Sunday 07/03/2011 by lumpblockclod

WATKINS GLEN 3 RECAP: OUT OF STORAGE

Note: This review was co-authored by @lumpblockclod and @jwelsh8. So, if you don't like it, it was the other guy's fault.

Heading into the final night of SBIX, expectations, as they tend to do for Phish festivals, were running high. The previous three nights had produced some outstanding highlights along with some stretches of relatively uninspired setlist calls and, in the opinion of some, timid execution. The highs were undeniably high: an outstanding soundcheck capped by a jam that would have been the highlight of nearly any other show from the first leg of summer tour and a wildly experimental “secret” fourth set on Saturday. The lows were punctuated by two song-oriented sets on Saturday that failed to deliver much in the way of adventurous improvisation. Nevertheless, Phish has always been a band that can turn on a dime and a strong show on Sunday would likely win over even the most jaded among us.

Soul Shakedown Party” opened the show, continuing the parade of covers this weekend. Only the sixth since its debut in Amsterdam 14 years ago, and the second of 3.0, Phish wanted to make sure we all felt welcome at their Holiday celebration. "This is my invitation / I've got the special vacation." “Soul Shakedown” is usually a harbinger of good things to come and so it would be tonight. “Bag” followed with a rough beginning, but energetic ending, after which we got the first “With”-less “Curtain” since 2000. So “Scents” has its intro back, but “The Curtain” has lost its “With.” Trey giveth and Trey taketh away. "Curtain" was played quite well, with the whole band in synch and hitting all of the cues.

However, the bigger surprise than the “Curtain Without” was the “Forbin” that followed. Certainly few expected another version so soon after the recent appearance in Charlotte, but even fewer expected a full-blown version complete with narration, which, Trey promised, would explain the events of last night. Trey explained how the band drove through Watkins Glen on their way to Colorado in 1988. After letting us in on some band member trivia (Best driver? Page. Best long distance driver? Fish. Worst driver? Mike! Writing in his journal while driving the car.) Trey told of how their old Plymouth Voyager broke down. In order to keep their gear and the car safe while they hunted for a garage, they asked and were granted permission to store the car in a self-storage unit (harkening back to the fourth set just 18 hours before). Tragically, the door shut behind them leaving them trapped. So, to bide the time, they decided to play as they waited for someone to come by. And the jams would get longer and weirder and weirder. Assuring us that the story is completely true, Trey explained that in those tight confines, they realized they could free themselves through music. As they continued playing, they began to depart farther and farther from reality until they realized that they could control reality through music. They got so good at this that it turns out that SBIX is actually a mental projection that they created in 1988. Referencing Carlin's "space to put your shit" bit, Trey explained how in the ensuing twenty-some years, the American landscape has become a victim of consumerism. In fact, according to Trey, they’ve calculated that today is the day on which the rate of product creation exceeds the available storage space so we have nowhere to put this junk. Luckily, the Famous Mockingbird is here to help and will take on a new job as a postal delivery bird, freeing us from our consumerist plight and bringing them the key to their escape.

The ensuing “Mockingbird” was not one of the band’s more pristine versions, but good luck finding anyone who cared (Hi, @Icculus!). With the band -- and crowd -- free from the confines of their box, the openness of the highway was in their sights. "Destiny Unbound." “Destiny” was bolstered by heavy use of Mike’s meatball effect (think “Boogie On”) and, really, they could play Captain and Tennille covers all night, and if Mike employed the meatball effect liberally, it would be a solid show. “BBFCFM” came out to scare any children who were up past their bedtime. A truly inspired version of “Wilson” followed. Not sure if it was the key signature or Trey's approach, but a very interesting jam rose out of the middle of this version. Quite glorious, actually, before giving way to even more rarities in the form of “Mound.” “Mound” was one of the best versions I can remember with Trey contributing an utterly unique and fluid solo. Mark that one down as must-hear. We’re about two-thirds away from the end of the set and I’ll go ahead and say it: best set from the main stage so far.

