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. Mr. Palmer Says:

    shit, i wish i had the time to read one. Maybe if i cut out the time i spent on here….but i think you guys would miss me too much.

  2. sneven Says:

    Mr. P… you can get the synopsis for free from the minds here at the BB

    What… me worry?

  3. ThePigSong Says:

    yeah well, no kids + 3 or 4 days off a week usually leaves me plenty of book time.

    I wish I was chillin’ on a pampin’ rood deck in Tahoe right about now.

  4. eljefe Says:

    Bummed I didn’t get to hang w BBers this weekend. Who’s going to CO?

    Where is the crew in that pic?

    @ Mr. Minor- I’ll have an address for you in a day or 2 for ur fliers.

  5. Jtran Says:

    Just found myself, negev and alf on the 2nd to last picture of Phish’s facebook photos from night 2.

    Famous fan achieved

  6. Mr. Palmer Says:

    It is physically impossible not to dance to Moma Dance.

  7. Summer98 Says:

    Long post alert. Sorry but had to share. The Gorge 2011.
    Had to write a little of this down. Figured here was as good a place as any. Went to the Gorge with an acquaintance who certainly moved up to friend stature…good guy and night 1 was his Phish show, let’s call him Mr. B. It had been years since I saw the other side and Mr. B was pretty gung ho about it so it was either I play the grounded tour guide or we go all in. And we went all in, both nights.
    Night one I had full body buzz, really comfortable, danced like crazy and generally had a good old time. Single blot. First set we were real low on the lawn, second set on the floor. The Rock N’ Roll has been discussed and I can confirm that from my headspace it was truly amazing. I wasn’t at SuperBall and have been waiting for the right time to listen to the storage jam so that style was a shock and surprise for me. I remember thinking in the middle of it that this might indeed something storage jam-esque and apparently it was. Proper headspace really put that jam in the right place with me. I also though the first set was pretty f’n great. After Bathtub I said to Mr. B, “we’re in for it”. When Roggae started I was kind of like “meh”. I know people love it but when I was tour in summer 98 they played it a lot and it lost its appeal with me. When they started taking it out it was really amazing and really pepped me back up. Then the Walk Away got my buddy pumped so the first set was a great start. I thought Bowie was fantastic, super tight and well played. During set break I got up too fast after sitting on the lawn and actually went out for a minute. My buddy freaked a bit but all was well again after a minute. Went to the floor and RAGED the second set dancing under the lights. Haven’t felt like that in years, a truly amazing experience. I actually couldn’t really talk after the show. Making conversation was tremendously difficult for my brain for some reason so we just walked around shakedown in the campgrounds and randomly laughed. I felt a little bad because I think my buddy could’ve used some more conversation but I was just incapable. Not ready to sleep but my face was on the floor and my brain was spinning.
    Night two I had my now friend Mr. B from night one and another friend, Mr. D, who could only make it for Saturday with me, which would be his first show. Mr. D’s great guy, good friend and music aficionado who is intrigued by Phish. He’s also just a drinker. I probably should’ve played drinking buddy for night two as I’m sure Mr. D would’ve had a better time but I decided to do it up with Mr. B again, this time with fun guy. I don’t remember much from the music after about Ocelot until Golden Age. I went to a place I hadn’t been in a very long time. For a while I had to convince myself it was only a rock n’ roll show and I was still human. I had an actual out of body type of experience, where you’re mind is separated from your physical self. I could actually “feel” my mind control my body but I couldn’t make it do things like talk, just basic movements. I remember hanging on the music and feeling all of its emotion and soul and lead my mind all over the place, from wonderful happiness to scary darkness. But I had no idea of the songs that were playing and was pretty unresponsive to anyone who talked to me. I don’t think I really danced. My friends moved us to the floor for the second set and I’m pretty sure I didn’t move at all that set until Golden Age. Instead what was going on was this crazy internal dialogue that followed the “feel” of the music and often was articulated using Trey’s guitar lines. Really wild stuff. It had been years, like possibly 98 since I had been there. During the Reba jam I finally began descending and feel warm resolution around the corner. Suzy then brings me back to reality completely, and I can finally see again that it’s only rock n’ roll not the internal dialogue to my soul. Sanity seemed like Trey played just for me. Like he said: “I know we’ve been communicating all night in a way you don’t really remember, since it was years ago when we last had this conversation, but trust me I’ve been there and will always bring you home”. Then I finally actually danced during the dance show to reprise. As soon as the lights came back I said to my friends, who hadn’t been able to say a word to since ocelot and just kind of followed around during set break, “ok I’m back, whoa”. It was perfect ark of peak experience from mid first set through the end of the show. I had a blast and re-learned many lessons I once had mastered. Thanks Phish. See you next time.

