Three Of A Kind

Throughout the Summer, Phish performed no less than four three-nights stands: to start the summer in Bethel, to end the Summer Tour in Denver, a mid-season festival in Watkins Glen, and a return to the intimate environs of UIC Pavilion in Chicago to cap Leg Two. Within these three-night affairs, the band was able to showcase the full spectrum of their playing styles, and got a chance to settle into one room (or one stage) and really let things loose. Without the pressure of only two sets and onto the next city, three nights allowed Phish to musically move any direction they so desired, while giving fans a three-day break from the road. Inevitably, as the band relaxed into these four stands, some of the best shows and jams of the summer resulted. Let’s take a look at last summer’s three-nighters in chronological order.

Bethel Woods, 5/27-5/29

Official Bethel Print (Stout)

Phish came blasting out of the gates at Bethel Woods last summer, kicking off June’s tour—and 2011—in mind-bending fashion. Though the band had gained considerable momentum during the second half of Fall 2010, and played a legit New Year’s Run, nobody expected to experience what went down in Bethel over Memorial Day weekend. When the band came out blazing after an almost six month layoff, many fans expected a warm up show for the first show of tour. But May 27th proved to be anything but a warm up, starting a trend of very significant tour-opening shows 2011.

Bethel Woods (Chris Klein)

The first night at Bethel Woods, though featuring an above average first set, was all about the second. Centered on the psychedelic joyride of “Boogie On > Waves > Caspian > Crosseyed,” the band played with far more confidence and audacity than we had observed at MSG. And the second night of the stand shook the Phish universe to the core. Putting together the most impressive two set show of the modern era up to that point, the band absolutely destroyed the northern New York venue with two sets of barn burning Phish. Highlights of this second night include, “Cities,” “Halley’s Comet,” “Runaway Jim,” “Bathtub Gin,” “Disease > Free,” “Number Line,” and “Harry Hood.” Everything Phish touched turned to gold on this night, and it was this show on May 28th that caused many fans to begin rearranging their summer plans—3.0 Phish had never been like this before.

On the third night in Bethel, the band ran out of creative gas, as they played a straightforward rock and roll show to their salivating crowd. And while this show has likely gotten little play on anyone’s iPod, the safe Sunday night affair seemed just fine on the heels of the improvisational exploits of the first two shows.

Super Ball 7/1-7/3

Super Ball (G.Lucas)

Though Indio provided an idyllic backdrop for Festival 8, it just didn’t feel the same. But when fans began to populate Watkins Glen International on June 30th, the entire infrastructure of the festival felt far more like the dreamlike weekends of lore. With themed art installations and notably smaller grounds, Super Ball was the user-friendliest Northeast festival to date. And boy did Phish respond. The first day with filled with fiery playing throughout both sets, with the improvisational highlight coming with an ethereal and ambient take on “Simple.” The second day of the festival began to heat up in earnest towards the end of the second set, setting up a monstrous nightcap. The third set of the day was one flowing highlight whose centerpiece sequence read “Golden Age > Piper > Caspian > Tweezer.” The bonus here was the only jammed out “Golden Age” to date, less a small funk jam at Darien. The exploratory spirit applied to this festival version would vanish during second leg of summer, as the TV On the Radio cover became an anthem rather than a vehicle for jamming. “Twist > 2001 > Harry Hood” provided the other highlight segment of the set before the band continued to play random singles, compromising the cohesion of the frame as a whole. But when this set ended, the true highlight of the festival began.

The Storage Jam (B.Ferguson)

The Ball Square Jam. The Storage Jam. Call it what you will, Phish’s late-night surprise set—a rite missing from Indio—returned with smashing success at Super Ball. Guised within an artistic rendition of a self-storage shed and immersed in an hour-long rotation jam, the band explored  some of the most experimental music of their career. This jam saw the return of Page’s Theremin, a gimmick he had used in 1996, that he brought back with a whole new skill set. This instrument would make its way into some of the most engaging Phish jams during the second leg of summer—The Gorge’s “Rock and Roll” UIC’s “Undermind,” and Denver’s “Piper. This dark and wholly abstract style of play that was broadcast to fans in surround sound, would establish a new style of improv for the second leg of Summer—“Storage Jamming.” And it would only take hours before this style began seeping into their live show.

