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. shaggydog Says:

    Nothing deep on Sunday night, but nothing wrong with rock solid tunes. The boys are playing great and setting up for an amazing summer. Really, when your two options are either spot on rock and roll like Sunday night, or deep ball trippin’ space jams like Saturday night, ain’t no place I would rather be then Phishin’

  2. marcoesq Says:

    morning folks

    cant wait till tomorrow. cant say last night has be a little timid now but I’m sure they’ll bring it back in style

  3. angryjoggerz Says:

    Awesome story, Aqua, glad to hear it! Really looking forward to next weekend. Please leave your in laws at home, though.

  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Nice Aqua! great story. Is this where you guys were on Saturday?

  5. BrandonKayda Says:

    I’m curious as to how we would’ve accepted this show last year. The bar has been raised for sure. Hoping this is just a minor lull and PNC will have the exploration that Bethel I and II did

  6. SantosL.Halper Says:

    Hopefully the NBA Finals and Lord Stanley deliver some game 7s. Alpharetta seems like an eternity away and I am in dire(wolf) need of some distracting. Either that or I just spin the Saturday night show endlessly for the next two weeks.

  7. butter Says:

    With ya Santos, that’s when I get a taste, too

    Have Furthur shoreline, next weekend to help get me thru

  8. butter Says:

    Bk, this would have been one of the solid, fun, well played shows that we wished they would have opened up

    Exactly the type of show we had come to expect from the boys, razor sharp, lots of energy, cool moments – even a little precious ambiance in Simple

  9. butter Says:

    Slow morn, is it the holiday or lack of type?

  10. butter Says:

    ^ type 2

  11. kayatosh Says:

    morning, folks.

    spinning set II now.

    flipped back to contemplating a solo drive to PNC. night one or two is the question. assuming I can score a ticket.

  12. JeffieM Says:

    Hey BK, It looks like I’m going to figure out MPP1 ! I’m super excited to move my summer tour plans up a week.

  13. BrandonKayda Says:


  14. halcyon Says:

    Morning folks.

    Great story and experience Aqua. Thanks for sharing.

  15. SantosL.Halper Says:

    Butter you’re a lucky man. I have to wait ’till end off July for Furter down here in fL. The best I can do is Primus and the dead Kenny G’s on Friday, then my southern cross leverage piece on Saturday, Taylor f’n Swift….Mrs. Halper knows how to play the “you-want-to-go-where?-well-heres-what’s-in-it-for-me” game by now

    Phish, you better make this worth it…

  16. butter Says:

    Ha ha Santo, great visual of a Phish kid at. Taylor Swift show

    Whatever ya gotta do broham

  17. JeffieM Says:

    Santos, I hear T-Swift at least has a pretty sick lot scene. 14 year old girls and their moms going crazy!

  18. goochy Says:

    Sounding to me like last night was a bit more of a sedate affair than the previous two nights.

  19. I.detect.a.mudrat Says:

    They came out blasting Fri night and kept it up the following night. Perhaps Sunday was a little less “in your face” than the other two, however, this is a good thing. Just like in many other aspects of you life you must have the low’s and high’s somewhat balance out. You can only feel SO happy because before you’ve felt so sad. Their playing is still flawless, however, I think this show was purposely less psychotically-euphoric than the others to allow a spike in energy in future shows. It’s important to look at what tracks they didn’t play. IMO, they’ve set themselves up to blow Holmdel out of the water. I’m gonna be there ready to receive my mind blow!

  20. SantosL.Halper Says:

    Luckily my boy is the marketing director for the Magic and befriended me with some kind security peeps who give me roof access so at least I can keep my head space tight.

  21. SantosL.Halper Says:

    Jeffie, screening my Swift lot t’s as we speak.

  22. butter Says:

    Nice, u can’t have a name like Santos, without a tight headspace 😉

  23. angryjoggerz Says:

    BB in the house.

  24. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I hoping Bethel 1 is the standard for the tour.

    Would be to greedy to expect every show to be like Bethel #2. Bethel #3 was fairly standard from most accounts ( i haven’t listened back though).

    Bethel #1 had both the shreddy rock elements that we crave ( well, some of us), as well has some deep improv splashed throughout both sets.

    Can’t wait till tomorrow! Early morning pick up of robear at newark, then its on. And they already played Meatstick!!!!

  25. butter Says:

    Morn, Kaya

    Gotta feel out the pick, one night of PnC will be heat

    Which one

    Come on Trey

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