, attached to 1997-06-20

Review by n00b100

n00b100 It's funny talking about how the *second* set is the pretty good one and the first set is the monster, but this is one of those precious few shows where that's the case, so we'll start from the 2nd frame. Bowie starts off contemplative, almost Hood-like in its jam, then gets off-kilter like it's 1994 again and crashes into a heavy-metal jam, Trey's guitar tone dark and menacing; thankfully, instead of an 11/30/97 Wolfman's metal sludgefest, the fellas wind back into the regular Bowie jam and head home. The Ghost that follows is a slow, loping funk beast (with a ferocious ending that amusingly stops on a dime) that shows Phish still working their way through what Ghost could be, something that they'd have locked down a week later in Amsterdam and turned into a science when they got back to the States. For whatever reason, the rest of the set is "song" songs, which is perfectly fine if an odd choice, save for a Twist that rolls into a oddly minimal, Mike-heavy jam before a triumphant to the main Twist theme. It's good stuff, and quite gratifying to see Twist and Ghost in their gestation stage, but nothing particularly essential.

The first frame, on the other hand, is quite reminiscent of 8/28/12's marvelous second set, although with even more ridiculous song selection (Ain't Love Funny was only played 3 times, and I Don't Care would never be played again), and flows just as beautifully as that 3.0 masterwork. Taste opens things up and clangs along in fine Taste fashion, and then from its ending comes an eerie digital delay loop jam, Laser Floyd sound effects, and then a *weird* and funky jam that you would never hear outside Europe shows or soundchecks. It's so odd that it almost demands listening, and from that the group (surprisingly naturally) segues into a sprightly, uptempo Cities. Cities peters out in a really interesting manner, and Trey fires up Horn.

Horn acts as a neat bit of transition, as THAT song's ending goes sparse and lovely before segueing into Ain't Love Funny. Ain't Love Funny really feels like a Europe '97 kind of song, relaxed and low-key and full of interesting possibilities. And the band explores those possibilities here, as a gorgeous minor-key groove emerges (with Mike leading the way) and envelopes the crowd with surprising warmth. Fish's drumming (he is so good during this show) gets more polyrhythmic, and Limb by Limb worms its way out of the jam, a good but standard version that ends in a big arena-rock fashion and then segues into I Don't Care. I Don't Care is fine, if not particularly distinguished (no surprise it was shelved after this show), but it ends with a buzzing, almost uncomfortable, almost ambient loop jam, instruments floating in and out of the ether, yet another crazy ending to a song in a superb suite of music. A typically good Antelope closes out a monster of a set.

You shouldn't skip the second set by any means, but the first set, one of the most meticulously *crafted* sets I've ever heard Phish play, is absolutely essential listening. As always, @waxbanks says it best - this is an alternate universe Phish, one that may not have been as big as they were by the end of the decade, but one that (dare I say it?) might have turned out to be even more musically interesting. Give this show a download, and hear the road not taken.


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