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. kayatosh Says:

    I should be more specific: scored the pav. online through the regular channels. still plenty of decent seats available.

  2. MrCompletely Says:

    you should listen to @aws perspective @bk

    you’re very technical, hope its not disappointing if you don’t catch a super exploratory one. with the high baseline they have, there’s always a legit fun perspective

  3. BrandonKayda Says:

    I won’t be disappointed @C. Phish shows are fun in and of themselves. I’m just saying I def. wouldn’t mind some exploration either.

  4. angryjoggerz Says:

    Cannot wait until Friday. Starting to seriously consider Cinci… Aquaman and LW, be warned.

  5. SillyWilly Says:

    We’re your friends, BK

    You know, I was thinking the other day that it must be tough to be young and read about all of us who can go to shows all the time

    But you never complain or whine about that kind of stuff, even though your love for phish is just as real

    You’re a great part of our community, BK. Glad to have you around and I’m glad you discovered the Head Life so early

    You’ve got such a Head start (yeah, I did that) that you’re gonna see some awesome live music in your life

  6. angryjoggerz Says:

    KDF in the headphones right now. Yes.

  7. albert walker Says:

    cinci is goin huge. gotta hit cinci

    I’d really hit all I could if I were anyone capable. starting to get good.

    ever since that Stash in KDF in that set 1 I knew it was a whole name game this summer

  8. albert walker Says:

    the like talking heads style afrobeat influenced jamming in parts of that KDF are $$$$

  9. Mr.Miner Says:

    whaaaat uuup. just got to central jerz. listened to bethel 2 on the way down. ferocious improv from start to finish. So different than the ambient Waves / Crosseyed jam2 stuff….househousehousehousehousehouse

  10. kayatosh Says:

    futures are poppin.

  11. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    this 2001 has silmilar grooves that they were throwing down during that gin and maki

  12. Lycanthropist Says:

    I need to get some tix for NC shows stat.

  13. albert walker Says:

    no doubt miner. the new sounds are finally starting to appear

    amazing stuff

  14. albert walker Says:

    Haleys gets into that new space. shit is sick.

  15. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    mike seems to be playing simpler, more groove based, which is really allowing trey to lead again

  16. Mr.Miner Says:

    this is the moment weve been waiting for…

  17. angryjoggerz Says:

    huge ghost looming. Hello Detroit.

  18. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    let’s just hope there’s no drop off like after toyota park last year

  19. JeffieM Says:

    Lycan, gotta hit NC!

    I really wish I could do this weekend. Ohio is a pretty manageable drive for me. My sister is flying back east though, and family first.

    Haven’t listened back to last night at all. Need to check Timber and 2001>Light>Slave

  20. mitch Says:


  21. [sm unrelated] Wilson Says:

    Detroit can’t come soon enough.
    and blossom.
    and ‘natti…

  22. lastwaltzer Says:


    I agree re:mike.

    But as a whole they sound so much looser.

  23. kayatosh Says:

    Had no PNC plans before bethel, and no real impetus to go. bethel was so good, went ahead and spent real money on a real pavilion tickey for PNC night 2. The band commanded me to be present and accounted for.

    can’t just do one show on this tour after hearing the magic from bethel night one and esp. night 2.

  24. albert walker Says:

    not only is that night 2 jammed as shit but it’s tight as fuck. the best of both worlds. just massive.

    Trey seems so much more relaxed. it’s the taking the band a bit to start following the quick harder psych excursions like 94-95 style. once fish was catching on he was jumping right in on em

    love the harder psychecelia with the ambient. so much more goin on

  25. Mr palmer Says:

    Ghost, yem, Sally,sand, twist all ready to take flight this week.

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