A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing” is next in this so not Phish for Dummies set and rolled in over the crowd at Watkin's Glen, with the alternating vocals and Trey's aquatic-like tone and playing. Mike thumping out bass notes, Page hammering on the piano, Fishman driving with the cymbal. It doesn’t take long for the structure to fall away though, and we’re left in a barren soundscape ripe for Phish to begin manipulating reality. As the initial jam began to lose focus, it sounded a bit as if it could drop into "No Quarter." Mike takes the band in a couple of different directions, before everyone settles back first into the spacescape and then back to earth. Sick of the rarities? Well, tough shit, ‘cause here comes “Time Loves a Hero,” just as time will no doubt love this set.

The “Reba” that followed continued the trend of powerful 2011 versions, even throwing in some “Dave’s Energy Guide” teases for good measure. The whistling even makes an appearance during this version, though it’s a bit worse for the wear, not having been played in over two years. You could hear Trey trying to laugh it off, handing it over to Page, but it didn't save it. Luckily, tonight is a night where they can do no wrong, so even the botched “Reba” ending leads us into a brief space jam that morphs into “David Bowie.” “Bowie” goes spacey right after the “verses,” and then builds its way up into a truly groovilicious monster. As “Bowie” (and the set) ends, we are left with more “Storage” jamming, driving the special nature of this set home.

The set just ended, so we don’t want to lose all perspective, but it’s hardly a stretch to call that the best first set of the year (and, frankly, a contender for set of the year). And perspective is hardly necessary to declare this the best “traditional” set of the festival. It will be a surprise if anyone really argues the point but, as always, this is your site, too. Dissent is welcomed in the comments.

After what some early fluffers (ahem) are calling the best first set of 2011, expectations were high for the seventh (announced) set. Or, fans were quite content with what went down in set one and the rest is just icing (bless their unjaded hearts!). Either way, Phish has got the biggest balls of them all . . . opening up the seventh set with a debut of AC/DC's double entendre, "Big Balls." "Mighty big balls, they are SUPER balls!" to the roar of the crowd. Sung by Fishman, this bust out was spot on and moved wonderfully into a wonderful and expected "Down With Disease." Played quite well, the meat of the song was smoking, led by Trey. As the jam settled in, Mike and Page on Rhodes took over for a few more minutes of strong "Disease." This was before the jam dissolved, leaving Page to continue on Rhodes and mark the beginning of the second rendition of Led Zeppelin's psychedelic epic "No Quarter." Between Page’s verses, the band jammed with forceful Type-I purpose on the main “No Quarter” theme.

Out of the darkness must come the light, as out of “No Quarter” arose “Party Time.” Page’s keys are once again dominant in this selection, though Trey’s solo proves equally up to the task. Truly a show where everything they touch seems to turn to gold. And here comes the “Ghost!” Appetizers, salads and all manner of side dishes have been expertly prepared. What of the main course? With an extended pause before “I feel I . . . “ the band exhibited some patience in preparing the jam as they slowly built up with Trey’s sprinkling and repeating of notes and Page’s rich organ. A promising jam faded (prematurely?) into “Gotta Jibboo.” The main course could have used a bit more time in the oven. Luckily, Trey and Page pick up where they left off in “Ghost” and spiced up the “Jibboo” liberally before opting for some, different fare.

Where the “Jibboo” was filled with pleasant, funky flavors, the “Light” drove to overwhelm your ‘buds, not letting down. After the initial Trey solo washes away, the jam opens up a bit. Trey plays some nice descending lines, but really, all four band members seemed to be really locked in and listening to each other. Trey and Mike happen upon a nice little groove and Page and Fish follow. Really pretty stuff in this best-of-2011 “Light” . . . and more than a few twists and turns before the jam pleasantly slows and spirals down. Only to wash back up again with “Waves.” Where “ASIHTOS” captures the power of the ocean, “Waves” creates a feeling of gently riding each crest. This well-played “Waves” moved along before dissolving into a small bit of ambiance. (Trey loved counting off songs tonight.) With a quick count of “1,2” the ambiance formed into “What’s the Use?,” itself, a song of formalized spaciness.

