Phish’s 2014 Fall Tour is finally at our doorsteps. Tonight’s opener in Eugene, OR will kick off a 12-show, seven-city jaunt that will climax in Sin City for Halloween weekend. The band has decided to break Autumn tradition this year, and instead of playing East Coast staples like Rochester or Worcester, we’re talking about West Coast destinations like Santa Barbara and Chula Vista. With the band hitting improvisational strides with ease all summer long, stakes and anticipation are certainly running high. I asked a few friends (Pete, Justin, & Andy) on what they’re looking forward to this Fall and here’s what we came up with:

14. “Chalk Dust Torture” will continue it’s reign as Song MVP.

CDT took a giant leap forward on 8/31/12 with its most notable version since Camden ’99. Since then, its steady climb into a surefire 3.0 jam vehicle alongside “Down With Disease”, “Carini” and “Light” has truly been something to behold. Nowadays when you hear the opening riff to CDT, you know you’re probably somewhere in the second set. With the tune hitting the greatest stride of its career on Summer tour, we can only hope this momentum continues; indoor arenas mixed with dark-introspective jams is the perfect recipe for Fall.

13. Fishman will further himself as Most Improved Player of 3.0.

The MVP of this past summer has undoubtedly been Fishman. Far from sitting back and keeping the beat, Henrietta was the driving force on many deep summer explorations, infusing polyrhythms into formerly more simplistic beats and pushing and pulling the other three members in new and interesting ways. Will he continue his reign on Fall Tour? We think so. After spending the summer stripping down his complex drum set to the basics, it looks like he’s ready to stretch out again with brand spankin’ new gear from Vic’s Drum shop. He picked up a Roland TD-30K V-Drums kit, a Roc N Soc Nitro throne with a matching backrest, and a Sonor Jojo Mayer Perfect Balance bass drum pedal. Could this be a sign of something Fish needed to add for the Halloween costume? Maybe the band needed some e-drums to bring their Halloween set into the #untz territory?!

12. We will continue to see less covers.

They played covers on their Summer tour, some, but it was few and far between. Some of us writers here on the site were big fans of this juxtaposition because it led the band in a few new directions setlist-wise. This past Summer didn’t include “Energy”, “Roses”, “Drowned”, “A Day in the Life”, “Walk Away” or “Frankenstein.” Certain covers the band leaned on in the second set like “Rock and Roll” and “Crosseyed and Painless” were subbed out for long-form takes on originals like “Bathtub Gin” and “Waves.” Variety is good. Now let’s just get them to jam out “Scents & Subtle Sounds” on the regular and we’ll be fully on board.

11. Cactus will do a few sit-ins along the way.

With late nights scheduled around the Phish bandwagon, we’re bound to see Mike Gordon lend his services after his “day job” is done. He seems to keep his social life pretty active when he’s on the road and always makes time for the occasional sit-in. ALO will play after-shows in Santa Barbara on 10/21 and 10/22 and Brooklyn Bowl Vegas has a full-slate planned for 10/31-11/2, including moe. and Greensky Bluegrass. I wonder if he’ll show up when Jon Fishman plays October 26th with some friends at Zodiacs in Petaluma, California on one of Phish’s off days.

10. The weather is going to be awesome: 70’s & Sunny.

If there’s one thing you can absolutely count on this Fall — no, I don’t mean Antelope Greg riding the rail (that’s a lock no matter what) — it’s that the weather will be 70-80 degrees and sunny. Only two of the seven tour stops have a chance for rain (Eugene & Seattle), and both shows are indoors anyway so fans will be dry once the lights go down no matter what. The vibe at the intimate, 4,500 capacity Santa Barbara Bowl is certainly the venue of the run and the hardest tickets to acquire besides 10/31. Thankfully these are being webcast for those who were shut out. (Pro Tip: Because of a strict 10pm curfew, Santa Barbara will start promptly at 7pm PST. Don’t be late!)

9. We may see more new songs.

This is a loaded statement, because all of the songs off Fuego are still technically new. But maybe we’re talking about the 25 to 30 songs left over from those Wingsuit sessions in The Barn that didn’t make the cut. Most of them will likely never see the light of day and if they did, the best chance probably would have been earlier this year on Summer Tour. The better bet if this statement is going to hold true is that we see a Trey tune get brought over to Phish’s catalog. As my pal Andy put it — “I don’t really want to hear “Bounce” at a Phish show.” — so don’t expect fans to be super psyched about having to digest new music unless it’s something they don’t see coming already.

8. We could see the return of “Swept Away > Steep”.

Hat tip to David “ZZYZX” Steinberg for putting this on our radar. “Swept Away > Steep” has only been played four times in 3.0; it’s last performance was 85 shows ago. Fall would be the perfect time to bust out this rare combo. It’s the perfect landing pad inside a second set. Check out this segment back from 2010 for proof.

7. We’ll see an all-star lineup of poster artists

Last week Dry Goods teased us with the seven artists they’ve enlisted for each city on the Fall Tour. And it’s a pretty impressive group: David Welker, Rich Kelly, Drew Millward, Jim Pollock, Jeff Soto, LandLand and Ken Taylor. Pollock will be doing the San Francisco run based on info gathered from The Waterwheel Foundation and we’ve heard through the grapevine that Ken Taylor will be the artist for the Vegas run. We also have it on good authority that Welker will be doing the Seattle show, so all you collectors should definitely get in line early.

