The Second Sets of Summer

6.17.12 (Michael Stein)

While gazing over the summer setlists this past weekend, there were so many great second sets that ordering them one-by-one seemed like an exercise in futility. But as I looked a little longer at the second sets of Leg One, I found that four “tiers” of shows emerged. Using nameable qualities—or lack thereof‑—to separate these tiers, a macro picture of summer emerged. But before we get into analyzing—and overanalyzing—what shows should be where, let’s take a step back to recognize that even the Tier Four shows have solid chunks to offer, and in some cases, more than one. Point being, Phish just played an amazing tour.

The main elements that separated shows were lack of flow or the “fizzle factor.” The first is self-explanatory, while the second refers to a set that started out strong but didn’t finish with authority. The elite sets that made the top tier of Leg One, in my opinion, contain outstanding improv—most often with a centerpiece jam, possess an undeniable flow from beginning to end, and have supporting jam sequences that could be no-brainer highlights of lesser shows. Let’s take a look at these four groupings and then inspect a couple takeaways. Each tier is listed in chronological order. (I wasn’t at Bonnaroo, thus it isn’t included.)

*****

 TIER ONE

6/7, Worcester:

Carini -> Taste > Ghost > Boogie On > If I Could, Quinn, Hood > Cavern > Buried Alive Reprise

The opening night of tour featured a second set that can stand up to any of summer. The opening sequence of “Carini” through “If I Could” is pure improvisational gold. Juxtaposed against the mediocre MSG shows over New Years, this tour-opening set felt like an indoor soul cleansing. With central jams of “Carini” and “Ghost -> Boogie On,” there is no question that this set belongs in the upper echelon of 2012.

6/15, Atlantic City:

My Soul, Birds -> Back on the Train > Heavy Things > Twist > Piper > Billy Breathes, Sneakin’ Sally > David Bowie

Atlantic City’s first night has everything I look for in a second set. Start-to-finish flow, a centerpiece jam in “Birds” and incredibly strong supporting sequences of ‘Twist > Piper” and “Sally -> Bowie.” A scorcher through and through, and a set of non-stop adventure, AC’s opening night stole the show down the shore.

6/23, Star Lake:

Jibboo, Mike’s > Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below, Bouncin, Julius, Slave

This unbelievably cohesive frame of music is centered on a sublime, 45-minute chunk of jamming—“Simple > Light > Weekapaug > Seven Below.” Interlacing “Light’s” jam in “Weekapaug,” and “Weekapaug’s” in “Seven Below,” Phish was flowing like lava on this Saturday night with a modern-sounding symphony. Sparked with “Jibboo,” “Mike’s” and brought home with “Bouncin,” “Julius,” and an outstanding “Slave,” Star Lake stopped for nobody.

6/28, Deer Creek:

Mike’s > McGrupp, Back on the Train -> HYHU > Bike > HYHU > Weekapaug, Caspian > Waves > Bug > Bowie

With an unconventional setlist and a Fishman appearance in the middle of the frame, Phish pulled of one of their most musically impressive second sets of summer. Served in wonderfully packaged pre-and post-Fishman suites, this set flowed particularly well, and several jams jumped off the deep end. Pairing the greatest “McGrupp” that I know with a deeply psychedelic “Back on the Train,” and following Fishman with the seamless sequence of “Caspian > Waves > Bug > Bowie,” this set is an absolute gem. The “Waves” is a tour highlight, and in the running with best versions ever played.

7/6, SPAC:

Chalk Dust, Carini > Sand, Roses Are Free > Punch You In the Eye > Sneakin’ Sally > Ghost > Suzy, Antelope

Phish took no prisoners on the first night of SPAC, putting together one of the finest second sets of tour. Opening with a scathing combo of “Carini > Sand” and focusing on the even more adventurous combo of “Sally > Ghost,” Phish played live without a net on this night. Using “Roses” to ground the set before utilizing “Punch” to launched into its second half, Phish didn’t come close to a ballad in frame of fire. Capping their performance with aggressive runs through “Suzy” and “Antelope,” Phish had the pavilion buzzing long after they left the stage.