Hopefully, the water metaphors have cleansed your collective palates, because here comes the “Meatstick.” While some fans speculated whether Phish would acknowledge the gathering of humanity concert at Watkin’s Glen 38 years earlier, the “FOTM” intro of “Meatstick” would be the closest that Phish would get to the Dead. After the Japanese lyrics-infused “Meatstick,” Phish
offered up a digestif in the form of a CLIF bar and some cold green tea. A rocking, if straight-ahead, version of “STFTFP” served as the effective set closer with the expected after-midnight “Star Spangled Banner” serving as an Independence Day exclamation point. A fireworks-infused “First Tube” encore sends everyone back to reality -- or at least a temporary escape from the storage-unit known as Phish.

So, quite a show, to say the least. Where to place it in the context of summer tour thus far? That’s ultimately for you to decide, but tonight seemed to typify all that is good about Phish and, dare we say, America. Oh beautiful! For spacious skies. . .

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Comments

, comment by safetymeeting
safetymeeting I couldn't turn the stream off.
, comment by pzerbo
pzerbo It was so much better with that other guy on blog duty! :-) j/k, love the recap and LOVED that smokin' first set! Let's take this set II to the house... PAGE'S HOUSE!
, comment by jpendak
jpendak Very true about Mound
, comment by fastenuf4u
fastenuf4u Funny that you should mention Captain and Tenille, I've been lobbying Fishman to sing "Love Will Keep Us Together" for 15 years now...
, comment by CorPhish
CorPhish Georgie girl tease from mike between reba and bowie
, comment by chedap13
chedap13 beautiful review, agreed with every word. haha good call on the "no quarter" too
, comment by preyingmantits
preyingmantits Nice review.... disagree about set of the year. Reba was butchered. Can't put something in "best set" territory with a botch job like that one.
Correct me if I am wrong .... didn't they do the "whistling" in Reba at Alpine 1, 2010 ?

, comment by easywind111
easywind111 @preyingmantits said:
Nice review.... disagree about set of the year. Reba was butchered. Can't put something in "best set" territory with a botch job like that one.
Correct me if I am wrong .... didn't they do the "whistling" in Reba at Alpine 1, 2010 ?

No whistling in Reba at Alpine 2010.
, comment by Fluffyfluffyhead
Fluffyfluffyhead Reba botch job? does it really matter? it was funny.
, comment by kipmat
kipmat Thanks for the recap. I missed the first set, but caught set II & E. The playing sounded incredibly inspired, from first note to last.
, comment by BrotherEarth
BrotherEarth yummy. took a break for fireworks (kudos to the neighbors for cheering!), and missed the end of set one/ beginning of set two, now i'm waiting for LivePhish to make the sbd available for download. I'm psyched to hear the parts I missed real time. Gotta love being alive today.

Good fun, and good jams. Who could ask for more?

Oh, nice job on the review!
, comment by nichobert
nichobert "Can't put something in "best set" territory with a botch job like that one."

If that was part of a litany of complaints, I'd say it would be worth mentioning for sure. But when everything else was so strong- and the botched whistling lead into a completely unexpected and interesting spacey outro jam from Reba (Never heard them jam after the whistling, has anyone else?)- kind of a mix of the pizzicato plinko stuff with storage jamming (And here I was hoping that we could call all ambient jams 'Steamprise' from now on)-
But how often does a song like Wilson, Mound or Destiny have a version that clearly stands above the majority solely based on it's musical merits? How often does Reba turn a flub into a spellbinding outro jam into David Bowie? And then the Bowie- like DTE's version- is one of those ones that covers more ground than it may seem on the surface. Loving how they're shifting some of these new Bowies into ecstatic territory before bringing the thunder back. Page crushed the big line in No Quarter. Light actually lived up to it's potential as the same kind of (shameless?) jam platform that Piper occasionally flirts with being with another jam- like the DWD, Ghost & Bowie- that while short, also somehow managed to concisely and fluidly rip through a few interesting thematic segments with ease.

