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. AintNoTele Says:

    palaver indeed…you the man kaya, big big

  2. MrCompletely Says:

    ahhhhh man

    that’s a different and much deeper thing for sure

    but…just to flip it…it’s not 1994 anymore…but it’s not 2006 either

    see what I mean?

    entropy only pertains to a closed system. things do not always run down. sometimes things get better, at least for a time.

    your life is broader now than it used to be, don’t you think? you encompass more. I know you love phish but the venn diagram has changed. you don’t overlap as much as you used to.

    that’s true for the band too.

    also keep in mind you’ve already been through the changes that phish shows enact in people’s souls. you’re looking back from the other side now, so it’s a little less about you directly, and a little more about the younger folks, in a sense. but the music and the feeling of communion are always there for you.

    all I can say is try to enjoy it for what it is. because at its core, I think it’s exactly the same; the moment ends, but before it does, it’s the same moment it always was.

  3. guitarpicker420! Says:

    All this talk of PNC1 had me put it in. Chalkdust opener is freaking raging. Doesn’t go out there, but the peak is $

  4. albert walker Says:

    That band was ageless and that waves jam was timeless night 1 bethel.GD

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    when its working, its exactly the same I think. I like the Bethel Waves and the Detroit DWD and the Blossom Sally as much, in general, as I like any classic phish jams. I’m not trying to put them in any objective best-of discussion I’m not qualified for. I’m just saying, I think those are legit moments and not in the “grading on a curve” way we used to talk about

    that feedback cycle that elevates the band is a robust phenomenon and should be available to them until they are physically unable to play, as long as they still want to access it

  6. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Since basically everyone here is an old head compared to my wide-eyed young ass:

    I just want to say that 10-15 years from now, I can only pray to have half the youthful spirit that you guys have.

  7. RamblinMind Says:

    I’m with Duke – ya’ll are living pretty deep. Shit, I’d like to have your youthful spirit now.

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    gotta go cook dinner. later y’all. probably wife time tonight (that’s a good thing)

  9. plord Says:

    Reading back a few pages, re: Dead shows “bringing you home”, shit, in my opinion the sets started falling off in quality as soon as Drums->Space->RockingCloseout became the standard set structure. Pre-hiatus, the Dead could go into deep space anytime they fucking wanted, in either set, and if you weren’t ready that’s your problem.

    The encore can bring people back safely home, if they need it. That’s why Tweeprise, First Tube, GTBT and other rockers work so well. Or hell, Slave (seen two Slave encores) or the Augusta Reba.

  10. willowed Says:

    Duke I met you briefly in Camden. You young kids get me going.

    It’s great to see.

    Keep it rollin my man!

  11. albert walker Says:

    Kid for life yo

    No place in normal society for my burnt ass. They don’t want me.

  12. willowed Says:

    Gotta run as well. Wife is getting pissed. Away from home for a few days and now I sit here with you fuckers.

    You should all send a birthday card to my wife and apologize.

    Her birthday was on 6/7 when my ass was at greatwoods.

    Yup…I’m an asshole.

  13. MrCompletely Says:

    yea as soon as the mystery went away so did some of the magic

    those shows are all buildup to the emotional centerpiece, the weeper ballad post-space. the first half of set meant to get you flying, then space takes you deep, then the ballad hits you hard

  14. BrandonKayda Says:

    I really appreciate all of the great dialogue on this board – really cool people on here who are really into Phish. Don’t feel like you have to cut down the analysis

  15. guitarpicker420! Says:

    Jerry ballads….mmmmmmm

  16. SillyWilly Says:

    I’m just catching up to this conversation

    What’s different about Phish now than it must have been in 1994?

    I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I only know what you all have shared with me.

    What I do know is what I imagine is the same?

    and that’s the ability of the band and this community to foster the sort of deep reflection into all facets of life. These reflections are common place on the board.

