And It Was Alright…

5.28.11 (Chris Klein)

And then on Friday, Phish became Phish again. Combining all the elements that make them the greatest band on the planet, the guys threw down a tour-defining performance that left their week of quasi-mediocrity as a perplexing stumble in the summer of 2011. Somehow, last night Trey was able to let go and join in the collective glory that emerges when a four-minded patience allows greatness to develop. No jams were cut off, they were, instead, played with utmost creativity through their natural endings. And in Charlotte, instead of tearing through a setlist, Trey’s patience allowed the music—and show—to breathe and his band to explore, and lo and behold, one of the most cohesive, complete and brilliant shows of this era resulted.

Official Charlotte Print (Methane)

Sculpting a stratospheric journey by combining “Rock and and Roll” and “Ghost,” the band threw down enrapturing, top-shelf jamming of the likes that we haven’t seen since Detroit. To describe this profound excursion with metaphors and imagery would be to cheapen its absolutely impeccable nature. This is one of those nights I’m gonna let the music do the talking; grab a set of headphones and kick back. Embarking on “Rock and Roll’s” jam with an exploratory intent, the band departed from structure early and would up in a stunning four-piece conversation in which Trey was clearly listening and responding to Mike and Page, as the three engaged in a subconscious exchange—with Fishman—that blossomed into pure and unadulterated Phish. Moving through several stages of jamming, the band continued to delve deeper into the source, taking the audience to that magical place that we quest for with so much of our hearts and souls. And when the enchanting ride finally settled into an ambient plane, as if scripted, the band moved into the second “Ghost” of tour.

6.12.11 (B.Ferguson)

Monumental. Bliss. Perfection. Any of these words could be used to describe the music contained within last night’s “Ghost.” Just listen. Honestly. Just listen. This is the type of cathartic mastery that drove us down this crazy road to begin with. Making the hallowed MSG version look rather tame, last night brought the song to a whole ‘nother level in a defining performance of this era. The refined communication on display throughout was staggering, and the band sculpted a jam, that when combined with “Rock and Roll,” formed an mind-bending odyssey to be reckoned with. Just listen.

But that wasn’t all the band hand to offer after setbreak. Gone were the speedbumps that have plagued second sets of late—this frame flowed like liquid. Resolving the next-level improvisation with, “Free.” Perhaps, the move of the night came next when the band followed up “Free” with “Reba!” I’ve been talking about getting “Reba” into the second set all tour, and last night it happened in the biggest way. As tapped in as they were last night, placing “Reba” squarely in the second set was a shrewd and dreamlike decision. Focusing their passion and precision on the soulful groove, the band crafted a pristine version that felt like everyone was surfing the same wave through the universe; pure magic. Within the context of the-whole band conversation, Trey unleashed a series of leads that pulled at one’s heart while meticulously directing a phenomenal exchange. Things felt real again. Very real.

6.12.11 (B.Ferguson)

And then, as the band brought the stellar piece to a crescendo, they didn’t move into the song’s whistling ending, they moved into “Icculus.” It felt as though the band’s virtuosic playing had awakened the god of Gamehendge, as a spiritual quality laced the band’s improv all night long. While Trey—in a comically intense rant—reminded his audience to “Read the fucking book!” it felt as though he was reminding himself of what this is all about while still reeling from the extraordinary ride. In a powerful moment that was, simultaneously, fused with comedy, the band had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand, and the spirit of Phishiness was alive again.

Continuing this Phishy trend, out came Fishman for his first spotlight schtick of this tour— and it all flowed perfectly. Performing Syd Barret’s “Bike,” everyone was in the moment and having a blast—both onstage and in the crowd. It was just one of those special nights. Following Fish’s interlude with an engaging and intricate “Chalk Dust,” anything the band touched turned to gold at this point. And there was only one way finalize this evening: “You Enjoy Myself.” Taken off the shelf for only the third time this summer, the band punctuated the show with the seminal classic. It was just one of those nights.

6.5.11 (M.Stein)

And the show had something going from the get go. Instead of plucking a sign for a bustout to start the first set, Trey pulled up a piece of cardboard that read “Mike’s House.” And just like that, Phish launched into a show-opening “Mike’s Groove,” starting the night on the right foot. After a string of old-school singles, the band dusted off the Gamehendge pairing “Forbin’s > Mockingbird” for the first time in almost a year, navigating the old-school composition with precision. A swanky “Wolfman’s” that carried a serious collaborative groove provided another first set sign pointing towards a heavy-handed second half.

Combining to-die-for jamming, Gamehendge lore, tight compositions, and a stellar song selection, Phish came out and destroyed Charlotte last night, a refreshing breakout that needed to happen. With a peak-experience through and through, the band kick-started their final three shows of June in the biggest way possible, thank the Lord. And thank you, Phish, from the bottom of my heart.

