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. garretc Says:

    Was at the gorge with a friend of mine from school, Phish first timer, and long time skeptic of the band and my obsession with them, but, being a seattle-ite and a general fan of music, the gorge, and substances he came along, and had a grand old time. Not ready to hop on tour, but said he had way more fun than he expected and would definitely hit up local shows in the future!

    We’ll see how my 3 first timer friends feel about Tahoe, but, just a guess, they’re gonna fucking love it… Way more jam friendly than my Seattle friend

  2. Piper>Guy Forget Says:

    anyone with UIC extras?

  3. Guyute711 Says:

    Damn, I am one jealous pig. Sounds like everyone was able to meet up and have a blast. The BB is the Super Crew built out of the best crews in America.

    First day of work went swimmingly. The person who was teaching me my new job kinda acted shocked that it came so easily. Helps out when you are using a computer system you have used for a decade.

  4. SillyWilly Says:

    Juries love cops. It’s really really hard to make a cop look bad on the stand.

    And if you fuck it up, then you look like an asshole and you’re toast.

    And cops are snakes on the stand. They testify more than anyone else in the world so they know how to do it and look good doing it.

    They give these wry little smiles and the DAs coach them up like mad.

    it’s enough to make you vomit for days.

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    @guyute I’m going to continue to nitpick musical aspects of the shows as well as praising the highlights, but the bottom line is that the Gorge was in maximum possible effect and it seemed to be straight bliss across the board (with a few puddle swimmers dropped in the deep end, but it seems like happy endings there too)

  6. lastwaltzer Says:


    shit is beyond fucked. Absolutely insane that fault can never be found in the boys in blue. The amount of crime on their hands following Katrina is disgusting. i don’t know if you watch or listen to democracy now but they’ve done an excellent job following these stories over the last few years.

  7. Guyute711 Says:

    Yeah MrC, I wasn’t as impressed with night one as much as most but there was some good stuff in there and I need to go back and listen in the right frame of mind. I thought night 2 was outstanding and it seems like everyone there treats it as the bonus show after night 1. The puddles will certainly change your perspective. Still, when you have so many cool ass peeps around it’s hard to find fault with anything. The vibe has been incredible since the return as far as the company goes.

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    I follow Democracy Now as much as I can without becoming completely depressed

  9. lastwaltzer Says:


    revisit the Gin, very much in the same vain as the MSG Ghost, really amazing they got that heavy early on, really cool melody driven jam. Also chew on that roagge and rock and roll.

  10. Guyute711 Says:

    Listened to R’n’R right away and thought it was quite good but best jam ever talk I think is kind of ridiculous. Having said that I can see being all puddled up at the show and completely losing my mind in it. Perhaps this weekend I will get a taste of the bane for the first time in a month and have a different opinion.

  11. MrCompletely Says:

    bottom line for me, night 1 was the Roggae and RnR No Royalties jam, with the latter being A+ phish for me, cubist monstro-funk abstraction groove like a kicked up Blossom Sally outro, I fucking loved that piece…after the Boogie On came the custy anthem parade, which the crowd dug and I had gotten my deep-end jam already so I can’t call it anything other than nitpicking

    other highlights too, but Roggae jam at twilight was a peak moment, and the No Royalties was signature modern summer ’11 storage-skullfuck phish IMO

  12. lastwaltzer Says:

    I love how the baseline has moved so high. LIke if that Gin got dropped in a second set last year or in 09 people would be going gaga over it. And the playing in general is soooooooooo much tighter. No more of this “i can’t wait till they play “song” right” shit. Just grooving.

    I haven’t even been tempted to open my utica dvd. I’ve actually debated selling it already. Great show no doubt but I think outside of a few shows from 09/10 shit is about to get dwarfed.

  13. lastwaltzer Says:


    word, I don’t think its the “best jam ever” or even the “best jam of the year” but its sick and countines the direction of the Pine Knob DWD. Love trey playing in the band, not just shredding on top.

  14. SillyWilly Says:


    save it.

    will be a fun thing to look back at in 10 years to see the progression.

  15. MrCompletely Says:

    best jam ever, whatever I have no idea about that

    I think it’s a top shelf jam of the summer, and an evolutionary moment b/c it brings full Storage style jamming into the context of a regular set

    I wasn’t puddled at all fwiw. just prerolls all weekend for me and the missus. I heard every note clearly, it is def mad legit

    the only counterpoint is one of taste. can be not your thing. I think it’s fucking killer though. for what it is, its a definite home run

    not getting into any hyperbole though

  16. Guyute711 Says:

    They do have almost everything dialed in now. Just that sad old Mango Song that Trey can’t find his way through.

  17. garretc Says:

    Yeah, I thought that gin was just pretty good, but rock n’ roll was the best jam I’ve ever personally seen. Mindfuck Phish like that was right up my alley, just kept dancing harder as confused peeps on the lawn started standing there looking around…

  18. garretc Says:

    That’s weird… Got put in moderation sans w a x or b a n k s… How strange!

  19. Guyute711 Says:

    ha ha 3 out of 4, fruit song needs to be fixed

  20. MrCompletely Says:

    not sure why my most recent comment is in moderation right now. no “w a x” or “b a n k s”

  21. garretc Says:

    Moderated again…?


  22. MrCompletely Says:

    all my comments are being thrown to moderation actually?

  23. MrCompletely Says:


  24. SillyWilly Says:

    uh-oh. my comments are awaiting moderation.

    i hope i didn’t say anything too offensive.

  25. MrCompletely Says:

    something just glitched on the board, no doubt

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