Third-Set Thunder

7.1.11 - Watkins Glen (Graham Lucas)

Of all the stellar musical sequences that took place over Super Ball weekend, the opening segment of Saturday night’s third set—”Golden Age” > “Caspian” > “Piper” > “Tweezer”—represents one of the improvisational best. Combining four flowing and creative pieces, the band kicked off the nighttime festivities with a run of music that showcased a broad spectrum of their styles while blowing just about everyone out of the water.

7.3.11 (G.Lucas)

It’s no coincidence that “Golden Age” has emerged as one of this era’s defining covers. Lyrically poignant for Phish’s modern renaissance, this song has grown in each outing since its Albany ’09 debut (11.27), and this summer “Golden Age” has broken out of its shell. In Darien, not only did the band take the jam further than it had ever gone, the song became the theme of the set, reemerging prominently in “Weekapaug” and “2001.” But when the guys dropped into the dance anthem at Super Ball, the piece took on a whole new life. Transcending the rhythm grooves that dotted Darien’s excursion, Phish explored demented and percussive planes while launching into genre-defying improv at Watkins Glen. All of a sudden, the fun cover became a trampoline into the void as its jam became more abstract and psychedelic by the minute. Mike completely owned the latter portions of this piece, acting as the musical rudder while Trey and Page bubbled at the water’s surface. Fishman’s quickened and precise break-beats bordered on inhuman as the band delved into a tightly-laced musical jigsaw puzzle. And each piece was exactly in the right place.

Upon conclusion of “Golden Age’s” adventure, Phish dropped into “Prince Caspian” but, applying their teeming creativity to the song, played an alternate take of the usually straightforward ballad. Trey started his solo with less notes, carrying each out for longer and creating an incredibly emotional feel over the band’s slowed, festival-sized canvas. But instead of bringing the song to a peak, Trey backed off and the band moved with him into a more delicate conversation. As the band brought the piece down an intricate path, Trey briefly hinted at the heavy chords that typically end the song, before they slid right into “Piper” without stopping.

Watkins Glen (Graham Lucas)

Phish barreled forth with enormous energy built from the set’s opening combo, and “Piper” took little time to reach soaring planes. As soon as the lyrics ended, this version burst wide-open with instinctual jamming—the kind where the music commands the band and all becomes one energetic blur. Chugging as a single-minded monster, the guys poured laced this high-paced jaunt with passionate interplay. Mike continued his mastery with accelerated bass lines that bled musical darkness. Trey fed off Gordon’s energy, soon sprouting melodic cries while Fishman annihilated his set like there was no tomorrow. Page filled in on piano and the band was off and sprinting through fields of psychedelic debauchery. As Trey inserted rhythmic chops to ease the mania, the band leaped on his idea, creating sparse and connected percussive textures. But before long, Phish collectively constructed another wall of sound—a wall that Trey tore down with the opening lick of “Tweezer.”

Super Ball (B.Ferguson)

From the get-go, this “Tweezer” had IT. Infused with creative fills, hits and stops during the composed section, when the jam dropped everyone knew things were gonna’ get buck wild. Dripping with over-sized grooves and an aggressive growl from Big Red, the band applied their retro-stop/start jamming to this festival sized monster, creating even more gooey, rhythmic tension. This was one of those versions that one lived rather than listened to—the shit was just raw. And as the colossal textures threatened to envelop the concert field, Trey initiated a pattern of seething guitar cries—which he echoed himself—before chopping the jam with his seismic, orbit-altering effect and oozing into jam’s next segment. Mike twisted teases of “Scents and Subtle Sounds” into this mellower groove as the band methodically moved towards a guitar-led build. The piece seemed to be winding to natural conclusion, but Trey jumped the gun a bit, rushing into the beginning of “Julius.” But after a such a stellar four-song run, everything else felt like gravy.

Though Sunday’s show would prove to be a more complete effort through and through, this segment from Saturday’s night’s third set provided one of the unquestionable high points of Super Ball’s unforgettable weekend.

The age of miracles.
The age of sound.
Well there’s a Golden Age
Comin’ round, comin’ round, comin’ round!


Jam of the Day:

Piper > Tweezer” 7.2.11 III

The latter half of this next-level run of music.


