A Merriweather Massacre

6.11.11 (Brian Ferguson)

Phish quickly erased Friday’s hiccup in Camden, firing from the get go last night in a powerhouse two-setter to open the weekend at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Playing a first set that flowed that flowed as well, if not better, than the second, the band got back on track dipping into all aspects of their repertoire with a choice song selection, shredding contained jamming, experimental second set improv and big-time dance grooves. Rolling all of these aspects and more into a complete night of music, the band provided a breadth of live experiences within a single show that touched on, virtually, all aspects of their playing.

6.11.11 G.Lucas

The start of the show got an immediate boost by the rarities “Access Me” and “Vultures,” not to mention “Daniel Saw the Stone” which with Trey opened the show in response to a fan’s sign. But the golden part of the set got jump-started by an aggressive mid-set “Wilson” which set the table for sinful stretch of Phish that read: “Sand,” “Roses > Reba,” “On Your Way Down,” “Antelope.” And throughout this portion of the set—in my opinion, the highlight of the show—the band fired like pistons, intuitively connecting like pieces of a puzzle. The whole-band interplay throughout “Sand,” “Reba,” and “Antelope,” in addition to the individual mastery on display by each band member in all of these these pieces, was staggering. “Sand,” like PNC, featured a very jazzy feel at the get-go as Trey and Mike cooperated like Siamese twins while Page and Fish provided the backdrop for the two guitarists to step into the spotlight. Taking “Sand” on phenomenal ride, the band crafted a massive mid-set peak and wasn’t about to slow down.

6.11.11 (G.Lucas)

There were several measures of “Roses are Free” that signified what might have been the third improvised version of all-time. But just as we had finally cast away our doubts, Trey quickly pulled the plug to drop into “Reba” in a weird anticlimax. “Reba” is one of my unquestionable favorite Phish songs, and even though they come rare these days, the sudden transition—and what might have been—stung. But as we entered only the second “Reba” of summer tour, that sting didn’t last but for a second. As the band precisely played the first half of the song, they were on the same page as they took the dive for blissful waters. Featuring to-die-for phrasing and soloing by Trey, while the entire band wove a bed of silk beneath him, Phish crafted a stunning take on their classic song; one of the top versions played since they’ve been back this era. And as they slammed into the jam’s ending, they dripped out the other side with Little Feat’s “On Your Way Down.” The exclamation point on this wide-eyed opening set came is a far-more-dynamic-than-usual “Antelope.” Lacing the intro with intricate exchanges and “On Your Way Down Teases,” the band seemed primed to tear the piece to shreds. Coming out of the gate with his refined leads of summer, Trey began slaughtering the jam early as Mike responded with booming bass licks. Fishman’s laid-back, driving, and ever-changing beats anchored this version as Page cranked out piano comps in what I consider to be the most impressive “Antelope since Utica’s next-level escapade. And when the band stepped off the stage for setbreak, they had just finished a spectacular set of music filled with mind-numbing interplay—and darkness hadn’t even fallen on Columbia, Maryland.

6.11.11 (Brian Ferguson)

Using “Birds” to ignite the second set (just like its placement last Saturday in Cleveland) this time, instead of bursting into “Possum” upon its conclusion, the band made the much more exciting move into ‘Tweezer.” Stepping into a pimped-out ride, Trey laid back with minimalist leads while Mike and Page stepped out front with prominent ideas. Moving slowly through gooey textures and organically turning to the a soaring, guitar-led peak, though the jam certainly hit the spot, one might have imagined it getting a bit more creative in such a central position in the show (and half-way through tour). But nonetheless, the band tastefully toyed within the song’s boundaries and segued nicely into “Horse > Silent.” Their experimental jams were yet to come.

