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


Jam of the Day:

“Bathtub Gin” 7.3.10 I

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




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


598 Responses to “The Top Show of 2011”

  1. halcyon Says:

    1996 – 2000 I hit Jazzfest. In 96 the Schvice highly recommended checking out the Gospel Tent. Needless to say we were blown away. A friend who I travelled there with, and is Jewish was front and center screaming “i’m converting” after hearing the raw power and emotion the Gospel groups brought.

    Bourbon Street after the Phish performance got real seedy after 2am. Bad Wooks everywhere.

  2. Mr. Palmer Says:

    ahh… the gospel tent…how could i forget.

  3. poop goblin Says:

    in a month we will have fresh acoustic summer of 89’s to spin!!

  4. verno329 Says:

    @Leo & Duder any of you guys thinking about hitting up the Mike show in Atlanta? Trying to decide if I want to go. I’m pretty starved for some live music right now (crossing fingers on Hangout Festival rumors in Alabama) so I may end up going.

  5. joe Says:

    I better learn the words, so I can sing along at the show.

  6. verno329 Says:

    Can’t wait PG!

  7. Leo Weaver Says:

    LLFA @pg

    I KNOW you’ll be waiting with baited breath by your computer to download that shit, amirite? 😛

  8. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Strange Design>Waste> Summer ’89>Talk>Shine….. sign me up!!!

  9. Leo Weaver Says:

    Not sure verno. He’s playing in Asheville which would be a bit easier. But I need to make it down to the ATL soon anyway…gotsta catch up with some of my crew down there. I’ll let you know if it’s in the cards.

  10. Leo Weaver Says:

    Sounds like a helluva set right there Palmer!

  11. joe Says:

    saving shine for the electric set unfortunately.

  12. joe Says:

    it’s on a very short list of tunes I actively dislike (as opposed to some that I passive accept)

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I will admit that i like Sleep Again. That is all i will admit at the moment though….

  14. poop goblin Says:

    my girl loves Shine

    she’s already requested an acoustic Shine

    she’s lame

  15. Jtran Says:

    It annoys me how Trey rhymes “on” and “on” in the chorus.

  16. kenny powers Says:

    @ Leo and Willowed

    i called those types of jams “triumphant jams” or “victory jams”.

    see also

    Tweezer 2/28/03
    Ghost 11/17/97

    of course, both of those jams start out pretty dark and foreboding but they end up super triumphant.

    see also one of the parts toward the end of the Providence Bowie….where it comes out of the long quiet part. you know what i’m talking about…

  17. kenny powers Says:

    i also like sleep again a lot.

    first time i heard it was as the Indio set, so i have a soft spot for the memory. that and Gone i like a lot.

  18. verno329 Says:

    @kp also the 12/29/94 Bowie that also starts out really dark and strange and then just plows through the most beautiful jam

  19. Leo Weaver Says:

    Good call on the Denver Ghost kp! Triumphant…YES!

  20. verno329 Says:

    @kp or I could finish reading the rest of your post. damn bane

  21. Leo Weaver Says:

    Damn you and your bane!

    ::shakes fist at sky while still at the office::

  22. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    “I’ve been on Sand repeat lately”

    same. that trey lick right after the sick ass staccato licks is fucking awesome

  23. butter Says:

    nice post Miner

    don’t know about the bands intentions but the last 2 minutes of Sally, Trey is just throwin some genius stuff out there and the whole band is responding in real time

    and they should take the last 2 minutes of Simple and write a new ballad with that as the music

  24. verno329 Says:

    Sorry Leo! But I can offer up this to brighten your day courtesy of Mitch Hedburg

    An escalator can never break–it can only become stairs. You would never see an “Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order” sign, just “Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience. We apologize for the fact that you can still get up there.”

  25. Leo Weaver Says:

    Thanks verno…very thought-provoking, will give me something to really ponder tonight.

    And now I’m about wrapped up…time for my own bane sesh in about 10.

    See y’all laters alligators.

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