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. willowed Says:

    and this Birds is straight fire.

    I was just unloading the dishwasher and I found myslef unloading it at a breakneck speed due to the jam.

    I put all the dishes away in about 14 seconds.

    Thanks Phish and thanks Birds jam!

  2. willowed Says:

    Helping chores get done faster since 1983

  3. butter Says:

    See Willowed, if they would have gone storage there, those dishes would have never been put away!

  4. BrandonKayda Says:

    Tweezer is fantastic!

  5. butter Says:

    did Mr. C evaporate into stardust and not come down yet?

  6. albert walker Says:

    hey BK

    thanks for defending night 1 amongst the couch tourers last night. if it wasn’t for your common sense my head was gonna start spinning.

    sometimes it takes a jaded NOOB like BK to know what’s up!

    it’s all about the centerpiece jam people. and we’ve only gotten a handful in 3.0

    so far this set I is tight as shit. band sounding great!

  7. butter Says:

    pumped for Tahoe

  8. plord Says:

    He’ll chime in i’m sure but it seemed like C and the missus had a grand weekend.

  9. Robear Says:

    Hey all!

    Great times at the Gorge. Phriends at every turn. Smiles and lots of talent. Love West Coast Phish tour. So many stellar Mounds, the Meatstick was perfect.

    Enjoyed night 1 and 2……fluffer

  10. halcyon Says:

    crunchy grooves by red and page in tweezer

  11. butter Says:

    there’s fluffy bear

  12. butter Says:

    amen to beautiful women on west coast Phish tour……shhhhhhh

  13. albert walker Says:

    glad you had a blast Robear. gonna miss you at the next couple.

    get your ass to Chicago!!

  14. albert walker Says:

    that meatstick be chasin Robear

    of course it’s coming up in killer ass sets!

  15. Robear Says:

    Seemed like a battle between 2001 and Golden Age. Tag team stylee. First 2001 of tour will blow the F up!

  16. Lycanthropist Says:

    holy smoking Chalkdust!!

  17. SillyWilly Says:

    phish just makin people smile

    two days til Im back on the bus

    longest two days of my life…

    come on time


    we’ll get your monster tweezer 2nd night Tahoe.

    maybe another last night of UIC.

  18. butter Says:

    so glad they held off the 2001, it was the riskier more unpredictable move

    and the tour is still chasin its Ghost……

    obviously waiting for butter for the big Ghostage jam

  19. butter Says:

    silly -your in Tahoe?

  20. ThePigSong Says:

    why does caspian get so much hate? That shit get’s gnarley every single time.

  21. butter Says:

    if they go by their current trend we wont get a Ghost till UIC and it will be looming hard by then

    still can hope for one in Tahoe

    got Ashitos, waves, s+ss all still in the cannon, bitches

  22. Lycanthropist Says:

    whoa groove clinic going down in the tweezer

  23. SillyWilly Says:


    yes sir. and I couldn’t be more stoked.

  24. ThePigSong Says:

    Glad we can realistically expect those songs now ^

  25. Lycanthropist Says:

    is anyone still holding on to the liquid time dream?

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