothing legendary here but just some good clean open air fun with the band.
After the break they open with 2001, a song only debuted a few shows earlier but already on its way to making its mark on this year as it would eventually be played 21 times, all set openers, including a run of ten straight shows of which this night is one. Only a table setter at this stage they pair it with Poor Heart and then Antelope for another one of those triple opener dealios. This is the type of Lope that many yearn for, perhaps not as long or drawn out as future versions but packing a major dose of psychedelic tension/release. They back it up with one of those songs now residing in the where-are-they-now files, Faht, the playful acoustic guitar tune performed by Fish over a soundscape of pastoral noises. Man, I’d love for them to bust that one out again some day. Trey comes in at the end on acoustic for the MFMF intro, giving this one an even more unique flavor as they pull off the full transition into that tune. After Uncle Pen and a thankfully quite short BBJ they head into YEM and somewhere mid-jam this one goes sideways. They hit on a percussive, repeating phrase that gets more and more pronounced and aggressive and then all of a sudden they are in BBFCFM! Noice! They rage this absurdity to its natural conclusion and then pop right into Chalkdust, keeping the place up and rocking. Trey goes into a Crimes of the Mind jam in the midst of the Dust and then they slam the point home with a powerful Highway to Hell closer. This is a hot hot set of the Phish. Amazing Grace and Daniel Saw the Stone are the encores but you’ll want to rip through that second set some time. It’s pre-game-get-yourself-psyched-up music, people.
07.15.1994 The next summer Phish was back for the penultimate show of the summer tour, one that is notable as being the first (partially) solar powered show as Greenpeace brought a truck to collect, store, and distribute supplemental solar power to the venue.That’s not all this show has going for it though, not by a long shot. After opening with Rift>Sample and then playing a nice enough Divided (1:05 pause) they run through solid takes on Gumbo, Foam, and Fee with Foam almost getting a Mound tease out of Page somewhere along the way. Next up is Melt which doesn’t follow the typical path of dissonance but instead this one builds massive tension in a version that will have you pumping your fists and throwing your undergarments at the stage. Um… maybe not that. But it’s really freaking fun. Golgi closes the set and Trey thanks Greenpeace for the solar power before the break.
This second set gets a unique opening as they play the first (and only ever) Letter To Jimmy Page opener. This was the second non-Alumni-Blues-rooted LTJP in the past seven shows as they had recently busted out the tune after 357 shows in the middle of a Curtain>LTJP>IIC first set sequence on 07.05.1994. Prior to that it had been 811 shows since the song had been played outside of Alumni Blues, then for an encore slotting following Golgi and Corinna at 05.11.1987. It didn’t exactly become a “thing” though as the song went back on the bench after this night for another 587 shows. So it goes. LTJP is quick and sets up Bowie which becomes the main vehicle for this set. This is the classic ’94 style Bowie with tons of ideas being thrown around, dissonant playing throughout, that trademark tension building jam template, and oh yeah a full quote of the Allman Brothers’ Jessica along the way as well. There are bigger, woolier Bowies from this time period but you can get a good snapshot of the style from this one. Bouncin’ allows for a breath of fresh air and then our gal Reba drops in for a visit. Trey hits on the theme to Popeye in the jam, everyone comes along, and the jam moves into more open waters than typical for the song before Trey comes back and puts together a surging build to the close. A very Page-heavy Ice is next (good stuff right there) and then they string it together with Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, DFB, and Julius for quite the varied thematic run of tunes. Here in the late set we get Fish Fun Time and with it a 292 show bustout of a verifiable ultra rarity for the “sing along” Setting Sail. This tune is so rare it had only ever been ‘performed’ three times prior to this night with all three being intonations emerging out of YEM VJs and the most recent more than two years prior to this show. Not exactly one a lot of people would have known. Alas, we still wait for another to manifest here 861 shows later. A punchy Jim caps the set and then a Monkey>Rocky Top encore finishes things up for the night. This is a an average-great show for the time that shows the band loose and having fun as the summer tour wound down that year.
