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. mitch Says:

    robear, just teasing you. i know your inet blew chunks before you moved.

    don’t come crying to me tho. i’ve got 1.5 down between 4 guys to share. williamsburg’d. we live in a no mans land for inet in the city. bizarre.

    i can’t even remote in to friends computers now its that slow. 😯

  2. mitch Says:

    chuck, http://tinyurl.com/448mpl5 – use the top link and lemme know if you need help

  3. EL Duderino Says:

    OK T3 LOL

  4. voopa Says:

    Hell even us Westies in cubicles got shut out of the Greek. Almost shut out of Tahoe too, but thanks to the LN app, I scored.

  5. Kaveh Says:

    they need west coast runs, not west coast shows.


  6. Guyute711 Says:

    There is only one team in Buffalo. The Sabres.

  7. Robear Says:

    Voop-star is case in point: re screwed WC fans. Cats been seeing Phish in Cali since they first came out here.

    Shut out of 2 of 3 Greek shows.

  8. mitch Says:

    where there’s a will (and a huge bank account) there is a way

  9. Guyute711 Says:

    Hate to see people in the parking lot of the grocery store begging for change as I walk in to get my ramen noodles. One step away.

  10. mitch Says:

    got this from reddit the other day but saved it til more people were around


  11. JP Says:

    Miner must have mentioned the storage jam reprise in reba from 7.3 set 1, no? much more intnetional than an ambient outro

    loved 7.3 set 1, def fav from sb9

    bag it, tag it, put in the self-storage

  12. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Hey Folks- So envious of the Leg 2 planning. It is going to be large.

    Miner- Great write up. It was a special set indeed. Boyz were on all night.

    I love seeing Mound and others get the proper polish they deserve.

  13. kenny powers Says:

    @ el dude

    “don’t mention the Bills to G$$$ I tease him all the time that he’s a Bills fan. Really makes him angry, which in turn makes me do it more.”

    kind of like how he purposely drives you mad with 27 minute art-rock in a hotel room after sugar cubes because he knows it dives you crazy?

    haha you guys are a riot.

    so he really hates the Bills? i assumed anyone west of Albany would be all Bills. or maybe Stillers.

  14. EL Duderino Says:

    @ KP

    LOL YEP!

  15. kenny powers Says:

    i’m pumped about the Lion OS, i just ordered a trackpad because i want to get in on that gesture business.

  16. Chuck sweD Says:

    thanks, mitch

    for some reason, i hate the multicolored icon for mission control… it just doesn’t fit in with the typical clean mac look.

    when i get home, i’m gonna go with this instead:

  17. kenny powers Says:

    chuck is racist

  18. mitch Says:

    thanks chuck, gonna use that one myself

  19. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Can someone please tell me what kind of cheese goes in a bacon wrapped peppadew?

  20. kenny powers Says:


  21. Guyute711 Says:

    It’s fun to tease the Duder about music. Some day he’ll realize Phish isn’t the only band that has made good music after 1975.

  22. Guyute711 Says:

    Goat Cheese

  23. EL Duderino Says:

    guoda brah

  24. mitch Says:

    cept if you are doing it the normal way, you can’t just drop any old png in there…. so i just messed up my mission control file. n00b status up in here.

  25. kenny powers Says:

    i take it duder doesn’t spin much ’84 Dead then, huh.

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