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. sumodie Says:

    the return of dark edgy psychedelic jamming is a huge development, twas magical to behold

  2. tela'smuff Says:

    agreed Sumodie.

    Waves gets vote for pure beauty
    Halley’s was the best band interplay and featured amazing idea

    but #Line had some dark, tense jamming that is the one thing i love most about Phish.

  3. mitch Says:

    water wheel getting some love over on phish’s facebook. i look like im whistling dixie.

  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Dr.P- you should be fine.

  5. tela'smuff Says:

    saw that pic mitch. funny stuff.

    so a fellow BB’er (can recall his screenname) is reporting via FB the following about a Phish aftershow jam.

    “the property was owned by friends of the band. 1100 people were invited to camp there and like 1500 more showed up on the rumor that there would be an aftershow in the barn. they showed up and played a 1 hour instrumental jam. this is the info conveyed to me.”

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    I’m glad they’re holding off on new material for a bit. They need to solidify the base first. Seems to be working for now. Aren’t they supposed to doan album this fall?

    @dude I wouldn’t want to hear manteca that fast every time but I dig it as a literal change of pace

  7. mitch Says:

    just got back from a nice lunch. went to a smoke shop on bedford and got some papers since we used all mine this weekend. paid custy nyc prices but totally worth it.

    attention everyone who hasnt switched, element papers are the shit. they have a little magnet on the door to keep them closed. smoother than the ultra thin smoking brand i like so they twist real easily. give em a shot if you see them.

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    i dig elements too mitch

  9. BrandonKayda Says:

    I hope they play like Bethel (or better) at MPP. Camden will light a fire under them

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    bought a brand spanking new glass tube for the pnc shows/meetup, as per the request of one Cu$tybear. It’s on like donkey kong.

  11. Snigglebeach Says:

    Just got back from a beautiful yet mosquito filled weekend.

    Anyone got some heady soundboards for me???? Need something to scratch to.

  12. BrandonKayda Says:


    email me at bkayda at gmail

  13. mitch Says:

    good idea palmer. couldnt believe how nice it was to be back home with glass and water. those j’s had us talking like barry white by the end of the weekend.

  14. mitch Says:

    we needed a chalice in the custy palace.

  15. SantosL.Halper Says:

    Only problem with the Elemets is having to trim down the king’s. Other than that, they kill. Magnet needs to be a standard.

  16. MrCompletely Says:

    Dallas Alice hittin’ the palace chalice

  17. SillyWilly Says:

    We should probably make note that rolling Js comprised the largest fraction of time spent at the custycrib

    Hands down

  18. albert walker Says:

    I realized this weekend how important and enjoyable being part of the process as the band moves back towards levels we’ve grown up with them playing at.

    sure I doubted em. I wondered if Trey was just too old to shred. or didn’t care. but the little Miami Tweezer or AC Stash or Greek Light teases kept me around so wanting that band back I grew up with.

    to be in the building when once again Trey was dropping jaws with clean crisp 32nd note runs and leading his band around turns once again like they were his back up band. like James and the JB’s. the leader of the machine was back.

    it won’t be straight up and there will be more pedestrian nights like last night but you can here it in his swagger. Trey’s back to kill again.

    the Joy, Joy, happy, Joy, Joy no jam auto pilot Trey days are done.

  19. albert walker Says:

    that’s the only thing tour kids do when they aren’t sleeping, eating or raging SW

    twist pre-rolls

  20. Dr Pronoia Says:

    oy, fresh glass, P?

    With the baby and job hunt, it’s been about 5 months for me. Pro down

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    time well spent up front

  22. MrCompletely Says:

    this one’s for Dr. P

  23. MrCompletely Says:

    preach it @aw

    the process has been interesting and there has always been reason for optimism as long as you had the patience

  24. Dr Pronoia Says:

    let’s see how lost I can get in the 7 min between the meet up and the venue

  25. Snowbank Says:

    So. I am trying to catch up on the bb here in ewr when some crazy dude walks up wanting to talk phish. luckily, i could tell who it was by his avatar… Silly!

    We discussed and decided the weekend was awesome. I got to put in a little crib time and can vouch for its awesomeness.

    Um wow. Such an awesome experience this weekend. Words could probably describe but it would take a long ass time. It occurs to me that my time spent here with you fools was a big part of my ability to appreciate the enormity of this weekend’s performance… In addition to all the other awesome of the bb.

    After some spinning this weekend, I am feeling pretty lucky to at least be a part of this tour… Even if I won’t be at that many shows. Peace all.

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