Magic at Star Lake

6.22.09 | Michael Stein

This year it seems that we see one of two bands in the second set now. A jukebox hero band seeing where they can take their music or a band that throws caution to the wind to see where the music takes them. Last night would be the latter and in fantastic fashion. Phish was flowing on a level seen rarely this era and strung together a set of some completely original, organic and free-flowing jams that will be remembered for some time.

The boys added another impressive notch to a venue with impressive musical phishtory. After a rocking and well-played first half of the first set, including the Moma Dance that Fishman humorously messed up the night before, we got the first worth-while Scent of a Mule of the era. The Mule Duel broke down in complete phishy fashion–they all took turns playing the notes Trey normally plays upon reentry to the song from the traditional mule duel, even including Fishman and Mike’s foot bell. They closed the set with the first YEM of the year. While it wasn’t nearly as epic as some expected the song’s return to be, it came to an explosive peak that put everyone on their toes for the second set.

When Jibboo opened the set two, expectations for the song to be taken past its ten-minute glass ceiling were high. However, it was standerd to a fault and Mike’s Song started. Trey pushed the jam of this a few measures farther than the band expected–he wanted to rock–however I must fault him for what was some very iffy playing. It seems like he was getting ahead of himself quite a bit that lead to poorly placed and scratchy notes–very 2010ish. What’s interesting is that Trey tried to end the song after two descending series of notes at the end (as was in 1.0 and 2.0), but the band was so used to doing it after four, they pushed on and ended in typical 3.0 fashion. On the contrary, the Simple that followed showed that Trey doesn’t need to try to rock his brains out to impress.

Simple’s jam lulled us into a bass and guitar-note-filled bliss of wonder, the most impressive version of this era. The melodies flowed like the salmon of Capistrano around each other in this take before it became spaced out and Light was started. Light’s jam started with some sub-par and and cliche playing from Trey, making me worried that Light was returning to its pre-Atlantic City mediocrity. However, once the cliched jam settled down one of the most impressive jams of the era ensued (yes, there were a lot of ‘best-of-era’ moments in this show). The jam settled down into a perfectly balanced melting pot of sounds, all flowing out from the stage in perfect form, so perfect you could almost SEE the sounds emerging from the stage as if you were on some heavy acid trip. A must-hear.

Weekapaug surfaced from the  sonic stew and bubbled with an intro still containing the unusual loops Trey had from the Light jam. They stopped  and broke down into the song once again before the lyrics started. The jam was completely different from most ‘Paugs and, yes, it was the best of 3.0. The jam immediately turned wood-block-poppin’, bulbous-bass-playing funk party. Trey…wait for it…STEPPED ON HIS NOW-DUSTY WAH PEDAL! So now we have all the elements of cow funk in this tour, they just need to be put together. The stop/starts and funky breakdowns of the Bader Tube, the delay loops of the nTelos Tweezer, and now the wah pedal of Star Lake’s Weekapaug. The band locked like a perfect mesh in this ending of one of the best Mike’s Grooves in recent memory. Trey was so on point in this Weekapaug, he flawlessly threw a Divided Sky tease into the jam (right before the wah pedal).

6.22.12 | Michael Stein

Coming out for the first time since the ‘S’ show at Dick’s, Seven Below extended the Mike’s Groove magic with a short by gorgeous jam that was lead by Page before allowing us a breather in Bouncin’. The Seven Below was played a key higher than usual. Usually the song is in C and last night it was in D.

Julius contained about as disappointing of playing as the last rendition at nTelos before they closed the set with a soulful Slave, much better than nTelos’. While Trey still relied on a lot of chords in the jam, it still came to a glorious peak.

Then, looking to wow the audience one more time, Phish played another song rare for an encore (Fluffhead the night before): Lizards. Trey actually botched the lyrics at one point and you can hear his yell “ah fuck” as he stepped away from the microphone.

We need more playing like last night out of the band and less like Riverbend (minus Twist). They need to open up and flow rather than try to control where the music goes. It’s always for the best.

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We skipped a full review on Riverbend because of time contraints for our writers yesterday. We generally think it was a decent show. The Shaggy Dog was a cool bust out but the lackluster Bowie might make Kuroda change his mind on it being his favorite song. The Twist certainly reached a cool place but they should have really let it breath more. for the longest song in a 100-minute set to be 14 minutes is nearly criminal. It felt almost like VH1 story tellers rather than a Phish show at some points. We don’t need silly banter at every show and a run-through of random songs to hit the 200-song mark they set in Rolling Stone. Just flow like you did at Star Lake please!