06.28.1995 1995 was the first time Phish played more than a single night (or set) at Jones Beach, again in the latter stages of that summer’s tour. Axilla II opens the show in one of its final appearances before older brother (sister? no idea on standards for gender refs for asexual song titles) Axilla took back the armpit song mantle in the band’s rotation. This is the only ever show opening version of the song. Next up is a great run through a patient Foam where both Page and Trey get elongated turns at their solos in what comes off as a pretty laid back version of the song. They keep the vibe light with FEFY (Trey really soars in his solo here) and then our gal Reba is back for another go of it. The jam starts out in that laid back vein but builds as it goes, resulting in perhaps not one of the best ever but one I think may be a tad underrated but those who do such things. They ditch the mellow vibe from here on out in the set, starting with PYITE, continuing with Stash (one that shockingly relies on heavy use of that ol’ tension-building thing) and then capping the set energetically with Fluffhead and Chalkdust.
Sample ends the setbreak and Poor Heart gets the two slot before the band starts into what will end up being a thirty minute plus deep dive into Summer 95 Tweezer madness. If you are only familiar with later era groove-oriented jamming this style of Phish can be somewhat mentally taxing as they explore every nook and cranny of an idea before moving on to the next one. It feels like it could all fall apart at any moment or take off on a wild trip as you hang on to your marbles for dear life. There is way too much going on here to go through line by line so I’ll just say strap in, listen for the DEG and Cannonball jams, and enjoy the ride. See you on the other side for the Gumbo cool down, dude. Now, that DEG in there may or may not count for stats purposes as an ‘official’ performance (hard to really say with that song considering how often folks hear it when it ain’t there) but if you do count it you are looking at a 479 show bustout of the song. If I was there I’d probably count it (wink wink). A rousing Sparkle and fun time Suzy get us to the end set proceedings which tonight include a patient run to the peak in Hood and a bombastic Reprise closer before the Adeline and WMGGW encores. This is a solid example of summer 95 with a big (giant?) jam vehicle anchoring things but not being the only thing people will remember from this night when all is said and done like, say, the Tahoe Tweezer.
06.29.1995 Night two starts out with Jim and Trey almost immediately harkens back to the prior night by throwing in some Cannonball licks before a very uplifting type I jam that runs right into the start of Taste. They soar through this one as well (be ready, as this is the ‘old’ version of Taste so just a tad different in the arrangement from what we are now used to) and then ease up a tad for Horse>Silent in advance of the midset Divided. After a quite lengthy pause (1:54) they attack the end jam with gusto and then start into a four song sequence headed up by the not so common midset placement of Cavern. This runs into Rift and Simple and finally Melt for the payoff jam you’ve been waiting for here. This is a slow build Melt jam (well, slow for back then anyway) that never really strays far from structure but gets some long, drawn out runs by Trey as they up the tension. Rather than end here they do a quick a cappella Carolina before resting up for more second set goodness to come.
That set starts with Free, the first time the song had ever opened any set or encore. It has happened several times since but still comes as a bit of surprise since only 14 of the 171 performances of the song have come at the start of a set or encore (and there is but one ever encore slotting anyway so… yeah not common). This version is mainly table setting with a small bit of jamming before they tie it up and head into Bowie, like Tweezer another one of the songs that pretty much always delivered that summer. That’s pretty much the only similarity here though as over the course of about 28 minutes they get so far beyond Bowie you really would have no clue that’s where they started from unless you had already written it down in your setlist notebook. Trey and Mike flirt with some MLB phrasing at times as they noodle around looking for ideas to latch on to. Fish and Page follow along with the drummer changing up his rhythm pattern almost as frequently as Trey moves to another thought. This jam is perhaps a bit less connected than the excursion they went out on with the previous night’s Tweezer but shows how completely out there they would take these jams in that era. They start the return to the Bowie close a full ten minutes before it happens, surging with tension for a big payoff when it finally hits. Strange Design provides the cool down next before they dive in for a big time midset YEM. The composed parts are all nailed and the Page and Trey jam sections are good but it is the D&B that really catapults this one to higher ground as Mike and Fish throw down an extended bit of jammery before the VJ. After a lovely Acoustic Army they close with ADITL and then cap the night with a Theme encore, the first time of eight encore slottings for the song enjoying just its ninth ever performance at this show. As the final Jones Beach show for Phish until 3.0 this one is a solid one if perhaps not quite to the level of other shows surrounding it on this much lauded tour.
