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. BrandonKayda Says:

    Definitely @C. Don’t get me wrong, I’m psyched to be going with him, I just wish I had friends who were into Phish.

  2. albert walker Says:

    crispness of set I also with a quicker tempo harder more abstract vs ambient psychedelia

    also thought these very quiet patient as jams though are so great

    a lot to take in

    maybe the undertaking of tightening up all the songs while being on probation was taking all the effort. now that shit’s in order he can now just relax and swing it. who knows wtf happened but its working.

  3. mitch Says:

    who are we kidding, trey was getting laid at some kush house overlooking the catskills. release pre-show gives you that chill mood. kinda like taking care of business pre date, amiright?

  4. BrandonKayda Says:

    Yeah @AW

    If first sets like Bethel 2 become semi-common I’ll be pretty psyched

  5. albert walker Says:

    Cities > Runaway > Halleys

    that shit was pure fire

    I remember telling Dancing Fool finally the young generation may start to see what this band is capable of when Trey gives a fuck

  6. BrandonKayda Says:

    Yeah @AW. Honestly it’s hard not to have expectations now, seeing what they’re capable of in this era.

  7. albert walker Says:

    on my dog walk I realized something amazing I hadn’t come to grips with till then

    only 3 days or work and I’m back on fucking tour!

  8. albert walker Says:

    yeah all shows are fun BK but those are our favs and there will be a bunch this summer. just not all of em.

    last night was maybe the most fun I had even though it was the weaker of the 3. just hung with good peeps chilled on the top of the lawn for the view. every show has something to offer.

    as long as you don’t get caught up on only having to catch the scorchers your all good

    only seeing 1 or 2 can be tough. hope for a little luck.

  9. Mr palmer Says:

    Gummo run this weekend?

    Back on the bus tomorrow… Hell yes!

    If they keep the formula of bethel 1&2 going ,
    1-2 open jams in set 1 and 2-3 in set 2, we will all be happy.

  10. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    alright i’m ready for the detoilet run now

  11. mitch Says:

    You have seen shows in 12 states.
    NY – 17 (29%)

    new york does not have a saturation problem. i’ve only seen 30 percent here.

  12. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    AW was playing with balloons and children last night

  13. SillyWilly Says:

    Waiting for my bus back to ktown

    Took a nap on the plane

    Gonna have some gnarly dreams cursing myself for not being on tour

    Nothing in the world id rather do than chill with AW at the roll table, or rock goofy shit to shows with Jtran, or sneak into KWLs apartment at 330am and not tell him I’m there, or have Mitch try to bail out my chicken sandwich from the bethel townies at McDonalds, or talk about the meaning of life post show with Sumodie, or stub down Dancing fool

    Were living IT kids. Eat this summer up.

  14. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    see you at blossom silly

  15. lastwaltzer Says:

    any word on the wheels?

  16. Frycanthropist Says:

    i know there is a lot of new Phish to digest.. Hell i still havent heard it all enough times to be inundated.

    Just throwing this out there if anyone wants to take a little breather in between shows.

    A new Paradox Charlie show with the second set featuring horns:

    Download Here

    some fun business went down. There is even a loose cover of a Phish tune in there.

  17. themanatee Says:

    there is no doubt the cities, halley’s > jim is astounding work by the phish

  18. SillyWilly Says:

    Gotta talk to them tomorrow, LW

    They were closed for the weekend

    Ill let you know literally as soon as I know

  19. Frycanthropist Says:

    and yes i agree that the cities>comet>jim was the highlight of the weekend for me. topped off by the amazing Gin to close

  20. Frycanthropist Says:

    need to listen to the dwd>free and bowie again though

  21. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    playing the halley’s now, i thought my subwoofer was cranked

  22. lastwaltzer Says:

    “and yes i agree that the cities>comet>jim was the highlight of the weekend for me. topped off by the amazing Gin to close”fry

    when was the last time you could make that statement?!?!

  23. BrandonKayda Says:

    I love the melodic Trey led jam completely outside of the structure in the last few minutes of the Halley’s jam.

    Halley’s jam. Nice that I can say that again

  24. MrCompletely Says:

    you do have friends into phish @bk just not in your town

    their loss

  25. kayatosh Says:

    right on, phans. scored a decent pav. for PNC 2. I’m excited to see this new 2011 phish in person.

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