Thursday 09/14/2023 by Icculus


[The views expressed in this article—which are extreme and outrageous, and to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized community—are not necessarily shared by any of the volunteers who manage this site. You the reader agree to hold and its volunteers harmless from any and all liability for the contents of this post. The opinions expressed in this post are those of its author alone, unless the author otherwise indicates or expressly disclaims such opinions, at any time.]

IT has been made plain in the “Comments” to my screed about Phish show ratings on this site that some of the views obtusely and abstrusely expressed therein created confusion and vitriol, arousing and inflaming the passions of the most ignorant and noobtarded of this site’s beloved user community. For this, I insincerely do not apologize. The blog post was at times deliberately and maliciously perverse, and often baffling, and while it did diminish what little credibility I may have had with many of you, this is your fault entirely, as you wasted your time reading it, and I should never have been esteemed by anyone at any time in the first place. You're welcome.

© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)

The following two cents on Phish’s most recent tour are in thanksgiving for, in honor of, and inspired by user Mud_Lovebuddy (“Dumb fuck take. Congrats. Everyone is more stupid because of you.”), user PhishPhan1984 (“A ‘typically great show’ is 3, and ‘a show that is or will likely be among the finest of the year’ is 4? How freakin' stupid is that? This dude has lost all credibility[.]”), and user Professor Paulj, who expertly and thoughtfully rebutted a truth-claim I made (“No truth in show ratings? Yes, there is error, but the rest of your claim is absolutely 100% completely and utterly wrong.”), while failing to identify what variables in his regression controlled for IT, or for each of our unique perspectives and biases, or for each of our completely sucking at Phish. I mean, some of you knock at least a whole star off a rating if the show contained a mid-second-set “Alaska” or opened with “Stealing Time From The Faulty Plan” amirite? I should hope so!

So, please, allow me to rephrase: there is no truth in show ratings only insofar as someone believes a show rated by the community ~4.016 is necessarily an objectively “better” show (based on its objectively verifiable musical characteristics and circumstances) than a show rated a 3.963. Maybe most of the time you will find that to be true, but it will not be all the time, and I suspect there are plenty of, or at least some, shows rated in the range 2.167-4.449 in particular that you think are grossly over or underrated.

This is because THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN OBJECTIVELY “BAD” PHISH SHOW! There are just shows that in your opinion aren’t as good or great as other shows for particular reasons (reasons that may include your own headspace, your own shit, when seeing or listening to the show). Aren't those worth only a star or two? Many of you don’t rate shows only one or two stars at all, and so in practical effect given the five star rating system, you routinely give three or four stars to shows that aren’t simply “average great” in the tour they’re in, they’re average-great at best among all shows in Phish history. And you of course are entitled to your opinion, even if it bespeaks ignorance, and is worthy of the most haughty scorn and disdain. If you give every show three to five stars then in effect you’re ranking shows in only three tiers and the five-star rating system is really only a three-star rating system. In any event, whatever the rating system, one size does not fit all.

© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)

Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t really care about any of this, life is a state of mind after all. And I have better things I could and should be doing, as do you. All that matters is HOW PHISH BRINGS YOU JOY and how fulfilling Phish’s music is in your life! That is what I mean when I opine that the only truth in show ratings is in YOU and how you rate them and how you interpret the ratings. There is obviously some objective truth in ratings in that those rated the highest are the most highly regarded among the fans who rate shows on the site, for a host of objectively verifiable reasons. But that said, it sure is fun to rate shows only one or two stars that those—who are largely ignorant of Phish’s extensive work, and who suck at Phish—give four or five stars to.

Let’s proceed to have “fun.”

July 11, Huntsville: ONE STAR. Or maybe two. I don’t care. Don’t remember the summer tour opener? You’re not alone! It was a perfectly cromulent show, whose only arguable musical highlights were Fish on marimba lumina in the intro of “2001,” the “CDT” second set closer (which concluded very ferociously and sloppily (in a great way!) with Trey yelling the last verse), and the five song mega-fun encore that included “FYF” and “Icculus” which deserves a whole star on its own, hence my giving this show a star. You had a great time, and thought it was at worst just another somewhat above average-GREAT Phish show, so you rated it four stars? YOU’RE NOT WRONG, YOU JUST SUCK AT PHISH! But why do I suck at Phish, you ask? Because while PHISH DOESN’T PLAY BAD SHOWS, this show is pretty much as “bottom tier” as Phish shows get, i.e, it’s arguably not among the very weakest since it has a few musical highlights, but it’s not among the mid-tier because it has so few, and those few aren’t sufficiently meritorious to bump the show up a star into the mid-tier. And this show is presently overrated at 3.68 on this site. COVENTRY’S “SOAM” FOR EXAMPLE IS WAY MORE MUSICALLY IMPRESSIVE THAN THIS ENTIRE SHOW. You want to give 8/15/04 only one or two stars?? Because you had to sleep in cow manure, even though there's plenty of amazing (and plenty of awful) music in the show?? Then maybe you suck at Phish. Or maybe just don’t take show ratings too seriously, and don’t get offended when some deranged stranger on the internet rates one of the greatest shows you've ever seen a star and tells you that you suck at Phish.

