A Rock and Roll Adventure

6.5.11 - Riverbend (M.Shultz)

Following up a barn-burning weekend in the Midwest, Phish came back to New England and, in their return to Great Woods, dropped one of tour’s defining jams in “Rock and Roll.” A coherent, multi-faceted and exploratory odyssey anchored the show all by itself—it was that good. But aside for a standout first-set “Bowie,” Great Woods didn’t offer much else in the way of musical adventure, though sometimes that’s the way it goes. Throughout the history of Phish, Great Woods has been the site of so many classic shows, but in the 3.0 era, the venue seems to be a catalyst for mediocrity. This time around, Phish played a phenomenal piece of improvisation in “Rock and Roll,” but provided little support for their monster excursion. Yet in the interest of focusing on the sublime part of the show, lets get right to it.

Official Great Woods Print (Duval)

After an energetic and extended “Back on the Train” opener, Phish put “Rock and Roll” under the second set spotlight for the first time this tour, and boy did it shine—and fly right into the stratosphere. Exiting the song’s rock textures, the band began the journey in a four-part experiment that fused ambient jamming with abstract groove. The jam jumped outside the box quickly, as Phish morphed the piece into a beautiful and uplifting segment of creative music. Trey fluttered patterns into the heavens as the band collectively sculpted one of the most surreal passages of tour. But the piece didn’t stay pretty for long. As the band organically migrated through a melodic ambient realm into a much harder-edged jam, Trey left the heavens for Lucifer’s pit, switching into seething guitar-work amidst a subconsciously-connected jam. Phish continued to push themselves into new ground as “Rock and Roll” completely changed course—in very natural fashion—into an evil, psychedelic monstrosity. Whole-band annihilation underlined this exploratory jaunt, a piece that continued moving into more experimental—and darker—realms by the second, until we were were neck deep in musical dementia. When the band finally settled out of this sinister sound sculpture, they jammed down into a summer-appropriate “Mango Song.”

Page shone on piano throughout a very clean version of “Mango Song,” and upon its ending, the band hit a crossroads of the second set. They had dropped one of tour’s defining jams in “Rock and Roll” and had resolved it perfectly with “Mango.” It seemed like an ideal slot to drop another jam vehicle, but, instead, the band chose to follow up the highlight combination with an innocuous string of songs that took the set to its end. “Pebbles and Marbles” was the one rarity contained within and the band played it well, though they still have yet to infuse any creativity into its rock-based jam (less Vegas ’04). The set-closing “Antelope” was better than many of this era and featured playful “Meatstick” teases, but it did little to salvage the set as a total experience.

Bethel Woods (Michael Mesenbourg

The band had one other crossroads within this final portion of the show—“Halley’s Comet.” After Bethel’s breakout version—one of the highlights of tour’s opening weekend—when the band dropped into the song in the middle of the second set, one could only imagine what they were about to do to the jam. But in a move that left the audience with an 8th grade case of blue-balls, the band chopped off any possibilities as they took a turn into “Meatstick,” deflating the show beyond resuscitation.

The first set amounted to legitimate opening half, kicking off with “Llama” and peaking with a surprise, mid-set “David Bowie” that was played with a whole-band tenacity. An intricate and collaborative version provided the other true highlight of the show in addition to “Rock and Roll.” The band’s second-ever performance of John Lennon’s “Instant Karma” was particularly sloppy, though “Divided Sky” popped with extra zest later in the frame. The debut of the Al Green’s cover “Rhymes”—a loafing blues-rock-type groove—hit me as a “take-it-or-leave-it” type of song with some potential; we’ll see if anything develops out of it.

