Disclaimer: I go to shows to have fun. I don’t take notes. I dance, I drink, and I’m probably writing this hungover. I don’t use a thesaurus, I call em’ like I see em’. This is what I thought.

After skipping Alpine Valley on last year’s tour for the first time since the band began playing there, Phish returned to one of the their favorite venues for the fourteenth and fifteenth time this weekend. After two highly regarded shows in Deer Creek, many in the crowd expected the momentum to follow straight through to Wisconsin. What followed was a solid show with some exceptional jams that still may have fallen short of expectations. The show started off with a ripping My Soul that usually starts the show off with some solid energy, before we were hit with the night’s first rarity, Daniel Saw the Stone, which featured what seemed like an extra goofy vocal jam. The set’s other relative rarity was yet another Rolling Stones cover from Exile on Main Street, Let it Loose, which has only been played once since the 2009 Halloween show. The rest of the set definitely had some highlights – interesting jams in Runaway Jim, Kill Devil Falls, and Timber, a fantastic Reba with a solo that should be re-listened to, and an absolute rager of a Suzy Greenberg, but nothing that will really stand out and warrant a re-listen.

With a relatively standard first set, it was assumed that Phish would continue their trend of going all out from the first song of the second set, yet were thrown a curveball with an unusually short version of Backwards Down The Number Line. Many fans dislike this song for whatever reason, but the truth is that it has been a vehicle for many awesome jams and will no doubt continue to do so in the future. However, in this case without much a jam, it just feels like filler. No need to worry, as the band segued into another awesome Carini, which instantly picked up the energy before developing an interesting and spacey jam. After a sing along inducing Wilson, we were treated to what would become the real meat of this show. The next five songs each featured their own unique, drawn out jam sections that sometimes referenced each other and sometimes just went in entirely new direction.

For fans of the shorter concise jams, in which all four band members are locked in the zone, this is an absolute must listen segment of music. Starting with Golden Age, which seems to get better and better each time it’s played, we began to see how the band would play out this second set. It seemed like Trey and Page were consistently trading leads and playing off each other, creating a new theme that would shape the jam. By the end of the song, the jam had completely spiraled into unfamiliar territory before a brilliant segue into a 2001.  Despite being a relatively short version, it included an interesting jam segment, and excited the crowd. Up next was Rock and Roll which after some major shredding and high peaks, meandered into unfamiliar territory, eventually bringing out the first Steam since the song brought in the New Year at Madison Square Garden. This new song seems to have won over a lot more fans than anything from ‘Joy’, and rather quickly. The slow groove seems like it has the opportunity to be the basis for some awesome jams once the band really begins to flesh the song out. On a side note, three years after the debut of most of the songs from ‘Joy’, it’s really quite awesome to see how much the songs have evolved from their studio versions and early live performances.

Closing out this awesome five song segment, Steam transitioned into a Piper that may be the best yet in 2012. Trey and Page worked pure magic in this one, at one point seemingly stopping the jam, only to bring the song to life with some back and forth interplay between the two. The following Quinn gave the crowd something to sing along with after nearly 45 minutes of jams. After all the jams, that might as well closed the set down, but instead we got yet another fantastic Harry Hood, followed by one of the more interesting Character Zero’s that I’ve ever heard. They really let the song build and played around with the teases in a way that wasn’t gimmicky – it worked very well. To encore, we got hit with another Good Times, Bad Times and that was all she wrote; the only thing left was the treacherous walk up that daunting hill. People still high off of the Deer Creek bust outs and those who just look the set list to gauge a show may see this show as somewhat underwhelming. There was nothing that hasn’t been played since ’95, there’s no 20 minute jam, there’s no crazy teases – but this was an extremely solid show with a fantastic second set. One thing that you can’t really get a feel of from set lists and song times is the flow of the show, and this second set just absolutely nailed it on that account. With a Sunday night show and only a day break before a 16 hour trek to Jones Beach, Day 2 at Alpine Valley should be a winner – then it’s down to the sad count down of five New York shows until we pack up for a little while.

-Chez Rolez

Set 1: My SoulDaniel Saw the StoneAC/DC Bag > The Moma DanceRunaway JimLet It Loose,RebaKill Devil FallsThe SlothOcelotPoor HeartWhen the Circus ComesTimber (Jerry) > The Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg

Set 2: Backwards Down the Number Line > Carini > Wilson > Golden Age -> Also Sprach ZarathustraRock and Roll[1] > Steam > Piper > Quinn the EskimoHarry Hood > Character Zero[2]

Encore: Good Times Bad Times

[1] DIrt teases.
[2] Streets of Cairo teases and a Jean Pierre tease from Trey.

Notes: Rock and Roll contained Dirt teases. Character Zero featured Streets of Cairo teases and a Jean Pierre tease from Trey.

Related Articles:

Phish July 3rd Jones Beach Afterparty with ‘Start Making Sense’ – A Talking Heads Tribute