Sunday 06/12/2011 by pzerbo


On Saturday night Phish rolled in to Merriweather Post Pavilion for the first of two weekend gigs at one of the oldest sheds (circa 1967) still in operation – if you are in any doubt, visit the bathrooms, they are exactly the same as on opening night. Yet another venue where Phish has a proven track record of performing amazing shows (see especially 8/8/98 and 6/27/10), and following an uneven night in Camden with spectacular highs and baffling lows, anything was possible. Grab your popcorn!

For the third straight show, Phish opened with a traditional / bluegrass standard, and again one that was apparently played in response to a fan sign: “Daniel Saw the Stone!” This was by far the biggest bust-out of the tour to date (last played at IT on 8/3/03, 137 shows). Then we move into a more traditional opening sequence of a compact “AC/DC Bag” and then a soulful, patient, and well-above-average “Ocelot.” “Access Me” follows, and given the precision of the performance (see 10/26/10 for a stark contrast) plus the fact it was only the fourth ever performance can safely qualify as the “Best ‘Access Me’ Ever!” The often-requested but infrequently played of late “Vultures” follows, a far from perfect – it is a difficult song, even for Phish – but still enjoyable version.

The first set starts to gather steam with a strong “Wilson” followed by an even stronger “Sand.” The “Sand” doesn’t stretch out from the core structure, but this version is a prime example of the strength of Trey’s playing these days: confident, attacking yet patient, well-thought-out phrasing, few discernible crutches, etc. A great version with innovative mid-set placement. Ween’sRoses Are Free” is next and offered just a hint of the ‘90s-style jamming extension that so many hope for... but it wouldn’t be a recap without “the ripcord.” The beloved classic “Reba” follows and stands alongside “Ocelot” and “Sand” as the clear highlights of this very strong first set. The composed section was nailed, but the jam is simply stunning, with the band laying down the sublime background to Trey’s absolutely brilliant, almost tearful solo. Don’t miss this one. Allen Toussaint’sOn Your Way Down” and a formulaic yet always fun “Antelope” (with an “On Your Way Down” tease from Trey) rounds out one of the best first sets of the tour. Great stuff. We’ll be back in fifteen minutes.

A compact, uneventful “Bird of a Feather” opens set two, followed by “Tweezer.” This “Tweezer” – that featured an opening segment with a full band stop and a vocalized HUH! – was poised for lift-off and was definitely airborne and soaring, if not quite reaching maximum sustained cruising altitude. The jam worked to a natural (non-ripcord) conclusion and gave way to “The Horse” > “Silent in the Morning.” The Round Room favorite “Waves” follows, and while not hitting the home-run that was the stunning Bethel version, still delivered. A somewhat rare mid-set “Chalk Dust Torture” kept the energy meters pegged for the naturally enthused Saturday night crowd.

The middle segment of this set brought the wood and witnesses the band at the peak of their craft. The second powerhouse “Rock and Roll” in the last week (see Great Woods) dispatches with the song structure proper after five minutes and continues in hyper-drive for the next six, offering power Type-I jamming and then dissolves into pure Type-II space. Great stuff! Neil Young’sAlbuquerque” allows everyone to catch their breath, before we leap off the cliff again with “Piper.” There are two components of “Piper” that most fans love – the patient, we’ve-got-all-day building intro, and the wide-ranging jams that might emerge. This version was hurried in the former, but crushing in the latter. The final ~eight minutes of this jam is full-band improvisational gold! More. Of. This. Please!

That said, just when this set had real possibilities to enter the outlier, “truly great” class, the band retreated into a more businesslike, predictable, jukebox approach. Not to say that they weren’t delivering high-quality adult entertainment – it was very much that – but the “Wading in the Velvet Sea” > “2001” > “Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan” > “Suzy” set closing sequence and the “Show of Life” (with Mike on his brand new Fender Precision bass) > “Tweezer Reprise” encore could have been dialed up from any recent standard performance. Although the “Suzy” did have a little of the proverbial “extra mustard” and some “WHAT?” Great stuff. Please drive safely!

The verdict? Wow! That was an excellent performance and a well above-average Phish gig, especially for the “3.0” era. The show was almost Hampton ‘09-esque in the number of songs packed in (26), and as such didn’t have too much room to navigate into extensive explorations. That didn’t stop the gig from bringing the heat, albeit in smaller doses. Highlights were the “Ocelot,” “Sand,” “Reba,” Tweezer,” “Rock and Roll,” and “Piper.” Will any single song from this gig stick in the “best ever” versions from the band’s long and storied history (other than the “Access Me” :-))? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean this was anything less than a stellar performance. This band delivers! So great that we should... do it again tonight! Same bat time, same bat station. We’ll be back tomorrow with a recap.

