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”

  1. MrCompletely Says:

    nice one @seif, on point

  2. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    i can’t believe trey actually played golden age for me

  3. alf Says:

    ya sorry i missed you last night df, forgot you were going to be there until golden age started up

  4. Lycanthropist Says:

    nice to hear Weekapaug back in form…

    some real tasty licks from trey towards teh end, sounds like Paug again

  5. seif Says:

    the limitless potential keeps us coming back for more

  6. lastwaltzer Says:

    “If I wanted to know what the heady kids thought I’d just go to PT.”

    miner isn’t just another heady kid? 😉 What is he an alien? A ghost?

  7. MrCompletely Says:

    yea @lycan I caught some for-real shredding at the end of Week on the stream last night

  8. lastwaltzer Says:


    is this one that great? haven’t heard it yet but there have been a few other hot paugs. Blossom and providence come to mind

  9. Lycanthropist Says:

    I seriously don’t think there is any need to worry at this point.

    They haven’t played a bad show yet, just a few jamless ones.

    They clearly came to jam this tour and there is no reason why the rest of the tour should be any different.

    I mean this last weekend should be all the proof you need.

    Last nights show to my ears still features a invigorated Trey ready to attack whatever song is laid before him with rediscovered passion and grit.
    It was definitely a song based show, but compare this to any of the song based shows of the last two years and teh difference is astounding.

    I mean how lucky are we to have a tour where almost EVERY show trumps even Utica?

  10. Lycanthropist Says:


    it wasn’t anything special…
    but it sounded like Paug..

    fast paced, uplifting, racing…

  11. msbjivein Says:

    “heady kids”

  12. lastwaltzer Says:

    “I mean this last weekend should be all the proof you need.”lycan

    friday and saturday shows

    saturday and friday shows

  13. MrCompletely Says:

    the potential thing goes to what @aw is talking about, whichever handle he’s posting under

    you can take the perspective of just loving the new high performance level baseline and being happy with that

    or you can look at the occasional huge jams and question why they don’t happen at least a little more often

    either one is totally fine as long as it doesn’t go too far, into either real lightweight fluffing of the occasional truly “off” set or show, or just haterism on the other side, burning down any show without a massive centerpiece jam or several smaller but unique jams…

    I don’t think anyone here is out of balance either way so it’s an interesting dialogue that basically comes down to subjective expectations I think

  14. lastwaltzer Says:

    This site has gone to shit, where is the review 😉

  15. bouncin fan Says:

    No doubt Lycan. The difference is def that Trey can support a more song based rock show this tour. Back in 09-10 the flubs and lack of any kind of lead ability just made the rawkers fall flat IMO

    Now with a bit of shred and a more band leader attitude it does come off better

    After coming out of the gates with Bethel 1-2 and then running me over with Detroit I think I just started drinking the kool aide that the more retro 91-92 style of playing was starting to fade away and sets would start breathing more. I mean the jamming in the first sets of those shows were astounding.

    Either way more than excited about summer. Shit can’t be perfect. Making plans for Watkins as we speak. Which def will open the fuck up I imagine.

  16. alf Says:

    i agree c, i guess for me the big thing is that the level of the playing has gotten so much hotter that i actually love shows like last nights even though i go for jams and more jams. if they played the same show in 09 or even 10 i wouldn’t have enjoyed it. but the level of play alone can carry a show right now.

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    “It was definitely a song based show, but compare this to any of the song based shows of the last two years and teh difference is astounding.”

    ^^^ this is a big point I’ve been trying to make, yeah

    is GW11 at the Bethel 1,2 etc level, no, but listen to it compared to prior GW 3.0 shows. Just the details of everything.

    The thing I like most about @aw’s current perspective is that he always has a good time at the shows and says so. Even if they’re not his style, the relatively jamless song based affairs – it seems like he takes those for what they’re worth, without pretending they are something they’re not. As a deep jam hunter I’m trying to adopt a little more of that attitude.

    When you’re at one of those shows, just go with it. Trey is contrary and there’s no point getting all twisted about it. But it doesn’t mean it has to stay on your playlist later on down the line.

  18. bouncin fan Says:

    no doubt C. I can tell there wasn’t enough meat in last night’s show to satisfy me but the playing is hot enough you don’t leave pissed. it’s just not the set you prefer.

    there really isn’t a level of playing attainable where I love a phish rawkin song based show. not hating it either though.

  19. Phamily Berzerker Says:


    Makita or Dewalt

  20. alf Says:

    yep, i think we’re all on the same page here

  21. lastwaltzer Says:

    “t the level of the playing has gotten so much hotter that i actually love shows like last nights even though i go for jams and more jams.”alf

    they know how to rock again. Plain and simple. I’ve said it 2,001 times but the meh shows would have been whoa shows last year.

  22. JeffieM Says:

    Howdy kids.

    Definitely interested to spin all of this show. First set is different. Only gotten through the Golden Age so far.

    @Butter from p54. If you want, I can definitely talk to a couple of friends in Raleigh who babysit to see if any of them would want to help you out the 18th. email me, m j la ha ye 89@ g mail

  23. alf Says:

    well maybe not, there was enough ‘meat’ there for me last night, and that surprises me for sure

  24. MrCompletely Says:

    ha 3 posts in a row making the same point, I think we’ve reached consensus

    song based affair in 09 == depressing at times
    song based affair in 11 == hot rock show

  25. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    pg 55?

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