06.02.2009 When Phish returned in 2009 they announced the first Summer Tour of The Return with two dates scheduled at Jones Beach. This night was not one of them. I don’t have any insider info on why this occurred but my guess is that they got Fenway scheduled for 05.31.2009 after the original tour was announced and didn’t want the big gap between shows so they added this one. Being only the fifth show since that whole pesky Breakup thing this one finds the band reconnecting which is a polite way of saying it isn’t exactly top shelf Phish on display. They open with Jim which goes fine as they give it a tiny bit of space, then moving into Foam before debuting STFTFP. Here in the debut there is even less soloing than the typical version these days which is impressive in a certain sense. Next are three 3.0 debuts in Timber Ho! (which gets a bit of Trey wah, something not common for the song), a gooey Cities that feels like it could keep going before they close it up almost abruptly, and Driver. Our gal Reba comes next and after an admirable run through the composed section they take their time in the jam as Trey plays delicately, setting a very laid back tone for this one. As they build Trey leans heavily on the wah resulting in a version many will call ‘whale-drenched-drivel’ even if that is a bit harsh. After Possum (listen for some solid Page soloing before Trey has a bit of a trainwreck turn) and Farmhouse they close the set with If I Could, the first one in 109 shows which was coincidentally the only other time the song has closed a set (also the first).
After the break they open with Mike’s Song before suddenly moving into the first Simple of the era, a shortish run through the song with a lyrical flub and without much on the back end worth mentioning. They slip Wolfman’s into the Groove here as well and then there’s a bit of a bungled segue to Paug which kind of derails that from ever really taking off. They regroup with the first Circus in 35 shows and then debut KDF at request which may be the only time a song has been played by request for its debut save for a cover or two like Rocketman. This is followed by a longish Hood that stretches past the confines of the song to an effects ladened bit of ambient space before coming back to the traditional build and close for the song. Nice stuff. The closer is Cup and the encore Suzy which are about what you’d expect here. Look, let’s not sugar coat it. This is not a good Phish show. Move on we now shall.
06.04.2009 Two nights later Phish was back for the middle night of this extended three night stand. First up is Grind for the first of now five show opening slottings of the a cappella ditty. Incidentally, this is only the second ever a cappella version since the debut on 12.30.1998 was with instrumentation and without all of the added math that comes with each subsequent iteration. Following Divided (a quick pause tonight at only 38 seconds!) they play the second ever Ocelot (the debut was two shows earlier in Boston) where Trey bends notes liberally in the end jam. After Coil and PYITE they trot out Dirt for the first time in 30 shows and then after NICU they give us a late set Ghost that stretches into one of those soul affirming bliss builds. Don’t mind the whale on the way there, this is a pretty solid version for so early on in the band’s return to form. I particularly like the Page effects explosion in the end prior to the return to the song’s end. Lope closes the set with its typical fun stuff and then everyone is left to brave the cold wind off the Long Island Sound for a bit while the band rests up.
With tongues planted firmly in cheek they open the second set with WITS, only the third ever set opening version for the song at the time (and still the only second set opening version). After a contained run through BOAF they bring out another rain song with Drowned, the first since 2004 but somehow still only seven shows ago. This gets a bit of a “no royalties” jam (now with more whale!!) featuring a bit of Jumpin Jack Flash jamming and then they totally butcher the transition to Meatstick (first of 3.0 natch). It’s not pretty. Adding insult to injury they send everyone to the bathrooms with TTE next. Then after Waste they close the set with a fine enough YEM before a RnR encore to nod to NYC and send everyone home happy. This show is a tad better than the one before it but similarly you won’t be spinning it again soon.
06.05.2009 So that leaves night three of this visit to Jones Beach in 2009 which like the night before was just a bit rain soaked to put it mildly. Trey gets the crowd involved from the start with the Wilson opener backed up with Buried Alive (yes, first of 3.0) and then surprisingly another KDF. I haven’t gone back to check the data but this is one of the very few instances that I know of where the band has played the same song more than once in the same run at a venue, excepting antics and other such fun like the Double Reprise encores at Hartford 2010 or the Poor Heart show from Hampton 1995 or something. Admittedly, this second one pops a bit more than the first but it is still a bit weird. They finish up the four song opening sequence with Bag and then trot out Fish for IDK (some fun Trey banter there) for a bit of the vac. MFMF precedes a fun Ya Mar which gets some teasing of “It’s Raining It’s Pouring” in its first 3.0 appearance. Following Theme and Boogie On (shockingly, another first of 3.0 here) they close the set with Melt, a version we should probably forget happened and just move on from, mm’kay?
