A Safe Sunday Smoker

Merriweather - 6.12.11 Graham.Lucas)

Phish punctuated their weekend in the Mid-Atlantic with a show that boasted all sorts of energy, high-octane shredding, but only bubbled with legitimate creativity in select spots. The band’s straightforward smoker felt a bit safe on a mid-tour Sunday night in Columbia, and one would hope this is not a trend as we move into tour’s final leg in the South. Though last night’s second set featured molten guitar playing, the whole-band, however, took few risks in a show that felt like was going to blow up with so many exploratory vehicles waiting in the wings. Nonetheless, the band played a ripping show with a smooth second set to end their two-night stand at Merriweather, and most all fans left for home as happy as clams.

6.12.11 (Graham Lucas)

Kicking off the weekend’s final frame of music from out of left field, Phish dropped “Party Time” at the same venue they debuted the song two years ago. And when Phish slipped into “Crosseyed” out of the New Orleans funk stylings, one had to imagine we had been cleared for takeoff. But following an all-too-common trend, “Crosseyed”—though balls-to-the-wall intense and laced with snarling guitar shreddery—remained wholly inside the box and contained little musical adventure. Most people will love this version for its high-octane textures, but as the band has now started to use “Crosseyed” as a setlist-strengthener instead of a jam vehicle, the whole experience felt a little tame to me. We all know Trey can melt faces with his guitar playing, but the reason I go to Phish is for the unknown, and there wasn’t a hell of a lot of that in last night’s show.

Crawling out of a brief abstract tail to the jam, the band broke into their second-ever version of “Steam”—a song that holds limitless potential. Slightly reworked with a refrain of “Your souls joins mine” as they drips into the jam, Kuroda also reworked his visual effects, covering the stage in smoke every time the band sang the word “steam,” and then totally blanketing the scene in a cloud of smoke as the improvisation began. Taking the slow and sinister groove on a far more developed ride than Cleveland’s debut, “Steam” provided one of the set’s unquestionable high points. Once the band settles into this song, watch out, good things are bound to happen. Returning to the final verse, the band then built out of it with an increasingly menacing soundscape that turned into “Light” before reaching truly creative realms.

6.12.11 (Graham Lucas)

And with a head full of steam rolling into “Light,” one figured a cosmic exploration was just around the corner. But once again, the band chose the more straightforward path as the version was completely anchored by Trey’s intricate guitar solo instead of any whole-band experiment. Taking the structured jam for a ride, when Phish finally settled down into a more earnest four-part conversation, it was totally sublime for the minute or so it lasted before “The Wedge” started sequence of standalone songs that also included “Alaska” and “Halfway to the Moon.”

Aside from “Steam,” the other highlight of the second set came in “Harry Hood.” A song that has stepped it up another level each and every tour of this era, last night the band burst into the jam with a notable energy as Trey took command with gorgeous phrases comprised of several shorter notes. Playing with a four-minded passion, the band crushed this jam and then popped out directly into the final verse. The band’s interplay within—and Trey’s guitar narration—was outstanding. “Number Line”—a song the band is pushing a bit too hard right now—slid in after “Hood,” proving once again that it has no natural slot in a Phish set. A noodly and uneventful version led to a raucous “Loving Cup” closer.

6.12.11 (G.Lucas)

And the band concluded the show in the same way they started it—by responding to audience signs. Playing “Sanity” to start a triple-encore in response to a front-rower’s sign, Trey had similarly kicked off the show with three songs that were picked from a forest of signs in the GA pit—“Buried Alive,” “Lonesome Cowboy Bill,” and “Ha Ha Ha.” The improvisational highlights of the first set came in an unusually funked-out “Boogie On” that came out of “Wolfman’s” and a stellar version of “Bathtub Gin” that provided, arguably, the most impressive jaunt of the show.

