SETLIST: Phish | XFINITY Theatre | Hartford, CT | 7/9/16 | Photos by Andrew Blackstein Load remaining images As if ever there was any doubt, Phish put their critics in line with what was, hands down, their best performance of summer 2016. Sometimes we need that one show, a special moment in time, to remind us fans just what it is they love about Phish. Last night was that show.It seemed that the SPAC run of shows were “fun,” an optimistic way of saying that any Phish is good Phish, but yeah, we’ve known better Phish. That sentiment was in the rear-view mirror after last night’s performance at the XFINITY Theatre in Hartford, CT. With a “YEM” that featured Page McConnell and Mike Gordon swapping instruments, flawless versions of Gamehendge classics “Tela” and “The Lizards,” and some major jams all in the same show, well, it reaffirmed the band’s true greatness. It was really a one-of-a-kind celebration.The show started modestly enough, with the third-ever and second “Pigtail” of the summer. The Trey Anastasio penned tune was a confusing start, never really taking hold with the audience, but “The Moma Dance” brought them right in it. It was no SPAC “Moma,” but it didn’t need to be. Tight and funky, the jam took off and never looked back.“Birds Of A Feather” kept that energy high and included a “They Attack” quote from “The Birds,” but it was really the song “Meat” that signaled the start of a special show. The Mike Gordon-led tune made its first funky appearance of the year, taking hold with its stop and go composition. The band kept the tour debuts coming with “Vultures,” yet another relative rarity played for the first time this year. The band executed the song to perfection, though somewhat awkwardly segued into “Free.” The “Free” jam was loose and rocking, getting into the groove before a unique coda section from Anastasio ended the song.The next song was the biggest bust out of the night, as Phish brought out “Let Me Lie” for the first time since August 10, 2010 (229 shows). The slower song made its first appearance with the Trey Anastasio Band, and Phish dabbled with it throughout the earliest days of the 3.0 era. It was fitting for the set’s cool down moment to be a major bust out highlight in its own right, and also fitting for its lyrical message.The set cruised on with great versions of “Halley’s Comet” and “Julius,” but it was the set closer that really wowed. For the first time in two years, Phish put their opus “You Enjoy Myself” in the first set. They really let the song breathe too, concluding the composed sections with an excellent and playful jam session, starting with Anastasio on the Marimba Lumina behind drummer Jon Fishman. With Anastasio plugging away, Gordon and McConnell switched instruments, allowing the keyboardist to stand before the crowd and rock on the bass. The jam eventually came to a gradual conclusion, ushering in a wild vocal jam to cap off the set.It’s worth mentioning that the skies threatened rain throughout this entire performance, with some speculating that the seemingly-longer-than-usual first set was a precaution against any incoming storms. While a light mist flowed in and out throughout the first set, the rain would remain a threat throughout the set break and second half of the show.Though Anastasio teased the opening chords to “Tela” upon first picking up his guitar, it was Gordon who brought in the opening notes of “Down With Disease.” This unfinished version was the improvisational highlight of the night, as Phish did what they do best: jammed. At times light and melodic, at times dark and energetic, the jam clocked in at a full 18-minutes and came to a natural conclusion. “Sand” picked things back up with some old fashioned funk, before the band brought out their first taste of Gamehendge for the night in “Tela.” The McConnell-led song was executed flawlessly, as fans looked on with bewilderment.The winds from beyond the mountain swept into “Carini,” as the raging rocker also signaled a gradual crescendo of precipitation. The “Carini” itself moved from its dark progression to a lighthearted jam, which in turn segued into “Twenty Years Later.” The Joy track kept the energy flowing, and the band and rain both picked up during an energetic “Run Like An Antelope.” Not much needs to be said about “Antelope;” it was its usual rocking self. The set closed with a beautiful version of “Backwards Down The Number Line,” a song that inspires mixed feelings from fans. With a moderate rain falling from the skies, this was quite a euphoric set-ender.As the rain continued to fall upon the lawn, Phish returned for an encore, bringing fans to their knees from the opening notes of “The Lizards.” An absolute fan favorite, the unexpected song was an absolutely perfect ending to a top tier performance. The song was played eloquently, as Anastasio confidently navigated the song’s wordy lyrics and final melody with ease. The rain fell through the song, but its presence only enhanced the experience, as if the weather was the “hose” manifested.To end the show, the band brought out their only cover of the night, a rendition of The Rolling Stones’ “Loving Cup.” Some fans are vocal about their lukewarm feelings toward “Loving Cup” encores–always a