Phish spring tour 2023 continued on Friday with the band’s first of three concerts at Los Angeles, CA’s storied Hollywood Bowl. While Phish has visited the distinctive outdoor venue for various one-off shows in the past, Friday’s upbeat showing both served as the band’s first Hollywood Bowl gig in a decade and heralded the group’s first-ever multi-night run at the century-old bandshell.
As the California state flag floated in the evening breeze from a flagpole above stage left, guitarist Trey Anastasio, bassist Mike Gordon, drummer Jon Fishman, and keyboardist Page McConnell took their places and eased into a thick, funky “The Moma Dance”. The relatively standard rendition moved quickly into a strong “Sigma Oasis” that steadily swelled in size and scope thanks to some anthemic distortion from Trey’s corner.
Phish – “The Moma Dance” [Pro-Shot] – 4/21/23
“Party Time” continued to set the tone thanks to a nimble McConnell on the keys. “Thank you, thank you, that’s a song by Jon Fishman. Party Time…” Trey added when the tune was finished, deadpanning the song’s name as if it was more mission statement than track title. The band dipped into the Baker’s Dozen cover playbook next for a well-played “Strawberry Letter 23” featuring a silver-throated Anastasio on the falsetto notes (okay, Trey!).
Related: Phish Bids Farewell To Berkeley “Beneath A Sea Of Stars” [Photos/Videos]
A nearly 20-minute “Everything’s Right” followed, providing a string of early highlights as the band rummaged through astral tones, bouncing basslines, flourishing piano swells, and and crisp, clear Anastasio lead licks. The lighting team made use of the bandshell’s tiered arches with layers of gobo stripes and spinning swirls of LED color as a quick-fingered Trey leaned on his digital delay to push the swelling jam upward and outward in all directions. After a week worth of more texturally-focused improvisation on this brief spring tour, this “Everything’s Right” benefitted from classic Phish tension and release as it barreled toward a regal arena-rock finish.
A pretty “Shade” swayed in the dying light before a riotous “Funky Bitch” soared to dark horse best-of-the-night contention via an explosion of organ mastery from the Chairman of the Boards and a wailing, hose-master climax courtesy of Big Red. Capitalizing on the Son Seals cover’s electrifying momentum, Phish caught “A Wave of Hope” and rode the recent improv all-star through a string of ominous tempest swells and triumphant crests in its first-ever appearance as a set-closer. A note: You could remark upon the wow-factor of the lights on most any song this tour, but CK5 and Gif raised the bar to a new level here. Hot damn.
Set two got started with a straightforward “Sample In A Jar” before taking a sharp turn toward improvisational territory on “Down With Disease” under a menacing web of revolving LEDs. Jon Fishman, draped in his “Knicks Couture” muumuu (orange with blue donuts), revved the engine with a flight of creative patterns as Anastasio cycled through jagged, menacing low-end tones and squeaking, extraterrestrial effects to match the Bowl’s spaceship-like aesthetic. Rather than rounding back to the “Disease” coda, Phish launched into “Mercury” to continue the ride through the cosmos.
Phish – “Sample In A Jar” [Pro-Shot] – 4/21/23
When the space dust cleared, the band found itself in the cozy confines of “Blaze On”. After adding some late 4/20-friendly ad-libs (“You’re in the Bowl, so Blaze On,”) Phish proceeded to torch said Bowl with an imaginative jam that dwelled in the light for most of its 18-minute duration, providing thematic counterpoint to the dark, maddening timbre of the evening’s improvisational expeditions on “A Wave of Hope” and “Down With Disease”.
The tour’s first “You Enjoy Myself” was true to its name, all four members of the band clearly thrilled to be playing this song on this hallowed stage. Gordon—cosplaying as Quagmire from Family Guy (Giggity. Thanks, Internet)—even cracked a rare onstage grin as he squared off with Trey for a gorgeous guitar-bass interlude that burst to a soaring peak. The “YEM” vocal jam isn’t always a highlight, but thanks to the new toys on the light rig and the pep in the Hollywood band’s step, this one is worth revisiting (+1 for releasing this one on YouTube, powers that be).
With time for just a couple more Bowl hits, Phish teed up a climactic “Cavern” to close the set, then returned with gratitude for a “Drift While You’re Sleeping” encore.
Phish – “Cavern” – 4/21/23
Following last night’s Phish show, Jon Fishman headed over to the Roxy Theatre to join in with The Dude of Life Band and witness the live debut of his daughter, budding performer Ella Fishman. The Fishmans will once again join The Dude of Life Band at the Roxy tonight, Saturday, April 22nd, after Phish wraps up at the Hollywood Bowl. Proceeds benefit The WaterWheel Foundation. Tickets for the Saturday late-night show are available here.
Below, check out a gallery of photos from the first of three Phish shows this weekend at Hollywood Bowl via Peter Wallace.
For a complete list of upcoming Phish tour dates, head here. Watch the remaining dates on the West Coast run live or on-demand, in HD or 4K, and get 48 hours of unlimited playback via LivePhish.
Setlist [via Phish.net]: Phish | Hollywood Bowl | Los Angeles, CA | 4/21/23
Set One: The Moma Dance > Sigma Oasis, Party Time, Strawberry Letter 23, Everything’s Right, Shade, Funky Bitch, A Wave of Hope
Set Two: Sample in a Jar > Down with Disease > Mercury > Blaze On > You Enjoy Myself, Cavern
Encore: Drift While You’re Sleeping
Notes: Down with Disease was unfinished. Blaze On had changed lyrics of “You’re at the Bowl so blaze on,” and, “We’ll be dancing at the Bowl.”