Blowing Off Steam

6.4.11 -Blossom (Michael Stein)

Phish followed up their Friday night vision quest with a fire-filled, song-based affair that took a little while to truly get interesting. Until Phish debuted their newest song, “Steam,” as the third song of the second set, the band had played with precision and fire, but their song selection felt haphazard and the show had yet to elevate. But from his point on, however, the band flowed quite well for the he rest of the set and encore, crafting an engaging latter part of the night.

Official Blossom Print (DKNG)

The band began the second half with the now-elusive “Birds of a Feather,” and when it came off the shelf as a second-set opener amidst Summer 2011, many felt like we would be in for a ride. But as the band tore through standard “Birds” territory, an exploration wasn’t to be. Instead, Phish decided to drop the second, second-set “Possum” of this young tour, a decision that made a discernible bump in the flow of the show. The band, however, attacked “Possum” in a spunkier than usual outing which saw the band vocally toy with the song’s ending—one of several examples of light-hearted musical fun laced throughout the night. After “Possum,” it sounded like Trey might rev up “Seven Below,” but instead the band debuted “Steam”—a soon to be crowd favorite—in the middle of the set. A song whose lyrical verses climax with the word—and musical imitation of—steam, immediately jumped off the stage. An sparse and infectious groove that sounds like it could be a Little Feat outtake from “Waiting For Columbus,” Phish’s newest tune moves at a menacing pace and could become a centerpiece jam before the summer is out. Highly danceable and with a chunky bass pattern and interesting lyrics, the band hit a winner with “Steam’s” debut, and as the song dripped into “Piper,” Phish crafted in the first cohesive musical combo of the night.

6.4.11 (M.Stein)

When “Piper” launched, the band only briefly remained at a breakneck pace before veering away from conventional realms and into a melodic, whole-band ambient jam. It was a pleasure to see “Piper” move away from its routine, high-octane path and into something more experimental and patient. Using this jam to weave an artistic segue into “Lizards,” Phish took out the “Gamehendge” piece for the first time of the summer. But the atomic bomb of the night came next, out of left field, in the form of “Sneaking Sally.” Following the song’s vocal jam, Phish turned this version into an exercise in hyper-funk as Mike and Fish held down a tight pocket for Page, and especially Trey, to go ballistic. Weaving together crack-like lines, Trey and Page strutted out front in this four-part conversation that soon transcended the cover into an all-out throwdown. After the band touched on “Manteca’s” textures briefly, Trey began to play effected and “delayed” notes, signifying that things were about to get far more abstract. Building the jam with dissonance and effects, the band was soon amidst a grungy experiment with Fish holding down the rhythm behind the bubbling psychedelic brew. Growing in scope of sound, the band then left the groove behind for a beatless, extra-terrestrial plane that was broken with the opening dumroll to “Harry Hood.”

6.4.11 (M.Stein)

As the band flowed naturally through the opening part of the jam and were navigating gorgeous version of the classic song, Trey decided they were going to play “Have Mercy,” and pushed the band into a quasi-forced transition. My mind immediately shot back to Utica, thinking what it might sound like to hear the band jam “Have Mercy” back into “Hood,” but it wasn’t to be. As they finished the song, the band collectively dissolved right back into “Hood”—an interlude seemingly executed for setlist purposes more than natural jamming. But in the final stages of “Hood,” Trey wove in sublime “Have Mercy” lines to his melodic climb as he and the band played through an intricate final section and peak of the jam.

Phish finalized the night with a crunching “Character Zero” to close the set and a particularly delicate “Slave” that made rare encore appearance. Beginning with “Steam,” the band turned on their creative juices just in time to avoid another night of pure safety, and when they did—like most everything they attempt these days—they succeeded. Coming off a show so heavily-drenched in cosmic improv in Detroit, this one carried the feeling of a well-played Phish concert rather than a journey into center of the earth. But as Cincy awaits, something tells me Sunday night might be a different story…see you in a few hours….

First Set Notes: The opening frame saw several songs taken off the shelf for the first time this tour, including the first rendition of Little Feat’s “Rocket in My Pocket” since Atlantic City’s Halloween extravaganza. The song was played a part of an Americana-based triumvirate with “Ocelot” and “Back on the Train.” The grooves came out a bit in return to Page’s house in “Tube” and a legitimate “Antelope” to punctuate the set. But all in all, the first stanza, though tight, fun and played with the quality of the band’s current chops, amounted to a bunch songs that carried little flow or cohesion.

I: Kill Devil Falls, Guyute, Fuck Your Face, Foam, Ocelot, Rocket in My Pocket, Back on the Train, Guelah Papyrus, Tube, Run Like an Antelope

II: Birds of a Feather, Possum, Steam* > Piper -> The Lizards, Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley > Harry Hood -> Have Mercy -> Harry Hood, Character Zero

E: Slave to the Traffic Light



615 Responses to “Blowing Off Steam”

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  1. Phishentine Says:

    Dripping into Cinci….band seems to be ALMOST firing on all cylinders…tonight might be a full show game changer.

    NEVER miss a Sunday show.