seemingly “safe” choice from the band. But after “The Lizards,” this particular cup went down just right, serving as a perfect exclamation point on a top-notch show.You can watch high quality crowd-shot footage from the show below via YouTube user LazyLightning55a:“Free”“Carini”“Tela”“The Lizards”“Loving Cup”SETLIST: Phish | XFINITY Theatre | Hartford, CT | 7/9/16Set 1: Pigtail, The Moma Dance, Birds of a Feather, Meat, Vultures > Free, Let Me Lie, Halley’s Comet > Julius, You Enjoy MyselfSet 2: Down with Disease > Sand > Tela, Carini > Twenty Years Later > Run Like an Antelope > Backwards Down the Number LineEncore: The Lizards, Loving Cup Trey on Marimba Lumina, Page on bass, Mike on keys for portion of the jam. Unfinished.Notes: The Birds was quoted at the end of BOAF. Let Me Lie was last performed on August 10, 2010 (229 shows). Portions of the YEM jam featured Trey on Marimba Lumina, Mike on keys, and Page on bass. DWD was unfinished.[Photos courtesy of Andrew Scott Blackstein Photography]As Phish gears up for their 13-night “Baker’s Dozen” run at Madison Square Garden later this month, Live For Live Music has put together an extensive schedule of late-night shows to keep the party going until the wee hours throughout the NYC residency. Check out our Official Guide To Baker’s Dozen Late-Nights for all the details.
Racial slurs are thrown at the student body president. Systematic inequality comes back into focus on campus. Student groups propose resolutions to help tackle this deeply ingrained problem. The response from the University president, who appears flustered when physically confronted by protestors and seems more concerned with the traditions and fundraising efforts of the institution, is slow and weak.Sounds like the University of Missouri? Well, I was thinking of a school about 1,500 miles west.While Mizzou was dominating the headlines with the resignation of its president amidst racism issues at the school, our own Undergraduate Student Government voted on a resolution to address the campus climate toward racial minorities.The news out of Columbia shocked me. Plenty of colleges have protested discrimination recently. Athletes had taken protests to social media before. Portions or entireties of professional sports seasons have been robbed by labor disputes and subsequent strikes. But never before has a group of student-athletes, along with its coaching staff, leveraged its influence in such an impactful way on a social issue.What I found most striking from the news, though, were the similarities between the circumstances at Mizzou that sparked the protest and the recent racial controversy at USC. Of course, the situations are not identical. The history of oppression runs deeper on the Midwest than in the West Coast. The Columbia campus is not far from Ferguson, where race riots captured the nation’s attention last summer. The number of specific incidents of discrimination was greater at Mizzou, and the response from the administration was arguably worse.But at the heart of both instances, we see a student leader personally attacked because of his or her race, proposals for university policy to combat campus racism and criticism over the response of school administrators. Yet the uproar at Mizzou over the instances seems a world away. The problem feels like it’s on another level there; I could never imagine something like that happening on our campus.But it’s not that far of a stretch to say that something like that could happen at USC. The Mizzou Tigers have totally shifted the power balance in college sports, and with great power comes great responsibilityPersonally, I’m still a bit surprised at how quickly things escalated at Mizzou. Yes, the incidents on campus were bad. Yes, the school could have done a better job addressing them. Yes, there’s probably some university administrator in the country better fit to handle those incidents than former university President Tim Wolfe was. But his resignation isn’t really an accomplishment for diversity in and of itself.When the Mizzou student group for diversity met with Wolfe in October before the hunger strike, one of its demands on a list of eight proposed policy changes was the immediate resignation of Wolfe. It’s not surprising that this aggressive bargaining accomplished nothing. What is surprising is that the sticking point of the subsequent hunger strike was not any of the seven other resolutions, but the career of an individual. If I were thrown into the negotiation room with the Mizzou student group pushing for change, I can’t say that it would be a very trusting relationship, knowing that the group might come for my head before we had a chance to compromise.There are obviously important issues regarding socioeconomic inequality in this country and around the world, and I’m inspired to see the impact students can have on these issues. But if there is a role that students, and especially student-athletes, can play in this discussion here, I think it’s foolish for us to look at it as a battle against the administration, or “the system.”University administrations aren’t heartless bureaucracies with no concern for its students’ well being, even though most of their work revolves around financial