Gazing Into the Gorge

8.6.11 - The Gorge (Joe Iudice)

Over the weekend, Phish kicked off the back end of summer with a ferocious one-two punch. Pairing a psychedelic monstrosity on night one with a set of super-sized candy grooves on night two, the band delivered on every level, littering the Gorge with jams of all shapes and sizes. In each show, Phish set the improvisational tone with first set selections and then magnified that focus in the second set with some of their most impressive on-stage conversations of the summer. Adopting the classic exploratory-then-celebratory contour of so many legendary two-night stands, Phish fans couldn’t ask for anything more from their favorite band in the Pacific Northwest.

8.6.11 (J.Iudice)

In the tour opener, “Roggae” not only sparked the first set in earnest, the loose and free-form improvisation laid the groundwork for the monumental music that would take place in the following frame. On the second night, the band laid down a foundation of groove with “Moma Dance,” “On Your Way Down,” and “Wolfman’s,” and then laid down a dance clinic come set two. Stylistically diverse and musically focused, each night at the Gorge formed one half of a phenomenal whole.

And how about the music within? With only two shows down, the band is already stacking leg two highlights like chips at a poker table. Instead of plucking single jams as the standouts of the show, we can simply point to both second sets as the highlights of the Gorge (not to mention some first set gems). Playing all their cards just right, Phish dropped a spectrum of highlights that, collectively, spoke to all factions of their fan base. Inspired—as always—by the beauty and seclusion of the Columbia River Gorge, the band’s playing was defined by patient interplay and a willingness to take jams wherever they naturally flowed. As a result, each show and, specifically, each second set flowed from beginning to end.

8.5.11 - (G. Lucas)

The first show likened a nuclear explosion with “Rock and Roll’s” era-defining excursion. The jams’ massive wake carried the guys right through another half-hour of top-notch jamming in “Meatstick” and “Boogie On.” The rest of the show felt like the natural fallout from such a paradigm-shifting explosion. Seamlessly integrating Storage-style psychedelia into “Rock and Roll,” Phish gave us an intimate and jaw-dropping glimpse into the their next evolutionary step. The second night resembled a heat-seeking missile, as the band honed in on a specific style and tore a thematic—and ballistic—show to smithereens. The groove fiesta came to a mid-set peak in a silky-turned-apocalyptic “Sand” that was a culminating version (to date) of the many standouts renditions of summer. In short, Phish succeeded in taking their weekend crowd, first, through an alternate reality and then through an all-night dance party—executing their weekend plan to perfection.

And the buzz of Phish 2011 continues to grow. IT started at Bethel. IT increased during June’s Midwestern swing. IT got a boosted during the last three shows of Leg One—Charlotte, Raleigh, and Portsmouth. IT ballooned considerably at Super Ball. And, once again, at the Gorge, Phish’s summer momentum continued snowballing. A weekend whose music was centered around an ground-breaking, improvisational beast of the likes we haven’t seen—well, ever— in “Rock and Roll,” showcased a band whose diligent focus and continual improvement evokes memories of a young, goofy-looking quartet from Burlington that toured in the ‘90s. But it’s 2011 now, and matured like a fine wine, Phish is moving forward in ways many had never imagined would happen again, and nothing could possibly be sweeter.


In other Phish Thoughts-related news…

The Philler: I mentioned last week that I was being interviewed for a cloudcast—The Philler—run by Robert Champion. After talking with Robert and his partner, Sammy Saltzman, at length, we decided that I would join them for a yet-to-be-named, weekly segment of Phish analysis during their broadcasts. Look for more news on this in the future, but you can now listen to our initial conversation embedded in the audio player below, and spiced up by Robert and the guys at The Sloping Companion with audio tracks from June and enhancements ranging from the musical to the comic to the bizarre. Check it out…


The Philler – Episode Four – Mr. Miner by The Sloping Companion on Mixcloud

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608 Responses to “Gazing Into the Gorge”

  1. Robear Says:

    Off to find head shop, and maybe a dispensary. Need to insulate lungs from Smog.

  2. Piper>Guy Forget Says:

    Finally got a chance to listen to both nights of the Gorge. My impression is that the marinade has begun to sink into the meat. While standalone jams have made their marks, flow of shows and mixtures of styles and genres have begun to link, and the band has begun to translate the cosmic stream of data into something we can listen to, the defining pieces of 3.0 Phish are now falling into place.

