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”

  1. albert walker Says:

    I think Trey may have been doing that to fuck with kids willowed

    get em to think they are jamming it and jump off

    it’s like the halley’s. we think they don’t know we are waiting for these lame things but they do. give us a tease and pull it away. come back with one second leg. trey knows kids are waiting for it

    the jam sounded sick. what a creative sounding segue and then bamn. Reba.

  2. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Bethel #line is the goods.

    1) Blossom ’10
    2) Bethel
    3) SPAC ’09
    4) Jones Beach ’10

  3. Jtran Says:

    It’s going to be weird when I go back and listen to the 99-00 Sands again

  4. albert walker Says:

    Toyota Park had a hot # line I believe too

    not that I really remember it or am trying to rank it

    the blossom is the only one I can really remember right now.

  5. Jtran Says:

    They should just play em like that again

    Please the jam chasers and the mahldogs

  6. willowed Says:

    Thank god it slammed into a Reba rather than a Sample or some shit

    I would have cut my own throat

    But yes, that jam could have morphed into some truly asmazing improv. 10 minutes of truly dark sinister jamming then I was hoping a WTU or some other dark jam like Scents or Steam was going to come out of it.

    Oh well

  7. gavinsdad Says:

    this place is starting to fuck with me. might have to pull a Mr. C thru UIC.

  8. willowed Says:

    Down loading the Cinci Tweezer now

    Sounds like it may be a similar syle to that Hartford Tweezer???

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Jtran… I like the Sands of 3.0 a lot more than the 99-00 ones. Those, at times, seem real repetitive and boring. Not all, but a lot.

  10. RicksFork Says:

    Steam would be pretty tight with a ghost or a sand to follow…

  11. vegas wolfmans Says:

    The #line from Jones Beach last summer is a smoker. Whale-led, but blissed out for sure. The Bethel #line stays in the box, but features a completely locked-in celebratory peak. Blossom is a horse of a totally different color- sick, sick shit. SPAC form ’09 isn’t “great” but shows them taking risks as it clocks in at 20 min plus (I think?). Good intent…

  12. albert walker Says:

    you taking in the streams the next 2 nights GD?

    it’s def in the hartford stylee willowed

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    What’s up Gdad? too much complaining?

    Did you leave a towel in my car btw…reddish color?

  14. RicksFork Says:

    Agreed on 3.0 Sand. Camden ’09 is a great example.

  15. Mike in Austin Says:

    I do like this MPP Gin.

    It’s like Trey is trying to get an A+ on all his Type I Jam Exams.

  16. guitarpicker420! Says:

    I know its already been said tonight but, Blossom Sally.

  17. gavinsdad Says:

    ^i’ve been good for a couple years here. but the intense, almost daily scrutiny i’ve been privy is flowing over into my show going experience and i need to have my own thing i think. in the past i had my crew and we talked about phish in terms of “that was fucking sick” “did you get any tix?” and “see you next tour”

    this new version of wanting and needing something from the band has me on edge. would like to go back to some purity. I’m not sure i can tho. I just might be gavinsdad 3.0…not sure i can be gavinsdad 1.0. that would be just a case of denial.

    but i am starting to wonder if i really don’t like possums song placement in a set or i’m just drinking the koolaid. i know i never gave a shit about songs or song placement or any of that.

    but that might have been because they were playing bomb at all times back then. with the exception of 3.0 and 4.0 where i still didn’t care about songs or song placement or set flow, but i distinctively knew that the energy around me was being infiltrated by darkness.

    just talking here…if i can’t do it here not sure where i can do it.

  18. willowed Says:

    Nice – HTF Tweezer is very special to me. Pure hot pocket

  19. gavinsdad Says:

    ^exception of 03 and 04 rather

    and yo @palmer that’s my nut busting towel from all the way back in college. thanks for finding it for me.

  20. Jtran Says:

    Yea Palmer, I’m just kidding

    Love the great ones, take or leave the others

  21. albert walker Says:

    I hear ya GD

    all this shit is bullshit if it effects how you see shows. I am really 100% indifferent to what they play when i’m in the building so all this yapping doesn’t bother me.

    I’ve said before. I enjoyed Bethel 3 (which sucked) just as much as the first 2

    I sometimes feel bad when some noob just raged the show of his life and he here’s our jaded asses bitchin about possum placement or flow in the second half of set II

    can totally understand that. I’m just able to completely separate the 2 for some reason. probably cuz trey has been pissing me off for so long I had to learn how to leave that shit at the the door

  22. gavinsdad Says:

    no streams for me @AW. no more band thru the end of this leg. it’s getting me down that people are getting let down. hopefully they give the people what they want. i got a nice lil bunch in leg 1 and had a great time. i just need to lay off the hyper analyzing for a sec.

    i will be the phoenix from the ashes tho in UIC.

  23. albert walker Says:

    i mean night 1 bethel I had a blast

    good music didn’t hurt. but it was really just a great night with good peeps, good herbs, and great weather getting down and getting irie

    re spins gring out analysis eventually but it is still that just pure enjoyment of live phish when I’m there

  24. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @gd – the basic thing for me is to have fun at the show, first and foremost. If I stop having fun, then its a problem. Other than that, I don’t really worry about song placement per se, but I do want things to flow nicely, and I recognize that there is a bigger payoff for me, personally, when there is a big jam. Its a bit cathartic, when they go off the deepend, when I can get completely lost in the music, and then find my way back to some form of sanity. Now, I haven’t listened to anything since Cincy as I have been trying to get my blog caught up, but there is no doubt that sometimes they play a great show, and sometimes not so much. Again, its on the relative Phish scale to me, a bad Phish show is still much better than pretty much anything else going. And a good/great Phish show, is like getting a peak at heaven for a few hours.

  25. vegas wolfmans Says:

    GD- My (unsolicited) advice: If this place is making you feel jaded- jump off! I feel that way sometimes, too, and disappear for a week (or more) here and there. The constant scrutiny can be exhausting. Ideally, this place deepens one’s understanding and love of the band. If it’s not serving that purpose, take a hiatus. Shit, Phish does it every few years.

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