Whoa—A Serious Tour Opener

Bethel Official Print (Stout)

Wasting absolutely no time warming up, Phish greeted a salivating fan base in Bethel on Friday night with a show that—above all else—showed a willingness to take risks and put themselves out on an improvisational ledge to see what happens. Meeting their summer audience on the astral plane, Phish put forth a psychedelic adventure of the likes we haven’t seen in quite some time. Within the meat of the second set, the band set the controls for the heart of the sun, and came out with musical gold. The prefab nature of the New Years’ Run was nowhere to be seen as the band dug into one of their more experimental sets in ages—the type of sets of which I dream. And they came up with gold all night long in a show opener that couldn’t be more encouraging—and inspiring—to open summer tour.

After an extended, six-month layoff, the band took a collective inhale and ended their time off with none other than “Tweezer.” Like a breath of the swankiest air you’ve felt in years, Phish growled into summer with a welcome home out of one of their classic pieces. Flowing through connected and laid-back grooves to kick off the show, the band showcased an early propensity for prolific playing. Segueing seamlessly into “My Friend, My Friend,” the guys opened the season with an legitimate improvisational combo that got everyone’s motor revved early. Following up with a non-stop string of greatest hits and hard hitting grooves, the band sparked a first-set fire that culminated in the two most improvisational pieces of the half in “Stash” and “Kill Devil Falls.” Within these two late-set jams, Phish set set the tone for the rest of the show with a absolutely face-melting “Stash,” and the most exciting and out-of-the-box “KDF” since Bonnaroo ’09. In between, the band also worked in a sleek “Wolfman’s -> Walk Away” combo, that saw “Wolfman’s” briefly get into a more abstract and intriguing segment.

Bethel Woods - 5.27.11 (Scott Bedford)

But the second-set’s opening sequence seemed to follow the first—more song-based jams. And when the band dropped into “Boogie On,” it seemed totally out of place as the third song of the second set. And I think Phish sensed that too, because half-way through the song’s generic funk grooves, Trey began playing more slowly and with abstract effect, leading the band into a mind-numbing deconstruction of “Boogie On” that was hard to fathom in the live setting. Not until I heard this sequence again on tape did I realize the precision and mastery with which the band executed this demented migration from Stevie Wonder’s song into “Waves.” And when the band landed in “Waves,” the defining, soul-searching sequence of show commenced and wouldn’t end until the final notes of “Velvet Sea.”

5.27.11 - "Boogie On" (S. Bedford)

Dipping into the first version “Waves” since Red Rocks ’09, the band came up with one of the most sublime segments of this era. Embarking on free-form psychedelia in the vein of a “Dark Star,” the band entered completely egoless jamming with no goal in mind but to play the next note, and it resulted in one of the most enchanting and exploratory passages of Phish in this era. Delicate and connected, exploratory yet coherent, the band intertwined ideas like weaving a fine musical silk. After moving through a melodic collaboration, the band moved onto a far more abstract plane with some serious psychedelic sound-sculpting. Navigating their way through a stunning soundscape of the likes we haven’t heard in recent years, the band organically emerged into “Prince Caspian.” A massive sense of arrival graced this mid-second set version, as it blossomed into a more than just a landing pad for the band’s stratospheric journey. Infusing a sense of glory into the power-ballad, Phish engaged in enhanced interplay that brought this version to a colossal peak. But unfinished—in the surprise of the night—the band rolled out of “Caspian” into “Crosseyed.” And out of “Crosseyed” came the the show’s defining segment, and one of the most sinister and to-die-for segments of 3.0 Phish.

5.27.2011 (S.Bedford)

After the band had careened through a torrid “Crosseyed” jam, reprised the lyrics, and continued annihilating a ferocious whole-band conversation, they—collectively—slowed into one of the evilest, most crack-like sequences of Phish in this era. Engulfing the pavilion in larger-than-life swamp music made for monsters, Phish, led by Trey’s uncompressed snarl, unveiled one of the defining modern sequences of dungeon sorcery (evoking echoes of the “Mike’s” jam from 7.22.97). As the crunching and menacing music enveloped our lives again, Phish unrolled a soundtrack of dreams.

Oozing from this sonic underworld into “Velvet Sea,” the slower song provided the perfect cap on the other-worldly excursions into the depths of Phish psychedelia. From the point the band decided to break down “Boogie On” and embark on “Waves,” the show shifted from a concert into a cosmic exploration of the type we travel coast to coast to capture. Organically forging a wide-open adventure on the first night of summer, Phish has our minds drooling at the possibilities the next 31 shows hold. We can only make the assumption that on the first night of tour, the band sent us a message of intent—a psychedelic telegram—to tell us that Summer 2011 blow our minds and expand our hearts. Jump on…its gonna be a hell of a ride.