On the final day of Super Ball, Phish came out and played, arguably, their strongest two-set show of the year. The band tore every piece to shreds, whether it was the first set’s “Destiny Unbound,” “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” or “Reba,” or the second set’s “Disease -> No Quarter, “Light,” or “Waves -> What’s the Use?.” Phish had IT on July 3rd, and played a memorable show laced with full-band interplay that is among the best of the entire year.

UIC Pavilion 8/15-8/17

Unofficial UIC (Ortiz)

Phish had a rich legacy at UIC Pavilion before stepping foot in the venue last summer. With two standout ’94 shows and a legendary three-night run in the fall of ’98, the band returned to a venue where they had exclusively spat fire. And for the first two nights, that is exactly what they did. “The Elements Set” needs no introduction, as the second set of 8/15 has become fan favorite from the moment it happened. The quintessential frame of  “all killer, no filler,” Phish barely stopped for air while cranking through “Sand -> Light > Dirt, Waves > Undermind > Steam > Fire.” Not to mention a stellar first set that puts this show squarely in the running for the two-setter of the year

On the second night in the Chicago, the band came back with just as much gusto and creativity, applying their skills most furiously in the first set during standout versions of “Chalk Dust” and “Limb by Limb.” But the massive version of “Down With Disease” that opened the second set stole the show, moving through countless interesting realms before the band calmly migrated into “Twist.” Trey anchored the middle of the set with strong solos in “Number Line” and “Theme,” before the band got back at it with an increasingly rare “YEM” to close the night.

The third night opened in promising fashion with the old-school Gamehednge staple “Colonel Forbin’s > Mockingbird,” but considerably fizzled thereafter. The highlight sequence of this show was the pairing of “Crosseyed” and “No Quarter” to jump start the second set, but after that, though great songs kept coming, no musical excitement accompanied them. Thus when “Tweezer” and “Ghost” passed with virtually no jamming, the energy of the set deflated considerably. The band kept the fun high by continuing to work in vocal teases of “Still Waiting” in just about every song of the set, and after two nights of serious musicianship, though this show felt a little empty at the time, it suited the last night of tour just fine—kinda.

Denver, Colorado 9/2-9/4

Official Denver Print (LandLand!)

Simply put, Phish’s Labor Day weekend run at Dick’s soccer stadium was their strongest and most consistent three-night stand of the year. Punctuating their touring season with three of its strongest shows—all including smoking first sets—this run represented 2011 Phish at its finest. Beginning with the “S” show, Phish threw down jams with airtight communication, highlighted by the forward-looking experiment that grew out of “Seven Below.” But beyond jamming, the band was playing inspired music all night long in a show that also featured “Sneakin’ Sally > Sparks,” and “Scents and Subtle Sounds > Slave.”

After a fiery opening set on the second night in which even song sprung to life with vitality, the band played one of the most on point second sets of summer. Kicking off with “Disease -> Tweezer,” the “Tweezer” jam immediately transformed into one of the IT moments of this era, as the band came together in a life-affirming musical masterpiece. After splicing a spirited version of “Golden Age” and a shredtastic “Kill Devil Falls” into the mix, Phish arrived at the second profound moment of the set—“2001 > Light -> Disease Reprise.” Taking risks and succeeding like champions, the band had the switch locked in the “On” position all night long, including the standout “Antelope” with “Disease” teases that ended the set.

