Phish: August 13, 2021 Atlantic City

August 17, 2021

Other than two stops for higher education, I’ve lived my whole life in New York State. This means that I have a complicated relationship with the State of New Jersey. Yes, I accept that there are beautiful sections of New Jersey — the lakes and mountains in the North of the State, the breathtaking scenes along the Delaware River in the West of the State, and of course the many wonderful beaches on the state-long Atlantic coast.

But with that beauty comes some ugliness. Each of the major towns along the coast have commercialized boardwalks, and while the music of artists like The Drifters, Bobby Rydell, and Bruce Springsteen have glorified life along the Shore, the boardwalks are mostly just depressingly seedy. What is particularly depressing about Atlantic City in particular is that a hundred feet north of the boardwalk across the entire expanse of the town is even worse. Sure, there are casinos — America’s most blatant and unabashed grift — but there are also countless empty stores, vacant lots, and lost souls.

The arrival of the traveling circus that is Phish tour took this carnie atmosphere to an entire other level. This was not just a culture clash, but a multi-layered appropriation of a socially and morally bankrupt city by an out of control bacchanalia that sucked the last vestige of pride from the town. When I left Friday night’s show and walked back to my sad motel, I traversed a balloon orgy — a never-ending row of nitrous tanks where the underbelly of local criminals fed an insatiable suburban youth with the hiss of an addictive but terribly fleeting high. These scenes played out before midnight, but I am told that the hiss of evil lasted at least until 3:30 am.

I don’t have any reason to know if Phish themselves know any of this. They very clearly should know because like it or not, their name and reputation are tied to these events. But the sad confluence of a decaying scene and a band at the top of their game is not lost among those of us who are there for the music. This is not the late-era 1990s Grateful Dead, whose decline as a band in many ways paralleled the disintegration of the “scene”. What is coming from the Phish stage are consistently excellent performances, and that is part of what makes so infuriating the dangerously cavalier behavior of those who are going to ruin this for all of us.

It was against this dark backdrop that Phish took the stage on Friday night and proceeded to reference New Jersey and the beach setting from note one and throughout. The show opening “Cars Trucks and Buses” is both a Phish song and the less traveled right three lanes of the split NJ Turnpike between exits 6 and 15. The set closing “Sand” was everywhere, including stuck to everyone by the end of the night. In between, the band played one of the most solid first sets of the tour, highlighted by a bouncy and driven “Blaze On”. The second set was equally strong, with a notable Trey solo in “Possum” and the always-welcome Hood. But the highlight of the evening for me was certainly the thirty-five minutes of “Tweezer > Bathtub Gin”. At 22 minutes, this Tweezer wasn’t a long as the version from earlier in the tour, but the jams were all precise and focused. This might be the best single song played this Summer by this band.

The oasis of chunky jams now over, the trek from the Missouri Avenue Exit One off the beach to quieter confines was both physically difficult and psychically draining. While it was impossible to avoid the utter anarchy of the overrun Boardwalk, there was always Saturday to hope for some measure of redemption.

I recorded this set with the Neumann hypercards from a very advantageous location at the soundboard cage, shielded from the ocean wind by the tent (along with some extra custom “windcutter” screens). The live mix was sublimely perfect and loud enough to rise above the crowd din. The resulting recording is superb and exceeds any expectations tempered by this difficult taping location. I’ll be playing this one loud for a long time to come, and I hope you do too. Enjoy!

Download the Complete Show [MP3] / [FLAC]

Stream Tweezer > Bathtub Gin:

nyctaper ยท Phish – Live in Atlantic City August 13, 2021

The Beach
Atlantic City NJ

Digital Master Recording
Tapers Section at Soundboard

Neumann KM-150 Hypers > Sound Devices 744t > 24bit 48kHz wav > Soundforge (post production) > CDWave 1.95 (tracking) > TLH > flac (320 MP3 and tagging via Foobar)

Recorded and Produced by nyctaper

Set 1 [Total Time 1:04:29]
01 Cars Trucks Buses
02 AC DC Bag
03 Blaze On
04 Wolfman’s Brother
05 I Didn’t Know
06 Funky Bitch
07 Rift
08 Sand

Set 2 [Total Time 1:30:40]
09 Tweezer
10 Bathtub Gin
11 Everything’s Right
12 Possum
13 Also Sprach Zarathustra
14 Rise Come Together
15 Harry Hood
16 More
17 [encore break]
18 Loving Cup

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6 Responses to Phish: August 13, 2021 Atlantic City

  1. August 18, 2021 at 11:35 am

    Thanks, as always, for your candor and individual take on the state of things. Somewhat relatedly, I saw someone post a shot of the pre-show gates at Deer Creek. I couldn’t help but flash back to the World War Z moment of proto-wooks scaling the fence there in ’95 as a half-dead Garcia (half) looked on. This scene is more precarious than people know. AAAnd, the recording sounds great. Your spot must have cut out quite a bit of junk noise.

  2. Kid Charlemagne
    August 19, 2021 at 8:25 am

    wonderful review
    I was there the next 2 nites
    your time and effort in spreading the music far and wide is highly appreciated

  3. August 19, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    You say that you do not know if Phish knows of the decay of AC. Check out the N1 poster of Lucy on top of the rubble. Trey is a Jersey guy and a thoughtful one. I am sure they know.

  4. August 19, 2021 at 2:51 pm

    I was referring to whether Phish knew about the absolute mayhem of nitrous usage on the Boardwalk after the show more than the decay AC, although they are related.

  5. Frank Joseph
    August 19, 2021 at 7:32 pm

    Great review! Despite the culture conflict & want vs need that was visible to all my mantra of optimism was that the town was in need of the revenue the phans brought. The struggle that AC continues to endure is just that, the endurance & survival of town & tourism. The Sea Hear Now festival will again take place in Asbury Park & the success of the event & transformation of that city has been spectacular. Hope exists

  6. Carl
    August 22, 2021 at 10:39 pm

    thank you for taping and sharing!

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