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. Kaveh Says:

    Aj. Yes Tuesday. Good lord, thus is my brain on vacation. Ill be there at 4:30 then for sure. Fire me the scoop. All in!

  2. Kaveh Says:

    MiA that is where I’m planning on being. Right in front if the board. At the minimum ill be wearing my g packer hat. I’ll keep an eye pealed for you.

  3. Mr palmer Says:

    We drove through that fucking storm yesterday. Nasty stuff.

  4. voopa Says:

    At the minimum ill be wearing my g packer hat.

    Look out for Naked Packer Fan.

    Fb- It was a great time man. l_t_l and Mrs. _t_l are really good people.

  5. Mike in Austin Says:

    I’ll look out for ya Kaveh. Off to Point Reyes.

  6. butter Says:

    Steely Jim

  7. Chonz Says:

    UIC bitches! Having a fun day in Chicago getting everything together for the shows.

    My buddy has an extra for Monday, looking to trade for a Tuesday or Wednesday if anyone wants to trade. Also looking to buy an extra for Tuesday or Wednesday. Chonzbot at gmail if you can help.

  8. BingosBrother Says:


  9. Mdawg Says:

    Da Coach! Pollock rulez!

  10. voopa Says:

    BB, LW, or anyone doing the Mock show,

    I’ll gladly reimburse you for a Masthay HBowl poster (plus shipping, of course). Let me know if you think you can swing it.

    vooopa at gmail (3 o’s)

  11. Fatbunch Says:

    word, voopa 😉 They rolled in at 2 a.m. last nit safe at home, btw

    Later folks – goin’ outside

  12. Mr.Miner Says:

    just listened to Tahoe 2 again. I really think it has little flow and every time a jam is getting good it ends. Defiinte high energy, but with little to no artistry imo. I’m trying to like it. The playing is damn good, but they just keep stopping jams for no noticeable reason.

  13. albert walker Says:

    I still dig the jim ghost a lot miner. although the jim fades I think it’s a great version and love the slinky groove it finds. I def hear your argument about the rest of the set but I still like this section a lot.

    other than the RnR and the Light ending jams early seems to be par for the course this leg

    the LA weekapaug gets crunchy as hell though

    the LA Piper is nice as fuck but also kinda gets chopped a bit

    LA Crosseyed is nice

    just got through LA set 2. still haven’t spun much else.

    this whole leg is all the same to me other than the RnR and Light really. great ripping high energy technically proficient playing with the creativity pulled back a bit

    let’s see what 3 nights indoors brings about

  14. Mr.Miner Says:

    yeah. kind of weird imo.

  15. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ aw. I’m staying downtown Chi. any headshops open tonite around 9ish?

  16. albert walker Says:

    not positive but downtown may not be zoned for that shit. I could try to find out.

    most of em are all up north in my hood. I could scoop you something maybe today and you could just cruise by my crib if there was something in particular.

    I’ll ask my bro if there is anything more downtown and get back to you.

    nothing like Trey dropping that RnR and Light just to fuck with us and make us feel like he’s sand bagging even more. sick sick phish right there.

  17. bearito Says:

    DWD>2001 all had concise, smooth segues but with little “meat” on the bone imo

    I do feel like like Ghost had run it’s course and dissolved nicely into Golden Age

    Add the 10 minutes of Guyute to that Sally and I think we’d all be happy

    Hoping Sally gets the UIC treatment if played

    Can’t F’n wait to hear the sound bounce around in that shed tomorrow night

  18. litteringandd Says:

    Miner-Any thoughts on the best first set of 2011? Personally think its Superball Day 3 hands down

  19. bearito Says:

    Bethel 2, Alpha 1, SB 3 are my fav set 1’s thus far

    Shit I’ll throw in Gorge 1 just for that face melting Roggae!

  20. Robear Says:

    AW, my copy of ‘Light’ is missing the crappy part.

    Littering, spinning that set now, up to Reba, to see if I was fluffing the past or being a jaded ass about recent first sets.

    The answer is, neither. That is a spectacular first set. Nothing remotely close on this leg yet.

  21. Skyballs Saxscraper Says:

    @litteringandd: I’m far from partial, but I agree with you. Bethel II should be mentioned here, though.

  22. Mr.Miner Says:

    @ litter. Agree

    @aw I’ll email u

  23. bearito Says:

    Alpha ‘Light Up’ SMOKES!!!

  24. litteringandd Says:

    Dropping the Time Loves a Hero in between Ocean and closing Reba>Bowie might what put the finishing touch on it for me

  25. Robear Says:

    Happiness is spinning Phish on the head phones and watering the yarden.

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