Disease opens the second set and sees Trey trying out several ideas (including a proto version of one of the licks he tends to use in this song quite frequently these days) but instead of venturing out into the open they hit on an almost CYHMK bit that triggers the move for a full segue to Twist. Almost immediately this becomes an Oye Como Va jam which while not unique is generally a crowd pleaser. The set continues with a string of jukebox tunes including Piper>BDT#L, Free, the debut of 20 Years Later, and 2001 before the set closing Slave. There’s really not much going on here I find very musically interesting. ADITL is the encore and now we can move on to something not in 2009.
08.17.2010 In the second leg of the Summer 2010 Tour Phish came back to Jones Beach for a midweek pair of shows to end the summer (this was the year prior to the now annual visit to Dick’s). From the start you can hear how much good the year plus between stops here has done the band as they are playing with a higher level of confidence and creativity. This is evident in the Fluffhead opener (a strong statement on its own being only the sixth opener ever and first since the big time one that started The Return on 03.06.2009) and throughout the set. KDF gets another turn next (3rd time in four shows here) which drops into a quick but punchy Cities (oh, if only it had gone on like that beaut they dropped a few shows earlier at the Greek out in Berkeley…). Funky Bitch leads to Wilson and were you not at this show you might be wondering what the heck is going on with the guitar playing. Thankfully I attended so I’ll fill you in. Trey had one of those toy guitars that kids run around the house tormenting the cat and their parents with that has pre-recorded riffs in it and in several places he held it up to interpolate those sounds into the mix. This was hilarious in the moment and even moreso when Fish played along to it and then Trey mimicked the riffs with his end solo. Those funny guys… Following a somewhat shaky Reba they rip through Walk Away (I swear there’s some Reprise-ish build on display here) and then finish up the set with a funky Wolfman’s and Possum that sees Trey really stretching the boundaries of the typical Possum jam. It might not be totally pleasing to everyone’s ear but it is different – but maybe not quite as different as the “un-jammed” ones from Summer 2011. This is an average good set but leaps and bounds ahead of the playing from just a year prior.
Lengthwise gets a 68 show bustout in starting things off for the second set, providing the old school intro to Maze for the first time since 10.20.1994. The set really starts to take shape after Halley’s with a decent Mike’s starting off a six song Groove sandwich. Simple almost gets out there before the start up BDT#L. Nowadays many would audibly groan at that move (and then proceed to really get down to the end jam because that’s how it always goes down) but at this stage the song still had that will-they-or-won’t-they-jam-it-big potential. Most ended up being contained to that type I happy fun time jam but every once in a while they would stretch it out and this is definitely one of those and arguably the last of the ‘big’ ones. Fish and Mike drive this jam (seriously, listen to the break beats Fish accents this jam with and the moves Mike makes to direct traffic) as they move first through the type I part before quieting down into a blissful space and eventually coming back up to a resolution peak. Trey moves into Caspian which is brief but powerful and then they throw in an all type I but big time fun late set RnR before punctuating the whole thing with a well received Paug. They throw Cup on to close the set just as icing on the cake and then encore with SoL and Golgi. This is a much more relaxed and flowing band then the one we heard last year here.
08.18.2010 Night two of this 2010 pair begins with a straight forward run through Disease (with an actual return to the finish! no  footnote tonight!) into Sample in the two hole before that ol’ Guelah Papyrus slides into the three hole like this was a show from 1994. Backed up by Poor Heart you might start wondering what decade we are in here but then the languid journey through Ocelot reminds you this is new era Phish. Then they go old again for Chalkdust and a fun but short peak run Gin as both band and crowd are still seemingly warming up into this night’s escapades. A very quick run through Tube precedes the third of four Destiny Unbounds for the year (most in any year since it returned in 2003 after a 12 year journey and yes I know that Unbounds is not a word) and then they finally take a breath for Joy. Now, a lot of people hate on this song and I get it but – and I’m not going to eat up a ton of space on this here – this particular version of the song holds a lot of meaning for me personally as I had something of an “aha” moment which resulted in my then pregnant wife and I giving our daughter the middle name Joy in part due to this night. The full story is not really appropriate for here but suffice it to say it hit me hard. Anyway, they close the set with Antelope to the surprise of absolutely no one.
