Top-Heavy in Maryland

Jedi Trey - 6.12.11 (Dave Vann)
Jedi Trey - 6.12.11 (Dave Vann)

Sunday night’s show at Merriweather was tryingvery hard to be Saturday night’s show.  After playing one of their most intense rock shows ever, Phish tried to duplicate the feeling by stringing more songs together in a second set that didn’t click nearly as well as the previous night.  Last night’s show was a top-heavy show; the first set was better than the second.

The second set last night was unfortunate for Phish’s 3.0 material–it may have contained the most 3.0 songs in a single set ever (6), and when compared to Saturday night’s second set with only one 3.0 song, can’t hold its own.  It’s time that 3.0 songs are able to stand on their own.  Light needs to be an actual jam vehicle, rather than an ambient beginning to another song.  Alaska needs to be played in the first set under the sun.  Halfway to the Moon, while only played thrice, needs to either become a landing-pad song to a dark jam–like 20 Years Later, or become an improvisational song.  Moon is too awkward when it stands alone.

That being said, the show was high-energy and fun-for-all.  The first set, alone, was worth the price of admission.

Set 1: Buried Alive > Lonesome Cowboy Bill, Ha Ha Ha, Sample in a Jar > The Divided Sky, Wolfman’s Brother -> Boogie On Reggae Woman > Gumbo, Halley’s Comet > Bathtub Gin > Jesus Just Left Chicago, Character Zero

Set 2: Party Time, Crosseyed and Painless > Steam > Light > The Wedge, Alaska, Halfway to the Moon, Harry Hood > Backwards Down the Number Line, Loving Cup

Encore: Sanity > Makisupa Policeman > First Tube

Buried Alive, another sign-requested opener, got things off to a screamin’ start–but when the band dropped the first Lonesome Cowboy Bill in 141 shows and the sixth time ever, the fans who knew what song it was really went into a frenzy.  The Fish-sung Velvet Underground cover matched the energy of the crowd.  And when Phish finished the impressive, bust-out segment of openers with Ha Ha Ha, we all thought we could be in for THE next show of summer–unfortunately that wasn’t the case.  The three-song opener and Wolfman’s -> Boogie segue would be the only real highlights of the entire show.

The all-request band - 6.12.11 (Dave Vann)

The entire first set featured wonderful song selection and excellent flow; the Divided Sky highlighted Trey’s newfound tone control and finger dexterity.  He slayed the ending–trilling and holding high notes.  The glorious finish to Divided Sky paired real well with the slow, slap-bass funk that came during the brief jam in Wolfman’s.

Fish and Mike locked into each other during the Wolfman’s jam–the playing was so thick, you could cut it with a knife.  Eventually, Trey started strumming over the slowed-down jam.  Soon, it was apparent that Trey was starting Boogie On–soon after Trey’s strumming over Fish’s impressively complex drumbeat, Mike switched over to his synthed bass effect.  The had just seamlessly segued into Boogie, intrument by instrument.

The Boogie jam blew up.  Mike’s slapping that surfaced in Wolfman’s was carried over to this jam, still with his synth effect on.  A dance party ensued.  Soon, the jam got real slooow–Trey counted off to the beginning of Gumbo.  The Wolfman’s -> Boogie On > Gumbo trio was just was the doctor ordered–a definite 2011 highlight.

Halley’s was used as an introduction to another first-set Gin.  With the way Gins have been hosing us in 3.0, I am dying for it to take a stroll during a second set soon–like Gorge ’09’s.  Nearly every Gin of 3.0, especially this year, blows me away now.  There is something about the jam that makes Trey want to just absolutely soar now.

Jesus Just Left Chicago trickled out of the end of Gin for the fourth version of 3.0.  After not being able to play quietly or delicately in 2009 or 2010 (like the quiet part of Golgi, or the beginning of the Reba jam), Trey beautifully goes into a segment of quiet/delicate noodling after his explosive peak during the Jesus jam.

