, attached to 1988-05-24

Review by n00b100

n00b100 As somebody whose biases are tilted strongly towards the late-90s and 3.0, it's both bracing and strange to go back and listen to shows like this one, where Phish is basically a working band bashing out yet another 3-set show (God, the number of 3-set shows they played in their younger days!) during their seemingly endless residency at Nectar's rather than a group of millionaires playing to tens of thousands in sheds, arenas, and the occasional soccer stadium across the US. The bracing part comes from the almost hyperactive energy of their performance, which wasn't yet as tightly controlled as it would be in 1993 or as streamlined as it would be in 1997, but just radiating off of the stage with each performance; it's quite obvious, even at this early date, that bigger and better things lay ahead for the band. The strange part comes from the setlist - songs like Harpua, Whipping Post, and Alumni Blues, major rarities by the end of the 1990s, are just part of the songbook here, with even some of the longest-settled jam vehicles like Tweezer and DWD nowhere to be found.

Having given Colorado '88 a spin or two, I was pretty familiar with the repertoire and the playing style Phish had developed by this point in their evolution, and this particular performance is more of an example of the theme, rather than an outlier. Nothing goes particularly deep - the good stuff (via the setlist color-coding) is as good as described, but mainly in the sense that they feature good tight playing, rather than any sort of massive improvisation, as they hadn't gotten to the point where they were creating new music instead of just playing around with the music that was already there. The Whipping Post, 26 minutes long, is essentially a Type I Whipping Post, and more of a showcase for Trey's fiery soloing than their improv usually provides. Which isn't a bad thing, by any means - Trey really *rips* all throughout - but later Phish had more shades to it than "26 minutes of bashing out Southern rock" and "15 minutes of slowed-down blues", and this show doesn't really capture that.

With that said, there is still all sorts of pleasures to be gleaned from this tape - the Curtain With is exemplary, Whipping Post does smoke (even though it runs on a tad long), the Ya Mar -> Jam is wacky and wild, and even an early Antelope is still an Antelope worth hearing. Much of Phish's 80s stuff can come across as curiosity pieces, but the best of what they played during that decade (like in Colorado '88, which is well worth your time) is totally worthy of your attention. This is the closest you can get to a time machine with this band we all so much, so why not pay the fare and ride the ride?


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