With the first leg of Phish’s 2011 Summer Tour in the bag, it’s that time to look back on the trail of highlights. This was an interesting tour that saw the band wearing two faces. One was the band we saw in Bethel and again in the Midwest—a fearless improvising machine taking risks at nearly every corner. And then there was the other Phish, one that favored energy over exploration. Without a doubt, the band continues to grow tighter and the jams continue to become more interesting. But what leads to this inconsistency is anybody’s guess.
For your listening pleasure, I’ve assembled a collection of jams (by no means does this include every one) that I felt stood out among the rest on this tour. If I’ve left out any, let me know.
Kill Devil Falls (5.27 Bethel Woods)
The first extended jam on “KDF” came in the first set of the first night at Bethel Woods (lotsa firsts). Early on, Trey locks into a syncopated, stacatto pattern and loops it through his Boomerang. The loop carries on underneath as he guides the band into type II territory with soaring, sustained notes.
Waves (5.27 Bethel Woods)
Right from the “on the wind and under water” refrain, the band dove deep into type-II improv. Page takes the lead early on moving from piano to Rhodes. The rest of the band seems to ebb and flow beneath his playing as the jam develops into an adventurous ambient journey. Nearing the end, a segment emerges similar to a fall ’94-era reverby breakdown (ala the Fox ’94 “Tweezer.”). This remains one of my personal favorite moments of the tour.
Halley’s Comet (5.28 Bethel Woods)
The first jammed out “Halley’s” of 3.0 appeared on the second night of Bethel. As many of us stood wondering if the song would finally go somewhere, our minds were appeased when the band tore into a section of dark type II jamming midway through the first set. And it wasn’t your typical 3.0 jamming—the jam evolved into something completely new and original. This was not only one of the best moments of tour, but one of the most exciting as well.
Ginteca (5.28 Bethel Woods)
Another first-set highlight from night 2 at Bethel Woods. Trey and Page can be heard riffing back and forth at each other before the jam leads into an attempted “Golden Age” segue that becomes a “Manteca” jam instead.
Makisupa Policeman > Harry Hood (5.28 Bethel Woods)
This playful “Makisupa” started the tour long band member “house” references. And upon entering Fishman’s abode, the band treated us to one of the finest “Hoods” in 3.0. Patient, collective improv of the best kind.
No Quarter (6.1 Holmdel)
Phish’s debut of this epic Led Zeppelin tune (check out Phish.net’s excellent song history) came out of nowhere following an ambient “Tweezer” outro. The stage crew came on and switched Page’s vocal mic into his rotary Leslie speaker giving an effect similar to the original.
Down With Disease (6.3 Clarkston)
Many jams in 3.0 have a routine of fading into ambient territory and then trailing off into another song. This outing was different as Fishman picks up on a groove and revives the jam with a second helping of energy. The band eventually finds its way into a jam on John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” A special moment, indeed. (Check out the “Birds of a Feather” from 6.30.00 for another “Love Supreme” jam).
David Bowie (6.3. Clarkston)
One of the more psychedelic “Bowie” intros came out of an atypical “Fluffhead” outro late in the second set at Pine Knob. Almost like a mid-80s “Space” the band eases its way into the song with Trey using a rarely utilized midi-effect. The jam is another display of the increased patience exhibited on the first leg of the tour and sees the quartet making its way through yet another buttery adventure. The jam weaves between dark minor sections and bright modal jamming with standout group interplay.
Sneakin’ Sally Thru The Alley (6.4 Blossom)
The post-vocal jam quickly dips into plinko mode, but with more complexity than others. The band finds comfort in this funky, looped madness eventually departing for a dark drone section that follows. Trey switches on his octave drop effect with a thick fuzz that meshes with Page’s synth with a strange, almost lo-fi sound.
The Curtain (With) (6.10 Camden)
Many have noticed Trey’s increased use of reverb and delay during certain solos. This is the newest pedal in his rig at work—the TCM-Nova Repeater—which gives his tone more of an ethereal, Jerry-like sound. “The Curtain” jam was one of Trey’s finest moments from the tour and one that saw him pouring his heart into a solo like we hadn’t seen in some time. The whole band seems to move as a unit throughout, eventually arriving at a near-telepathic modal shift.
Rock & Roll > Ghost (6.17 Charlotte)
Following a spacey “Rock & Roll” jam, the opening notes of the tour’s second “Ghost” rang out with Trey’s new edgy tone. The jam takes off with more funk than many recent versions and before long Mike and Trey latch onto a pattern that pulls the jam into a bright, major section. Trey’s recent West-Montgomery inspired octave riffs are all over this one.
Split Open and Melt (6.18 Raleigh)
This version of “Split” features another near-telepathic modal shift toward the beginning of the jam. Just as the band seems to be digging into the song’s typically dark structure, all of a sudden some magical queue leads them into a blissful major jam. Another four-part journey that stands out as one of my favorite jams from the entire tour.
Sand (6.19 Portsmouth)
Some of the first stop-start jamming we’ve heard from the band in some time. Easily the top version from the tour with top notch clavinet work from the tour’s clear MVP, Mr. Page McConnell.
Light (6.19 Portsmouth)
This was a last minute addition. I didn’t want to include it, because, to be honest, it’s not all that special. But I feel it’s worthy of inclusion solely based on the four part interplay that goes on throughout part of the jam. Easily some of the best in recent history. It seems Trey tries to jump into “Horse” at one point, but Mike won’t have any of it. There is one spot in particular that is just amazing, and likely the reason it has a place on this list.
Here are in the home stretch of the Phish off-season and, like many of you, I find myself listening to much more of the band’s music. So to go along with the recently released Live Bait vol. 4, I’ve assembled a special 2-hour long Phish playlist for your listening pleasure. You can stream the playlist or download it and take it with you on the road this summer.
For those of you headed to Bethel this weekend, I’ve also posted a message from the venue’s promoters along with some details worth noting. I think you’ll find them to be quite fan-friendly.
“The Home Stretch“
David Bowie > Lifeboy (6.24.95)
Bathtub Gin (9.22.99)
You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (7.30.03)
Gumbo > Sanity (8.15.98)
Wolfman’s Brother (11.18.98)
Bethel Woods Details:
Fans are welcome to Bring:
Blankets, backpacks, small soft cooler (cloth/bag style), hand-held umbrellas
Cameras that do not have the capability of multiple lenses are permitted, except when prohibited by the artist
Water – two 20 oz. factory sealed plastic bottles of water per person — water is the only beverage permitted into Bethel Woods Center for the Arts concerts
Food — one 1 gallon clear zip lock bag per person
Strollers or carriages for small children
[via Bethel Woods Center]
To all phans attending Phish @ Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. My name is Andrew Jacobson and I’m a member of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts for the past 2 years. Bethel Woods is one of the most beautiful venues in the country. Alan Gerry, who created Bethel Woods, created an atmosphere that is very friendly, bucolic settings, and maximum fans concert’s experience. Take advantage and check out the Woodstock Museum, it’s one of a kind experience. For all of you music lovers, the museum is a must see! The staff of Bethel Woods are some of the most down to earth people you’ll ever meet. Therefore, I would like to request to all phans to respect the staff of Bethel Woods. Please follow their instructions, as they are trying to create the best concert experience for all fans. If all phans behave and respect the venue, the more likely Phish will be able to come back in the future. Personally, for me, this is a dream come true. Enjoy the weekend and have a safe, pleasant weekend!