Festival Phish

8.12.2011 - "Steam" (Eric Battuello)

Golden Gate Park—a locale like none other, and in many ways, the birthplace of the psychedelic revolution. But when Phish took the stage on Saturday night in San Francisco, there was little music of the mind to be heard as they showcased a long list of anthems for the Outside Lands audience. Powering through a veritable double-disc of greatest hits amidst a chilly fog from the bay, the band put on a glossy performance in the Golden City’s hipster haven, leaving a three-night blowout in UIC looming large.

Official Outside Lands Print

As the band favored “album-versions” of most songs, the improvisational highlights of the show were few and far between. Anchored by a thick “Tweezer” that swam amidst whole-band groove and saw the band peer into the storage shed momentarily, the first set also featured a set-closing “Mike’s Groove.” Call me a dreamer, but it feels like big things are to come from tour’s final “Tweezer” at UIC. The other segment of high-quality Phish-by-the-Bay came in the opening triumvirate of the second set in “Rock and Roll -> Steam > Piper.” A succinct jam in “Rock and Roll” set up a smooth segue into the long-awaited return of “Steam.” Bringing back their sole debut of summer for the first time since, Phish wove through the infectious groove led by a massive guitar solo by Trey. Before the jam had much of a chance to get anywhere, however, the band moved onto “Piper.” During “Piper” the festival audience got their only taste of open Phish jamming— something they weren’t afraid to let of the bag, in spurts, back at Bonnaroo.

When Phish moved abruptly from “Piper” into “Roses are Free,” they took the musical momentum of the set with them, taking the show home with ordinary song after ordinary song. Far more than a Phish show, this night felt like just an ordinary concert, but I’m not sure what crowd they were looking to please with this type of performance. I often think the band would be better served by showing up at these festivals and do what they do best—melt minds and faces. I can’t imagine there are too many converted Phish fans after last night’s show, and with a big pay day and nobody to impress, this festival slot seemed a bit phoned in. Sure, there were moments, and in the end, who expected much more? But more fundamentally, it is Phish’s approach to multi-band festival appearances that I am calling into question.

8.12.2011 (Eric Battuello)

The last couple mainstream festivals—Austin City Limits and Outside Lands—provided little musical substance for the masses to digest and take home with them. Back in ’09, however, the band dropped an experimental “Rock and Roll -> Light > 46 Days” on the Bonnaroo crowd, not to mention the most creative performance ever of “Kill Devil Falls.” When they filled in around these jams with anthems, their Bonnaroo performances felt very balanced. But last night, the balance was just not there. Song-heavy to the core, the Outside Lands show misrepresented the band to a slew of unfamiliar people ready to judge them and write them off. Well, one thing that indie journalists can’t accuse Phish of after last night is over-indulgent or unsuccessful jamming. The band just sidestepped that all together.

8.12.2011 (E.Battuello)

Perhaps for some, but not for me, the festival show had points of engagement, but not nearly enough to constitute an entire show—or even a single set. “Tweezer” will certainly get some spins over here, but I doubt I’ll be throwing this show into my listening rotation anytime soon. With straightforward song after straightforward song, the band didn’t truly offer the audience a glimpse into their genius, instead choosing a series of selections that resembled one long first set.

Following two shows that didn’t provide much lasting music, Phish is now primed for three big nights at UIC. The tour has gradually lost steam over the past week, having peaked with the Gorge’s first show. But something tells me that when the band steps inside in Chicago for the only indoor shows of 2011, that will all change. Hopefully, Phish will rev their motors back up to give the Gorge stand a legitimate bookend to the second leg of summer.

I: Kill Devil Falls, Wilson, Funky Bitch, The Moma Dance, Peaches en Regalia,  Sample in a Jar,  Possum, Tweezer > Mound, Suzy Greenberg, Axilla, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove

II: Rock and Roll -> Steam > Piper > Roses Are Free, Julius, Life on Mars?, Birds of a Feather, Fluffhead, Backwards Down the Number Line, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Chalk Dust Torture

E: Cavern > Tweezer Reprise

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695 Responses to “Festival Phish”

  1. Robear Says:

    Schneed, I agree with your comments about not looking ahead to the Chicago run. That was one comment by one person. Also agree they play what they want, when they want.

    By ’93, ’94, Phish was dropping open jams on the regular. Plus, they could still play songs like ‘Split’ and crush.

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    looking for an extra UIC any night anywhere. hit me up

  3. Skyballs Saxscraper Says:

    Is it really still the “in” thing to rate things with numbers? It seems way too arbitrary for most things. Reminds me of my favorite Mike quote: “On a scale of 1 to 2, I give it a 2”

  4. Mr.Miner Says:

    Also agree they play what they want, when they want.

    ^ for sure.

  5. Robear Says:

    Also, going back to Treys recent interview. It looks like he’s dropped the idea of writing a set list ahead of time this tour, in favor of having a list of 30-40 songs to choose from.

    It’s my opinion that this new approach is delivering the lackluster first sets and some of the stranger song choices.

    I think he needs to update the list more, and remove a couple tunes all together!

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    yeah, 1st sets have been lackluster this run.

  7. Robear Says:

    Miner, look how often he’s staring at the list. Longer pauses between songs, too.

  8. Robear Says:

    Duder, I don’t use the Noid for Phish. Crazy, right? Feels like Theft from an employer, even though I’m just a volunteer.

