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.

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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. William H. Bonney Says:

    lot more RBI chances in Yanks lineup, who knows with the short porch in RF he might get a few more homers….clearly on the down side of his talent but I will be intrested to see if he gets hot playing for a legit team….spent last few years getting his head kicked in……

  2. William H. Bonney Says:

    seems like Rangers are very top heavy on contracts with that deal, but if healthy they have a top two lines that should create alot of chances…

  3. SeanO Says:

    6.20.04. THE SPAC Twist. Just lost my mind as many times mowing the grass as I did that summer night. I haven’t been on the BB in awhile since leg 1, but felt like I had to share my joy.

  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Rangers are going for it all now.

    Although they made it to the Conference finals last year, even Torts admitted they were still a year and a player or two away. Their lack of scoring killed them in the playoffs last year. Nash will help in that dept. Plus, they really didn’t have to give much up. They kept Kreider and Stepan, their two best young offensive players. Great deal for NYR.

    Lets just hope there is a NHL season to watch next year.

  5. William H. Bonney Says:

    Yeah Nash is better scorer than anyone on the roster, he is one of top 5 players in East….another guy stuck on a crap team, will be first time he has a legit team….could be huge year for Nash….they will play next year NHL can’t afford even the slightest slip up or they can start packing up teams and sign a deal with WNBA and MLS to start a new network on OWN.

  6. phoammhead Says:

    really love DC1 top to bottom . . . great 2 set show . . . great flow

  7. RoosterPizza Says:

    Palmer

    Now I can watch all Yankees games here. If he just plays somewhat well, the Yankees will make so much money off of him, Japanese advertising, and merchandising. It will be crazy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IjEdWTk1l9o

  8. RoosterPizza Says:

    Actually, all he has to do is play.

  9. William H. Bonney Says:

    No doubt media from japan is still following the washed up Matsui….sad thing is Rays keep running his warning track power in line up….one game last week Maddon put him in the lineup because his parents were at the game……what is this little league….unconfirmed reports had Maddon taking all the guys out for Ice cream also….

  10. chris Says:

    miner your wrong about the jones beach show. Everyone i talked to had night two over night one. Even though the first night had the great cover and 3 big jams, night two had a special energy. It was much more of a throwdown than the first. Perhaps you had to be there.

  11. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Totally disagree chris. I was at both, as was Miner.

    Night 1>Night 2…and it wasn’t really that close.

    quinn, julius, rocknroll ( decent), horse>Silent, good Hood, then shine a light, Show of Life? ugh… It was a boring set.. Tweezer and Twist both had potential but were cut short.

  12. Mr. Palmer Says:

    I’ll take A Skin it Back and a Happiness and 3 big jams over an “energy” show everyday of the week and 2x on Sunday.

  13. phoammhead Says:

    chris, sorry but no way jb2 gets nod over jb1 . . . have you been paying attention around here? 😉

  14. MiA Says:

    “special energy”

  15. RoosterPizza Says:

    Just no spoiling from home, I def have JB night one over night two.

    William Bonney, that post made me laugh. In unrelated news, Joe Giradi can speak Japanese now.

  16. garretc Says:

    I was at neither, but on listen back JB1 is quite a bit better than JB2, in my opinion, of course

  17. MiA Says:

    [1] Lyrics changed to “tucking in the Purple Rain.
    [2] Lyrics changed to “Why’d you tuck my monkey on a train.”

    I think that says it all right there.

  18. MiA Says:

    JB1’s first set was better than all of JB2 to me.

  19. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Purple Rain was a good time, I admit. 1st set = harmless.

    I found myself smiling and laughing throughout. I was entertained, so it worked for me. But yeah, night 1 owns.

    Night 2 highlights- Tmwsiy, Bittersweet ( 1st time), Bowie, Susskind,
    Tweezer>Twist , Hood, Slave

  20. MiA Says:

    JB1 Set II was great though too. JB2 seemed really like a lot of music though. I will say that. But almost “too much” Weren’t there like 32 songs played or something?

  21. MiA Says:

    Not knocking the Purple Rain stuff. I bet that was a blast.

  22. MiA Says:

    Really hard to look at JB2 and wonder how it wasn’t fantastic. It’s like a stacked deck in so many ways.

  23. angryjoggerz Says:

    My 2 year old is super excited about the Olympics, so that is fun. I have to say that the Beijing Olympics were fucking blast – so glad I got to be there for that. I only made it to one sport event (womens beach volleyball – I chose well), but the overall vibe at the games is amazing. The best of sportsmanship, lots of just cheering everyone on, very party atmosphere. I hope London goes well.

  24. Mr. Palmer Says:

    If they play out the tweez>twist and then cut out Julius, Horse>Silent , and Show of Life it’s a lot different. Jam out RnR a little more. Then it’s worthy of the Monkey>Reprise encore.

    Lots of fans love those types of shows though, which is fine. My point is, i’m not going to tell someone they are wrong because their opinion is different then mine.

  25. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Was a lot of songs. I think they count tmwsiy and the purple rain stuff as 3 songs each though, no? PR>HYHU>PR. not really 3 songs in my book, but whatever.

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