July 12, Huntsville: TWO STARS, I guess, arguably THREE, I guess, depends on how much weight to give the “Fuego” jam. I don’t care. Wonderful show! Sweet jam in the first set “Sigma Oasis” and decent jamming in most everything else in the first (although Trey in the first measure of “Stash’s” composed intro section is hilariously and objectively bad, I think Mike Page and Fish’s accompaniment of Trey’s lead in the jam is pretty good overall), but the show’s real highlights are the jamming in the second set’s “Mercury” and (of course) “Fuego.” It’s a sublime version of “Fuego,” the “type II” improv of which is at times melodic and spacey simultaneously, and I think it alone is arguably worth A Whole Star, hence my waffling between a two- and three-star rating. And I definitely wouldn’t call this “Fuego” must-hear, which also explains why I’m on the fence about this really being a mid-tier three-star show as opposed to a bottom tier two-star show. Anyway “Fuego’s” jam also segues nicely into “Piper,” too. You rated this show four or five stars because it’s a FANTASTIC show in your opinion? You’re not wrong, it is indeed fantastic, it is A PHISH SHOW, after all, but you just suck at Phish.

© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
July 14, Alpharetta: FOUR STARS. The first set highlights are an excellent, highly improvisational “Tube” and debonair, very gay, first-set-closing “Prince Caspian.” (I love Fish’s “AHHHHH” (the taste that refreshes!) sound sample, which he plays early in the “Tube” jam; it never gets old and it always brings a smile to my fucking face.) Second set highlights include a beautiful “Ghost” (though not beautiful enough to be jamcharted imo), a wild wtf-is-even-happening-has-the-whole-world-gone-crazy 25+ minute “Ruby Waves,” the debut of “…And Flew Away” (a proggy rocker which, like it or not, at least has 20+ min jamming potential), and a must-hear “My Friend, My Friend,” the improv of which is terrifying and triumphant. It’s worth your time to check this out if you’ve not heard it.

And I must give credit where it’s due: this show is currently rated 4.202, an eminently reasonable rating. I wouldn’t fault anyone for giving this show five stars because while it’s only two sets, it’s among the best start-to-finish shows of the year to date, easily “top tier” in other words. That said, anyone who gave this show three or fewer stars sucks at Phish, and should have the privilege of rating shows on this site suspended for at least the rest of the year.

July 15, Alpharetta: FIVE STARS HELL YEAH MFERS! Don’t listen to me, if you’ve not yet heard this show then all ratings of summer shows that you’ve made on this site are at least somewhat ignorant. First set is a resounding mix of old school and new, with a soaring “Runaway Foam” opener right outtadagate, versions of “SYSF” and “Everything’s Right” worth your time to listen to, not to mention favorites like “Fluffhead” and “Esther” and the always-popular “Golgi” set-closer (though admittedly I would’ve left for vending at its start). Hell to the fucking YEAH! I’m sure even the setbreak was a blast for those in attendance, or even those watching from the couch who probably opted to stay the-fuck up for the second set!

And the second set? A magnificent 29 minute must-hear “Tweezer” that includes improv so resplendent in its majesty at times that if you’re not moved to tears or nearly so THEN YOU HAVE NO SOUL! The “IAWITW” in the fourth quarter is fierce as well, and even if you think (correctly) that the “Hood” is “just” average-great, it’s always a welcome second-set closer. And even if you aren’t or weren’t keen about the “ALBTD” encore choice and perhaps you headed to the lot or went to bed, Phish rewarded the fans who stuck around for the inevitable “TweePrise” by playing “BBFCFM” after it because YOU’RE GOD DAMNED RIGHT THEY DID! Fuck you if you rated this show anything less than five stars: YOU. SUCK. AT. PHISH.

July 16, Alpharetta: FOUR STARS, an above average-great show musically overall, but I wouldn’t fault someone who gave this one three stars, particularly if they weren’t thrilled (as I was, am) by Fish leaving his kit, fronting the stage, and generously entertaining, humiliating, all of us, every one, in an “encore.” This show has good song selection and flow, the Phish debut of “The Well” and a lovely first-set “Gin,” and jamchartworthy (if not arguably must-hear!) versions of “Carini” (sandwiched in a “Mike’s Groove” taboot taboot) and “Sand” in the second set, and of course the encore, in which Fish “plays” guitar in a transcendently hilarious “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia,” and “You Enjoy Myself” is rotely performed in response to a fan who wore a shirt to the show noting that Phish had not played a “YEM” in Georgia in 20 years. IMO awarding this show four stars is defensible given the strength of the “Gin,” “Carini,” “Sand,” and encore, but I wouldn’t fault someone for giving this one three stars and calling it an “average-great night” for the Phish. But if they gave this show two stars or five stars? They suck at Phish.

© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
July 18, Wilmington: Happy Birthday, Jim Pollock! A ONE STAR show for you! Musical highlights of this show? Definitely the opening “Happy Birthday” to Jim Pollock. Uhhhhhhhhhm OH YEAH this “ASIHTOS” is a gem-of-a-version to be sure, and if you’re a fan of this song then don’t miss it! But is it “must-hear” if you’re not a fan of the song? Naw, not really, because the jam cools down into an aimless abyss, and meanders for awhile and then a decent “Light” begins, and uh well, you just might not be that into the improv in this version (even though I dig it and it should be heard by “ASIHTOS” fans!). Anyway this is a paradigmatic well-below average-great Phish show, and if you’re anyone other than Jim Pollock (who is a FIVE STAR HUMAN BEING—AND ARTIST!!!) and you rated this show more than one star? At the Phish, you suck.

July 19, Wilmington: Oh, dear, maybe three stars I guess, who tf cares. The show was cut-short due to weather so it seems undignified to “rate” it, don’t you think? I therefore abstain. First set featured a nearly twenty minute “AWOH,” but not gonna lie, I really don’t like Trey’s somewhat flat pitch-shifting tone during much of it and it’s challenging for me to truly appreciate the otherwise stellar musicianship of the band throughout this unquestionably jamchartworthy version of the song. And the second set opened very well and equally strong with thirty-five minutes of “CDT > Oblivion,” but a storm stopped the show before “Scents” went anywhere (I would recommend hearing Trey’s and Fish’s banter before the show was stopped however!). Assuming the “Scents” and fourth quarter and encore of this show had been “average-great” I’d likely have rated this one three stars, as four would’ve been pushing it since I have zero interest in listening to anything in the entire first set ever again. Just my two fucking cents remember.

July 21, Star Lake: TWO STARS. How can one not love a show that opens with “Party Time,” a composition by the band Phish, which is performed in its entirety here, but that was only quoted in the 12/29/18Wolfman’s Brother”? First set is indisputably mid-tier at best, with pleasant versions of “Stash” and (a set-closing) “Scents,” but as good as the “Stash” is, it’s really only worth jamcharting as a somewhat above-average version of the last 14 years. I don’t think I’d recommend it to a vet. Second set is a mixed-bag as well, with a MAGICAL “Sigma Oasis” the last several minutes of which fucken SMOKE, and a fabulous segue into “Final Hurrah,” which is also quite good. Rest of the show? At best, average-lovely Phish, especially the set-closing “Ruby Waves” of course which has a fake-ending. And fwiw I really like the jam segment and jamming potential of “Pillow Jets” and THE CONJURERS OF THUNDERRRRRRRRR!!!!! lolz. I have no quarrel with those of you who rated this show three stars, because if you think this to be a mid-tier show, you wouldn’t be mistaken as it arguably is. But if you rated this show four or (gasp) five stars? You’re a conjurer of sucking at Phish.

July 22, Star Lake: TWO STARS. First set’s musical highlight is its “Sand,” which ended the set in a righteous, let’s-put-this-set-out-of-its-misery manner (though it won’t make the jam chart). Second set’s a different story entirely—at least for its first ~37 minutes. The improv in the 22 minute “Everything’s Right” is extremely audacious for nearly its entirety, taking improvisational risks that pay off, and it’s worth your time to check out. And it’s followed by a comparatively short but psychedelic “Soul Planet,” the jam of which jettisons the listener into outer space at warp speed, before seemingly losing a grip on all of time and space, mellowing into an elephantinely enrapturing and, eventually, upbeat and soulful soundscape. A SOUL PLANET, YOU SAY!?!?!? I see it!! I SEE IT!!!! Anyway the rest of the show is average-fun and there’s the Phish debut of “Monsters” too, but uh, if you rated this show one or three stars, whatever, I understand: the mileage one exhausts in traversing the intergalactic planetary systems and ever-expanding 12 GALAXIES can and certainly does vary. But if you rated this show four or five stars?

© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
July 23, Syracuse: THREE STARS no wait, FOUR STARS, well then again, WHO CARES. First set is through-the-motions until a nearly 19-minute “KDF” concludes it in a disturbingly rambunctious manner, as it changes key several times over its often belligerent and savage course, and Trey repeats a melodic, inspiring theme throughout it too. It’s a must-hear first-set-closer to be sure, even if you hate the song and never want to hear it again, ever. This “KDF” is so powerful I’d be shocked if at least a few hundred people in attendance didn’t “get IT” with Phish there and then!