I: Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend, Poor Heart, Roses Are Free, Funky Bitch, Wolfman’s Brother -> Walk Away, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Kill Devil Falls, Bold As Love

II: Carini, Back on the Train, Boogie On Reggae Woman > Waves > Prince Caspian > Crosseyed and Painless > Wading in the Velvet Sea, Possum, The Squirming Coil

E: Julius


1,192 Responses to “Whoa—A Serious Tour Opener”

  1. sumodie Says:

    skip nite 1

    tonites show is the best show in ages, easily in the 3.0 era

    welcome to the future


  2. bearito Says:

    sounds amazing C!!

    After the Gorge in 09′ the slf & myself went south down the coast & had a “get rid of the stash night” camped on the Northern Cal coast – twas BEAUTIFUL and of course…

    I played the IT waves & I’ll never forget it.

  3. MrCompletely Says:

    kicking the halleys jam now

    was a big moment even on couch tour when they passed the cutoff point and kept going

  4. bearito Says:

    best in 3.0?

    Fa real?

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    those nights are always fun

    hard on the lungs but w/e

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    halleys takes the left turn for albuquerque at 8′

  7. Andrew Says:

    Will 3.0 begin to top other eras? Or will they all settle into their own niche based on the band’s surrounding influences and personal musical growths. Apples and oranges? If it’s going to keep getting better, I for one feel the doors of the past will be blown off.

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    outstanding full band stuff in the last few minutes of this jam. 4 way interplay. like an open-jam version of the 1/1/11 conversational playing

  9. MrCompletely Says:

    3.0 is superior to all other eras in the sense that it is happening now and sure doesn’t suck

    jim really benefits from placement as a landing pad out of a jam IMO

  10. albert walker Says:

    Best set 1 of 3.0


    lts there.

    Hood was amazing. # line so sick

    Finally Trey led real phish

  11. sumodie Says:

    all 4 guys shone individually tonite, each spectaculary, but trey OWNS tonite, the jedi master was phenomenal

  12. bearito Says:

    Loving 3.0!!!!

    Would have loved that kick in the nuts “Possum” last night

    Phish said “Wake up downed phishies!”

  13. BrandonKayda Says:

    I will leave you with this.

    If this band keeps this kind of playing up, MPP is going to be torn apart. So excited, in a different way than I was last year.

  14. bearito Says:

    So happy happy to hear this!

  15. Andrew Says:

    Part of the greatness lies in the personal experience, as warm nostalgia flows in when listening to old shows. So yeah, being in the moment when the band is on fire truly can’t be topped. Great perspective Mr. C

  16. bearito Says:

    Alright, who started that clap during Coil? AW? 🙂

  17. sumodie Says:

    just listen to set one with a good head and report back

  18. sumodie Says:

    mike plays the slickest line in gin

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    the band has evolved over the years. we have evolved alongside them, each of us in our own ways, and together.

    for some people, certain points in the past can never be topped, either for their place as peak experience in that person’s history or because the style of music the band was making at that time suits a person particularly well.

    for others its the opposite, and the best show really is the next show. especially if it’s legit high level phish. there’s a threshold that we can’t define but we all know it when we hear or feel it. they’re above that threshold these days.

    so regardless of how you feel it stacks up against other eras, or if you don’t think about it that way at all – as long as you’re not letting the past interfere with the present, you’re not wrong as far as I can see…

  20. MrCompletely Says:

    gin hasn’t exactly lost a step from ’10 has it?

  21. bigjig Says:

    wow. You guys are making me jealous. Lets hope this energy keeps up, cause I want me some. Fact.

  22. Andrew Says:

    Gin’s were hot just about every time, even Portsmouth was stellar. Is it to early to claim this Halley’s as best of 3.0? ::wink wink::

  23. Selector J Says:

    “so regardless of how you feel it stacks up against other eras, or if you don’t think about it that way at all – as long as you’re not letting the past interfere with the present, you’re not wrong as far as I can see…”-mr. c

    100% agree with that whole post, @Mr. C.
    Perfectly articulated.

  24. Andrew Says:

    Alright I’m through Jim in the first set and absolutely blown away…the accents from Page are redonkulous

  25. poop goblin Says:

    it’s the beginning of the finding a bunch of new textures but besides that the main thing is the return of Trey as band leader

    I don’t know if the band has practiced but he sounds like a new man

    this # line is absolutely ridiculous

    it’s real phish. the whole band is right on point throughout the first 2 nights here.

    this will only get better. peak of # line = the new school dark phish pysch rock. the fuckin shit

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