In tours of lore, Phish’s playing got more creative in nature as shows passed, but this past weekend at Camden and Merriweather represented a step backwards in the overall risk-taking that has graced this summer, and out of three shows, we are really left with only two extraordinary, innovative jams—Camden’s “Disease” and Merriweather’s “Piper.” The envelope-pushing improv that was so present throughout the first half of tour dropped off a bit this weekend for large doses of high-powered rock and roll. Let’s hope that when we get to the south, the shows are less about fun entertainment and more seriously centered on pushing musical boundaries. Will the band reconnect with the type of jamming that has made this leg such a success, or will their pioneering creativity of June peter out? Only time will tell…

I: Buried Alive, Lonesome Cowboy Bill, Ha Ha Ha, Sample in a Jar, The Divided Sky, Wolfman’s Brother -> Boogie On Reggae Woman, Gumbo, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin, Jesus Just Left Chicago, Character Zero

II: Party Time, Crosseyed and Painless > Steam > Light > The Wedge, Alaska, Halfway to the Moon, Harry Hood, Backwards Down the Number Line, Loving Cup

E: Sanity, Makisupa Policeman, First Tube


895 Responses to “A Safe Sunday Smoker”

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  1. Cable Hogue Says:

    Well, that’s kind of a drag to hear. Hopefully this week will bring more musical adventure, the whole Phish world will be watching in Alph.

    Nice to see Steam pop up again so soon.

    Re: Crosseyed: Wouldn’t you say that the Bethel version showed a little more creativity than the standard contained shred? An exception to the trend, I’d say.

  2. Baxter Says:

    looks like a great set list to me, and they sounded sharp on the stream. Nice review as always. Thank you Mr. Hood.

  3. phloridaphan Says:

    Here’s to alpharetta blowing up like this weekend was supposed to. Bring on ghost

  4. butter Says:

    The creativity halted at great woods. It’s not just since Camden,

    Darien is super solid, love Golden Age and all the mash up and teasing in that show, but since the Midwest, this to me is just like 2010 Phish. And I don’t consider it a bad thing. We just got a taste of super Phish at the beginning of tour.

    I hear Miner’s frustration in this review, and I really think it’s more of an overall effect from the last 5 shows. If your on tour, how can u not be a bit bummed that the Phish from the Midwest didn’t show up for the eastern shows?

    Darien is my clear fav since the Midwest, but I haven’t spun last night. On tap for this morn.

  5. Laurville Says:

    Miner- Your one-track mind might mislead folks into thinking this show had little to add to the Summer catalog the band is filling out. Take time to right a review with some perspective into the whole show, the whole weekend, and not just the type-II jam that you seemingly focus on every review.

  6. butter Says:

    Laurville – have you read yesterday’s review or Darien’s?

    both glowing reviews of shows without much type 2 jamming at all

  7. Cable Hogue Says:

    Looks like it’s time for someone to start up “Laurville’s Phish Thoughts”.

    I read a review that puts plenty of perspective on the whole show, the whole weekend, and in fact the whole tour to date. Just not the perspective you share.

  8. Foul_Domain Says:

    Sounds like Miner had a hell of a lot of good things to say about this show, no?

  9. DavenTheRaven Says:

    this review makes me feel terrible. I always think minor has good things to say, but this one makes me scared to listen to the show. Of course we all want massive psychedelic jam fests in every set, but phish has shown that for now three summer tours in a row that thats not happening. One track minded is a good way to put it @Laurville. Every “sub-par” show this tour has been ’10 quality at least!!

  10. Jtran Says:

    I was thinking we were bound to get a review like this in the near future listening to the stream last night.

    Remember this change to more rock-based shows happened on leg 1 of summer tour last year too. I wonder if it is just the band getting tired of being on the road, causing them to play safer shows?

    It’s easy to sit at home and knock some of the recent music, but it’s also important to realize that they’re knocking shows out of the park left and right this tour, and 95 percent of the crowd is going home elated every night.

