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. neemor Says:

    Glad you all had fun.
    Best choice of the weekend?
    Tweezer sandwich.

  2. ThePigSong Says:

    SLAM! Plinko funk.

  3. BrandonKayda Says:

    What’s up BB?

  4. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    back in canada bitches

  5. Guyute711 Says:

    Who’s got my kick down ticket to blossom? Jobless guy feels a wild hair coming on.

  6. Willowed Says:

    The Bethel # Line is smokin hot.

  7. RamblinMind Says:

    @joe – i’m thinking of heading up to Great Woods solo. Don’t have any tickets for anything this summer because I was broke and jobless when they came out, but I think I have to at least hit my hometown show, even if my friends are doing the bigger traveling and forgoing Great Woods

    Debating whether I should look for a $20-30 lawn seat on the lot or try to snag an actual seat under the canopy

  8. plord Says:

    @joe – Great Woods, yep. Darien too. It’s the part in between I still have to plan.

    TIII should be there too.

  9. Willowed Says:

    GW Camden Mpp

    for this kid.

  10. joe Says:

    We’ll have to figure out a little say hello to internet friends pre-show

  11. Jtran Says:



  12. Jtran Says:

    Trey’s got some pretty hot licks in the beginning of this Wolfman’s

  13. BrandonKayda Says:

    Yeah I need to meet some of you folks this time. MPP both nights.

  14. MrCompletely Says:

    u flyin solo or what this time @bk?

  15. KWL Says:

    New jersey: nothing but highways, strip malls, & car dealerships…with street names like “pleasant ave” to make you think you’re somewhere nicer than you actually are

  16. BrandonKayda Says:

    No I’m going with my dad again. I really need to start meeting people.

  17. RamblinMind Says:

    *fingers crossed for a repeat of Dr. Gabel at Great Woods this year*

  18. seif Says:

    we’re listening back to set 1 of last night and my 4 year old daughter (who has heard her share of phish) says “daddy – are dare any girls in dis band?”

  19. KWL Says:

    (love ya duke 😉 )

  20. lastwaltzer Says:


    they don’t call in the armpit for nothing 🙂

  21. lastwaltzer Says:


  22. Jtran Says:


    My post was eaten (I think)

    pencil me in for sunday night at that hotel

  23. MrCompletely Says:

    whatever it takes to get you in the building @bk. your dad’s cool for being game after that weird-ass biznis he caught last time

  24. lastwaltzer Says:

    the trifecta that closed out last night had some nice things going on in it. While not as exploratory as the first two nights, still some great playing throughout. If this is going to be an “average” show, count me in. Still a step up.

  25. albert walker Says:

    spun set I night 2 on my dog walk. had one hour of sleep last night. you take 1 and it helps you be awake to get to the airport. you take 3 you take a nice 2 hour dog walk at seven in the evening


    best 1set of 3.0 hands down. like C mentioned yesterday. the crispness of 1//1 set II with a more confident technical Trey playing more a leadership roll

    maybe a very slight glitch in NICU but close to damn perfect

    halleys climbing quickly to one of my favs ever done by this band

    amazing set

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