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”

  1. guitarpicker420! Says:

    He’s had the same setlist and setup, even same stories between songs since Fair & Square came out. I did catch one story that was hilarious. He was introducing That’s The Way That The World Goes ‘Round and he said he was playing this show and this guy kept yelling “half an enchilada! half an enchilada!” and Prine was like, what the hell are you talking about? Apparently dude replied, you know “half an enchilada and you think your going down”. Of course, the real line is “half an inch of water and you think your going to drown”. Definitely a good song though.

  2. MrCompletely Says:

    didn’t dig Hacksensaw, have to say. Found their stuff repetitive, as in it mostly all sounds the same, like the Avetts. Like Chatham County a little better, but then, I grew up near the Chatham County Line…in fact the first guy I got QPs from lived just a couple driveways over the line into Chatham. Nice locally grown Carolina Red at a family price….third generation of a bootlegger family looking for new business. Good memories

  3. Mike in Austin Says:

    Happy Enchilada!

  4. MrCompletely Says:

    lol @gp yeah he told that story. and yeah, great song

  5. BingosBrother Says:

    Sream Neil Young and the International Harvesters here. Funny this came up, brother left a Best of Willie Nelson cd here and its all we listened to yesterday.

  6. MrCompletely Says:

    in a *very* strange parallel, here is what my friend on tour at the time thought the chorus to Corinna was after it debuted…he called me and said, Man, Bobby has this terrible new song about food vendors in the lot! No Way, I said. Yeah, he said, it goes like this:

  7. Mike in Austin Says:

    “I don’t have any songs about Enchiladas, especially happy enchiladas.”

    “Glad you liked it.”

  8. tela'smuff Says:

    i have thought about the Hackensaw Boys actually, but they have a handful of great tunes. Avetts i’m kinda of hit or miss on, but they have a decent fanbase, so i included them. CCL also has some excellent material. I’m a huge fan of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals. there are some others I like, Bill Callahan, Palace Brothers, and Bonnie “Prince” Billy that can fall in that genre.

  9. guitarpicker420! Says:

    Yeah, once he gets a story, he sticks with it. Tim O’Brien and Del McCoury are the same way. When I first saw them, I was enchanted by their banter, thought it really good. And it is. But clearly, its heavily rehearsed because they tell the same stories before the same songs, every show.

  10. MrCompletely Says:

    (which is, obviously, still how I hear it in my head, whenever I’m unfortunate enough to hear it)

    (outro jam @ Autzen ’93 notwithstanding)

  11. Kaveh Says:

    Great question and quote from the CK article:

    How has your style evolved in the current era of Phish?

    CK: Well if anything it’s made me need to be more precise. There’re no more 45 minute guitar loops where you basically can do anything and it looks fine. It’s made me need to pay attention more to what they’re doing because the jams are way more thought out now. They’re not just reckless and out there. There’s a lot of precision to them, if you pay attention enough you can really listen and understand the musical thinking that’s going on at any given live moment. And it’s a lot more intelligent than it used to be. So I try to be more precise with what I’m doing based on that philosophy.

  12. MrCompletely Says:

    that’s just an old bluegrass/country thing

    Pete Rowan does it too

    I love the man but if I ever have to hear the “Free Mexican Airforce” or “Ancient Tones” stories again I might have a heart attack

    he does mix up the setlists tour to tour a lot though

  13. guitarpicker420! Says:

    A songwriter I really, really dig is Darrel Scott. He wrote Helen of Troy Pennsylvania, Long Time Gone, and one of my all-time favorites, Whiskey That Eases The Pain

  14. Mulitbeast Says:

    Just saw a news report on the ‘new’ Neil Young album….Thanks for posting that. Listening now.

    Thanks to all for the country recs.

    Tela – good call on the Gram Parson/Bryds recs. I have a pretty good collection of Parsons. I read a bio on Parsons a while back called Grievous Angel : An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons. Interesting dude.

  15. Aquaman Says:

    BTW, Is today Neemor’s BDay??

    Happy BDay Neemor, if it is.


  16. guitarpicker420! Says:

    @mr. C – you don’t get excited about ocatillo cactus and pinon pines?

  17. MrCompletely Says:

    I did learn at one point that “the Ancient Tones,” in addition to being a spiritual metaphor, are also what he called the (indeed ancient) alternate tuning used in “Get Up John” – one which seems to have a remarkable effect on the psyche of crowds

  18. Mulitbeast Says:

    Whoops. Sorry…I meant good call to AW on the Parsons recs.


  19. tela'smuff Says:

    wasn’t me on the Parson/Byrds, that was AW.. although a great rec indeed.

    i mentioned Townes Van Zandt.

  20. MrCompletely Says:

    it’s my hope that anyone who does like the bluegrass will eventually dig deep into the Bill Monroe catalog. It really holds up as great. And he’s like Charlie Parker or Django – one of those old school shredders that people talk about so much in the abstract, it’s easy to forget it you just dropped him on a stage unchanged today, he’d be blowing minds from sheer instrumental virtuosity. He wasn’t just a badass for 1950 – he was just a badass.

  21. Mulitbeast Says:

    Love that two of the cuts from the “A Treasure” album were recorded at the Minnesota State Fair! Ah…the Minnesota State Fair. Fried delicacies on a stick. Good stuff!

  22. guitarpicker420! Says:

    I love the story Rowan tells about writing Walls of Time, which I think is the Ancient Tones kind of thing. Bluegrass breakdown (their bus) lived up to its name and brokedown outside Gnaw Bone, IN. Which is a really, really small town in Brown County (near Bean Blossom) with a great name.

  23. Mike in Austin Says:

    Deep fried cheese curds. Rudy Boschwitz milk.

  24. Mulitbeast Says:

    @tela –

    I gotta pick myself up some Townes for sure. Sad to say, I have read more interview and articles about the man than I have listened to his music. That aint right.

  25. sumodie Says:

    Just discovered Darrell Scott myself as he’s part of Robert Plant’s Band of Joy -he’s a stand out in that band. Have yet to check out his solo work

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