Holy Blankenstein! A Phish Vegas 2021 Recap

Wow how time flies! It’s already been a month since we were in Fabulous Las Vegas for another round of what we like to call “Phishcuits.” This was the 3rd time we hit a Phish Vegas Halloween run with Disco Biscuits late nights. You can read the rest of our Phish fall tour recap in case you missed it. Now let’s get this show on the road and look back on what went down in Sin City!

Night Zero’d

After the show in Santa Barbara, there was a night off before the start of the Phish Vegas run. We decided to head there a night early as it’s not fun traveling on a show day, especially when there are two shows!

The scene at the tiny Santa Barbara airport was hilarious, as the terminal was packed with Phish fans. I’d say over half of the flight to Vegas was people on tour. The whole crew got a kick out of it and even cracked some jokes, like reminding us all to shower.

Once in Vegas, we headed to our Airbnb for the night. It was listed as “Chill Room With Chill Host” so it seemed like a good fit for us. The guys who live there turned out to be super cool and we ended up staying there another night at the end of the trip.

Originally, we had planned to just grab some dinner and get some rest. Then some friends told us it was their last night in town. And that they had a suite at the Cosmo. And they had a bunch of food & beverage credit from the resort. Plans changed!

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The trippy Bellagio gardens.

Since our bus tickets from the airport were still valid, we hopped on the local bus over to the Strip. It didn’t take long for us to meet some hilarious characters, as is usually the case in Vegas! Before heading to the Cosmo, we took a walk through the trippy gardens in the Bellagio.

We met up with our friends and hit the speakeasy tucked away in the food court. There were shots of Casamigos, margaritas, and a huge plate of nachos. Then a few more shots of tequila. And away we went…

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Chandelier Bar at the Cosmo

We went up to their badass suite and watched the fountain show at the Bellagio with a few more drinks. I suggested getting off the Strip, so we hopped in a cab to the Sand Dollar Lounge to catch some music.

This awesome local dive bar is a fun place that we found on our last visit in June. We even met a guy who works there and loves Phish and the Biscuits too!

Anyway, long story short… we partied all night with our friends and went back to the Airbnb around 6 am. Rachel had to get up to teach a class a few hours later and she definitely struggled!

Night zero’d…

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Our fave Vegas dive bar.

Backwards Down the Number Line

After Rachel’s class, we had to pack up and head to the other side of town. We got an Airbnb for the weekend near Chinatown with my brother, cousin, and Rachel’s college buddy.

Once we got settled in and caught up a bit, we let Rachel take a nap while we hit the store. It’s nice having a kitchen on runs like these, which is a big reason we go with Airbnb and don’t stay in the resorts. That and it’s way cheaper…

When everyone was finally ready, we caught a cab over to the MGM with a bag o’ beers. It’s always fun just hanging on the casino floor, having a few drinks, and watching the circus come to town.

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Phish Vegas is the best.

The venue was definitely way understaffed, and it was very clear from night one. It was a bit of a disaster getting into the venue as they were also checking vaccination cards or COVID tests, which meant huge lines and lots of bottlenecks.

Speaking of ‘rona, a bunch of people got it on the run. This didn’t happen at any other Phish runs this year, so I think a lot of the blame falls on the venue for their botched entry/exit system and a lack of proper ventilation. Thankfully neither of us got sick, but a bunch of friends did.

Anyway, let’s talk about the show!

We had pretty bad seats for the first night but started out up there anyway. They opened with “2001,” so we knew they meant business! I also joked that they were probably contractually obligated to play that song at an MGM venue.

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Our actual seats on Night One.

When they jammed it out past 15 minutes and then went into Prince’s “1999,” it was clear this was going to be a special night. We managed to move down to the 3rd row in the lower bowl and stayed there for the rest of the show.

The number songs kept coming with “555” in the 3-slot. At this point, we all started making guesses for the rest of the show, most of which came true.

Phish Vegas night one continued with “46 Days, “Strawberry Letter 23” and “Twenty Years Later.” We could already tell we were going backwards down the number line, probably all the way to (character) zero.

After setbreak, the band returned to the stage with “Seven Below.” They played that at my first show way back in 2003 and it’s always a fun one to catch.

Next up was a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “If 6 Was 9,” which sent the place into a frenzy. While they have covered Hendrix many times over the years, this one was a debut.

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Where we ended up on Night One.

