Dancing On the Altar

8.5.11 - The Gorge (Graham Lucas)

Taking a fantasy-like setlist and tearing it to shreds, Phish crafted a larger-than-life dance party on Saturday night in the greatest venue on Earth. Focused on wide open-dance grooves to match the Gorge’s vast surroundings, Phish threw down a rhythmic juggernaut on the second night of tour; a perfect yin to the exploratory yang of tour’s opening night. Anchoring the second set with two-massive dance excursions in “Tweezer” and “Sand,” the band threw down dueling crack-like groove sessions set that will need to be relistened time and time again to be fully appreciated. However, the entire second set deserves a full run down. so let’s get to it.

8.5.11 (G.Lucas)

After a rocking “Chalk Dust” opener, “Tweezer” cracked open the second-set fiesta with an carpet bombing of chunky grooves that, on the Gorge’s massive, open-air sound system, sounded like a slice of heaven. A sonic aura that can not be replicated by soundboards and only approximated by audience tapes, poured onto the crowd like nectar from the gods. Laced with phenomenal interplay between Trey and Mike, the band oozed with attitude and triumph through a throughout this soul-cleansing romp. Then—building off of this mountain of rhythmic narcotics—Phish morphed from a snarling exercise into a melodic, four-part exchange that added introspective intrigue into the mix. Taking their time to work through this section, the band built an eventual bridge into “Prince Caspian.”

Favoring the song’s classic, guitar-solo contour, Trey tore into this “Caspian” like he hasn’t in some time while the band has, more often than not, taken the piece in variant directions. Skirting the song’s final chords, Phish drifted into an ethereal texture towards that, surprisingly, merged with “Sand.” And at this juncture, we met our second sky-scraping dance escapade of the set.

8.5.11 (G.Lucas)

A rendition that fused “Sands” past and present, last night’s outing featured an amalgam of styles. Embarking on this ocean of rhythmic adventure, Trey likened refined jazz player, but by the end, he assumed his rightful position as the world’s greatest guitar assassin. Taking the band out with some of the most laid-back funk stylings you’ll ever hear, and drenching the music with a swanky, James Brown sensibility, Trey laid down a ridiculously infectious opening. The piece’s recent jazz-proclivity shone as it built, peaking in a series of atonal rhythm chords by Trey before he annihilated the “Sand’s” final sequence with a six-string assault. And then—at the top of the jam—Trey wove in the “Tweezer” lick and brought the band—legitimately—back into “Tweezer!” A completely head-bursting maneuver had the crowd in dribbles as the band slowed back into the chunky groove. But just as soon as they had pulled-off the unprecedented move and seemed headed for the Storage shed, they pulled the rug from underneath the experimental direction in favor of a heat-seeking “Birds of a Feather.”

A brief exhale of “Waste” made way for…“Golden Age!?” This time around, the band employed the base-song only as a set that featured one surprise after another still had one of its best yet to come—a unexpected late-set, left-hook in “Reba.” A delicate and majestic build matched the environs congruently as as Trey ripped off one enchanting, perfectly phrased lick after another. A cool breeze blew through the amphitheatre as if cued by Kuroda, enhancing an overwhelmingly blissful late-night scene.

8.5.11 (G.Lucas)

To wrap up a set of dreams, the band closed with a “medley” style “Antelope” into which “Reba,” “Tweezer,” and “Sand” were teased in the intro before “Antelope’s” ferocious jam passed through a “Golden Age” section, summing up all the major points of a spectacular set of music. Stringing together creative versions of their classic songs, last night turned into a cathartic celebration of Phish groove. And that exact vibe highlighted the opening set, taboot.

An syrupy, early-show, “Moma” immediately brought memories of the previous night’s musical pornography that was “Rock and Roll,” using the piece to artistically bridge both shows. At sunset, Little Phish came out to play with a thick version of “On Your Way Down” that featured a guitar solo for the ages. And then, upon the onset of night, came the opening half’s defining jaunt in “Wolfman’s -> Maze.” Another in the emerging series of “Wolman’s” jams that depart from funk grooves and move into unique explorations of their own, this rendition passed through a tease of Led Zepplin’s “Heartbreaker” and a subsequent staccato funk breakdown before passing through a darker realm and into a scorching “Maze.” Finishing the first set on the old-school tip, the band paired “Wilson” and “Fluffhead,” punctuating an impressive opening frame.

Each of the past two summer tours, the band has made monumental leaps from leg one to leg two, but after an incredible June run and Super Ball, I wondered if a similar quantum leap was possible in 2011. Well, Phish came right out of the doors and answered that question with, arguably, their two best shows of the summer—an explosive start that few could have imagined. But if there is one virtual-objectivity that we were reminded of after a year’s absence is that there is no venue on the planet that speaks to Phish like the the Gorge. But, nonetheless, I’m willing to travel south to see what this Hollywood Bowl is all about! Plus, we have plenty to listen to in the meantime.