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465 Responses to “Third-Set Thunder”

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  1. BrandonKayda Says:

    The dissonant Golden Age breakdown is brilliant stuff for sure

  2. Laurville Says:

    so clap your hands!

  3. jonacho Says:

    Love don’t you falter

  4. litteringandd Says:

    hindsight being 20/20, I thought that making a watkins glen t-shirt with somthing from the old arcade game Poll Postion would have been sweet. Maybe next year

  5. angryjoggerz Says:

    #5 is alive

  6. JMelby Says:

    My wife and I were so excited to hear Golden Age come out of the speakers during our couch tour. She was in another room and during this 4 song segment I know she asked 3 different times “what song did this start as?” which I’ve always taken as a good sign. This is also where the regrets started hitting me. oh well……..

    Keep it up Mr Miner I love starting my day with a good Phishthoughts review. Thanks for putting us right there.

  7. btb Says:

    First post since returning from SBIX as I had another vacation coming’ round, coming round, coming round

    I was about 40 feet away from the band for the “storage jam” and next to the camera man filming it. I’ve never scene (Heard) fishman working that hard before. I was really blown away by the abstract playing of the band as a whole. Really was an out of this world type of playing. Haven’t even re-listened yet!

  8. alf Says:

    havent relistened to storage set yet either

    and only gave parts of night 3 a single run through, even though on the whole it was the best day for me

    why? because i can’t get past day 2 set 3. shit is nuts. tweezer!!

  9. alf Says:

    sumo, the vows are the easy part, that’s simple 😉

    it’s the rest of the ceremony that’s the problem 😯

  10. Kaveh Says:

    Morning BB’ers…hope everyone had a good weekend.

    Clap your hands indeed!

  11. alf Says:

    the birds stash from the earlier set aint too shabby either

  12. Kaveh Says:

    @JMelby: What did you guys decide about Tahoe?

  13. kayatosh Says:

    great review, miner. That choice set III on day 2 set the stage for the 2 $$$ sets on day 3. GA>caspian>piper>tweez — 4 $$$ shots in a row. high level phish.

    any other instances in 3.0 of 4 songs in a row, each w/ unique and powerful improv? 2 other contenders: 5.27.2011’s boogie on> waves >caspian>crosseyed and 1.1.2011’s twist >simple sneakin sally> makisupa.

    i see has now put the mind left body tease notation for 7.3.2011 wilson in its official setlist. we were calling that the minute we heard it.

  14. Jtran Says:

    That was a pretty dancey Stash if I remember. Haven’t really listened back yet.

  15. st8 of mind Says:

    That Tweez is NASTY. Aud sounds soo good too.

  16. axillmax Says:

    There was a Golden Age in the time of the Guptas sometime in the early second century. So be it for Augustus’ Rome and Pericles Athens. The Golden Age of Islam in Baghdad wowed the world in the ninth century. But Phish at the Super Ball really crowned all Golden Ages.

  17. JP Says:

    finally listened to storage jam, unfreakin’believable – thank you phish for alll the festival-based expereimental sets!! soundcheck is pretty damn sweet too, FTA 3 was super enjoyable – good time to be a phish fan

  18. Kurt from Indy Says:

    “This was one of those versions that one lived rather than listened to—the shit was just raw”

    ^love it

  19. plord Says:

    I can’t spin that Tweezer, even sitting down, without making a “blues face”.


  20. kenny powers Says:

    ha, “blues face” – i love it! i felt that way about the Cincy Tweezer too

  21. kenny powers Says:

    if things go well, i might be showin’ her my blues face…oh… OH

  22. RicksFork Says:

    Usually not a huge Caspian enthusiast and if I had only seen this on paper I may have wondered how it fit in with three of my favorites, but this run was absolutely perfect! No to mention, once we came back to earth we got the Twist of all Twists! What!?

  23. Ziggymon Says:

    Tweez is straight up nasty. Love the grit on this one. I am ashmed to admit I have not listened to Cincy Tweezer. That will be on the docket for this evening

  24. butter Says:

    Sweet write up Miner

    Golden Age, no doubt, age of Miracles indeed

    Great psychedelic set, really dug the Twist > 2001 too

    We got a kick out of Julius on couch tour again inappropriately dropped during Tweez jam ….lol if that’s not contrarian Red

    After that opening 4 song sequence have at it red….

  25. butter Says:

    Also, this was the set that seemed to set the festi a blaze

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