The number fun continued with a stanza of “Five Years,” “Two Versions of Me,” “NO2,” “Army of One,” “My Sweet One,” “First Tube,” and quite expectedly, “Character Zero.”

Also not surprisingly was the “Backwards Down the Number Line” encore that followed. They threw us a curveball (too soon?) by finishing the show with “Grind 2.0.”

Instead of counting off the days each band member has lived, they noted that the number of digits from the night’s show was 4680. Remember that number. They also labeled it as “Grind 2.0” so it technically had a number.

Those silly guys…

Getting Bisco’d

While this is a Phish Vegas recap, we also spent three very late nights seeing our other favorite band – the Disco Biscuits.

What can we say – we like to party, sorry if you don’t!

The Bisco shows start after midnight at the Brooklyn Bowl. On night one, we decided to walk up the Strip to get some fresh air and cheap beers. The people-watching is also pretty epic.

After three rounds of Phishcuits, we’ve found our little corner of the Brooklyn Bowl where we post up every night. We always head to the perfect spot by the soundboard with a few steps up so Rachel can actually see the stage.

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Under the glow of the disco ball.

To kick things off, Bisco opened with a massive “Crickets” > “Minions” > “Crickets” sandwich. Mmmmmm…. crickets sandwich. They also played the disco jam “I Feel Love,” which is a great cover for them.

At set break, we like to find a place to sit and rest the legs a bit. It’s seriously a marathon doing this run of seven shows in four nights! You have to take a load off whenever you get the chance.

The second set was basically a big “Caterpillar” sandwich, which is Rachel’s favorite song. Night one wound down with a “Highwire” encore that sent us out into the cool desert air just before 4 AM.

Friday Night Double Header

It’s a good thing we’ve been to Vegas several times and have already done most of the touristy stuff. With three nights of double shows then a 3-set Phish Halloween bash, it’s hard to do anything else.

We lounged around all day at the Airbnb until it was time to head back to the MGM. It was definitely nice having a living room, a kitchen, and two bathrooms for our group of five. Uber was always quick and easy, and usually only about $15.

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Let’s get ready to rumble!

Thankfully the line moved a bit quicker on night two as most people already had their wristbands. We headed right to our seats, which were in a solid spot in the last row of the lower level.

The band started the night with “Olivia’s Pool” followed by the rare “Axilla (Part II).” Everyone was trying to decipher some kind of theme for the night, but when they went into “Mike’s Groove” it was pretty clear this was just going to be a straight-up barnburner Phish show.

Fine by me!

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Our view on Night Two.

While there may not have been a theme for the night, there were still some classic Phishy shenanigans. Trey and Mike repeatedly quoted Little Squirrel, which is a very weird track on an album Trey and some friends made in the early 80’s.

Actually, you should probably take a minute to listen to it. It’s pretty freaking hilarious…

They quoted it during the show in Santa Barbara as well, leading many to believe this was somehow going to be the Halloween gag. Phish definitely keeps you on your toes!

We were happy to have seats so we could rest up during the set break. The goofy “Ass Handed” got things going in the 2nd set before a massive “Tweezer” ensured we all got our asses handed to ourselves.

Its familiar riff would resurface later in the set after “Funky Bitch,” “Reba,” and “Sand.” Trey sang “take off, take off, take off your mask” to a mostly maskless crowd in “Sigma Oasis” before finishing the set with a huge “Walk Away.”

A solid arena rock encore of “Julius” > “Tweeprize” ended the night with a bang. There was no gimmick tonight, just pure uncut Phish goodness.

Instead of walking up the Strip, we decided to fork over the $5 each and hop on the monorail. That put us at Brooklyn Bowl nice and early, so we sat outside by the fountain to take in the scene.

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Here we go again!

I totally called the opener of “Mindless Dribble” for Bisco’s second night. The set also had a great Zappa cover of “Pygmy Twylyte” as well as an “Astronaut” sandwich.

After watching them fly around the Strip for days, it was only fitting that they played “Helicopters” in the 2nd set. There was also a rowdy sequence of “Gangster” > “Lake Shore Drive” that had us getting down.

We got a little group “Therapy” there to end the show and get us to the halfway point. It was fun hanging out in front of the venue after the show, chatting with friends, and re-living the magic of the night. An Uber and a frozen pizza later, and it was finally time for bed around 6 am.