    The lost art of the segue is seemingly coming back into focus. While force fed, ripcorded, or crowbarred in other occassions, there have been a handful of breathtaking dissolves from one song to the next. But the listening and transitional art that happened in specifically to the 2 first Gorge shows makes me want to believe Voltron is once again wholle, or at least learning to move the monumental extremities.

    So my question, is it organic or was there some preconceived knowledge of where they were going and how they were going to get there?

  3. bob dylan Says:

    The topic was started by the idea of cannabis rubs for my elbows. Girl at the booth was gonna gift us but we never made it to shakedown.

  4. Gratefulcub Says:

    “Maybe their dignity can remain in tack.”

    Bob’s been wondering what it would take to find Dignity for years

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    Dignity Unbound

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    lol @ebutter tweet
    West coast tarp mafia: I’m holdin a freshie 9×12 and a 6×8. Blue

  7. lastwaltzer Says:

    Nice Cub!

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    The Sanity was a huge kickdown for me BTW. I’d been thinking about that song night in the context of wishing the show would be just a little…weirder. A nice moment. “The stars, they really suck tonight” lol

  9. Tzara's Ghost Says:

    Attn: Tahoe drivers. I’ve just been talking to a couple Tahoe locals, they said the east shore drive from Reno to Tahoe can get pretty backed up. Like you could lose an hour or two. Maybe don’t wait til the last minute to roll down. Just a little PSA. Probably helps that it’s a Tuesday.

  10. DukeOfLizards Says:


  11. MrCompletely Says:

    lol Duke nice, yeah

  12. MrCompletely Says:

    official vids



  13. MrCompletely Says:

    set 2 last night was real interesting. I thought it was a “for the kids” set for real, from the Chalkdust opener – meaning for all the younger fans – a defining second-set versions of a lot of tunes incl the Reba/Antelope close pair which most younger fans prob don’t think of as second set closer slot tunes…

    sort of a “hey kids, actually these songs can bring the mad heat, check it out” thing

    priceless quoting at the start of Antelope

  14. kayatosh Says:

    took 1hr walk w/ tweezer through antelope (8.6) sand birds and golden age were the standouts — exceptionally great. sand powered my walk with dance grooves and gorgeous jazz licks from trey, transforming the experience into a effortless moving meditation in the summer sun. top sand.

    bowing out of the UIC dream to focus on familial relations. Thank you to all who offered help w/ tix. have a great time. I’ll be enjoying from afar and looking to get in the mix next time they grace the east coast.

  15. MrCompletely Says:

    everyone with a clue knew the Sand was going to be the centerpiece the second it started, i’d been waiting for it for 3.5 sets…killer

  16. kayatosh Says:

    Reba and antelope were $$ (poseur shorthand for great, worth several spins)

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    lol ‘poseur’

  18. kayatosh Says:

    during sand and golden age I found myself reflexively dancing and head bobbing as I walked. trey dropped my jaw a few times in sand and the segue back into tweezer – a thrill.

    need to spin set I again. the Moma was undoubtedly fat.

    those gorge shows scored big.

  19. Waputik Says:

    Gorge 2, Set 2 was a fantastic complement to the night before. Not a huge Caspian fan, but it was only 5 short (not bad) minutes out of 100. Great set, loved the surprise late set Golden Age and didn’t care one bit that it wasn’t jammed out since I just love the song. I never EXPECT jams from even the most standard jam vehicles and am just happy that the band mixes it up and makes a song like Wilson special at one show and makes Roggae special at the next. Sanity under the stars indeed!!!

  20. Gratefulcub Says:

    The last Gorge set is the one I have been waiting for since they returned. I’m a kid of the late 90’s dance grooves. That’s my baseline Phish, can’t help it, don’t really apologize for it. Dance grooves>perfect recitation of composition, every time. Dance grooves>ambient psychedelia, twice on Sundays. Just sayin’, for my personal preferences, that set was damn near perfect.

  21. Gratefulcub Says:

    ^and i actually have zero problems with Caspian. Again, damned close to perfect.

  22. MrCompletely Says:

    cool, cub

    for a dance party it was epic indeed

  23. MrCompletely Says:

    *shrug* caspian couldn’t bring me down at all. here’s what I heard:

    tweezer > series of sick jams > cooldown > caspian intro – time to spark and puff a preroll > some dumbshit about stumps instead of feet > colossal anthemic rock hero solo

  24. MrCompletely Says:

    BTW they played 3 out of the 5 phish rock band/guitar hero songs on Saturday

    not sure my point there, but just sayin’

  25. RamblinMind Says:

    didn’t he make some comment onstage first leg about his daughter beating him at Phish songs on Rock Band? Maybe she was in the audience

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