Second set includes A MONSTER “TWEEZER,” that needs to be heard to be believed, equal parts awe and bliss, a testament to how incredible this song has often been in the last 14 years, and towards its end it features a jam with a descending chord progression that may have led some to think of the “MLBJ,” but this ain’t that, and it’s arguably cooler than that. “Tweezer’s” coda wondrously segues into “Oblivion,” and fuck if this 20+ minute marvel ain’t also MUST-HEAR! So what are you waiting for!? Go hear it! YES!!!!!!! The jam in this “Oblivion” concludes in so mind-blowingly good a fashion that Trey could’ve spent the whole fourth quarter filling the stage with explosive hemorrhagic diarrhea and I’d still give this show four stars. Maybe. I dunno. This show is an odd duck in that the highs were really high but the uh rest of the show in both sets? Average-great. So I guess whatever rating you gave this one is fine, unless of course you gave it only a star or two, in which case, ysap.

July 25, Mann: TWO STARS, I guess, maybe THREE STARS. Many decades ago, my mom told me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s best to say nothing at all. And you’ve probably also heard that it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. With that said, I really love what Mike in particular does in the “Gin” in the first set, so I think it’s arguably worth a listen for this reason but also for its smooth segue into “BOTT.” And the second set opens with a good “DWD” (the ending chorus/coda of which is sung in an atypical way to be sure lol), which is followed by a STUPENDOUS “The Well,” with GLORIOUS must-hear “type II” improv that is itself worth A Whole Damn Star, if not TWO stars.

July 26, Mann: TWO STARS, I guess, arguably one. Many decades ago, my mom told me that if you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s best to say nothing at all. Setting that aside, this show is almost as weak as a Phish show IN ANY ERA ever gets. In other words, the LAMENESS of this show is TRANSCENDENT, in that it transcends Phish’s forty years of Great Performances. Yes, to be sure, the first set contains a fun “Mike’s” opener that concludes as it ordinarily does (DOES NOT SECOND JAM) and then “BORW” starts-up and is played for a bit, and then it roughly segues back into “Mike’s” (which AGAIN concludes A SECOND TIME lolololololol as it ordinarily does before seguing into “Hydrogen”), and there’s also a pretty good “Moma” I suppose, and an atypically bromantic “BDTNL” in the first set with some fun “call and response” interplay among the band members. And the first set closes with “Fluffhead”! But this is arguably a bottom-tier Phish set. And the second set? Hear the motherfucken “Carini” at all costs. It is A GOD DAMN MASTERPIECE, and is alone why this show deserves AT LEAST ONE, albeit SHINING, STAR. And if you—even reasonably and eloquently—disagree with my rating this show two stars, even though it arguably deserves only one? I don’t care. We all suck at Phish… … … from time to time.

© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
July 28, MSG: FOUR STARS. Even though the first set closes with “My Soul”—which is an AUTOMATIC LOSS OF A STAR imnsfho—the first quarter has must-hear versions of “AWOH” and “Cities” in it, and the second set contains a thrilling trio in “Ruby Waves -> Plasma > Simple” and a bewilderingly dissonant, jamchartworthy set-closing “SOAM.” I said more about this show in my fecal and insensitive recap of it for this blog, but it’s worth your time to hear this show if you’ve not heard it.

July 29, MSG: THREE STARS. So uh the first set is a real mixed bag, arguably bottom tier. Sure, it’s got a very good “DWD” in the second position and closes well with “Foam” and “Moonage Daydream,” but just look at the middle of the set, actually don’t look at it—I’m reluctant to type it here lest you vomit in your mouth a little. Second set’s highlight is of course the thirty minute “Fuego,” which is absolutely must-hear and is (you guessed it) worth A Whole Star, hence why this is at least a two-star show and arguably a three-star show as I hear it. (The “Oblivion” that follows it is quite good too.) If you rated this show four stars, I hear you, it’s difficult not to “above average-great” this one given the fortitude of the improv in “Fuego” alone. But if you gave this show five stars?

July 30, MSG: FOUR STARS, maybe FIVE, I guess, your call, flip a coin. Even though there’s no 20+ minute jam, this show is littered with jamchartworthy 10+ minute versions of songs, and everything in the first set is worth hearing for a change, too. Truly a well-above average first set, with super versions of everything—even the banter after the great “Llama” is worth your time to hear. Each version in the opening trio of “AC/DC Bag -> MFMF -> Gin” will likely get jamcharted, and the “Theme” in particular is atypically improvisational in its somewhat uh loose/sloppy but VERY entertaining opening composed section, and its jam segment is no slouch either. The “Tube” is also delightfully funktastic, check it out especially if you’re a fan of the song of course. Second set was also a force to be reckoned with, as its “Life Saving Gun > NMINML” and set-closing “Light” are all harmonically and melodically riveting with the improvisational weight to jamchart. Also, I just have to say, if this was your first “Izabella” and so you felt no choice but to rate this show five stars, I get it. I’m also relieved to see this show has a 4.153 rating at present, since it’s such a demonstrably top-tier show that anyone who rated it only a few stars doesn’t deserve the privilege of seeing Phish perform anymore, clearly can’t have fun and, yes, sucks at the Phish.

