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Phish Delivers Remarkable “Mike’s Song”, Saves “Groove”

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Following a day off on Thursday, Phish returned to Madison Square Garden on Friday night to begin the final two-show chunk of the band’s seven-night stint in Midtown Manhattan.

Friday’s first set, though relatively pedestrian in comparison to other first frames this run, had its share of standout moments: A scurrying “Buried Alive” opener (always a sign of good things to come); a surging “The Moma Dance” (bathed in Lisa Frank lights from above); a classic showcase of guitar-god sustain during “46 Days” (who else but Trey Anastasio can send an arena into hysterics with a single note played for nearly a full minute?); the Phish debut of a recent Mike Gordon Flying Games original (the quirky “Back In The Bubble”).

“Bouncing Around The Room” stayed standard, “Birds of a Feather” sent swirls of white and rainbow pulses revolving around the ring of vertical LED strips circling the 100-level boxes, “Halley’s Comet” pushed into a billowing “Roggae” that rained down on the sold-out crowd in cascades of triplets (from Trey) and watercolors (from CK5); and a set-closing “Run Like An Antelope” sent a surge of screams through the Garden as 20,000 souls shifted to high gear.

It was Friday’s second set and encore, however, that vaulted this show into the upper echelon of summer tour 2023.

Jaw-dropping improv, unrelenting flow (even in the obligatory mid-set breather slot), a slew of beloved setlist gems… From the remarkable “Mike’s Song” that launched it into orbit to the towering “Fluffhead” that punctuated an encore rendition of “Weekapaug Groove”, this was the kind of Phish set that hits you all at once, fully formed, never relenting long enough for you to think too hard about what song this is, or how much time is left, or what came before, or what’s coming next.

“Mike’s”, the undisputed crown jewel of the evening, squeezed all the juice out of its two distinct improv sections (including the elusive “second jam”) over the course of 23+ minutes of intense, enthralling peaks and valleys. Rather than routing into the customary “meat” of a “Mike’s Groove” sandwich, the momentum of this massive “Mike’s” bled through the rest of the set, rendering the looming “Weekapaug Groove” an afterthought as the band worked through a soaring, wind-swept “Sand” jam (wow) and steamrolled into a big, pulsing, cackling “Crosseyed and Painless” (that Jon Fishman dude is an absolute animal).

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“A Life Beyond The Dream” can often let the steam out of the room, but Trey and company are getting better and better at realizing the emotional potential out of this Ghosts of the Forest anthem. At its best, this “slow song” can function like a post-Space “Morning Dew” would for the Grateful Dead, a flash of misty-eyed reflection, awe, and inspiration to pad the landing after a long, winding voyage. I’ve always been a “A Life Beyond The Dream” detractor, but this one just might have changed my mind.

Any residual grumbling over the “Life Beyond” lull was quickly put to rest as the set came to a close with a pair of sough-after setlist gems, Gamehendge classic “The Lizards” (which only seems to pop up when the band is really feeling it) and The Beatles‘ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (which reliably becomes a flaming sword of guitar fury in Anastasio’s hands). Remember when this set was going to be a “Mike’s Groove”? Yeah, me neither. By the time Anastasio’s guitar finished weeping and Trey, Mike, Fish, and Page took their bows, we were well beyond the strictures of traditional setlist formulas.

The “Groove” finally arrived in the encore slot, and even at just five minutes in length it showed more than a few glimpses of unique brilliance. With audience howls still echoing through the arena for the now-completed, full-set “Mike’s Groove”, a brilliant “Fluffhead” came to New York to put its stamp of approval on a thoroughly memorable evening of MSG Phish.

Six nights have come and gone. One final Garden party remains. I’ll see you out there tonight to bring it home.

Below, check out the full setlist from night 6 of the Phish Summer Seven at MSG. Scroll down to view a selection of crowd-shot videos from the performance as well as a gallery of photos via Andrew Blackstein.

For a full list of upcoming Phish tour dates, head here. Subscribe to LivePhish+ to listen to every show on the tour and browse an archive of live Phish recordings. To order your LivePhish webcasts for any of the band’s upcoming summer shows, head here.

Revisit Live For Live Music‘s nightly coverage of Phish’s seven-night run at Madison Square Garden below:

  1. Friday, 7/28/23
  2. Saturday, 7/29/23
  3. Sunday, 7/30/23
  4. Tuesday, 8/1/23
  5. Wednesday, 8/2/23
  6. Friday, 8/4/23 (You’re already there.)

Phish – “Birds of a Feather” – 8/4/23

Setlist [via Phish.net]: Phish | Madison Square Garden | New York, NY | 8/4/23

Set One: Buried Alive, The Moma Dance, 46 Days > Back in the Bubble[1], Bouncing Around the Room, Birds of a Feather, Halley’s Comet[2] -> Roggae, Run Like an Antelope

Set Two: Mike’s Song > Sand -> Crosseyed and Painless > A Life Beyond The Dream, The Lizards, While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Encore: Weekapaug Groove > Fluffhead

[1] Phish debut.
[2] Lyrics changed to “central part of New York City.”

This show featured the Phish debut of Back in the Bubble. Halley’s Comet’s lyrics were changed to “central part of New York City.” Trey teased We’re Off to See the Wizard in Roggae.



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