Vermont's jam rock titans Phish unleashed a raging inferno at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland last Saturday, complete with rare songs and teases. This included a song that was played depending on who answered the question. They are waist deep in their 2022 summer tour, and continue to bring exciting and fresh jams night after night.
The band wasted no time and dove immediately into deep jam territory with "Sand," from Farmhouse. The elevated albeit concise jam set the tone for the night. The melodically blissful "If I Could," from the 1994 release Hoist, followed. This tune greased the gears for the first fiery jam sequence of the night, which began with the fast paced "Buried Alive." A short but sweet segue led the music into a sixteen minute "Set Your Soul Free," followed by a face melting jam that morphed into a high octane "Llama." The classic version was played with a fierce cadence, and brought smiles to many faces.
"Halfway to the Moon," from the 2014 release Fuego, was up next. Keyboardist Page McConnell handled the singing duties in this ballad. As the band flowed into the jam, they may or may not have transitioned into "Shafty," an infrequently played original that is also rarely played in it's entirety. As a result, riveting debate developed regarding whether the now infamous MPP "Shafty" was teased or actually played. In this case, a rift and a verse from "Shafty" were played, however drummer Jon Fishman never played the beat for the song, making it slightly off tempo.
The Phish Stats Report for 7/30/22
So here's the deal. Phish is a band that plays games with their songs structures. As a result, the .net setlists have strong rules about what is a song and what is just a tease. It's probably the most consistent set of rules people can make.
— ⏱📋David Steinberg⏱📋 (@zzyzx) July 31, 2022
There is the strong contingency that counted "Shafty" as a tease, led primarily by Phish.net. They are considered the authority on Phish set lists. They have a very strict set of rules to discern a song from a tease given that Phish takes liberties with song structures. In this case, "Shafty" barely missed the criteria for counting as a song.
There are many others who categorized "Shafy" more prominently as a song and did not indicate that it was a tease, including the band's Youtube account. LivePhish.com, the Nugs.net project for live Phish soundboards, has the song tracked as "Shafty," versus leaving it as part of "Halfway to the Moon." Phish's Youtube account released "Halfway to the Moon" > "Shafty" in 4KHD. Phish statistician and historian David Steinberg tweeted, "I'm pretty sure if you froze time and asked all 4 band members in that moment what song they were playing, they all would say Shafty."
"Shafty" is very hotly debated because the song has only been played seven times prior, and was last officially played on February 21, 2020 in Cancun, Mexico.
While the debate rolled on, so did the show, as band dove into the gangster disco funk classic "Strawberry Letter 23" by Shuggie Otis. Lighting Director Chris Kuroda lit up the top of the pavilion with red lights, as the crowd danced with joy. The music flowed into the Gamehendge classic, "Lizards," and ended the set on a very high note.
The second set began a non-stop sequence with another Farmhouse heater, "First Tube," that moved impeccably into a raging eighteen minute "Fuego." Abbrieviated renditions of "Sigma Oasis" and "Prince Caspian" followed, and flowed nicely into a "Waves" that was reminiscent of the version from Madison Square Garden in April 2022. The music slowed as the band transitioned into the rarely played song with the audience participating dance, "Meatstick," last played in Santa Barbara, Ca on October 26, 2021.
Three fan favorites closed out this second set, starting with "Simple," which also included a nice, succinct jam. The energy started to build as the band moved into another vintage tune, "The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony." The set ended in high gear with the energetic "Suzy Greenburg."
The band stepped off stage momentarily, and returned to roaring applause for more. They obliged with more old school rarities, starting with "Alumni Blues" > "Letter to Jimmy Page" > "Alumni Blues." This sequence was last played at Dicks on September 4, 2021, and included the electrifying solo by Guitarist Trey Anastasio. The band was not quite done yet, and quickly exploded into known set list ending tune rager, "Character Zero."
Show after show, Phish continues to find a way to exercise their musical creativity. From the MPP "Shafty" debate to the stellar "First Tube" > "Fuego," this show had all the elements of a magical night. The band is back in action at the Blossom Music Center on August 2nd. Hop on over to their tour page for more details about tickets and live streams.
Sand, If I Could, Buried Alive > Set Your Soul Free > Llama, Halfway to the Moon > Shafty1, Strawberry Letter 232 > The Lizards
First Tube > Fuego > Sigma Oasis > Prince Caspian > Waves > Meatstick -> Simple > The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg
Alumni Blues > Letter to Jimmy Page > Alumni Blues > Character Zero
1. Considered a tease by Phish.net
2. Mike Gordon teases Miss You by the Rolling Stones
3. Mike Gordon teases Flash Light by Parliament