Half-way between Erie and Lansing

I love driving to Michigan.  I love it so much that I got up & got my kiddo ready for school early, headed out the door to the before school program at 6:45, and hit the road.  Once I got up around the lake, the colors seemed to grow deeper, or greener somehow. After a quick stop and rendezvous at Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, we were on our way…but not to the show quite yet. We headed to a buddy’s house, then hopped a charter bus from downtown Ann Arbor.  Having done this only once before, I’ve decided that from now on every time I go to see Phish I want to have a bus take me back & forth from the lot.

photo by B. Shrader

So we got to the venue formerly known as “Pine Knob” in Clarkston, about 40 miles outside Detroit, around 5 p.m.  We had a DJ cranking music by buses but I struck out to find some friends and hand out copies of Surrender to the Flow, which is a fantastic publication by fans, for fans, about Phish, and you should check it out if you aren’t already familiar with it. (http://www.surrendertotheflow.net/)

Once inside the venue, I was lucky to find myself DFC in row E thanks to the help of Mr. Schwilly Williams.  His former roommate was there with us, and he was seeing his first Phish show.  The pit was just 5 rows in front of us, and it looked pretty full by the time the show was about to start.  Call me old, but I was happy to have a seat (or 2/3 of a seat at least).

The lights went down…I think…the sun was still up…  Man, I cannot wait for UIC.  Indoor Phish rules.

Friday, June 3, 2011
DTE Energy Music Theater, Clarkston, MI Pine Knob

Set I
Wolfman’s Brother
Funky Bitch!
Sample in a Jar
NICU happen to have a birthday today, Michael
Mike’s Song>
I Am Hydrogen>
Weekapaug Groove
Tela>
Chalkdust Torture
The Wedge

Set II
Down with Disease!!!->
Fluffhead>
David Bowie!!
Waste>
Also Sprach Zarathustra>
Cavern

Encore
Good Times Bad Times


Sick Wolfman’s opener! I’m not sure who said it first, but it should be a requirement for shows to open with 10+ minute jams like this. Sweet squealing sounds of delight.

"Hey Page, what do you want to open Mike's birthday show with?"

This was a nice, slow, funky Wolfman’s that just feels “right” in a Summertime first set. Ajay-seeing his first show-commeneted that it’s cool how Phish does away with any opening act and just gets right to it, but that it’s really weird to see a show with the sun still up. And he’s right, but it’s also awesome having the real open-air, funky sounding, Summer vibe in that first set. Dancing is fun, even when you’re no good at it. Nice healthy jam to open the show.

More shredding in Funky Bitch–I thought it was above average but I was also pretty excited to hear this song, and pretty excited in general at this point. Sample was actually okay (or maybe I’m just being kind). I actually thought this was Divided Sky at the time it started. Funny how the mind plays tricks. I’d take Divided Sky in the #3 slot any day…just sayin. Cactus’ birthday was acknowledged during NICU, although I wonder if Trey threw it in one line earlier than he’d meant to, since he said it before “swim with the cactus and float with the stone” instead of replacing that line. Am I overthinking this? Probably. Following NICU, Mike’s Song surprised me, actually. I realize that I should’ve expected it after the birthday hi-jinks, but I didn’t see it coming. This old man’s losing his edge, I guess. The Mike’s was a nice tempo and had a good jam. That gets it like a B+ right there. The jam was not bad. Not bad at all. It was dark. Dark in the daytime. Hydrogen was nice, which in my book means not completly mutilated, and the Weekapaug was a rip-roarin’ good time! Great energy to this first set so far, to be sure.

Then came the fun part — Trey leans over and picks up a beach ball with a request written in large black marker, then he holds it out to the crowd as if to say, “what do you think?” shows it to Page who nods as if to say, “why not?” and after some more looking around and casual strumming of chords, Trey counted off Tela. Love. This. Song. And it seemed very nicely played from where I was sitting. Chalkdust always rages, and got the energy right back to ‘Paug intensity after the beautiful ballad. While this Chalkdust was no feat like the 20-or-so min Chalkdust from Camden last year (6/25/10) it was still smokin’. A real Detroit Rock City rager. The Wedge provided another “I love this song!” moment. I’m really not sure that I could ever get sick of hearing The Wedge, and I’m glad they’re playing it more. Overall, a this was great set, and it was only a first set! After listening to the shows on this tour so far, this could be 2011’s newest & best forte — the really strong first set.

photo by B. Shrader

When they came out for set II, an airhorn went off on the lawn, which was the signal to sing “happy birthday” to Mike. People were definitely singing, but each little pocket had its own tempo & pitch, so the result was questionable. It must’ve worked to some degree, because Trey came in partway through and played the last half of happy birthday on his guitar. Mike had rolled down his shirtsleeves and had put on a tie. I’d also noticed an older couple sitting (incredibly still) on the side of the stage throughout the first set, I’m assuming they must’ve been Mike’s parents. It was clearly a special moment and the anticipation was high for the opener…Down with Disease! Yes!  And as this one got going, it quickly became clear that it was going to be so awesome. Schwilliams turned to me mid-way through this DwD and said, “that was cool!” but I pointed out that it wasn’t over yet… About 10 minutes later DwD was still raging, and he concurred with me; it was definitely not over yet. I was lucky enough to catch the other epic DwD at Alpine last year, and what’s pretty incredible is that there’s a video of both, a DVD of Alpine and the HD stuff on LivePhish’s video channel of this last one. The “A Love Supreme” theme (alright, people–this is the 4-note theme from “Acknowledgement,” the first track on John Coltrane’s  seminal jazz album A Love Supreme) comes in about half way through was recognized by more than a couple folks. It was pretty cool to hear, and pretty f’n cool in general that it happened.

