Crushing Cincinnati

6.5.11 Riverbend - (Michael Stein)

Powerhouse Phish shows come in the form of two outstanding sets—start to finish beasts that never let up for a moment. On Sunday night in Cincinnati, to close out their miniature Midwest swing, the band dropped a powerhouse Phish show. Composing their performance in halves and following the path of the summer sun, the band focused on lighter songs with uplifting jamming in the first set, while using darker-themed songs and improv to craft an intense second set journey upon nightfall. And both halves were phenomenal, with only one hiccup throughout, as Phish put on a Sunday night showcase at Riverbend Music Center.

Official Riverbend Print (Ho)

After kicking off the show with an old-school one-two punch in “Bag” and “Punch,” the thematic, summertime jamming got underway with the cathartic melodies and dance grooves of “Bathtub Gin.” Infusing their first set jamming with a tightness and fire, the guys also played with notably enhanced, whole-band creativity within their contained jams. “Bathtub” provided a smoking example of this first-set trend, while “Taste” furthered it with spectacular interplay between all four band members. Moving from the complex polyrhythms of “Tatse” into the looser grooves of “Jibboo,” Phish took the laid-back jam for a more contoured ride than usual, furthering both the creative trend and summertime feel of the opening half. In a cooled-out take on the song, all band members sat back considerably while subtly exchanging ideas in a refined conversation that shied from the straight-ahead guitar annihilation of most renditions. And in between “Taste” and “Jibboo,” the band worked in a very clean version of “Mound,” something that hasn’t been able to be said in this era. But the gem of the first set—the gem for which we waited for half a tour—came next in “Reba.”

6.5.11 (M.Stein)

Having held back on their quintessential summer jam all tour long, when the band dropped the opening “Reba” of the year, it was perfect. Nailing the song’s fugue with precision, the band proceeded to take the audience on a blissful ride as day began to turn into night. Floating atop the flowing waters of “Reba” at sunset of a summer show is one of the classic Phish experiences, and last night’s was particularly poignant. Again laying back in the jam’s onset with his calculated and more subtle leads, Trey wove his story amidst what the others’ had to say in a collaborative quilt of glory. With gorgeous phrasing—a quality of his playing all night—Trey led jams without dominating them, a pattern that has emerged as one of the best trends of tour. But when the jam got to its climax, Trey was right there to take it to the top. And when as “Reba’s ” jam slammed to its classic halt, the band started up “Fee” almost immediately.

When Phish is feeling it and drops a “Fee,” they often add an improvisational tail to the tale of the weasel. And on this evening, the band oozed into a stunning ambient excursion in which Trey picked up a beautiful, repetitive melody that became the theme to the piece, reminiscent of “Simple’s” enchanting ending on 1/1/11. Everywhere you turned, Phish had something to offer last night, and they slowly built the end of “Fee” piece into a more and more abstract plane before making a change into “Number Line” to close the set. The delicate interplay that laced the opening half also graced its finale as the band navigated a contained but climactic version that punctuated the opening half.

6.5.11 (M.Stein)

And as the band stepped on stage into darkness, out came the music of the night. Launching the set with a compact “Carini,” the band, without haltering, stepped into the type of second-set “Tweezer” that I’ve been waiting for this summer—a gooey excursion in groove with the smooth sensibilities of a band firing on all cylinders like they haven’t in ages. Like opening the door to a musical candy land, when the jam hit it felt like another world engulfed the pavilion—a world of staccato guitar leads, crunchy clav textures and chunky bass lines; a world where thoughts ceased and spirits soared. Taking their crack-laced conversation for quite a ride, the band let the segment naturally progress from one filthy groove into another in the type of throwdown that could inspire an army of Solid Gold dancers. When they finally released into the guitar-led build of “Tweezer,” Trey peaked the jam using screaming “Crosseyed” licks, foreshadowing what was just around the corner. Completely locked and loaded throughout this liquid excursion, once finished, the band wasted to time splashing into “Free” as the landing point for their infectious jaunt.

6.5.11 (M.Stein)

Upon “Free’s” ending, the band hopped right into “Crosseyed and Painless,” taking the song for a full-throttled ride. Crushing the song’s percussive patterns, the dark feel of the set continued with the fourth sinister song in row. As the band began to veer into uncharted territory, they landed on a series of collective hits that Trey used as a creative attempt to move into “Light.” Taking his mates a moment to catch on, the transition didn’t come off flawlessly, but the flow of the show wasn’t damaged. After Bethel’s contained version of “Light,” the band was back to pushing the envelope with their modern classic. As they settled out of the song’s shreddery, the guys got into some of the most progressive (and gorgeous) grooves we’ve heard all tour. Trey took a huge step back as Page began an organ pattern that led the band in a downtempo groove that was laced with a different sort of psychedelia. Having reached a golden plane of improvisation, the band patiently explored the new ground they discovered. But then came the only speed-bump to the show. As the band was immersed in this avant-garde experiment, Trey thought it would be a good time to force “Boogie On” into the mix?! A dubious call without question and a certain blemish on a show that otherwise flowed flawlessly, it’s, simultaneously, hard to knock much about last night at all.

