Night one in Bethel had come and gone, and Phish had already exceeded my expectations with some nicely executed jams and a fantastic set list. So how would they respond in night two? Let’s just say that I had no voice left when the night was done, and I had lost multiple pounds due to multiple hours of the 100 degree wook dance.
Earlier in the day on Saturday, our crew at the Llama Farm tanked a huge bucket full of gin- drinking from a turkey baster. We all proclaimed at that moment that we were willing them to play a killer Bathtub Gin. Boy, were we right.
The night started off with a beautiful 10 minute long Theme From the Bottom. This was a perfect beginning to the night, and set an excellent vibe as the stragglers rolled in from the parking lot and filled up the lawn. Next up was NICU, which was short but well played. But then the party really started with a nice 9 minute Cities, with a fresh and funky jam.
Phish has been killing Cities for years now, and it has been a consistent funky jam vehicle. This one was no different, and it set up nicely for the first jammed out Halley’s Comet in recent memory. This went for 12 minutes and got way out there at times. While it wasn’t quite as funky as the ’97-’98 versions, it was a serious jam that had the whole place moving. For those who were tired of the cookie cutter Halley’s that we have been getting in 3.0, Phish showed that they still know how to get this one going.
Right around the six minute mark, Trey is on top of this jam with a nice noodly tune. Mike and Fish set up a nice backbeat to go along with it, while Page continued his reign as the chairman of the board. Around 7 minutes, they get real ambient with Fishman taking over with an excellent drum line.
When they pumped right into Runaway Jim, it was certain that we were getting a fantastic opening set. As the sun went down, and they went into a plinko phunk jam, our whole crew gazed up at the stage in astonishment. The staccato came early, starting at about 2 minutes. I was beginning to realize that what I hoped for was here: Phish was jamming again, and they were jamming with purpose.
Next came Gumbo, which I was hoping they would jam out. However, it was less than five minutes and had the Page solo to send off the song. Quinn the Eskimo followed, and there was a beautiful solo by Trey. This was followed up by Limb by Limb, which has always been a favorite of mine especially when they get it right. Fortunately, they were getting just about everything right so far.
Horn was a nice surprise and set up nicely for what I think was some of the better jamming Phish has done in years. Bathtub Gin started up and got really trippy. During the jam I started to notice that there was a Manteca like jam going on. Little did I know that they would be blasting right into a full on Manteca, with lyrics and all, just before they closed out Gin and the set. This is a jam I will be thinking about all summer, and I can’t believe it came so early in the tour.
“I would take set one of Saturday over any 2010 set two,” said Al Papadonis who is an admitted newb but can still hold his own in the Phish world.
The next set started off with a raging Down with Disease that spanned over 15 minutes. Energy was sky high at this point, especially after the glorious Gin that preceded it during the first set. You know things are good when Kyle Dezi gets into his “Dezi Dirty Down With Disease Dance.” You know things are great when he stops the dance all together and his jaw hits the lawn.
Phish followed this up with Free, which was just under 8 minutes and had a nice little jam in there. While it doesn’t get the same 10 + minute that it used to, this was an encouraging sign.
Number Line was also played very well, with a jam taking the song into the 12 minute range. For me, Number Line is hit or miss. This one was a big hit, and it became very apparent that they were going to let this one jam and head wherever it may end up. From 7:00 until the end is flawless jamming when it comes to Number Line. At about 9:00 minutes I was expecting the janitors to come out and collect melted pieces of the faces of phans around the venue.
The highlight of the second set, and maybe the run (depending on who you ask), was next with Makisupa. They went to each of their houses, displaying nice solos in each. Mike hit the fight bell for his approval and once they got to Fish’s house, Phish dropped into a fantastic Harry Hood. While this didn’t have the length, jam power or experimentation of the last Hood played in Worcester, it was still a goodie. And considering how it was dropped in, everyone had a giddy look of excitement on their face.
Hood dropped right into a rocking Cavern, which was played as it usually is with the exception of a “Page’s House” comment thrown in by Trey right after “Take Care of Your Shoes.” This got everyone cheering and once the high hat of Bowie began, I sat in disbelief. The Bowie was excellent, with a nice ambient jam right around the five minute mark. I felt like they could have gotten this one going a bit harder towards the end, and maybe stretch it out a bit. I was really loving the sound and it left me wanting for more. Luckily for us, I’m sure we’ll be getting some good Bowies this tour.
The night ended with A Day in the Life and I was mind blown. I couldn’t believe it but night two was better than just about everything I had been to in 2010. Considering this was just night two, I think it’s safe to say they are on a serious roll right out of the gate.
Words: Bobby Martin