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”

  1. mitch Says:

    i got prepped legit for the next pre-roll party. bought lots of elements and went ahead and got a box of 300 smoking papers. figured that’ll come in handy at shows with our BB crew. someone always runs out.

    jeff made a cringe face tho when the guy told me it was 10 bucks for the box of 300. i said it made sense since i’m paying 3 bucks for boxes of 50 but still. nyc tax. they see ya coming.

  2. Cold Green Tea Says:

    While all band members are sounding great, my vote for most improved over 2010 is Page, who’s sounding stronger and taking more leads than in recent memory. Agree or disagree?
    Also, I have a theory about Sunday’s tame show. I think Trey felt a little hung out to dry by the other band members during Makisupa the night before. They weren’t quite ready for just how out there Trey could be, so he pulled back next show. Good news is, they’ve got lots of time to regain their psychic connection and trust in each other and the moment that is what makes this band so… I can’t think of the word that would do justice to their greatness.

  3. MrCompletely Says:

    theres no place like nyc for gettin custied

  4. Snowbank Says:

    It’s funny @aw because for me it has been a process of trusting the more experienced heads that it could get better… That there was a much higher plane to get to. You can listen to all the tape you want, but it never conveys the experience.

    Looks like I have finally got a plane. Silly is off.

    I rocked the ring of throw down from 2001 on last night. So much funny. It must have been 10degrees warmer and 100% more humid. Security was doing nothing to clear rows or aisles by that point. 10 feet wide flat concrete straight out from the stage!? Sign me up. So, yeah , the guy wearing the hot pocket t-shirt dropping the kung Fu tsunami of funk was me. 😉

  5. cal Says:

    Sure is nice to read all the happy hype, kids. Can almost taste that Detroit smog. Looks like I’ll be spending my week listening to new Phish and writing about grossly inferior music.

    Happy Memorial Day to all!

  6. butter Says:

    i always rock extra papers at shows

    we need papers like the kids need condoms, just gotta have em

    good call with the 300 pack Mitch – now you just need a spare 300 pack and you should be good

  7. joe Says:

    wonder how many more festival tickets they’ve sold after this 3 night run….finally listening to set I, night 2. love the jim jam.

  8. mitch Says:

    the 300 is backup for the 5 packs of elements. already kicked down a pack of those to w00k jeff.

    that leaves me with 500 total minus the one i’m burning as i type. i think we should be set for camden pre show and show with the 499. then i’ll have to reup again.

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Bethel Waves, Bitches!

  10. butter Says:

    nice, the 300 as a back up is $$$, then you wont lose it, totein it around

    they’ll stay nice packed away. wondering if anybody’s actually made it thru the 300 without them getting f’ed up, cuz there just all stacked up together…..

  11. mitch Says:

    not to mention taking the 300 pack out in the rain and the gum all sticks together. thats gonna have a home in the inner pocket of the show bag. never lose it. we could prob finish it by the end of the summer.

    forgot to tell you guys we saw one of AWs illegitimate kids from baggin a w00kette on tour back in the day. we almost took a pic it was so funny. kid was rockin the rat tail circa 1993. total little back woods towny kid.

  12. albert walker Says:

    I got distracted by the kid with the rat tail and accidentally blew a huge puff of sour diesel at the breast feeding baby

  13. albert walker Says:

    note to all

    Bethel New York is like West Virginia just not in West VIrginia. scary peeps.

    tails just never went out of style.

  14. Mr. Palmer Says:

    funny stuff

  15. ThePigSong Says:


    just watched that BDT#L video, high energy shit. But dayum, do they really have to go back to that cheesy ass outro? ::cringes::

  16. Snowbank Says:

    Forgive me, silly, retelling my joke…
    So I noticed that cigarettes were selling in a minute from people opening cartons. How is it that phish kids get to the lot without the one drug you can buy at store and take in to the venue… And you know you are going To want a lot of once you get started?

    Anyway, I recommend selling cigs on the lot if you want to make money.

  17. Snowbank Says:

    Aw, Im bummed we didn’t get a chance to talk more. It’s funny how fast it all goes at the shows.

    It was great meeting people. I met silly, jtran, and Mitch. Thanks to kwl for the assistance. 🙂

    Full, late plane. Joy.

  18. ThePigSong Says:

    I’m bouncing all around on Saturdays show, this Gin elevates quickly.

    Didn’t I read somewhere earlier that KennyP has a recording of a potential new song? Hook it up brotha!

  19. MrCompletely Says:

    @snow, slinging smokes is the fastest way on lot to get back on your feet cashflow wise if you blow your stake on tour. low buy-in, fast turnover.

    back in the day my friends got high margins buying bulk in NC where prices were super low.

  20. kayatosh Says:

    PNC night two get ready for kayatosh.

    bring it!

  21. Mr. Palmer Says:

    smokes are $11 a pack in NY, cheaper on lot i’m sure…..

  22. joe Says:

    sell em for $10/pack to custy new yorkers who think they’re getting a bargain.

  23. joe Says:

    I know it’s way in the future (a week away) but Great Woods roll call?

  24. Mr. Palmer Says:

    used to be a smoker, not anymore.

    I do admit though, i enjoy a smoke or two at a show. Just one of those things.

  25. joe Says:

    that’s exactly the market. people who forget they love to smoke.

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