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. Mike in Austin Says:

    I think Negev has extras also with a camping pass. Miner has extras too.

  2. Guyute711 Says:

    I’ll count it. 13 days bane free for me. Thinking about getting the job getting haircut today. Currently up after staying up all night trying to right the timeline again. Now I just have to stay up until at least 8 tonight. Almost a full pot of coffee deep right now.

  3. Kaveh Says:

    @Duke: thanks…let me confirm with the troops. I have your email.

    I’m wondering, as on the LiveNation site, you can buy a camping pass for general still, but it is listed at Aug 5th. Thus I’m wondering if you buy this, can it be used on Sat only? Anyone know?

  4. Kaveh Says:

    Thanks MiA.

  5. Gavinsdad Says:

    Gorge website or Phish.com may be able to make those distinctions @Kaveh. I dunno off the top of my head…we cheated in 09 (consider it dan)

  6. Robear Says:

    Top of the mornin all!

    Yes, Miner and Negev have Gorge extras.

    I need two for each night of Tahoe.

    Don’t rock my boat, Mango! 2011 has been a good streak!

  7. Gavinsdad Says:

    @T3 – you family man for leg 2 or hitting the road?

    Anyone else think Time Loves A Hero could be stretched out significantly? When I saw the Raleigh version last Summer I imagined a huge jam sprouting out of that gooey slinky groove. Didnt happen, even with the mind baby. Love the drumbeat and ride cymbal work in that song. Really nola funky to me.

  8. Kaveh Says:

    @GDad…did some digging…couldn’t really find anything. I told my friends to just call LiveNation and see what they say.

  9. Guyute711 Says:

    We need another dj if you are up for it Robear.

  10. Kaveh Says:

    Thanks Robear.

  11. Gavinsdad Says:

    Miner – howsabout an “extra sauce” post (ie mound, Wilson, luolma, etc) with clips?

  12. marcoesq Says:

    Morning everyone. Sitting here in MIA waiting for connecting flight to the Carib after my 6am flight this morning..

    I travelled 1,000 miles before 8am this morning

    Re: Time Loves a Hero- YES! I hope they would. Love that tune, and pretty much most LF tunes they play but Time Loves is straight happy, Puerto Rico fun

  13. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    family man 100%

  14. Guyute711 Says:

    Time Loves a Hero is one song that can get stuck in my head for days.

  15. Robear Says:

    Have not even been put in a position to pick a wedding or a Phish run. Either, my friends are done with the marriage thing, I’m not that popular, or I’ve just been really lucky.

  16. Robear Says:

    Lololol G7, that song gets stuck in my head every time I hear Phish cover it! Just ask my girls.

    Was also thinking, are there any jam vehicles that might come from WFC? Is there a ‘drowned or rocknroll, or crosseyed in there?

  17. Robear Says:

    Half the house still sleeping. Can’t make any dj noise yet…

  18. marcoesq Says:

    Also, I think Phish should cover The Who’s Slip Kid. Listening to that yesterday, definitely has the Phishy feel to it

  19. Guyute711 Says:

    Wish I was sleeping, insomnia is killing me lately.

  20. mitch Says:

    Silly ticketmaster. They sent me an event reminder for Phish. They must have learned nothing about me over the years. Great concept for stoners but poor execution. There should be a Phish clause: they don’t forget the Phish from VT.

  21. mitch Says:

    Robear, spanish moon

  22. mitch Says:

    Also, dont bogart that joint could stick around a capella.

  23. Guyute711 Says:

    Really want to see Rocket In My Pocket again. I thought that was excellent at Blossom.

  24. Robear Says:

    Anyone on the fence still about the Gorge:


  25. marcoesq Says:

    Really, any LF tune that they play turns to gold. They have a handle on LF like they do Zepp

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