6.5.11 (M.Stein)

Phish’s Tuesday night stop in Massachusetts, despite “Rock and Roll’s” outlandish adventure, felt like a bit of an exhale after a mind-numbing weekend run. But even within an exhale in Summer 2011, the band dropped one of the most sublime passages of music we’ve heard this tour; it all depends on the way you look at it. Let’s put “Rock and Roll > Mango” in a powerful slot on our ever-growing Summer 2011 mix-tape and move on to Darien! See you under the white tents tonight…

I: Llama, The Moma Dance, Possum, Cities, Instant Karma!, David Bowie, Rhymes*, The Divided Sky, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

II: Back on the Train, Rock and Roll > The Mango Song, Bug, Pebbles and Marbles, Halley’s Comet > Meatstick, Run Like an Antelope

E Suzy Greenberg

*debut, Al Green


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1,411 Responses to “A Rock and Roll Adventure”

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  1. Col. Hogan Says:

    Rhymes is an Al Green song from the Al Green is Love album.

  2. bird Says:

    top o’ the morning

  3. ihatepockets Says:

    The official poster is either the greatest ever, or the worst ever.

    I can’t decide.

  4. BrandonKayda Says:

    I think I’m starting to get sick. Need to fix this before Saturday.

  5. Matso Says:

    @ ihatepockets –

    I agree. In many ways, it’s hideous and disturbing (a scene from a childhood nightmare) but it’s artistic naivety also makes me like it. It’s the poster equivalent of a Vincent Gallo or Lars Van Trier film.

  6. AintNoTele Says:

    SBIX Email:

    7 sets??? 2 Friday, 3 Sat, 2 Sun…me thinks there will be a surprise set sunday night for the 4th. You gotta have 8 sets

  7. Baxter Says:

    agreed, but I loved it 🙂

  8. The Flesh Says:

    Can’t wait for Saturday – been too long since Bethel

  9. Robbie Says:

    Thought last night’s show was really fun, and unlike the last 2 years at GW, they played GW-esque songs. The first set, especially, far surpassed the last few visits. The divided sky was gorgeous. Also love to see them trying a song like Instant Karma; just needs a couple more practices! Glorious failures are alright with me.

  10. phoammhead Says:

    take zinc and vitamin C lozenges, BK, stat! early and often! follow the directions.

    i like the sootherbs but there are many kinds


  11. bhizzle Says:

    Sorry GW didn’t yet get their Ghost, but I must say I am happy about it. Hoping that drops tonight. It’s going to be a steamer in WNY today, bring your powdered nuts.

  12. Mike in Austin Says:

    Came home with a sore throat sniffly flu on tour. Nothing terrible but very annoying. Zinc and C eh? I’ll give it a shot.

  13. btb Says:

    I’ll make the call…terrible poster

    Safe travels truckin up to Buffalo

  14. bhizzle Says:

    link to poster plz…

  15. btb Says:

    It’s in Miner’s post – get yourself some coffee bhiz!

  16. Jtran Says:

    “The band will perform seven scheduled sets at Super Ball IX”

    There will be more

    Morning comrades

  17. st8 of mind Says:

    Mornin’ BB. Thanks again for your work Miner. I raised my drink in the air to you during Hood>Mercy>Hood the other night. Have fun tonight all.

  18. bhizzle Says:

    oh, I thought you folks were talking about tonight’s poster….re: GW’s, bunk!

  19. Matt Says:

    Rhymes is an Al Green cover, not a new Mike song. Hence the “loafing blues-rock groove”

  20. Judd Says:

    “Rhymes” is an Al Green cover-

  21. bhizzle Says:

    Judd…you would be correct.. LivePhish states it is too.

  22. Dublin97 Says:

    Wow, thought last night was a very, very good show. Haven’t caught any other on tour, but if last night was mediocre, the band must be killing it every night. The quality is so much better than even last fall. Thanks Phish, what a fun night.

  23. Plord Says:

    Well I’m awake now and headed out for Darien, doesn’t look like I’ll have time for the coasters at this pace. The down side of old-man-touring. Seenyou guys at the WW, Fish side.

  24. JB Says:

    Glad they went with the Suzy encore. Didn’t feel the least bit bad leaving once Antelope wound down.

    Once they finished Rock ‘n’ Roll, there really wasn’t much more to say, that was worth the price of admission and the reason to show up.

  25. Mike in Austin Says:

    Favorite moment of the night was them playing Rhymes. Love Al Green.

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