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:

    I really dig the maturity of opinions on this board. I really dont think I could handle talking Phish anywhere else. Some of the kids in the Hoostream chat the last 2 nights made me want to puke.

  2. Cable Hogue Says:

    I really scratched my head at that .net reviewer saying they thought that Tweezer was jarringly ended by Caspian last night.

    I do think some fans just hate Caspian so much that anytime it drops its jarring for them. But I thought that Tweezer, though linear, played to an absolutely natural conclusion. The landing in Caspian was smooth. IMO if it doesn’t sit well in someone’s ears it’s probably a case of expectations getting the better of them.

  3. DryIceFactory Says:


    Foster the People – Torches is $$+. Great music.

  4. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

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

    woah good idea. who wants to make some copies of UIC floors for me?

  5. Lycanthropist Says:

    well the thing is re: not in attendance

    i still don’t get it..
    i wasn’t there, but the majesty of the music doesn’t escape me.

    I can only imagine how it was for those there.

    but I thoroughly enjoyed listening to both shows and will have plenty to spin from both nights for some time to come. I wasn’t there, but shit in my opinion and my review, the show is much better than said review gives it credit for.

    it really seems like that people are convinced that unless there is a 15 min plus excursion in to psychedelia its not a Phish show.

    This show was pure Phish phunk and one of my favorite aspects of the band.

    Yeah I didn’t have to scrap pieces of my brain out of my headphones for night two, but i did get blisters on my feet from dancing in the living room.

  6. BingosBrother Says:

    That Tweezer was down for the count. That dude is a fucktard.

  7. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Man ,the Sand from last night is fucking sick! This is going to be the leg of 3.0. Short and sweet. Cool venues, a band at the top of their games both individually and collectively, plus they got their psychedelic swagger back.

    5 days of work and then its on like donkey kong.

  8. halcyon Says:

    I wasn’t there ( 8) ), but roggae, rnr -> meatstick->boogie was top shelf 3.0.

    See what I did there 🙂

  9. BingosBrother Says:

    Stay off my floor DF. Seats taken.

  10. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    is the demon down?

  11. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    i’ll be on that floor all 3 nights. somehow.

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    seems so @ fool

  13. DryIceFactory Says:


    The .net crew and PT crew all think jams that end in under 20 minutes are ended incorrectly. That Tweezer was done, it wasnt Julius’d like Superball, (I thought that one still had some life left in it and should have continued) and the landing into Caspian was very nice. The guy reviewing probably would be going nuts if it landed in “Twist” or “Crosseyed” or “2001” etc. He clearly just didnt want to drop into Caspian with the guys.

  14. albert walker Says:

    I got a week off of my 10 hour work days to hit Hollywood Bowl > 2 in Tahoe > and 1 in Golden Gate part chilling with great peeps, getting loose and puffin the finest herbs in the country with phish as the house band. a band that just dropped a RnR that could stand up with the most timeless phish masterpieces.

    not sure what these kids are so pissed about.

  15. halcyon Says:

    I wasn’t there ( 8) ), but On Your Way Down, Wolfman’s Brother > Maze as well as Tweezer > Prince Caspian > Sand -> Tweezer is some high level 3.0.

    See what I did there again 🙂

  16. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Pageside parallel or behind the soundboard @ df. Thats where we’ll be.

  17. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    where’s the bill graham aud rumor at?

  18. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    does UIC do bracelets for floors? i really hope not

  19. albert walker Says:

    not sure if Tweezer was Julius’d at superball. it seems to lose a lot of momentum and kind of fall apart towards the end

    all the intersting sections were the stop start stuff at the beginning

    just don’t think it was going anywhere late IMO

  20. albert walker Says:

    they did in 98 DF

  21. BingosBrother Says:

    I’ll be in the 200’s. I’m aiming for DF to break my fall.

  22. Cable Hogue Says:

    I don’t think not being there needs to preclude anyone from giving their opinion of the music from the show. I wasn’t there either, I heard it quite differently than today’s .net reviewer, but whatever. The guy who reviewed the show from the night before, his opinions happened to line up quite a bit closer to mine.

  23. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    So something in the super seat section ought to do just fine for 10-15 folks?

  24. Andrew Says:

    No doubt AW, what do these people do when they’re not seeing Phish? Probably complaining.

    Enjoy your run.

  25. BingosBrother Says:

    Found you out DF.


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