Smokin’ the Hollywood Bowl

8.8.11 (B. Greenfield)

Phish’s first concert at the Hollywood Bowl was a complete success.  The sold-out event boasted a vibe of relaxation and peacefulness by day and smokin’ rock and roll by dark–something that can only generated by the combo of mature fans and California dreamin’.

The visually stunning venue gave Kuroda a new canvass to work with on this beautiful West Coast evening.  He used extra lights to light up the shell that cradled our favorite musicians like peas in a pod.

The super-tight quartet opened with an awesome and unexpected one-two punch: Down with Disease > Cavern.  This Disease took us back to the mid-90s in how it was short and extremely hot.  Trey’s chops slayed everyone on the strip before launching into a thick and unusual 2-slot Cavern.  Before the song was over we found ourselves in another classic: Possum

Possum, the song that has been the punchline to a lot of jokes this summer because of its heavy rotation, was played for the second time in as many shows!  While the general consensus is that they are over-playing it, it’s also common knowledge that they are playing it real well.  Last night’s brought the heat, a la SBIX’s version.  The string of three Phish classics to open the show had everyone in a frenzy.

Set 1: Down with Disease > Cavern > Possum, Cities, Peaches en Regalia, Kill Devil Falls, Lawn Boy, Tube, Back on the Train, Wilson > Axilla, Split Open and Melt, Backwards Down the Number Line

Set 2: Carini > Crosseyed and Painless > Twist > Piper > Mike’s Song > Joy >Weekapaug Groove > 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover > Hold Your Head Up > Weekapaug Groove, Character Zero, Quinn the Eskimo

Encore: Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Julius

Poster by DKNG Studios

When Cities popped up the immediate memory that came to everyone’s mind was the last time the band played Cities in the state of California–the Greek.  This version’s jam was on track for the laid-back, extended groovefest that was the Greek Cities, instead the ripcord was pulled and Fish launched into Peaches.

Trey, still trying to make the statement (other example is SBIX) that he CAN still nail the song after Walnut Creek’s disgrace on 6/18, tore a new asshole in the Frank Zappa classic.  It was clear that Trey was on fire tonight.

Unfortunately the awkward and abrasive intro to Kill Devil Falls broke up his perfect game.  Trey has either gotta play that intro perfectly or just dump it.  When it’s played with anything other than perfection (and it’s usually not perfect), it’s got the ability to really feel like nails on a chalkboard — chalkboard torture if you will.  After Gorge’s KDF that had a nice build but no peak, I was excited to see if this one would reach climax–it didn’t.  That’s okay, as I responded to Page when he asked how we were doing last night during Lawn Boy, I was doing just fine.

After a set-one dance party was sparked with a standard Tube and a very lively, albeit short, BOTT, Wilson > Axilla teed up the Split Open and Melt nicely.  The sun’s light had gone away when Melt started–a perfect song for psychedelic lights.  Melt took a turn for psychedelia as most 3.0 versions do now–however, this version didn’t seem absurdly chaotic like many recent Melts end up being.  Trey and Fish kept it moving with Red using some effects towards the end before launching back into the end.

Number Line, the most versatile song they may ever have written, closed the first set just 2 shows after opening a second set.  The early sounds of the jam captured the breezy summer air of the historic city they were playing in.  It was light, inspired, and carefree.  The crispy jam eventually built to a glorious peak–one that had been missing from the song for a while now.

8.8.11 GOTT (B. Greenfield)

When Phish came back for the second half of the concert the launched into Carini–a song that has become a regular in second sets now.  This would mark the third show in a row where they used a shorter song before a jam song to start a second set.  The song was merely a springboard to another despite containing a pretty outro.  Crosseyed and Painless, another song that has gotten heavy rotation lately, followed immediately after–this version reached new heights of guitar playing from 3.0 Trey.  As Guy Forget tweeted from the show, “Trey was obliterating that jam, and it went into an ambient section that could’ve been great but just fizzled. Twist now. #phish”.  The intensity of the lights in the Bowl added a lot to the song’s peak too.

After Crosseyed’s peak, I could have sworn they were starting to morph into Steam, but instead they opted for Twist which is also welcome by me.  The Twist didn’t do too much before winding into, arguably, one of the best Pipers of 3.0.  This version reminds me of Alpine 2009’s version, only this time they took it farther out into the unknown.  Like Gorge’s Rock and Roll, this Piper hones the energy they captured during the SBIX Storage Jam.  The dark and alien-like improvisation made the walls of the stage shell fair game for anything Kuroda felt like painting with his added lights for the event.  As the jam progressed, as Guy Forget Tweeted, “Page went over to the theremin, but Trey seems not to have noticed–launched right into Mike’s. #phish“.

Mike’s Song, while maybe cutting the Piper jam a bit short, was a powerful song to transition to after such darkness.  Although the version was nothing beyond standard, it was a well-played rendition that oddly led into Joy.  I really like the song Joy, even in second sets.  However, I felt that the placement of Joy right after Mike’s Song was a bit jarring.  I felt it might have been more appropriate after Weekapaug.  That being said, I probably would rather have Joy than I am Hydrogen.  No big deal–just saying I felt that it was kinda weird.

8.8.11 (B. Greenfield)

Weekapaug was the most interesting part of the show.  The jam would give us our second sandwich in three shows!  The jam out of the gates sunk down into some bass-driven territory.  Funkier than most versions in 3.0, it was apparent that this version was heading somewhere special.  As the jam digs deeper and deeper, all of a sudden there is a huge STOP–just like there was in the 6/19 nTelos Sand–so I figured that it was another stop/start jam.  Instead, Fish had a mini kit set up in front/center stage that he had been playing on up until the stop.  Trey had been playing along with him on his normal drum kit. After the stop, Fish commented on how it was such a nice place to sit and launched into their first version of Paul Simon’s 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.  The song was played well (even though Fish forgot some lyrics–which just added to the great moment) and bled into HYHY before popping right back into Weekapaug Groove.  What an odd sandwich that was!  Fun stuff.

A hot Character Zero followed leading many to think it was the set-closer, instead they launched into an energetic Quinn–a song that was revived almost exactly a year ago.  Despite not reaching the depths that SBIX’s version took us, it was fun nonetheless.

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Just two days after one of the best encores they could have ever treated us to — Suzy > Sanity > Tweeprize — they treated us to a very unusual one last night.  Stealin’ Time > Julius threw me off a bit.  I really enjoy both songs, but I definitely don’t see Stealin’ Time as an encore song and they had played Julius just two shows earlier.  The Stealin’ Time was somewhat bland, but the Julius was a nice threat that took a bit to wind up before blowing up.

Here’s to Phish playing the Hollywood Bowl next year.