A remarkable night in Phish history unfolded on Saturday as the band returned to the Broadview Stage at SPAC for the second of two flood recovery benefit shows: The jam juggernauts marked the occasion with a rare special guest, Derek Trucks, who joined the band in what’s already being hailed as one of the most extraordinary sit-ins in the group’s career.
Emerging for set one, Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Jon Fishman, and Page McConnell got loose on an opening “Free”, effortlessly navigating between improvisation and the song’s core structure to build a satisfying arc without venturing too far outside the framework of the tune. “Wolfman’s Brother” also included a thrilling but concise jam. They may not have had the full church choir featured on the album version, but the quartet mustered a mighty wind as their four voices sang in a layered round.
The familiar tick-tock drum beat of “Maze” signaled the start of another fan favorite. This one had a steeper arc, reaching its climax during a deliciously dissonant guitar solo from Trey. Finally weightless, the band floated into “Sigma Oasis”, a newer tune in contrast to the 1.0 Phish that preceded it. A blissful modal jam reached supernal heights before descending from the heavens back to SPAC on “Pillow Jets” of sound. The band ventured to far-out territory in the subsequent “Tube” before wading gently into a ten-minute “Twist” to close the first frame.
After a flurry of sound announced the start of set two, Mike’s new bass boinged like funky rubber band at the start of “Down With Disease”, the first tune of the show to breech type two territory before it suddenly transitioned into an uptempo “Ghost”. After 14 mins of blissful sonic exploration, Fishman kicked off “2001” with a funky shuffle, adorned in his custom flood-themed donut dress. He sported two different ones in fact: During the first set he donned a garment decorated with circular curler waves and upon returning for set two had on a new iteration with pool floaties/life preservers.
Wave (S1)/Life Preserver (S2): 8/26/23
— Phish Phashion (@PhishPhashion) August 27, 2023
Following a relatively subdued run through “2001” that nonetheless riled up the crowd with the inherent drama of its ascending melody, Phish transitioned to TV on the Radio‘s “Golden Age”. Even with rumors swirling ahead of the show, few could have anticipated the special guest that would emerge to join the band. The crowd roared with appropriate enthusiasm as Derek Trucks walked onto the stage.
Like the sun spittin’ happiness into the hereafter, Trucks’ soulful slide guitar blended with Trey’s playing as the two masters danced around each other in a beautiful ballet of blues, rock, and soul. The augmented band continued on with the two guitarists, assuring fans “Everything’s Right” as they stretched out over an extended 16-minute dual guitar jam. The surprise collaboration was less shred fest than it was a conversation between two virtuosic voices. Their powerful dialog was shaped and supported by the rest of the band, whose potency as an improvisational unit was particularly apparent in the presence of a new musical perspective.
Trucks’ signature soulful slide beautifully embellished “Life Beyond a Dream”, adding a country tinge to the reflective ballad with controlled dynamics reminiscent of a pedal steel as he nailed every change. He clearly knew the tunes, including the deceivingly simple polyrhythms of “First Tube”, to which he added new color and texture. His added harmony bolstered Trey’s lead and helped elevate the song from rock to Bach.
The wild night concluded with a “Possum” encore that also featured the added twang of Trucks’ slide guitar.
No doubt one of the top sit-ins in Phish history, 8/26/23 will go down in the annals of jam band lore as a profound meeting of the minds, and more importantly, it was for a good cause. Watch the full concert below and donate to the WaterWheel Foundation‘s flood recovery fund by visiting this link. Click below to view photos courtesy of photographer Bahram Foroughi.
Phish: Flood Recovery Benefit – Live Stream [Pro-Shot] – 8/26/23
Setlist [via Phish.net]: Phish | Broadview Stage at SPAC | Saratoga Springs, NY | 8/26/23
SET 1: Free, Wolfman’s Brother, Maze, Sigma Oasis, Pillow Jets, Tube > Twist > Harry Hood
SET 2: Down with Disease -> Ghost, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Golden Age > Everything’s Right, A Life Beyond The Dream, First Tube
 With Derek Trucks on guitar.
Phish | Broadview Stage at SPAC | Saratoga Springs, NY | 8/26/23 | Photos: Bahram Foroughi