Axilla gets set opening duties ahead of a fun bit of Timber Ho! jamming that sets up one of the better moves to Light they’ve attempted (which is being nice since this is one of those songs where the full segue is simply not something that can be achieved easily). Light gets to some interesting space but Trey moves out to 46 Days instead of exploring it for too long. This song acts as a stepping stone with no real jam to it as they segue into MFMF and then start up Hood for a somewhat rare (these days) midset placement. It is a decent enough Hood but nothing overly special. The 4th quarter begins with Tweezer to the delight of all in attendance though the jam is truncated by a Horse’ing, something we all had to get used to that summer. After the obvious Silent they close with YEM and then encore with Suzy>Reprise to wrap up this visit to Wantagh. The show is not bad by any means but lacks any centerpiece jams (in either set) to hang its hat on. A bit odd considering it is the tour closer but by this point they were in fun time happy mode so probably more par for the course than an epic four song jamfest set to cap the tour.
07.03.2012 Two summer later Phish returned to Jones Beach for another pair of shows, this time in the final week of the first leg of summer and over the July 4th holiday. If you recall, back then Phish was playing a lot of songs that hadn’t been played in quite some time which is a different type of fun than the summers of one time covers like 1998 and 2011. Never was this more the case than for the opener here as they busted out Little Feat’s Skin It Back for the first time in a whopping 1,417 shows. Those who aren’t super versed on tapes from 87/88 may have gotten a tad excited and then confused when this song did not end up being Spanish Moon, one of the leaders in the polls of Halloween cover songs we all want to come back (though if your answer is anything but The Great Curve I have to tell you you are wrong) and a song that shares a lot with this tune. In fact, the folks over at .net indicate the band teased Spanish Moon both before and within this well played bustout which has me scratching my head just a tad but oh well whaddyagonnado. Possum (with a Skin It Back tease) and Tube follow, further amping up the crowd before another big time bustout for Happiness Is A Warm Gun, the Beatles tune only ever played one other time for that pretty important Halloween night on 10.31.1994 in Glens Falls. This is backed up by pretty average (but still nice!) runs through a ‘traditional’ Mike’s>H2>Groove and then a three song burst of Halley’s>Axilla>Ya Mar leading to the first breather for Joy. A smaller bustout for JJLC starts out the end set sequence that includes BDT#L and then Golgi as closer, giving us a grand total of fourteen songs (!) in this first frame. That’s a lot to fit into one set so not surprising to see that no song eclipses the nine minute mark which is not a judgement on quality by any means, just an observation.
The ensuing second set finds the band extremely relaxed and having fun as Trey folds in a couple of Skin It Back teases in the Chalkdust jam and an Izabella tease (be still my heart!) in a very very funky Sand. Then for Golden Age they head out into a jam that eventually winds down into a striking bit of ambient interplay between all four, seeming to be ready to fall right into No Quarter at any step but instead finding natural resolution and achieving a full stop finish. This thirteenth ever version of the TV On The Radio cover is one of the first to really come into its own, something they have continued to explore as the song has now been played 42 times since debuting in November 2009 not too far away in Albany. Next up is Wolfman’s which gets some interesting Trey work as he “scats” along to the notes he plays before making the move to Walk Away, first in the wrong key but then reset for a solid run through the James Gang classic. The end run for the set starts with Bug, continues with Fluffhead (with maybe a DEG tease if you are into that sort of thing), cools down for a bit with The Wedge, and then caps with a melodic jam in Antelope that leads to humor as Trey gets a quick call-and-response game of Marco Polo going with the crowd. Zero encores the show and afterwards you are wondering what to do with this one as it is really a tale of two very different types of sets. The song chasers will love the first frame and the flow/energy folks will dig the second while the jam chasers find what they can. Sounds about right for 3.0.
07.04.2012 The second night in 2012 fell on July 4th meaning fireworks and fun and woo hoo and more were in store for those in attendance not to mention a TON of songs. Seriously, this setlist looks like a playlist for a house party more than a Phish show. Hang on, getting ahead of myself there… The night begins with more of that bustout love as even before they dip into Alumni>LTJP>Alumni (27 show bustouts both of them) Trey teases DEG (maybe a nod back to the previous night’s Fluff or just playfulness. we may never know…). Then it gets interesting as Head Held High surfaces for the first time since its only other performance on 10.31.1998 (kind of a pretty amazing show) making it a 356 show bustout. Then the old TMWSIY>AM>TMWSIY comes in after 136 shows on the bench before they finally play something that wasn’t a debut for the year with KDF (yup. yet another one here). The bustouts continue with Bittersweet Motel (132 shows) and then after an uneventful string of Moma, Gumbo>Bowie, Alaska we get the third ever Susskind Hotel (24 show gap), a tune more familiar in Mike Band setlists but one that probably deserves more play by the big band. This is followed by Fish Fun Time for the 314 show bustout of Purple Rain (with some of that summer’s ‘tucking’ lyrical changes added in which are quite amusing) and then they predictably do the a cappella Star Spangled Banner (34 show gap) closer. If you are counting at home that’s an eighteen song set or “only” fifteen if you don’t count each of the three sandwiches as separate tunes. By comparison, the three shows here in 2009 had only one more song played (55) than the two shows in 2012. But wait! There’s more!!