    I think they heat back up to another peak at the festival in a couple weeks.

  11. Cable Hogue Says:

    Good lord people. All he said was that it felt “safe”, not that the quality of the playing was poor or that it lacked energy. He’s making a legitimate point of criticism.

    Listen to last year’s 2nd sets from Merriwether, then listen to this year’s. Then tell us which contained more jamming, risk taking and experimentation…all perfectly legitimate elements to look for in assessing a Phish concert.

    If this review makes you feel terrible, I don’t know what to tell you. Don’t hinge your happiness on how the band is playing, much less on what one other person thinks about how they’re playing. If the music does it for you, great.

  12. Cable Hogue Says:

    ^ above comment directed to Laurville and DavenTheRaven, obv.

  13. st8 of mind Says:

    Man, after DTE and Blossom I thought the band was certainly back. Very surprised they have stepped away from what made those shows so successful. I’m glad those were the two I was able to attend this leg. I figured they would blow it up on the East Coast though. WTF?

  14. Foul_Domain Says:

    If you don’t want to hear Miner’s take on the show, or if you dont respect his opinion, dont read the review. Its that simple.

    Why “feel terrible” about reading a review from somebody who, in your opinion, has a one-track-mind? Brush it off and agree to disagree. But theres no use in letting it bother you.

  15. Jtran Says:

    And for the record, the safer, tight playing doesn’t bother me.

    But a 9.5 minute Hood? That’s a bit weird…

  16. albert walker Says:

    The tour that had so much promise as bethel opened with creativity and spirited playing has quickly turned to sing along custie fests

    Well played but boring and predictable is no way to blow out A summer tour whether its tight playing or not

    lets hope the south brings some creativity
    Come on now Trey

  17. gavinsdad Says:

    here we go!

  18. Mr palmer Says:

    Sitting in clinic. The time is near. You cats will be the 3rd to know , after myself and my wife. I got this bitch!

  19. Jtran Says:

    Go Palmer go

    You’ll be fine

  20. DavenTheRaven Says:

    upon further thought i should have kept my mouth shut about my ‘personal’ feelings’ about his review. Of course minor is pretty much THE review Guru and i trust what he has to say. A better way of putting what i said would be to say simply: Sorry to hear they are using Crosseyed to strengthen sets and not to explore. I love that song but I really hope that it doesn’t become a standard people pleaser. THAT makes me upset haha

    Geesh give me a break peopless

  21. Mike in Austin Says:

    One sentence about this Gin?

    I think the band should abolish Type II for the rest of the summer and see what happens. Just for grins.

  22. Luther T. Justice Says:

    Good luck Mr. P. You’ve got this. No worries.

  23. c0wfunk Says:

    Honestly I’d be pretty surprised at this point to hear a big change in strategy for the Alpharetta shows – sorry to disappoint ..

    As a big fan of the whole phish experience who doesn’t go to every show, I’m looking forward to the many reasons I feel this has been a successful tour that don’t include the proportion of chord progressions I know to chord progressions I don’t know.

    I understand the reactions from the posters above who get disappointed or disheartened by a review like this – we all root for Miner to have a great show as we vicariously live through the reviews here. Suggesting we just don’t read is fine but I think the people above have just as much right to post their reviews of the review in a public comments forum 🙂

    About to dive in ready to go. I’ve learned my lesson to not miss a MPP show – the top 2 tunes on my “songs I still chase” list are Daniel and Buried Alive

    Not trying to stir shit up, just throwing out my 2 cent.. Likely going to be a bumpy one around here today gotta keep my eyes on the prize though. Liftoff in 35 hours!!

  24. Mike in Austin Says:

    I 100% agree with Cowfunk. Great writeup.

    Miner is just a spice in the gumbo, and I love reading people who intelligently dissent Mr. Miner. He’s like only an opinion, Dude.

  25. Mike in Austin Says:

    Good luck Mr. P. It’ll be great to get this behind you.

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