Putting the Roots Down – Tour Opener

LE Bethel Woods Poster by Tyler Stout

Phish rolled into Bethel yesterday. The town-wide apocalypse that the officials were fearing didn’t happen. Instead, the sun was bright and the air was 85 degrees. The beautiful venue was given a beautiful day. As Phish took the stage just after 8pm, everyone was on their toes in anticipation to see if they had chosen the correct tour opener. I chose Punch You in the Eye.

When the opening licks of Tweezer rolled over the lawn, the crowd went into a frenzy. This marked the first Tweezer opener since last year’s at Alpine, and the second since Hampton in 2003. The jam was kept under ten minutes–it was simply used as a way of stirring up the crowd. While the jam isn’t long, it’s energetic. The jam takes a linear path upwards. The song eventually perfectly segued into My Friend My Friend.

Set 1: Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend, Poor Heart, Roses Are Free > Funky Bitch,Wolfman’s Brother -> Walk Away, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Kill Devil Falls, Bold As Love

Set 2: Carini > Back on the Train, Boogie On Reggae Woman > Waves > Prince Caspian > Crosseyed and Painless > Wading in the Velvet Sea > Possum, The Squirming Coil

Encore: Julius

My Friend My Friend’s ending wasn’t nearly as explosive as it should be and kinda limped into a Poor Heart with an awkwardly flubbed beginning by Trey.

5.27.11 (C. Gadzinski)

With MFMF and Poor Heart already forgotten they moved into Ween’s Roses are Free.  For all of 3.0, I have been saying that something was missing from the song–that something didn’t sound right about it.  Well-that’s fixed now.  Bethel’s version had that something in it–it sounded special again.  Trey nails it–I’m actually headbanging to it as I write this!

As the chaos at the end of Roses subsides, Trey counts off Funky Bitch.  Now, Mike is always pretty strong sounding in Funky Bitch, but he’s real prominent in this version from the beginning on.  Mike gets stronger and stronger each tour–it’s just amazing.  Page’s piano also seems to be turned up for his half of the jam–he splashes into the ivory sea very powerfully with Fish and Mike driving behind him before he kicks on over to the organ.  By the end of Page’s part, he has a hand holding fort on the organ and another hand raging the baby grand!  FANTASTIC PAGE!  Trey finishes the jam strongly.  It made me realize that Funky Bitch really suits Trey’s style of rock in 3.0.

Wolfman’s Brother stays under ten minutes–usual for 3.0–the jam is dense and funky–usual for 3.0–and Trey includes a Streets of Cairo tease–usual for 3.0.  This jam starts off hot as fuck.  Mike is dropping bombs with swagger–a slight 98-99 liquid sound to them.  But Mike, for once, isn’t the MVP in this Wolfman’s: It’s FISHMAN.  Holy shit–Fishman’s rolls in this jam are the best I’ve heard from him in the past two years.  Trey does a great job of weaving in and out of the music the rest of the band is providing him, however, Trey is now only here to add a bit of color to the overall jam Mike and Fish have going.

Just when the band starts going back into the Wolfman’s theme, they perfectly execute a segue into Walk Away.  By this time we are seven songs into the tour and we already have two hot hot hot segues!  Keep ’em coming please!

New light patterns? 5.27.11 (C. Gadzinski)

Walk Away is a song that’s been becoming more and more of a blazing-rock jam ever since Hartford last year.  With the drums kicking it up a notch after the vocals on a beat that sounded like Tweeprize, they have a new launchpad for raging.  This Walk Away may be their biggest yet; it clocks in at 9:17, about 30 seconds longer than Wolfman’s Brother was!  Going into the jam, Trey takes an authoritarian lead over the band–as if he was saying, “ok,  you guys can have Wolfman’s, I’m taking this one”.  Trey melts face for nearly four solid minutes straight in this scorcher.

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Stash contained some very quality interplay between Page, Mike, and Trey.  They paint a perfect picture of tension that was building with each second that passed. Trey built up the tension with actually putting a loop of what he was playing over the new tension he was building.  However, despite about three “outs” that Fish and Mike provided him to release, he kinda fell flat coming out of it.  There are two “peaks”, the second may be the most disappointing–the one right before “maybe so, maybe not”.  That being said, it was a good version–Trey just needs to get that release back.

With four improvised songs in set one so far, what was a fifth?  Trey launched into an unusually placed KDF.  Shortly out of the gates, when the drums switched to the ride and Mike quieted down, it was obvious that a jam not usual for the song was coming.  Although KDF was extended during 2009’s late-night show at Bonnaroo and at Red Rocks in 2009, it’s not a song that usually breaks the CDT-like mold.  The jam starts slow and pretty and slowly builds up, faster and faster with each roll by Fish.  The jam is cool, but Trey isn’t that impressive–he relies a lot of those “rolling” licks that are laced throughout all of 3.0.  The best part of the jam is the Fish/Page combo.

Bold as Love rocked us right into setbreak.

5.27.11 (C. Gadzinski)

Carini was an interesting choice for a second-set opener on the first night of tour–I expected something a bit more upbeat.  I also think Carini is overplayed now and Trey’s current tone is not complimentary to Carini.  Trey comes off as screechy and wanky too easy in the jam that rarely goes anywhere interesting.  Trey sounds awkward in this Carini–next song.

Here’s a song that fits perfectly in the second set of the tour-opener, BOTT.  Trey continued with his pattern of awkwardly pairing a dark song like Carini with a light song like BOTT.  Despite the whiplash, we were all able to enjoy this blues-guitar driven jam.  As our Guy Forget noted last night, Trey’s playing in this was “patient” during the beginning and slowly built to a frothy head.  The only thing I don’t like about it: STOP USING THOSE DUMB ROLLING LICKS, TREY. YOU’RE NOT FOOLING US INTO THINKING YOU’RE PLAYING FASTER.

That being said, Page and Mike built perfectly alongside Trey to come to the top of the jam.  Trey hits a clean bluesy peak before sinking back into the theme of the song.

As we wrote about after Broomfield last fall, Mike’s bass is getting LOUDER. The bombs he drops in the beginning of Tweeprize now are heart-rattling.  Mike uses his synthed tone again for this Boogie On.  He fucks people up.  The bass in this cannot fully be captured through even the best speakers or headphones.  His bass was straight-up making it hard to breathe there.  During the jam, Trey loops very odd sounds over Mike’s bass–Trey starts strumming slower and slower over the jam, with descending chords.  The rest of the band did a pretty good job of following Trey into this dark hole.  From the chaos emerged what they soundchecked with, Waves–only the fourth of 3.0 and first in over a year.  The Waves continued the psychedelic feel that Boogie started.

5.27.11 (C. Gadzinski)

When Phish bust into Crosseyed, the venue blew up.  Unfortunately, the jam was discombobulated at best because of Trey’s uneasy playing.  I would have enjoyed the Wading in the Velvet Sea that came next more if we had just gone through an explosive Crosseyed–maybe one more like Chucktown’s last year or Alpine’s from 2009.

The Julius they encored with featured a slower, more bluesy jam out of the gates than normal.  Eventually it climbed to a peak, although the guitar was somewhat iffy at times.

In conclusion; the first set was far more entertaining than the second.  The playing from Mike and Fish was superb.  It’s nice to see that they are refocusing on first sets again, adding improv back into the daytime set.  This was a very solid tour opener and has me very excited.  Also, there was no Tweezer Reprise.  Will we get another Tweezer reprise-fest this weekend like we did last year after they skipped the Reprise at Hershey?  Tune back in tomorrow to find out!