*****

Tier Two

6/16, Atlantic City:

Crosseyed > Slave, Light -> Manteca -> Light > Theme > Golgi Apparatus, Sand, Number Line, Antelope

This set was hard to keep out of the top tier, but I just didn’t feel it held up to the crème de la crème. Centered on the stellar “Lighteca,” and supported by a “Crosseyed” that all-but-seamlessly segued into a knee-buckling “Slave,” the only other piece of interest was a late-set “Sand.” With songs like “Theme,” Golgi,” and “Number Line” compromising the flow of the set, this one just missed the bar.

6/22, Riverbend:

Disease > Guelah Papyrus, Kill Devil Falls > Twist > Halley’s > Sand -> Roggae, Carini > Chalk Dust, Golgi

Laced with magical interplay throughout, including one of the jams of tour in “Twist,” Cincy’s second set was kept in the second tier due its choppiness. Though “Disease” was glorious, Trey ended it quite abruptly with “Guelah Papyrus,” and after “Roggae,” the final three songs of “Carini > Chalk Dust,” and “Golgi,” felt like they were picked out of a hat. But when focusing on the jams—“Disease,” “KDF-> Twist,” and “Sand > Roggae,” this set packs plenty of improvisational gold.

 6/30, Alpine Valley:

Number Line, Carini > Wilson > Golden Age -> 2001 > Rock and Roll > Steam > Piper > Quinn, Hood > Zero

What the first night of Alpine lacks in a centerpiece jam, it more than makes up for with relentless momentum, non-stop flow and several 10-minute gems. Never stopping for air, the band crafted an ultra-groovy first half of the set through “2001,” including a plinko-funk throwdown in “Golden Age.” And then the guys sculpted two standout excursions in “Rock and Roll” and “Piper,” highlighting exploratory playing during the second portion of the set. Filling in the gaps were the only version of “Steam” this year and a show-capping combo of “Harry Hood” and “Zero.” If I weren’t being so stingy with Tier One, this set one could be argued upward. Though the following night at Alpine reached higher highs, this set was a start-to-finish powerhouse. Had there been a significant closer versus “Quinn,” Hood,” and “Zero,” this would be sitting higher.

7/1, Alpine Valley:

Crosseyed > No Quarter > Light -> Ghost -> Back on the Train, Farmhouse, 46 Days, Heavy Things, Joy, Julius

This set is one of my favorite of sets summer through “Farmhouse”—but then the fizzle factor came into play in major fashion. The final segment of the show read like the middle of a first set—“46 Days,” “Heavy Things,” “Joy,” and “Julius.” Though everything was solid, it seemed like the band had shot their load during the first half of the set and coasted to the finish line. Sometimes that’s what it takes for them to reach their highest highs these days—and “Light -> Ghost” is my favorite playing of tour—but the set’s final third certainly keeps it out of the top tier.

7/3, Jones Beach:

Chalk Dust, Sand -> Golden Age, Wolfman’s -> Walk Away, Bug, Fluffhead, Wedge, Antelope

The first night of Jones Beach seems to have everything to qualify for Tier One, but is missing that intangible “x” factor. A smoking opening combo of “Chalk Dust,” Sand -> Golden Age” featured one of the jams of tour in “Golden Age.” And though the band hit a slight stumble between “Wolfman’s” and “Walk Away,” they didn’t fizzle out, following “Bug” with the summery triumvirate of “Fluffhead,” “Wedge,” and “Antelope.” “Antelope”—the first to raise a brow since Utica—provided a late set highlight, but when I had this paragraph in Tier One—and that’s where it started—it just didn’t feel right. Is it because “Wolfman’s” wasn’t allowed to breathe, cut short for a trio of jamless songs? I’m not totally sure. I had a blast at this one, but listen back boils down to “Sand -> Golden Age” and “Antelope.”

