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. Gavinsdad Says:

    Spanish Moon is hot shit. I think, and I’d have to do a little LF listening party, that TLAH is still my fave tune of theirs. LF was college music for me.

  2. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Shocked that they haven’t dropped a post-Halloween Spanish Moon yet, considering they jammed it pretty heavily during the cover set. There have been a bunch of times where it’s seemed imminent as well – at the time, I thought we were getting Tweezer->Spanish Moon at SBIX.

    Oh also, on a related note, fuckin’ Liquid Time? What the hell is going on with that bad boy?

  3. Robear Says:

    Lots of great songs on WFC. Any jams gonna come of it?

    We think no Spanish Moon without extra percussion, but I’m hopeful.

  4. marcoesq Says:

    It’s kinda crazy that literally 3 of their biggest jam vehicles came from 3 out of the 5 past Halloween shows.

    What about the other 2??

  5. win butler Says:

    Liquid Time? Silly monkey. That’s how Trey sells TAB Tickets.

  6. alf Says:

    would love to see fat man stick around, jammed out or not

    whats up BB? haven’t been around for what feels like forever (in actual time 4-5 days). what’s been going on?

    feeling today like i do when returning from tour: physically exhausted, mentally drained, and completely elevated and at peace. feelin the love. even had the beginnings of the wook flu last night but think the first good night’s sleep of the week got it before it really took off.

    today is a jerry day. GD 73 stylee with some fLegion of Mary for good measure.

  7. Guyute711 Says:

    People buy TAB tix? Weak.

  8. Gavinsdad Says:

    Kwl – you married?

  9. Robear Says:

    @ willowed is way out of it…….

    Regroup and hit Colorado!

  10. alf Says:

    best part about miner’s focused show reviews is that they are just as timeless as the music. looking forward to some day far in the future when i revisit a set or show i saw years before, with miner’s accompanying review to put me back in the moment. cheers Miner.

  11. Robear Says:

    Alf, smart enough not to plan a wedding during Phish shows.

    One woman is happy today, while others have broken hearts, from coast to coast.

  12. tela'smuff Says:

    congrats ALF!! welcome to the club.

    today is also a special day for me. 12 year anny of my favorite show.
    7-25-99!!!! anybody have a really good copy of this because i need an upgrade.

  13. alf Says:

    you bet GD

  14. voopa Says:

    This is supposed to be the one, tela’s.

  15. Gavinsdad Says:

    Ahhh….I knew it was in between legs….didnt know exactly when. Great to hear….Congrats to the both of you alf!

    (we’ve seen alot of lifes ups and downs happen on this board over the years…what a place)

    But more than that…what’s up with Alfs new wife letting him take a leg 2 honeymoon? She’s a keeper!!!!

  16. mitch Says:


  17. mitch Says:

    “I knew it was in between legs”

    ^resists all the urges that make you wanna swing at a slow pitch over the middle.

  18. BingosBrother Says:

    “best part about miner’s focused show reviews is that they are just as timeless as the music.”

    Yeah. Brought me back to a show I didn’t make today. Top notch writing.

    Word tela on 7/25/99. Know it. Bought a Kuroda Lights shirt that day and was stoked at the light solo for his birthday.


  19. mitch Says:

    robear, the pic from the page before you posted looks like a wax museum.

  20. willowed Says:

    Colorado seed has been planted. I just have to massage and nurrish it a bit more.

    Wife starts new career on 8/1. She is a bit stressed si it may be a tough sell.. CO. is a weekend so I may be able to pull a quick ninja mission to those shows.

  21. mitch Says:

    miner has a good writeup about the kuroda bday show. think it was in a deer creek venue history post.

  22. willowed Says:

    On a side note. Football is back biatches.

    New England Patriots will own this year!

  23. b-rock Says:

    Willowed – navy seal style under cover of darkness is the way to go. In an out before anyone realizes you were there.

  24. Guyute711 Says:

    New England – the dynasty is dead.

  25. mitch Says:

    Indy is bringing a hometown Super Bowl win ftr willowed

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