Words & Photographs by Filip Zalewski of Essence Photography
On 8/13/21- 8/15/21 the jam band powerhouse known as Phish descended onto Atlantic City with over 38,000 of their closest friends. The show was originally scheduled for last year, but rescheduled for 2021 due to the Coronavirus. Even now some were skeptical of attending a gathering of that magnitude where social distancing would be pretty not enforceable. BUT the others, they showed up in masses. The casinos and hotels were flooded with long haired, tie dye wearing, donut patterned, phish kids from all over. It was interesting to watch the Phans assimilate into the Casino scene and culture, yet still very much stand out.
The venue was right on the beach by Caesars casino and it proved to be absolutely enormous. The crowd stretched on for what seemed like a mile. Lines for drinks were rather long at points (I stood in line for at least 30 minutes for a beer, granted it was during setbreak). Restrooms and water seemed more readily accessible.
The band kicked off Friday night with Cars Trucks Busses. The first set came in strong with a monstrous Wolfman’s Brother, Funky Bitch, Rift, and Sand to close up the set. Fishman even had time to break out the ol’ vacuum cleaner for an epic I Didn’t Know.
Second set blasted off into space with a crowd favorite, a jammed out Tweezer. The heat had created a sort of swampy, soup vibe in the crowd which was perfect for the song that followed Bathtub Gin. Next up was Everything’s Right and then we blast off right back into space with Also Sprach Zarathsutra. Back into a song of peace and unity, Rise/Come Together and then another crowd favorite Harry Hood. More was a very appropriate second set closer of the first night and the band encored with a phenomenal Loving Cup.
Phans swarmed the boardwalk and casinos after the show. Phish was over but the night was young and filled with balloons, afterparties, and endless rows of slot machines. There were so many afterparties. Personally I ended up at Spafford at Caesars on, Lettuce at The Hard Rock Casino, and Dogs in A Pile at the Anchor Rock Club.
Saturday featured Phanart, a special gathering where artists and fans of phish may sell their crafts and share their art. Many visited the beach while some lounged at pools, other casinos. Whatever your day time activity preference is, AC’s got something for you.
Phish kicked off is arguably the best night of the run with a slow Llama, not to be confused with the fast Llama from Hershey several nights before. Gave myself to science, with a monstrous Tube to follow. We got to get on the road to this Destiny Unbound and remember all the days in the pond with that Ya Mar. Bag it, tag it with a phinely executed Reba. Bring some reggae vibes up in here with Soul Shakedown Party and melt some faces with Split Open and Melt. A touching Squirming Coil to close up the first set, which features a masterful outro solo by Page McConnell. Somebody buy this man a sandwich! He sure earned it.
The second set was opened with a Trey song, I Never Needed You Like this Before. Another ocean reference with Drowned followed by a personal favorite Ghost. Followed by a masterful Scents and Subtle Sounds into a raging Chalk Dust Torture. No Quarter was next, which was arguably the most rocking song of the night played with great umph! Slave to the Traffic Light came up next followed by Suzy Greenberg to close up the set. They encored with A Life Beyond the Dream and a blazing Tweezer Reprise to close up the second night.
I would just like to take this moment and express gratitude for this incredible gathering, that we can once again do these gatherings we love so much (with precautions), for the band and everyone who contributes anything to make this circus go around. AND for Chris Kuroda’s new light rig, cause holy heck if that’s not the coolest thing I’ve EVER seen then I don’t know what is!
Never miss a Sunday show they say. The show began with a classy The Landlady opener, Scents and Subtle Sounds intro, up the rigging taking sail into The Moma Dance. You can recycle The Final Hurrah and we don’t want no nice guys cause Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > sharing in a Weekapaug Groove. Got my The Sloth I was chasing all run! Followed by a fun Back on The Train and an incredible You Enjoy Myself featuring an extended vocal jam by all members. What a set!
Phish isn’t an evil band any means but some of their songs sure sound it. Carini second set opener to wake everyone up into a fantastic Set Your Soul Free. A peaceful Beneath a Sea of Stars, Piper, and another nod to the beach with Waves. Followed by Simple, a firey About To Run, and then a monstrous First Tube to close out the second set. The last encore of the run featured an extended Fluffhead and Backwards Down The Number Line to close up the night. A somewhat unusual spot for Number Line, but this raging, joyous song about friends and celebrations was the perfect way to end the run.
This concludes my 5 night run with Phish this year and I feel so blessed to have been able to see this incredible band and to have shared space with friends old and new. I remember speaking with someone about how I had met a friend, and we soon came to realize that the common denominator between all of us is Phish. This band is not only a jam band powerhouse, argubally the best live band around (maybe ever), but also produces such a strong attracting force around it that it brings people together like moths to a light.
Sincere thanks to Phish and their whole team, Zack, The Jamwich, NYS Music, Phanart, all of my old and new pham, the casino and hotel workers for putting up with our wookery, Matt for giving me the honor of bringing him to his first Phish show, and my friend Kristina for providing me with a wonderful suite to stay in after my Air Bnb cancelled last minute.
And all my friends come, backwards down the number line! Thank you for a real good time.
Full gallery from Filip Zalewski of Essence Photography: https://essnce.smugmug.com/Phish-Atlantic-City-81321-81521