7/8, SPAC:

Axilla > Light > Twist, KDF -> My Friend > Swept > Steep > Piper > Free, Kung > Hood > Cavern, Bowie

This set was one of the hardest for me to place. Though it doesn’t hold up in flow to the top sets, it is played well throughout, and centered on two monster jams in “Light” and “Piper.” Supported by a “Kill Devil Falls” with quite an interesting outro, the rest of the set is just kind of there. The awkward mid-set c0mbo of “My Friend”—best used as a set opener—and “Swept > Steep”—best used as a landing pad for improv—provided a lull in the action, and while Trey shines in “Harry Hood,” nothing else really pops to me. But, damn, “Light” and “Piper” are right up there with the jams of tour.

*****

TIER THREE

6/8, Worcester:

Disease > Sand -> Nellie Kane, Mike’s > Makisupa > Weekapaug, Velvet Sea, 2001 > Zero

Kicking off with an explosive combination of “Disease > Sand -> Nellie Kane,” and supported by a late set “2001” that is one of the dark horse gems of tour, this set suffers from a case standarditis right in the middle of the second set in the form of “Mike’s > Makisupa > Weekapaug.” The only real keeper from this one is “Sand -> Nellie Kane,” hence its placement.

6/20, Portsmouth:

Rock and Roll > Tweezer > Free, Guyute, Birds, Hood -> What’s the Use? > Velvet Sea, Possum

Though compared to Portsmouth’s first show, this felt like a colossal triumph, on listen back, I feel this is a very solid tier three show. A quality—though unspectacular— opening combo of “Rock and Roll -> Tweezer > Free” set the table for a huge set, but the band hit some momentum issues with “Guyute” and a standard “Birds.”Hood -> What’s the Use?” is the highlight of the set, even though it’s a sin that the band didn’t follow Fishman back into “Hood.” A “Velvet,” “Possum” pairing closed this night with a whisper.

6/24, Blossom:

Golden Age > Ghost > Sweet Virginia, Rift, Tweezer -> Walk Away > Horse > Silent > Piper > Waste, Antelope

A fun-filled and powerfully-played set peaked with the opening pairing of “Golden Age > Ghost.” Though this sequence was great, albeit chopped a bit too soon, there was little other true meat to the set. The “Tweezer” was pure fire until antics ensued and “Piper,” though short, was notable. A hell of a lot of fun to be at, this isn’t a set with timeless playback quality from top to bottom.

7/4, Jones Beach:

Boogie On, Tweezer > Twist > Taste, Quinn, Julius, Rock and Roll > Horse > Silent, Hood, Shine a Light, Show of Life, Slave

Another front loaded set, Phish’s July 4th edition was centered on a blissful “Twist” and a gorgeously divergent “Harry Hood.” “Tweezer” seemed destined for the stars before the band slipped into “Twist,” and after “Taste,” the guys played an hour of completely standard music, less “Harry Hood.” And when the band followed “Hood,” with similarly mellow song selections of “Shine a Light,” “Show of Life,” and “Slave,” it made me wonder why they no longer use setlists.

*****

TIER FOUR

 6/17 Atlantic City:

Drowned > 2001 > Reba, Roses > Chalk Dust > Caspian -> Silent, Bug > A Day in the Life > Disease

Bursting out of the gates with “Drowned > 2001 > Reba,” this set caught the first train to Fizzletown as soon as that sequence was over. Fine versions of mellow songs provide a nice soundtrack to a Sunday night while doing something else, but that’s not what we’re looking for here.

6/19 Portsmouth:

Back on the Train, Rift, Split, Mango, Number Line, Limb, Shine a Light, Lengthwise -> Maze, Cavern, Fire

Portsmouth’s second set amounted to a ninety-minute extension of its first, and were it not for Trey’s entertaining light saber antics, this set would have fallen fairly flat. The show that birthed “tucking” was focused far more on fun and songs than any sort of cohesive jamming. “Split Open” stood out, but that’s about it.