Despite the occasional flubs, it was just one of those nights where they were pouring hot sauce all over everything. Great song selection and a great flow to everything- it wasn't the jammiest set of the year but there was a great deal of improv spread around the proceedings & the majority of it was excellent.
, comment by TheEmu
TheEmu @preyingmantits said:
Nice review.... disagree about set of the year. Reba was butchered. Can't put something in "best set" territory with a botch job like that one.
Correct me if I am wrong .... didn't they do the "whistling" in Reba at Alpine 1, 2010 ?
I'd be much more concerned if they botched the composed section, which is so difficult. The whistling is the least interesting part of the song, to me. And flubs do sometimes become memorable moments (i.e. 11-29-95 Fee).
, comment by waxbanks
waxbanks @preyingmantits said:
Nice review.... disagree about set of the year. Reba was butchered. Can't put something in "best set" territory with a botch job like that one.
Huh, not quite clear on what 'butchered' means, are ya?
, comment by joechip
joechip "While some fans speculated whether Phish would acknowledge the gathering of humanity concert at Watkin’s Glen 38 years earlier, the “FOTM” intro of “Meatstick” would be the closest that Phish would get to the Dead."

Respectfully disagree there. The closest they got to the Dead was on Thursday when they played the best music of the weekend in that transcendent Soundcheck Jam. The GD parallels are pretty obvious there!

Also, I'm dumbfounded that messing up the whistling in Reba qualifies as "butchering" the song for some. Who cares about the whistling for christs sake? The jam is where its at, and this one was spectacular.
, comment by joechip
joechip Loved the Light> Waves> WTU sequence. Light's jam had a distinctly afro-cuban feel to it.
, comment by pzerbo
pzerbo This gig perfectly exemplifies the best of what Phish has to offer currently and why, while still desirable, you don't need a 20+ deep signature jam to produce a fantastic show. Brilliant song selection with concise improv liberally sprinkled throughout, mostly tight execution, seamless flow with completely organic transitions, nods to old, new, and everything in between. Awesome show. If I drove The Phish (and I don't) I'd pull a few filler-esque songs from each set and stretch the jams to fill that space... That said, this gig satisfies front to back, by a large measure the best of the three from the weekend and a strong candidate for show of the summer to date.

Drive safe kids.
, comment by glennw
glennw Listening to the stream at the beach, looking out over the dark Atlantic while Waves was playing, the ocean waves illuminated by sporadic fireworks, was something I won't soon forget. Thank you livephish.
, comment by easywind111
easywind111 The Reba from festival 8 was a botch job. Not this one.
, comment by ahull13
ahull13 no maze, you enjoy myself, makisupa, slave??? WHAT!?
, comment by njkyle
njkyle epic weekend!
, comment by spotted_striper
spotted_striper @preyingmantits said:
Nice review.... disagree about set of the year. Reba was butchered. Can't put something in "best set" territory with a botch job like that one.
Correct me if I am wrong .... didn't they do the "whistling" in Reba at Alpine 1, 2010 ?
I'll correct you...

I'm no musical genius, but a phan with a decent ear. This out-of-the-box Reba jam sounded like it contained a modulation into another key, probably what they're calling the DEG tease.

When reverting back a to typical sounding Reba jam, I don't think they were still playing in Eb Lydian. As we all know, that doesn't really matter. But when they started whistling in the key they stopped in, things 'fell apart' when they started up the "Bag it, Tag it" part in the same key they've been playing it for 20 some years. The boys thought it was funny. As a musician myself, I marvel over their ability to dance in and out of dicey musical situations like this. They ended up turning it into an spacey, aqueous improvisational landing pad. I haven't re-heard this since last night, but I wouldn't be surprised if I am correct. Correct me if I'm wrong...

It was no botch-job. Phish is the best band!
, comment by nothingburned
nothingburned @spotted_striper said:
@preyingmantits said:
Nice review.... disagree about set of the year. Reba was butchered. Can't put something in "best set" territory with a botch job like that one.
Correct me if I am wrong .... didn't they do the "whistling" in Reba at Alpine 1, 2010 ?
I'll correct you...

