Blue Ballin’ at the Lake

8.9.11 - Trey left his black clothes on the East Coast. (Dave Vann)

Phish’s second night at Harvey’s never seemed to reach the heights of its preceding night despite having unmatched potential energy.  Some may see the setlist and get excited–but these people must keep in mind that the second set’s first four songs (DwD > Jim > Ghost > Golden Age) lasted only 37 minutes.

Some will tie this show to the second night of Alphraretta, another webcast show that featured one song after another.  While both shows boast a great show-opener, aborted songs, and fantastic playing, last night’s show in Lake Tahoe provided slightly-better song placement and even better guitar.  The only problem is…the second set left my balls blue.

Set 1: Dogs Stole Things, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Poor Heart, Alaska, Halley’s Comet > It’s Ice > When the Circus Comes, Ya Mar, Stash, Funky Bitch,Instant Karma!, Run Like an Antelope

Set 2: Down with Disease > Runaway Jim > Ghost > Golden Age > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley, Guyute, Wading in the Velvet Sea, You Enjoy Myself

Encore: Show of Life, Good Times Bad Times

According to Guy Forget, posting on the OPT Twitter account, the band soundchecked with Guy Forget (didn’t realize how that would look until after I typed it).  Although they didn’t play it last night, let’s hope the one-timer surfaces at the UIC Pavilion next week.  I know it’s been a soundcheck song for a long time, but I’m still crossing my fingers.

Dogs Stole Things, last played at the Gorge in 2003, opened a show for the first time since 7/10/97 in France.  The bustout was a perfect choice for the laid-back vacation spot.  The mid-set Halley’s Comet prompted memories of Bethel, however, the jam would be non-existent and the band launched into the year’s third It’s Ice; it was played well but not anything breaking its mold.

The Stash that followed the sunny Ya Mar sank low out of the gates.  The jam started in a sort of eerie molasses and beautiful interplay–it was so gorgeous, I’m confident in saying it was the best start to a Stash jam in 3.0 (but not the best, over-all Stash).  Unfortunately, the mesmerizing foundation to the jam was soon forgotten–Trey’s attempt at a peak sounded amateur at best.  He may be crushing rock/blues songs lately, but he needs a lot of work on his tension/release jamming.

8.9.11 (Dave Vann)

The poor end to the Stash jam helped to highlight just how awesome Trey is at playing rock/blues songs now.  He, after an amazing outing from Page, crushed the Funky Bitch solo–the notes he was spewing into the crowd seemed to be an extension of his fantastic guitar playing in the night before’s 46 Days and Walls of the Cave.

After playing Lennon’s Instant Karma! for the third time ever, Antelope reared its head.  Nowhere near as impressive as the Gorge’s take on the set-closing classic, this version did the job in taking us into the setbreak–with the sun’s glow making the western mountains dark silhouettes.

When the band came back with a particularly energetic Down with Disease, I figured it was on like Donkey Kong.  The hot guitar riffs settled down as the band sank deep into more or a rhythmic jam after Fish switched to a closed hat.  Despite its potential (going to be a big word in this review), the jam fluttered away.

When Runaway Jim surfaced I was excited that the song was coming out to play in the second set for once (it opened set II on 7/2/11, but that was a 3-set show and the song was just used to announce race winners).  The quiet part that allows them to reemerge into the song was a pretty interesting bit of improv, similar to Bethel’s unique take on the song earlier this summer.  The jam was interesting from the start–it started painting the night with a darkness that we haven’t seen in the song in years.  Unfortunately, the song gets aborted for an awkwardly-placed Ghost.  Ok, it’s Ghost–it HAS to be the jam, right?  Not so much.  Ghost provided some of the best rock jamming of the night–the short jam sunk into a beautiful space jam.  The space jam was surreal–I wish Trey didn’t abort it for Golden Age.

8.9.11 (Dave Vann)

Ok, I like the song–whatever.  Didn’t wanna see it right now.  The song was played and 2001 started.  The short 2001 featured some really interesting interplay before ending.  Fishman played with the beat a bit during the jam and Trey was strumming real funky–dancing came naturally.  Page even got a small “breakdown” in the jam.  While all good things come to an end, this one did prematurely–Sneakin’ Sally came next.

Sneakin’, a song I’m normally pumped for, prompted me to mumble “oh whatever”.  Another jam song after a string of jam songs with no jams (sorry for saying “jam” so much).  Well, the Sally contained the most interesting and energetic reentry to the song from the vocal jam I’d ever seen–Trey guitar screamed out of it.  However, this version doesn’t even have a 1-minute-long ‘Stateline Jam’; the song instead led us to Guyute and Wading–both songs I like, but not right now.

YEM finally made its first appearance in 10 shows.  The last time YEM wasn’t played for ten shows was in the summer of 2000.  After decent-at-best- YEMS earlier this summer, this one rocked pretty hard.  Trey did what he does best now in the jam–blazed.  Trey took the band to a screaming finish before ending the set and encoring with a standard Show of Life and a fantastic Good Times, Bad Times.

While last night’s improv was far weaker than the night before, the solid playing from Trey proved that it can still carry a show.  Trey’s chops have improved yet again from the first leg of the summer tour.  Trey seems to be more and more comfortable with his guitar and his dexterity is fantastic right now.  While I was horribly disappointed that there were no jams last night, if this is the leg’s weakest show, I’m completely happy–they are firing on all cylinders right now.

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