6/29 Deer Creek:

Disease > Sand -> Twist -> Rift, Bathtub Gin > Fluffhead, Ride Captain Ride, Antelope

Though the front of this set is front-loaded with a one-two punch of “Disease” and “Sand,” I haven’t found myself revisiting either version very much in favor of others. “Disease” is jammed to completion without ever getting anywhere super-engaging, and after “Sand,” the set kind of fell apart. Trey was certainly having a blast, but when he aborted “Twist” for “Rift,” and the band cut an intriguing “Gin” far shorter than first set versions for a midset “Fluffhead,” serious music didn’t seem to be their concern on this night. A fun Phish set—kind of—I haven’t found much playback value in this one.

7/7 SPAC:

Disease -> Blister in the Sun > Disease > Boogie On, Golden Age -> 2001 > Number Line, Caspian -> Scent of a Mule -> Blister in the Sun -> Scent, Mike’s > Contact > Weekapaug

This is one of those gimmicky sets—like the Moby Dick escapade of 2000—that some fans will treasure and some will yawn at. After a very significant “Disease” stopped off in “Blister in the Sun,” the rest of the set amounted to a standard performance with countless “Blister” teases. Showcasing the playful side of Phish in between two more musically-focused second sets, this one fit fine in SPAC’s three pack, but doesn’t stand very well on its own.

=====

TAKEAWAYS:

It’s pretty clear that the first night of any given stand exploded, and the following shows were composed of its fallout. There were no occasions over the summer where subsequent nights of any given stand clearly outshone the first, less Portsmouth. What’s the reason for this? Who knows. But don’t miss those first shows! It was also pretty crazy to me to have a high-quality set like Blossom’s in the third tier of tour, but that speaks to the consistent greatness of Phish these days. I would genuinely say that there were no bad shows this tour, just varying qualities of good, and that is exactly where we want to be. Phish 2012—it’s been a long ride, but it’s great to be here!

=====

Jam of the Day:

Waves > Bug” 6.28 II, Noblesville, IN

Phish.Bliss.2012.

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/2.10-Waves.mp3,http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/2.11-Bug.mp3]

=====

6.19.2012 (Michael Stein)

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232 Responses to “The Second Sets of Summer”

  1. Robear Says:

    Miner sez this site is minor.

    I think otherwise.

  2. kayatosh Says:

    since the band reads this site, i want to give a shout out to trey. trey has rededicated himself to phish and to playing with the creativity and precision that is the hallmark of phish. we see you trey, and it’s looking good. Thank you. that goes for all phish members. time for the fans to elevate their game. keep it classy.

    .SF.

  3. Kaveh Says:

    @Miner/et al: Interesting, now that I looked, that none of the Tier 1 sets feature a Down with Disease. Which to me is a very positive sign as to how great the band has been playing this Summer.

  4. kayatosh Says:

    starting the phish listening day out w/ 7.21.98 Tube. 9 min. syrup funk. $$$.

    don’t have my FLAC player w/ the most recent tour. so digging into the archives.

  5. kayatosh Says:

    shuffler brought me right to the dick’s tube 2011. prefer this denser, faster, in your face version to the 98 mentioned above. wow.

  6. sumodie Says:

    I stand by SPAC3 set 2 as a show that deserves to be on the top rack

    of all the rack 2 shows listed by miner, it’s the only one i like spinning all the way thru

    include the YEM encore, and SPAC3 is clearly on top

    (I’m a believer in an encore elevating a show but not downgrading one)

    and I’d add Roo to the list with an asterisk

  7. sumodie Says:

    Miner, thanks for the show analysis!

  8. kayatosh Says:

    agree that 7.8 II is top tier material. the flow/story of the set is $$$. reminds me of 6.28 II

  9. sumodie Says:

    When will Friar Tuck undies be available at drygoods?