  9. Mike in Austin Says:

    Fluffhead just seems like such a weird song to pull out for a Festival audience. Glad they did it to expose new fans to what “old” (early 90’s) Phish often sounded like.

    Long, composed sections (that on first listen) often leave many people lost in the complexity of the stitched together fugue with a big thematic (anthem) endings.

    Early 90’s was not really “compact rock shows” You had a better chance of hearing Magilla or Stash or Take The A Train, or Dinner and a Movie or The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday or Lizards, etc.

  10. butter Says:

    MIner txt sent

  11. win butler Says:

    albert walker Says:
    August 13th, 2011 at 8:42 am
    Heading back home. Had a blast.
    It is what it is. Other than gorge RNR and tahoe Light the rest of this tour has been glitchy juke box Trey.
    I don’t find any full set to have worked as a whole yet IMO.
    Band sounds great but too much of the dmb style show.
    Anyway music hasn’t blown me away this tour other than light and RNR but had a great run getting buzzed with good peeps.
    Miner loves the but gorge I say this whole leg has been somewhat of a snoozer.

  12. win butler Says:

    Must have been one he’ll of a flight home @ AW!!

    albert walker Says:
    August 13th, 2011 at 2:59 pm
    In Chicago
    Great run of shows. Band sounds great. It’s treys band and he’s playing like he wants
    Set 2 tahoe was my most uplifting fulfilling set of the 8 I caught
    They’re a party band. Put down the stopwatches, analytics, and theories
    Get lifted with good peeps and get down. It’s still fun kids

  13. litteringandd Says:

    “yeah, 1st sets have been lackluster this run.”
    Thats all about to change once the house lights go down at UIC. Indoor phish baby, indoor phish

  14. Gregg Says:

    @JMelby – Is Embassy Suites booked? I’m definitely interested in the res – let me know what the deal is. Thanks!

    greggcarrier at gmail

  15. win butler Says:

    Possum opener tomorrow.

  16. hba21 Says:

    There is a pattern to Miner and others love of shows. Greek, Bethel, MSG, Superball, Gorge…..all beginning of tour or stand alone runs. Could it be that the difference is us, having been away from the music and appreciating it more due to the asbsence?

    Also, Phish is and always has been an interplay of energy with the crowd. They feed off of our energy. And when one goes to show after show, they are less intrigued to hear the same songs they have heard at recent shows, giving less attention to the music and feeding less to the symbiotic energy loop with band. I was at most of the shows people are billing as the “best” of this and last year, and I know they were standout shows. But I also believe out excitement and freshness contributed to our experience, elevating the band and our experience.

    No one seems to address that outdoor first sets are always different that dark indoor first sets. The greek first sets were great and I think the fogged in surrounding was part of that. But generally,I think for many its harder to let your mind get quiet and meld with the music when the sun is blaring.

    Its cool to critique shows, no doubt, but if you’ve lost your appreciate for Phish, maybe think about going to less shows. Quality over quantity, and there is a lot of quality that is going unappreciated.

  17. albert walker Says:

    I agree with both those statements win.

    just woke up for the first and thought it sounded a bit harsh cuz it is based on subjectivity not how the level the band was performing.

    i mean other than that RnR at the Gorge personally the mellow tail end just falls into nothing but it was played well. not the band’s fault just me looking for something else.

    night 2 gorge was played great but other than the Sand jamming wise it was pretty light. more the darien hershey 1 style groove show. another great played show but not quite my style.

    I guess my point is who am I to tell Trey not to play 90-91 style high energy rock shows if he is doing it well and with professional energy.

    it’s just the tail of 2 treys that I need to look at more maturely and accept.

    the 90-91 style rocker or the RnR and light band. both bands are killing it. as a fan trying to work more on enjoying both bands more.

    I had a blast out west and for myself do like more jams that spin my head and get hundreds of repeated spins but that’s not what I got oh well.

    still got to chill with skye, butter and his wife, you and stash, jig and his wife her some good tunes and take in the massive Light. win, win for us.

    getting spun and walking home to haight and ashbury through golden gate park was amazing too.

    I’m just trying to lay off telling Trey what to do when they’re playing at a high technical level. hard to do coming off no sleep and a bit warn out from chemicals.

    recharged and ready to go. bring on UIC!

  18. win butler Says:

    Interesting take hba.

    Possum from the Gorge was a hotter, tighter version than Possum from Hollywood Bowl.

    I think it goes both ways.

  19. albert walker Says:

    actually reading both statements win they say almost the same thing to me

    just one as the negative jaded phish dick and the other a reasonable music fan

  20. albert walker Says:

    I also haven’t spun anything except both nights gorge and the light cdt from tahoe

    will have some thoughts on respins I imagine

    feels like SF here in Chicago. cold.

    let’s keep these temps down for this indoor run.

  21. Robear Says:

    Hey AW! I knew that would get you up and going. Great follow up post, as I agree with all three.

  22. albert walker Says:

    still searching for shitty segements of Light at Tahoe Robear

    call me if you find them!

  23. litteringandd Says:

    Feel like we are due for a really good Limb by Limb

  24. butter Says:

    what is the central theme to this ever lasting spoof……

    thank God, Miner doesn’t love EVERY show, that would be a little weird and homogenous

  25. butter Says:

    phish dick vs reasonable music fan……good stuff

    sitting here in the hotel lobby still AW

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