In their first visit back to the amusement park environs of Darien Lake since 2009, Phish dropped a spectacular second set filled with a rhythmic focus and monster grooves, providing their western New York audience with plenty of music to dance to on Wednesday night. Focusing their pristine playing of summer on anthemic groove-based improvisation, the band crafted a fun-filled second set that featured a continuous flow throughout. Lacing the opening frame with a series of summer debuts and rarities while providing the knockout blow the second, Phish played a complete show that set up a weekend blowout at Camden and Merriweather Post.
Beginning the show with a string of three bustouts—”Nellie Kane,” “Mellow Mood,” and “Buffalo Bill”—the band set an exciting mood early on and balanced this song-based excitement with high-quality, rhymically-focused escapades in “Wolfman’s” and “Undermind.” Trey jumped into his refined stacatto playing early in the night during “Wolfman’s,” and he’d continue along this path through many jams of the show. As the set rolled on, the summer debuts continued to roll out—”Ride Captain Ride,” “It’s Ice,” “Dog Faced Boy” and “Brian and Robert.” And the final improvisational highlight of the set came sandwiched between scorching doses of arena rock (“46 Days” and “Character Zero”) in a “Limb by Limb” that Trey attacked out of the gate with cathartic lead melodies. Though totaling 15 songs, the first set didn’t ever drag as the band wove together songs and jams in a combination that kept things moving right along. But when the band came out after setbreak, Phish carried a different kind of motion.
Kicking off a set-long dance-party with the third-ever cover of TV on the Radio’s “Golden Age,” the band unveiled their most developed version to date. Moving from the song’s fusion of uplifting melody and driving groove, the band added an infectious funk exchange once the song reached its usual climax. Setting the tone for the second set with high-octane dance music, the band continued down this path with a passionate roar through “Mike’s Song” that passed through the always-welcome “Fast Enough For You,” en route to one of the standout highlights of the show—”Weekapaug.”
Transcending the”Groove’s” fun-filled, thematic jam, the band dove into a far more intricate exercise in groove. Trey leapt into the fray with a high-speed tease of “Golden Age,” and the entire band hopped on for a reprise of the jam (that was teased throughout) as “Weekapaug” set sail into collaborative textures. Amidst a quick-witted interplay, the band dropped into their new-school staccato jamming-style, shredding the piece to bits with “plinko funk” improvisation. Smoothly remerging with the song’s theme, the band likened a locomotive as they collectively took the jam to its peak as Trey played with sublime phrasing—a trend of his leads throughout the night. And as the band hit the last note of “Weekapaug,” they let it drip out into a brief ambient note (in which Trey dropped another “Golden Age” tease) which quickly morphed into the post-apoalyotic soundscapes of “What’s the Use?” Phish took their patience with the surreal mid-set interlude, treating the piece with immaculate delicacy. And as the final layers resonated over the audience, Trey picked out the beginning of “Theme.”
Flowing quite well, as the band emerged out of the dark instrumental with a high-powered version of “Theme” that continued the groove-based ethos of the set. Though “Number Line” never seems to fit naturally into any slot of any show, once its jam got going everything changed. Trey immediately ripped off lightening-quick, multi-note runs that encouraged the entire band into faster and creative interplay. This dynamic piece set up a monumental exclamation point of the set in “2001 > Harry Hood.”
Drenching their laid-back space-funk escapade with full-band teases of “Golden Age” throughout much of the jam, and then crafting a ridiculous mashup with “What’s the Use?” in the piece’s final segment, Phish threw down a definitive version of “2001” that showcased their glue-tight playing and musical playfulness at this stage of the game. A full-scale throwdown of the likes we haven’t seen from the song this summer, the band used the swarthy dance excursion to tie the set together. And then Phish put their signature on the night in the form of an outstanding “Harry Hood.” Continuing their liquid phrasing of the show, both Mike and Trey stood out amidst this jam. But it was when Fishman switched from a fluttering beat into a subtle groove, taking the whole band with him, that this version really jumped off the stage. Crafting an original take on their spiritual opus, the band finalized an outstanding set with a triumphant musical conversation that shot an arrow through the heart of the audience. Trey led the way with gorgeous leads that—in the moment—brought memories of Darien ’97’s top-shelf rendition under the very same circus tents. Capping the night of fire-filled grooves with a sublime and
Weaving a non-stop second set to compliment their song-heavy opening frame, Phish played to all facets of their audience within one show last night. And as without touching any of their more exploratory jam vehicles, this weekend is looking as promising as ever…
I: Nellie Kane, Mellow Mood, Buffalo Bill, Kill Devil Falls, Wolfman’s Brother, Rift, Undermind, Ride Captain Ride, It’s Ice, Dog Faced Boy, Brian and Robert, 46 Days, Limb By Limb, Character Zero
II: Golden Age, Mike’s Song > Fast Enough for You > Weekapaug Groove, What’s the Use? > Theme From the Bottom, Backwards Down the Number Line > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Harry Hood
E: Good Times Bad TimesTags: Summer 2011