6.11.11 G.Lucas)

When the band dropped the second “Waves” of tour, anyone who’s been following along had to think back to Bethel’s opening night odyssey. The band, once again, seemed set for takeoff into one of their most intricate and open-ended jams, but when the time came to launch—instead—they switched into an awkwardly-placed “Chalk Dust;” a decision that seemed a bit dubious. But letting the Saturday night rock vibe flow, the band combined “Chalk Dust” with “Rock and Roll” in an adrenalized, central portion of the set. When the time came to leave the Velvet Underground’s rock textures behind, however, the first experiment of the night commenced. Drifting though a brief segment of melodic and uplifting music, the band soon began sculpting an avant-garde and abstract piece of psychedelia. Pushing the envelope to the extreme through this segment, at the show, I wondered if the band was on the same page throughout the jam. And after listening back, I’m still wondering. Worthy for its extreme risk taking, Phish got into some bizarre—truly out-there—music, and some parts certainly sound more coherent than others.

MPP Official Print (Taylor)

Passing through the mellow interlude of “Albuquerque,” the band got right back to their risk-taking in the highlight of the set—”Piper.” Again taking their playing into uncharted waters, this time everything flowed a hell of a lot better. After crushing the song’s breakneck stylings with notably connected playing, when the band veered from their linear path, things got nutty. Page and Trey exchanged ideas over a tight and chaotic pocket, with Mike throwing down huge bass patterns beneath Red’s venomous lines. As Trey stepped back, offering effects and rhythm chops, Mike powerfully took over the lead as Page accompanied him out front with heavily tweaked—then smoothed out—textures. Stepping into the abstract realm for the second time in three songs, this time there was no doubt of the band’s connectedness and intent, and out of this centerpiece exploration, Phish wound seamlessly into “Velvet Sea.” Though the heavy psychedelia of the set had passed, the guys still had some love left to give. Merging a short but sweet “2001” with a crunchy “Faulty Plan,” the band threw down some slamming late-set music before punctuating the frame with a Page-centric “Suzy Greenberg.”

Phish carried a head of steam throughout the second set, dipping into grooves, abstract jams, ballads and rock songs to comprise a complete frame of Phish music. And when tacking on the smoking opening frame (which might outdo the second), the first night of Merriweather shaped up to be quite the show. Keep your seatbelts strapped through tommorrow night—same bat time, same bat channel!

I: Daniel Saw the Stone, AC/DC Bag, Ocelot, Access Me, Vultures, Wilson, Sand, Roses Are Free > Reba, On Your Way Down, Run Like an Antelope

II: Birds of a Feather, Tweezer > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Waves > Chalk Dust Torture, Rock and Roll > Albuquerque, Piper > Wading in the Velvet Sea, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Suzy Greenberg

E: Show of Life, Tweezer Reprise

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754 Responses to “A Merriweather Massacre”

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  1. Corey Says:

    Winning poster of tour thus far, right? I mean, besides Bethel Alf…
    First! – do we still do that?

    How was Reba?

    Was the crowd as rowdy as I remember it being back in the 90s?

    OK, a little more sleep for me…

  2. Matso Says:

    Interesting. Glad to hear the first set flowed nicely and had some strong playing and that the second wasn’t the mess that it sort-of looks like.

    Without having heard the show yet, I can see how the Chalkdust cutting short Waves would have been pretty harsh. Add it to the list of “errors” by Trey on this tour. At least the Tweezer wasn’t horsed. As for the short 2001’s towards the end of a second set, could the band perhaps try new approach here? I think we’ve seen this at least 3 if not 4 times this tour (and certainly last summer as well).

    I’d say tonight is the “make it or break it” show for Leg 1. We need Bethel 2-like heights if this tour is going down in Phishtory.

  3. Laurville Says:

    great show all around

  4. butter Says:

    Well written, engaging piece Miner

    Surprised a 14 song second worked so well for ya, wondering if the second set was a bit longer than norm?

    Headed for the airport with the fam for ATL

  5. DCACG Says:

    Thanks for the well written review Miner. You’ve gotten me in the right frame of mine for listening all Summer long and making it out.

  6. Johnny B Goode Says:

    Cannot speak strongly enough how intense the energy from the crowd was throughout this show. The crowd was bumpin and jumpin all night. Might have been the Daniel, but the place was amped and it felt like the band had stepped off the bus from the 90s instead of Camden. The first set never stopped coming, and the Albuquerque and Velvet Sea – neither all that disappointing btw – were the only pauses in the second. Yes Butter, they played a lot longer than normal – especially for MPP, where they have to shell out cash if they go past 11:00. Show ended at 11:10. A classic.

