My view from the first row, thanks to arduous waiting all night, was excellent! Discussing what a possible opener might be, trying to endure the long wait for first row, we all chuckled at my sister's vote: "Mike's Song". "Wouldn't that be funny," we all thought.
Well, not only was it funny, it was incredible. Trey started it out much slower than most, giving it a funkier feel. After the lyrics, they started the normal jam, but it was not as funky as the typical Summer `97 "Mike's" had been. Mike, however, was solidly laying down the groove throughout. There was never any Type III jamming, if my memory serves me correctly, but there was a lot of Type II exploratory jamming. A spacey jam segued very nicely into "H2", with Trey starting with the two modulating notes that Mike normally plays. "Hydrogen" was standard, but Trey and Page were really playing off each other's notes, while facing each other.
Then came "Weekapaug". It was powerful throughout, fast and loud, with solid Type I jamming. Then they stopped all together on Trey's count. Phish has gotten really good at this in my opinion. We all thought the song was over. But then out of nowhere, the band came roaring back, much funkier than before, and Trey went off, ripping a jaw-dropping, show-stopping solo. Then, they ended. Whew! The pause was very much like the pause in "Ghost", and the return to "Weekapaug" was really funky, in a "Weekapaug"ian kind of way. Needless to say, this was the best show-opener that I've ever seen.
After some banter on what to play, Fish started "Hood". I was astounded by this first set, and they had only played three songs. The composed part of "Hood" was normal, played with no flubs. I must say that I hate how everybody yells "Hood!" these days after the band sings "Harry!" I really wish that had never been started. Anyway, the jam started out beautifully. Fishman kept with the light, spacey feel, as is common with the start of most "Hood" jams, by riding on his rivet cymbal. The lights complimented perfectly with the music; we were all just floating through space. I don't remember the jam too well after that, but it seemed standard (which means beautiful, melodious jamming) and again Page and Trey really seemed to be working together nicely. They didn't end on one solid note though, which I guess is common these days, but I must say, I really like when they slam the last chord and end it abruptly, like the one on A Live One.
"Train Song" followed this incredible start. It mellowed the crowd out a lot, which might have prompted them to play "Billy Breathes". Throughout "Billy", I watched Mike and everyone else basically struggle with the changes, almost as if they had forgotten them. After this, Trey yelled to Fishman, "Frankenstein!" and in they went to the hard-driving Edgar Winter cover. This "Frankenstein" was really funky. That's right, funky! Trey accomplished this by using more staccato notes. Then they ripped into "Izabella". I'd never heard this live, but I couldn't really get into it that much. I was probably still reeling from the first part of the set.
Set break: Now began my quest for "Destiny". The night before the show, I printed up about thirty copies of "Destiny Unbound"'s first lines, along with an optional chorus. The caption under the header "Destiny Unbound" read: "A pathetic attempt to get Phish to play a song they'll never play again." Anyway, with the help of my new friend Nate (the security guard), I passed out the flyers down the first row. Screaming, trying to let everyone hear, I led everyone in a few practices of the lines, just to warm our voices up. By the way, thank you to all the eager participants (especially my "other side of first row spokesman") who helped carry out my project. I had always wanted to see what I could do with this, and it turned out really well, I thought.
So, at the beginning of the second set, after the crowd died down, all of us (I think a lot more joined in for the real thing) started chanting the lines, at different times, mind you. It was quite loud. My friend, who was sitting well above Page, said he could easily hear it. We got really astonished looks from Page, Trey, and Jon (not Mike of course), and Trey went over and said a few words to Page. Both were laughing in a "caught off guard" sort of way. Then Trey said something to the effect of, "What is that cannibalistic chant? It sounds like, Rah, ror rah oh ror rah" in his best monster voice. Then he said, "What, has human sacrifice become part of the show? Come on then, bring it up here!" Then he started stabbing downward with his guitar as if stabbing the human sacrifice. The band members were all really getting a kick out of this, but we didn't really get anything out of Mike. As good as this attempt was, Mike started singing "Halley's", seemingly unamused by our shenanigans.
I was really psyched when he started up "Halley's" though, because I really enjoyed the one at the Went. My hopes that they would jam this one out were answered tenfold. After the lyrics, Trey yelled to Mike, "Stay in F!" And thus, we entered "porno-funk" land. It did not, however, start out as funky as other songs have this past Summer Tour. It was heavy, groove-oriented Type II jamming with strong hints of Type III. Trey was ecstatic, loving every note that was being released from the stage. His movements throughout the whole show really seemed to be drug- or alcohol-induced, although more likely, musically induced. He appeared to love the jam, and slowly it evolved, although keeping the groove throughout. Little by little, it developed into a more free-flowing, melodious jam. Fishman started laying down a much slower, more flowing beat with a lot of rim shots and cymbal work and the rest followed suit. This part of the jam, definitely twenty-plus minutes, reminded me so much of the "Mike's" from 11/21/95 Winston-Salem, the slow part with Trey's beautiful melody. If you haven't heard this jam, you really need to check it out. This "Halley's" jam was really good. It fused together the Type II jamming characteristic of, say, `94 "Tweezer"s, and the Type III jamming of this summer, a groove-oriented ride into funk. (I think the Type III jamming moniker should also incorporate the definition of a groove-oriented jam, not just pure funk.)
Trey then busted into "Tweezer", which I don't remember much of, unfortunately. Then, well along into the jam, Trey said something to Mike which I thought/dreamed was "Let's play `Destiny'" but wasn't. He then turned and spoke to Page, then to Fish. I assume he was telling them to play "Black-Eyed Katy", because on Trey's count, they all played distinctly rhythmic notes, with Fishman kind of filling in the beats where everyone else wasn't playing. (It was a really fast rhythmic pattern.) I assumed that it was "Black-Eyed Katy" and that it would be funky. Yep, it was funky. Then, they seemed to go back into "Tweezer" and ended again with a spacey fade out, but not before heavily teasing "Cities". "Piper", which I like, was very powerful. With each second, it got faster and more powerful! It seemed longer than other "Piper"s that I heard that summer.
"Antelope"! That's all I have to say. Rather, that's all they have to play to get the crowd incredibly pumped. There was such uproar when they went into the fast part after the beginning that my ears hurt. After a seemingly endless jam, which was like most "Antelope"s, they brought it way down. "Rye Rye Rocco"...Michael (points) Esquandolas." No reaction from Mike. After "Rye Rye," they flubbed the usual segue into the "You gotta run" part, but they managed to bring it back with even more energy when everything got organized. Trey lit up the crowd with "Set the gearshift for the high gear of your soul!" After they ended, the crowd went totally nuts. My ears were hurting from the thirteen thousand screaming fans. My ears don't normally hurt at shows, so maybe that should tell you something about the show.
This was an awesome way to end the show, and my thoughts for an encore soon enveloped my brain. Having missed the previous night's "Guyute" encore, I was hoping for something special. Although "Bouncin'" wasn't quite what I was looking for, I liked it as I always do. I think it is a really well-written song, unlike a lot of people. Then "Tweezer Reprise" blasted through the speakers, which was nice, but it unfortunately meant the end of the show. Trey was ecstatic, dancing all over the stage, just waiting for Fishman's accompaniment.
It ended an incredible show very nicely, in my opinion. The show had the most jamming I have ever heard at any one Phish concert. Even more than 12/31/95 New York, I think, if you compare the length of the show with the percentage of jamming that occurred. All in all, it was way up there in my list of the greatest that I have seen.