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Permalink Posted by n00b100 on , attached to 1997-08-17
n00b100It's kind of hard to talk about this show, as it is a) the closing night of what most people would consider Phish's best festival, and b) as of this writing the #2 rated show on Phish.net. Which, I mean...Set I is perfectly fine but doesn't stand out from hundreds and hundreds of other first sets that Phish have played, and the third set is the kind of set that Phish would get utterly castigated for today if they played it at a big event or pretty much any circumstance other than the final set of an outdoor festival (take a look at 12/31/11 and tell me any of those sets are that different from this third set). What that basically means, then, is that people are rating this show that highly based upon the second set, and that that second set would have to be the second coming of Jesus crossed with 12/6/97 II crossed with a basket full of puppies, with a veritable host of "best (insert song here) ever"s, to justify this show being ranked above every show Phish has every played outside of Big Cypress.

Well...it isn't, but darned if it doesn't give it the old college try, and it's no exaggeration to call 8/17/97 II one of the almighty Phish sets. DWD blends Phish's congealing funk style with some good old fashioned hard rocking, then slows to a crawl for Trey to fire off some nice licks before hitting a blissful, spacey groove (I enjoy the guy on my recording saying "they should go into something fast after this") and riding it into a really weird, but fun Trey/Mike duet, which then segues into Gin. And this Gin, of course, is widely considered one of the finest versions ever, and rightly so - the major chord jam the band breaks into is one of the most uplifting moments the band's ever produced, sheer beauty nearly unmatched in the Phish live catalog. And then it segues into Uncle Pen, but why not, right?

Then comes the second half (yes, the second half) of this monster set, starting with the 2001 to end all 2001s. Even the usual four-on-the-floor disco thump Fishman gives the song has a little added oomph to it, as he throws in some extra bass drum kicks to give the song the extra dose of funk a big-event performance deserves. The jam itself is something to behold, all surround-sound siren noises and wah-wah licks and Page's invaluable organ playing and Mike laying down glorious line after glorious line, never letting up in intensity while still remaining as chilled out as every other great 2001. It's 23 minutes of solid funk bliss, a brilliant trailer for what awaited Phish fans in the fall, and to top things off Phish segue into an "art jam" that is really more background music than full-on jam but still sounds entirely pleasant enough to serve as worthy coda to what came before. And then a lovely, lovely Hood closes things out, replete with glowsticks aplenty, a superb way to end a superb set.

So is that enough to make this the second best Phish show ever? It seems apparent that my answer is no; however, that doesn't mean it's not a truly fantastic Phish show, one that's worth listening to by anyone starting out on the road to Phish fandom. You'll enjoy the first and third sets, and keep that second set forever. That's something special, star ratings or no star ratings.
Score: 5

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