, attached to 1991-12-31

Review by conormac

conormac A great old school NYE show and a hint of what was to come in the future. Nothing absolutely ground breaking here, but some great takes on Phish standards with the added energy of crossing into a new year. Apparently this was a much bigger success than the previous year NYE show, and the crowd gets treated to a good one. Not quite the craziness of NYEs to follow, but great nonetheless. Note: Page is mixed loudly throughout, which makes for a different experience at times, especially Stash, Tweezer and Mike Groove.

Possum opens and the band dips their toes in to make sure the water is warm. By the 5.5 min mark, Trey is trying his darndest to blow the roof off in song #1, and nearly does at the 6 minute mark. Man, what a start, and the crowd is immediately stoked. Foam in the 2 slot is a typical (maybe safe) play, but the band plays it very well, Trey employing a staccato style during his solo, and then is really growing by the end, which is fun and interesting. Sparkle is up next, and Trey uses his new cursing voice box for the first time. At this point its just confusing. Sparkle is straight forward otherwise, well-played, though not at break neck speed and borderline out of control like later versions.

Next the boys jump into Stash. After shaking the rust off in the intro, the band locks in nicely. Page shines with dramatic comping behind Trey's stellar leads. At this point, the band has learned the tricks that make Stash a great far out jam, filled with tension and peaks. We get both in spades here, and the boys really push the boundaries, making the first truly standout tune of the night.

The Lizards visit us next, and it is a fine version, well played and enjoyable, and Page adds a little extra to his piano breaks. They slip in to Guelah Papyrus next. The band struggles a little to settle in. Page's organ playing is tasteful, but the bands timing is a little off at first. Luckily, the Asse Festival portion is played nicely, and the song concludes energetically, but this is the low point of the set IMO.

Trey takes the time to dedicate Divided Sky to Chris Dainty, which is a heartfelt moment. And, of course, DS pulls at the heart string on its own, so the next 12 minutes are pure Phish bliss, setting the bar higher and presenting the 2nd true highlight of the night. Trey shines for last 3 minutes, dancing around the peaks and egging his band members on, Fishman finally setting him up for the last big peak with a strong snare fill. At the 11 min mark, Trey is soaring, as good as it gets IMHO.

We join the circus in Esther, and Trey once again uses his cursing voice box, this time clearly saying "Fuck You", which gets a reaction from the crowd. Trey then tells the crowd that it was a Christmas present. Nice one. Esther gives Trey another opportunity to play a classic soaring sustained guitar lead, after kinda struggling through the middle section. It's a fine version, but the Llama that follows is from another dimension. Page comes roaring out of the gate in the intro, and the band is immediately locked in step. Page again smokes his organ solo, using a lot of chromatic runs to build tension, and, by the end, he is just wailing. He switches to the piano and Trey steps up to the plate. His solo is like a high powered drill to the chest; the energy is off the charts, but none of it sounds nice, very unsettling, even when he does reach the peaks And the valleys, they are just ridiculously demented. Leading up the 4 minute mark, Trey is a man possessed, and its great. Our 3rd highlight, in the first set! Call the exorcist after this one!

A typical closer in Golgi is fine. Nothing crazy, just a great tune played average good, Trey and Page playing around with timing in the middle instrumental section. It's different, and works OK. The set ends after the energetic chorus refrain, and Trey thanks the crowd, but I'm still reeling from the Llama as set 1 comes to a close.

Brother makes an appearance to open Set 2 at about 11:45pm. Mike slaps the bass energetically, and the organ swells above. Getting to the 2nd verse, the band stumbles a bit, but quickly locks back in. Apparently Trey's 2nd cousin, and someone twice removed, joins him as he enters the jam. They help bring back the nastiness from the Llama for a bit, not quite as chaotic, but twisted for sure. The crowd roars at the end, and then the girls in the crowd cheer (maybe some guys too) for the start of Bouncin'. It's an interesting call with less than 10 minutes until midnight, but I guess it was important to play a shorter song, so they could prepare for the countdown coming up quickly.

Buried Alive opens next, and Trey announces that they have about 2 minutes until 1992. He jumps into the lead, then teases Auld Lang Syne the 2nd go round. It works nicely, but not as smooth as some other teases in later years (NYE '95 Paug is my fave). Trey then counts down to HAPPY NEW YEAR and the band crashes into Auld Lang Syne proper. For the new year, Phish chooses Runaway Jim, a song that shred 1991 to pieces consistently. Things start all normal-like, but then Trey finds a riff at the 5 minute mark, which helps him ratchet the energy to a long sustained note. The jam continues to pick up momentum, then ends, of course, with a fiery performance from Trey and Fish in particular, the trill at the 6:30 mark making for an exciting peak. Its a great way to honor 1991, in straight Machine Gun style.

With 1991 behind us, Phish jumps into The Landlady, allowing the crowd to salsa dance with their date. Fun stuff, with Fishman really driving towards the end, but it's not til Reba that we get some more truly inspired play. Starts as normal, close to the studio version tempo. Everyone is playing well, and the lyrical part of the song, roll along nicely. The composed section is also well-executed (par for the course in '91...well '92). Fish's drum solo is precise, and the boys land in the jam smoothly. The crowd is ready, and Trey takes his time getting in. By 8 minute mark Mike is ready to drive, and he urges Trey to pick it up, playing impressive bass fills through his octave filter. This leads to the first intersting moment of the jam, as Page decides to ratchet up the tension, which eventually breaks with a peak around the 9 minute mark. Trey is then primed to soar, and proceeds to rev things up until Fishman cuts things off (a bit too soon IMO) and the band lands together at peak. The whitelisting ensues, and we bag, tag it, and sell it again.