  2. Esteban Says:

    Excited to hear the new tune… Still reeling in Friday’s monster second set combo! Think I’m going to jump on a week earlier than expected and try to hit both Merriweather shows… Anyone with an extra pav (or even lawns), please drop me a line. (Got the go ahead last night stephen dot devoid at gmail dot com.) Great reviews this tour, Miner. Keep it up!

  3. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    this tour just feels more like a summer tour than others in 3.0 based on the things you here from those who were there. BITD, it was always “you should’ve been here last night” if you came to the lot and talked to people.

    that seems to be coming back… and I like it.

  4. plord Says:

    Steam groove was mad ill and that Sally destroyed the pay with pure uncut funk. Fun times for sure, and even if the first 2/3 of the show was a little song-y everything was ripped. Even the Foam was tight. Trey was blistering his solos all night long.

    Worth the drive for sure. Sucks to miss Cincy after that but based on tour so far there should be plenty of goodness on tap for GW and Darien.

    BB crew rocks, great seeing everybody and putting new names to faces 🙂

  5. Undermind Says:

    Steam rules! I can’t wait for the 20 minute version!

  6. Dee Gee Says:

    Only in 2011 can “Fuck Your Face”, once the rarity of all rarities, be played and not even garner a mention in the review. Wild.

  7. Fly Says:

    Reposting, because I can:

    Mornin’ Kaya, and BB.

    “Steam” bodes so well. As AW says, the happy happy joy joy era has receded, and Phish is ready to reenter the world of fantastic psychedelia, of luscious, “crystalline” (love it) soundscapes and dark, explorative melodic perambulation.

    Phish is back to showing, not telling. Trey’s recovery seems complete. Really, this is the triumph of art and the human spirit coalesced as one and manifested in Phish psychedelia, once again calling the primal fabric of our subconscious forward for musical engagement and celebration – the essence of tension and release.

    And this comes after only streaming Steam on the LivePhish applet twice!

  8. Tubes Says:

    I was thinking the same thing Dee Gee.

    I was amazed by Fridays second set, I can’t wait to hear this show because I honestly don’t mind them going with heavily composed songs for the first set.

    Can’t wait to hear it. and thanks for your reviews Miner..

  9. Baxter Says:

    awesome review again, thank you Mr. Miner.

  10. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Sick. So happy for all in attendance. Summer Tour is rolling out right. couldn’t have asked fora better start!
    Bieber Files (Trey’s little buddy)–>

  11. GhostPhunk Says:

    Halfway through Blossom Jam feels like a callback to one of the later sections in DTEase

  12. gavinsdad Says:

    camden BB pregame plug:


    friday, 1-5. i’m 10 mins from venue. put your info on the meetup spreadsheet if you’re down. thx youse.

    (camden getting set up big time)

  13. 20 years later Says:

    IMO, the phrase “song based affair” comes off as really snotty.

  14. buried alive sf Says:

    so, do you guys think that steam could be a second set outer space launch pad, or do you think they’ll lock it in set 1 in an extended guitar funk off kind of role.

    i ask because it’s got a pretty weird sound and the steam effect is super weird. i could see this thing getting pretty drippy and out there… thoughts?

  15. Robear Says:

    Possum melt down. The show had lots of little blasts of psychedelia. ‘Steam’ is a winner out of the gates.

    Tons of great BB kids enjoying the Midwest throw downs.

  16. Mr. Hankey Says:

    Here’s something you will never hear…things actually got really good last night after the Cleveland “Steam”er. Crap that was fun!

  17. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    willowed, burble and I are driving down during the day and will endeavor to make it preshow. can’t promise anything yet (especially since we have to drive the GSE) but looking forward to trying to meet up with y’all again.

  18. joe Says:

    I love the times we live in when I can just click the mouse and instantly listen to the new song. Liking this Steam. Lots of room for explore and the sound effect is pretty cool in 60’s pyschedelic way.

  19. Mr. Palmer Says:

    i gotta make it to Camden.

  20. buried alive sf Says:

    @joe oh yeah i agree it brings you so close to the action. i was at dinner with family yesterday sneaking to the bathroom for setlist tweets getting pumped up about the mercy sandwich

    i also like that the fans now are less annoying in a way. most people at least have jobs now. or put different not so many scary tour rats

  21. themanatee Says:

    @20 years later- “snotty” – how so? its a fact

  22. themanatee Says:

    same as saying a jam focused show

  23. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Trey rocked the new plaid last night..ala pnc 1.

    Last night looks like a dope show.

  24. dognamedwilson Says:

    WOW this LIvePhish App is the absolute shit! A little coffee, a couple puffs and I’m hopping around the living room causing the dogs to bark.

    Is musical onomatopoeia too obvious an observation for Steam?

    Blossom Jam just brought tears. Dammit. I gotta stop doing that. Wife thinks I’m nuts.

  25. Beantownboy Says:

    Another beautiful morning in New England that finds me on our porch with a cup of hair bender and peeping this Sally deliciousness.

    To all the kids making the trek on I-71 from Cleveland to Cincy enjoy that flat drive; puff the OG; and get ready for the culmination to an incredible weekend.

    The boys can’t get to New England soon enough for their homecoming.

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