DISCLAIMER: I have had very little sleep in the last three days and I appear to still be a bit inebriated from last night. If any of the words or opinions that follow seem asinine or otherwise moronic to you in any way, shape or form, please do not doubt that they are. Thank you.
You’ve seen the setlist. And if you’ve seen even a few Phish setlists over the years, you may be wondering, “Seriously!? A “Rocky Top Mike’s Groove” first set opener, a “Curtain With” first set closer, a “JOY” second set closer!?” WTF!? “Curtain With” has never closed a first set, of course, and “Rocky Top” has not opened a show since 12/2/96. And closing a second set with an emotionally intense (if not ironically depressing) ballad like “Joy” just seems batshit f’ing crazy.
Last night was THAT kind of night. This was no “typical” Phish show. It was not anywhere close to “average-great.” It was a freak of nature, a perverse (and often baffling) phenomenon, especially for 2011. Sure, “Joy” was the only recent song played, so it was an extraordinarily “old school” show. And yes, the preshow vibe was fantastic, maybe even a touch moreso than your average Phish show. The show was in CAMDEN after all, where Phish has often performed well.
But what, to me, makes this show so unique -- in light of all of the Phish that I’ve heard and seen over the years -- are that this show’s highs and lows are DRAMATIC. And obvious. Even to the most spectacularly deaf fans among us. As such highs and lows were, quite frankly, at Coventry.
THE GOOD: The “Weekapaug Groove” is hands down the best version in many years. It is played with an intensity that has been sorely lacking in recent years. It is unequivocally a must-hear version. “Stash” is good, but not in the league of 10/31/10 Atlantic City. “Guyute” was relatively well-played, which is remarkable given Trey’s flubs elsewhere in the show. “Mule” was strong, frankly, and reminded me of typical versions from the mid-1990’s. The “Curtain With” -- while not perfectly played -- features a stunning, magical, soulful solo from Trey. This may just be my favorite version of the song. It is unquestionably one of the finest versions of the song in Phish history. You can watch the official video of it here.
As for the second set, although not very long, the jam in the “Down with Disease” eventually becomes magnificent. This is easily one of my favorite “short” versions of this song. As for “Free,” Mike is truly awesome in what’s otherwise a straightforward rendering. Trey’s soloing in the “Possum,” however, is excellent, in my opinion. This is easily a top version of “Possum” and I like it much, much more than the Blossom “Possum,” which is also a well-above average version. If Phish is going to play “Possum” like this, they can play it at every god damn show as far as I’m concerned. “BBFCFM” is a riot -- Mike even sat down on stage for part of it. It’s a much more inspired version than the one last year in Camden. “Swept Away > Steep” was very cool to get, and I enjoyed its ominous, Floyd-esque coda before “Bowie” started up.
THE BAD: The second set, overall, was -- wait for it -- WEIRD. It started off quite well, as already noted, with strong versions of several tunes, but then it just would not end. IT WOULD NOT END I TELL YOU. And this wasn’t really a positive development. We got set-closing song after set-closing song, that were at best “fine” (namely, “Bowie” “Julius” “Golgi” and “Fluffhead”), and then the set ended with “Joy.” WTF?
THE BUTT UGLY: There are flubs from Trey in a ton of songs. In fact, Phish purists will be aghast at many of them. These are the kind of flubs that make it impossible to call this show “well-played” in general, which a typical Phish show is, of course. Playing well is par for the course for Phish. If you listen to this show, you will hear flubs from Trey where they’ve only rarely occurred in Phish history, like in “Hydrogen” and “The Sloth.” Many of us at the show really could not have cared less about the flubs, though, and while the second set seemingly wouldn’t end after getting, let’s face it, kinda dull, it is hard to complain too loudly given the old school, "greatest hits" feel of the song choices, and the fierceness of the playing in the songs that I mention above. But some fans were very disappointed, and a somewhat surprising number of them left the show at various times during the second set. You don’t see this every day, especially at a Phish show.
All of this said, the music of this show, like it or not, absolutely brings IT at times. Just listen to Trey’s solos alone in the “Curtain With” and the “Possum” for christ’s sake. And as mixed a bag as it was musically, last night was still a whole hell of a lot more entertaining, to me, than a Bethel3 or a Cincinnati or even a PNC. (I think the PNC shows have been grossly overrated.) And as far as I’m concerned, while the lows of this show were certainly low, the highs of this show were just as up there, musically speaking, with every previous high on this tour so far, such as the Bethel1 “Kill Devil Falls,” the Bethel2 “GoldenGinTeca,” the Pine Knob “Down with Disease,” and the Blossum “When Harry Have Mercy Met Sally.” I will also take a show like this Camden show any day -- any fucking day -- over a so-called “average great” show. So download the Camden show now, and thank your Almighty God that Phish is still at IT.
