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. Palmer Says:

    Nice to see some love for Pnc 1. I had a great time at that one. After Midnight and Drowned were two legit jams, especially the Drowned.

    Set I had a that Punch, Moma, R&R, Sand Tube sequence that just blew the fuck up. Great phish show IMO.

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ agreed. 100% lost in the shuffle…

  3. Jtran Says:


    The Drowned might be my jam of the tour (if we don’t count DETWD)

    I’m a sucker for those open spaces a la fall 98 though

  4. Bwana Says:

    interesting: for as rare as JJLC is (about 30 times since ’93) it still has been played almost every year the band played — only skipped in ’92 and ’04…

  5. RicksFork Says:

    Also agree on PNC 1. Set fire to the grass dancing in set 1. Great run of dancing songs. Set 2 delivered what set 1 set up.

  6. willowed Says:

    Haven’t had a chance to spin that Camden Bowie yet. I do recall thinking it was pure fire and top jam next to DWD and Curtain

    Confirmation? I’m sure some of you gave it a relisten

    I recal thinking there was some silky interplay between page and trza.

  7. MrCompletely Says:

    yo @gdad FWIW

    for me it really only matters during couch tour, when the nitpicking interferes with my enjoyment

    after the show, the next day on here or whatever, it is just a bunch of bs-ing and chit chat. I do enjoy it and find it interesting but basically that conversation is in service of my post-tour iTunes “best of” mix-playlist-making…

    I 100% agree that if it interferes with your perspective at the shows it’s time to back burner the analysis, which is utterly secondary

    in the moment at the show, all that matters is the moment at the show

    here the next day, we’re not there, and all we’re left with is ones and zeros embodied in some audio relic of the thing itself, a thin and flat imitation of the original.

    It seems to me like we as a group are doing a better job of keeping the two sides of the discussion clear from each other, which results in fewer hurt feelings I think, but also we’re not talking about it as explicitly as we used to…

    make no mistake, regardless of how you feel about the choices they’re making regarding setlists and jamming, this tour marks a progression for the band in terms of sustained high level performance quality

    I think everyone gets that but we just kind of stop saying it every now and then b/c its repetitive

    all nitpicking aside I am impressed and pleased with the improvement the band has shown this tour

  8. willowed Says:

    I got lost in it for a while. One of those mind left bosy experiences if you knwo what I mean 😯

  9. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Pnc 1 had 2 weak moments imo. The borked Sky and the late set II Alaska, but there are very few perfect Phish shows, so whatever. The YEM was keeper too.

    I haven’t listen to Camden yet. You guys scared me off :). I gotta get on that.

  10. willowed Says:

    body not bosy

  11. willowed Says:

    know not knwo

  12. MrCompletely Says:

    I don’t plan on backing off the analysis @aw

    that’s what we do here really. other things happen but that’s the context of the discussion IMO

    I actually think we’re witnessing a super fascinating moment

    if you’re being completely negative right now you’re crazy, the band is playing great

    but the puzzled reactions to the sudden withdrawal of the jams isn’t just silly or an overreaction. it’s a legit phenomenon that’s hard to reconcile from a fan perspective, if you care about those sorts of things

    for me I just try not to get too into the “why” though I understand it – it basically comes down to psychology of Red and the boys and like I said earlier: mercurial and contrary. Trying to guess what the Trza will do is a sucker’s game.

    But when they set the bar so high out of the gate it’s natural to wonder why they haven’t, seemingly, even been trying to hit that mark since


  13. MrCompletely Says:

    lol having one again right now @wil?

  14. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    we’ll never really know until we ask. someone just send trey an email already

  15. gavinsdad Says:

    Nobody needs to curb a thing. You know I have insane love for this place and many of it’s people. There has been eloquent and well defined analysis of Phish on here since my first 5 or 6 months of lurking. Old cats like pence and Matso and manatee and C and GP420 have an amazing grasp of this band as do many many others on here. I don’t have a beef with thAt style, all of you that have met me know generally who I am…I like to get the fuck down to the band. And I do where I can.

    What is really happening under the surface is that I am old and that wide-eyed kid is experiencing the chinks in phish’s armor like some of you have and the realization that it’s not 1994 anymore is just very….real. I’ve been trying to deny the overall aging of me and my crew and the band by pardoning them. But the other thing is that I’ve been on here for 2 years straight and I can’t be sure I’ve really done anything else that consistently in my entire life.

    Just gotta air it out for a minute. You guys and gals are the shit. This place remains the icing on a real sweet cake I’ve been eating for 20 years.

  16. AintNoTele Says:

    Hey crew

    Anyone have an extra lot A parking pass for either night ATL?

  17. willowed Says:

    The age piece is wearing on me too Gdad
    After my run I felt really down at MPP. The bones were hurting and it got to my head.
    Turned 35 this year and my repsonse time it suffering.

  18. DukeOfLizards Says:


    Very similar to the 1/1 or Bethel Bowie IMO. They had moments where they peered into the abyss but they never jumped in.

  19. Summer98 Says:

    I haven’t been let down at all. Separate the post-show analysis from the in show glory. It’s possible but requires a clear mind and solid peeps around you.

  20. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @GD – there’s nothing constant in life except change. Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean getting worse (god help us all if it does). I am reminded of the scene from I’m Not There (a great film by the way) where Dylan has just played his first electric shows in England and they are interviewing some people in the crowd afterward and this one guy, all disgusted, says something like “I can’t believe he’s not what he was, he’s changed” My advice is to just go with it. Have fun at the shows. I can say for myself, veteran of something approaching 90 shows since ’95, that the peaks that I have seen this summer (Blossom Sally) are as good as nearly anything I’ve ever heard them play.

    When they can deliver the goods like that on any given night, I suppose its natural to be a bit disappointed when they don’t.

  21. Summer98 Says:

    Truth about the impact of age though. I listen to older shows and hear flubs I never heard before.

  22. guitarpicker420! Says:

    And as far as the age thing is concerned, I’m 36 now, and after the weekend of dancing, my feet were killing me. Don’t know if my body could physically handle a week of tour anymore. Need to hit the gym more.

  23. Jtran Says:

    Bethel Waves


  24. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    Superball Roses


  25. kayatosh Says:

    well put, mr. C. There’s discussion, palaver and then there’s being there.

    35, 36 pshaw. yall are young.

    g night. got to get my zzzz’s; I have a show to attend (from my computer desk chair) tomorrow.

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