High Peaks, Low Exploration…Ordinary Show

9.3.11 (Dave Vann)

Phish took the stage Saturday after an impressive opening performance with the fans eager to see the band delve deeper into their new-found sound and unpredictable sets.  Unfortunately, night two bestowed us with predictable sets without much imagination.

The band opened with Possum, which was the second time they did so this leg of the tour.  This version was crisp and energetic, with Trey throwing in some big uppercuts at the end.

Upon conclusion, the band started Moma Dance with an odd sounding intro, yet I’m not one to complain for this Moma was also a rager.  What’s interesting about the beginning of this show is that it’s the same two songs they opened with at the Gorge on the 6th.  Do I sense a Sample In a Jar coming next?

Nope, following Moma was The Wedge, which is an always welcome song at a Phish show.  Ocelot would be played next, with Mike having a comical way of signalling the song to Fish.  Ocelot contained nothing special, as it rarely does, yet nicely played and kept the band in sync for the beast that would come next, The Divided Sky.  The song is long and nothing special because it is always the same…until the end.  This version was spectacular (best of 3.0), for Trey hit some pretty nasty peaks at the end that he wouldn’t have been able to hit a few years ago.  That would be a sign of optimism for us Phish fans.

9.3.11 (Dave Vann)

Predictably, Phish launched into another first set Funky Bitch.  Having said that, Trey has been really rocking out to this song, and this version was no different.  Axilla followed, which was tight and standard, which launched directly into Llama…minus a few miscues between Trey and Fish.  Llama is ANOTHER rocker, and rock it they did.  Llama also included some “Streets of Cairo” teases, so there was a lot to smile about so far at this show.  To lighten it up a bit, Phish proceeded into Fast Enough For You.  Personally, I like this song.  This version was standard like all other FEFY’s, but nevertheless, beautiful.  Wolfman’s Brother closed the set, a song that Phish has been playing a lot lately, although this was a step outside the usual 10 minute rocker.  Funky beats from Mike and flawless playing from Fish make this Wolfman’s a delight, and a fun set closer.

I always like to guess what Phish will open sets with, and I turned to OPT and said Twist.  I was wrong, of course, for Phish opened with Down With Disease…something they NEVER do, yach yach yach.  This Down With Disease was well played by all band members, or at least the composed parts were, and the guys seemed locked in from the very beginning.  Unfortunately, that wouldn’t last because Trey forces Tweezer out of the Disease jam.  I’m not AGAINST a nice segue, it’s just that this wasn’t a good segue.  You could hear the band locking in on Tweezer, but an impatient Trey abruptly starts up the Tweezer and it was rather abrasive.  We’re Phish fans though, and we can easily forget these things by hearing a good jam, right?  This Tweezer jam was great.  The band was literally feeding off of one another, and they strung together a musical composition that was pleasant to all ears.  This jam was layered thick, and while watching the stream I had already forgotten the poorly jammed Disease.  I began to think that Trey was going to let this jam soar into the unknown, but that was only wishful thinking, for out of an ambient jam came Golden Age.  Now, I’m not against Phish playing this song, I’m against Phish making this song routine.  Either way, Golden Age was what it has been, a decently played cover.  To this point, we have a Disease jam that wasn’t even given a chance to go anywhere, a Tweezer that went plenty of places but was also cut off prematurely, and a standard cover.  I was anxious to hear what would come next.

Interestingly enough, Limb by Limb followed.  I’m indifferent on this song, for it’s either a hit or miss live.  This was a hit from where I was sitting.  The jam was nailed by everyone, and Trey annihilated the jam and I was left rather satisfied.

After the nuclear Limb jam came Kill Devil Falls.  This song is almost always a standard 10 minute rocker, much like Wolfman’s Brother.  The jam wasn’t special by any means, but contained some tasty tidbits from the guys on stage.  The best part about the KDF was that once the song was about to conclude, they kept the jam going…much like a Kill Devil Falls reprise!  Definitely cool, but it didn’t last long as Trey directed the jam into outer space where Trey had Fish start up the 2001 beat.  This, again, was standard and predictably short.  It stemmed somewhat nicely into Light though, a song I haven’t grown to enjoy just yet.

The Light jam wasn’t spectacular, but it was interesting.  I was begging Mike or Page to take the lead on this, for many times it seemed as though Trey was just thinking about what he could play next the entire show.  This, I know, is not true…however, a big fear I have developed with 3.0 Phish is a face-melting Phish jam cut short by an A.D.D Trey.  Page was MVP of this Light jam though, and the Chairman of the Boards has been really stepping it up this leg of the tour.  The best part followed the main Light jam and that was a Down With Disease reprise jam, which reminded me of one of my favorite shows, 12/11/97.

An oddly placed Julius followed, which was a blistering version.  I suppose predictability and oddly placed songs can easily be forgotten when the band is playing so well, which they have been.  Following Julius came Cavern.  I thought this would close the set, but OPT proceeded to tell me that Phish has fallen in love with not closing sets with Cavern.  He was right.  Run Like an Antelope would close this interestingly chaotic set, and it was nothing more than a standard Antelope.  Definitely nothing to write home about, although like many of the second set songs, contained Disease teases.

9.3.11 (Dave Vann)

For an encore, Trey noted to the audience that they were going to play a song that began with the letter “S”.  Sleeping Monkey, of course, followed by the very-much expected Tweezer Reprise.

Out of the three Labor Day shows, this one was the weakest.  Having said that, I would like to note that there were major indicators of things to come with Phish.  Although Trey has been cutting songs off prematurely, his playing has been less abrasive and more cohesive.  The band seems to be meshing well, and when they are unpredictably chaotic, they have been so together…making for some ridiculously fun sets.

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