stability of the institution. Sure, the fact that change only happened in Mizzou once a major source of revenue for the athletics department was threatened is proof that “money talks.” But that doesn’t mean Wolfe and the rest of the Mizzou administration are a bunch of corrupt, materialistic and selfish power mongers.The reality is that even at an institution with millions of dollars in its endowment, resources are scarce. Whether it’s the number of faculty, the funding for certain programs or the time of administrators to deal with problems, all of these things represent some value because they don’t come in unlimited quantities. You can criticize an organization for putting too many resources here and not enough there, but you can’t criticize an organization for attempting to quantify the value of those resources with dollar signs. If the football team really did hold out and forfeit its game this weekend, not only would it have cost the community a beloved social event — which isn’t the most important thing in this issue, but still matters — but it also would have substantially reduced the ability of Mizzou’s athletics department to pay for the scholarships of its non-revenue generating student-athletes.That being said, it’s now more obvious than ever how valuable efforts of football players are to the University. What precedent this sets in the future collective bargaining between athletes and universities is to be seen, but it certainly throws another wrench at the idea of amateurism in the NCAA.So could the Trojan football team hold President Nikias hostage if he doesn’t implement the USG Campus Climate resolution? Yes, probably. If every player on the roster agreed not to play until the resolution would pass, at least some of the policies would go through before the scholarships of the entire roster were revoked. It would be fascinating; a whole new level of drama for a team that really, really doesn’t need any more story lines — which is why this is such a wild hypothetical. And it would be inspiring.But I’m also skeptical of USG’s proposed resolution on campus diversity. I have no idea what the proposed vice president of diversity will do besides add one more administrator to the University’s payroll — and, ironically, USG is proposing a separate resolution on freezing tuition costs. One hundred million dollars to fund scholarships for underrepresented students sounds great, and George Lucas has already pledged $10 million to that cause at the School of Cinematic Arts, but for an organization with an annual budget of about $2 million, that’s asking a lot. The issue is important, and I don’t question the intention of USG leaders at all, but I think it only jumped to the top of the agenda once it started to personally affect our student leaders.Ultimately, if USC tried that kind of a holdout, I don’t think it would really help achieve the ends of activists around the country. Yes, accessibility to education is a huge part of the structural inequality. But if serious systematic change will come to the opportunity in this country, it will probably come through much broader national policy, not through diversity training for a very small proportion of the population. How much money universities can and should devote to financial aid for low-income students is a significant issue, but it is beyond the expertise of any undergraduate. The arrival upon $100 million for the scholarship fund seems very arbitrary; I can’t think of any justification for why it wasn’t $75 million, or $150 million.What we should take away from the Mizzou protest is that power only matters when it is unified. There certainly wasn’t much unity between the administration and the student body, but it was the unity across the football team that allowed it to leverage its power for change. That’s not to say everyone on the team was totally on board with the protest. At least one anonymous player said it wasn’t a unanimous effort. But when the support on the team reached a critical mass, and the leadership of the team in head coach Gary Pinkel got behind it as well, the team couldn’t be stopped. If it had been just five or 10 athletes refusing to participate in team practices, they would have lost their scholarships and we wouldn’t still be talking about it.It will take unity among administrators for change to be substantial. The key to progress is empathy, or being able to feel what someone else feels and respects that other person. We must extend that same respect to the decision-makers across universities.We are all young. We all started attending this university because we knew that the professors and administrators of the school had valuable expertise, that they had something to offer us, that we could learn something from them. We have a unique perspective to offer them in discussions about University policies, and we should take that responsibility seriously.But we need to first acknowledge who all is on our team. Sports have an amazingly unique ability to unite school, communities and generations, and they must be used to do just that. Luke Holthouse is a junior majoring in policy, planning and development and broadcast and digital journalism. His column, “Holthouse Party,” runs Wednesdays.