The Festival Finale

7.3.11 - Watkins Glen Dave Lavery)

After all the tremendous music at Super Ball over the first two days, Phish saved their best (conventional) performance for last, closing the festival with their most impressive two sets of the weekend. With spectacular song selection, improvisation galore, and a sharp, four-minded communication, the band tore apart each of Sunday’s sets. Today, let’s discuss set two.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

The defining quality of the festival’s finale was the musical connection between the band members throughout. Despite what song or style they played, they were tapped in to each other’s ideas and created innovative music from each and every piece. The setlist may have looked a bit strange on paper, but Phish executed nailed their final frame of Super Ball superbly, and with a hearty dosage of risk-taking jamming.

With their communication skills shining after a creative opening leg and over ten hours of playing at the festival, Phish combined several launch pads into a set that never relented. The result was some of the most cohesive jamming of the weekend and a twisting musical adventure that ended with a fireworks display to match the musical theatrics. Some of the band’s most exploratory jaunts of the festival came in “Disease,” “Light,” and “Waves,” while the set was not short on grooves, featuring an explosive “Party Time” and the slick combination of “Ghost” and “Jibboo.” Within this stanza, Phish showcased their revitalized jamming for their audience with every piece they touched.

“Disease,” “Light” and “Waves” all explored variant styles of music while providing the central jams of the set. Breaking down the high-speed rock of “Disease” with groovier textures, Trey began chopping rhythm licks and the band responded with short offerings that created a percussive whole. Mike—much like the dynamic in “Golden Age”—began to throw down bass lines underneath the music that strongly influenced the direction of the jam as Trey, Page and Fish interacted up top. Then, slowing into a murky texture with Mike still at the helm, the band patiently—and seamlessly—bled into “No Quarter.” The set’s opening excursion had found gold.

7.3.11 D.Lavery)

The contour of Super Ball’s “Light” more closely resembled the multi-tiered versions of 2010 than the shortened outings we’ve seen this summer. Settling out of Trey’s guitar solo, the whole band band opened up the song’s jam for the first time, in earnest, since last fall and came up with an instant classic. Page initiated a melody that Trey latched onto immediately and sculpted into a delicate picking pattern that set the tone for the intricate experiment. All band members locked together in a forward-looking groove which, before too long, moved into calmer waters. Mike and Trey stepped forth to lead the band in through a totally original jam that moved—naturally—through a dreamy psychedelia and into a final section of new-age funk.

Pausing to exhale as they concluded “Light,” the band stepped right into “Waves.” A cathartic, festival-sized guitar solo graced the first half of the jam, while after the lyrical reprise, Phish dropped into the void. In a jam that featured soul-touching soundscapes, and harmonies you could feel as well as you could hear, the band showcased yet another brilliant improvisational style. At times evoking sounds of the Storage Jam from the previous night, Phish had the audience floating amidst a blissful, cosmic space, gradually increasing the intensity of the music and moving towards a perfectly-placed version of “What’s the Use?.”

7.3.11 (Dave Lavery)

In between these early and late set combos, the band dropped a blistering “Party Time” and combined unique renditions of both “Ghost” and “Jibboo.” As the guys reached a smooth yet driving canvas in “Ghost,” Trey and Mike’s interplay stood out again as each tore off infectious licks. Bringing the music into the uplifting realm, the band got into intricate interplay that didn’t focus on massive bass lines, but moved outwards quickly into abstract territory. And once the band reached an ambient plane, Trey came in with “Jibboo.” After using “Ghost” more unconventionally, in “Jibboo” the band came together in a monstrous, whole-band groove session that served as a mid-set peak.

Closing the frame with an anti-climactic choice of “Stealing Time” (“YEM” would have sealed the deal), the band had thrown down plenty of musical meat to satiate even the most jaded fan. And as the fireworks display started amidst the “First Tube” encore, continued through the post-show selection of Simon and Garfunkel’s “America” and into the post-show silence, we watched colors explode in mid-air —a physical manifestation of the musical pyrotechnics we had witnessed all weekend long. And with amidst this poignant silence, we had the chance to reflect on all that Super Ball was and forever will be—a historical weekend in Phish history.


Jam of the Day:

Light” 7.3.11 II

A top-notch rendition featuring a wide-open jam.



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563 Responses to “The Festival Finale”

  1. kayatosh Says:

    wow, palms. ride the wave. good luck

  2. joe Says:

    or should I just be like most people and ignore it completely?

  3. Mr. Palmer Says:

    try bloomberg @ joe.

    The Economist and Barrons i find most informative but those you probably have to pay for online.

  4. joe Says:

    thanks. Just kind of looking for the big picture economics of it and not so much of the political angle/mudslinging.

  5. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Joe- is good source of info all things finance. Good articles on all sorts of stuff in there. Another favorite of mine.

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    the comparison between Fall 72 and Fall 73 has been greatly on my mind in the last 6 months Ramblin. To kind of an insane obsessive degree.

