REVIEW: Phish Summer Tour 2011 Leg 2 (Part Two)

In celebration of the Phish three-night run at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO next weekend, we’re recapping our own experiences with this second leg of the band’s summer tour: two nights at the Gorge and an epic stop by Hollywood Bowl were already recapped in yesterday’s post. Wes saw the Hollywood show while me and @PeteLikesPhish were on our way to visit friends in Bend, OR. We took the long way to Tahoe and ended up driving the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway and seeing some amazing lakes and amazing mountains of Oregon.

I really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, and I think it tends to really contribute to that wide open playing that we got at the Gorge. The jams seemed bigger…newer…and I’m glad I went in pretty blind without having attended SuperBall IX. I think that kept my ears fresher, and the drive from Bend really got me nothing but more excited to see two more nights of the band closer to home.

Coming off the first two shows of 2011 that I got to see at the Gorge, I was riding pretty high that me and my crew had a solid presence at one of our other “local” shows — two nights at Harvey’s in Lake Tahoe. If you’ve never been to Lake Tahoe, it’s this perfect combination of lake town and ski-mountain town with the benefit of being on the border of Nevada and California, which means that casinos are pretty legal and you can also smoke a ton of weed right across the street from the casinos … in California, of course. It’s just an interesting environment and on the whole it gave everyone a chance to move at their own pace and speed.

August 9th, 2011 – Harvey’s @ Lake Tahoe Night One

Me and my crew arrived to the casino and checked in early, and immediately we scoped out the grounds, found the lots and determined where the best spot would be to try and catch the soundcheck. Up to the parking garage we went and we couldn’t see anything at all, but we hung out and made friends and just got amped up for the show. Eventually show time was coming around, the casinos were coming alive and everyone was looking for tickets outside even though later it would turn out unnecessary. I hung with Sue Weiand while waiting for the photo passes to come through, and with the typical unorganization that one expects when you go through this process, we all got in and got a chance to shoot the band on a stage just beaten down with sun.

Phish @ Harvey's Outdoor Arena, Lake Tahoe 8/9/11

It was beautiful in Tahoe, and this was just one of those pleasantries that seemed to add to the vibe to me. We were all at elevation in a beautifully sunny environment, watching our favorite band in a casino parking lot. How weird. Looking back on the first night, I definitely summarized the whole show better right afterwards and I did get an okay photo gallery out of the show. Definitely not something I was technical versed in dealing with, which means I need to study up.

But musically, the band had a bunch of super fun and interesting first set moments for me. I will never, ever complain about a “Party Time” opener. And the last time I saw the band do “Meat” may have been more technically correct, this version had a great energy and I think the band’s slight gaffes were covered up quickly with their playing.

But the band’s official LivePhish.com HD video from the show is easily the musical highlight of the show for me, something I broke up my camera for as well. The second set started with “Gotta Jibboo” and got everyone up and dancing, and “Light” could have gone absolutely nowhere at that moment and it was my worst fear. Until the band completely blew the roof off it and played a “Timber (Jerry)”-esque jam with some swampy psychedelia tones that really hold up on multiple re-listens. Definitely put this one on your “must listen” list…

August 10th, 2011 – Harvey’s @ Lake Tahoe Night Two

I was chillaxing mad hard on the second day in Tahoe. The drive and the relatively tame night had still taken it out of me, and I got up and hammered my way out of a blog post and hung out at the casino for a bit while a bunch of my crew hit the beach. Total fail blog; both Fishman and Page actually went over to the beach where they were at and everyone in my crew got to say hello and shake their hands really quick. That would have been cool…DOH.

But the band may have been taking it easy that night as the second night of Tahoe definitely does not leave too many lasting memories for me in terms of the band blowing me away. Even though the “Dogs Stole Things” opener was definitely a rarity and put me on alert for a non-standard Phish show, in hindsight I think the band just chilled on the jamming and had fun playing songs that night. The first set was 12 songs. The highlight for me was definitely the “Instant Karma” and “Antelope” that closed the set; I think the energy was still yet to come and the second set was definitely where I was grooving a lot harder.

We got our second “Golden Age” which made way to a funky “2001,” but then the second set dropped for a few until we finally got the return of “You Enjoy Myself.”

Trey’s dancing has gotten way better, by the way. It’s clear he’s healthier; you could just see this extra spring in his step more and more as each show happened.

August 12th, 2011 – Outside Lands Music Festival

After seven days away from home it was nice to wake up after the second night of Tahoe, drive my rental car back to the airport in San Francisco and head home for a night of relaxation. The next day I got up and early and head out to the festival as soon as I could get my plan together with my friends. And I got to see some incredible music ahead of the Phish headlining slot that Friday. The Original Meters played an awesome and funky set despite some amp troubles early on, and MGMT didn’t play to the critics one bit and stayed true to their weirdness with some mid-day psychedelia. I generally enjoyed all of the music I saw but I was totally focused on the main attraction that night.

For Phish to headline one of my favorite music festivals just a short bike ride from my home is a pretty rare treat, and it’s impossible to be objective but anything they played past feeling that I was seeing an amazing two-set show. It was remarkably cohesive, yet there were moments of exploration. The first set “Tweezer” was super cool for me and I thought it was one of the takeaway moments that I remembered being blown away by. Oh yeah, and my FIRST “Peaches en Regalia” which was not at all expected and completely one-upped my expectations for how good the tour was that I was witnessing.

And then the second set “Rock and Roll > Steam” really drove me wild. It was foggy, and the band seemed to sense that the wind was going to pick up and carry their fog machine smoke throughout the crowd and create this remarkable haze…and I seemed to have the best view for it possible. Definitely my highlight from the show and the rest of the set was gravy.

Check back tomorrow for part three of the tour highlights: the epic three-night rage fest at UIC Pavilion.