Playing It Safe on Sunday

Bethel Woods - 5.29.11 (D.Lavery)

After two nights of psychedelic debauchery to open summer tour, Phish finished their three-night stand in Bethel with a show that was delivered with a razor-sharp tightness, but far less improvisational adventure than the previous couple. At several times throughout the show, the band seemed on the verge of diving into a musical abyss, but each time they took a turn out of creative waters and into the next song. When looking at Bethel as a three-show package, however, Sunday’s anthemic punctuation mark seemed just fine as we departed the blissful pastures of Woodstock for the grit of central Jersey.

5.28.11 (C.LaJaunie)

Though Sunday’s show carried a “Saturday night rock and roll” vibe throughout, it still contained legitimate highlights book-ending the second set in “Mike’s > Simple” and “2001 > Light > Slave.” But after rewriting the landscape of modern Phish over the previous two nights, the decision to stay within the box during all of these jams (less “Simple”), seemed like a strange move. Carrying an air-tight quality to many of these sequences, the band allowed only “Simple” to breathe, while pushing through their other improvisational passages with safe and linear interplay. They played with the same precision and fire we have seen over the first couple of nights, but for whatever reason, they decided not to take any musical risks last night. At the end of “46 Days,” “Meatstick” and “Light,” Phish seemed on the brink of oozing into creative and psychedelic waters, but in each case the jam was cut in favor of keeping the setlist moving. The most egregious case of this came in the middle of the second set during “Meatstick.”


5.28.11 (P. McGonigle)

After sparking the second half with a ferocious “Mike’s Song” and followed with a summery, ambient jaunt in “Simple,” they smoothly segued into an inexplicably short “Weekapaug.” But at this point in the game, the stage was set for the continuation of a legitimate Phish set. But when “Meatstick” was cut off awkwardly for “Fluffhead,” any musical momentum had been derailed. It’s one thing when “Fluffhead” follows a significant jam, but its a whole ‘nother thing when it cuts one off altogether. After a disconnected three-song, mid-set sequence, the band picked the show back up with the space grooves of “2001.” Featuring heavy-hitting dance patterns, Trey, again, showed off his precise and multi-note licks that have been so prevalent in the summer’s opening weekend. And finally, one of the set’s highest points came in its final song—a multi-tiered “Slave to the Traffic Light” which built slowly through beat-less textures before ending the weekend with a blissful peak.

5.28.11 (C.LaJaunie)

The opening set contained a true “first set” vibe for the first time this tour, and though everything was played sharply and with gusto, “Timber” represented the most engaging interplay of the set—and likely the show—as the band seethed white-hot psychedelia within the fourth song of the show. “Ocelot” and “Antelope” both featured contained jams with impresive full-band communication, and “Suzy” even boasted a shredding quasi-jam. But, all in all, other than “Timber,” the set amounted to a whole bunch of singles.

Regardless of its linear, song-based contour, Sunday night represented but one slice of a three-part pie that was Bethel Woods—the stand where Summer 2011 blasted off. Have a safe day off and I’ll see you in Jersey!

I: AC/DC Bag, Sample in a Jar, Rift, Ocelot, Ya Mar, Timber, The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg, 46 Days > Twenty Years Later, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Run Like an Antelope

II: Mike’s Song > Simple > Weekapaug Groove, Meatstick > Fluffhead, Joy, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Light > Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Loving Cup, Tweezer Reprise



385 Responses to “Playing It Safe on Sunday”

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  1. JerZ Says:

    So stoked for some Jersey Phish. Jersey and Phish is like peas and carrots

  2. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Wow, what a 3 days! So glad these guys brought the fire to Bethel. So many treats in there arsenal moving forward. They are sounding so great. Hope all the BBers get home safe. Don’t forget to pick your face up and bring it with you.

  3. nonoyolker Says:

    Agree 100%. Fun show, but it def seemed like they were pulling back on the reins a bit. Missed the first 2 shows, but spun them before I got here. Band seemed like they had a different approach to last night. Not a bad show, but def “safe”. ‘lope, mike >simple, 2001 >light > slave all solid though.

    Serious TreyDHD to start Fluff. Dang, thought he had that nasty habit licked

  4. Baxter Says:

    awesome set of shows though. I was listening to the streams, and was very psyched with what I heard. Only shows I can do are Mansfield and Watkins. Just purchased my superball ticket because from the quality of the playing, it will sell out!

  5. Dorn76 Says:

    The creativity displayed fri/sat is going to be awfully tough to maintain overca tour…. As long as it comes back and is broken up by great sounding rock n rollers, we will be z very happy (and very tired) bunch come Labor Day. What a start! we are already talking like they are in mid season form…. After 3 nights!

  6. ReidIcculus Says:

    I think it’s safe to say that we are in the midst of Post Rapture Phish…

  7. AintNoTele Says:

    They came out swinging last year too so here’s to the upward trend through nTELOS

  8. thedayman Says:

    i love that the jamming style they displayed this weekend had quite a rooting in the 98 ambient style. love that stuff. hoping it continues to evolve over tour.

    this simple is quite nice, and boy has trey found a spot in the mix for the whale. tasteful, sparse texturing added all weekend with that pedal. $$$ usage in this jam.

  9. thedayman Says:

    well, now that i think about it, some of the jamming was 98esque, but really, they showcased so many different improvisational avenues this weekend, all bets are off for me. the difference maker seems to be trey’s refound guitar wizardry and willingness to dive into the abyss, obv imo, ymmv, etc.

    oh yeah, i think this summer is gonna be just swell. 🙂

  10. Aquaman Says:

    It’s early I might get First Page….no way!! That never happens to me.

