This week, we get an early dose of Postcards From Page Side from our featured columnist Brian Bavosa as he recounts Phish’s tour opening weekend at Bethel Woods in Bethel, NY…
After five months off since their triumphant New Year’s Eve run at the DCU Center in Worcester and NYC’s Madison Square Garden that seemingly saw the band turn a musical corner, Phish returned to the road this past weekend for a three-night run at Bethel Woods in upstate New York. After the holiday run, fans were very interested to see what might be in store for the band’s most aggressive and longest tour in nearly 20 years this summer – broken down into two legs, 30 proper shows and a 3-day festival over the 4th of July weekend in Superball IX.
[Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2011]
Bethel Woods is a venue that fans (and the HT staff) have been hoping for years Phish would play. Sitting just atop the hill where Woodstock was held, simply put, the place has good bones. It is also the nicest ampitheater in the northeast in my opinion, if not the country. The sightlines and sound are awesome from any vantage point, and the lush, green lawn is as comfortable as they come. While ample trees and a full-fledged museum dedicated to Woodstock on-site (which is a site to behold on itself, and highly recommended), Bethel is the quintessential place to see the band, with plenty of space to move around and get down.
When the band finally hit the stage on Friday night, any question of proving a point was made with a bombastic Tweezer > My Friend, My Friend opening sequence. In fact, from start to finish, the first set of Summer Tour 2011 was as high energy as they come and sure to be a favorite of the weekend for many. Boasting a super-funky Wolfman’s Brother that slid effortlessly into Walk Away, one of the strongest tunes for Phish 3.0 on a consistent basis, any doubts of practice, or easing into the weekend were quickly dissipated.
READ ON for more on Phish’s tour-opening run in Bethel…
Umphrey’s McGee returned to San Francisco’s Fillmore on March 12 and 13 for a pair of performances that saw Colorado upstarts Big Gigantic open.
[All photos by Dave Vann]
Saturday night’s show featured a jam-heavy first set including extended takes on one of the newer songs in the UM repertoire Conduit, as well as Red Tape, a song from 2009’s Mantis that the band frequently showcases a middle section of improvisation. Before closing the first set with a mashup of Everybody Wants To Rule The World and The Way You Make Me Feel, guitarist Brendan Bayliss had the honor of helping a fan propose to his girlfriend from the stage, and she of course said “yes.”
Sunday’s show was easier to move around in compared to the sellout the previous night and the band paid tribute to the late Owsley ”Bear” Stanley by performing a partial instrumental rendition of Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne, a song written about Owsley’s influence on the 1960’s Bay Area LSD scene. Night two also saw Dominic Lalli of Big Gigantic lend his saxophone skills to The Rollin Stones’ vamp Can’t You Hear Me Knockin.’
The next show for UM is UMBowl II at Park West in Chicago on April 2. Previously sold out, the band is releasing a limited number of general admission tickets tomorrow, March 22, at 12PM Central Daylight Time.
READ ON for more of Dave Vann’s shots from UM in SF…