Not content with the song total from the first set they pile on another thirteen more in the second, this time without the pesky nuisance of the debate over what ones “count” as full performances. A quick Boogie On opener starts off a set where they never take a full stop but perhaps should have considering nothing here really elevates. As disclaimer, I’ll say that in the moment such sets can be quite intriguing and often lead to personal revelations and the like but on listen back can fall flat in comparison to the more renowned music this band produces. I’m not here to take that away from you if you were shown the light during this show. All I can do is tell you what I hear as I take my notes while respinning these shows more than once to bring you, the reader, my far too long thoughts on the subject. So the set goes with Boogie>Tweezer>Twist>Taste>Quinn looking like it should be all heat in the 3rd quarter but instead ends up being jukebox Phish. Julius will get you moving and RnR gets its annual appearance here close to NYC but then the fourth quarter fizzles with Horse>Silent leading to a strikingly short Hood. At this point you know they are just playing the gag of never stopping out so once you know what to expect it isn’t as jarring even if it still has you scratching your head every time they make the next move. The set ends with a triple S shot of Shine A Light>SoL>Slave and then they encore with Monkey>Reprise, altering the lyrics of Monkey to nod to that tucking thing once more. I really don’t have much more nice to say here so I’ll just move on to the last show we have from this venue.
07.12.2013 The 2013 visit here fell in the middle of a tour where many voices in the Phish Crit world were sounding the alarm that everything was falling apart (it wasn’t) and that Trey had forgotten how to play guitar (he hadn’t). Sure, there are some rough sets in that summer’s run but by the time they blew open that fall Tour all had been forgotten about that whole chicken little hysteria. There was a lot of rain on this tour which definitely factored into some of what went down while the band’s apparent lack of practicing prior to hitting the road surely played a role as well. By the time they arrived at Jones Beach that rust was mostly gone but playing in a torrential downpour really doesn’t sound that fun when you are handling highly charged electric devices. The first set flows well enough with Chalkdust, CTB, Ocelot, and MSO kicking things off before the water songs drop with ASIHTOS and WITS filling the “ha it’s raining and we’re singing about water” role. Those two are part of a run of songs starting with MSO and ending with Sugar Shack (which followed Sloth and BOABH) that were all debuts for the year. Noble attempts at 46 Days and BDT#L keep everyone moving but it is the end of set pair in Reba and Bowie where the band finally starts to get a bit loose. Reba (and pretty much every other song this show) has a lot of the Trey whale crutch to it but then in Bowie he lays off of that for a bit. This one almost tumbles into Manteca before they change up for the Bowie build ending. The conditions considered this set is not bad by any means but it won’t be one you add to your “sets I must listen to” list.
As they come out for the second set Trey quips about the band “practicing safe music” which is more humorous when you realize he is commenting on the plastic sheeting the crew put over their gear and instruments but also a bit telling in where they are with the playing in this one. Well, the safety net is off for this set as they take RnR out for a 19 minute ride which is great considering the three other times they have played the song here in prior years it really hasn’t been anything more than an energy rocker. After working through the RnR open jam they dance it up for 2001 and then start into Tweezer perhaps nodding to the cold wetness everyone in the crowd is experiencing at the time. This isn’t a massive Tweezer jam but a few minutes before the end Trey and Page start into a bit of recognizable interplay, hinting at the eventual flawless full segue into Cities. Somewhere in the jam for that Fish hints at The Wedge and they again make a flawless transition, sticking the landing with a fun version of the song. The set ends with Wading and Zero and then for the encore Page dedicates the first tune to all those then recovering from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, that massive weather phenomenon that impacted millions of people on the Eastern Seaboard when it hit in October 2012 and for many months thereafter. This area was heavily damaged with the venue itself being partially submerged at the height of the storm surge so it was pretty impressive that they were able to hold a full season of events just a few months after it all occurred. Playing a song of redemption, they start into a hilariously (lyrically) botched Sleeping Monkey. It’s pretty funny banter if you like that stuff. The punctuate with the Reprise finish and then everyone is off to try to get dry before moving on to the next venue. This show is definitely weather-impacted but with some strong highlights is a recovery from the downward trend that the majority of the 3.0 shows here have brought us.