    Anyway, great write up Miner.

    I am drawn to this passage:

    “But when “Meatstick” was cut off awkwardly for “Fluffhead,” any musical momentum had been derailed. It’s one thing when “Fluffhead” follows a significant jam, but its a whole ‘nother thing when it cuts one off altogether.”

    This is the exact scenario, for me, with AC night two, set II. I spoke then of the judas goat 2001……and now Miner has describe for us a classic judas goat Meatstick, leading Fluffhead to it’s, albeit well played, unbecoming demise on the venue floor. As if mid flight the band collectively say, “this sucks, uhhhhhhh, let’s try this.”……and off they go.

    Anyway, standard Sunday’s aside…..

    I want to thanks Kenny Powers for coming and joining me Saturday for, what was or me a semi-religious experience. For those who don’t know, Kenny and I took my 62 year old father in law to Saturday’s show, mostly for us to have a bonding experience since I’m banging his daughter and sleeping in his house for a few months. We also went since he went to Woodstock when he was 17, and has never been back to the area, even though he lives within three hours.

    We did the full experience and holy-sh$t-balls did we have a good time! Kenny, Al and I drove up early and with a combo of museum tickets, VIP parking and concerts tickets we wee allowed on lot in prime parking spot number one at around 1:00 PM. Head space achieved, a square meal eaten and a few beers later we rolled into the museum. I won’t go into the details here, since I want each of you to go experience this museum for yourselves. It takes about 2.5 hours to see it all and in the condition we were in, I’ll just say it was a full throttle experience. Sights, sounds, colors a friendly staff, whom I am sure knows exactly what their patrons are up to. We were able to roll into patio on the back side of the museum just in time to catch soundcheck, where Kenny recorded a few moments of what sounded like a new song.

    After exiting this crazy museum we went back to the lot where we decide it was now time to go check the monument and see the actual field where it all took place. We floated down the road and all I can say was that was truly powerful to be there at that spot with Al and Kenny an to just smile at how much fucking fun we were having. When you stand there it becomes so clear what field you are on. Religion

    Oh, yeah and Phish was about to play.

    I won’t cover what we already know……They slayed it on Saturday. ‘Nuff said.

    I want to thank Kenny for helping me keep a cool head. My father in law is a bit of a free spirit and at two critical points of the evening, 1) when we were about to go in for first set and 2) when we were being asked lot leave as we were one of the last cars on lot….let’s just say Al got swept up in the experience and would just flow with the crowd and on both occasions he just started conversations with random peeps and forgot the task at hand, thus causing me to believe, for a time that yes indeed I had lost Al, my wifes father. Not the phone call on wants to make back home to the wife. Through it all Kenny kept me in my proper head space to just chill and relax. It all came up roses!

    Thanks KP.

    That said…….morning all and have fun at PNC!!


    P.S. I wonder if I will still be first page? it’s a long post.

  11. thedayman Says:

    very cool aquaman, thats great you two were able to bond on that level. talk about a great first show for him! lol, dang.

  12. Aquaman Says:

    I am on Yawning Pause listening to the “Disease-Free-Number Line” from Saturday. 100% sickness, right?????



  13. Syncopated Says:

    Meatstick should be cut out, not just cut off

  14. Aquaman Says:

    He was in awe the whole time tDM.

    He is Chilean and in his fun little accent, with his eyes all bugged out, he kept saying…..”This…..eeez a state of mind that eeez uplifting to the spirit!”

    Kenny and I were just like, fuck yeah it is!


  15. thedayman Says:

    hahahahahhahahah i just lol’ed. thats awesome!

  16. Cable Hogue Says:

    Spot on miner. The patient exploration of the first two nights was not really in evidence last night for sure. Not much in the way of flow. Seemed like there were just some tunes that Trey really wanted to get to for whatever reason. The clavinet breakdown in 2001 was stellar, but again I felt they raced through the tune with Trey insisting on keeping it close to the theme.

    Very interested to listen back to the Simple, they seemed to me to really hint at a similar jam to the anthemic 1/1 version.

    On to jersey!

  17. laurville Says:

    That Simple melted like some m&ms on a summer day.

  18. Mike in Austin Says:

    aqua – that’s very cool that you did that or your FIL. Very giving. KP is very generous with everything he does for the BB too.

    Nice read.

  19. jdub Says:

    Awesome story Aqua. Sounds like he got a complete Phish experience and then some. It wasn’t until I started driving up to the show on Saturday did it fully hit me how cool it was that Phish was playing on the grounds of Woodstock. It felt like a pilgrimage of sorts. And then to get the show we got, what a trip.

  20. Aquaman Says:

    MiA and jDub…..This was truly hallowed ground and a holy experience.

  21. Luther T. Justice Says:

    Great post @Aqua! Can’t wait to see you & KP later in the week. I’m trying to prepare the midwest for your visit.

  22. Dr Pronoia Says:

    great story Aqua. You and KP are definitely good people in my book

  23. Aquaman Says:

    Listening back to Saturday and I AM IN PAGES HOUSE!!!

  24. Aquaman Says:


    Can’t wait to see you brother!!

  25. guitarpicker420! Says:

    I know it isn’t said often here, but the Indy 500 is $$$$. A seriously good time. One of the few places (along with Phish tour) where it is perfectly acceptable to be wasted by 9:30 in the morning.

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