If you liked this blog post, one way you could "like" it is to make a donation to The Mockingbird Foundation, the sponsor of Phish.net. Support music education for children, and you just might change the world.
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Phish.net 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.
The Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Phish fans in 1996 to generate charitable proceeds from the Phish community.
And since we're entirely volunteer – with no office, salaries, or paid staff – administrative costs are less than 2% of revenues! So far, we've distributed over $2 million to support music education for children – hundreds of grants in all 50 states, with more on the way.
I'll be interesting to see if, upon second listen, I realize it was better than I thought or you realize it was less notable than you thought.
I think what Charlie is saying is that this one is an 8 *and* a 3.
wonderful review. i thought the first set was spectacular. everyone in the building was floored at the set, especially the curtain with. and you assessment of the second set was spot on: i called julius the set closer. then golgi. then certainly fluffhead.
i also agree with your comment on the floyd-esque outtro of steep/intro to bowie. i actually thought they were going to go into time.
this just goes to show you than even when phish is slightly off, they can still be on, which is one of the reasons why i think we keep coming back show after show.
I'll admit I wanted a different 2nd set song selection,(Ghost or Twist would have been nice...) but I'm happy with their playing. If any of y'all that left last night's show early want to see your tickets to the rest of the tour PLEASE let me know.
Has anyone else noticed that Runaway Jim has done exactly that?
It was an odd show for sure. Thankfully I am an odd kinda person, so I liked it.
I did a little eye roll when I heard the start to yet another possum. I love the energy and what that song does to the crowd everytime, but this has become the possum tour most definately.
I was actually giving last nights possum another listen as I sat down to read this, and was once again blown away. My how I love this band!
In my assesment, like @sethadam, I don't hear anything from last night as approaching the creativity of the other tour highlights to date. At all. What at this show rivals the Bethel Boogie On> Waves and the DTE DWD> Fluff> Bowie, for example? The joys of hearing renewed vigor in Trey's playing have been present in every show this summer, from the average to the great.
Regardless of my disagreement, thanks for the review. Good to hear your thoughts as always.
Also, if you need past versions of Hydrogen and Sloth that were mangled, send me blanks and postage; I have plenty.
"You people are lame"
"Almost as good as 12/1/95"
Are you serious?
Glad you had fun. You don't have to be a wanker about it.
Hitting the band with glow sticks during the show is a slap in their face, and closing with Joy was them coming right back at us. You idiots have got to stop doing that shit.
Thank you, everyone, for the comments!
@JoeChip: The Curtain With was spectacular whether you were there in person or listening to it on "the SBD." But it was especially awesome if you were there in person, and if The Curtain With has meant something to you over the years, and if you've heard every version. In any event, since your comment practically demands it, for anyone who is wondering what numerical "rating" I'd assign to Camden, it's an easy 3/10. I do think the show is worth downloading for its odd nature, even if Trey didn't play as consistently well as he did earlier tonight. (MPP1)
@BertoletDown: You know you're right.
Note that I am not at all saying that listening on couch tour is any substitute for the experience of being at a show. It's not even in the same ballpark. But we're talking about reviewing the music and, for that, a good stream and/or recording will generally suffice. $.02
Great musical reviews of Jazz shows from recordings from smoky clubs of the 1940's & 1950's appear all the time. Did the reviewer attend? Hell no. He LISTENED. We have the technology.
The second set screamed rock and roll the unique way only Phish does it. DWD, Free, & Possum were sublime and built perfect energy to a face melting BBFCFM (maybe the best version I've ever heard). No one else can go from pure rage through music to dropping the rpms well below the red line so seamlessly and perfectly like the these boys. Swept> Steep was an unexpected gem that yet again makes Phish the best in the biz. If you think, thought, or thunk Swept> Steep couldn't be something phenominal you need to hear this version. The following Bowie, Julius, Golgi, Fluff made every fiber of being smile in joyous xtc. Maybe it is my age but ending such a high energy, rock your socks off show with a slower catch your breath song was right on time. JOY was perfectly placed despite what anyone else thinks. Axis has always been a perfect encore and was perfect to close a great show.
