Basking In Bethel’s Blowout

Bethel Woods (George Estreich)

After spinning through the first two shows of tour a number of times over the weekend, and I have to say, I hear the emergence of a new Phish. Not only are their jams multiplying in number, but they are also diversifying in scope and laced with new ideas. The band seemed incredibly fresh over the weekend and ready to try new things once again. And one of the biggest reasons for the Bethel shows’ many successes was—go figure—Trey Anastasio. Over the weekend, Trey stepped up and led the band in the commanding fashion of lore, but directed jams with a refined style that didn’t always necessitate melting faces. With delicate, yet directional licks of leadership—creative and intricate leads—Trey came to the forefront of the stage in a way that didn’t diminish his mates’ contributions. I keep thinking of the word “mature” to define this type of playing; a style that could only have been acquired through decades of improvisation and experimentation with the same players. Some key jams from Bethel where this refined yet powerful style is quite prevalent are “Halley’s,” “Bathtub Gin” and “Number Line.” And not consequently, these were three of the more impressive excursions of the weekend.

Bethel Woods (G.Estreich)

But only one day earlier, Phish engaged in a completely different type of jamming in an awing rendition of “Waves.” This unforgettable segment came via deep and collaborative exploration—and incredible patience. Unafraid to let things breathe and allow ideas to develop, the band didn’t scurry from improvisational abstraction over the first two shows, but embraced it—exercising patience to discover sublime moments. In this vein, creative soundscapes emerged as a style of Phish jamming again, and no piece exemplified this better than “Waves.” Dripping into the ether directly as the lyrics ended, the band illustrated a new-found proclivity for cosmic exploration. As no one member pushed or dominated the jam, the band traveled together through one of Bethel’s utterly surreal portions of improv. Open-ended jamming at its finest, the band took a collective swan dive into the void during “Waves” and just let the music flow through them. Ending this journey with a ambient sound sculpture, this standout sequence (and its eerie “Crosseyed” counterpart) couldn’t be more different than the stellar jamming of night two.

Bethel (G.Estreich)

And yet another divergent sound was showcased in one of the absolute gems of the weekend that got buried in the opening set—”Kill Devil Falls.” This jam was captained by the combination of Trey and Fishman—the backbone of Phish. Pushing the band with speedy and intricate breakbeats, Fishman directed this jaunt at a vicious pace. Fish’s quickened beat science pushed Trey out of some of his only “Whaling” of the weekend and into mind-bending guitar playing, while coaxing the entire band to engage at a pace at which they play.. But the jam wasn’t straight ahead rock; it was far more creative yet still moving a mile a minute. This seemed like an extension of the “urgent ambient” jamming that began to emerge last year during summer’s second leg (illustrated in the Greek’s “Rock and Roll” and Jones Beach’s “Number Line”)—but on steroids! This was some breakneck jamming and tight as anything we heard all weekend.

Phish had that invincible feeling again over the Bethel run; that sense that bullets would bounce off their musical armor like Lilliputians’ attacking Gulliver. And even though the third night’s affair strayed a bit towards the seemingly-fading song-based trend of this era, the show was still strewn with impressive musical conversations. Throw in a bit of staccato, plinko-funk jamming, and from every angle possible, Bethel was an overwhelming triumph for the band and their dedicated fan base. By anyone’s account, this is shaping up to be one crazy summer, and when we finally wind down amidst the Rockies in Colorado come Labor Day, we’ll think back to the green rolling pastures of Bethel Woods and smile.

Bethel Woods (George Estreich)


867 Responses to “Basking In Bethel’s Blowout”

  1. Kevin Says:

    I read yemblog’s tweets, but how close can they be listening when they’re tweeing commentary all the time?

    Granted, a Divided train wreck is pretty obvious.

  2. mitch Says:

    willowed, breaking balls per normal. i know what ya mean.

  3. P.S.H.S. Says:

    not sure if i can make it to gw, looks like no phish for me this year. 🙁
    no sitter, and too much work. thank you jeebus for people like BK, making couch tour possible for senior citizens everywhere.

  4. RamblinMind Says:

    A botched Divided Sky makes it more interesting…they were getting a little generic.

