, attached to 2010-06-27

Review by parrott56

parrott56 Another (way too) long review. Consider yourself forewarned.

I woke up in my own bed still stunned by what I'd witnessed during that second set the night before. Made it back to Merriweather by mid-afternoon to find it even hotter than the day before when I stepped out onto the lot. Got a chance to meet and briefly chat with the This Week on Lot crew and enjoy an exemplary chicken burrito freshly prepared by some college-aged guys (possibly frat boys, possibly from the south(?)… but whoever they were, they made a fucking delicious burrito).

Shortly after dumping about half a bottle of water on my head, the gates opened and I had my choice of anywhere on the lawn for the second night running. I situated myself a just a couple feet back from the front, where the grass wasn't quite as eroded and the hillside wasn't quite so steep. Saw a lot of familiar faces from first night settle into the spots around me, and made the acquaintance of a very kind longtime phan named Heather, who was pregnant and therefore probably enjoying her last show for at least a little while to come.

I was just about in the perfect state of receptivity by the time the show started. I knew this would be my last show of the tour, and probably the summer (though I'm now thinking of trying to get to Jones Beach, but that's another story), so the feeling was somewhat bittersweet. But after the night before, I was just totally in awe of Phish, freed from all expectations and pre-conceived notions, and ready for whatever it was they had in store for us.

SET ONE

WALFREDO. I actually had totally forgotten about the Merriweather reference in the song, having heard it only a couple times prior, so I was likely even more surprised than the rest of the crowd when Phish came on and assumed the "wrong" instruments. ["Oops," you can hear Mike say on the LivePhish recording.] Suffice to say, I will never forget anything about this song again: it's exceptionally catchy, and the timing/location was, of course, perfect (the first line is "It's been ten years since I saw you"; the previous performance was Vegas in 2000). The vocals were a little weak (Page's harmonies were strained, and Fish's lines were inaudible at times), but Mike on guitar was great to hear (and see: his Trey-style Jedi business at the end cracked me up). Obviously, a special way to start the show for everyone there.

MELLOW MOOD. … and they kept the bust-outs coming! I don't think I'd heard this one at all before, but I could guess what it was pretty much as soon as it started. Again, the weak link was vocals, specifically Page's falsetto part, but it's a beautiful song that further instilled the feeling of a special night.

STEALING TIME. A fine choice of a "heavier rotation" number. Rocked hard as pretty much every version this summer has (though didn't have as much steam behind it as Portsmouth's did on the heels of that Gin).

DIVIDED. Fine placement for a feel-good anthem, with its typically soaring jam, which I recall getting more into than usual. Divided will never be my favorite of the composed epics, but I certainly enjoyed this one, and I definitely prefer it earlier rather than later in the first set.

TELA. I didn't think this would be the next rarity we'd see, as I'd assumed they'd make people wait a little bit longer than 14 shows following a 236-show gap. I wasn't at Miami, however, and I've really come to love this song in recent months, so I was delighted to catch it here. It wasn't executed quite as well as Miami's, but by this point I'm pretty sure most people were happy they'd decided to show up.

MY SOUL. I really love this song. I think it's always brought out some really great blues playing from the band, and, I confess, I'd almost always take this over Funky Bitch (another big-time jammed-out Bitch excepting). Anyhow, this is another one that was played at MIami but totally took me by surprise here. Everyone sounded at the top of their game, Trey and Page in particular—playing with the right mixture of control and abandon. Just a lot of fun.

GINSENG. Loved catching the last one in Cincinnati, and loved it again here! Probably my favorite number in the Phishgrass songbook, this got a very strong performance (a definite step up from Cincy's, I think), and kept me feeling great about the set.

SAMPLE. My first in seven shows. Seemed to me it was played with a little more vigor than usual; nice injection of some anthemic pop-rock.

BATHTUB. Although I wasn't as Gin-starved as I was by the time the song hit Portsmouth, I will always get a thrill whenever this song starts up—one of my indisputable favorites. Before the show I'd been telling someone just how much I'd enjoyed the Portsmouth Gin, and at set fbreak he would ask me how this one compared. Well, it certainly took a different approach. This one was much more chromatic and tension-release-driven; the jamming style was almost like that of an Antelope at times. On the whole, I probably enjoyed Portsmouth's more (the peak was just pure euphoria), but this one was hugely exhilarating.

BRIAN AND ROBERT. A breather was certainly welcome at this point in the set. I liked this song way more in its old, more depressive arrangement; it's got just a little bit too much heart somehow these days. That said, it's still a song I enjoy…

ANTELOPE. … particularly when it's teased all over the next song. Like pretty much every 3.0 Antelope (Red Rocks is the only exception I can think of), you wish they would let it get a little crazier before ending the jam, but they drew out the peak of the jam longer than usual, and the whole thing featured excellent playing.

SET ONE RECAP. A very strong first set, particularly if you're a fan of the rarities and bust-outs. Song by song, might have been the most consistently interesting/exciting first set I saw this tour, even though Hershey and Portsmouth's first sets both reached higher musical peaks. Highlights were My Soul, Bathtub, and the rarity factor (especially in the opening duo). Probably a 6.9 by my estimation.

[SET BREAK. I'd been telling people that Meatstick was probably the number one rarity I was looking for, that I couldn't get enough of the song and that I would just LOSE IT if it I saw it played. At set break, Heather and I tried to collectively recall the Meatstick dance, just in case it, uh, reared its meaty head. I'd only seen YouTube videos, and she of course hadn't seen the song with any regularity for ten years, but we were able to piece most of it together by the time the band took the stage again.]