Animal Night

While I really wanted to watch the Michigan State vs. Michigan game, it started at 9 am. Sleep took priority over college football, but I was stoked to wake up to the news that we had beaten them. Sparty on, Wayne!

Before we knew it, it was time to get ready for round three. Another night, another Uber ride to the MGM, another bag of beers on the casino floor.

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Tequila and mariachi.

Walking to our friend’s room, we were thrilled to find a mariachi band playing to promote a Day of the Dead slot competition. I just so happened to have on my Aztec calendar shirt and a bottle of chilled tequila. Naturally, I had to take a nice big gulp and dance along with the traditional Mexican music.

We caught up with our friend for a bit and headed towards the venue. Ahead of another long night, we hit the food court to get some grub. Rachel bought some $13 chicken tenders and fries, and a nice dude straight up gave me an entire cheesesteak because he ordered too much food. Thanks, bud!

Our lottery luck continued with seats on Mike’s side in the 2nd row. It was great being close to the floor but not on it. I got anxiety just looking at that mass of humanity down there.

Night three kicked off with “The Dogs,” “Ocelot,” and “Run Like an Antelope.” It was pretty obvious we were going to the zoo tonight with an animal theme.

As a matter of fact, we went to outer space as well courtesy of “Big Black Furry Creatures From Mars.” They also played “Shaggy Dog,” which is an old tune that’s very rarely played. I honestly didn’t even know what it was and had to check Phish.net.

We always love hearing “The Sloth” and “Llama” and got both in this set. It concluded with a great sing-along of the Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus.” Coo coo ca choo, indeed.

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Animal night!

Of course, everyone was trying to predict what else they would play at setbreak. I was really hoping for a “Harupua” and it seemed obvious, but after going 120 shows without it, I honestly thought I’d never see it.

We kept the dog party going with “Dogs Stole Things” to start set two, followed by a massive “Your Pet Cat.” Next up came “Runaway Jim” > “Piper” > “Birds of a Feather,” featuring the “they attack” sample from the ’14 Halloween set in Vegas.

After a brief pause in the music, the band belted out the familiar “Oom pa pa” chant that starts “Harpua.” After almost 20 years of seeing this band, I finally got one! I shed a few tears of joy and then settled in for what was a pretty epic version.

The story Trey told in this “Harpua” was absolutely ridiculous. It warrants several listens back, as there were tons of references and inside jokes. He basically trolled us all and it was freaking hilarious.

Way to go, Big Red.

It seemed like “Lizards” would close the show, but the trolling continued with a set-ending “Farmhouse.” I suppose that is where the animals live, after all.

In the encore slot, we got “Vultures,” “Sleeping Monkey,” and a rocking “Possum.” Best song about roadkill ever!

After that night of animal songs, lots of people were calling for Pink Floyd’s Animals to be the Halloween set. We knew better, though. Phish simply is not that predictable!

It was an incredible show, but I was definitely bummed to not get a “Manteca” for my Rage Crab. Maybe next time…

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Rage Crab still loved animal night.

Feels Like I’m on 42

We were pretty much on autopilot by this point in the weekend and running on fumes. Once again, we hopped on the monorail to conserve energy for another night of the untz.

Since the Phish from Vermont played past midnight, the Biscuits didn’t even come on until 1:15 am. They wasted no time, busting right into “M.E.M.P.H.I.S.” and not stopping until setbreak with an amazing “Hot Air Balloon” sandwich.

On the night of my 9th show at this venue, I finally stepped outside to check out the patio. Not sure why it took me so long, but it’s nice out there! You get some fresh air and can enjoy the people watching and all the twinkly Vegas lights below.

After a brief rest, it was time to take our spot for the final set of the weekend. When it kicked off with “42” (my favorite Biscuits song), I caught my 4th wind and cranked it up to 11 for a dance party.

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One more night of Bisco.

That’s precisely what we got, with “Orch Theme” > “Evolve” > “Neck Romancer” > “Let’s Dance.” Yes, I’m talking about the David Bowie song. And dance is precisely what we did!

People were dropping like flies at the end, but I’m glad we stuck around to see them finish “42” to end the set, followed by a fun run through “King of the World” to finish the run.

As we have every other year, we celebrated outside of the venue with friends who did all the shows. It really is a marathon and it’s quite the feat to pull it off!

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We did it!