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, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown So the stuff worth seeking out from last night were the Tweezer, R&R, and Piper, it sounds like.
, comment by pzerbo
pzerbo @bertoletdown said:
So the stuff worth seeking out from last night were the Tweezer, R&R, and Piper, it sounds like.
Even if you've heard them a hundred times or more, also check out the "Sand" and "Reba" at the very least (even ahead of the "Tweezer" ;)
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown Cool, thanks. Nice recap!
, comment by J_D_G
J_D_G Would you say this is a candidate for best 3.0 Piper? On the topic, are there any good 3.0 Pipers to speak of? My impression is that it's pretty much been a disappointment in 09-11.
, comment by pzerbo
pzerbo @J_D_G said:
Would you say this is a candidate for best 3.0 Piper? On the topic, are there any good 3.0 Pipers to speak of? My impression is that it's pretty much been a disappointment in 09-11.
Yes, alongside the version from Telluride last year.
, comment by bertoletdown
bertoletdown There have been no 3.0 Pipers that have competed with the likes of SPAC, Miami, Viper, or even Oswego. But I think the Gorge 09 Piper was pretty strong.
, comment by tmwsiy
tmwsiy Great recap Phil.

i thoroughly enjoyed the entire stretch from Rock and Roll -> Albuquerque -> Piper. Although I loved the placement of the Albuquerque after the great Rock and Roll jam , I sure do wish they had extended the -> quite a bit more. Nevertheless, a great stretch of music.

Agreed on the Suzy. Can't remember last time I listened to a version and said to myself, "that was FUN!" since maybe Arrowhead Ranch. But yeah, the Suzy had it going on in the energy and fun categories.

Hopefully the bluegrass openers are dispensed with soon but I suppose I'll trade that for first set Sands anyday.

, comment by joechip
joechip The MPP Piper from last year (6/27/09) is my favorite 3.0 version I can think of offhand, last nights gives it a run for its money though....Rock and Roll through Piper clearly the meat of the second set, kinda surprising when you see Tweezer and Waves on there. Glad to see Waves again, even if it doesn't take off like 5/27 its a good tune to have in rotation.

That Roses are Free really did fake me out on the stream...thought for sure it was going deep. Heavy riffing in Wilson reminds me a lot of the set 3 Halloween version from AC, had a similar Hendrixesque section. Killer Sand. IMO Suzy has been extra zesty for some reason on this tour. Loved Bethel and the Mansfield version, not my fave tune to hear but both were hard to deny in their rockingness.

Nice recap @pzerbo!
, comment by BonusCup99
BonusCup99 @pzerbo said:
@J_D_G said: [quote]Would you say this is a candidate for best 3.0 Piper? On the topic, are there any good 3.0 Pipers to speak of? My impression is that it's pretty much been a disappointment in 09-11.
I'd say it's a candidate. I wish it had been longer, but it's played REALLY well
, comment by jugglerswithfire
jugglerswithfire Very nice review! I'm getting excited for this week
, comment by Toejam
Toejam Great review. Sorry I missed that show.
, comment by Gumbo_Guy
Gumbo_Guy spot on review, thoroughly enjoyed the show from my couch. couch tour!
, comment by Chadwell
Chadwell Haha personally I'm lovin the bluegrass openers. Love the way Phish approaches bluegrass.

Anyway, really enjoyed this review, almost as I enjoyed listening to Set I. Set 2 retains flow and remains solid imo through Chalkdust Torture, but then things tend to drop off. I for one wasn't too particularly impressed with this Piper, but maybe I need another listen. Reba was gorgeous, hands down my favorite section of the evening, despite how good Wilson > Sand was.

Alright now Phish, maintain this stuff through Alpharetta
, comment by zabes
zabes I agree entirely on "Access Me". It sounds infinitely more comfortable than Alpine 04.
, comment by phishphan528
phishphan528 this review is amazing but for anyone that was at the concert did you recognize the get back tease in the 1st set? i know i heard but i dont remember when and its not in the livephish download
, comment by 5errr
5errr nice review, thanks!
, comment by HighGearAntelope
HighGearAntelope This one had the FUN. Tons and tons of it. It might have lacked the improv and the jam some, but it certainly didn't lack any of the FUN. Especially that 2nd set. Wilson RIPPED into a trippy Sand. I enjoyed Ocelot but 6/12/10 at Blossom was a superb 'lot in my opinion. The transition into Reba wasn't striking musically but again, it was F-U-N! The crowd, myself included, jumped for joy immediately. On Your Way Down was a bluesy escape then back to high energy with Antelope.


Let the glow sticks fly!

I hate the fact that I enjoy the sticks soooooo much, cause once upon a time I was not against them or anything, but I wished that people would pay more attention to the music being played. Some years later however, I'm all about the sticks now lol.

I really didn't dig the Waves > Chalkdust transition/choice, but that's all right because the rest of the show brought IT. Every tune was great; the audience ecstatic; and yes, the multitudes of glow sticks flew to the moon and back. Suzy "WHAT?!"s... hilarious, and that was all ya heard in the lot for the next hour or two.

Merriweather PP is a great venue, btw, but I wish there was a centrallized Shakedown rather than the occasional dude selling shirts just wandering around. But it's no bother. I will be back :)
, comment by bmrobin
bmrobin WHAT!?!?

I love that phish, like frank zappa, rely on humor and good-natured fun in their music. The weekend long joke of "WHAT!?!?" was an aspect that made me feel like I was part of something unique and special. The band has tons of inside jokes among them, but this was one that made the audience feel like they were in on the whole thing. Especially when they brought it out for night 2 and the encore.
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