I'm no musical genius, but a phan with a decent ear. This out-of-the-box Reba jam sounded like it contained a modulation into another key, probably what they're calling the DEG tease.

When reverting back a to typical sounding Reba jam, I don't think they were still playing in Eb Lydian. As we all know, that doesn't really matter. But when they started whistling in the key they stopped in, things 'fell apart' when they started up the "Bag it, Tag it" part in the same key they've been playing it for 20 some years. The boys thought it was funny. As a musician myself, I marvel over their ability to dance in and out of dicey musical situations like this. They ended up turning it into an spacey, aqueous improvisational landing pad. I haven't re-heard this since last night, but I wouldn't be surprised if I am correct. Correct me if I'm wrong...

It was no botch-job. Phish is the best band!
I was going to say the same thing. The band modulated to a different key during the jam, then started the whistling in the wrong key, and Trey couldn't transpose his guitar part on the fly to match the new key, and Trey and Page laughed it off. Still was a smoking jam, and we got a space segue into Bowie taboot! Nowhere near butchered!
, comment by IamHIGHdrogen
IamHIGHdrogen @preyingmantits said:
Nice review.... disagree about set of the year. Reba was butchered. Can't put something in "best set" territory with a botch job like that one. Correct me if I am wrong .... didn't they do the "whistling" in Reba at Alpine 1, 2010 ?
It, Coventry and Superball are the last 3 whistling ventures...
, comment by makisupaman
makisupaman what a joke of a review.
, comment by sushigradepanda
sushigradepanda @nothingburned said:
@spotted_striper said:
@preyingmantits said:
Nice review.... disagree about set of the year. Reba was butchered. Can't put something in "best set" territory with a botch job like that one.
Correct me if I am wrong .... didn't they do the "whistling" in Reba at Alpine 1, 2010 ?
I'll correct you...

I'm no musical genius, but a phan with a decent ear. This out-of-the-box Reba jam sounded like it contained a modulation into another key, probably what they're calling the DEG tease.

When reverting back a to typical sounding Reba jam, I don't think they were still playing in Eb Lydian. As we all know, that doesn't really matter. But when they started whistling in the key they stopped in, things 'fell apart' when they started up the "Bag it, Tag it" part in the same key they've been playing it for 20 some years. The boys thought it was funny. As a musician myself, I marvel over their ability to dance in and out of dicey musical situations like this. They ended up turning it into an spacey, aqueous improvisational landing pad. I haven't re-heard this since last night, but I wouldn't be surprised if I am correct. Correct me if I'm wrong...

It was no botch-job. Phish is the best band!
I was going to say the same thing. The band modulated to a different key during the jam, then started the whistling in the wrong key, and Trey couldn't transpose his guitar part on the fly to match the new key, and Trey and Page laughed it off. Still was a smoking jam, and we got a space segue into Bowie taboot! Nowhere near butchered!
this isn't actually completely correct. while, towards the end of the jam, they did modulate to the relative minor key of Dm briefly (as the key center of the Reba jam is actually F not Eb Lydian [which is a mode and not a key signature, although it does figure prominently in most Reba jams]), Mike and Page brought it back to F after a short period and Fish closed it. what I think happened is that Trey missed the first notes of the whistle, while remembering (or trying to) how the chords with the whistle were supposed to go. he was whistling out of key. he was thinking while playing, and he tripped over his own notes. playing complex compositions ain't like riding a bike. no practice = forgetsville. you can hear him quickly mash through a few options, and then he "gives it over to Page!"

botch job on the end? you betcha. absolutely awesome Reba with, really, nothing to complain about seeing as how the botch job ended in a slick, off-the-cuff jammy bridge to Bowie? without doubt.

sorry for the music nerd rant. carry on.
, comment by Scott
Scott Wilson has a Gumbo tease around 3:50. Check it out.
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