    What do great artists do? They create metaphors that help us examine life from different angles than are immediately apparent (reality is full of immediately apparent angles)

    The jamming and the show experience are definitely part of Phish’s metaphor creation.

    And while the jamming was more prolific back in the mid-90s, one thing Phish has not ceased to do is foster an environment for all of us to reflect on our life and help each other to live in an authentic manner

    In the mid-90s when so many of you were my age the metaphors revolved around being in your early to mid-20s and all the crazy brain shit that goes on during that age

    But what’s so cool is Phish is spinning the metaphor for a greater range of people now. Phish is here creating for the 40 year old fathers and at the same time creating for the confused, uneasy 24 yr olds.

    and just as everyone is saying. Phish is change. We’ve always known this. I think that many of you have just learned to recognize change more for what it is than you could in the mid 90s.

    and, in my opinion, that’s what makes this whole ride so unbearably fascinating: It’s change within self-aware change reflecting back upon the change.

    dig it.

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    …which is formulaic for sure. I mean, crazy-ass videos aside, that model is based on the structure of initiatory rituals: get them riled up, then freak them the fuck out, then drop the Truth on them while they’re vulnerable, then send em home glowing

    but predictability is weak, regardless

  18. BrandonKayda Says:

    I love that structure though, only a band like GD could do that. It’s beautiful really, one of my favorite things about the GD is the sorrow that was underneath some of their ballads. They were just a really soulful group.

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    “Pre-hiatus, the Dead could go into deep space anytime they fucking wanted, in either set, and if you weren’t ready that’s your problem.”

    I don’t really think this is accurate tbh .. I think they really always followed the arc that they ended up with, set 1 more rockers, maybe a big forray into bird song or playin, but mostly song based shorter stuff. Then a second set frontloaded with jammers and out with a big nfa or around and around ..

    It is of course obvious that this got more entrenched and formulaic as time went on, but the basic structure was really there all along.

  20. plord Says:

    ‘zactly. and I say all this from the perspective of someone with a deep, almost insufferable love of Jerry ballads. But when you know they’re coming in the 7 slot of set II every show…

  21. BrandonKayda Says:

    Well put, @Silly.

    I like this conversation much more than finals tomorrow 😀

  22. SillyWilly Says:


    Having met you I know that you prefer to work under the radar, sprinkling kindness and joy behind the scenes

    and I hope I don’t offend that part of you, but I’ve been meaning to say this:

    You are truly an asset to this community and I really enjoy being around you.

  23. plord Says:

    My “‘zactly” post was agreeing with C.

    I think we’re hearing it differently, c0w. Once the big jam got slotted in the second set, it’s freaky rare to get a big jam in the first frame. Pre-hiatus, you’d see a 20 minute Other One in the first frame and DS->St.Stephen->Lovelight in the 2nd.

  24. c0wfunk Says:

    “also keep in mind you’ve already been through the changes that phish shows enact in people’s souls. you’re looking back from the other side now, so it’s a little less about you directly, and a little more about the younger folks, in a sense. but the music and the feeling of communion are always there for you.”

    This is a bit of what I”ve been thinking about when pointing out the “these new kids are still learning this thing” phenomenon .. Forever and for always the bulk of people actually out on tour with any given band will be an average of college age for a myriad of reasons (time, energy, flyin by the seat, etc)

    AW has made a point that times just aren’t as psychedelic right now as they may have been in the mid 90s; and that intense psyche energy you just don’t really feel in the same way; the group roar for that second deep jam just isn’t feeding back the way we remember.

    So phish changes, we change, and the times also change.

    I’m just tryin to keep up here 🙂

    SO close to done w/ work and I get to go to bed and wake up and see this shit in real life.

    First show since Telluride.

    I’m gonna lose. my. shit.

  25. c0wfunk Says:

    maybe up to 69 or so .. but check some early 70s setlist, once they got into the acoustic set thing; 71 / 72 / 73 for sure follows the arc I”m talking about..

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