Phish | Alpharetta | Review | Pics

Words by: Billy Jack Sinkovic | Images by: Dave Vann

Phish :: 06.14.11-06.15.11 :: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park :: Alpharetta, GA

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Phish :: 06.14.11 :: Alpharetta, GA
Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2011
The last week of May, the band called Phish launched their most ambitious summer tour since the Nineties [33 dates in 20 cities]. After visiting all the old haunts - as well as a few new ones, such as the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts - across the Northeast and Midwest, the band and its fans followed the lines going South for a five-night run across Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia to culminate the first leg of tour. First stop: Alpharetta.

The newish and rather nice but homogenously-handled Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park broke its Phish cherry last summer with a one-two punch in the eye to celebrate our country’s independence, culminating in a righteous rebellion in the form of a Rage Against the Machine cover – “the only band, other than Phish, that won’t bullshit you.” High expectations abounded for 2011’s double feature, particularly because the shows were also being transmitted live via the interwebs to living rooms, dorm rooms and parents’ basements worldwide. An official live stream was a blessing to all the fans on couch tour that were growing weary of tinny audio and herky-jerky images from cell phones at the shows. And there was a bit of a consensus that, if they’re recording it, they’ll probably do something extra-special [“backwards Gamehenge, brah!”]. Instead, the band delivered two nights of aptly-delivered greatest hits punctuated with a few moments of wit and brilliance.

Phish :: Page McConnell :: 06.14.11 :: Alpharetta, GA
Photo by Dave Vann © Phish 2011
Night one started with a perusal of fans’ signs and stuffed animals – Mike got himself a new pet possum - before deciding on the rare, slightly ridiculous “Dinner and a Movie,” followed by the well-received quagmire groove of “The Moma Dance” and the fulfilled request for “Possum,” which wasn’t bad but wasn’t really all that special either, especially considering it was the sixth one played in a little over two weeks. A jam-free “Cities” with a shout out to Mary Johnson of Memphis preceded a particularly paradisiacal “Fluffhead” and a rowdy romp with “Ocelot.” The band saluted the South with a bit of bluegrass by way of “Ginseng Sullivan” before injecting a bit of heat to the set via the band’s latest driving rock jam vehicle, “Kill Devil Falls.” After an extended “Bathtub Gin” with a lofty peak, the VIP of the weekend, Mr. Page McConnell, began to emerge amidst a rare cover of Traffic’s “Light Up or Leave Me Alone.” The meandering organ ministrations added both texture and direction to a tight and focused jam, and his vocals were PRIME. Page continued to shine throughout the two nights, leaving more than a few fans wondering: Is it the glasses?

After a “Cavern” closer and “fifteen minute” setbreak, the band came out thrashing with “Carini,” which has found a home in the second set opener slot. A couple minutes into a muscular jam, Trey tried a little too delicately to lead his mates into “Sand,” but they seemed to miss the signals and the segue was about as subtle as a dynamite blast. Thankfully, this dance party of a song has a lot of fans, and the train wreck of a transition was quickly overshadowed by a boundless build through Type I territory that landed into a monster of a “Down With Disease.” The Disease jam could have been divided into chapters of a book or pages of an almanac, with Captain Anastasio navigating landscapes ranging from soaring peaks to funky valleys and then off into space. And just before that point where space could have gotten TOO spacey, the ticking time-bomb intro to “Maze” emerged, and the South got a little bit hotter. Page was the clear champion, fanning the frenetic flames with incendiary organ and reckless abandon.

After this trio of blockbusters, the band seemed to have little left in their jars of jam. Both “Meatstick” and “2001” were free of exploration, and the set closing “Antelope” was as unadventurous as a studio track, without the benefit of editing and tightening. Thankfully, the set was filled out nicely by a “Bug” with a beautiful piano outro that segued into “A Day in the Life,” where Page once again nailing the vocal duties. And the “Mighty Quinn” encore was pumped full of energy, reminding us that we were far from done.

Tuesday Setlist
Set 1: Dinner and a Movie, The Moma Dance > Possum, Cities > Fluffhead, Ocelot, Ginseng Sullivan, Kill Devil Falls > Bathtub Gin, Light Up Light Up Or Leave Me Alone > Cavern
Set 2: Carini > Sand > Down with Disease[1] -> Maze, Meatstick > 2001Also Sprach Zarathustra > Bug > A Day in the Life > Run Like an Antelope
Encore: Quinn the Eskimo

[1] Unfinished

Continue reading for coverage of Wednesday night in Alpharetta...

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