9.4.11 (M.Stein)

And unlike any other three-night stand during the year, Phish came out and played their third, consecutive standout show in Denver. Opening with “Maze” and continuing with first set highpoints of “Tube” “Timber,” and “Bathtub Gin,” the band certainly meant business on their final night of summer. Centering the final set of Colorado around a sublime triumvirate of “Twist – > Piper > Harry Hood,” the band’s playing was at top level at this point in the year, as they flew through jams with immense creativity and immaculate proficiency. Add a surreal second-set “Roggae” and “Ghost -> the second “Guy Forget” of all time -> Ghost,” and we’ve got yet a third contender for show of the summer—all from Dick’s alone! A raucous “Walls of the Cave” closer slammed the door shut on Summer Tour 2011—by far and away—the most magnificent tour since Phish’s 2009 return.

These three-night stands provided benchmarks along the road of Summer Tour. When looking at the consistency of music throughout these four stands, one can easily observe the transformative nature of Phish music last year. Building off of 2009 and 2010, during 2011, the band began to forge new improvisational pathways for their music, craft timeless jams that stand up to any era of Phish, and rewrite the record books for what is possible in this era. It took a couple of years to get there, but in 2011, the band exploded with the type of consistently creative playing that I—and many others—had faith would return. From Bethel to Super Ball to UIC to Denver, the three-night stands in 2011 centralized the band and community for some of the most enthralling experiences of the year. We’ll see what 2012 brings, but if I had to guess, I bet we see a couple more of these musical trifectas.

7.3.11 - Super Ball (Graham Lucas)

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1,010 Responses to “Three Of A Kind”

  1. angryjoggerz Says:

    Roscoe Mitchell Sextet – Sound

    With Sound, saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell unloosed blazing glory in 1967. Expressing an emphasis on music as, of course, “sound” rather than “tune,” Mitchell’s sextet starts with an immediately fast gait. The quickness is undergirded by Malachi Favors’s bass and Lester Lashley’s cello on “Ornette,” of which an alternate take opens the CD. Here Lester Bowie’s trumpet is early in the cycle of exploration that gave the Art Ensemble of Chicago–of which both Bowie and Mitchell are charter members–such a slurry brass force. Tenor saxophonist Maurice McIntyre develops his twisty solo logic from chunks mulled over, shredded, and unpacked. Mitchell’s alto cuts quickly and incisively, as well as providing eerie and lengthy sheets of notes in “Sound 1,” where Lashley takes up trombone and provides a slippery brass skyline, with Alvin Fielder’s malletted cymbals providing the blustering clouds.

    01. Ornette (Alternate)
    02. Sound 1
    03. The Little Suite
    04. Ornette
    05. Sound 2

  2. DukeOfLizards Says:


    If you’re doing the Mingus thing: definitely check the other recs, but do not skip Mingus At The Bohemia.

  3. RamblinMind Says:

    thanks @tzara’s! great to be back in a phishy mood. sometimes long breaks are needed.

  4. tzara's Says:

    Nice, @AJ, I’m all over that one. I was lucky enough to see Art Ensemble of Chicago twice in their day. Was 20 feet from Roscoe throwing down crazy circular breathing solos at our little jazz club here. Good drop. I think I need to learn mediafire one of these days.

  5. lumpyhead Says:

    Thanks MiA.

  6. butter Says:

    repost for @beantown

    i’m sure your busy just getting into town, but wanted to extend you a warm west coast welcome…

    @iriewalton the bar “Goodfoot” in PDX has their Phish Phry tonite

    All Phish all night

    i would stop by, but its about an 11 hour drive

  7. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Aj – these drops are awesome. never heard of half of them , but i’m grabbing all the ones i catch.

    Duke- noted

  8. stapes Says:

    I will always stand behind that 03 Miami run.

    Some great energy all 4 nights. Some good points, some bad points.

    All I know is, when they dropped into that freaky space shit for the first notes on 12/28, we knew it was on!

