Phish and its fans renew their hallowed rituals at the Mann

Mike Gordon, Trey Anastasio , Jon Fishman, and Page McConnell - otherwise known as Phish - have an ardent fan base that they know how to please, as they did at the Mann on Tuesday. The songs can be long, the rituals familiar.
Mike Gordon, Trey Anastasio , Jon Fishman, and Page McConnell - otherwise known as Phish - have an ardent fan base that they know how to please, as they did at the Mann on Tuesday. The songs can be long, the rituals familiar. (PETER YANG)
Posted: July 11, 2014

For the first show in its sold-out two-night stand at the Mann on Tuesday, Phish and its devoted audience checked off the rituals that America's prog-rocking jam band par excellence and its fans have shared since 1983.

Lengthy show: check. It clocked in at three hours-plus (starting late because of weather).

Thousands of glow sticks raining down on the front rows: check. During the aggressive boogie of "Tweezer," the sky was a blur of neon.

Trey Anastasio's dad and stepmother, Ernest and Geneva, in attendance: check. "I taught him everything he knows," Ernest joked with me.

Elongated songs: check. The windingly complex, occasionally Zappa-esque "Fuego" - the title track from the band's new album - lasted 26 minutes.

Oddball cover tunes: check. The band did Deodato's disco arrangement of " Also Sprach Zarathustra(2001)."

Weird dancing: check.

The band's communal brand of magic and mirth is rare these days. From the start, with the punkish, rolling funk of "Axilla," and a blistering take on "Gumbo," guitarist Anastasio, drummer Jon Fishman, bassist Mike Gordon, and keyboardist Page McConnell never lost intensity or seemed distant. There was gentle bliss in Anastasio's fluid solos and McConnell's organ swells, but Phish kept the pressure on throughout its brand of pulsating whatever-you-call-this.

They found the heat immediately and homed in on one another (does pop have a more intuitive band?) and their audience with laser focus. I don't know whether or not this was in its set list, but the band even took requests, with Anastasio yelling, "This is for that guy," before playing a fan's desired tune, a strutting, cowbell-flavored version of "Camel Walk." Anastasio got bonus points for his Flyers T-shirt, and McConnell won applause with the most soulful clavichord playing since Bernie Worrell.

From its new songs (the sambalike "The Line," the cosmopolitan, jazzy "Halfway to the Moon") to its classics (everything else they played), Phish, as a unit, was as precise as it was dynamic and free.

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