For being at the beginning of any tour, Phish sure was off to a great start. After three straight fire shows in Bethel, they had a night off and then were off to Jersey where there were plenty of $20 or less tickets. They didn’t let up after Bethel, displaying some serious first set oomph with a Chalk Dust opener. Trey’s guitar had a bit of extra distortion on this, and it got the mood set for his home state crowd. Also, it wasn’t the typical six minute tune, it went out there and almost hit 10 minutes with some supreme guitar work during the jam by Trey.
A serene ‘Roggae’ followed the rocker to give everyone a chance to catch their breath, but things got turned up a notch with the tour’s first ‘Punch You in the Eye.’ I’ve come to the realization that when ‘Punch You in the Eye’ comes early in a show it sets up for a ripper. Tonight was the case as well, with it followed up by a relatively short ‘Moma Dance.’ It was short, but mighty funky.
The true first set highlights were a fantastic ‘Rock and Roll’ and ‘Sand.’ Each songs were over the 10 minute mark and displayed some top notch jamming. While each has its own unique type of jam, they both went out there, especially ‘Sand.’ ‘Sand’ started off with Fishman killing it hard and the jam went out there with each member completely on point. Right around the 8:00 minute mark is some intense shredding that needs to be listened to by anyone who loves machine gun style Trey.
So far so good, especially with ‘Tube’ coming up. I was hoping for a jam, as I always do, out of ‘Tube.’ I wasn’t so lucky this time, but any ‘Tube’ is funky and lets Page show off a bit. This one had a bit of Plinko Phunk right around 2 minutes. This sound is something Phish has embraced a few times up to this point, coming out of late 2010. Good stuff.
‘Divided Sky’ was a bit scary, with Trey terribly flubbing his notes. He told the crowd that he meant to do it and I thought that he’d come back and tear the rest up. Instead, he tried and still couldn’t remember notes. So, smartly enough, he laid back and let the rest of the boys jam their parts as he laughed nervously on stage. It’s ok, Trey. Just don’t do it again. Character Zero ended what was a pretty good set, but nothing really compared to Bethel’s classic sets.
In the second set, Phish opened with ‘After Midnight,’ which had a fantastic jam coming out of it that is definitely worth some listening. A decent ‘Possum’ came next, which was the first repeat since Bethel. It followed into ‘Drowned,' which was jammed out for over 15 minutes, with the jam officially called “Holmdel Jam 2” (the first was ‘After Midnight’ jam.)
A filthy ‘Maze’ was up next, and following the ridiculous ‘Drowned’ jam, the audience was completely engaged. The whole band hit this one on point, with Trey ripping apart this ‘Maze’ with fantastic guitar peaks. It flowed right into ‘Dirt,’ letting everyone including themselves catch their breath. ‘Alaska’ was up after ‘Dirt,’ but the real highlight of the second set for me was a 20 + minute ‘You Enjoy Myself.’ Phish absolutely savaged this one, as Al Papadonis would say.
The night ended with ‘Fire,’ which I actually expected them to play in Bethel with it being at the Woodstock site. There was a serious guitar solo out of this to end the night. All in all, it was a good one but after the raging of Bethel I’d have to give it to a solid B. Considering it was the type of Phish you would hear at a good Phish show in 2010, and this was early 2011, it showed that this summer was going to be pretty damn good.