Over the past two weeks, including the 2011 installment Ten Tunes For Friday that kicked off the celebration of this summer, we have looked at many of the band’s stellar moments from the opening leg. Today we wind down our capsule reviews of the standout jams from June as we prepare ourselves to take in many more highlights during August.
Another in the series of Summer 2011 “Down With Diseases,” this version provided the highlight of Alpharetta’s opening night. Tearing out of the composition with a well-phrased solo, Trey led the band through some momentum-building rock and roll. Soaring at a breakneck pace, Mike dropped thunderous bass lines behind the high-sped jaunt. Breaking the sprint, Trey switched it up in with a series of rhythms chops that brought the band into uncharted waters. Page hopped on his Rhodes while the band shifted gears into a percussive texture with Fishman acting as the anchor of the jam. Gradually, the band oozed into a more abstract-then-ambient conversation, building the jam outwards and into a spacier milieu. Fishman’s beats carried through this experimental playing, grounding the band’s abstract playing with hard rhythms. Within the last couple minutes of the jam, Phish got into some seriously “Storage-esque” territory, foreshadowing their emerging improvisational style while touching the outer rings of the galaxy. As Fishman came in with the opening hi-hat to “Maze,” the band had found their landing point.
Taking the momentum from this creative trek and injecting it directly into “Maze,” Phish tore apart a version that sounded akin in intensity and communication to its mid-Nineties predecessors. Both Trey and Page’s solo smoked and the rest of the band contributed to complex and creative backing canvas. Coming to a face-melting peak with Trey’s solo and accompanying effects, Phish totally annihilated this “Maze,” getting in touch with the song’s essence of madness and musical mania.
“Crosseyed and Painless” 6.27 I, Bethel, NY
On the first night of tour, Phish had just finished a stunning sequence of “Waves > Caspian” when they dropped into a deep-second-set “Crosseyed.” Juxtaposing the abstract and enchanting journey of “Waves”with a fire-filled and seething rendition of “Crosseyed,” the band had gone for the jugular on the first night of tour. But the most engaging music of this piece came once band reprised “Still waiting…” and collectively slowed into demonic territory. Maintaining a beat behind this menacing music, Fishman gave this section a danceable cadence as the other three members dove into the underworld. Toying with a chord progression that echoed the murky end of Walnut Creek’s epic “Mike’s” jam from 1997. It was the first night 2011 Phish, and things were already flying off the meat rack.
“Sand” 6.11 I, Columbia, MD
During the opening leg of summer (and Super Ball), Phish played a total of six “Sands,” and every single one smoked. The second of these six came in Merriweather Post Pavilion’s first of four sets, and stood out right away with its jazz-based, lockstep interplay. Launching into the jam with a smooth be-bop lick, Trey set a jazzy tone right from the get go. While Page clavved like his life depended on it, Mike stepped up and responded to Trey’s thoughtful riffs with those of his own. In laid-back, co-leadership, the guitarists maintained the spotlight during this rendition, As the band progressed from their swanky interplay into a more aggressive exchanges, Page hopped to piano and joined in the fray. The whole band maintained a sharp focus as they collectively reached a peak in which Trey released “cries of terror” from his guitar—an effect he used throughout the tour. Though everyone will have their favorite version from tour, Merriweather’s excursion in jazz-fusion stood out immediately upon relisten.