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. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    duke i really liked your comment last week about people comparing 3.0 shows to 1.0 when all they listen to from 1.0 is the highlights

  2. DryIceFactory Says:

    So much is still on the table for LA… I hope Steam gets saved for the webcast though.

  3. Cable Hogue Says:

    Well, I think what .net is doing is giving a review of the tape, basically. It could have value to some folks, who aren’t going to listen to every minute of every show, and just want to know what the highlights were and a description of what went on musically.

    There’s room for all kinds of opinions out there, we can all choose to give them the value we think they deserve.

  4. angryjoggerz Says:

    Seems to be lots of phish aftershows in tahoe, including JGB with Seals and some bluegrass things. Tahoe ready to party.

    Ok, I know, still got LA, but just freshly arrived and tripping off the view at our place – mental.

  5. DryIceFactory Says:

    AJ – living large! I stand extremely jealous of anyone who gets to see Phish in the evirons of Lake Tahoe with only 6,999 other people.

  6. Cable Hogue Says:

    “couch tour”, on the other hand, where folks at home comment on the worthiness of the show in real time on the basis of some jackass’ lousy cell phone stream, is bunk.

    As is “tweeting” reviews of the music from inside the show while it’s going on. Lame.

  7. DukeOfLizards Says:


    Thanks man.

    I always wonder what the fanbase would think about the peak tours of the 90s if what we have now (instant downloads, couch tours, dozens of blogs, etc.) been around then.

  8. DukeOfLizards Says:

    ^had been around then

    Don’t want the grammar po-po breaking down my door

  9. multibeast Says:

    As mentioned previously, the BB terrace situation was amazing. Both nights. Thanks to negav et all for holding down those spots. Really made an already great weekend pretty f’in amazing. I guess that’s what the BB does though huh? Make phish even better.

    This was my 1st BB meet up. Great to meet so many folks. Big cheers to telas and leo. Great hanging out w/ you both all weekend. Wish I was having brews with you in Bend.

  10. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    yeah @duke, people forget they played sample and bouncing and below average shows back then too. instant downloads, etc have def made us way more critical

  11. DaNcInG fOoL Says:

    i’m freaking out because demon is down and i haven’t heard the show 20 hours after it was played

  12. frottage Says:

    @DF – poke around phantasy tour, search on ‘megaupload’ and ‘mediafire.’ the usuaul routine.

  13. BingosBrother Says:

    Or stream it.


  14. Mdawg Says:

    Bethel Steam !?!?!?! http://youtu.be/nPr83edUF90

  15. DryIceFactory Says:

    Yea @Duke and DF. We discussed this earlier last week. People forget that we dont have quality recordings of a lot of shows in the 90s. The ones we do have quality recordings of, are shows the band decided to release for sale – probably their best ones in their opinion. If you try to “compare” shows with tapes of the band’s favorite shows from their heyday, you are looking to be disapointed.

  16. Robear Says:

    Loved both shows. If i could only pick one in a vacuum, it would be night one because of RnR. But I loved em both. Spent the day rafting. Just taught the bartender how to make vodka gimlets. $3 w stolli ftw.

    3 night gorge runs please!

  17. DryIceFactory Says:

    MDawg, is that real? I feel like someone took part of a recording of Steam (from Blossom or MPP) and just put that as the music for that video.

  18. DukeOfLizards Says:

    I’m thinking of starting a blog where I review the Fall ’95 tapes, one show per day, and devote most of the review to pointing out the turkey sandwiches.

  19. bouncin fan Says:

    I dug both shows too Robear spinning em at the crib.

    band sounds great.

  20. DryIceFactory Says:

    Yes Robear. We definitely need a 3 night Gorge run. 2 nights isnt enough to get this Boston wook out on a $400+ flight, plus rental car and all that jazz.

    Although, if there’s a 2 night stand out there next summer, I think I’ll man up.

  21. DryIceFactory Says:


    Do it. I would read every day.

  22. Mdawg Says:

    no idea?

  23. Mdawg Says:


    it doesn’t sound like either version too much

  24. Robear Says:


    Phuck yes! I told management that exact thing!!!

    “everyone on the fence that didn’t come because of logistics and expense would do a 3 day run”

    Robear to phish mgmt yesterday

  25. DryIceFactory Says:

    I heard the Bethel Soundcheck was a full show 2 set affair that went for 3+ hours. All I know that was played is Waves. I bet Steam got played.

    Can we get a Pigtail on this tour? I feel like that song could go places. Plus, its another great Anastasio/Marshall word-play song. I dig it, even though its kind of slowed down.

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