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. bob dylan Says:

    Not to mention mike tour gave mike some nuts to lead the band.

    Not interested at all to see the fat man play the same bass line for 10 mins in sand now that Phish has annihilated that song.

  2. joe Says:

    “how should it be a place for him to be more experimental. he is playing with a backing band…” my answer is “More covers, more originals, less of the same would make it vastly more interesting to me.”

    but, yeah, as stated. If these projects are what keeps Phish happy and healthy and on the trajectory that we’ve seen. By all means, take a few months out of the year and go for it. If you come close to me, I’ll pay money willingly and have a great time.

  3. Mike in Austin Says:

    Bob, don’t focus on the fat man. Focus on Trey and the horns.

    Although Trey seems a little more “neutered” in TAB compared to the 2002 era. And I really could never hear “Hey Ya” and be fine.

    I though Trey ripped up Bonnaroo. I loved that show. He ripped up ACL too.

    We’ll see if he wants to play mellower 2nd sets all tour or not.

  4. bob dylan Says:

    I was 2nd row in the mud at bonnaroo. Met an ex girl at that show back in the day. Memories. 20 year old new girl excitement on top of all else.

  5. joe Says:

    and I guess I meant “experimental” in leaning more to his jam inclinations and less to the rawk side of the spectrum. with musicians that would push him that way.

    understood it’s not the point of the project

  6. bob dylan Says:

    Same year: Steve Winwood is before the dead? Who is that dude? Guess we will wait him out for the dead.

    Oh, he’s that guy?!! Cool.

    David Byrne is opening for so and so? Who’s that guy? Guess we will wait him out.

    Oh, he’s that guy?!! Cool.

  7. albert walker Says:

    Block out the horns and pretend they have chops

    I love tues and tony
    They still bring it
    That repetitive groove is TABs greatness to me

  8. butter Says:

    headed down to Monterey for some Furthur on Fri and Sat

    time to baptize lil pat

  9. albert walker Says:

    I’m a stubborn kid MIA

    Certain events will cause me to judge something off that one instance till I die
    No shaking it

    TAB covering hey ya was one of those moments

  10. butter Says:

    headed with our friends that had a baby 3 weeks before us, that are lifer GD freaks too

  11. bob dylan Says:

    Take the headphones please butter. Don’t be that guy. Maybe a SARS mask.

    That bass line was fine til mike showed us what could really happen.

  12. albert walker Says:

    Nice butter. Sounds fun

    I should come down
    Babylon is killing me right now.

  13. albert walker Says:

    Please BD easy buddy

    It ain’t butters first rodeo

    You calling him a Wook?

  14. butter Says:

    word bob. big proponent of ear protection for kids

    also Monterey is a fairgrounds, so we’ll be way in the back

    but my ohsa head phones will be ready for some rail riding during other 1 with the pat if need be

    kidding about the rail riding but not the osha headphones

  15. butter Says:

    was tryin to be nice this time to bob, ha ha AW

  16. Mike in Austin Says:

    Fuck Hey ya. Shitty cover. Just a dumb song.

    I totally understand. After Stubbs and that fucked up First Tube, I determined I’d never give that drug addict money again if he can’t play a fucking song he wrote properly. Six weeks later he was busted I think.

    He’s still on my list. Keep practicing Trey and keep those chops up, or I’m outta here.

    Glad he’s doing TAB. Got keep those fingers warm.

    Do like songs like Push on Til’ the Day, and will keep coming back for that custy stuff.

  17. butter Says:

    and yea, you should come AW

  18. albert walker Says:

    That shit pissed me off man for ya

    I’m a bit aggro lately

  19. bob dylan Says:

    Butter has to be half w00k with the nugs he drops.

    Just bothers me when I’m spun cause i worry about the kid then the NYC in me says “shut the fuck up, I wasnt talking to you”

    Any balloon hitting dude understands the love for the kids (not kidz)

  20. Mike in Austin Says:

    Steve Jobs passed away? Damn. RIP man.

  21. Mike in Austin Says:

    I’m seriously bummed here. Fuck.

  22. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Wow. RIP, Mr. Jobs

  23. EL Duderino Says:

    rip steve jobs

  24. albert walker Says:

    We were ashamed he was an oxy addict
    Figured big read could get real drugs

    When he finally hit the China shit got ugly quick

  25. bob dylan Says:

    Called my boss aggro today. Told him he was harshing my mellow.

    First custy of the day came in screaming. I was still irie and it was a buzz kill. I told her “listen, you’re the first person ive seen all day, I’m damn good at what I do and I’ll fix it, but if you keep up that yelling nonsense, I won’t be able to think, ya dig?” she piped down and I fixed it in no time.

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