The Top Show of 2011

1.1.11 (Chris LaJaunie)

Only one show into the new year, and we’ve already got a keeper. Was anybody surprised? On New Year’s Day, Phish dropped a top-to-bottom smoker with one of the outstanding second sets of this era in which the improv never stopped. Crafting a slick setlist to cap the run, Phish tore MSG apart in their first hurrah of 2011, not to mention the first set, whose final four-song sequence also caught fire. In a not-so-bizarre case of prognostication, everyone in the building knew from long ago that this night would hold something special, and when Phish delivered so flagrantly, it made me think.

1.1.11 (A.Sepler)

Advertised separately on their website as “1.1.11,” the band began hyping this show before the holidays even began. And with that in mind, of course they came out and played a ripping show. This brings me to the question of Phish’s current intent when they step on stage, something that I’ve been pondering since the end of this show. In my opinion, the band has now reached a level of proficiency where they can play a two sets at that level at almost any time (once they’ve got a few shows under their belt). But what determines when they decide to go big? Sure, they band was “on” on January 1st, but they have been “on” for quite some time now with very few inconsistencies. And while Phish killed the entire set with tight jams galore, but for one piece of transcendent music in “Simple,” its not like they were throwing down mind-numbing magic; they were giving each jam the creative attention it deserved without concern for what was coming next—something that hasn’t always happened. They were playing with the carefree energy and focus that characterized several nights this fall, and they were doing with the support of a well-crafted, non-stop setlist. Hence we all freaked, and rightfully so, Phish played a stellar show by anyone’s standards. But in terms of start-to-finish shows, why only on the first (and for one full set on New Year’s Eve)?

Many say that Phish alters their type of show to access different sectors of their fan base. But to that I ask, “Was anyone you encountered after 1.1.11 disappointed that the band jammed too much in the second set?” Doubtful. Everyone left Madison Square Garden exactly how Phish wanted them to—jacked to the sky over the best show of the five-night run. Perhaps this possible “premeditation” took place because of a pre-planned New Year’s Run that Phish wanted to end with a bang. But why don’t they come out and play all killer, no filler second sets more often, when that’s—empiracally—what everybody wants to hear?

1.1.11 (C. La Jaunie)

Others may say that the band can’t just turn IT on and play like they did on the 1st whenever they want. But what about the previous four shows when every time the band took an improvisational risk—approximately once a night—they found, arguably, the best jams of 2010 in Worcester’s “Harry Hood,” and “Seven Below,” and Madison Square Garden’s “Ghost.” Additionally, the band also took “Tweezer” on its most exploratory jaunt of the year. My point is, Phish did seemingly, turn it on at a moments notice over the New Year’s Run, and they did so with ease and overwhelming success. Surrounding these musical treasures with various song sequences, each stood alone as the shining star of their particular show. But on New Year’s Day, Phish decided to improvise passionately all night long instead of in fifteen minute bursts— something not so outlandish, but had profound effect.

1.1.11 (Masthay)

On January 1st, Phish didn’t play the best show of their life, but they certainly played one of the most impressive shows of the this era. The band chose a great setlist, but we all know that setlists, alone, don’t make a show. With cohesive jamming throughout, Phish underlined the night with a smooth second half in which each song got full and proper treatment. But was there ever any doubt? Was it was any “harder” for Phish to play a show like January 1st than it was to play any other on the run? I’m not sure. I do believe they intended to make 1.1 the best show of the run—and that they did. I believe that Phish can pretty much do what they intend to do onstage these days; it’s not like the turning of the calendar gave them magical jamming powers. So why wouldn’t they play shows like that throughout the holiday run?

I’m not trying to downplay 1.1.11 at all; I absolutely loved the show. But let’s hope that when we are making best of 2011 lists, we’ll remember January 1st as a show that raised the bar for the year, and not one of its greatest moments.

I: My Soul, Tube, Runaway Jim, Foam, Guelah Papyrus, The Divided Sky, Round Room, Walk Away, Gotta Jibboo, Reba > Walls of the Cave

II: Crosseyed and Painless > Twist, Simple, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, Makisupa Policeman > David Bowie

E: Fee, Frankenstein

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Jam of the Day:

“Bathtub Gin” 7.3.10 I

Another peak at the now-available remasters courtesy of Phish Inc.

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Bathtub-Gin-promo-edit.mp3]

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

3.20.1992 Broome County Forum, Binghamton, New York

Mp3 Torrent, Megaupload < Links

3.20.1992 (Unknown)

One of my favorite Spring ’92 shows, this SBD was highly circulated back in the analog era. With two sets of early-school fire, and a top-shelf. early-90’s “Antelope,” I highly suggest pulling this show if its not already in your stash.

I: Wilson, Reba, Brother, Glide, Rift, Fluffhead, Maze, The Lizards, Mound, Run Like an Antelope

II: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Sanity, The Sloth, The Mango Song, Cavern, Uncle Pen, Harry Hood, Cold as Ice > Terrapin > Cold as Ice, Possum > Secret Language Instructions > Possum

E: Lawn Boy, Fire

Source: SBD

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598 Responses to “The Top Show of 2011”

  1. lastwaltzer Says:

    I honestly think its been a matter of nerves OR its what St8ofmind said.