    Was hoping to rock out in my very own cru$ty pair for leg2

  10. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    I say, F that! If the band et al. patrols the intarwebz looking to know the pulse of the fans. They need to stop teasing the “What the Fuck Song is This? Jam” You can hear it speckled throughout leg one shows. Stop teasing and play the damn tune.

    Seriously, Troy, get on your dick and pedal your balls back to the edge of the universe and keep going over the fucking edge! Where you are comfortable and where the magic happens are more often than not mutually exclusive.

    While you are at it, get after the “Music That Makes You Hide Under Your Chair” Overture. Not everyone like the spiritual slop you and the band are pissing in our ears nearly nightly.

    When this gets real, it will be real!

    Disrespectfully yours,

    Phamily Thaddeus Berzerker

    😉

  11. kayatosh Says:

    “They need to stop teasing the “What the Fuck Song is This? Jam” You can hear it speckled throughout leg one shows.”

    ^^^ hope your joking. b/c this aspect of phish is old school and has reemerged to the delight of many. the clever on the fly references/quotes are sweet.

  12. xpun Says:

    While spac3 had that lull it was great on either side. The x factors of tour closer and that we are having too much fun and don’t want this to end length really elevate it as well.

    Agree w encore only adding to shows. Encores are rarely show highlights although this tour had some nice picks – fluff lizards YEM.

    Maybe more 98 style one and done covers would remedy that.

  13. Litteringand Says:

    Sweet Sweet justice coming out of Indy today. All Hail Eddie Robinson!!

  14. Phamily Berzerker Says:

    Thanks, Kaya!

    I should have clarified.

    “What the Fuck Song is This? Jam” I is back. I am clearly seeking the “What the Fuck Song is This? Jam” II which has not fully manifested.

    And by ‘II’ I mean whatever or more specifically the part of the tune that exists deep in the cosmos that takes a while to get there and leaves all who witness it contemplating its deeper meaning and there own existence.

    :removes tongue from cheek partially:

  15. kayatosh Says:

    11.22.72 Playin in the band. spin that soon. powerful.

  16. butter Says:

    great idea with the tiers Miner

    too much gold to straight rank the sets, i agree

    pretty damn fine job of organizing tiers, too

  17. Robear Says:

    Wanna know what’s completely useless? Listening to Phish through a computers built in speakers.

    Are there any good earbuds that also have a built in microphone for making phone calls? Ie like the apple earbuds that come with your phone.

  18. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    I find listening on the laptop speaker(s) takes me back to the days of sun burnt sixth generation magnetized cassettes that have gone through multiple winters on my dashboard. Oddly romantic in their own way.

  19. MiA Says:

    You can’t use the apple earbuds that came with your phone in your laptop?

    I think you solved your own problem.

  20. Kaveh Says:

    “Antelope”—the first to raise a brow since Utica

    ^ Commencing re-spin. 3-2-1-GO!

  21. Robear Says:

    I can MiA. Looking for an upgrade. The apple earbuds are not that comfy.

    T3, I was all excited to show my moms friend the Alpine Fee video. He was at the show. My dad has only the built in speakers on an HP desktop. The song ended. I was thinking ‘where dd the jam go?’

    Lesson: if any o you posters have been rating Phish through micro speakers, please stop. Head to the store and get with the program.

  22. Kaveh Says:

    there were no bad shows this tour, just varying qualities of good, and that is exactly where we want to be.

    ^ BINGO…set the gearshift for the high gear of your soul! You got to blog like Miner, out of control. 🙂

  23. Robear Says:

    Kaveh, leg 2 plans?

  24. MiA Says:

    “What the Fuck Song is This? Jam” II which has not fully manifested.”

    I think this is the “tune” that PB is trying to identify.

    Gonna be played out completely during the BGCA shows.

    Robear…

    Our headphones get eaten by a Beagle or a washing machine far too often. I find these are quite nice and much more comfortable.

  25. RoosterPizza Says:

    Never know when the 160 pound kid you met two years ago is going to put on a 150 pounds to become the sumo champ of southern Japan.

    #smalltownshavepower
    #redcupenglish.com

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