I: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Bouncing Around the Room, NICU, Sample in a Jar, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Axilla, Wolfman’s Brother, Scent of a Mule, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan

II: Backwards Down the Number Line, Rock and Roll > Ghost > Free, Reba > Icculus, Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up, Chalk Dust Torture, You Enjoy Myself

E: Wilson > Loving Cup

670 Responses to “And It Was Alright…”

  1. Al Says:

    Island Tour TWIST was groundbreaking…

  2. Kevin Says:

    @guitarpicker
    I totally understand. As much as I tend to be open minded about people and their life situations, I can be a total hardass when it comes to my music. “Don’t fuck with the formula, man!’ It’s a character flaw…I get that:)

    97 has a whole lot of incredible qualities that I didn’t get until a year or so after it happened. But I appreciate what I saw now (I like being able to say I was at Hampton 97 even though I was steaming the whole time), even if I was given the band the mental middle finger at the time.

    I would wager that from 94-96 nobody loved Phish more than I did. And when they changed on me…it feels stupid as shit to say it, but I felt a little betrayed I guess. Somehow I let my feelings get hurt. Which is really stupid to say (nevermind feel), but that’s how it felt at the time.

    In the end, it lead to me being much more open minded in general. To not judge things too quickly or so harshly. I’m able to walk into any show with absolutely zero expectations and just take things for what they’re worth. Not just Phish, but any band I see. And ultimately, I bet I have a whole lot more fun than your average attendee.

    Thanks, Phish.

  3. Al Says:

    Just watched the “BDTNL” from Bethel on Phish Vimeo. Wow, can’t believe how far it went out there…Trey plays like in the mid 90’s. Check out Holmdel’s Maze. His guitarplaying improved so much compared to ’09. Wow.
    The Sand from MPP is still my favorite version this tour. Incredible peak.

  4. guitarpicker420! Says:

    ’98 I saw close to 20 shows. Fantastic year, loved it at the time and still love it. I see what you’re saying Kevin. I’m looking for music to do 1 of 2 things, either open my mind dramatically, or make me shake my ass. When one of those 2 things does not happen, when they are sloppy, when Mike and Fish aren’t locked in, when Trey is playing derivative jams and not going anywhere, then I tend to not like it, no matter the era. The straight rock shows that have been getting grief for the last week, those shows make me shake my ass like no body’s business, thus not only do I like them, but I listen to them repeatedly. Love bobbing my head.

  5. Jtran Says:

    Severe thunderstorm warning through midnight in Raleigh

  6. Kevin Says:

    Same here, man. I saw first night of MPP and loved the shit out of it. I also preferred first night of Charleston to the 2nd — I still can’t resist it when they nail the composed songs.

    I always dance my ass off for a nailed Divided Sky:)

  7. guitarpicker420! Says:

    I misspoke, when neither of those two things happen, either mind-melting jams or ripping dance music, then I’m not happy. Doesn’t have to be both, but both is nice!

  8. voopa Says:

    Looks like they got spared

    for now!

  9. cotuitkid Says:

    first time couch touring this tour. has there been any reliable streams i should know about? or is it a complete crapshoot every night?

  10. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    set II undermind tonight

  11. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    it’s been shit every night streamwise, except for those 2 with real streams. that was fun.

  12. cotuitkid Says:

    thanks. kansassouri not on tour this time around? think that was the handle. put out quality streams consistently during fall tour last year.

  13. Mr palmer Says:

    Camden stream was the best I’ve ever seen. Not only great audio , but a $$ video also. Pretty sporadic outside of that.

  14. P.S.H.S. Says:

    good bedtime reading/listening, especially for couch tour parents
    http://youtu.be/yGDm45niITI

  15. litteringandd Says:

    I think Rory McIlroy listened to that ghost before his round today

  16. voopa Says:

    Norm MacDonald tweeted that Rory and Tiger will be in the final pairing in next year’s Masters…pretty bold, but he knows his shit.

  17. Jtran Says:

    Cars Trucks Buses

  18. voopa Says:

    Yay!

  19. Jtran Says:

    ucusty sounds find so far

    (until it just cut out)

  20. sanchothehutt Says:

    Peaches!!

  21. voopa Says:

    Oh dammit.

  22. Jtran Says:

    Maybe I should do something else tonight llfa

  23. RamblinMind Says:

    Surprised they brought out Peaches two shows after Georgia

    Wasn’t at that show and I’m not at this one, so I don’t care. Just sayin

  24. Jtran Says:

    stream back!!

  25. doc Says:

    Boys sound tight.

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