Phish in San Francisco: A brief review of a triumphant trilogy

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
San Francisco, CA
August 17-19, 2012



After a night in Long Beach, the second leg of Phish”s summer tour was officially underway when the band took the stage at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for a sold-out three night run in The City by the Bay.

The energy inside the venue was palpably intense as fans readied themselves for three nights of a band that had no known future only four short years ago. A lot has happened with the band since then . There have been good nights and there have been bad nights. Lately though, the band had seemingly hit a true stride and this, coupled with an obvious level of increase in comfort within their own skin. Unfortunately night one would not be the example one would want to point to if he were desiring to provide evidence to attest to the aforementioned.

Night one proved that in spite of the fact that 30 minutes were devoted to two songs (collectively, “Down With Disease” & “Tweezer”), a “win” is not inevitable. Rather, while the evening certainly did not fall into the “L” category, it was far from what fans had hoped would open up talk of a potential triple crown . Perhaps it could all be blamed on the setlist, but the bottom line was that the night, and particularly the second set, lacked cohesion and left fans hoping for redemption but fearful all the same. 

Night two saw things pick up significantly. Worries were put to rest when a very early bit of fun ensued in the form of a vocal jam in set one”s “Wolfman”s Brother.” If nothing else, it was clear that the cohesion was back to where it needed to be and though the show lacked moments to point to as individual highlights, what needed to happen did happen. The hope was that the closing night would blend the extended improvisation from night one with the cohesiveness of night two. It would end up doing that and so much more.

Opening the 8/19 festivities with”Crowd Control,” the quartet signaled that something special was about to unfold in the hallowed city that gave birth to the Grateful Dead and subsequently, a scene that would change everything. Further, it immediately put to rest any commentary that insists Phish is out of touch with the needs of their faithful. It was funny. It was crude. It was Phish in fine form.

What transpired just so happened to turn into a first set that could take the “Pepsi Challenge” in regards to tightness, with any set in the 3.0 era. But beyond tight, the jams were fluid to the point that it was as though the band had forgotten not only what set they were in, but what year. Highlighted by a calming emptiness in “David Bowie” and tremendously rocking “Axilla,”  the best part of the entire thing was that the band was about to outdo set one by a long-shot by delivering a second set that had no need to rely on any “bust out” to earn its spot in the annals.

As insanely good as Trey Anastasio is at wielded his Languedoc, Phish is, and has always been at its best when the Jedi front man leader finds a spot to mingle off to the side for a few, thereby allowing his brethren to step up and flex their muscles. It yields a confident and solid collective. That is what happened in San Fran and it was the very thing that catapulted the second set into what it became: (dare I say?) epic.

Though there were multiple moments that were noteworthy, the best moment started at the beginning of the set and ended towards the middle with “Crosseyed and Painless > Light> Sneakin” Sally Through the Alley> Crosseyed and Painless Reprise > Theme From the Bottom > Rocky Top.” In short, it was the jam of the summer and it could easily be argued that it was the jam of the 3.0 era that began in 2009… which obviously places it above anything that happened post-hiatus number one.

Complete with teases of gross polarity, including Mumford and Sons” “The Cave” (during the reprised “C & P”) and Beyonce”s “Single Ladies” (during “Light”), Phish had set the bar high for the rest of the summer and San Franciscans” had been given a gift, making night one and two”s patience and understanding seem like a mere pittance for what had just been received.


2012 Phish Summer Tour continues tonight, 8/25/12 with a sold-out show in Atlanta


August 17, 2012

I: AC/DC Bag > The Moma Dance > Possum, Corinna, Sand, Halley”s Comet > Funky Bitch, Sample in a Jar, Roses Are Free >

My Friend, My Friend, Slave to the Traffic Light

II: Down with Disease > Birds of a Feather, Tweezer > Twist > Wading in the Velvet Sea > Chalk Dust Torture,

Joy > Run Like an Antelope, Shine a Light[1]

Encore: First Tube


[1] Contained a brief “Wading in the Velvet Sea” tease

8/17/12 Downloads: Audience || Soundboard

August 18, 2012

I: Runaway Jim, Wolfman”s Brother[1], Nellie Kane, Beauty of a Broken Heart, Ocelot, Maze, I Didn”t Know > 46 Days, Tube >

When the Circus Comes, Sugar Shack, Split Open and Melt, Cavern

II: Golden Age > Piper > Mike”s Song > Simple > Backwards Down the Number Line > Carini > Wilson > Weekapaug Groove,

The Horse > Silent in the Morning > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Fluffhead > Loving Cup

Encore: Show of Life > Character Zero


[1] Vocal jam.

8/18/12 Downloads: Audience || Soundboard

August 19, 2012

I: Crowd Control, Party Time, Axilla, Reba, Free > Mound > Walk Away, NICU > Back on the Train, Gotta Jibboo > Roggae, David Bowie

II: Crosseyed and Painless > Light[1] -> Sneakin” Sally Through the Alley[2] -> Crosseyed and Painless Reprise >

Theme From the Bottom > Rocky Top, Boogie On Reggae Woman > Meatstick[3], Bug, You Enjoy Myself

Encore: Ride Captain Ride > Tweezer Reprise


[1] Crosseyed and Painless and Tweezer Reprise teases.
[2] Crosseyed and Painless tease.
[3] Japanese lyrics.


All setlists courtesy of

8/19/12 Downloads: Audience || Soundboard



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