Something Special

S 9.2.11 (S. S.)

Phish’s opening show to the three-night run that will end the summer touring season was particularly memorable. With shortened jams, each packed quite a punch. The playing contained the energy honed at the August shows leading up to this Labor Day weekend throw down–each song contained its own quirks and was given special attention to make sure each version was played particularly well.

Although the show contained a number of serious bustout songs and interesting songs alike, it will most likely be remembered for the simple fact that every song in the show started with the letter “S”.  According to Hidden Track’s Skinny, the average gap songs had since last being played was 54.69 shows–that’s incredible.

After Suskind Hotel being played by Phish for the second time, people were starting to talk about how all the songs so far were “S” songs.  At this point it was obviously too early to tell if it was planned or just sheer coincidence.  After Strange Design, and certainly after the stellar Stash, it was apparent that at least the first set would be all “S” songs.  That’s when the brainstorming took place–“Scent, Slave, Suzy, Skippy the Wond…hahaha no no just kidding”.  When the second set opened with Sand–well, it was obvious what Phish were trying to do.

Set 1: Sample in a Jar, Sparkle, The Sloth, Sweet Virginia, Suskind Hotel, Strange Design, Stash, Sneakin’ Sally through the Alley > Sparks > Scent of a Mule, Stealing Time From the Faulty Plan, Shine a Light, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil

Set 2: Sand > Simple -> Steam > Soul Shakedown Party -> Seven Below > Suzy Greenberg > Scents and Subtle Sounds > Slave to the Traffic Light > Silent in the Morning > Sanity, Sweet Adeline

Encore: Sabotage

The first set saw two Exile songs, Sweet Virginia played for the fourth time and Shine a Light that hasn’t been seen since 2010.  But the set was anchored by a Stash with a massive jam featuring good tension and a better-than-normal peak for 3.0.  Shortly thereafter, Sneakin’ dropped the floor out from under us with a unique jam that prompted Mike to switch over to the “meatball” effect before the segued into the biggest bustout of the night, SPARKS!

Sparks had only been played 12 times up until last night, starting in 3/23/1987 at Nectar’s and ending at the Cow Palace on 11/29/1996, and is probably best known for its appearance in the Bomb Factory Tweezer.  They played it perfectly.  What a treat–to me, that might have been the best part of the concert.  Sneakin’ Sally -> Sparks is about as old school as it gets.

9.2.11 (N. Richter)

Stealing Time really allowed Trey to let loose.  His fierce licks culminated to a “wobble” peak similar to that during the peak in during the Outside Lands’ Tweezer.  Might be my favorite rendition of Stealing ever.  Then, after Melt, came the somewhat-rare Coil 1st set closer.

Sand in the second set offered some nice layered jamming–until it peaked of course.  Trey starts doing loops, making it seem like the jam was losing steam and ready to go into another song.  Instead, Trey busts out of the loops he laid and his guitar comes flying out of the muck for a fantastic peak.  Shortly after the peak the band slipped into the appropriate Simple.  The noodling from Trey was patient, thoughtful and beautiful before losing their connection with the satellite and segueing seamlessly into Steam–a song they’ve now played three times in five shows.

The guitar-driven Steam fluttered away into the seventh Soul Shakedown ever and only the third in the middle of a set ever.  As the lyrics started, Trey tried to contain his laughter–as if this inside joke was overwhelming him.  Trey led the band into an awkward transition into Seven Below–not really bad, just awkward.  In the song’s second appearance this year, the jam favored more of a Storage Jam feel–very abstract.

The storage clutter popped right into Suzy Greenberg.  While the version was rather uneventful, Page’s piano comes to a nice head before the song’s end.  Right after the end came the now-expected Scents and Subtle Sounds.  UNFORTUNATELY, after Phish dropped the original intro to the song on us at SBIX, this version was once again without it.  The song, still ripe for a monster 3.0 jam, featured a pretty jam that came to a decent peak…a peak reminiscent to a Slave.  The real Slave was next.

Slave, longer than most versions in this era, featured one of the longest notes Trey has held in 2.0 or 3.0.  After “the note”, came a glorious flurry of notes the lead up to what I’d consider the best version of Slave of the past three years–it’s absolutely heart-wrenching.

Quickly out of the end to Slave came something some people were talking about, but no one thought would actually happen: Silent in the Morning without the Horse.  The last time Silent was played without the usual introduction of Horse was 12/13/99 when it was used as the encore before going into Heavy Things.

9.2.11 (N. Richter)

Sanity appeared for the third time this year–the first time the song has appeared that often within a single calendar year since 1992.  Trey held the “S” on almost all the words containing the letter during Sanity.  The version, like most other versions of the era, was particularly lively.  The end contained the band hissing like a snake almost before dropping the first Sweet Adeline since 8/1/1999 at the Fuji Rock Fest in Japan.

They weren’t done riling up the crowd with s-lettered bustouts though.  They encored with first Sabotage since Hampton came alive on 11/21/1998.  The version was very very sloppy, but that didn’t matter–they had just played a fantastically-constructed show, all under the umbrella of an “S” theme.  I honestly never thought Sabotage was coming back.

Why you should get this show: because the “S”-factor will be talked about for a long time, Suskind Hotel, possibly the best traditional Stash of 3.0, Sneaking Sally -> Sparks, Stealing Time, Sand’s peak, Scents, Slave, and Sanity.

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On a related note, I heard (and got texted) that a lot of people’s streams were not working at all.  After nearly-flawless execution of these streams leading up to last night, I’d assume last night was a fluke and the problems will be ironed out by tonight.  Here’s to building off last night–maybe another letter tonight?