A Spectacular Set

7.3.11 - Watkins Glen (Graham Lucas)

On the last day of Super Ball, Phish not only threw down one of the most impressive second sets of the summer, they also played quite the first. With shrewd song selection, engaging interplay, and extra zest added to every piece, Phish unveiled—without question—the strongest opening set of the year, and many fan’s pick for their favorite set of the entire festival. Having already reviewed the wildly creative second set of July 3rd, let’s look back at this monster that kicked off Super Ball’s finale.

Of the six times Phish has played Bob Marley’s “Soul Shakedown Party,” three have been openers and a sure sign that a big-time night is ahead. Debuted as the first song at their legendary show on 2.17.97 at Amsterdam’s Paradiso, other opening versions came on 4.17.04 (sure—not exactly an instant classic) and 12.30.09. And when the opening notes of Marley’s original rang out over the concert field at Watkins Glen on the evening of July 3rd, we knew that were in for a treat.

"Mound" - 7.3.11 G.Lucas)

Busting into the old-school combination of “AC/DC Bag” and “The Curtain,” Phish set a retro tone for their opening stanza—a thread they would weave throughout the entire set. As the band wound down the final hits of their composition, everyone expected to hear “With,” but they threw us a left hook in the form of “Colonel Forbin’s!” For the first time since returning to the stage, the band used “The Curtain” as a composed “launch pad” into another song—a use popularized throughout their career. With the special vibe that defined Super Ball all weekend long, as Phish precisely played their Gamehendge classic, one could feel the oncoming narration. And just as they hit the crossroads, Trey let go of his guitar before “Mockingbird” for the first time since Vegas 2000, and he began to spin a yarn.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

Trey told a tale from ancient band history; a self-avowed true occurrence when they inadvertently locked themselves in their storage shed. With a lack of anything else to do—and no immediate way out—the band proceeded to break out their instruments and jam. Twisting the story like only he can, Trey jokingly explained that the entire festival was a projected reality of the band’s consciousness from their storage shed back in the day. And when the festival ended—and the band got released from their captivity—no one would have any recollection of the weekend. A quintessential tale that blended fact, fiction, lore, and humor with our actual experiences of the weekend, Trey continued the old-school feel of the set without even playing a note. But when Phish got back to music, they were all business.

Tearing off uncharacteristically supercharged versions of “Destiny Unbound” (with a ferocious funk jam), “Wilson” (with a strong, whole-band “Mind-Left Body” tease), and “Mound” (with a spectacular final solo by Big Red), everything the band touched was turned to gold. Even throwing a “Big Black Furry Creatures” into the mix to enhance the retro vibe, Phish was playing this set to all everyone from jaded vets to drooling noobs. And as Trey punctuated “Mound” with a blistering showcase, he set the table for the final—and most impressive—sequence of the set: “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” “Time Loves a Hero,” Reba > Bowie.”

7.3.11 G.Lucas)

A day after resurrecting their post-hiatus opus “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” Phish threw down their other epic 2.0 jam—“A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing.” Riding the song’s menacing wave, when the snarling section ended one of the more profound segments the set emerged. Nodding to the ambient harmonies and abstract playing that graced the Storage Jam (and much of June,) Phish oozed into a gorgeous piece of patient psychedelia as day started to transform into night. Following the far-out realms that they reached in this experiment, Phish got the audience back on the same page with a juxtaposition of styles in Little Feat’s groove-based “Time Loves a Hero.”

But the climax of this torrid set came in the unlikely and (once again) old-school one-two punch of “Reba” and “David Bowie.” Daytime “Rebas” have provided vivid festival memories since The Clifford Ball’s immaculate Sunday version. Followed three years later by Oswego’s dusk performance and in 2003, by IT’s phenomenal afternoon rendition, it had been a while since a daytime festival set and “Reba” collided. But when this happened at Super Ball, one of the defining versions of the modern era resulted.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

Splashing into a laid-back groove, Mike and Trey took their time building their lines together, echoing and weaving melodies around each others’ ideas. The interplay of the two guitarists would be the defining facet of this version as they leaped into another dimension of sonic convergence. Finally exiting their one-minded symbiosis with a series of uncharacteristic rhythms licks, Trey moved into a final solo that floated atop the band’s majestic groove and Lead 35,000 people to the moutaintop. And as Fishman’s drum roll slammed the door on this dramatic excursion, the band broke out the song’s now-rare whistling ending. But as they entered the final verses, the band dropped the ball, butchering their attempt at the first complete rendition in ages. But playing off their own mistake and humorously embracing their flub, they guys never stopped playing when the lyrics ended, and—with stage antics—built an ambient bridge from the end of “Reba” into a set-closing “David Bowie.”

