Phish 6/8/11: A Hot Summer Night
By Mr. Palmer
My crew and I rolled into the sprawling grassy fields that make up the parking facilities at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center around 6pm after getting a late start due to some work constraints. Pre-gaming festivities were in full swing as the parking attendants ushered us to our spot. The weather could not have been more perfect at that hour in beautiful western New York. The early evening breeze made all the stresses of life kind of just slip away.
The lot at Darien is just fantastic. For those of you who haven’t been in the shadows of “The Silos,” you’re missing out. The security staff is about as laissez-faire as they come. We chilled at the car opting for sandwiches and Heineken’s as none of my group would be partaking in any extra-curricular activities although there were plenty to go around. I was lucky enough to notice a spun out tour chick with life size butterfly wings tattooed on her back. She busted me giggling at her, but someone sitting nearby saved the moment by telling her we were just noticing how pretty her tattoo was. I was just noticing how the colors in her tattoo matched the can of Four Loko she was guzzling. Priceless.
We headed into the show at about 7:30, hit up the bathroom, said hi to a bunch of friends, and were in line getting our drinks when the band hit the stage at about 7:50. A lengthy discussion ensued that also included Trey plucking a "Jennifer Dances" sign from the crowd and showing it to everyone.
Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2011
I happened to be at the Blue Cross Arena show in Rochester back in 2000 when they debuted, Jennifer Dances. Trey said how much they love playing in Rochester and how much they love our arena, and because of that they were gonna play us a new song. That new song was Jennifer Dances, some show of appreciation!
Nellie Kane ended up kicking things off in a light summery fashion. Phish playing bluegrass music never gets old to me. There’s something about Trey’s tone that just fits with bluegrass. How about a bluegrass set at Super Ball 9! We made our way to our fantastic seats during Mellow Mood. I managed to score 17th row tickets, Page side rage side, on craigslist, for face value!!! We let the music rock us right into an appropriately busted out Buffalo Bill that saw Trey giggling Jimmy Fallon style. Kill Devil Falls ripped as usual. Trey is playing the guitar with renewed vigor these days and last night was no exception. Wolfman’s Brother got funky quick with Page mounting the Clav while Trey jumped right into the staccato style playing that he has been moving towards. I love this type of playing. It invites the rest of the band into the jam and really gets the crowd moving. There was nothing too exploratory about this version, which would remain a theme for most of the night. Rift got the pavilion moving as it always does while Undermind spilled the funk out to the farthest reaches of the lawn. Who can argue now that in retrospect, Undermind as an album was unnecessarily hated back in 2004? This album has spawned some standout songs including the title track which has developed into a crowd favorite. It may have been my youth but it took me a few minutes to figure out they were playing Ride Captain Ride. This tune filled the “first set Page cover song” slot that they have made into a staple so far this summer and this one did not disappoint. Next, the band tackled It’s Ice for the first time this year and it went relatively smooth except for a couple of minor blips on the guitar (he’s human!). Dog Faced Boy was a welcomed tour debut that slowed things down a bit and then ran into Brian and Robert. I had to wait in line at the bathroom at this point in the show if you can believe it. 46 Days, Limb By Limb, and Character Zero closed this marathon first set in glorious fashion. While “Days” and “Zero” blew the tent off the place, “Limb” served as a palette cleanser between the two.
Overall the first set was extremely entertaining but contained nothing mind altering. It seems so far this tour it really depends on Trey’s mood whether you will see a jammy show or a setlist show. The band has proven that they can do what they want, when they want and instead of blowing everyone away night in and night out, the band has been choosing their spots.
Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2011
We spent the set break chatting with some friends near the pit after a beer, water, and nacho run that went as planned. Everyone had their glow stick’s locked and loaded when the boys hit the stage for the 2nd set. I had my fingers crossed for an epic 25 minute Ghost to open up the frame but when they jumped right into Golden Age I was not disappointed. The TV on the Radio cover is catchy and danceable, and the jam was getting interesting when Trey steered the band toward Mike’s Song. I would’ve liked to have seen them stretch their legs on this one a bit but what are you gonna do? “Mike’s” saw Cactus dropping bass bombs left and right; despite the relatively straightforward jam (can I get a second jam for crying out loud?). Fast Enough For You was a welcoming meat to this Mike’s Groove sandwich that popped into Weekapaug Groove with a shower of glow sticks throughout the venue. The “Golden Groove” contained numerous Golden Age teases starting as early as Gordon’s bass intro. The energy was high throughout this version of “Weekapaug” punctuated by CK5’s amazing light show. Kuroda has added some new gear to his rig that allows him to create breathtaking imagery on the 3 circular backdrops extended above the stage. Check out video if you haven’t already.
Now I am a HUGE fan of What’s The Use? and last night’s version was well played, but this song always packs a more powerful punch when the band lands into the intro in the depths of a psychedelic jaunt from the preceding song. This would’ve also applied last night if, instead of ending “Weekapaug”, they somehow segued into the “Siket Disc” instrumental. I still can’t complain, and this song always blows me away. Theme From The Bottom flowed well with the set and was a chance for all the wooks to take a deep breath after their mind’s were collectively fucked by “What’s The Use?” Backwards Down the Number Line came next and in my opinion, sucked the life right out of the show for a few minutes. Does anyone else think the intro to this song is just terrible? The song as a whole is great, with a catchy chorus, and great guitar solo, but the intro just kills me every time. They managed to salvage the rest of the set with a blistering 2001 that was laced with “Golden Age”, “What’s The Use?”, and “Happy Birthday” teases. They blended the ending of 2001 skillfully into the intro of Harry Hood and this was a great version to close out the night. We were making our way to the car during the encore break in an effort to beat the traffic out of the venue (mission accomplished), so we heard Good Times, Bad Times as we were walking out. Trey always kicks this songs ass, and Phish playing Zeppelin works 99% of the time.
They dropped a rocking encore for a rocking show that saw some fun covers, excellent playing from all 4 band members and skillful teases in the second frame. I’m looking forward to seeing how the band develops over the next few weeks. I’ll see ya’ll at Super Ball IX!!!