Beautiful - 6.12.11 (Dave Vann)

Every Character Zero of 2011 has been great–last night’s was no different.  Trey sprinted up and down his fretboard, sometimes with Mike following on his.  Fishman let out a “YEAH!” after one of Trey’s peaks–that’s right, ONE of his peaks…Trey must have peaked like ten different times–including during the singing at the end.  Shit was smokin’. Things were looking really good for set two.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but last night’s Party Time was approximately four minutes shorter than usual–something I have been an advocate for since 2009.  I always felt that 9-10 minutes was way too long for the song to be played, that it should merely be an set-up song to the rest of a set–last night it was played perfectly; Trey had a nice little solo in it before it ended and teed us up for Crosseyed and Painless.

When the fourth Crosseyed of the year started, everyone figured they’d be in for a treat.  Considering how special the first set was, the Party Time and Crosseyed had to be the start of a memorable second set.  Well, the song was certainly memorable–Trey melted face for nearly 6 minutes straight during what is probably the best played Crosseyed of 3.0.  Despite it not experimenting that much, I don’t think I’ve heard Trey play so crisp and hot since 1.0.  When Fish does an extended drum roll during Trey’s final buildup, The crowd explodes upon the peak.

Bringin' back the fog!! - 6.12.11 (Dave Vann)

Although my favorite 3.0 song, Steam, made its second appearance, the set quickly lost steam shortly thereafter.  The song was played a bit tighter than Blossom’s version; however, the eerie use of digital delay loops in Blossom’s version was absent in last night’s.  This version had added lyrics of Page repeating “soul joins mine” in the beginning of the instrumental segment of the song.  Another big addition to the song was Kuroda’s fog.  This is a huge deal–not because there was fog used during Steam, but because of the simple fact that Kuroda has fog back!  I sure hope this is something he uses in 2001 again–I really really miss the dense fog used in 1.0 2001s.

I am getting really sick of Light.  I feel like the guitar out of the solo is abrasive nearly every time, and I feel that there has not been a good Light jam since Berkeley (and it takes over 10 minutes to get good).  This is a problem considering that Light is supposed to be their new jam vehicle.  With over two years under its belt, and being played 27 times, it has very little to show.  Last night’s version basically doesn’t even have a jam–it immediately fluttered away into Wedge.  At least it was short and didn’t disrupt the set too much–I’m just failing to see the point of this song now.

After Wedge, Alaska was dropped in another second-set spot.  I think everyone knows my (and most others’) feelings on this.  Halfway to the Moon, which is a good song, was played standing alone after Alaska–it wouldn’t be a big deal if there was something more impressive before or after it.

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The Hood that followed was very pretty, however, painfully short–just nine minutes long.  Trey played perfectly-placed notes over Mike’s bass.  Mike’s bass actually sounded like it did during the Worcester jam from NYE–not a bad Hood at all–just far too short!

The Number Line after it was so oddly placed.  Number Line is a song that can do a lot of things–it can be an open-ended type-II jammer, or it can be a closed-ended type-I rager.  It also can be seen anywhere in setlists; it can be a set opener, set closer, mid-set (1 or 2) song, or an encore.  Last night’s version was a type-I rager, featuring some beautifully inspired playing from Trey.  However, I’d rather skip it and have a longer Hood, or vice versa.  It seemed like Trey was just trying to do a bit too much last night by the end of the show.

"WHAT?!" - 6.12.11 (Dave Vann)

Now, the encore in itself is a highlight.  With very few ‘unique’ encores this tour so far, the Sanity > Makisupa > First Tube was a sight for sore eyes.  Sanity was a really well-played version with the prettier, slower ending that we saw in Alpharetta last year.  Makisupa got the crowd riled up, being the first since the epic Bethel version.  As it started, the “WHAT?!” from the end of Suzy from the night before resurfaced–“WHAT?!” would be a theme through the song.  After talking about “Blunts” and “bundt cakes”, a “Page’s house” was even dropped on us–something that seems like it will last all tour.  First Tube capped off the night.

Overall, it was a really fun show.  The energy was through the roof.  I just think Trey tried to do a bit too much in the second set.  It was far better than the Camden show in my opinion.

Off to Alpharetta!