If Phish sells out one night of a multi-night stand, you can expect the entire run to follow suit. That’s because the band is the focus of a community that observes Phish dates like joyful family reunions. It’s easy to get caught in the crowd’s free-spirited chaos. As long as you know the words to deep tracks like “Possum” and new standards like “Sing Monica,” you’ll probably be shoulder-to-shoulder with your new best friend — just be careful not to bump the tapers.
The band’s four virtuoso musicians have cultivated their broad-based following since collegiate roots in Vermont during the mid-80s. Fans of jam bands like the Grateful Dead, progressive rockers like Yes, and aficionados of improvisational music by jazz-fusion masters like Return to Forever will gather side by side at FirstMerit Pavilion at Northerly Island for shows this weekend.
The first night of last summer’s three-night run in Chicago was truncated by the same storm that halted Bjork’s headlining set at the Pitchfork Festival and disrupted Pearl Jam’s sold-out show at Wrigley Field. Phish promised to make it up to the crowd the following night. The band began their second show with the previously aborted “Prince Caspian.” Phish finished the opening night set list, and then played their full show for the evening as originally planned. The show lasted more than four hours, featuring 26 original songs and covers by Talking Heads, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones.
Phish has fresh material to introduce from “Fuego,” its first album since 2009’s “Joy.” Guitarist Trey Anastasio’s “Devotion to a Dream” is a grooving rambler in the style of “Backwards Down the Number Line,” with a lyric that ultimately celebrates healing in the aftermath of a shattered relationship. Pianist Page McConnell’s “Halfway to the Moon” is a midtempo roof-raiser incorporating the production flourishes of Pink Floyd producer Bob Ezrin. Expect both songs to ignite and expand in concert.
♦ Phish, 7:00 p.m. July 18-20, FirstMerit Bank Pavilion, 1300 S Linn White, (312) 540-2000. Tickets $45-$60 plus fees; firstmeritbankpavilion.net. SPOTIFY playlist: tinyurl.com/PhishSPOT