    More than likely its a combination of both.

  2. sumodie Says:

    My feeling is the band, maybe Trey specifically, purposefully wants to play song based sets/shows to appeal to certain parts of the fan base. It also makes the jam heavy shows more special. Another reason for doing so is it gives the band a chance to exercise their chops on more songs.

    And I do believe the band wanted to make 1.1.11 the best of the lot

    Ultimately it is all about intent. Which baffles me when the band plays a song like Halley’s or Free in the 2nd set and they don’t even add a little extra juice to to tune. Just a little. Like on NYE set 3, why play a short Piper AND Free when they could play a better version of either tune by cutting the other? Ahh, the endless debating til Hampton ’11!!

  3. burblelover415 Says:

    I think certain shows/venues just naturally get them all excited, which leads to a full 4-man “conversation.”

    I think all 4 of them were excited to play a 1-1-11 show, so they all brought their A game.

    I think Manchester was such a solid show because that was pretty close to a “home town” show for all of them and they hadn’t played in NH in a number of years.

    For Vegas in 96, that was their first time playing there and you could tell how stoked all 4 of them were to be there.

    Clifford Ball you can see the pure joy on their faces the whole time.

  4. Brimley Says:

    So I wonder what state of mind they were in at Deer Creek 1..?

    Do you think they were tired from the West Coast trip and talked about playing a chill first set and to turn it up for the second set…?

  5. Mitch Says:

    well played leaving 1.1 off the list of top 10. guess it was in 2011 after all.

  6. nonoyolker Says:

    “they were giving each jam the creative attention it deserved without concern for what was coming next—something that hasn’t always happened”

    ^ this. They made 1/1 special on purpose, there should be no question of that. I’m not saying they turn it on and off, but sometimes they may afford themselves more patience to let a jam come if they want the show to be special. Song selection can be a factor too, as you can see clearly in 1/1.

    But, song selection isn’t everything. Respun Utica again yesterday and the song selection isn’t anything special, save for a few semi-rare Gamhenge tracks (which are clearly not the highlights of the evening) < this is when the band clicks and it doesn't matter what they play – it's magic

  7. willowed Says:

    “Let me also say that an off song and an off show by these guys is better than a great show form any other band.”-Willowed

    Let’s not get carried away here fellas… Come on

    El Dude. I 100% stand by my statement. It’s all personal preference. No other band has taken me where this band has taken me…even on an off night. I would prefer an Amherst 2 over a smokin’ 1970’s San Fran Van Morrison show. Hands down!

  8. willowed Says:

    and Van Morrison is a legend in the Willowed house!

  9. willowed Says:

    Thursday morning beats with Selector. I likey!!

  10. EL Duderino Says:

    i’m just ribbing ya’ willowed… 😉

  11. BTB Says:

    When ‘Round Room’ surfaces…chances are the show was keeper

  12. willowed Says:

    I know. I do drink the cool aid though.

    I think I heard this in the Grateful Dead movie. They interview some guy before the show. The guy looked like a Cornel Professor or something. He looks dead into the camera and says:

    “There is NOTHING like a Greateful Dead show”

    I feel the same way when it comes to the Phish.

  13. mitch Says:

    I drink the purple drank

  14. mitch Says:

    Standing on my outdoor subway platform. Train isn’t running due to a police investigation a few stops away. Neighbor told me ahead of time so I followed along online. So why the hell am I still freezing in the cold?

  15. Guyute711 Says:

    Who’s got purple drank up in here. Is that you Jamarcus?

  16. mitch Says:

    That’s my brothers name.

  17. Kaveh Says:

    Good morning!

    @KP: Thanks for the new links.

    @Miner – excellent and thoughtful piece today. I’ll be reading this one a couple of times. Thanks for the food for thought. 🙂

  18. phoammhead Says:

    on 1.1 the boyz were also likely very relaxed and feeling good having the satisfation of having just completed a great year and the 12/31 new years show and i think this translated into their playin’ as much as anything . . . kinda like an exhale . . . ahhhhhhhhh, let’s relax . . . this is oh so nice!!!

    the 12.30 show conversely came off a bit tight being the first webcast show

  19. mitch Says:

    “I blame Mitch for my head state right now”

    I woke up not remembering if I passed out or went to sleep. I found 2, count em, 2 packed bowls and neither had a hit off it. I packed the bubbled at the coffee table and bailed on it. Packed my chillum and took it and the dog to bed and fell asleep before that one too. Pfft.

    I blame the robane.

  20. mitch Says:

    Cool photo up top btw

    And bubbled is my iPhones nickname for bubbler

  21. KWL Says:

    i think these guys are just different now, and they get off playing songs

    that’s it

  22. Calpain Says:

    I feel most of that seems to be in Trey’s hands, and I think it comes down to the dynamics of the situation (crowd, venue, energy, how relaxed they are).

    I don’t think it’s as linear as turning the ‘hose on/off’

  23. Kaveh Says:

    @KP: Sweet to see the “Bowie” from the Orpheum here in Minneapolis is on the Tier 2 downloads; that one was a MONSTER!

  24. Gavinsdad Says:

    I Blame the Sixpoint Sweet Action

  25. HarryHood Says:

    How do I get me some Robane?

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