6.5.11 (M.Stein)

Following up the intrusion with a ripping “Julius” that set up a weekend-closing “YEM” that anyone could see from a mile away, what one couldn’t foresee is how creative the band got within the song’s jam. Transcending “YEM’s” typical funk, Phish entered a whole-band conversation that veered from the song’s theme as the band got their gangsta’ lean, laying back as far as possible in a jam that brought “YEM” to another level.

A feel-good “Loving Cup,” “Reprise” encore closed the book on the only shows in the Midwest until this August at UIC, and lord knows what the band will be up to at that point. But for now, a blazing weekend came to a close in the old-school environs of Riverbend Music Center with a new-school, powerhouse  Phish show that absolutely brought the house down. Enjoy the day off and we’ll reconvene at Great Woods for another episode of Phish 2011—the freshest new adventure show on the block.

I: AC/DC Bag, Punch You In the Eye, Bathtub Gin, Taste, Lawn Boy, Mound, Gotta Jibboo, Reba, Fee > Backwards Down the Number Line

II: Carini -> Tweezer > Free, Crosseyed and Painless > Light > Boogie On Reggae Woman > Julius, You Enjoy Myself

E: Loving Cup, Tweezer Reprise


753 Responses to “Crushing Cincinnati”

  1. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @william, shitty, i’m sure it’ll work it and you’ll be there though…. yeah i’ve had candide sitting on my shelf for a while, i think i might just pick it up tomorrow

  2. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Fuck Wegman’s

  3. Leo Weaver Says:

    Wish I could partake in the sub war. No such thing as a good sub down here.

    You going out west @Df?

  4. William H. Bonney Says:

    All this Candide talk has got me getting it out for a read…over do, thanks for the thought.

  5. Jtran Says:


    Thanks for the wings and brats and burgers at btb fest.

    Gave me the energy I needed for that show. Great meeting you!

  6. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    @Leo, nope, can’t afford a flight, i’ll be at UIC though

  7. DukeOfLizards Says:


    When Fish starts dropping filthy cowbell-laced beats, DO NOT SEGUE TO BOOGIE ON.

  8. JeffieM Says:

    Damn, bummed that I’m not seeing phish this weekend.

    Putting out another call… any Portsmouth extras?

  9. William H. Bonney Says:

    @DF I will find away, can’t miss event really for me. Just not sure what is going to happen, we have RV booked and everything so may have to find some mates to try to split the cost if I get left holding the bag and can’t cancel I think was a non-refundable deposit not sure he was handling it, as I took care of last one for Festival 8….

  10. jdub Says:

    Super Ball is shaping up to be quite the mid summer event. The west coast will get some prime Phish but SB is were it will all hang out. It will sell out me thinks, so get your tickets soon.

  11. Leo Weaver Says:

    You too @Jtran. Glad to help you rage it. Sorry I didn’t get to hang with you boys a little more…y’all jump in the car with KP in a few days and come on down.

  12. BrandonKayda Says:

    It’s great satire @DF. Kind of flips stoicism on its head.

  13. halcyon Says:

    Gordeaux’s bass during crosseyed is dope

  14. willowed Says:

    I will be too excited to sleep tonight. My first taste of summer Phish tomorrow.

  15. William H. Bonney Says:

    Well I would say is more of an attack on the prevailing “Leibnizian optimism” of the times…but Voltaire spares few his barbs….

  16. albert walker Says:

    def nice seeing ya’ll. couldn’t have asked for a better run. whether it’s bethel 3 or Detroit I’ve had a blast at every of the 6 I’ve caught. anything they play is a great time when they are playing on this level

    no worries 420. I had a cabbies # that actually came and was waiting for us right when the show ended.

    can’t believe the highlights of the 3 nights so much to love in every night. some ferocious type 1 playing from Trey last night in Reba, jibboo, Taste, and Gin

    still can’t believe that shred he dropped in zero

    all catching more shows. I’m jealous. starting to plan for the custy ball. no way I’m missing that one when they’re droppin bombs like that Sally

    laterz comrades
    have a good one

  17. BrandonKayda Says:

    Have you ever read The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh? More great dark satire. That book is seriously creepy haha. Looks at the funeral business/deconstructs the shallowness of some aspects of American culture. Just read it for English.

  18. jdub Says:

    You and me both Willowed. Great Woods is so overdue.

  19. willowed Says:

    Yup Jdub
    The previos 2 GW’s have been average. That old school venue needs an old school scorcher.

    Buried Alive opener.

  20. William H. Bonney Says:

    Super Ball will not sell out IMO…just too many shows in NE and too many families have plans for the weekend of the 4th….but who know we will see…

  21. Leo Weaver Says:

    You boys find guyute @willowed. he’ll be slingin’ cigs and brews on lot. Give him a shout. I posted his # a few pages back.

  22. William H. Bonney Says:

    Have not read that one BK…will check it out…always looking for a new read..thanks for the rec.

  23. willowed Says:

    I’ll grab the number Leo

  24. BrandonKayda Says:

    It’s a pretty short book too – like 160 pages. But it is fantastic.

  25. William H. Bonney Says:

    Just readin his Bio, sounds like an amazing life and person.

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