  7. Whipcity Says:

    One of my top 5 shows going back to 94. I just thought the energy and playing were awesome. Felt like a kid again, love the couch tour but it just doesn’t hold up to being in the building. Can’t say enough good things about the playing last night.

  8. phloridaphan Says:

    Im hoping they hold off ghost til alpharetta, need me some

  9. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    The energy abounded at this show. Though my girl and I felt that the fluidity of the second set was questionable. That being said, the impact of a exuberant crowd helped carry this one! When I can’t dance for Suzy cause I’m borderline nauseous…such a good feeling…if you catch my drift! Thank you mr. Miner see y’all tonight.

  10. Mr palmer Says:

    That’s a lotta music in set II. Looks great. Glad everyone had good experiences, or so it seems.

  11. Beantownboy Says:

    Nice write up, Miner.

    Just started spinning on the deck with the bane (Daniel!) and can definitely hear the energy from the band and the crowd that you’re talking ’bout.

  12. DavenTheRaven Says:

    looks like an incredible show no doubt. get this puppy up on no spoilers asap! i must admit, purely from setlist standpoint, the chalkdust looks outa place. to be honest, and don’t hate because i haven’t heard the show yet, the short 2001s are not doing it for me (its too good a dance groove). either way when i saw this show i immediately knew it was gonna be good, Miner confirmed. cant wait to listen..

  13. Baxter Says:

    glad to hear such a great review. I’m psyched for sbix.

  14. nonoyolker Says:

    Great write up – looks like people had a good time as well. I was admittedly concerned by the number of songs in the 2nd set. Have to give it a spin today

    Anyone know how to check stats in the book contest? Pretty sure I had Albequerque as many cover for last night. Great cool down tune.

    Hope tonight gets weird

  15. Dr Pronoia Says:

    really cool to hear from some newer voices on the comments board

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    Morning, bredren

    Great to read that last night worked well for so many

    It sounds like this show is the perfect example of the versatility of Phish

    This could be a good show to turn the uninitiated on to Phish

    Also a good show to prove that phish are musical masters. They have command of a plethora of styles and can turn them on and off at will

  17. Foul_Domain Says:

    Nice piece, Miner.

    Interesting looking show to say the least. 3.0 is full of pleasant surprises.

    Vultures onward looks amazing on paper in the 1st set. I wish I could spin this one right now, but theres work to do for this guy.

    Have a great day BB!

  18. Whipcity Says:

    The chalkdust worked perfect because it immediately brought the energy back to a fever pitch for the next launch. The boys were in charge last night and took us for a ride.

  19. Beantownboy Says:

    Nice little intense jam in Wilson.
    Wish they would have stretched the one for another few minutes (see 20)

  20. kayatosh Says:

    anyone w/ a spare dl code for last night?
    anyone need a spare dl code from camden (6.10)?

  21. Robear Says:

    Will have to test this one out when the crew wakes up.

    When I saw the title of todays post I got concerned. I thought miner meant all the potential jams were massacred!

  22. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    I know it was said, but I revelled in the poster til like four in the morning. Back to the music, Miner hit it on the head with the band searching for a common ground during the second set…but hot damn if that isn’t a part of the trip! I love the start it up slow it down start it up RnR, Albuquerque, Piper. They certainly hit some unchartered territory…hence the sea horse…vast untouched, smooth and rocky seascapes.

  23. Esteban Says:

    Miner, great write up. Sums up the night IMO. Show time was 7, so it did feel like they squeezed in more music than possible… but honestly it didn’t appear that too many tunes were rushed/shortened (with the exception of the 2001).

    As others have noted, the band has gotten really skilled at dropping in quickly and going hard (as opposed to the exploratory noodling of the past in which sometimes they might find the pocket).

  24. 20 Minute Halley's Says:

    Is willowed out there somewhere and safe I hope! Not a peep from you last night?

  25. ohhphee Says:

    Morning, folks. Been a while.

    @ Robear. That was what I thought for a split second, then I realized that was just silly talk. Looks like a fun one. I’ll be downloading this shortly, for sure.

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