Cavern comes next, and Fishman adds a little extra spunk in his beat. But Trey dances around the chords a few times, and just when ya think the band is gunna lock up, Trey stays out. It doesn't really work, but that's OK, cuz Pages queue to the lyrics is tasteful. Trey continues his long dragged out notes through the instrumental breaks. He also forgets some lyrics, which is comical, but doesn't help the relistenable quality of this version.

After a quick jaunt through My Sweet One, we close the set with Antelope. Bluegrass fans like me will enjoy the Nellie Kane tease in the intro, but will cringe when the band stumbles into the next part. Trey tries to make up for it buy playing what sounds like the Cities chords over the band, but it doesn't really pan out. They eventually make their way to the Em jam. It's hard for them to get settled from the start, and the jam kinda meanders for a bit. At the 5 minute mark things grow more tense and interesting, but the band isn't 100% locked in like other versions from this era. That being said, the build up at the 6.5 minute mark proves successful and the band hits one really large peak before breaking down to the final section. Trey plays some different chords in the Marco E part, which kinda works, but not really. We go through the motions, and the crowd agrees to reset their gear shift, and lets out a huge cheer as the boys close the 2nd set. A below average version of 'Lope for the era, really nothing special.

Ultimately, the 2nd set is short (about 50 minutes), which is OK, being that an absolutely stacked 3rd set is coming our way. Fishman starts with Wilson with just his kick drum, but Trey takes over and gets the band started. He also uses the cursing voice box again, and third time the charm. The voice is very clear now since its used in the breaks in between Wilson hits. It also works on another level, cuz Wilson IS a "Fucking Jerk". And this makes me realize, there is a connection to Trey using the voice box in Set 1 as well. First during Sparkle as it was a gift ("she buys a gift"), and during Esther, cuz fuck that doll is evil. Oh Trey, you so clever. The Wilson chant from the band starts and soon we are into the song proper, Trey shredding the guitar parts with fury. The breaks come around again, and again Trey nails the voice box.

Wilson ends in typical fashion, and the opening notes of Coil come forward. A standard reading here, average good, and a chance for new year's introspection and reflection during Page's extended outro. But the Tweezer that comes next elevates the energy back to party time. Trey starts the riff, and the band slowly slinks in gently. This Tweezer starts as normal, but gets a little extra mustard in the jam, and ends at roughly 13 minutes, taking its place as the longest jam of the evening. The band moves as one, and even though spend the majority of the middle part of the slowly building tense music, it works very well due to their patience. Trey is also back in the mix allowing the other guys to stand out, which also helps make the sound more cohesive. Around the 9 minute mark, the band starts chanting, which adds to the menacing feelings of the jam. It's very improvisational at this point, especially for the era, and Trey focuses on creating distorted soundscapes, and allows Fishman, Mike and Page to lock in to a straight rock groove, though, eventually, Fishman retreats back to the Tweezer beat, and Trey revs some Pete Townsend style chords over Page's echoing piano. They lock into hit the classic ending before Trey can take us to the next level. But what this jam lacks in a pick peak, it delivers in dynamic group interplay. A few years later, when the band learns to combine both, is when things really start to amaze. All in all, it's an interesting and above average take for the era.

McGrupp emerges out of Tweezer, and is a great juxtaposition of beauty after the previous jam. Despite a few stumbles (Page struggles a bit with chords during the verses), this version is well-played. By the time we hit the instrumental section, the band is humming along again, and Page delivers a nice solo, kind of reminiscent of the end of Coil. The Mike's that immediately follows again brings something a little extra. The song proper is tight, yet laid back. The 1st jam is pretty standard good for this era, Trey sustaining 1 long building screech, and Page really utilizing his organ's full potential. But when the 2nd jam ensues (pretty sure because the band stumbles after the classic Mike's build up) something is a little different. The band gets very punchy as Fishman retreats to his closed hi-hat. Trey joins in supporting Page as he continues to crush the organ. This section hints at what Phish would learn to do with the Mike's jam in later years (more groove, and less screech). After this pleasant section, the band hits the walk up build again, this time with even more gusto, and continue on to the proper ending. Great stuff, and a clear highlight from the 3rd set!

Hydrogen is beautiful, the crowd urging the band on, then and we quickly dive into Weekapaug. I really like Mike's bass solo here, with Page gently backing him up. Trey enters and we're off and running. Trey settles on a lion sleeps tonight quote for a while. When he abandons that theme, things start to peak back to standard Paug shredding territory. The band is locked in as ever, building a large foundation over which Trey can soar. Around the 4 minute mark, things really start to rage, Trey absolutely shredding, but it doesn't sustain, cuz by the 5 minute mark we are winding down to the ending refrain. A very powerful (albeit short) version that has a larger sound quality then versions from 1991. A great exclamation point to the final set!

Before the encore, Trey gives Mike's Mom a "new hand" for her new artwork acting as the stage backdrop. Fishman urges Kuroda to do some things with the lights so the band can see what it looks like in action. The Ooos and Ahhhs from the crowd are entertaining. For music, Phish chooses Lawn Boy, which is perfect in this setting. Page is my MVP for the night, so letting him croon a little is appropriate. Trey plays the Christmas song during his solo, which fits surprisingly well and is played perfectly, and is in honor of his favorite Christmas gift, the cursing voice box (LOL!). Next up is Rocky Top, which gets the crowd dancing again. And of course, out of the cheers comes the Tweeprise, and it blows the roof off one last time, just like when they started with Possum. People cheer and everyone goes home. What a night!

This is classic old school at its finest, nothing too outrageous to be found, but very well executed set lists. If you enjoy early Phish, the archival release of this NYE show is a must. Rage on!


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