    Honestly wish I could say I remember more of that 12/31 III set with that Reba. I remember exactly where I was for that set, and I remember the big Jim, and Reba and Simple, etc, But I need to revisit for the actual details 😉

    Also remember they were playing the Bomb Factory shows every night on the speakers out on the ‘patio’/’balcony’ areas outside the arena. Very nice taking a break b/t sets and listening to that over the speakers.

  9. stapes Says:

    @ Duke – is that Aja in your avatar?


  10. garretc Says:

    Wait, T(ghost), you saw AEC? Nutso…


    Doing pretty well man. Just hitting the burnout point on this winter break, ready for some school again, so good thing I head back Tuesday! How have your exams been treating you?

    Oh, and remember the dutch crunch incident? I was looking it up today and it’s apparently only called dutch crunch in parts of California and Oregon. Otherwise I guess they call it tiger bread? Dunno if that will ring any bells either, but it was interesting to learn that it’s a regional name…

  11. DukeOfLizards Says:


    Indeed. Fantastic album.

    Also, fits with the Steely meme going on here lately.

  12. El Duderino Says:

    Miami ’03 was gonna be it for me, and it was, until they came back in ’09

  13. tzara's Says:

    Yeah, garret. Saw them once maybe 15 years ago, and it was only Lester Bowie, bass, and drums. But then I saw them again with Roscoe Mitchell and Joseph Jarman on saxes (Mr Bowie had since passed, replaced by a competent trumpeter). It was just a few weeks before bassist Malachi Favors died, so I was thankful to see that.

    The band ripped, and I said Hi and shook hands with Mitchell after the show. Good night!

  14. Gavinsdad Says:

    Congrats to el dude and his slf. Hope u get a smooth ride ahead.

  15. Gavinsdad Says:

    My dj name should be Dutch Crunch.

  16. El Duderino Says:

    thnx GDad…
    had leo and g711 over tonight… had you in our thoughts

  17. stapes Says:

    Love me some Steely!

    Citizen box set is great.

  18. alf Says:

    evening comrades

    feeling the jerz love tonight

  19. alf Says:

    stayed at the chelsea pub & inn for AC 10 (sumo turned me on to it) and have a room booked there again for june, looks to be about a mile from bader field

    cheap, family run b&b kinda place. worked great for us, though we also had the farthest room away from the front desk. rooms next to the lobby might be a little tougher if you catch my drift

  20. alf Says:

  21. butter Says:

    Dicks Sportinggoods (DKS) stock up 12% today, fo real

  22. stapes Says:

    I was just doing some reconnaissance on Google Maps for AC (cuz I’m a map geek, of course). Put the little man for Street View on the corner of Atlantic Ave and Morris and got this:,+Atlantic+City,+NJ&daddr=Chelsea+Pub+%26+Inn,+South+Morris+Avenue,+Atlantic+City,+NJ+to:Boardwalk+Hall,+Boardwalk,+Atlantic+City,+NJ&hl=en&ll=39.354064,-74.447984&spn=0.003891,0.007596&sll=39.366438,-74.421215&sspn=0.008178,0.015192&geocode=FWSUWAIdL9-P-yGuj7PnvCjzBQ%3BFV17WAIdfQSQ-yG9Sypaxaw5ZynPFmPsY-7AiTEJGhgvh7RkSg%3BFRmCWAIdCSmQ-yGelL4rW4js_g&oq=boardwalk+hall&vpsrc=6&mra=ls&t=h&z=17&layer=c&cbll=39.354064,-74.447984&panoid=kEZEnk3urhRtcx6njNnhTA&cbp=12,71.88,,0,-8.14

    wozahs. time warp. trippy.

  23. stapes Says:

    ^^^sorry for that sloppy ass link. my bad.

  24. voopa Says:

    Wow, I’ve seen some crazy shit on street view before, but…

  25. ThePigSong Says:

    JUst spun a few SBIX tracks. I had a very unique experience during Simple and listening back, I know exactly why.

    Also, after Trza tells the guy to jump off of the ferris wheel he starts to tell us about “next years” setup.

    Obviously FestiX is a lock.

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