No review can do justice to this experience, but I'll try. It was my 22nd birthday, and the night of the first Phish.Net gathering, so the atmosphere for me was particularly giddy. But anyone there at the time would have been thrown by the relentless spontaneity.
The second set of this show is routinely listed among "must have"
recordings. There was magic in the air starting with the first set the previous night. But mere minutes into this set, it was clear that things were going a step higher. It is perhaps the most debated of Phish setlists, with so many overlays and reprises that any two fans probably list it differently. For its time, the twists and turns were religious. A cadre of diehards, front and center, scrambled with pens and scratched their heads trying to keep track of the setlist. One Matt Laurence ultimately gave a blank stare and tossed his paper into the air.
The show so stood out from others of its time that its popularity inflated its status for many years to follow. (The availability of high-quality soundboards furthered both the popularity and the status.) In retrospect, the improvisation was relatively tame, and the energy (as conveyed on tape) was higher at other shows of the same era.
Granted, many aspects of Phish shows (and life generally) are impossible to record. But the site of Fishman naked, or the band exploding a drumkit, are imaginable. For anyone who has seen Phish in recent years, the mystique of restless song shifts is probably more confounding than compelling. But for anyone who was there that night, or who saw shows or has heard tapes from that era, the flow is laudable. It wasn't the best Phish show ever, but itwas one of the best ones to experience - a beautiful buzz.