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. albert walker Says:

    funny thing about couch tour

    one of the couch tour cats was high fiving himself last night during set II cuz all us custies liked night 1 and that the real shit was going down like only a jaded tour vet like himself would understand. suckers that digged night 1.

    only on couch tour.

    ftr I liked both nights but ripping on night 1 is only shit a few cocktails and the late night shenanigans of a west coast start time can bring out.

  2. Mr. Palmer Says:

    If they did in ’98, i would imaging they would again. Good memory AW!

  3. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    yeah i’ve decided to stay away from couch tour from now on

  4. DryIceFactory Says:

    I see what you mean AW, I just feel like they never really brought closure to it. Trey had just come hot off a screaming solo, and they landed in a “hitting the breaks” type of groove, but for some reason, I felt like they were starting to organize the jam and bring us into a dancey section before ending it. It seemed like that was the direction since the whole thing was a mess (a GREAT mess) leading up to then and when they finally found an organized groove, it got chopped for Julius.

  5. willowed Says:

    The more I listen to this Sand, the more I get that 1/1/11 feeling. It’s so effortless, clean and focused like the Twist and Sally from that night

    That Sand seemed so focused with an extra kick at the end.

    Loved it

  6. halcyon Says:

    The .net review, while it wasn’t so glowing, while it was from couch tour was a thoughtful articulated critique. Unlike other couch tour reviews we have read or have seen.

    Gordeaux’s bass bombs at the end of RnR are the business

  7. willowed Says:

    I guess coauch tour was a real bummer. Glad I missed that stuff.

    On a side note…I love the Phish app. best 99 cents I ever spent.

  8. dusty Says:

    I don’t think not being there needs to preclude anyone from giving their opinion of the music from the show.

    ^^ agreed. Like saying you need to be sober or not to get it.

  9. albert walker Says:

    I’ll spin it again dryice

    Cinci builds and concludes perfectly. Love that shit

  10. angryjoggerz Says:

    Um, I SAID motherfucking TAHOE, bitches.

  11. DryIceFactory Says:

    Yea halcyon, Gordon definitely was locked in for that RnR. Possibly the MVP of the jam IMO.

  12. albert walker Says:

    I Def give my opinion on live recordings but
    not being in the room its pretty worthless

    Some shit just doesn’t hit the tape

  13. halcyon Says:

    Couch tour was cool willowed…. just talking about differences in critiques whether one was at the show, on couch tour, or upon playback

    Damm I wish I was flying to LA and making the drive to Tahoe this week. Labor Day Weekend can’t come soon enough!

  14. Mr. Palmer Says:

    west coast couch tour is past my bed time.

  15. albert walker Says:

    We got a show first AJ

    I’ll hit you up we get in around noon on Tuesday

  16. Wisco Cheese Says:

    If anyone wants to trade some 100 level tickets for floors to UIC night 1 or 3 email me. My headspace needs to be in the seats at this point in the game and the floor gets a little intense for me.

  17. Lycanthropist Says:

    yeh, i just disagree with the .nets reviews.

    i get pissed at OPTs ridiculous assertations

  18. DryIceFactory Says:

    Agree AW. As far as musical perfection goes, its easily a top Tweezer of 3.0. Myself, I like the dirty funk. I dig the psych. Give me SB Tweez (or something similar) over Hersey, N. Charleston and Cinci all day. Not saying I think its “better”, it just suits MY ears better.

    If you people havent noticed, I really dug the Superball Tweezer.

  19. albert walker Says:

    Just a clueless kid talking nonsense

    Nothing too bad

  20. Mr. Palmer Says:

    To rephrase and clarify. If you are going to publish, online or elsewhere, a review of a show, you should be in the building.

  21. DukeOfLizards Says:

    Calling a review of the TAPE a review of the SHOW is asinine. Two different things. Both have their value, but Phish.net having their review of the SHOW come from some guy on his couch totally misses the point.

  22. Cable Hogue Says:

    pzerbo at .net writes good recaps. Doesn’t seem to worry about what it isn’t, just describes what it is from his POV.

    OPT is not so great. At least the folks at .net provide a lot of quality useful content for us all.

  23. albert walker Says:

    I dug it live man but like I said on tape can’t find much cohesion post the stop start section. Disjointed and rambling

    A for creative effort but never quite clicked

    Red rocks

    The big 3

  24. angryjoggerz Says:

    Front cover of local Tahoe paper:


    bring it.

  25. albert walker Says:

    Not digging Cinci tweezer isn’t normal man

    You may need help

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