Aug 1, MSG: THREE STARS, but sure, from a certain point of view—namely, that you’re a SETLIST WHORE, who cares more about song selection than music quality—I can see giving it four stars. First set begins with a nice enough “Ghost” and “Reba” duo, and has a robust middle in “Bitch,” a jamchartworthy “Timber,” and the Phish debut of “Broken Into Pieces” (which I dig). But then seemingly out of nowhere in sixth position is a SEVENTEEN MINUTE devastatingly good “Wolfman’s Brother” (which contains Fish quoting “The Well” relatively early in its jam segment). The improv in this “Wolfman’s” takes awhile to get going to be sure, but eventually—as if a switch gets thrown at around the 12 minute mark—the jam starts cookin’ with Trey echoplexing the shit outta the phhhhhhaaaaaatttt groove Mike Fish and Page lay down, and then, at 13:19, Trey begins—and begins repeating—a catchy melodic theme that soon the full band CRUSHES, and the jam gets SPINE-TINGLINGLY AWESOME, bringing TEARS to your eyes if you have a SOUL, and



And yeah unfortunately the transition out of the bliss jam back to the closing coda of “Wolfman’s” is sloppy and ugly but it could be worse. First set then closes with “I Am The God Damned Walrus”! WTF, the Phish!? Way to end a FIRST SET!

© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
But the second set is a less-engaging story. It opens magnificently to be sure, with a thrilling and wonderful “type II” seventeen minute “Sample in a Jar” (a song that for decades was a steady but pathetic non-jamming vehicle), that segues into a good “KDF” in a manner that’s effect-laden and strange, sounding very off, as if a wrong pedal or button was pressed depressed depressed. Or something. Anyway, it’s not that the “KDF” or “Golden Age” etc aren’t well-played, it’s uh. Well. After “Golden Age” abruptly ends, it’s like the rest of the gig was being remotely controlled by someone who sucks at Phish. I don’t know. I enjoy all of these songs, too (ok, not a mid-second set “Shade” FUCK THAT), but “Sneakin Sally” and “Twist” and a “YEM” set closer, not to mention a four-song oldskool encore? Looks great on “paper” sure, but I wouldn’t recommend listening to any of this. If you rated this five stars, please explain your rating in the “Comments,” as I’d like the opportunity to sob inconsolably at your adorable ignorance. Unless you rated it five stars entirely because of the jam in “Wolfman’s,” in which case your ignorance is excused.

Aug 2, MSG: THREE STARS. Very good first set in that everything is well-played, and the “Energy -> Meatstick -> It’s Ice” trio will jamchart. But there’s nothing imo that’s “must hear” or especially captivating. Second set? Opens very well with an atypically slow ‘n funky improvisational must-hear “Cavern,” which segues smoothly into a “Carini,” the improv of which is all over the place, with several key and tempo changes, some enchanted jamming, a real adventure. But one that I don’t need to go on again. And the rest of the set is average-enjoyable. And yes, the encore is sweet, what with the “Frankenstein” bust-out and “Slave,” a song I love, always. A paradigmatic, “mid tier” average-great Phish show this was, is.

Aug 4, MSG: FIVE STARS. Top-tier first set with punchy above-average-great versions of “46 Days,” “BOAF” and “Halley’s Comet” in particular, and that also contains the debut of Mike’s “Back in the Bubble.” And yes it closes in fine fashion with “Roggae” and “Antelope” (only the 193rd known time it’s closed the first set). Second set begins with a DIVINE twenty-three minute must-hear “Mike’s Song” that HAS A GENUINE OLD SCHOOL SECOND JAM beginning at 8:44 (with The Note that long ago used to often begin “Simple”), after Trey somewhat sloppily plays the closing chords of the “tramps” segment. This Second Jam is very repetitive but in a good way because it SMOKES!!! This is such a siiiiiiiiiiick “Mike’s” and then a masterful, marvelous “Sand -> Crosseyed” follows it! “X eyed” isn’t lyrically perfect of course but its jam is ON FIRE and is A FLAWLESS GEM! Set chills waaaay down with “ALBTD” and “Lizards,” but then an intimately soulful “WMGGW” ends the set. Trey’s playing in this set-closing version was so heart-wrenching that at the show I wondered if he was playing it in memory of and with love for their old friend and long-time production designer, Chris McGregor, whose death Phish had announced only the day before this gig. And oh yeah the fucking encore consists of “Weekapaug” and “Fluffhead.” I mean JFC.

