Page teased HYHU before Suzy. Trey teased Dave's Energy Guide during Gin. Fish humorously stumbled through Bike, which was played by request. This show is available as an archival release on LivePhish.com.
This was my only chance to see Phish in my hometown. "Why the hell are they coming here?" everyone asked. To drop one of the best shows of the year!
I went to Deer Creek earlier in the year and had a great time. The shows didn't measure up musically to my first show in Louisville Gardens, but they were good enough to keep me coming back. Rupp Arena gave me my second magical night to hang on the rafters.
Being a hometown show, I had the ticket situation figured out. A buddy at one of the local Ticketmaster sites got all of us 4th row on the floor. After seeing so many UK basketball games from the nosebleeds, this was a treat.
Around 13,000 tickets were sold for a 24,000 capacity venue. For many bands, this would be a recipe for a lackluster show. I think the out of the way feel and the HUGE energy from the crowd set the band on fire.
The first set's energy and song selection were huge (I got my second Tela of the year in 3 shows), but the real gem was the second set. The Bathtub Gin was insane. I kept asking tour rats if this was normal. They assured me that jams like this were very rare. Page was given ample time to open up and lead the band. Trey physically and musically got out of the way. He grinned from ear to ear throughout the entire jam, even fist pumping a few times. Bike kept the unique vibe going and this still stands as my favorite Fishman solo number. The crowd tried to sing the lyrics for him, but we seemed only to make it harder for him. The strong YEM and Frankenstein finished the night off with a bang. The crowd cheered loudly as we exited the arena, a first for me. "That's how you know you saw something special," a wook told me. I already knew.
After opening with a high-energy “Chalk Dust”, the band quickly went into an early “Weigh”. Trey actually bust out his wah pedal for a guitar segment in the song, something that’s certainly not typical. The first set was held together by an impressive “Stash”, however, that’s par of the course for ’96. Entering the jam, Trey found a delicate but loud pattern. This whole show featured a louder Trey, he is real into this show. In this “Stash”, Trey was clean and crisp with darting notes. He built tension, dominating the jam. Eventually, he released before exiting the song–something he needs to do before he ends “Stashes” in this era of Phish.
“Guyute” was particularly spectacular; the ending guitar segment was crisper that I have ever remembered hearing it. Trey’s playing was soaring and stabs at your soul upon relistening. Out of the end of “Guyute” came “Free”, featuring Trey on his drum kit and a more ambient jam– par for the year. ”Free” sliped into a gorgeous “Tela” before closing with a screaming (literally and figuratively) “Character Zero”. There is a perfect mix of effects and straight-forward rocking from Trey in this “Zero”. This version marks the first time it was played with the ending vocal jam.
After an unexpected “Suzy” opener to the second set, Phish started up “Gin” without missing a note. This “Gin” was featured as a bonus track to the official release of their 12/06/1996 show. This is one of the year’s defining jams, among many standouts. The jam started normally, Trey’s casual noodling turned fierce when he discovers direction. He noodled with accuracy, not aimlessness–something many newer fans see no difference between. Trey starts picking the jam up, and it enters into a segment that is a dead-on “Runaway Jim” jam, only with more WAH. Page reprises the “Gin” theme behind Trey’s lead before they enter the second part of the jam. Trey moves over to his drum kit and Page takes the lead–we are now entering type II territory. Page’s solo becomes heavy and more prominent. Mike lays down an understated and throbbing back bone, slightly morphing it as it moves into an upbeat strut.
Trey picks his guitar back up and solos from low to high over the beat that Fish carried over from when Trey was on the kit. Red starts soaring with a pattern clearly in mind. The jam becomes heavy handed for a bit before Trey busts back out of it and starts soaring again. When Fish realizes that it’s on, he rolls out of the beat he was so stubbornly holding on to. However, Trey and Page quickly fade back, with Fish following suit. Trey starts making spooky and spacey loops with Fish only on his ride. Out of nowhere, a new jam spontaneously combusts; led by a distorted guitar, this jam lasts only a couple minutes before intensely pulsating and Fish leading.. Fish speeds up faster on the ride and joins Page in perfectly segueing into “HYHU”. They played “Bike”, per request, with Fish stumbling through it.
The “HYHU > Bike > HYHU” sandwich was merely a breather before the next monster jam of the night. The following “YEM” showcased the band in a truly and permanently transformative month for their music.
In one of the most heavy-handed examples of Trey starting the ’97 era of ‘cow funk’, Trey relentlessly used his wah and his new style of jamming immediately after “BOY!” on this particular night. Trey goes into a thick funk during and after the “Wash Uffuzi” segment; I love playing this song for people that are not familiar how funky late ’96 really was. Mike quickly caught on to what Trey was doing and started using a new bass effect to highlight the improv’s smooth thickness. The effect he was using is what would become the ever-popular ‘underwater’ sound that was so prevalent after he switched from his Languedoc bass to his Modulus Q5.
Fish sped up the tempo of his hi-hat while page led. Trey started alternating between funk chords and punctuated notes. The band started riding what Trey was doing, stopping periodically for Mike’s funky interjections (what would become the start/stops and funky break downs of 1997). Page changes pace completely, hops on his synth, and starts mimicking the notes Mike is playing. It’s a sound I have never heard Page play outside of this one song in this one show. Page sounded like he’s fresh off the P-Funk Mothership.
