Into the Great Wide Open

6.18.11- Raleigh (John Crouch)

Though Phish jammed on a diversity of songs throughout this past summer, some provided multiple leaps into the wide open and unknown musical pastures. Below are the five most consistently profound jam vehicles of Summer 2011.


“Down with Disease”

Phish played eleven versions of “Down with Disease” this summer, and nine of them broke free into open jams. Several renditions became highlights of the season with Clarkston’s epic excursion leading the pack. DTE’s 20-minute “Disease Supreme” took the cake for the version of summer, but other stellar outings included UIC’s exploratory jaunt that touched on so many places before winding into “Twist,” Super Ball’s powerful, groove-laced, then ambient piece that led into “No Quarter,” Camden and Alpharetta’s first-leg psychedelic standouts and Essex’ Junction’s final statement of summer. Nine for eleven—that’s one hell of a batting average. Also featured as an experimental vehicle in Bethel, Tahoe and Denver, one can make a strong case for “Disease” being the jam of the season.



6.3.11 (Michael Stein)

Ever since “Light” burst onto the scene in 2009, the song has consistently pushed the band outside the box. “Conventional jamming” doesn’t exist in “Light” aside from Trey’s atonal solo, and the song’s improvisational canvas is ever-morphing. In eight summer outings, all but two reached completely original galaxies, led—head and shoulders above the rest—by Tahoe’s dark, bass-led adventure. UIC’s version likened an extra-terrestrial encounter, while Denver’s final suite of summer favored delicate and melodic interplay, culminating in the sublime “Disease Reprise.” Super Ball’s “Light” turned into the first blowout version of summer, reaching soulful planes untouched by the song over June. Though Riverbend’s version is not long, the band reaches an ethereal plane that—by all accounts—should have been explored further, though Portsmouth’s version capped the most impressive “Light” of leg one.


“Rock and Roll”

“Rock and Roll,” the lasting piece of Halloween ’98, not only provided the jam of the year, the era, and one of the best pieces of all-time in the Gorge’s 8.5’s abduction, it also left some other lasting highlights on Summer 2011 as well. Mansfield’s version provided one of the indelibly mind-numbing pieces of Leg I—a jam that holds up to anything from the summer. Charlotte’s “Rock and Roll” blossomed into a deeply soulful excursion that has been overshadowed by the top-shelf “Ghost” that followed, and in these three jams alone, the song produced three tremendous summer highlights. Throw in a very experimental, though not as cohesive, version at Merriweather, and you’ve got half the versions of summer. Others included more rocking outings in Denver (which segued into “Come Together), Essex Junction (which dropped into “Twist”), and PNC’s first-set banger.



6.11.11 (Brian Ferguson)

Though “Waves” only made it to stage four times this summer, three of them were top-notch highlights. Busting the doors of summer wide open on night one in Bethel, the band deconstructed “Boogie On,” landing in “Waves,” and commencing one of the lasting highlights of the season. Getting into a delicate conversation and then abstract soundscapes, Phish announced their improvisational authority on tour’s opening night. The next version, in Super Ball’s finale, was one of several centerpiece jams in the festival’s most experimental (main stage) set. Moving far into ambient, space harmonies, Phish eventually seeped into a dripping version of “What’s the Use?” And then “Waves” came out in the Element Set as the spark to one summer’s most revered sequences: “Waves -> Undermind -> Steam.” Though the band only played four versions this summer (Merriweather being the other), three turned to absolute gold.



Always reaching wide-open musical pastures, only four of nine summer versions truly grab my attention—Denver, Hollywood, Merriweather and Raleigh. Denver’s Theremin-laced excursion remains one of my favorite jams of summer, while Hollywood’s psychedelic experiment continues to fly under the radar. The Mid-Atlantic region saw two standout explorations of “Piper,” Merriweather first night spectacle and the lesser-talked about rendition from Walnut Creek. Beyond these top four, Blossom’s version, though succinct,” gets into ambient realms quickly and segues into the only “Lizards” of the summer, and Super Ball’s rendition provided high-speed action that dropped into “Tweezer.” All in all a very solid summer for a song that is synonymous with improvisational adventure.


Jam of the Day:

Rock and Roll -> Meatstick -> Boogie On” 8.5.11 II

The creme de la creme of Summer 2011.



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923 Responses to “Into the Great Wide Open”

  1. kayatosh Says:

    reviewed Picture of Nectar for the Duke student newspaper.

  2. SillyWilly Says:

    name dropping, huh?

    well, Tom, Dick, and Harry are my bros.

