Anticipation could not have been higher heading into Phish's 6/4/11 show at the Blossom Music Center. The night before in Clarkston they had raised the bar for the tour (and, arguably, 3.0) with one of their strongest start-to-finish sets in recent memory. Was that going to be the new "normal" or just a fortunate aberration?
After the first set, the jury was still out. The set included a little bit of everything: well played versions of composed numbers like "Guyute" and Foam," energetic versions of rockers "Kill Devil Falls" and "Antelope," a return to the Little Feat catalog with "Rocket In My Pocket," and even the aural monstrosity that is "Fuck Your Face." Still, while everything was played well, they never really left the confines of any single song.
That all changed in Set II. The set opened with the first "Birds" of 2011. "Birds" has become something of a rarity these days, so expectations were high for a second set opening version. Alas, it was a pretty ordinary performance. When the band dropped into "Possum," many fans probably groaned (to themselves, anyway). Perhaps no song has been as overplayed in recent years without really going anywhere interesting as "Possum." of course, in true Phish fashion, the band responded with probably the most interesting and creative version of "Possum" since the mid-'90s.
The ashes of "Possum" melted into the first original debut of 2011 with "Steam." The new Anastasio/Marshall composition with lyrics that recall the Game of Thrones book/TV series (or so I'm told) and a steamy cymbal effect from Fish, "Steam" may have more jamming potential than any new song since "Light." A brief "Piper" followed which segued into the now-rare "Lizards."
What followed will be known in Phish lore as When Harry Met Sally and is a simply outstanding 30 minutes of music. The "Sally" jam is sublime. All four band members are locked in and the result is a truly unique, must-hear jam. "Sally" melted into a "Harry" -> "Have Mercy" -> "Hood" that is simply majestic. Trey wove the "Have Mercy" theme throughout the "Hood" jam finishing off a set that is among the best of 3.0. I prefer the previous night's second set somewhat, but which one you like better probably depends more on the style of set you prefer. The fact that the "Slave" encore is reduced to near-footnote status speaks to its greatness. If I'm giving a rating to this show it's probably a 7.0, a notch above Bethel2 earned almost entirely on the basis of the second set. But seriously, ignore the number. The important part is that the second sets from Pine Knob and Blossom are the two best sets if 2011 IMO and would hold up in any era of Phish.
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