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. Robear Says:

    Have 2 Monday UIC @ bingosbrother. Trying to trade for any two Tahoe’s. One is yours if I don’t make the trade soon.

  2. Mike in Austin Says:

    The Chris Kluwe/Nate Jackson thing on Deadspin is gold.

  3. EL Duderino Says:

    @ GDad

    Yes! Very Much…
    I wanna say I had this on cassette way back when. My memory is a little foggy. But Yes! I love it!

  4. EL Duderino Says:

    @ Robear

    Can’t you just work those 2 Tahoe shows if you can’t score tix?
    Not that you wanna work every show you go to, but more so a last resort?

  5. BingosBrother Says:

    Word Rob. BB’ers in need before my friend though. Good luck.

    set the music free>
    boogie on reggae woman>
    set the music free>
    wolfman’s brother>
    set the music free>
    serve somebody>
    set the music free,
    swinging like a hammer

    Sounds sick alf! congrats!

  6. Gavinsdad Says:

    Right on el dude. That show soothed my soul many a day in college.

    UIC hotel post – me and my friends are at the burnham. It’s close enough to the venue. Rates are ok…just wanted to mention that I got their global business rate which I signed up for over the phone and got approved same day. That helped chop a good 40/50 bucks per nite off the rate.

  7. halcyon Says:


    Sorry we missed you. We got back from being back east on Saturday. Sorry we missed you. We have to have you and the fam up for the weekend. Where did you end up eating in Carbondale?

  8. Kaveh Says:

    @willowed…sorry dude…it is all Green and Gold again this year. 🙂

    @neg: you friend sold the whole lot, as I was in contact with him but by the time my friends came to a conclusion all his tickets were gone. No worries, it will work out,

  9. EL Duderino Says:

    Blue and Orange
    F Green and Gold


  10. EL Duderino Says:

    I’ll vote for the Blue and silver before the Green and Gold

  11. mitch Says:

    holy cow, great new feature on safari. two finger slide to the left goes to the previous page. however, if you do it slow, it won’t load the whole site and just slides to the last view. really slick looking.

  12. mitch Says:

    el dude, ahem, its blue and white.

  13. EL Duderino Says:

    Got the new Lion Mitch… started doing that for me now too

  14. EL Duderino Says:

    NFC is the only conference in Football Mitch… 😉

  15. Admiral Ackbar Says:


    Congratulations from one extraterrestrial to another. May your love be strong, may your cats be delicious, and may your traps be rare and easily identifiable from a safe distance.

    Yours in Forceitude,
    Tha Admiral

  16. Robear Says:

    Tix not for me, duder. Have a whole pack of friends that live out here, that got shut out. Same story as Greek. Imagine that? West Coast kids shut out of west coast shows. Thanks to all the spoiled phanners from the east, flying out.

    Only the spoiled douches in the Telluride area got priority tickets. West coast kids get stub hub for shows.

  17. EL Duderino Says:

    Maybe Trey will move to S.F. Robear to end the madness

  18. mitch Says:

    west coast kids shoulda put the bong down during the on sale, eh?

  19. kenny powers Says:


  20. kenny powers Says:

    how cool that this is today’s topic – i just spun this set Saturday for the first time, here’s a repost:

    “i had a peak Phish listening experience yesterday. i had not yet spun the first set of Superball day 3 (i know, i’m way behind). my drive down to my folks house was the perfect length to spin the whole set, and i spun Lenny Stubbe’s DPA recording (get it NOW!).

    i have to say, that is one of the greatest Phish first sets i have ever heard. just phenomenal playing the whole time, great song choices, nasty playing….and then thy toss a little ambient soundscape premonition with the ASIHTOS outtro, making you say “holy shit, this set was phenomenal BEFORE they introduced any type II whatsoever”. and then Bowie to cap off? icing on the cake.

    yeah they may have borked the fuck out of the Reba whistle part and ending but that is a GORGEOUS version with a sick DEG section.


  21. mitch Says:

    spoiled douches have houses in telluride cause they are biznass savvy and knew to request them before allowing them to play there. if i had a house up there, id want a ticket to the show.

  22. Robear Says:

    Maybe we can get priority tickets based on zip code through PTBM? Or maybe some real shows in the bay area to lighten the pressure.

    Or maybe new management, called Green Light, instead of Red Light.

  23. Robear Says:

    Mitch, the elitists don’t need you to defend them.

  24. Kaveh Says:

    Whatever @ElDude. (Gone for months and then comes back when NFL talk starts again…hmmm).

    Still need a finished and final deal before the league can come to life again. Nothing officially done as of this morning. Hoping.

  25. mitch Says:

    *knew to request tickets before allowing phish to play there

    too many thems up there

    dude, also loving the autocorrect on posting here. its like being on an iPhone.

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