SET TWO

WILSON. Wilson as an opener is something I enjoy just fine, but it never makes any kind of statement to me. It just feels like a prelude to the set to come. The evil king, however, stepped aside to reveal, to my unbelievable shock and delight…

MEATSTICK. As soon as they laid down the opening groove (in the right key again, too, after Jones Beach last year), I whooped with glee and hugged just about everyone around me. A big part of the Phish experience is where a song, any song, can take you, particularly when you're least expecting it, but there's something uniquely wonderful about catching the ONE that you're never sure you'll have a chance to and loving it just by virtue of it appearing. But on top of that, this was an excellent Meatstick, just perfectly delivered—dank, sticky basslines, rhythmic and melodic play from Trey, dizzy swirls of color from Page, and dead-solid groove propulsion from Fish. All that, and it even found its way into a type-II outro which warped its way into

SAW IT AGAIN. The transition was not as smooth as it could have been, and arguably premature, but very exciting to witness. The song itself (as a song) isn't one I have a strong opinion about, but it certainly kept the excitement level sky-high here. The jam out of Saw It Again was where the set started to get balls-out crazy. The last couple minutes were effectively a wall of noise live—just thunderous. Not as scary as the Tweezer the night before, but certainly awe-inspiring.

PIPER. At the opening notes of Piper, as the murk of Saw It Again began to lift, it honestly felt like a storm was clearing. Of course, sixteen minutes later, after the most adventurous (and best) Piper of 3.0, it became apparent that the storm hadn't gone anywhere. This one refused to stay grounded in routine, fast-paced, clattery funk. This night the worm soared through a couple passages reminiscent of one of the bigger, more aggressive '98 Pipers, hinted at Maze a couple times, and even when finding a more typical groove maintained a distinct aura of danger. As a standalone jam, probably not as strong as either R&R or Tweezer the night before, but this set wasn't about standalone jams, and this Piper made for a great improvisational centerpiece to a set which was already pretty damn amazing.

GHOST. Not played since the tour opener, everyone had been calling it for what felt like forever, so it was a welcome relief to see the apparition finally return to haunt us. The jam went for heavy as opposed to funky (one of these days, I'd love to catch a straight funk Ghost a la Red Rocks or Miami last year), sounding like a more adrenalized cousin of the previous night's Tweezer. All of a sudden, Martin next to me started getting excited. "They're teasing Satisfaction!" "They are?! No, wait! It's…"

JUMPIN' JACK FLASH. After the smoothest possible introduction of the central riff, Trey stepped up to the microphone before anyone had realized what was going on. "I was born in a crossfire hurricane…." The spontaneity of the moment was obvious, but hugely welcome for all that, and it didn't come off too sloppily either. For its just about seamless arrival in the midst of a heavy-hitting second set, I'd call it one of the most remarkable entries in the second summer of covers. But what happened next was breathtaking.

SAW IT AGAIN. Following the rocked-out ending of JJF came probably the coolest two minutes of the set. I remember listening live and thinking I wouldn't know what to label this segment on a setlist. LivePhish and phish.net both call it Saw It Again, but it lacked the song's chord progression. Instead, the band kept chanting "I saw it again" over an uneasy, driving jam that could just as easily be considered part of Jumpin' Jack Flash or even Ghost. Point is, this instantly memorable segment delved immediately, unhesitatingly over the edge into the dark essence that makes up this second set. Whether it was a Saw It Again reprise or not, it definitely brought a wonderful symmetry to the set and beautifully closed the very daring sequence that had begun with Meatstick.

CONTACT. It was certainly a fine time for some more easygoing fare, and I don't think many people were complaining about this particular selection. Fun and spirited as always, and who doesn't love that funked-out interlude (or, for that matter, watching thousands of adults wave their arms back and forth in unison to a song like Contact—just beautiful)?

YEM. At this point I was (very boldly) calling Llama and/or Walls as closer/encore, and, selfishly, would have preferred a Hood to this as I've yet to catch one, but this probably best fit the vibe of the set. The jam itself wasn't all that remarkable apart from some Jumpin' Jack Flashes teases—certainly it wasn't what Hershey's monster was—but it didn't feel too perfunctory either, and the vocal jam was another great example of the form from this tour, ending, of course, in more cries of "I saw it again!"

SET TWO RECAP. Well, quite obviously that second set was pretty damn remarkable. A couple sets played last year might have been better (i.e., slightly more refined efforts boasting more developed individual jams), but nothing else from 3.0 can match this set for craziness/adventurousness. I'm pretty sure it's the craziest second set they've pulled off since 7/15/03 II. Everything from Meatstick through the Saw It Again reprise was all one outrageous highlight (plus that Piper would be a highlight on its own, too). Individual jams the previous two nights were stronger, but this is the SET of tour. Hard set to rate, because it really is one of those whole-is-greater-than-sum-of-parts deals, but let's call it a 9.1.

Encore was Fire, which is always a good, efficient way to burn things up one more time. The two sets average out at 8.0, which is about accurate, I think. I definitely think it's the strongest overall effort of June-July 2010, and witnessing it live was just unbelievable, transcendent. I hardly knew what to do with myself after this one, and all I've figured out since is that I pretty much need to find my way to Jones Beach next month….


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