All in all, this was my kind of show. By no means do I dislike Phish doing covers but when the only two open and close the show it makes for that much more of a special performance. When you get a show containing more pure Phish tunes than not you got something that much better.
Agree to disagree, I suppose.
That makes perfect sense.
o If you were there, awesome for you -- and yes, people will probably be interested in your review of the show. You'll have something to say about the whole scene, which will likely reflect both the positive technical fact that you (could have) heard the music better than is possible for any stream or later recording, as well as the potentially negative reality that your opinion of the music is likely clouded by the fact of your attendance -- the very-well known truism that the musical performances at shows are overrated by those who attend them.
o If you weren't there, but you streamed the concert (or d/l a recording) you aren't qualified to review the "show" since you really did miss almost everything to do with the ambiance and non-auditory experience. BUT, if you're able to pay attention to what you're hearing, and know something about music or phish, or can just string a coherent thought-sequence together, you too probably can contribute a valid review, maybe even a "better" one from a dispassionate pov.
There are not yet too many reviews/opinions of these performances! I am very happy to read almost all of them, the rare trolls and fluffers to the side. It looks like the band are finding some different places/songs to shine in this year and I love it when someone points out something I hadn't noticed.
I enjoyed </sarcasm> the phone streamers last night, and so don't have anything in the way of a review -- too many problems with the streams. But the BBFCFM was indeed "a riot." Don't let that one slip away!
As for Julius, aside from Hoist, I have only heard it while listening to Live Phish Radio, so I could be simply catching the wrong versions, but I thought it sounded awesome all around (as compared to other shows where I've only felt they were ok. Again Im not sure which versions I've heard and what was surrounding them musically, but until this point I only thought of it as an "ok" song).
I thought Rocky Top was a cool way to open the show despite the fact that I've never heard it before (Again, this is my 3rd year listening to phish, so there are still a ton of covers I haven't heard them play), with an awesome "PLAY IT LEO!!!" moment that I wouldn't have expected until later in the show, with a great Mike's Groove right after. It's pretty cool to get Rocky Top this year, and Alumni Blues> Letter to Jimmy Paige> Alumni last year.
Personally, I would have loved to have heard Piper, NICU and Manteca, despite the latter having been played a whopping total of 8 times (can't hurt to dream, right?). While I'm on the subject, check the Stash> Manteca> Tweezer> NICU run from Las Vegas 10/30/98. It's a beauty.
Anyways, thanks for the great review! I hope my opinions are taken well, and I'll certainly be seeing MANY more shows in the coming years!!
I was at this show and read this review before I heard the SBD and have to say this is pretty spot on. I had a killer time at the show (phish in the pit, how couldn't you?) but the flubs were definitely there, as well as the awesome moments. The best is The Curtain, SO SOLID. Heard it a few times over now and its just a masterpiece. The Disease jam really DOES go somewhere despite what people are saying, and the show really starts to pick up around the end (I think thats why they just kept playing songs because it took them so long to catch their stride)
The most glaring is definitely The Sloth. Even at the show I could tell it was botched pretty badly, but hearing it on recording is just brutal. Oh well. Good thing phish is still the best live act out there Can't wait 'til Superball!
Counting down till Superball.
You can't deny that they're important, but IMO the more subjective a review, the better. Plenty of the "dynamics and energy" will come through on a recording. Sometimes a peak hits the crowd so loud that they rise up into the mix, sometimes those peaks don't hit the crowd hard enough for them to break the surface. I don't think that anyone has to be there to review the music. Not in the slightest. Reviewing the show as a whole is a whole different animal. There is plenty of room for both. But since someone's memories of the show aren't a factor in my life, I personally prefer for people to review the music on it's own merits.
Like the review of this show on the blog. I found MPP 2 to be super extra weird, especially that 2nd set where they completely ditched the "greatest hits" act for a night and wove together an extraordinarily cohesive meat of the set featuring predominately new songs. Although like this set, it didn't seem to know how to finish and fired off a few relatively standard versions of songs at the end. This is where the big type 2 improv jams come in handy. Stretching that MPP "Halfway To The Moon" or Camden "Bowie" out for an extra 15 minutes would have paid dividends if they ended up knocking a few of the bonus songs out of the equation. Then again, DTE featured one long segment and the band still had no idea what to after Bowie.
I'm still sticking with my guns that Bethel is the way of the future. Tons of small jams, and if they happen to be feeling them, they'll start getting longer and the future will be opened up to us all.