It being Saturday night (well, actually Sunday morning technically) in Vegas on Halloween weekend, it was impossible to find an Uber after the show. We ended up walking over to Treasure Island and waiting in the cab line there. By the time we finally got home, it was after 6 AM.

Tired yet hungry, we whipped up the ginger soy noodle stir fry we had bought at the grocery store. Breakfast of champions! After a fat bowl for dessert, we finally hit the bed and crashed for a few hours.

Happy Halloween

Few days are as significant in the Phish calendar as Halloween. They’ve played some of their most legendary shows on this day. Plus, it’s a bunch of costumed weirdos hanging out in Vegas and is just a wild time regardless.

We were riding the struggle bus after two weeks on tour, but it’s not hard to get jazzed up for Phish Halloween. Once we finally got ready, we headed to Chinatown to make sure we got a decent pre-show meal in.

After living in China for six years, we’re pretty picky about the Chinese food we eat. There is some legit stuff in Vegas, though. We took my cousin to Xiao Long Dumplings to introduce him to a bunch of Chinese classics. It was the perfect way to carb up for one final night of grooving.

Since we were on tour and going carry-on only, we didn’t put much effort into costumes, to be honest. I wanted to bust out my Macho Man after ten years but didn’t want to lug around all those accessories for two weeks.

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Ready for Halloween!

In the end, Rachel ended up dusting off her school girl outfit and I just went with “Day of the Grateful Dead” based on what I had with me. It was so damn hot and stuffy in the venue that night, so we’re both pretty happy with the decision.

We ran into some old friends on the casino floor and hung out in one of their rooms for a bit before the show. Word got out about the Phishbill that was being handed out in the show – a comic book called “Sci-Fi Soldier.”

Some people thought it was all a big joke and were still expecting a cover album. I had a feeling Phish was going to do their own thing once again and decided to just head into the show and find out.

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Old friends!

Sci-Fi Soldier

As is to be expected, the crowd was huge on Halloween night. It was a total cluster-you-know-what getting into the venue. Thankfully we both grabbed a copy of the comic book and made it to our seats with time to spare.

Rachel managed to read the whole thing before the show started. I was busy socializing with friends and looking at all the hilarious costumes around the room but got the cliff notes.

It was pretty clear that Phish was going to give us some new original music, which we were both totally fine with.

All of the other jambands are doing cover shows for Halloween now, but nobody is doing anything remotely as creative as Phish. I don’t understand all the crybabies who would rather see them cover Genesis than give us new music…

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Sci-Fi Soldier

Anyways, how about the show?! It’s hard to top “Buried Alive” as an opener on Halloween, and “Roses Are Free” kept the theme going with the “throw the pumpkin at the tree” line.

This first set will be remembered for the massive “Ghost” that followed.

Wow, just wow. This one is worth several re-listens. Nothing like a spooky ghost to get the vibe going on Halloween!

I suppose the theme continued a bit with “Wolfman’s Brother” and “Kill Devil Falls.” Both were solid versions, as were the following jaunts through “Free” and “David Bowie.” An all-around solid Phish set to start the party.

During setbreak, I hung out for a while before making a bathroom/water break. The water situation at MGM was less than desirable. They finally put out water machines on night two, but they were emptied quickly on Halloween and many vendors ran out of bottles for sale.

We ended up filling Rachel’s Nalgene with the super hot tap water on a few occasions. That wasn’t very appetizing, so I finally caved in and bought my first beer in the venue to sip on for the Halloween set and headed back to the seats.

For the final night, we were four rows up in the upper level, on the back corner Mike’s side. They were our worst seats of the weekend but it really wasn’t a bad spot at all.

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Our view for Halloween.

When the lights finally went down, four tubes lowered down to the stage. Holograms appeared to descend from above, and when the tubes went up the band was there in some ridiculous space suits complete with helmets.

In a throwback to their NYE gag in 2019, each band member was rocking a primary color. Trey and Mike (or should I say Clueless Wallob and Half-Nelson) even had special guitars for the set. There were shapes floating behind the band as well. It was definitely quite the sight!

The futuristic band also consisted of Pat Malone on keys and Paulie Roots on drums. They all took their places and busted into a funky space groove known as “Knuckle Bone Broth Avenue.”

At one point, Clueless and Half-Nelson treated us to some pretty spectacular choreography. It was a bit of a flashback to Halloween 2018 and the debut of “Turtle in the Clouds” with its silly dance sequence.