The DwD jam is huge & sprawling & multi-faceted (I later read that it’s the longest version of a single song they’ve played since the comeback), and I doubt I could do it justice without its own little mini-review. I will say that the way they just slowly (patiently) slipped into Fluffhead was one of the nicest segues I’ve heard from the New & Improved Ph3.0 Fluffhead was NEARLY flawless. Have you noticed how Fishman almost always sings in the “Bundle of Joy” segment lately? I thought that used to be a rarity, maybe not, but either way, I like it a lot. The transition into Bowie can’t really be called a segue, since Fluffhead had clearly ended, but it was also masterfully executed and created some great suspense. The Bowie was something else, indeed. Fun, scary, evil circus soundscape in the intro, and a fierce jam that really verged on going “somewhere else” for a few minutes there. Also Sprach>Cavern was fun, great, but was just a throwaway at that point. The first three songs made up the first 56 minutes of the set. Mike did sound pretty sick, though–especially some of the crazy bombs he dropped while sustaining the last note of Also Sprach. Please know that by using the term “throwaway” I do not mean to discount this perfoamnce. It was a typical, awesome, best-time-ever kind of Also Sprach>Cavern.

And a Good Times, Bad Times encore? Totally asskickingly raccous. This tune encored my first show (11/25/94) and I’ve loved it since. Phish covering Led Zeppelin must be what heaven sounds like. What a great time. I’m convinced that it was in playing this encore on Friday that they decided to play FYF the following night, because that is the only way to up the ante in fuckedfacedness. Fantastic show. Rager of a show, to be sure. Great opener & Funky Bitch for the one-two punch, fantastic Mike’s even if it was in the first set, raging Chalkdust, set-closing Wedge (second ever…the other one is 8/3/98 Deer Creek), a Bowie that hints at the potential greatness that can come in the weeks ahead, a slaying Zeppelin encore, and of course the jam of the tour/year/3.0/decade [you decide] to open the second set.  Definitely a 9 out of 10 type of show that became a 7 out of 10. Waste hurts…sorry. Some guy on the tape is yelling for “Let it Loose” the whole show, which would have been a much better choice for the slow set II song, but hey…I don’t get to write the setlists & neither does the yelling guy. In order to write the setlist, you have to bring a sign.

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9 Responses to “Half-way between Erie and Lansing”

  1. Pablo Says:

    The “A Love Supreme” theme, also stolen by Marc Ribot in “Aqui Como Alla”.

    • Brain Says:

      True, Pablo. To be honest, maybe folks are making to much of this “tease” — it is simply a vii-I progression that exists in thousands of songs/jams/symphonies, etc, and if we started keeping track it’s probably performed by countless musicians (including Santana, although they sing the same chant from the album so it’s a little more evident in that case).

      But thanks for visiting and thanks for commenting!

      • Pablo Says:

        Hey, nice brain!

        Yeah, the “tease” definitely wasn’t as pronounced as (another show you reference) 8/3/98 Halley’s. I remember hearing that on tape (several months after the show) and recognizing it from Santana tapes.

      • Brain Says:

        Hmmm…this author is unfamiliar with that particular segment of the ’98 Creek Halley’s.

        …TO THE VAULT!

      • Brain Says:

        …just now finally listening to this show (been too addicted to Super Ball and all the new FTA/HoLP stuff). That Helley’s is effin’ KILLER! 20+ mins! I do hear the “Love Supreme” themed jam in there as well. Sounds like Page initiates it that time, but I’m not sure that it really catches on with the rest of the band. Regardless, this thing has epicness written all over it. Damn…I wish Halley’s was jammed like this nowadays. Actually, I wish ANY song in the 2nd slot of a first set went off like this.

        The Set I opener inspired me to do a little bit of research on the original tune, and I ended up watching the music video for the first time: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3l6hf_the-smashing-pumpkins-rhinoceros-vi_music Very cool ping pong ball scene.

      • Pablo Says:

        Wow, that’s funny. I just heard the Halley’s > I Didn’t Know yesterday!

        I wore that 8/3/98 tape out when I first got it.

      • Brain Says:

        Limb By Limb is also very good from this show.

        (this thread=hijack’d)

  2. Willis Says:

    Good read. You were right. DWD was fr from over at that point. While fluff has never been my favorite, it fit well here and was played so freaking badassedly that I dare not doubt again.

  3. SBIX 7.1 II « Golden Brain Listens Says:

    […] into The Wedge (certainly not “->” and not really a “>” even) and I’ll say it again — love this tune. They should play it every night. But only when I’m […]

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