I guess I can understand why some of you rated this show four stars: you require that if “ALBTD” is performed during a set rather than in the encore (where it provides an opportunity to flee for the lot early) then the show must lose a star. Obviously, I respect this. But only this. If you rated this show only four stars for any other reason, YSAP!!!!

© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
© 2023 PHISH (Rene Huemer)
Aug 5, MSG: FOUR STARS. Pretty good first set with a short but fierce little “Martian Monster,” and one of the most charming versions of “Fuckerpants” in Phish history, until its weird, dirge-like conclusion, during which Trey seems to groan (?) at times before starting-up “NICU.” The end of “Caspian” is, uh, different? The second set is what is meant when someone excitedly exclaims that a set or show had FANTASTIC FLOW! Every song in the set is connected with either a fluid -> segue or brief > transition. This set has an enchanting “Tweezer” (yet another must-hear version) with “Guy Forget” showing-up early in its jam. Mike actually starts “Guy Forget” at 6:23 of the LivePhish first “Tweezer” track, even though Fish and Trey rap or sing or speak the uh “lyric.” I will never forget that originally LivePhish tracked a 20+ minute “Guy Forget” out of this “Tweezer.” Still makes me giggle. Iirc it was fixed in less than 12 hours but still. “Guy Forget” arguably isn’t even a “song.”

Anyway this “Tweezer” is worth your time to hear, it’s yet another powerful 4.0 version—even though the rest of the set and the encore are average-great fare. If you gave this show fewer than four stars please explain your reasoning in the “Comments,” because I (and others too I’m sure) genuinely want to try to understand why you suck at Phish. Don’t be shy, we luv u xoxoxo, all of us only wade into the “Comments” section of internet websites with the best of intentions, to treat you with the respect you deserve as a human being.

Aug 25, SPAC: FOUR STARS. So generous of Phish to play these shows and raise $3.5 million for flood relief in VT/NY! And make the webcast free as well! First set is very good with an above-average “Moma Dance” and also worth-hearing “Sand,” which many people enjoy because Trey repeatedly teases “We Welcome You To Munchkinland” in it. I don’t like Trey’s tone most of the time in this “Sand” and well, that’s obviously on me, as objectively speaking this is a jamchartworthy (noteworthy) version for sure given the “Munchkinland” teasing that I never wish to hear again ever under any circumstances at all whatsoever. (Fwiw Trey does hint at “DEG” in it too, though, at 11:13-11:21 LivePhish timing!)

Second set looks incredible on “paper”: six songs, including two 20+ minutes and two 10+ minutes that are joined by segues!? The improv in the ~44 minute “AWOH > Simple” is must-hear to be sure, as there are key and tempo changes galore and mind-expanding and heart-bursting peaks and valleys that range from the soulfully serene to the eyeball-popping funkalicious. And the segue into “Fuego” out of an airy spacey hazey conclusion to the jam in “Simple” is itself a work of art. An example of a must-hear > transition (it’s usually -> segues that get and deserve the love!). “Fuego” is short but very, very sweet, and while Trey ripcords its jam into “CDT” (and it takes Fish a couple measures to quit what he’d been playing) and so this -> transition is actually HOT GARBAGE, this “CDT” is wild: it concludes in an INSANELY CACOPHONOUS manner, and Trey even laughs while singing the final chorus. I think he’d kinda effed up the closing chords at the first pass and so well they ended up making it up by ending this “CDT” multiple times. Trey also hilariously teases “Munchkinland” at its end too for good measure. This has to be the most mind-blowingly crazy ending to “CDT” in Phish history. Please speak up in the “Comments” if you think I’m out of line here. I can’t offhand recall a crazier ending to “CDT,” but it’s been played over five hundred times. “Wading in the Velvet Sea” is an apropos encore I suppose for a flood relief benefit, and this is an exquisite version of a song I continue to have difficulty listening to over nineteen years later.

© 2023 PHISH (Jake Silco)
© 2023 PHISH (Jake Silco)
Aug 26, SPAC: FOUR STARS. First set is what I think of when someone calls a musical performance “solid.” It’s middle tier. It’s well-played, average-great Phish. Nothing jamchartworthy. Nothing I need to listen to again. Similarly, before Derek fucking Trucks takes the stage in the second set, “average-great Phish” opens the set in the form of “DWD->Ghost” (not gonna jam chart, though I still love this “Ghost”!). Long story short, Derek Trucks’s contributions to the “Golden Age” and fourth quarter are so awe-inspiringly good that they’re worth TWO WHOLE STARS and raise what had been destined to be a two-star show to a four-star show.

