Greetings from Stateline, Nevada. Phish just finished up a show in what really amounts to Phish Fantasy Camp. Fans not fortunate enough to be in Tahoe likely listened to the show via the livephish.com webcast. So, most people interested in reading this have likely experienced the show in one fashion or another. For the rest of you, there's the ten cent version (SPOILER ALERT): The first set will have little to offer you; the second set is must-hear Phish.
Don't get me wrong, the first set was an enjoyable set of Phish, made immeasurably better by the fact that it took place in one of the more beautiful stretches of land this country has to offer, hosted by a truly laid back staff. But that can't and won't be captured on the recordings. An apropos "Party Time" kicked off the festivities, followed by an "Oh Kee Pa" > "Bag." The set remained song oriented with "Mellow Mood," a tasty "PYITE" > "Meat" combo and the first real, if you'll excuse the pun, "meat" of the set in "Bowie." "Bowie" was similar to other recent versions in that it was well-played, particularly compared with earlier 3.0 versions, but never quite made it into the stratosphere. Several songs later, "46 Days" provided the highlight of the set.
Set two, on the other hand, was a different story. After an enjoyable, though non-exploratory, "Jibboo" kicked things off, only the most jaded excuse for a fan could rain on the remainder of the festivities. The "Light" that kicked off a "Light to the Chalk Dust Slave" trio, went through several movements, diving to the bottom of the neighboring lake before emerging for a jam that was at times "Timber"-like and also "Tweezer"-like. The ensuing tease-infused and relatively spacey "Chalk Dust" was a welcome change from the norm before morphing into a beautiful "Slave" where Mike absolutely shined, leading the jam to a glorious peak.
Let's back up to before the show. One intrepid fan passed hundreds of cutout rockets through out the crowd, assuring everyone that Phish would play "Rocket Man" in response. Goddamn if he wasn't proven right when Page took the reins of the classic Elton John tune (that, it should be mentioned was frequently used as post-show music throughout he '90s) with a grin that spread across the Harvey's parking lot. "Harry Hood" has often provided the exclamation point to many a show, but tonight it would be overshadowed by the "Walls of the Cave" that followed. This legendary version seemed to hit peak after peak before closing one of the better sets of 2011 in appropriate fashion. Normally, fans might casually dismiss a "Bug," "Coil" encore, but like most everything the band did after halftime, it worked, especially the "Bug." If tomorrow is as good, we will all reap the benefits: those of us lucky enough to be in Tahoe, those checking in via webcast, and those who download the shows.
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