Gorge Amphitheatre, George, WA
 Lyric changed to "Mike-O Esquandolas."
· Heartbreaker tease in Wolfman's Brother
· Reba, Tweezer, Tweezer Reprise, Nellie Kane, Sand, Golden Age, and Blister in the Sun whistlings in Run Like an Antelope
· I Feel the Earth Move tease in Suzy Greenberg
Average Song Gap: 5.08
Notes: Wolfman's contained Heartbreaker teases. The Antelope intro contained Reba whistling and Tweezer, Tweezer Reprise, Nellie Kane, Blister in the Sun, and Sand teases. The Antelope jam segment subsequently contained teases of Golden Age. Antelope's "Marco Esquandolas" lyric was changed to "Mike-O Esquandolas." Suzy contained an I Feel the Earth Move tease from Mike.
Songs by Debut Year:
This show was part of the "2011 Late Summer Tour."
overplay aside, possum was a great opener. it featured a particularly long intro section, which led to a great release when the song proper started. as usual, the gorge crowd was bouncing all over the place immediately. trey’s solo was totally within the box (no curveballs like at blossom ‘11), but really solid. in the few shows that i’ve been to, it seems to usually take the band a few songs to get going, so to see them firing on all cylinders out of the gate was heartening. moma was a great follow-up to possum, featuring some major funk in the intro jam and a surprisingly energetic solo section from trey. after two songs, i wondered if the band was going to go out into left field early like they had the night before with bathtub gin and roggae.
but then came sample. i love this song. i love it so much, in fact, that i cover it regularly when i play gigs. but it’s one of the few songs that have fallen completely flat for me in 3.0. this version was no different (ed: the essex junction version recently piqued my interest, i have to admit). limb by limb was next, another song i haven’t really been terribly impressed with in the 21st century. here it sounded like trey was trying to do something different, playing around with atonality and such, but it didn’t really work for me and i ended up feeling a bit like the first set might be a bit of a clunker after a great start. ocelet, though another solid version, didn’t do much to convince me that this was going to be anything other than a standard rock and roll set. poor heart was a nice surprise, and page’s playing made it a fun listen, but aside from the novelty of never having heard it live before, i was left hoping for something to break out of the box.
fortunately, on your way down did just that. not only was hearing the song at all a surprise, the entire band absolutely SLAYED the jam. it was a more-or-less standard blues affair, of course, but it was flawlessly played and even after a few listens is still one of my favorite parts of this show. the band seemed to build up so momentum during this song, because next up was a wolfman’s that was rockier than usual, and featured (i think) a heartbreaker tease as well as a great segue into maze. much like how the ‘09 gorge disease finally sold me on that song, this maze made me a believer. trey does a great job here skating around a peak for a few minutes, building tension, before really ripping into it. this three-song run is easily the highlight of the first set, and maybe the highlight of the whole show, though that’s not to say the second set was bad; this run of songs is just THAT GOOD.
the call for wilson next was a good one, but trey quickly botched the guitar part and the wind seemed to go out of the band’s sails quickly. my first live wilson, but nothing to write home about. as trey dove into fluffhead next, i remember being surprised at how fast a tempo he set. as a result, i expected a lot more flubbage than we got. the composed section of the song was well-played, and there were a few more rock-star fireworks from trey during the outro jam. much like the first night, this opening set had a lot of great moments, a lot more “solid” moments, and a few legit jamming moments that seemed to belong in a second set. the boys clearly wanted to let loose like they had the night before, and as we went into setbreak, i was wondering if things would gel better in the second set, making a space for IT to happen like it had the night before.
chalkdust is a song i’ve always wanted to hear jammed out into space. the version on the live in brooklyn bonus disc is one of my favorite pieces of phish music ever. this hope means that every time i heard the opening of chalkdust, i know i’m almost certain to get disappointed by a rocking, but not spacey chalkdust. such was the case here. the second set opened with a perfectly serviceable but uninteresting chalkdust. everybody was jumping, though, and it felt like we just needed the right excuse to rage. fortunately, chalkdust segued perfectly into tweezer. this was a goddamn ROCK tweezer, but trey varied the soloing up enough that it never gets boring, and it stirred the audience up into a froth, but then the band moved with a pretty spacey transition into prince caspian. you could probably argue that this was an energy-killer, but the transition actually seemed fitting to me and the prince caspian, if anything, seemed too short. right when things seemed to be getting interesting, we jumped into sand.