I: Possum, The Moma Dance, Sample in a Jar, Limb By Limb, Ocelot, Poor Heart, On Your Way Down, Wolfman’s Brother > Maze, Wilson, Fluffhead

II: Chalk Dust Torture, Tweezer > Prince Caspian > Sand -> Tweezer > Birds of a Feather,Waste, Golden Age > Reba, Run Like an Antelope

E: Suzy Greenberg, Sanity, Tweezer Reprise

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423 Responses to “Dancing On the Altar”

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  1. JMelby Says:

    Yummy yummy yummy!!!!! Nice write up Mr. M!!!

  2. willowed Says:

    carpet bombing of chunky grooves


  3. Mdawg Says:

    Phish destroys the world 2011

  4. Cable Hogue Says:

    Tweezer “oozing with attitude and triumph” indeed.

  5. albert walker Says:

    Great write up miner.

    May have finally learned my lesson about missing the gorge. I’m out most likely til I get back from tour.

    See you kids in LA.

  6. willowed Says:

    I am just finishing up the Sand

    This shit is dirty

    It went from silky cool head bobber to straight up rocker face melter

  7. nonoyolker Says:

    Great write up. Need to spin set 2 ASAP. Hope the left coasters are having a blast!

  8. Esteban Says:

    @MDawg I want that tour tee shirt

    Grabbing both nights now!

  9. willowed Says:

    Is it me or did the start of this Golden Age have a little Sand mixed in.

  10. butter Says:

    Great stream let night with video

    Sweet write Miner, second set killed. Especially the whole thing.

    And wolf maze elevated the show to a new level it appeared

  11. albert walker Says:

    I hate missing tweezers. and 3.0 defining RnR jams.

    gonna spin this bizness right now. packing all day. 7:30 flight in the AM

    thanks for blowing up the energy and making me jealous miner. see ya soon.

  12. Dr Pronoia Says:

    so ‘base song only golden age’ means it stayed type 1 and short I’m guessing?

    looks like a perfect 1-2 punch for all the NW phans — really something for everyone over the two nights

    happy for everyone just catching the Gorge this year

  13. albert walker Says:

    roll out of bed
    read miners review
    OG bong hits
    45 seconds to download
    on possum now

    living in the future

  14. Dr. B Says:

    Appreciate the write-up of the Gorge run, Miner. It gives me a sense of what was missed. Having been at The Gorge in ’98 and ’99, I feel I know exactly what you’re talking about. Simply too far to go, and too much going on, this year. But, I’m headed for LA and then Tahoe today. With my two bestest buds, together with whom I’ve not caught Phish since, well, Gorge ’99. Expectations are not low… Happy trails, y’all!

  15. plord Says:

    Willowed: I saw that you skipped the On Your Way Down.

    You are insane. It might be the set 1 highlight. STANLY work by Page and Trey.

    The Wolfman’s is sick for sure and as soon as Fish dropped the hat fill we all knew the Maze was going to be epic, but the OYWD is where a solid set went supersonic.

  16. plord Says:

    Stanly? You stupid phone. I said STANKY.

  17. butter Says:

    Same as AW
    Mk bonghits
    This is were the hill jack internet kicks in
    So spinning night 1 boogie
    Then later Drive to office to dl flacs of gorge 2

    Both Meatstick and boogie are packed with creative jamming, nice, suck it again couch tour

    No really suck it

  18. lastwaltzer Says:

    “looks like a perfect 1-2 punch for all the NW phans — really something for everyone over the two nights”dr.p

    yup yup.

    So the on your way down, wolfmans>maze would be the goto cuts if one doesn’t have time to spin the whole first set?

  19. butter Says:

    It’s just such a great sickness to be involved in, you just know your part of a small lucky group

    All that is Phish

  20. halcyon Says:

    Morning folks,

    Happy for everyone in attendance, and Happy for every other fan out there.

    Night 2 commencing in 60 seconds, amazing when your redneck isp upgrades your dsl speed. Not the 10 they said I would get, but a 50% increase in speeds is much better than what I had.

  21. willowed Says:

    Nope Plord…That was where I started. I have a special thing for that song. I could never skip that.

    On a side note, just ran thru this Sand 3 times. It’s a whole different beast than the RnR from Friday but it’s close for stellar jam of Goorge weekend.

    So so so good.

  22. BrandonKayda Says:

    Wolfman’s->Maze was nice, wouldn’t mind if Fishman kept that groove going though.

    Onto Tweezer now.

    Tech week starts tonight! This next week is going to be busy.

  23. Lycanthropist Says:

    sounds fantasic.

    energetic write up Miner!

    love it..

    downloading now

  24. butter Says:

    I dig the people of couch tour, so don’t think I’m hatin

    Just the concept of judging or “knowing ” something about the show based on a setlist is absurd

  25. butter Says:

    Farmhouse, show of life has been fantastic !!

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