I’ve been to Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion exactly once, to see Animal Collective perform for the very first time at the venue they named their seminal 2009 album after (the Centipede Hz-heavy show included just 3 songs from MPP). This was in July 2011, and as a high-schooler I was ecstatic to see my favorite band deliver the goods. I knew almost nothing about Phish at the time except that my dad considered them a shameless Grateful Dead ripoff, and being far from even a Deadhead myself I was in no rush to counter. Phish was a total blindspot.
A decade and change later, Phish is my most listened-to artist (I type this with as much humility as possible). Most “phans” consider the mid-to-late 90s as their peak live era, and I won’t dispute that claim. But for whatever reason, a disproportionate amount of their 2010 shows are available on streaming services. This is one show deserving of attention.
The band’s first two-night stand at Merriweather (there have been seven since) began on Saturday, 6/26/10, with the band notably performing a cover of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”. While I haven’t heard that whole set, the “Aeroplane” indicates the magic in the air at Merriweather that weekend.
Merriweather Post is a beautiful venue with a large outdoor lawn and a summery roof over the stage. A phish.net review sets the scene for 6/27: “The HEAT was bad! Lot’s of humidity, def. could have rained on us but it held back. This actually created a sweaty, half naked crowd that was just waiting to get down.” Sunday night’s show opens with a rare “Walfredo” (one of only two in the past 20 years!), which despite some speaker feedback and a forgotten line signaled a special night ahead with its appearance. A Marley cover (“Mellow Mood”), the evergreen “Divided Sky”, a roaring “Bathtub Gin” and a ripping “Run Like an Antelope” highlight a fun first set.
The second set is where things step into all-killer no-filler territory. “Wilson” starts things off by rocking the engaged crowd before “Meatstick” sends things into funkier territory. One thing about Phish: they are silly. I don’t think everyone will appreciate just how goofy “Meatstick” is, but if you let it take you there, it’s 8 minutes of liquid funk. This jam somehow morphs into the near-metal of “Saw It Again”, which turns into a repeated theme for the rest of the show. This “Saw It” is the first since 2003, and it appropriately fries the brains of the present crowd as it explodes. From the ashes of “Saw It” rises a “Piper” which starts delicately enough before Trey absolutely rips shit on guitar. The cheers are audible around the 11:45 mark when Page finally takes over on organ.
“Ghost” is one of Phish’s all-around best and one of their most consistently played songs (they’ve played it at 2 of the 4 shows I’ve seen) for good reason. On this version, Trey’s got that wet guitar tone and stretches the notes out while the rhythm section churns. In the blink of an eye this “Ghost” turns into the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” (only time ever played!), an unexpected treat, before resolving as a reprisal of the monstrous “Saw It Again”.
“Contact” is a great breather between the climactic “Saw It Again” and the set-ending “You Enjoy Myself”, the most quintessentially Phish-y Phish song. As for the “Fire” encore, it’s an appropriate victory lap given the level they were at on this night. Give it a go and see for yourself.
Listen to 6/27/10 here.