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. Mr.Miner Says:

    @aw unsure how you say that antelope is flat from mpp. i think its the best version of the year…am i missing something…

  2. albert walker Says:

    that’s funny though GD

    cuz the only reason I come here is to over analyze phish. but I’m an analyst by trade so I guess that makes sense.

    laterz comrades been fun
    have some phish to catch up on

  3. purplehumpbackwhale Says:

    miner, it was quite shreddy (in a good way). i think its a great one.

  4. willowed Says:

    that’s some good stuff rigth there.

    I was actually thinknig about that the other day. I come from the school of pure joy and release no matter what type of jams. These shows are so special and I hold the experiences in the highest regard.
    I know lately I have been a little less than my usual fluffer self. I should still say that these expereinces I shared and these shows I attended the last few days are so so special to me. I woudl never trade it for anything.
    It’s tough to communicate the absolute joy I feel in every post. Even though I had some ups and downs in regards to highlights, I still had more fun than they can bottle up in a birch beer.
    Check this out
    I never knew who TIII was. We psoted here and there and developed this friendship thru the interwebs. We hit the MSG 1/1 show togethr purely from internet posts.
    He called me up and off we went. had a blast
    Same thing with this last run. Never really hung out with him and his crew. jumped in a car for the last 3 days and went on a road trip down the east coast. i didn’t know what to expect. It all worked. It was so specail. Where else could people connect like we do?
    Yes we have our moments, but we are all cut from the same clothe.
    We are a family

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    sand, reba, and antelope from mpp are all really strong versions.

  6. Jtran Says:

    Gotta agree with Miner about the Antelope too aw

    I mentioned to the slf at setbreak that the reggae segment and gearshift line really hit me that version for some reason. Couldn’t really put a finger on it; probably just the sign of a $$$ (or at least $$) version

  7. Bwana Says:

    in the box or not, last night’s Jesus Just Left Chicago is great… Page and Mike have a great interplay early on, the zest is there, and fitting for a humid summer night!! no mention in miner’s review. definitely my take, in part b/c every one i’ve seen live has been an indicator of a good night ahead (dayton ’97, e-center ’99, gorge ’03)…

  8. albert walker Says:

    just kinda all over the place for me. felt similarly about the blossom version.

    just seems like he is trying to leave the more jazzy contained standard of earlier 3.0 versions for the more manic off the tracks rock n roll of earlier versions but it just hasnt worked for me

    seems like the flow starts and stops of the jamming and the rhythm isn’t very consistent. not much of a stable stream of ideas from Trey. only 1 spun but I didn’t get much from it.

    first spin though. I’d give it another shot.

  9. albert walker Says:

    I loved his solo on Sand though. that I thought smoked.

  10. butter Says:

    At dinner with Phish kids, it’s all happening

  11. Mr.Miner Says:

    and the Reba is the best part of that set. Trey absolutely crushes it

  12. Jtran Says:

    Hear hear willowed

    Dancing with the slf and two best friends from HS (for the first time all 3 of us have hit a show together) on Saturday night makes it all worth it, big jams or not

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Miner- you have a favorite show so far? Just curious.

    gdad- i hear you on the over analyzing. Not to be a dick, but i just don’t get it from all the youngsters. I have to imagine that seeing a ” subpar”Phish show in 3.0 is still better than anything else they have ever seen.

    Shit, when i was in my 20s i was blissed out each and every time, simply blown away. Granted the band isn’t the same, but they still are the best thing out there.

  14. kayatosh Says:

    MPP reba is indeed $$$. tight version, mastered by trey.

  15. Mike in Austin Says:

    Is today all about ranking? Seems that way.

  16. Mr. Palmer Says:

    btw—ewwww on the nut bust towel ( NBT)

  17. joe Says:

    Fuck luongo

  18. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ Palmer.

    Detroit EASY

    also Bethel 1/2, Blossom, Cincy, PNC 1


    basically loved everything except GWoods (though RnR is one of jams of tour), bethel 3, and this weekend (though had some great spots…)

  19. Jtran Says:

    Nice joe!

  20. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    “I have to imagine that seeing a ” subpar”Phish show in 3.0 is still better than anything else they have ever seen.”

    nope, because i’ve seen some of the best shows in 3.0

  21. Beantownboy Says:

    Go bruins!

  22. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    worst stanley cup finals ever.

  23. butter Says:

    Love the Wilson > sand vid release

    Super sick

  24. willowed Says:

    Vancouver can suck it

  25. albert walker Says:

    I’ll der try to curb the analyzing of phish if it bothers kids. that’s what I thought phish blogs were for. I can see it getting annoying.

    laterz comrades
    off to walk the dog

    gonna give this antelope another shot miner

Leave a Reply