If you’ve not yet heard Derek’s sit-in I urge you to listen to it asap. Like now. Today. What’s kinda cool is that you can hear he’s a bit shaky when he first starts playing, like he’s checking the gear and his blending with the other instruments. But then when he starts playing in the “Golden Age” in the “Love don’t you falter” chorus and bridge to the jam segment???? TEARS! There’s no way anything I say will do it justice. He just raises the musicianship of the entire band and the quality of these Phish songs in a profound—and profoundly moving—way. WOW, just, WOW! HEAR. AT. ALL. COSTS. And geesh OBVIOUSLY if you rated this show five stars, how can you be criticized for that!?!? The music with Derek is arguably worth FIVE FUCKING STARS to be sure! I just personally can’t rate this show five stars given the unremarkable nature of the first set. Oh my god—do I SUCK AT PHISH????

DICKS: You already have my ratings of the DICKS shows. If you disagree with any of them that’s fine of course, I don’t care, whatever, but as entitled to your opinions as you are, don’t think that you’re absolved of being ignorant about Phish’s music.

YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! You must keep listening to Phish’s music, all eras of it, and you must try to listen—if you’ve not already done so—to every circulating note of Phish’s music, if only so you, too, can go completely insane and operate in a reality known only to yourself impenetrable by others, but also simultaneously proselytize Phish’s music and help educate the phoi pholloi in the process!

Indeed, without you and your passion for Phish’s music, we will fail to inspire the confidence in every fan that is needed not only to not give a fucking fuck about how some rando on the internet rated a Phish show, but also to overcome the innumerable insecurities that make us all—every single one of you—SUCK AT PHISH!

© 2023 PHISH (Andrew Blackstein)
© 2023 PHISH (Andrew Blackstein)

If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.


, comment by paulj
paulj Ha! Way to clap back! BTW, you're right about missing "IT". From my paper on show ratings:

Even if we could explain more of the variation using an improved list of songs and venue effects, I suspect that most of the remaining error is the result of show attributes that cannot be measured. I’m speaking, of course, of the fact that we will never truly be able to quantify the breathtaking flights of musical inspiration and magic that occur so often in Phish shows. There is no variable that captures what Yeager (2010, p. 190) has identified as the “spontaneous communitas” experienced at a Phish show. A simple count of debut songs does not capture how stunned fans were by Phish’s brilliant, out-of-left-field Halloween costume in 2014, nor can any setlist capture the roaring energy of that show’s third set. How does one gauge the magnificent improvisation of the 2013 Tahoe Tweezer or the 2019 Alpine Valley Ruby Waves? The surprise of Steep at the Baker’s Dozen in 2017? Our model turns out to be ill-suited for that purpose because Phish shows cannot be reduced to a tidy statistical relationship. The bathtub full of error remains fairly full because any purely statistical model will miss the most astonishing and rewarding aspects of live Phish performances.
PS. I didn't miss IT. In fact I loved IT. Great festival!
, comment by jlouderb
jlouderb I love these reviews, and this is EXACTLY what I want from reviews. I'm still working my way through summer and now I have a sorted list to use to guide my listening. I'll likely get to all of them eventually (although maybe not the second Mann show). Thanks for the reviews!

Also, can someone make this T-Shirt? It should be a staple in the lot.

(sorry for the broken links. I obv suck at

, comment by ruddiger
ruddiger Thank you for the fun read.

Only taking a point off for "My Soul" is generous.
, comment by mgolia6
mgolia6 Well I say Goddamn! Praise Icculus! Excellent follow up to your previous post. Thanks for the trip down near term memory lane, summer 2023 edition. Always inspired by your ability to wordsmith, crafting just the right amount of description while not giving a fuck about what others think…????! Thanks for the comedy, the tragedy, the schooling. You put on a clinic in how to describe and critique Phish. It’s inspiring. I am getting Lester Bangs vibes, you know some speed, cough syrup, the dribble. Priceless. I’d give it three, maybe four stars. Congratulations and I can’t wait for the the release of your book: How To Suck (and not suck) at Phish! And the subsequent book terr!
, comment by Jer2112
Jer2112 @jlouderb said:
I love these reviews, and this is EXACTLY what I want from reviews. I'm still working my way through summer and now I have a sorted list to use to guide my listening. I'll likely get to all of them eventually (although maybe not the second Mann show). Thanks for the reviews!

Also, can someone make this T-Shirt? It should be a staple in the lot.

(sorry for the broken links. I obv suck at

I was thinking of this, but on a sticker! YSAP!
But how do we pronounce it? EEsap, Y’sap, or why-sap?
, comment by HarborSeal
HarborSeal Well, first, hats off to the guy who pointed out that "everyone is dumber because of you." Eloquent and insightful take imo.

Seriously, what a treat this is to read. Fun to read, fun to quibble with, and a reminder of the days when I'd have to comb through ol' for reviews to try to figure out which shows were worth hearing. Can you imagine being able to hear only A COUPLE SHOWS FROM EVERY TOUR!?!? Unthinkable!!

