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:

    New orleans lovers take heed:

    time to pimp this again. tracks 8 (too funky) and 11 (got to get my name up in lights) are not to be missed.

  2. Mr. Palmer Says:

    pnc wishlist

    Ghost, Sand, Sally, Twist, Seven Below.

    ^ not being greedy am i? 🙂

  3. tela'smuff Says:

    those forums folks! always up to shenannigans.

    thanks negev.

  4. kayatosh Says:

    you’ll see at least 4 of those, palms. easy.

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    i know that chick in the front row….llfa

  6. kayatosh Says:

    and I know that deer in the woods. small world.

  7. voopa Says:

    thanks for that meters link kaya!

  8. Kevin Says:

    Nothing wrong with a straight rocker now and again, though I admit the song selection was a little wacky.

  9. kayatosh Says:

    here’s another scoop: 5.5.93 FOAM — $$$. fast fingers like from a dream. crazy fast and clean. love me some 93.

  10. kayatosh Says:

    doc halladay’s pitching today like he did all 3 nights of bethel.

  11. kayatosh Says:

    voopa: love me some funky meters. art’s singular soul organ + great drumming + kung fu george porter – still a badass bassist, unparalleled.

    I like these two a lot alos:

    gonna check out this one later:

  12. kayatosh Says:

    w/ george porter you get a pocket so deep and satin lined you could move in there PLUS he’s one of the most melodic bassists around.

  13. D. Malorkis Says:

    Curious why we haven’t seen much in the way of new original tunes (post-Joy). Thought last night would have been prime territory to drop one or two. Always interested to see where they’re heading.

  14. MrCompletely Says:



    phenomenal opening run!

  15. kayatosh Says:

    those later day meters shows are cool b/c the beat never stops, they flow from one tune to the other, egging each other on, joking, jibing, and all the while funking.

  16. KfL Says:

    code for last night that may or may not work: 606509465878

  17. kayatosh Says:

    10.2.72 UJB — $$$. jerry’s soloing here is phenomenal. and his voice warm honey.

  18. ThePigSong Says:

    just back from an amazing couple of days camping and kayaking, perfect time to swoop that DL code. Tanks @KfuckingL

  19. litteringandd Says:

    DUDE- I want to go to Page’s house

  20. EL Duderino Says:

    I wasn’t even @ these Fuckin’ shows and I am PUMPED!

    NC can’t get here soon enough.
    Doing a whole week in Brahlorado!
    Got hotel rooms, flights, and other things booked and ready to go!

  21. EL Duderino Says:

    “I looked @ Page and did whatever he told me to do”-Trey (makisupa)

  22. SillyWilly Says:

    Hey everyone

    Kickin it in Newark waiting for my flight

    Man, my head still isn’t clear from hanging out with Mitch and AW and some help from KWLs baking all weekend

    I had an awesome weekend. Really sad to see it end.

    Big thanks to KWL for finding that house. And more thanks now because I know he had to do some chores to get it ready to return to the owners this afternoon

    Thanks to AW for the ride to airport this morning

    Great to meet Sumodie and Alex (Jtrans SLF)

    We’ve got some funny stories from the Custy Crib, and I’m sure as tour continues therell be great memories made

  23. negev79 Says:

    @el dude, are you camping in Colorado, or going the hotel route?

  24. SillyWilly Says:

    Great to meet jdub and snowbank, too

    Hope I’m not forgetting anyone

  25. EL Duderino Says:

    @ negev79

    We’re headed there on Wednesday night and doing 2 nights of hotel @ the Embassy Suites Downtown Denver, then staying with Telas’muff from Friday – Monday, then back to Embassy Suites for Tues – Wed.

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