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. butter Says:

    Page is my allstar so far, comping Trey on the baby grand, quite exquisitely

    Trey’s fast fingers – saw coming that coming – a mile away, and heard proof ever since Alpine.

    Red’s willingness to not only jam, but visit the dark side, were some underdog bets – that are becoming a reality

    Miner – spot on review, safe travels !!

  2. willowed Says:

    Just watched the Waved video. Pure bliss.

    I was hanging with one of my old show crew buddies last night. We were spinning the 2 Bethel’s. He’s a cook. I asked him what it’s called when cook something down to increase flavor (I posted something like this yesterday) He’s like; “A reduction”

    I love this style of reduction playing from the boys. Like in that Waves when they bring it down to a whisper then increase the ambient textures (followed by the blue lighting form CK5)
    They are cooking these jams down to increase the power and textrue.


  3. willowed Says:

    Waves not Waved – sorry

  4. tela'smuff Says:

    great story Aqua! thanks for sharing.

    also, love the new avatar @AJ. the spirit of the baby deer will follow us all summer tour.

    last night was good via the stream, but at this point, i will freely admit to expecting exploration every night. i’m selfish. i know they can do it, and do it very well as evidenced the first two nights. i’ve seen & heard enough of those song based crowd pleaser shows in ’09 and ’10. overall though, that was a special 3 night night run to open tour. bravo Phish!

    Mike’s was rippin last night, nice jam at the end of Simple (that Fish decided was over?), but Trey raged the ending of Slave. nice.

  5. kayatosh Says:

    2001 – chock full of james brown riffage.

    light gets off to a quality fast fingered start.

  6. kayatosh Says:

    last night — $$

    nights one and two — $$$

  7. kayatosh Says:

    20YL flavor in Light at 9 min. mark

  8. SantosL.Halper Says:

    If Page continues to kill it, I might have to revisit last weeks discussion and update my tour kicks. These busted up feet are in for one hell of a ride.

  9. tela'smuff Says:

    and i really like 20YL but not in the first set. thought that was a weird placement.

    but i loved the Curtislope.

  10. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Telas’

    I sent you a PM

  11. EL Duderino Says:

    Set: I looks like the $$$ set to this Cu$ty

  12. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Page was on FIRE this weekend. Sounds as sharp and as confident as I’ve ever heard him. I want to live in Page’s house.

    Bottom line: we all know they can’t bring it every single night. If last night was an off-night, then sign me the fuck up.

    Headed back to the great state of NJ now. What a way to kick off the summer. See you fools somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.

  13. DJ Says:

    And then when you listen to Phish in the 90’s, you realize that last night’s show was a C at best.

  14. thedayman Says:

    @ DJ – hop on umphreys tour, then.

    looking forward to PNC tomorrow, should be a solid midweek stand, maybe get some “skip” show lovin from the band due to bethel?

  15. kayatosh Says:

    DJ: i listen to a ton o’ phish, and last night was no “C at best.” last night’s a solid B, or, in our parlance, $$.

  16. DukeOfLizards Says:

    I dug the 20YL in that spot. Thought they were going to blow out that outro coda to close the set.

    Wouldve rather gotten that bonus 46 Days jam, though.

    The Ya Mar had some pop to it too.

    Also, some of these kids at these shows need to figure it the fuck out. No, dude, I don’t want periodic updates on how much mahl you’ve dropped. Listen to the goddamn music.

  17. kayatosh Says:

    no flubs. clean execution. fiery show. not much free form play, but can’t expect that every night.

    you wanna hear a C show, listen to 2004 or summer 2009.

  18. thedayman Says:

    well said, kaya. agree completely.

  19. JeffieM Says:

    If you’re still hanging around Lycan, I’m really enjoying the show you posted. First Paradox Charlie I’ve listened to.

  20. mitch Says:

    ok im back. work didnt happen today so im trying to dent the tolerance AW and i built up this weekend.

    dogs are barkin bad. asphalt dancing was working em last night. gonna chill out and digest new phish.

  21. EL Duderino Says:

    to be critical of any part of this 3 day run is just being foolish in a “you don’t really know what you’re talkin’ about” kinda dealy

  22. DJ Says:

    @ the dayman…..ummmmmmmmm OK

  23. win butler Says:

    duke, i ate 2 pressies, how many did you eat?

    lets rub each others back.

  24. mitch Says:

    robear, WW booth actually had a cutie working last night. by the end of that show she was noodlin’ a bit after watching us bust mad slick dance moves.

  25. fee4zy Says:

    Just listening to DWD>Free>BDTNL and the last 2 mins of DWD reminds me so much of the real spacey stuff from Big Cypress. Nice. Chill. Flow.

    Ahh, I’m liking what I hear.

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