On this second night of a two night stand at Tipitina’s, the crowd of unwashed hippies and clean-cut fraternity row revelers was reluctant to put out. In the first set, barely any rapport was established between audience and band. Playing songs off all three of its studio albums, Phish seemed flat until bringing on a guest trumpeter for the last two songs of the set. At last the band had someone to trade energy with. On the pseudo-cabaret ballad “Olfactory Hues” and the sing-along-with-the-nonsense-lyrics jam “Picture of Nectar” (not actually their titles—they’re a live band whose cryptic lyrics have song titles to match, or in the case of this review, not match), the band hit its stride and the crowd began to respond—foreplay completed with mild success. “Acid Love,” as close as Phish gets to straight-ahead blistering guitar rock and roll, started the second set at an immeasurably higher energy level. Punctuated by jagged rhythms and dissonant chords on the grand piano, “Have No Regrets” sustained a vibe until the crowd was clearly in synchronicity with the band. As the renowned personal trampolines were brought on stage, both Phish and the audience began to build to the climax. Bouncing around in dry ice fog and strobe lights, the band jammed out on “Nice Guy” until everyone was either laughing in joy, screaming in ecstasy or falling down in epileptic seizure.
Then the band made the unfortunate decision to light up a cigarette and bask in the afterglow by mellowing out for a song. It was a nice song but a lot of the energy went out with the tempo. Even though everyone got back in the flow during the rollicking melody of “Glide” and the hyperspace hillbilly of “My Sweet One,” the climax had passed and it had been premature. Hereafter the boys in Phish began to play mind games with the audience and strove to show just how eclectic they can be. Announcing a “slow song,” they broke into “Is It Fast Enough for You” from the new album. Then, as the rest of the band began either a Foreigner or a Styx song—I can’t think of the song and I’ve been trying to get it out of my head for the past two weeks—the drummer played a vacuum solo. They wound down the set with “Satan Got a Wave” and a nice piano solo. Finally, they tried to seduce the crowd again the old-fashioned way with an a cappella version of “Sweet Adeline.” They left the stage to inspired applause; it was clear that the audience was ready to give-and-take a lot more. As a live band known for its encores, which sometimes last half as long as a set, Phish dramatically disappointed with a no-frills version of Hendrix’s “Fire.” It was over before you could say Coitus interruptus—a peck on the cheek after a two-night stand that left you unsatisfied and lusting for more.