    Wouldn’t mind if DS took a hiatus for a few tours

  5. BrandonKayda Says:

    I really doubt that’ll happen though @Ramblin. There are certain songs Phish seems to play every single tour. Many of them, in fact 😉

  6. Kevin Says:

    Agreed, Ramblin — but I still love a *flawless* Divided Sky — there’s just something about it. Charlottesville 09 was probably the closest I’ve ever seen in person.

  7. Willowed Says:

    Gotcha mitch

    I’m getting old. The brain ain’t as sharp as it used to be

  8. goat Says:

    the divided from merriweather last year was pretty solid if i remember correctly…

  9. mitch Says:

    the BB cracks me up. was reading fly’s post and i started laughing that the BB is the same in real life as on the board. when im working WW i have people coming up and lurking, then they introduce themselves to me. then they wanna find others so they have me introduce them so they are fitting in with the vets of the board meet ups when they feel they are ready.

    “i was trying to act cool around AW so was probably fumbling my words a little bit” lol (acting n00bish)

    stichstash comes up looking for KWL after the whole group leaves (like late night on the board), then pho-hammed and fly come over doing the same thing (kinda lurking.)

    then duke asks me who is around and i point to AW “will you introduce me?” as if they dont know each other and talk everyday. so i cock block the shit outta AW talking to the WW cutie. (rag on AW)

    silly doesnt get his mc’deezys cause the dude working there hears AW making fun of him through the intercom. (double here, silly failing at life and AW ripping on someone)

    silly and jtran rocking their hawaiian shirts and flat brims.

    gdad hustlin’ tix like its his job.

    miner raging and dissecting the shows.

    couch tour tuning in via stream and texts.

    the real life meetups mimic this board a lot.

  10. BrandonKayda Says:

    ^ This is correct. I remember Trey bouncing up and down during the peak

  11. halcyon Says:

    Nowadays, I have a love hate relationship with DSky. I love a great execution, and do get into it, but sometimes that intro, and the pause really annoy me.

    That being said, for listening to the boys for 18 or so years, you develop a connection with the song, regardless.

  12. locust the lurker Says:

    No stream tonight I take it?

  13. goat Says:

    it’s definitely at it’s peak outdoors in the first set, once the sun has begun to set… goosebumps may ensue…

  14. halcyon Says:

    after midnight

  15. plord Says:

    AM stays in the mix, interesting. Sure got things cranking at Manchester, I tell you what.

  16. mitch Says:

    pigsong, dunno if you investigated yet but it might be hard to print a wraparound coozie. also, shoot it up so it looks more real.

    imo, they will sell better if you have a phish theme. throw a race car on there and make a contact quote or something. nothing too obvious so you are the only one on lot. (my friend said the trey mockingbird was too obv for woodstock, he was right)

  17. mitch Says:

    or make a nascar logo with a phish word. something car and phish i think will be your best bet. fireworks on the other side would be cool tho.

  18. RamblinMind Says:

    Didn’t mean to be hating on Divided Sky or anything, just kind of lost its excitement for me…It can still hit the spot in person though

    After Midnight, on the other hand, has exciting possibilities

  19. Fly Says:

    word mitch, all i know is that the BB is mad sweet, great place to get info and debate shit online and for makin’ connections IRL

    after midnight opener, let’s hope it goes big

  20. BrandonKayda Says:

    Drowned next I bet

  21. Kevin Says:

    Totally understand, Ramblin. I feel the same way about YEM — I just don’t care until the cymbal hit — you know the one.

  22. plord Says:

    AM apparently getting the business, says YEMblog.

  23. SillyWilly Says:


    great little recap there.

    I had so much fun with everyone. Can’t wait for Blossom now

    And no one ever calls me out for being completely baked the whole time.

    I swear to god I’m normally a fairly engaging person.

  24. goat Says:

    nice, hopefully they remember which syllable gets the accent in the ‘after midnight’ lyric, sounded kinda small-town-bar-band last time (just the vocal delivery, not the playing, or the caliber of the singing) my $.02…

  25. BrandonKayda Says:

    MPP in 11 days. Come on already.

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