which, ultimately, was fine. this was a great version of sand. one of the things that has made this song such a great jam this year is its move from a trey-rock vehicle to something more full-band-powered. after much of the show being trey-dominated, it was nice to see him step back a bit during sand and let the whole band construct something really interesting. the move back into tweezer at the end of sand, i think, broke everybody’s minds. i had thought this was just a tease, but then fishman shifted the beat and suddenly we were back in tweezer. it seemed like they couldn’t find anywhere to take the song after such a great transition, though, and just as quickly we were into birds of a feather. birds was a bit sloppy, but fast and so the sloppiness didn’t seem like a technical disappointment, but just the sound of a band who was playing with so much energy that they were briefly sacrificing precision.
i can always handle on waste per tour. this one’s a good listen. next was my first golden age, which was great because i’ve loved this cover ever since it was debuted. this version didn’t really go anywhere interesting, but just hearing the song itself was great enough. i was expecting the set to wrap up around this point, so i was pretty surprised to hear the opening notes of reba. the NYE ‘95 reba is another one of my favorite phish moments, and after a nearly-flawless composed section here, the beginning movements of the jam were really similar to that version. just getting hear the spacey notes of the reba jam float out over the expanse of the gorge was one of the highlights of my entire run. the show could have ended here and i’d have been happy, but there was a lot more to go.
there was, of course, the antelope, which in addition to just being a great set-closing jam, featured in introduction that teased almost every song from the second set. the transition from the sand tease into antelope proper was one of those moments that just required a jumping, screaming fist-pump of joy. much of the crowd seemed to agree.
once again, i expected the show to end with the suzy greenberg encore, and when i heard the opening notes of sanity, i couldn’t believe what i was hearing. it seemed a great cap to a night that had already had a lot of teases and all-around phish goofiness. i think there was a “WHAT?!” somewhere in there from fishman. things finally ended up with my second tweeprise at the gorge, putting the perfect exclamation point on the two night stand.
i remember thinking at the end of the show that i couldn’t really imagine what else the band could do over the tahoe run to equal or top these two shows. i was afraid i might be bored, or disappointed, and that it was a weird sort of luck to see what must have been two of the better phish shows of 3.0 at the best venue in america. sure, each show had a few low points, but looked at together, they cover just about every thing you could want from phish: bluegrass, trey’s rock-star guitar, long space jams, fun teases, goofiness, plinko-style jamming, unexpected segues, etc., etc. what could tahoe do to top this run? well, i would find out in a few days…
It was being professionally filmed, anyone know why or who by?
well played phish. though i didnt attend or hear uic yet i think everyone should get this show.
The first set is also pretty stellar. I absolutely love the On Your Way Down cover, and the Heartbreaker teases in Wolfman's are sick. I actually feel like I hear Heartbreaker teases all the time now (especially in the Sally from 8/19.) Maze>Wilson>Fluffhead to close the first set? Now that is awesome! What more can I say? I met 3 Phish virgins in the lot and accompanied them to both nights and basically showed them how to get down at a Phish show. Could not have asked for a more positive experience from my first shows at The Gorge. It absolutely rocked my face off, and I cannot wait to go back!
The first night's Rock 'n Roll->Meatstick->Boogie on is essential Phish listening. Add one of the baddest bands in the world to a premier concert venue in the middle of nowhere and this is what you get. The bottom of the world dropped out. LISTEN. NOW.
The entire second set of the second night is one of the most well constructed sets of music in their career, and I'm not saying that because I have a serious Tweezer problem (although I do). Trey really digs in and raises some raucous ruckus during several peaks during Sand. This is the perfect placement for Birds. Really emotional peak during Waste that comes as close to rivaling the 12/11/97 version as I've ever heard. Cap it all off with an Antelope that teased most of the songs that preceded it...listening to it again, it still feels like too much to ask for.
If you're on the fence about going through the hassle of going to the Gorge, do yourself a favor and listen to these shows. They are very compelling evidence.