Phish greeted a distinctly Los Angeles audience to a second set filled with action-packed adventure, following up their opening weekend at the Gorge with playing every bit as strong. With nary a moment to stop for air, the second set possessed a relentless flow, diverse jamming and an arrow set for the dark side. Following a well-played but straightforward opening half, the band got to business in second, highlighted by the opening sequence of “Carini > Crosseyed -> Twist > Piper.” With an impending flight to Tahoe in mere hours, let’s get to the video tape.
After several contained “Carinis” over the opening half of summer, when Phish kicked off the nightcap in Hollywood with the dark anthem, one had the sense that it might go a bit further. And instead of dropping out into another song following a hard-rock peak, this time the band built naturally into a mid-tempo groove and right onto the spiritual plane. Flowing from the dark to sublime, “Carini” provided one of the beautiful passages of the night. Spilling into a spacey outro, the band wasted little time before dropping into “Crosseyed and Painless.”
Enhancing the composed jam with percussive and intricate interplay and seething fury, Phish had the Bowl eating out of the palm of their hands as they jammed on the song’s infectious theme. Mike’ bass lines stood out as a commanding force beneath this piece—and the set—as his eclectic ideas thumped loudly into the Hollywood hills. He and Trey shone together throughout this hard rock peak and right beyond it, as the band jammed into more delicate textures. Getting very quiet very quickly, Trey favored guitar scratches over an alien canvas produced by Mike and Page, while Fish backed them with shimmering cymbal. As the band moved deeper into this spaced-aged sound sculpture, Mike, again, took command of the eerie exploration. Trey whispered the opening of “Twist” over this context, and the non-stop highlights continued to flow.
With four-minded interplay within the theme of the song, “Twist” has become a modern-era piece of jazz-fusion, and this version stood out for its cohesive build from a cool beginning to a full-throttled peak. But the improvisational highlight of the show came next as the band paired “Twist” with its classic setlist partner, “Piper.” A vibrant example of musical density, the band assaulted the crowd with so many ideas and textures within this scorching-turned-blissful improv. Locked together and moving a mile minute through a jaw-dropping, wide-open jam, Mike and Fishman added a hard-edged pocket that continually pushed the piece to new and different places. And out of this original music, the band hit a sacred stride and finding some of the most transcendent places we’ve heard this tour. Though ending somewhat abruptly in “Mike’s Song,” this spectacular “Piper,” nonetheless, stood out as the gem of the show.
A fiery “Mike’s” was out shined by “Weekapaug,” whose percussive interplay had reached an engaging plane when Trey put down his guitar and climbed behind the drum set. Fishman moved into the center of the stage and onto a mini-kit and the band seeped into Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” The quasi-comical take on the classic song added a new Fishman cover to his repertoire and added some lightheartedness to quite a serious set of music. Stamping the frame complete with “Character Zero” and “Quinn the Eskimo,” the band finalized another standout set of music.
Infusing their Hollywood showcase with creativity at every turn, the band left the City of Angels for Tahoe having dropped yet another bomb. Their stellar second set more than made up for any lack of adventure in the first, and the band heads for northern California as hot as we’ve seen them this summer. This one is a quick turnaround, so travel safe and I’ll see you there.
1st Set Notes: Well played throughout, the first set featured several songs just performed at the Gorge, though was highlighted by three pieces that weren’t—“Disease,” “Tube” and “Split.” The rare “Disease” opener always gets things going quickly, and this version kicks-started the show. “Tube,” though still short, just hit the spot as Trey comped Page’s solo with all sorts of funk sensibility. But the most outstanding piece in the opening half came in “Split Open and Melt.” More groovy than most recent versions, this version still reached those raunchy and dissonant places that define a great “Split.” In fact, much like Raleigh in June, the band got so engaged in their abstract improv that they had trouble building out of the jam as they botched the ending again. The other point of mention was the note-perfect rendition of Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia.”
I: Down with Disease, Cavern, Possum, Cities, Peaches en Regalia, Kill Devil Falls, Lawn Boy, Tube, Back on the Train, Wilson, Axilla, Split Open and Melt, Backwards Down the Number Line
II: Carini > Crosseyed and Painless -> Twist > Piper, Mike’s Song > Joy, Weekapaug Groove > 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover* > Hold Your Head Up > Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero, Quinn the Eskimo
E: Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Julius (*debut)
Tags: 2011, Summer 2011