    For the most part that’s a discussion for another time and place but I do think Fall 72 is underrated in comparison to 73. It’s absolutely when their ‘mature’ jamming style came to fruition – basically post Veneta. Fall 72 most of the big jams are very, very pure-modal in style, essentially off the Miles Davis 1970 template. Billy Phil and Jerry form a modal “jazz trio” and throw ideas at each other, which, interestingly, Bob and Keith form a kind of “outside pair” and tend to do a lot of sharing ideas back and forth around the edges. Jams ebb and flow from form to formlessness and back.

    By fall ’73 they’ve fully developed the true “grateful dead style” of jamming based on recurring themes and that sophisticated Wake of the Flood style interplay. It’s more fluid and sophisticated but less raw and explosive. There are more of those planned segues and clever moments. Plus they push the boundaries of space and Tiger type jams ever deeper – but not as far as it goes in 74. So to me 73 is the sweet spot, the balance point on the spectrum.

    There also big differences in the feel and tone; to me it comes down to the fact that in fall ’72 they’re reeling from the (impending but clear) loss of Pigpen and to me that tour is when the true bittersweet pathos quality of GD music comes to fruition. Plus Jerry’s voice sounds amazing. So there’s something about the feel of first set type stuff and ballads in ’72 that’s just perfect.

    Plus: Bird Songs. 9-10-72, bitches. Or any of 10 others from fall ’72. But really that one.

  7. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    meh the dead sucked with only 1 drummer, not even worth listening to

  8. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Thanks for the Bird Song recs @ C. 11/73 is my favorite month of GD music. Kind of like 11/97 for Phish for me. What is it with the month of November?

    Dear Phish,
    please feel free , after family obligations let up, to announce a mini turkey run somewhere in the US.

    Mr. P

  9. Robear Says:

    Palmer, thought I was the only one that dug SBIX ‘Numberline ‘

    Listen to Treys first solo after the verses.

    Straight up Allmans tribute to my ears. Like a Dickey/Duane mashup.

  10. Mr. Palmer Says:

    9/10/72 Bird Song…. just pressed play.

  11. joe Says:

    tomorrow night’s soundtrack has been established. september of 72 – the time of my birth (you old bastard). Never actually listened to the show from my bday.

  12. SillyWilly Says:

    I really hope Phish plays between Colorado and summer ’12.

    they’re on such a roll right now

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    nah Robear. I’m a Numberline fan. Only one i ever was upset about was PNC. Truth be told, the actual version wasn’t bad, just the castration of Ghost. Damn, wish were back pulling tubes at John’s place@ Just got a flashback. Go to UIC brother!

  14. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    been taking a phish break, till leg 2, doing a lot of dead listening, along with some african stuff you guys have been recommending, dub, random indie stuff and hip hop

    aceyalone – a book of human nature, forgot how good this is

  15. RamblinMind Says:

    “By fall ’73 they’ve fully developed the true “grateful dead style” of jamming based on recurring themes and that sophisticated Wake of the Flood style interplay. It’s more fluid and sophisticated but less raw and explosive.”

    That’s a good way of articulating the difference I was getting at, C. I came to the Dead from a blues/blues-rock background first and formost, so the “raw and explosive” element of especially 68-70, but also 71-2, is what I first dug. Ultimately I suppose I still prefer it, but only by a bit. Definitely huge improvements on the part of Phil and Billy to get to the jazz trio format you mentioned – listen to an Other One from 1970 and one from 73-74 and Billy and Phil are just light years ahead of where they were. Helps that the other drummer left

  16. RamblinMind Says:

    @Joe – 11.14.73 Set II is crushing my face. Thanks for the rec

    Gonna hit Here Comes Sunshine from the first set before heading to 1979

  17. kayatosh Says:

    ramblin: if you like HCS try 4.1.73. wowzah

  18. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Had to spin 11.17.73 Playing>UJB> Dew>UJB>Playin again. I’m sure there are pieces of music as good….i’m not sure there are any better though.

  19. fat bastard Says:

    just hit play on that bird song from 72 as well….hollywood bowl no less

  20. Robear Says:

    Palmer, I remember reading that setlist in deadbase. Then hustling down to the local head shop/tape trader and placing an order.

    Tell me if Treys solo sounds Allmansesque or if I’m just projecting. First solo, after the verses, at SBIX.

  21. mitch Says:

    i just reloaded and this is what comes up on my screen

    “meh the dead sucked with only 1 drummer, not even worth listening to”

    ^i about yelled out loud. i know you’re trolling and i’m outta context but that one hurt my head.

    i love them with one drummer. locked.

  22. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    ned hacked my account

  23. mitch Says:

    veneta dark star. there i said it.

  24. mitch Says:

    my fav dvd of all time so far is that dvd. melty.

    “home is where your veneta dvd is” became a quote for the rest of my life post msg this past run.

  25. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I got it in the car Robear. I’ll spin it again tomorrow. seriously, this Playin sammie is pure magic. First Dead i’ve listen to in a few months. Distance makes the heart grow fonder

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