Phish Eugene 2014 Poster © Rich Kelly

Phish Eugene 2014 Poster © Rich Kelly

6. We will see some classic “tricks” and/or “teases” leading up to Halloween.

In the past the band has tricked and teased their way to their eventual Halloween costume and 2014 should be no different. As far back as 1995, Phish was deceptively hinting at Michael Jackson’s Thriller by teasing “Beat It” but ended up going in the Quadrophenia direction. We may not realize the hints until it’s too late — like last year when Mike Gordon’s drill appeared weeks before it’s eventual use on “Wingsuit”. Elements of “Fuego” were also teased in Worcester and Hartford last year with fans claiming they heard elements of Traffic and the Allman Brothers. Everyone should be on high tease alert as they make their way down the coast!

5. We could see the first West Coast “Harpua” since 1998.

Will the faithful get their first Fall Tour Harpua since the famed Dark Side of the Moon show? There have only been about five Harpuas since 11/2/98 so this is far from a guarantee (nothing ever is with this band anyway), but it would be a heady kickdown and the first time Little Jimmy made an appearance in the Pacific Time Zone since Vegas ’96. I doubt the Yodellers, Elvis and two-thirds of Primus will be on stage, but one can hope!

4. The band will surprise us with their Type II improvisational masterpieces.

Fall 13′ and Summer ’14 had one standout piece at almost every show — an embarrassment of riches — but it usually found its way into a surprising spot in the set. It was almost completely unpredictable. Will Trey sit back as he did for most of summer with the echoplex in tow, looking to the rest of the band to create the launching pad into Type II bliss or will he lead the charge and unleash his guitar god fury like he did at Dicks? Out of the twelve shows on tour, only three take place outside (Santa Barbara & Chula Vista) so the odds are good we’ll be getting some really dark, long-form improv. Putting a roof on the band and the light show always seems to have that effect. Let’s hope Mike’s fight bell is out early and often because that usually signifies the jam will soon be oozing out of the jar. The real hope is that just like this past Summer with “The Wedge” and last year with Atlantic City’s “Theme from the Bottom”, a few more Phish staples get the surprise Type II treatment.

3. They’ll probably play “Fuego” in every city.

The band played “Fuego” a whopping 13 times on Summer Tour this year, in almost every city the band played. This isn’t a bad thing — the more comfortable the band gets with a song, the more it bends said song to a stronger place. It didn’t take long for “Fuego” to go deep so it’s already a well oiled machine heading into October. Don’t be surprised if Phish keeps it rollin’ with seven more versions before the end of the month. A Diego shout out in Chula Vista seems right up their alley.

2. Trey will take credit for Seattle’s Super Bowl Win.

You’ve gotta think that Trey made sure Seattle was on the Fall Tour itinerary just so he could brag that his “Wilson” inspired chants helped bring a Super Bowl to the city. NFL Films produced a great piece on this phenomena in case you missed it. It’s the perfect way to bookend the story which started at the Gorge in 2013 so if Trey doesn’t come out on stage in a #3 Russell Wilson jersey, we’ll cry uncle.

1. Phish will play a costumed set on Halloween

Most fans still think Phish will pay homage to the holiday, but the burning question is if they’ll revert back to their old tradition or take yet another left turn that keeps us on our toes. In taking an axe to their own rules in AC with Fuego, the question of What band’s album will they cover? that weaves in and out of the Fall tour was completely flipped on it’s head. Adding even more fuel to the fire for 2014 was Big Red last month saying:

“I don’t know that we’re going to cover anything this year, to be perfectly honest. That’s the word I’m getting from the other guys. You never know. I’m guessing that we may have put that tradition to bed with the wink to ‘Fuego’.” – Trey to The Oregonian

In light of those comments, how can Phish deny a special set on a holiday that allows all kinds of pranks and weirdness to take place? In tearing down the walls to their own tradition, the opportunities are endless now. Maybe they play a A Greatest Hits compilation, or perhaps a mix of never-before-played covers…. maybe even a movie soundtrack like Easy Rider — all of this is not that far outside of the realm of possibility.

I’ll go with a bold prediction in keeping with the theme from last year. What if Phish covered themselves, AGAIN, but instead of the future, they covered the past, say LivePhish 11 (11/17/97) as an example. A re-incarnation if you will, and in the process, forever changing the piece of folklore that goes along with a typical fan’s explanation of what makes them unique: “Phish has never played the same show twice.” Now they have.

Pretty bold, right?

Whatever the band decides, lets hope it remains a mystery until we walk through the doors at the MGM Grand Arena and are handed the playbill.

Follow along with LIVE for updates from tonight’s opener in Eugene and all-Fall-long as the band makes their way south down the West Coast. Happy Phishing and good luck getting that bustout, whatever it may be!

2014 Rehearsals, Instagram by Mike Gordon

2014 Rehearsals, Instagram by Mike Gordon

2014 Phish Fall Tour

10/17 Matthew Knight Arena, Eugene, OR
10/18 Key Arena, Seattle, WA
10/21 Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA
10/22 Santa Barbara Bowl, Santa Barbara, CA
10/24 The Forum, Los Angeles, CA
10/25 Sleep Train Amphitheatre, San Diego, CA
10/27 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
10/28 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
10/29 Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA
10/31 MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV
11/01 MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV
11/02 MGM Grand, Las Vegas, NV