Thursday 06/09/2011 by pzerbo


Phish’s summer tour set up under the big-top of Darien Lake on Wednesday, providing fans with a double-header of wild rides: first in the theme park that was open only to Phish ticket holders, then with a diverse and wide-ranging gig itself. Their fifth performance here, Phish sought to expand on a history with the venue that includes the epic 8/14/97 gig with Ken Kesey and The Merry PrankstersForbin’s” -> “Camel Walk” madness, as well as 9/14/00 that contains what is widely regarded as one of the best ever versions of “Suzy Greenberg.” The park’s roller coaster imagery was appropriate for a tour that to date has had amazing highs, alongside some going-through-the-motions valleys. Let’s go to the videotape.

Signs Signs Everywhere a Sign. This gig’s fun started before the first note. A fan was front and center with both a “Jennifer Dances” shirt and sign. Trey immediately spotted the sign and asked for it, held it up, offered a spirited fist pump and said “Finally! Finally somebody got it right with the signs!” Apparently there are campaigns forming all across the land to end our long national nightmare and have Phish perform “Jennifer Dances” by bringing more signs and by having the crowd sing in unison before each show: “A little less salt in the gravy tonight!” The opener, “Nellie Kane” was also played in response to an enterprising group that literally had fifteen signs for the song! Phish, the all-request band!

After a drooping, bouncy rendition of Bob Marley’s “Mellow Mood” (a comparatively rare one-two opening sequence that did not contain a Phish original), the crowd was treated to a short version of “Buffalo Bill,” surprisingly making its first appearance in the Buffalo area. Settling into the set we witnessed a strong but otherwise standard sequence of “Kill Devil Falls,” “Wolfman’s Brother” and “Rift.” “Undermind” follows, a song that varies so often it is hard to peg down what a “standard” version might look like. This one was as “traditional” as the song ever gets but featured viscous attacking lead lines by Trey, very strong! “Ride Captain Ride” was next, thrilling the crowd but causing a mild earthquake in southern California as @lemuria, entering his third decade of missing Phish perform the song, exploded in jealousy. One day, Ellis, one day.

A respectably precise version of “It’s Ice” was next, followed by the comparably underplayed “Dog Faced Boy” and “Brian and Robert” (the latter, apparently, also in response to a fan sign). Picking up the tempo, the roller coaster descended into a stock “46 Days,” a pleasant “Limb By Limb,” and an obligatory “Character Zero” rocking closer. Overall a diverse and unique set with many first-of-tour performances, almost-rarities, and selections from a broad spectrum of the band’s deep repertoire. The jamming jets were in deep cold storage, but overall Phish delivered a very enjoyable set in which most every fan could find something to love. We’ll be back in... fifteen minutes.

Having our appetites stirred with the hints of “Golden Age” in the GoldenGinTeca at Bethel, the second set opened with this TV on the Radio cover as if shot out of a cannon! This bright, fun and engaging tune that Phish debuted in Albany on 11/27/09 made its third appearance in the Phish setlist and was thrilling the crowd, when Trey bailed in favor of “Mike’s Song.” Let’s hope “Golden Age” sticks in the rotation and is allowed to run free like wind next time. Strong and fun, but keeping the 3.0 tradition of the “no jamming in ‘Mike’s Song’ rule” going, this version was precisely rendered. For the first time ever, “Fast Enough for You” followed “Mike’s” – an interesting and pleasant if not especially bold choice, but props for mixing things up. “Weekapaug” saw Mike, perhaps feeling the missed opportunity of the set opener, leading a “Golden Age” tease and the whole band continued the “Golden Age” theme throughout the above-average “‘paug.”

The fan-favorite instrumental “What’s the Use?” from The Siket Disc follows, setting in motion the middle portion of the set that was extremely well-played and enjoyable, but also safe and firmly within the lines. “Theme from the Bottom” and “Backwards Down the Number Line” were both excellent if lacking any genuine adventure. “2001,” however, was stellar and infused with “Golden Age,” “Happy Birthday” (possibly to the late Les Paul, whose birthday is actually 6/9) and “What’s the Use” teases; not rising quite to the level of, say, the Michael Jackson-drenched 6/25/10 Camden masterpiece, but strong, innovative and fun. A beautiful if “typically great” “Harry Hood” closes the second set, and the always rocking “Good Times Bad Times” encore sends everyone home happy. Load the trucks, Camden awaits!

Much as was the case the night before @ Great Woods (recap), this gig was quintessentially “Phish 3.0” – strong, competent, tight, proficient playing, with diversity achieved more through Phish’s ability to reach into a very deep catalog rather than leaping-off-the-cliff improvisation, sprinkled with a very early-90s-style of thematic teasing throughout the second set. The big jamming guns never left the truck for this one, but that type of playing is clearly an optional and not compulsory element of the Phish program these days. Good times, and there isn’t a better entertainment value on the summer shed circuit, or anything close. The weekend is here, Camden and Merriweather await, let’s get it on!