Tale of The Tapes
Venue: Jones Beach Theater (originally Jones Beach Marine Theater, once – and I’m not joking – Tommy Hilfiger at Jones Beach Theater, then Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, and now very recently renamed to be Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater)
Number of Shows: fourteen
Intangibles: Easy, wide open lot scene as part of state park makes for a lovely day by the shore leading up to the night’s festivities; seaside breeze and view is very relaxing with boaters even able to moor nearby for “free” listening to the show; structure of grandstand makes for good sound and sight lines no matter where you are in the venue; proximity to New York City brings with it songs that nod to NYC as well as the raucous energy of the nearby fanbase
Recurring Themes: As mentioned, this venue is associated with New York City so the band frequently has played songs here with lyrical nods to the city that never sleeps including Fluffhead (four times), Cities (3 of last four visits), and Rock and Roll (all four visits since the song debuted in 1998); all but two of the eight years the band has played here have had a Chalkdust (1994 and 2009 being the exceptions); bustouts!! over the years Phish has brought back numerous tunes at this venue many which have yet to be played again since; for 3.0 several songs are almost sure bets as fifteen songs have been played in three of the four years where Phish has visited Jones Beach: BDT#L, Chalkdust, Cities, Hood, KDF, Mike’s Song, Ocelot, Possum, Reba, RnR, Antelope, Tweezer, Reprise, Paug, and Wolfman’s Brother (three of those have four performances – BDT#L, KDF, RnR – with KDF having two of those from the same year); this venue generally gets different openers for each set when Phish plays here as only Runaway Jim has ever been repeated as a 1st set opener and Chalkdust and Disease are the only songs to have opened both a 1st and a 2nd set
PJJ Ratio: Jones Beach ends up with the lowest rating of all of the venues in consideration for this project at a miserable 1.43 JPS rating (the average for all venues under consideration in this project is 2.47). Listening back to these shows I am not surprised at this rating as with most of the shows for this venue falling in the earlier stages of 3.0 there simply is not a lot of meat on these bones. Half of the jams PJJ includes come from the first six shows performed here (those in 1.0) and there are no tracks from the two single set performances in 1992 so that ratio is even more skewed towards the 1.0 Jam Era.
Key Jams/Songs: 1992 – Glide, Possum, YEM; 1993 – Lope, Faht->MFMF, YEM->BBFCFM, Chalkdust; 1994 – Melt, LTJP>Bowie, Reba, Setting Sail; 1995 – Foam, FEFY, Reba, Tweezer, Hood, Jim, Melt, Free->Bowie, YEM; 2009 – Hood, Ghost, Drowned, Disease->Twist; 2010 Wilson, Walk Away, Possum, BDT#L, Light->46 Days; 2012 – Skin It Back, Chalkdust, Sand->GA, Wolfman’s->Walk Away, Lope; Purple Rain, Monkey>Reprise; 2013 – Bowie, RnR>2001>Tweezer->Cities->Wedge
I went into this one expecting it to produce more than what we ended up getting, perhaps based on rumor and reputation more than anything. I have enjoyed the shows I have caught at this scenic venue and the band definitely plays with a confident and loose style here. That has not always translated to big jams though so if you are looking for all-timers outside of some of the iconic ones from 94/95 I would suggest you look elsewhere. They do play interesting shows here though with thoughtful song choices, lots of bustouts, and other “freshness” mixed in. One of the challenges faced here has been the timing of visits as many of the latter era shows have come either as they were reconnecting (2009) or at times in the tour when the band is still shaking off the rust of the long layoff between touring seasons (2012). This mixed bag definitely will keep this venue out of contention for top honors but don’t ignore stuff like the Tweezer and Bowie from 1995 or the BDT#L from 2010 or the Golden Age from 2012. I am sure Phish will eventually come back to play here again and I’ll try to make it once more because that’s what we do. We reflect on the band’s past but never hold it against them because the promise of new Phish far outweighs the perceived negatives. And that is a very good thing.