  3. Mr.Miner Says:

    is this too big of a file for people to download w/o a premium megaupload acct:

    Super Ball FLAC:

    someone try. I may just have to offer FLACs in torrent form

  4. MrCompletely Says:

    i always just bruised myself on them skinny girls @sw

    pointy hipbones and stuff

  5. MrCompletely Says:

    yeah you have to be “premium” or break it up into files under 1gb

  6. SillyWilly Says:


    Mr. C knows Frank, too. Apparently.

  7. Mr.Miner Says:


  8. SillyWilly Says:

    and nicely-played, Mr. C

  9. EL Duderino Says:

    Break up into sets, that should work, right?

  10. Mike in Austin Says:

    That’s what Kelly Kulick is for. And Zvonareva.

  11. MrCompletely Says:

    Immortal Technique is all ages at the Wonder Ballroom on 12/1 @gc

  12. joe Says:

    1992, when we used to listen to hip hop and jerry and smoke blunts through (plastic) bongs is when I first got introduced to phish. 1994 is when I was on board for good.

  13. MrCompletely Says:

    this should be good to if you’re into that sort of thing

    Adrian Belew Power Trio w/ Stick Men featuring Tony Levin and Pat Mastellotto

  14. SillyWilly Says:

    AW was pimpin Adrian Belew Power trio yesterday, but I think it’s sold out in Chicago


  15. phoammhead Says:

    i went with a SBD of that 3.22.93 show to give to a friend for a gamehendge intro

  16. joe Says:

    had some unmarked tapes that my (non-phan) older sister’s pseudo-hippy friend left in her car that I used to rock. In hindsight, it was the studio albums up to that point and 2 unidentified shows. My order of preference then was:

    hip hop

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    might be time to see Leo Kottke again. I love his shows.

    This is pretty interesting – talking about his newest album:

    It is the most improvisational record the legendary guitarist has ever recorded. Usually a meticulous pre-planner, Kottke threw all preconceived notions to the wind when he entered Studio M near his home in Minneapolis.

    “Over time, the importance of improvisation for me has increased,” he says. “I used to think that it was nothing worth hearing.”

    Among the factors that helped thaw Kottke’s longstanding reluctance to “jam out” was the making of Clone, his 2002 duet record with bassist Mike Gordon of Phish.

    “Clone raised the level of risk I was willing to accept,” Kottke admits. “I didn’t know where I was when I went in the studio to make Try and Stop Me. I wasn’t as flummoxed by that sensation as I might have been had I not spent that much time with Mike.”

    And so we get pieces like the deliciously askew “Unbar,” wherein folk blues motifs dance to a decidedly different rhythm. “I deliberately lost count,” Kottke laughs. “So you don’t know where the one is until it’s already gone past you. It’s gonna infuriate people because of that. We really have the 12-bar blues format deeply ingrained in us, whether we even know what it is or not.”

  18. Mike in Austin Says:

    Adrian Belew is fantastic.

  19. SillyWilly Says:

    rad, Mr. C

    thanks for posting that about Kottke

  20. MrCompletely Says:

    black star, shabazz palaces and leo kottke would make for a pretty fun weekend

  21. MrCompletely Says:

    I love belew @mia, his work with the Heads especially

    huge influence on latter era trey obv

    I’m not into all of the proggy crimsonesque material he gets into though. some of it yes, some no

  22. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Thanks for that Kottke info. I have never seen him. I actually noticed that he is playing at a public library about 15 minutes from my home on Sunday evening. I may have to go check it out.

    Anyone have any idea about the NYE run. I know the MSG deets, but any word on how many shows. I was hearing 4 and now i hear 3. The 29th stinks for me because its my daughters 7th birthday. Can’t do it. Hoping i can get the 28th in as a consolation prize. Now i have to convince the wife to go on NYE and find someone that wants to watch three kids… thats the tough part.

  23. MrCompletely Says:

    the aladdin is a perfect place for leo too. it’s been several years I guess. time to see him and hear all the new stories.

  24. joe Says:

    new business plan:

    bb day (night) care. pimp my lady out to the parents of the bb. she’s great with kids. really

  25. MrCompletely Says:

    ah well i am a huge leo kottke fan @palmer, especially live. the albums are uneven and don’t grab a lot of folks

    but as an acoustic guitar player he’s amazing even after having lost some of his technique over the years

    at his peak he was one of the greatest and most influential acoustic guitar players of all. it’s still hypnotic. worth sitting where you can see his hands.

    and the stories are surreal and hilarious. once you’ve seen him tell stories a couple times it’s easy to imagine him getting along well with Mike.

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