Super Ball Print (Masthay)

Tearing off an adrenalized and intricate version of yet another ancient opus, Phish underlined the vintage quality of this stanza. The outstanding communication and creativity that was on display throughout this frame flooded the final jam and the guys shredded a fierce take of their classic, moving from feel-good textures into far more harrowing territory before delivering the demonic tale to its final shrills. A thrilling exclamation point on a near-perfect set, “Bowie’s” airtight excursion dropped the hammer on a stunning first half of what would soon become one Phish’s best two-set shows since their return.

Soul Shakedown Party, AC/DC Bag, The Curtain > Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird, Destiny Unbound, Big Black Furry Creature from Mars, Wilson, Mound, A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Time Loves a Hero, Reba -> David Bowie

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443 Responses to “A Spectacular Set”

  1. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    @jtran, I can take care of most of your needs, except for the hotel part, sea-tac is a dive. Will email you shortly. Heady brews for lunch on your way thru town though? Check.

  2. Billy88 Says:

    That might have been the all time funniest curb!

  3. mitch Says:

    Just spoke with ms mango. Eeeeeewwww nothings gonna bring him back.

    Eeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwe nothings gonna bring him back. Eeeeewwwwwwwwwwww

  4. angryjoggerz Says:

    anyone up for a little tt sesh?

  5. mitch Says:

    Feel like a piece of shit right now. I’d never forgive myself if this happened when he was being watched by someone else. Hows it compare to me watching him????………

  6. RamblinMind Says:

    Mitch, so sorry to hear about your loss.

    Mourn your friend and remember everything you loved about him. Don’t be too hard on yourself – accidents are beyond our control.

  7. EL Duderino Says:

    I’d feel the same way Mitch concerning having guilt feelings.
    I wish we could make it better for you.
    Tough situation. sorry again.

  8. angryjoggerz Says:

    Man, Mitch; really sorry to hear about your dog, that is hard. Thinking of you.

  9. RamblinMind Says:

    @aj, i’ll be lurking the tt late-night, as is my wont

  10. mitch Says:

    Came to my buddies. Trying to zone out. Thanks for the words. I know we all say the same shit and only time does the real work. But your words and thoughts make this grass ball feel smaller and it helps. Cheers.

  11. EL Duderino Says:

    as a registered Democrat i’m not a fan of Nancy Pelosi but this Boehner House Speaker is a complete and total douche.

    why should most of us take on the burden and the richest Americans and Corporations not?!?!

    Someone please explain this train of thought too me? Please?
    We need $$$ to pay our bills? An increase in revenue seems pretty reasonable to this person.

  12. Mr palmer Says:

    It’s those god damn corporate jet owners!

    I think I’m going to take $1million loan out from myself then default on it next week. Stupid asses.. Fuck em all.

    Mike Bloomberg for president ’12

  13. EL Duderino Says:

    Fuck it dude! Let’s go Bowling!

  14. R.C Collins Says:

    Operation Gorge t-minus

  15. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    Night crew, engage!

  16. BingosBrother Says:

    It’d be funny if it wasn’t so damn sad that we choose the most despicable human beings on the planet to run things. Boehner? Pffftttt. unreal.

    From dead.net

    “Blair Jackson has definitely struck a nerve with his latest blog post asking folks for their desert island Dead picks. Being Dead Heads, a number of people have issues with the ground rules… But common ground does emerge, including Blair’s fondness for the 10/10/82 Frost. Also controversy, e.g. Grateful Dead Movie Soundtrack, Boon or Bane? Weigh in with your thoughts.”

    Um, boon and bane dude.


  17. tela'smuff Says:

    TT will solve the debt crisis, late night stylie

  18. MrCompletely Says:

    like any other list his has some good points, and some bad points. 3 from the 80s? I mean, that frost show is good, but top 12? etc.

  19. BingosBrother Says:

    True C. I found the forum lists and comments very informative. The knowledge in both of these fan bases really is staggering. Bet you and LD and voopa could put together a hell of a list. If you haven’t already of course.

  20. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    Yeah, let’s hear yours, C. I’ll try and post my top-of-the-head list. Sounds like releases count as one pick, right?

  21. Mdawg Says:

    Damn the Man!

  22. voopa Says:

    I’m anti-list. Having said that, the 4-4-85 GDTRFB jam>drums is worthy of any pro-jam list.

  23. vegas wolfmans Says:

    I found myself cutting and pasting quite a bit while reading the comments in that Blair Jackson piece. Lots of knowledge being thrown around. Much respect for the elders. Dig it.

    Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure Part 3? Can anyone confirm or deny this most excellent rumor?

  24. vegas wolfmans Says:

    Rotterdam 5/11/72 is the tits.

    2 cents.

  25. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    Dick’s Pick 12 6/26, 28/74
    Dick’s Pick 4 2/13-14/70
    Dick’s Picks 14 11/30-12/2/73
    5/2/70 Harpur College
    …something like that. Real quick, probably missing something, like 11/11/73

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