If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.


, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown The playing in this show is hungry. Not spacey and risky, but hungry.
, comment by sneakinald10
sneakinald10 Hey,

Always love the reviews up here. One difference in opinion: Darien Lake 2000 best Suzy G? I would highly hope the reviewer and all readers take the time to listen to the 1995-10-31; I apologize to post such a blatant nitpick response, but for me, Suze is all about Page. McConnell's chops in the 95' version, mixed with Joey Sommerville (trumpet) interplay, make a truly special PHISH moment. An intoxicating mix of PHISH original and superb improvisational playing I believe this is the BEST, the all-holds, no-better, simply shit of a Suzy Greenberg. Thanks for letting me rant :-) and i did enjoy your darien recap, please report more!
, comment by cantelope97
cantelope97 Just wanted to add that Golden Age and the subsequent teases were also played in response to a sign which read "Golden Age for my 50th." I assumed that the birthday teases were also for the fan, but Les Paul is a possibility as well. There was also a Buffalo Bill sign up front, but I wouldn't be surprised if they had that one queued up.

So yeah, 4-5 fan requests made for an interesting and fun combination of songs as phish played juke box for the night. I agree that 2001 was especially potent and made playful by the teases. I'd also add that I thought Theme from the Bottom was absolutely unreal!

Keep it up with reviews!
, comment by ZapRowsdower
ZapRowsdower Nice dig at @lemuria
, comment by pzerbo
pzerbo @ZapRowsdower said:
Nice dig at @lemuria
Not a dig (well, OK, but a good-natured one)... read his RCR song history for the details!
, comment by zappafrank1
zappafrank1 Can't believe you just brushed over that KDF! It was the heat! I was listening on the shitty stream and was still blown away. Jam Jets Engaged!
, comment by OnlinePhishTour
OnlinePhishTour The guy with the Jennifer Dances sign was actually an Online Phish Tour writer; Guy Forget. He's a great author.

More story here-
, comment by pzerbo
pzerbo @zappafrank1 said:
Can't believe you just brushed over that KDF! It was the heat! I was listening on the shitty stream and was still blown away. Jam Jets Engaged!
Modest heat, perhaps, but it suffered by comparison to the outstanding, jamming jets ON version from Bethel, check it out!
, comment by grevart
grevart What the hell are you talking about "no jamming in Mike's song". Wow missed that one i guess. It was a complete sonic boom that threw the entire crowd into dance mood. In fact , the whole second set was long jams. Page was throwing down some incredible sounds as well.
, comment by terms_of_the_dance
terms_of_the_dance Great review!
, comment by ZapRowsdower
, comment by theothr1
theothr1 okay,,, i would like to sincerely apologize to ellis for having missed yet another 'RCR'...i have been chasing 'the curtain WITH' since it's return with no positive results...and i've bookended shows where it was played so i know how it add insult to injury, I was in attendance for the '99 fall tour-opening shows at the Knick when Phish bestowed upon us the only 'curtain (without)' since it's resurrection two months prior at Deer Creek...oddly enough, i also chased 'RCR' for six years before Phish dusted it off at (where else?) Deer Creek on 8-3-98...however, having seen three of the last five, i do feel a little guilty...keep the faith, good sir, and one day you WILL get the Captain!!
, comment by theothr1
theothr1 sorry, that was the 2000 fall tour-opening shows @ the Knick, not '99
, comment by ckess22
ckess22 you got your curtain with tonight sir. the 2000 darien suzy is the best ever. hands fucking down. It's what made me love phish as a noob. destroys the world.
, comment by ezeidaho
ezeidaho Great reviews, killer shows this summer. I can't believe more folks aren't talking about the vocals! Phish has never been this strong and confident on any of the various shows I've seen since 1993. Listen to "Rocket in my Pocket" from Blossom and "Theme from the Bottom" at Darien Lake!

Best Suzy? How 'bout the encore from Festival 8, Saturday night? with the Dap Kings horns, Sharon Jones backing vocals, and Trey just as excited as ever...10-31-09!
, comment by ezeidaho
ezeidaho Oh yea, "Wolfman's Brother" from Darien Lake. Killer vocals!
You must be logged in to post a comment. is a non-commercial project run by Phish fans and for Phish fans under the auspices of the all-volunteer, non-profit Mockingbird Foundation.

This project serves to compile, preserve, and protect encyclopedic information about Phish and their music.

Credits | Terms Of Use | Legal | DMCA

© 1990-2023  The Mockingbird Foundation, Inc. | Hosted by Linode