Thanks for writing up your thoughts, and for powering through every version of Golgi and About to Run to make sure there's nothing must hear that we're all missing.

It makes me want to dare you to put together a list of other five star shows from 4.0....
, comment by SoStupendous
SoStupendous Guys, we don't HAVE to rate shows, just enjoy them one by one.
, comment by HarborSeal
HarborSeal Also I thought it was "You suck at THE Phish"?!?
, comment by Scissortail
Scissortail I loved the first one, and not just because you gave me a nice shoutout to illustrate a point. I loved this one even more. I thank you, and also I thank the editorial folks who agreed to both! I vote for more fun blog posts.

But… four stars for july 28? Dumb fuck take no credibility rabble rabble rabble. You bad man don’t know good thing.
, comment by FunkyCFunkyDo
FunkyCFunkyDo Only who sucks at Phish?
You pressed "you," referring to me. That is incorrect.
The correct answer is you!
, comment by FunkDog
FunkDog Every show has four stars
, comment by ghey4trey
ghey4trey This would be an okay take if the reviewer didnt rate a 1993 show 1 star

Zero shows from 1993 are 1 star

That’s not subjective. If you think otherwise then you do not get it or you lost it along the way.
, comment by BennyHa_Ha_Ha
BennyHa_Ha_Ha Good stuff, Icculus – your content on this site is always a joy to read, and your combination of wisdom/voice and bitching and love for the band is always a treat. Fuckerpants. Gets me every time. Felt the same way for a long time, though I never had the words for it, haha.

I wanted to point out a few things that I think might be noteworthy with respect to the gist and motivation for Charlie's last two blog posts. My sense is that a lot of the pushback about one, two, and three stars reviews on the site are born out of .netters looking for external validation of their experiences at shows. No one on couch tour is ever offended. I think everyone pretty much gets this, but I would attribute it to the effects of social media as a cause. We live in a world where if someone doesn't immediately respond to our text, or like a social media post, our insecurity creeps in and then feeds on itself. I have seen shows that were such an emotional level of investment for me – 12/31/13, for example – that even a slight knock on the quality of the performance can feel like a slight that stings. It did when I read about the flubs in Mockingbird that were part of the .net review of the show, which were posted the next day. Still a damn good version compared to the relative nightmare of a version on 8/31/21 (apologies if that one hurt!). I hadn't read a word before I immediately scrolled to Charlie's assessment of MSG 6 and 7, which I attended. Both were barn burners, I don't need any help there, but I was hoping to see that coveted 5 star review for one of them. In my mind I had them as reversed (MSG6 a 4 star, and MSG7 a 5 star), but the point is I was looking for external validation. Hypocrite through and through it seems. That bias really came from having attended 8/6/17 of Baker's, and I was expecting tour closer/MSG 6 of this year to take the cake. It may very well not have. The point is that turning to .net for validation, or at least always expecting validation, isn't fair to this community. Neither is uncontextualized bitching that basically leaves people wondering why the hell one even turns to this site. I suppose it's a delicate balance.

As far as this site is concerned, I care far more about the written reviews than I do about star ratings. Full disclosure, I have seriously never even looked at them, and I've been attending shows since 1995. I am familiar with most show reviews on this platform in the last 10 years, and I usually give them a glance if not a full read. Ever notice that the critics garner all the comments? Seriously. Post a late afternoon review about your transcendent experience and it's criquets. Pull a Michael Ayers review of Dick's 2 of this summer tour and seemingly everyone wants to chime in. The outrage and butthurt is palpable. I get it, according to our human nature we'd rather look at a train wreck than a...

On another note, I would seriously like to thank all the reviewers who posted early in the day, the day after shows for this summer tour. It seemed like a concerted effort. I have reviewed shows myself, and while I will concede that it's an honor, it's also a task and at times a pain in the ass. You have no idea how relieved I was to not have to review MSG 6 or 7. @suzydrano did a great job with MSG 7, but you can sense that it was a to-do for her. As much as I love the deep dives, I do wonder if letting reviewers know they can push out shorter content/reviews sooner to elicit more comments/camaraderie/discussion would be good for .net. Livephish has the audio out within two hours, and lately I've found myself hopping on to take a peek at hot takes. Hells'd if we should let those pricks eat our lunch. It's a tough call. I love .net's thorough reviews with fans pouring their heart out on the page to conjure up what went down at a show. Been there myself. But when they are pushed out at 5pm the next day with the band about to take the stage just a few ours later, and no one is even commenting, I do wonder if .net reviews lose their relevancy.

Rant over. Enjoy the rest of the weekend everyone!
, comment by Phishiscool
Phishiscool Yea I mean... If alpha 2 was anything less than a 5 star mind blowing show for you.... Fuck off forever
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