  8. MrCompletely Says:

    this is my favorite physics book from the last few years.

    the funny thing about modern physics is that it is based on 2 very successful, experimentally supported fields, QM and einstein’s General Relativity…and those two theories, when you try to combine them, explode horribly.

    They’re the opposite of chocolate and peanut butter. You can’t put the two tastes together.

    So “quantum gravity” is where it’s at. New theories that explain how you can have QM on small scales and GR on large scales and it all fits together, even in the places where scales break down and the two theories have to mix, e.g. the Big Bang, and black holes.

    String theory is the most famous and widely supported theory. But it has serious, fundamental problems, and there are other theories, and it’s turned into a bit of a sharp-edged debate, as it has become a career killer to work on non-string-based theories of quantum gravity.

    Lee Smolin is a string theory skeptic, from what I can tell a very brilliant scientist, and a first rate science writer. Very great book, strongly recommended.

  9. MrCompletely Says:

    nice @summer98!!!!!

    I love all the folks getting back on the train this summer, or going deep for hte first time

    golden age indeed

  10. Robert Champion Says:

    I just got done with set one of The Gorge night two. No major flaws going on with the performance but they did play it safe for my tastes. Then again, is there anything really safe about a perfectly executed “Fluffhead?”

    The answer is no…I know I just spoke in a circle there but Jesus Christ guys. Our band has really come full circle.

  11. Willowed Says:

    Just spun the ole RnR from Great Woods. Yup, she’s a beast!

    I like these new jams. We are swimming in “IT”

  12. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    On the ground in burbank. Charging phone at airport prior to hoping metro to venue.

    IT is on tonight phish has a new tectonic weapon to create some siesmic sound. Pumped!!

  13. sneven Says:

    @RChamp… welcome to the open discussion on the BB. No one hating on you here… again, good show from your interview!

  14. Mr. Palmer Says:

    get some pB!

  15. MrCompletely Says:

    yeah Robert

    I’m the ultimate “meh, Fluffhead” guy but I thought that was brilliant placement (way better than mid set 2, for instance) and a smoking version, at least to my ear, I don’t have the details memorized

    I liked the Maze placement too. And I loved the Limb, and the heartbreaker segment out of Wolfie

  16. Willowed Says:

    and yes I know the Gorge RnR is a smoker but I was only able to stream it for one day with the Phish app.

    II needed to go back in dig into the GW version so I can get my fix

    I have not downloaded Gorge 1 yet since I am lazy and haven’t purchased yet.

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    but still, yes, safe. no question to me. blissful and fun, but on the safe side

  18. Willowed Says:

    That Wolfman’s is so so nice. A little slice of Greek Cities at the end after they wrap it up.

    they explore some cool funk before they shut it down.

  19. Summer98 Says:

    As I said above, I don’t really remember much actual music from night 2 but will re-spin tonight and tomorrow. When I looked at the setlist on my phone on the way back to camp I was amazed how few songs I remembered at all.

  20. Willowed Says:

    But you guys know me, I like my thick funk jams.

    A Wolfman’s tickles my fancy any time they rip it.

  21. Summer98 Says:

    I’ll chime in with some thoughts on the actual music tomorrow.

  22. MrCompletely Says:

    we realized on here a little while ago, Robert, that compared to 2010 or especially 2009, most of our critiques these comes down to “they should have played X” or “why this song in that slot” or “that jam was awesome, more of that please” and that’s just about it really

    for instance: Ice-9 effect in tweeprise was just ginormous. Mike should have led a creative open storage style jam using that tone out of the post-Sand tweezer jam.


    It’s no longer “they can’t”

    It’s just that a lot of the time they don’t

  23. MrCompletely Says:

    “critiques these days” lost a word lol

  24. MrCompletely Says:

    ok y’all, time to pick up the kiddo and head home, have to do weekly shopping later, kind of a busy one…peace

  25. Willowed Says:

    and when they do, hold on to your boot straps

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