, attached to 2011-08-09

Review by lazyblazers

lazyblazers in terms of venue, harvey’s in stateline was the polar opposite of the gorge. stuck in-between a few huge hotels in the middle of a gambling town, the stage set up basically in a parking lot that doubled as an “arena”, the venue couldn’t compare with the gorge in terms of visuals. of course, i had an amazing two days winding my way down the coast towards tahoe after the gorge shows, and had camped in the mountains west of stateline the night before the show, so i’m not really complaining. on top of that, the sound was pretty amazing, and i likely won’t ever get another chance to see phish with only what must have been 6,000 or 7,000 people (even if most of those people seemed more interested in getting wasted and accidentally knocking me on my ass over and over again).

so. night one.

appropriately for tahoe, phish opened with party time. i like this tune a lot, and there was, as they say, a bit of extra mustard on the solo at the end. they didn’t come roaring out of the gates, exactly, like they had at the gorge, but then the tahoe shows in general would go on to be more well-paced but less peak-y than the gorge shows. depends, i guess, on what you prefer in a phish show whether the gorge run or tahoe run was better.

rift is the song that got me listening to phish in the first place, but i cringed when it started up because, try as they might, the boys don’t seem to be able to do it justice lately. this version, however, was…well, let’s call it “well-played”. it certainly didn’t capture the energy of an early version, but it didn’t derail the way a lot of recent versions have.

the next two songs were classics with a little extra tacked on to appreciate. the AC/DC bag ended with a neat little guitar loop that might well have been a mistake or a missed segue, but worked nonetheless. pyite saw the band extending the middle section: again, not taking it anywhere totally new, but little details like these peppered the first set of this show, spicing up what was otherwise a pretty straightforward list of songs. i was near the front during this set (though i guess we all were, relatively), and it looked a bit like there were some coherence problems; as in everyone seemed to want to jam these songs out a bit more, to go for a sort of “gorge part three” thing, but the coherence that had been there at the gorge was gone. it wasn’t bad, or really obvious in the music, but there were a lot of junctures where transitions and segues seemed awkward.

meat helped with this a bit. i hadn’t even remembered how much i liked this song until i heard it. with the excellent sound and the band nailing the complicated vocals, this is where things seemed like they were about to cohere, finally. then there was an uber-short, confusing and downright middle-of-the-road bowie. i suppose it’s a testament to this band’s skills that a song like this one, played like it was here, was disappointing, but it was. it was followed by bouncing and water in the sky: i described both as “nice” in my notes. the set closed with a bang in the form of 46 days. this is one that doesn’t really hold up that well on tape in the sense that you don’t get the experience of feeling how fucking loud it was and how much it riled the crowd up. it’s an all-out treyfest and i remember thinking at the time that it made up for whatever weaknesses the first set might have had. on tape, however, the whole set seems consistently average, with the highlights being meat and 46 days.

coming back for the second set, i was happy to hear jibboo kick things off. i’m a real sucker for those old 10-15 minute long versions of jibboo and heavy things. however, unlike the 46 days rocker, trey didn’t seem ready to compose any real interesting noodling here; instead, the song sort of chases itself around in a circle for a bit and then transitions into what is a honestly a really rough first few minutes of light. i love light as well, and i love this jam, but it was hard not to think of it as “gorge-lite”. even after listening to both ambient jams a few times in a row, this one sounds to me like the boys were super excited after the awesome rock and roll gorge jam and wanted to try something like it again, and this time it just didn’t click as well. this is a great jam, and it was easily one of the best moments of the tahoe run, but i also remember wondering at the time if the new ambient-space-rock phish was going to start pulling one of these space jams out every night, and hoping that they wouldn’t (maybe once every three shows or so, guys?).

all that said, the segue to chalkdust was PERFECT. this chalkdust was everything that the gorge one wasn’t (i.e., it was interesting). it was no brooklyn ‘04, of course, but still a great rocker out of the space-jam of light that didn’t just default to trey-shredding over substance.

despite the small amount of shows i’ve actually seen, i’ve gotten a few slaves, and they’ve all been at least great, if not incredible. the gorge ‘09 slave was one of the highlights of that weekend for me, and this slave was much, much better. it featured a nice, patient build and great lighting work during a beautiful tahoe night. i was happy to see free, as i also love this song, and it was better-played than usual, but as many others have pointed out elsewhere, the guys just can’t seem to nail the harmonies on this lately. with the vocals as up-front as they were at this show, the missed harmonies were cringe-worthy. but it was nice to see a second-set free.

rocket man seemed like a perfect page cover, but it sort of played out like they were learning it as they went. i’d like to hear this cover in the “ballad” slot again, but hopefully a little more solidly-played next time. page’s voice was great.

i thought hood was going to end the second set, especially as it opened excellently and continued straight into a great, slave-like jam. it seemed like the perfect, epic-sounding closer, but then the band went into walls of the cave. this is another song that doesn’t translate to tape. at the show, this walls was absolutely the loudest, fist-pumpingest bit of rock and roll i’ve ever jumped up and down to in all the concerts i’ve been to. really. on tape it might sound a bit flat, but it was an amazingly emphatic set closer. so good, in fact, that a pretty epic, rocking version of bug afterwards seemed like a bit of a letdown in comparison…

squirming coil, i’ve decided, is the perfect closer for the first night of a two night stand. it’s not really climactic enough for a night two closer, but it gives off that perfect “we’ll see you tomorrow” sort of feeling. phish also closed the blossom ‘10 show that i saw with this song (weirdly, i’ve seen 7 shows and only four different closers), but this version, as i was standing about 50 feet from page’s piano at that point, blew that other one out of the water.

this show was more consistent than either gorge show, but that consistency was a bit mediocre. there were some second-set heroics and enough of the high moments translated well enough when i was there in person that i went away thinking at the time that this show easily *bested* either gorge show (adrenaline, i guess), and i suppose it’s still better than most of ‘11 leg one, but it’s not my favorite of the four shows that i saw. in fact, it’s probably in fourth place.


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