Eventually, they all snap into the next section with a drum roll cuing all to follow. Trey sinks back into the funk for a while before sliding his finger down the guitar’s neck to get low, setting up a lick taken straight out of the “YEM” NYE ’95 version. Most fans will know what I’m talking about; it’s the epic, peak-building lick that set MSG ’95′s ”YEM” through the roof. The jam eventually sinks back down and dissolves into a melodic, rather than rhythmic, bass & drums section.
Reviewed upon the archival audio release... Phish once again shows that they can do anything, this time by burning down the house in what was apparently then being advertised as the largest arena in America. Many phans agree that 1996 was a transitional year--due to a variety of factors, but mainly because of the awe-inspiring sea change in Phish's sound that occurred with the ushering in of the cowfunk era in 1997--but that doesn't mean it's to be skipped, as many of those same and some other phans also agree. You've got the Clifford Ball, the inaugural large-scale Phish festival, an Europe tour, and many highlights sprinkled throughout a year that saw more shows played than is de rigeur in the common era of 3.0. This show is a great example of where Phish was at in 1996, the previous standalone release of the Bathtub Gin from this show ("The Rupp Gin") on the Road to Vegas Bonus CD packaged with Vegas 96 DVD pre-orders notwithstanding. Now on to the music!
The energy is palpable from the beginning crowd roars. Chalk Dust Torture appears in its then-standard show-opener variety--far removed from the extended, psychedelic 2nd-set versions of nowadays--but is played with relentless verve and really kicks you off right in showing the benefit of recording in multitrack. Guelah Papyrus has an interesting recurring variation in the first half or so of this rendition that makes that song--one of my favorites of the songs yet to receive true Type-II treatment--a little more gripping than usual. Stash, simply put, smokes. I mentioned above that '96 is often viewed as a transitional year, but it's Stashes like this one that show even a "transitional year" of Phish is unmissable. It's not difficult to understand the "fire" metaphors often employed by longtime phans to describe performances like this one. We get a breather in a beatific Waste that showcases Trey's vocals in a very flattering way, an arguably standard Guyute that is nonetheless met with screams of glee, and then it's Free time. If I remember correctly, Free was only about a year and a half old at this time. This setlist seems very intelligently constructed to appeal to the natural ambiance of an arena as large as Rupp, and Phish doesn't miss a beat in providing an uplifting and mostly rocking first frame that steps into Tela before closing with another new song, Character Zero. MVP of set, for my money? Jon "butt with ancillary arms and legs" Fishman.
Phish has almost always tended to really let loose in the second set. There's some fun ribbing of Fish not having "sung this tour yet" before the opening Suzy Greenberg which does in fact see Fish... sing?!? Kind of a James Brown series of excited yelps, but fun! The funk is nimble and groovy, with Trey laying back into his percussion rack for a minute or so before the closing portion. Now for the infamous Rupp Gin, whew! I'll say little about this jam, which really has to be heard personally to be appreciated for its many virtues, but I noticed upon this relisten that it seems to presage the vaunted Went Gin in the soaring, majestic, if somewhat monochromatic (in the sense of little modulation) long jam, which eventually culminates in a section reminiscent of some of '94 and '95's weirder, more "out" excursions. HYHU > Bike > HYHU is phun and bantery. Fish takes his Bike out and nearly wrecks it, though we're all in this together and it's securely weird. The YEM that closes the second set is particularly long, though not as whipcrack-tight as you can find in earlier Phish, or even other shows from 1996. Frankenstein closes out the show in style, evincing the fact that Phish are nearly inhuman (!) in this phan's opinion in that they--from early on in their career--broke out of the box of prepackaged rock shows with their formulaic setlists played the same from night to night, by throwing curveballs wherever appropriate in a relentlessly experimental yet cohesive fashion that continues to engender appreciation amongst music cognoscenti to this day. I'm not saying it's aliens, but it was aliens.
Great show, great candidate for release, upgrade in sound, and generally enthusiastically welcomed additional option of how to spend this March morning!
Took my girlfriend at the time to her first show. Took my brother to his 2nd and his girlfriend was her 1st. They all loved the show along with me. I took an 1/8th of shrooms so don't remember much other then the fact that the girl I took to the show hated Phish prior and loved them after. Thanks boys.
This is a very solid show, from start to finish. First set is fun and flows pretty nicely in my opinion. CDT, Weigh>Rift>Guelah is an awesome star to a show and the Stash that follows rips. A chill out in Waste and one of my personal faves Guyute following. Another great '95 Free jam and an always welcome first set Tela keep the set rolling with a fiery Zero jam to close this set out. Solid set to lead into....
Suzy set 2 opener, liked this and was unexpected as I didn't look at the setlist before listening to the show. GIN. Man oh man is this a jam, goes through so much, rigbht up there with all the other epic Gin's in my opinion. -> into HYHU is lot's of fun and gets the cheery vibe going again after a pretty weird finish to that Gin jam (Weird in a great way of course). Nice rarity in Bike and an INSANE MUST HEAR YEM!! This YEM rages for nearly a half hour and caps off this crazy set in perfect fashion. Frankenstein encore is an awesome choice and must have has the energy in that place through the roof after showtime. 4/5 is my vote!
Who would ever think that a Thursday night show in Kentucky could be so hot. This show is one of the best from this tour. The highlight is Bathtub Gin. Page drinks this Gin down. The Chairman stands out in this version more than usual and it is a pleasure to hear. I had to listen to Gin 4 times because I could not comprehend its immensity. Take a listen. I just wish Phish was introduced to me earlier than 2000.
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