, attached to 2022-07-23

Review by andrewrose


Let’s do it again, shall we? Wiring this one in a day late, after making the drive home to Montreal from Catskills on Sunday and getting some much needed rest. In the interest of time and the work week that I should really be getting to, I’ll spare some of the scene-setting and invite you to check out my review of the 7/22 show for any additional colour.

After a really impressive first set the night prior that saw the band coming out of the gates swinging—with a brief excursion in Golgi, and a big, full jam in Sample—it felt unlikely they’d try and top that to start. Instead we were welcomed with cool, cautionary tone of Evening Song followed by Turtle in the Clouds. I was pretty satisfied with the previous night’s show (even if some of the juke box selections left a thing or to to be desired), and just enjoying the atmosphere.

Vultures felt like it had been swirling overheard for a couple days already given the… actual vultures (not to mention geese) peppering the sky around Bethel. I can’t remember the last time I was so impressed with the crowd, both the energy of the whole room, the new friends made, and the old ones from tour-days past bumped into. My Sweet One felt to me like a nod to this vibe, that old relationship between the band and its fans that was on full, old-school display for the entire run. There were very big moments on this night, and also other moments of improvisation that were downright weird and didn’t always land. But one thing that was undeniable was the energy in the room, and the way it translated to the energy on stage.

In any case, the show felt like it got going in earnest with Undermind, which shuffled for a little while before doing the job of the the now trending early/mid first set 15 minute jam vehicle. No complaints. None, either, with the Fast Enough For You that emerged, which I’ve found myself wishing they'd selected during many another ballad over the years. I hadn't seen this beauty since Coventry and hit a special note.

The Divided Sky was the perfect pairing, and having revisited at least once since, feels like a standout version to me. Tight playing at the outset, a very pregnant powerful pause with huge crowd swells, and then the gentleness of entries into the finale by Trey, with Fish listening intently trying not to overpower the situation (Fish, by the way, was tonight’s MVP; more on that later). It sounds at first like Trey is playing soft and just the tiniest bit slow because he wants to get the notes right, but then the confidence just builds and the solo gets bigger and bigger and the band wallops the finale.

A brief Suzy brings the crowd back to sing-along territory before we’re treated to a set closing Ghost. Speaking of ghosts, I had mentioned in my 7/22 review that Trey seemed to be channeling Jimi’s Woodstock ghost in the set closing Walk Away. That theme would be revisited more explicitly before this night was over, but whatever spook was conjured here to close the set on Night 2 meant business. It’s about 10 minutes but hits full-on hose to close things out. Must hear.

Caspian opens set two in what feels partly like a classic Phish troll move, on a night when many folks (myself included) were calling a big Waves in a nod to 2011. "Afloat upon the waves," instead? In any case, I have no complaints with this call either; ol' Fuckerpants has aged gracefully and yield plenty of beauty jams in recent years. (The only jarring trend I see is the continued short second-set opener that feels deliberately constructed for the free webcast preview.) There’s some great interplay here between the band though, Mike stepping up and continuing with his tasteful playing the way he had on night one. Things suddenly get crunchy, spacey and interesting and then the band drops into Crosseyed & Painless.

For my money this jam is the highlight of the Bethel run, and it begins and ends with the performance of Jon ‘Moby Dick’ Fishman. All over the woodblocks as if Karl Perazzo were somehow hidden behind the kit. Between his playing and the groove Mike is laying down Trey doesn’t have to do much and it works beautifully. At 10 minutes Trey comes in with a theme he’s trying to get to. It feels forced for a minute or so, but Page adds nice texture. And then something clicks at minute 12 with a full band side-step led by Mike, it’s almost Radiohead-like. Trey flirts for the briefest second with his What’s the Use jam trick, but decides that’s too easy, and then they just ride. You know those jams where it’s minute 13 and they are just in full outer-space mode? This is one. They bring it back to the Crosseyed theme in effect mode and then lay her down.

Miss You shows up in the Trey ballad spot, and I’ll be honest here: this is my favourite of his modern era slow-jams. Maybe it was the gravitas it was seemingly injected with when Bobby showed up to sing it in 2016—or just the emotion that comes through when Trey sings—but it hits me. I’ve gone back and listened to the version from Blossom in 2019 many times (worth a listen), and this one landed in the same way.

Set Your Soul Free offers the big third quarter course. I’m still digesting it. It could easily be labelled SYSF->C&P, as at 5 minutes, Trey pulls out the riff and the first “Still waiting” refrain, and the jam launches from here. It goes surprisingly light and nimble, with Page adding some fun Meatstick swells, and then again around minute 12 Fish and Mike brings things down and dirty. We’re in 8/6/21 Simple mode. Not quite to the level of that monster of a jam, but similar vibe. Fish, again, just destroying everything in his path. The last quarter of the jam goes flat-out weird and atonal, which I’m not just I actually enjoyed, but your mileage may very. ‘Still waiting’ rears its head again overtop this. You’ll want to hear the mid-section peak of this jam, but as a full set-piece I’m not sure it stands up next to the biggies of recent memory.

Trey pulls it back to Caspian, almost as if he had forgotten they played it, but that’s brief and we get a late-set Twist. This jam meanders a little, feels familiar, like Trey is pulling some easy moves to get to a peak, not unlike the jam out of YEM the previous night. But with the energy of the band and the room, they kind of get away with it. The energy keeps going up, and at minute 10, the hose is gushing. Gushing.

I don’t know what we were “still waiting” for by this point, but apparently it was a short nasty Carini to close the set in earnest. I had made my way to the lower pavilion for Set 2 and was pretty close, and you could see Trey and Page full-on cracking up during Carini, as if it was the first time they realized how ridiculous a song it is. That must have struck a chord, because this was also the theme for a good half of the encore. After a poignant Horse>Silent kicked things off, Fuck Your Face and a Buffalo Bill bustout (my first since Worcester 98!) kept the laughs going. They weren’t done yet though. The Buffalo Bill was also an opportunity to single Fish out for his performance on this night, nodding to his solos in the first set and then stretching it out. “Yeah.” “Jon Fishman! Buffalo Bill! Moby Dick! Dick! Dick!”

At the end of another run that might have been enough to duck out, but there was too much energy in the room to exit there. Fire was a fuego call for so many reasons, finally making an explicit nod to Jimi during a run where his influence had only so far been implicit. As if that wasn’t enough, Trey decided to double-down on the Woodstock references and pulls out the Star Spangled Banner *in* the Fire jam. What I loved about that was the band just decided they were going to keep playing Fire and the whole noisy fiasco burned the house down. “Move over, and let Jon Fishman take over!”

Lots of smiling, blown-out faces at the end of this one as we floated our way to the lot. Unlike the night previous, I didn’t get that extra step out of the venue and beat the traffic. Took a little longer to get out of the lot on this night before making my way through the magic Catksill woods, but it was worth every minute. See you in Toronto!


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