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”

  1. DryIceFactory Says:

    Get some Leo.

  2. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Sunset Roggae official vid:


  3. alf Says:

    BB terrace crew for 2 straight nights was fucking stellar. amazing really. had 3 terrace levels at one point last night. so much fun.

    time to get bent

  4. albert walker Says:

    can Trey avoid the cheeze that is LA and fuck all the kids not dealing with the terrible logistics of Gorge > LA > Tahoe?

    either way I don’t give a fuck. time to get lifted and get down!

  5. albert walker Says:

    elements, tips, and plastic grinders purchased and packed

    let’s do this

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    se u in LaLa land AW…

  7. Lycanthropist Says:


    a not so glowing review..

    crazy how different reactions can be.

  8. lastwaltzer Says:

    soild solid playing over the course of both shows. they really are playing at such a high level that they are able to pull off a rock or funk based set. i think im liking the center pecies of night one (gin, roagge, rnr, meatstick) more than night twos. night two has killer flow and a slammin sand. without a doubt both shows together equls a great way to start summer.

  9. Mr.Miner Says:

    one-two punch like none other…

  10. angryjoggerz Says:

    Just arrived in Tahoe, fucking stunning. We are up on a cliff overlooking the lake and forest, super intense. Not a cloud in the sky. Flying and driving with 2 year old not so relaxing, but we are hear now. Anyone staying in NV up at Heavenly? Hit me up!


  11. albert walker Says:

    no doubt miner killing it

    see ya soon

    missing that RnR stings a bit

    they sound just effortless out there. real comfortable. like what I hear.

  12. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    @lycan, that review a little heavy on the jaded vet. Also: he wasn’t there. It’s not that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, more just sad that he seems to have lost his sense of wonder. His excite-o-meter sounds like it redlines at about 5.5.

  13. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeh seemed very deflated to me too..

    i dont get it..

    night 2 may not have been exploratory, but damn that was some funk get down through and through.

    if you cant get behind that set 2, well you are gonna be an oft disappointed fan i do believe.

  14. Andrew Says:

    Sorry but a review of a show not attended = Worthless

    Set and setting are everything

  15. Andrew Says:

    As Plord and Miner mentioned, the breeze kicking in from the stage during Reba was absolute bliss. I wasn’t there, but it’s those moments that cannot be captured on tape, and can totally make the moment.

  16. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    I had to jury-rig my excite-o-meter so I could ramp it up to 11.5 for that RnR.

  17. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Pumped for tomorrow

    been thinking about photoshopping some printable tickets to secure prime dance spots.


  18. Esteban Says:

    The RnR from night one is banner! So many potential migratory directions to list (the Black-Eyed Katy groove and Machine Gun race to mind)… I wonder who enjoyed that section the most; Fish sounded in it to win it.

    All summer has been pretty MVP. Still digging that RnR > Ghost from Charlotte… What a combo for the start of Leg II.

  19. BingosBrother Says:

    I’m tiny.

  20. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Wait, that guy didn’t even go to the show? Really? Why bother to review?

    I can’t read people’s reviews of shows anymore. Except Miner. At least with Miner i know where he’s coming from and i know he’s gonna call it like he hears it. No bs, comparing to other eras or pining for the days of lore. It is what it is.

  21. Esteban Says:

    @PB I printed tickets to the Atlanta show this year and handed them out to everyone that came over for dinner that Wednesday night to catch the stream… And everyone kept theirs! Haha

  22. DryIceFactory Says:

    Agree Andrew. I would never try to review a show I didn’t go to. Heaing a show on tape and actually being there is so different. Some people just overanalyze this band to extents that are unnecessary. Every show is good. The band is awesome. Just because a Type II monster doesnt drop, doesnt mean its an “average” show. MPP1 is one of my favorite shows of summer, not a whole lot of exploration to speak of, but I was there, and I really enjoyed it.

  23. voopa Says:

    PB- I’m hoping the tix I won are a VIP box or similar…if so, you’re there.

    Burning CDs for the driving parts of next week that I’ll give away to whoever wants them: DP14, Clinton Administration, Clutchy Hopkins, Toro Y Moi, Black Keys, MGMT, Foster the People.

    Any requests?

  24. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Have fun Phamily B! I know you’ve been waiting awhile to get back on the train. Hope the kick you down some serious heat.

  25. albert walker Says:

    not at all PB

    especially if you make one for me and my girl too!

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