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. Mdawg Says:

    user’s other video… http://youtu.be/JtaZ4ax8faQ

  2. Robear Says:

    2 hot sndck’s at gorge. Jammy.

    Bbers are great people in person!!!

  3. Mdawg Says:

    BB for Lyphe!!!!!

  4. voopa Says:

    I’ll be in the Bowl 24 hours from now…can’t wait!

  5. Mdawg Says:

    Wish I was going Bowlin’

  6. DryIceFactory Says:

    YES! I need a 3 day Gorge run because it would totally make sense for me to get there. While 2 days kind of does too, I’m not entirely devistated I missed these 2 shows. Great shows, I just feel like the tapes don’t hold up to what we have heard from this band in the past at this venue.

    That being said, I think RnR has serious staying power. And I would have loved to have experienced the vibe of that venue while Page was on the theremin and Mike doing the slowed and menacing “it was allllrightttt” Top notch Phish right there.

  7. DryIceFactory Says:

    Time to get ready for bed and experience the man, the myth, Larry David, before I call it a weekend. All you people on your phamily vacations better enjoy it. I would do anything to go bowling tomorrow. Unforunately, the real world wins this time around.

  8. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    The Guitarist for the JGB with Melvin is the local lead of the dead cover band.

    Gives great Jerry! do not miss if you still have steam.

  9. BingosBrother Says:

    LD been killin it so far this season. Palestinian chicken could be my fav episode of all time. Type 17 shit.

  10. Mr palmer Says:

    Epic chicken episode.

  11. BingosBrother Says:

    Fuckin Funkhauser is killin it. Need me some more Leon though.

    GD RFK 91


  12. Mr palmer Says:

    Gotta have that Funk

  13. RamblinMind Says:

    Just wanted to echo Cable and Dusty’s sentiments about not needing to be in the building to write a review.

    I know I’m in the distinct minority here, but I am actually LESS inclined to take a review seriously if the person was in attendance. Why is that? Because, as we’ve discussed lots of times, the in-show reviews and headphones reviews are two completey different entities. I see it breaking down as roughly

    1) At the show review = personal narrative
    2) Headphones review = straight music review

    Now, neither is objective, but I think (2) approximates objectivity more closely because you start with a baseline from which you’ve listened to lots of music, and there are far fewer variables in play. The live experience is unique and is there for the people in the building. If the wind blew nicely at a perfect spot in Reba, I want to hear about it, but at the level of personal narrative. Not everyone noticed the wind, maybe the wind didn’t actually happen, maybe it was perfect – regardless, you report how it figured into your experience of the music and the crowd, etc

    As someone interested in what was played from the stage and how it will sound when I listen to it, I don’t care if there was wind or a rainbow or whatever else. Not gonna see it, not gonna hear it. That’s why you paid and traveled: for that unique experience from which I’m precluded because I stayed home on the East Coast.

    Hearing people talk about shows they attended gets ridiculous with all of the hyperbole, exagerration, drug-fueled peaks and valleys, experiences with friends and the crowd…I find it doesn’t give me as much useful information about the music that will live on forever in my hard drive. The more personal narratives definitely have a place and are essential for getting a feel for what it’s like on the ground – just think of the great stories that have been recounted here – but I don’t see any reason to privilege them over headphones reviews with respect to the quality of music played.

    Miner is a huge exception to this. He has some kind of superhuman ability to be spun and having the time of his life, but at the same time is able to remember every twist and turn of every jam. It’s incredible, and he’s incredibly consistent, and for that reason I read his reviews. I don’t trust other people that much.

  14. RamblinMind Says:

    fuck that was too wordy

  15. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    To be clear, I don’t think not being at a show automatically disqualifies you from understanding a show. There are many people here who have great insights from many different points of view: musicians like AW, Corey, Lycan. Veterans from the old days that aren’t jaded (if they were they would have got drummed out of this place a long time ago) and people who are relatively new to Phish, but their passion brings a new energy to talking about the band. I think my opinion about the review that lycan posted was that he didn’t really like the band anymore, and that’s his problem. And also, he is putting his opinion out there as fact, not as opinion, which rankles a little bit. Hope I expressed this generally effectively. Didn’t mean to discount anybody’s opinion here.

    Carry on.

  16. hazel mango Says:

    Angryjoggerz… isn’t it incredible?!? Listened to last night on my way up and am getting so excited for this week. Such a perfect place for this to happen. Are y’all hitting the night life tonight or hanging in the pad?

  17. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    Ha, @ramblin, we crossed paths there, but I think we’re angling at the same thing. They are two different experiences. The objective is all that matters for repeated listening. The soundboard is the artifact that will be the text for future discussion. My issue is with people who expect Phish to playing the artifact. They are not. They are playing a concert for living people in real time. So to complain about the fact that Golden Age didn’t “jam out,” just because it did last time, is being too objective. Using Golden Age in a different role than as the Storage Jam vehicle is creative. So next time it jams, it’s a treat instead of an…EXPECTATION.

    But in general I agree, over time, the recording is key, and the wind will be forgotten. But, please, if you come from a position of so-called authority, at least like the band.

  18. voopa Says:

    Just discovered that neither Jerry nor the GD are on the Hollywood Walk of Fame…maybe I should do some spray-painting post show tomorrow and fix that…and add Trey too!

  19. ThePigSong Says:

    sorry ramblin – I’ve had at least five IPA’s today, tldr

    but for all y’all that don’t care about my semi drunken observation: CDT rips last night, at least for a good minute.

  20. BingosBrother Says:

    I want to hear from the people who were present for the vibrations. I can review a recording on my own.

  21. Robear Says:

    More west coast shows that are closer together please.

    Driving to Seattle spinning Little Phish.

    On your way down rules!

  22. halcyon Says:

    Listening to this right now. Fun listen.

    Jerry Garcia Band – Sunday, April 21, 1991
    The Warfield Theater, San Franncisco, CA

    How Sweet It Is
    He Ain’t Give You None
    You Never Can Tell
    Like A Road
    Hunter Gets Captured By The Game
    Lay Down Sally
    Lets Spend The Night Together

    The Way You Do The Things You Do
    Stoned Me
    Don’t Let Go
    Sisters and Brothers
    Midnight Moonlight

  23. RamblinMind Says:

    I haven’t heard the Gorge shows yet so I can’t comment on that particular Golden Age, but in general I think it’s legit to complain about a version that Golden Age that doesn’t get any special treatment after the monster we got at SuperBallIX. However, a good review would contextualize the lack of jam by noting that holy shit, they went into a late second-set Reba, and maybe it didn’t hurt the flow of the show at all.

    When I hear versions of Cities that are lackluster I tend to be a little disappointed that they didn’t do anything special with it, and I think it’s ok to express that disappointment. Lots of people get worked up over Roses or Halley’s, and that’s fine too. I don’t think you should let it limit your enjoyment of the experience, but hey, it’s your experience not mine.

  24. ThePigSong Says:

    just read ramblin: high points and low points. sometimes it’s just good to hear yourself talk on the internet.

    depending on the fan and how spun you may be;

    at the show: potential to fluff

    not at the show: potential to fluff

  25. RamblinMind Says:

    @Pig – it’s cool; don’t read it. Keep hitting those IPAs. I had some extra quiet time at work tonight and got long-winded.

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