, attached to 1991-02-15

Review by kevinAreHollo

kevinAreHollo A friend was listening to the 7/12 GCH show from this same venue today and of course it brought this gem to mind. I'm going to have to politely disagree with Tim, this is FAR from average, no matter what era you prefer or what your benchmarks for greatness are.

Some reasons for this may include: the venue (Trey remarks during the second set how happy he is playing in this room, and how great the crowd is), the sound (it's one of the most perfect early audience recordings I've ever heard), the setlist (I'm aware that many shows from this year featured a lot of the same tunes, heavy on the Nectar stuff but hot damn if this show doesn't feature a near-perfect flow in both frames), the playing!

I'm not shy about my preference for early to mid-90's Phish. Much of this has to do with set and setting: I was in my formative psychedelic years when I discovered these guys. But just as importantly, this particular incarnation of the band, with Trey's ridiculously knotty jazz metal tone, and Mike's newly minted Languedoc bobbing and weaving, Page's electric piano cutting through everything like a hot butter knife. And Fish, this LSD-addled poly-rhythmic freak? The band would get tighter, sure. They refine their sound is '92 and add the baby grand in '93. By 1995 they'd be a throbbing gristle machine. But I kinda prefer the wildness of 1991. It's a little messy, it's chaotic, and the pell-mell nature of the playing lends itself perfectly to these songs.

God I miss these slower, sludgy Wilsons. They remind me of my favorite doom metal bands, if only until the verses kick in. But the crowd roars its approval (who is that whistler?) and this is the first moment I think the band can feel their energy. They respond with Divided Sky and let me just say, I'm not sure there was a better year for this song. Check out 10/6/91 for another absolutely shredded version.

Things just ratchet up another notch with Split Open and Melt. They fall immediately into a hey-hole filled jam on the normal changes, letting the space drop out completely before crashing back in together. This kind of locked-in listening permeates the entire show. Add in those tones I mentioned and the result is a band that's operating at an incredibly high jazz-band level but ripping shit up like a Bay area thrash outfit bent on destruction. This Llama fucking swings.

What can I say about this second set? It helps to know that I agonized and fawned over every note from the moment I heard it in Gabe Lang's bedroom. His neighbor was friends with the original taper and a handful of this dude's tapes made their way back to Ohio and into our grubby resin-stained hands. We only had the second set but Lord Jesus what a set it is. They come out the gate with the Bowie gun blazing. The intro and teases are so menacing! And when the beat does drop, Mike's bass threatens to drown the room. Trey is on fire with this one, even that super long descending lick is flawless. His playing from this time period always makes me think he had something to prove. I love it. And if anyone can tell me what he's saying under the second echoing chorus, I'll buy you a soda.

The riff that Trey builds at the start of this Bowie jam is so rad. The rest of the band picks up on the dynamics of it so quickly, falling right in behind him to create a syncopated series of roller coaster crescendos. Again, that near-telepathic level of listening, it's all over this set. The full-band stop appears out of NOWHERE, perhaps signaled by the Charlie Chan but this was pre-Secret Language. Baffling but so cool to hear.

This is my favorite Ya Mar hands down all time. Mike's fretless sounding solo as Trey comes in with his chording to start, Trey's first solo with Fish cowbell accompaniment, it's all just perfection. King Sunny Ade would be proud. Page's organ has never sounded more ballpark. I can smell the peanuts and hot dogs! I honestly think this is one of Triscuit's greatest achievements in guitar soloing. And the whistler, whoever you are, your perfectly timed zing during Trey's happy birthday quote, I fucking love you, dude.

A few more things to mention: the Bag is nuts. Some of the wildest Trey soloing I've heard. Discordant doesn't do it justice. He sounds possessed. Maniacal. Demented. And they get it all done in 6 minutes. Whoever said length matters?

Mike's bass tone, not to beat a dead 'Doc, it's so huge in this Hood. He stepped on the pedal briefly during the Melt intro, but he must have turned something up because when he comes in, the riff he unleashes is insane. It's some sort of octave I think, with maybe a flanger? Either way, it rules.

Only these guys would encore with an 8 minute jazz standard and just shred it to pieces. Slinky, sultry, funky and just perfectly Phish. They never should have shelved this one.

Oh and they came back out for a double encore. I'd say both band and fans alike were above-average stoked on this one.


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