Next up was the title track – “Get More Down.” And get more down we did! I for one was having an absolute blast all throughout this set. The band clearly was as well, especially Trey who was grinning from ear to ear the whole time.

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Clear your mind.

We finally got properly introduced to the band, who came from the year 4680 (remember that number from night one?) to help save the planet.

The whole set was quite the spectacle. There was even pyrotechnics during a few songs, making it feel a bit like a KISS concert. I loved the tracks “Clear Your Mind,” “Don’t Doubt Me,” and “The Howling” in particular.

In my humble opinion, this set was quintessential Phish. It was goofy as hell. The album took us on a musical journey through many genres. There were lyrics from old songs, inside jokes, and even a flashback to Trey’s platform mishap on NYE 2019.

After listening to and watching the set a few times in the past month, we both love it. There were lots of haters, but that’s no surprise with the Phish community.

We had an absolute blast at the show and have enjoyed re-visiting it. We’ll see what they do with those songs moving forward, but I can guarantee there will be a huge pop from the crowd when they play the first one at MSG next month.

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Freakin’ lazer beams!

Now back to the show, because we still had one final set of Phish! The crowd definitely thinned out before set three. It’s an exhausting weekend for sure and it was a Sunday night. We held strong though and revved up our engines for one last lap.

The final set got off to a promising start with an evil “Carini.” The segue into “Lonely Trip” seemed like an odd call so early in the set, though. Great song, but weird placement.

Next up was a romp through “Soul Planet”, “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long” and “Twist.” There were some good moments of improv in there, but nothing really stands out.

Once again, Phish ended a final set with “Drift While You’re Sleeping.” After seeing this song in that slot three times this year, it’s getting a bit stale if you ask me. Again, it’s a solid song. It just seems misplaced ending a show, especially on Halloween.

We knew they had to bring a heavy hitter out for the encore, and they obliged with “Harry Hood.” The place really cleared out before the encore, so we moved down to the front of the upper level and found a great spot to finish the show strong.

Rachel became “Hood Girl” during this blissful jam and was getting down. It was quite the triumphant way to end the weekend and the tour.

We came, we saw, we raged face.

With no late night to get to, we decided to plop right down in our seats and watch the arena empty rather than join the crowd. We made plans to hang out with friends at their hotel and eventually headed out into the Vegas night.

Day of the Walking Dead

You’d think we would have been tired by this point and ready to get some sleep.

You would, of course, be wrong. Instead, we took advantage of having no late-night show and decided to participate in a time-honored Phish tour tradition – raging the hotey!

Next thing you know, the sun was coming up. There’s nothing quite as bad as walking out of a Vegas casino after partying all night into the intense desert sun. We bailed just before it got to that point and caught a cab back to the Airbnb around 7.

Thankfully, we didn’t have a flight to catch on November 1st. We learned that lesson the hard way in 2016 and make sure to stay an extra day. It’s basically Day of the Walking Dead that day at the Vegas airport!

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One last desert sunset.

After sleeping for a few hours, we packed up and moved back to the chill room we stayed in on night zero. We regaled our host with tales of the weekend and actually showed him some Phish and Biscuits, while he showed us some clips of Vegas EDC and other electronic stuff he digs.

We went out for one final meal and got some delicious cocktails and Caribbean food. Then we sent my brother to the airport and melted into the couch.

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Somehow we ended up staying up until 3 hanging out with our host. Once you flip your body clock like that, it’s hard to go back. He was nice enough to give us a ride to the airport after we slept for a few hours.

We flew from Vegas to Denver, had a quick layover, then flew to Charlotte. A 30-minute Uber ride took us back to her uncle’s, where we crashed for a night before driving back to Asheville.

Worth It!

Our Phish fall tour trip lasted 18 days and took us to 12 shows in 4 states, plus the three Biscuits late nights. We saw countless friends along the way and made plenty of new ones.

While the finance box is in rough shape after that and we were exhausted for a solid week, it was well worth it. There’s no place quite like Phish tour, and it’s extra special when you can end it on a Halloween night in Vegas.

Holy Blankenstein that was fun! Unhead the knee. Clear your mind. Don’t doubt me.

We hope everyone who is fortunate enough to be attending MSG and Mexico has an absolute blast. We’ll see you out there next summer.

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