Whistling in both the opening section and closing "Marco Esquandolas" section.
Maze was unfinished. Trey dedicated Guyute to Paul Languedoc in reference to Paul’s purported comment to the band that any song with whistling is a good song. Consequently, Antelope contained whistling in both the opening section and closing “Marco Esquandolas” section.
Historical note: Fall '97 was a great time for Wolfman's Brother. Though it's a standalone tune now as it was in 1999-2000, the Wolf's Bro was a 'Type II' vehicle in 1997-98, and all four Fall versions (11/14, 11/19, 11/30, 12/7) end in gin-u-wine segue arrows, and earn them. In those days the song's sly minimalist funk was central to the band's improvisatory approach - for the first time Phish weren't afraid to play sexy dance music and MEAN it, so their dance tunes could integrate smoothly into the overall flow of a long-form improvisatory set.
(Compare to the awkward, clattering stop/start Tweezer experiments of 1993-94, say, before the boys were able to play dance-funk without placing tongue firmly in cheek; look too at the number of early YEMs that swerved off into clever quote-a-thons and ancient riffs, as opposed to the slinky late-90's style and today's dead serious rock approach.)
Now for this transcendent show...
The second set really is what it looks like: Wolfman's > Piper > Twist > Slave, blending together the ethereal delicacy and enveloping darkness of late 1997 before a tiny, attentive crowd. Wolfman's Brother clonks back and for for a while before developing a spacey echt-'97 groove, all hazy atmospherics and feathery drumbeats; as the jam opens up a welcoming major-chord pattern evolves, and Piper bubbles up in its own time. It's a lovely Piper, building slowly to a midtempo climax - the song hadn't yet turned into a musical greyhound race in those days. After the late lamented Piper coda, Trey starts up the haunting original Twist arrangement...
...and (surprise surprise) Fall '97 was a good time for Twist too. Trey keeps things mellow with his guitar comping, Mike lets some weird dissonant chords loose from his bass, Page plays some tricks on the piano, Fishman is his usual larking-gnome self behind the drumkit, and the groove involutes and complicates into a gorgeous full-band statement - a futuristic precursor to 11/22's 'space jam' out of Halley's Comet. Trey hangs out in the ionosphere, soloing for several minutes, as the other players drop out. This is the template: between this Twist jam and the ambient Stash from the previous night in Vegas you can discern the outline of the whole tour's weeks-long subterranean melody. It's a powerfully emotional moment wholly distinct from, say, Trey's digital delay loop jams from Back in the Day (e.g. 12/31/95, 5/7/94).
The opening chords of Slave coalesce out of the mist, and the next 15 minutes are sublime. It's a short set (less than an hour!), but the music flows so effortlessly that it seems like one long song. This is dream-music - musical psychedelia in the truest sense of the word.
And the first set? Every minute of it is excellent, from the swamp funk of Gumbo to the startling Maze > FEFY > 2001 sequence (yes those are proper segues) to an atomic Antelope closer. If you only know post-hiatus Phish, an opening frame like this one might come as a revelation, and even for relatively experienced fans this is a treasure.
Phish just didn't play bad music in Fall '97; this show doesn't get the same attention as Denver or Hampton or Dayton, but it's every bit as good as the rest of the tour - a single cohesive musical statement to reward a tiny out-of-the-way audience. Other shows can claim to be Greater in some sense, but this is the deep stuff right here. The purest essence.
Been revisiting this show lately for a variety of reasons, and I wanted to add a couple of things to my earlier review. First of all, I'd like to strengthen my recommendation: any other year but 1997 we'd be talking about 11/14/97 as a Best of Tour candidate, if we talked that way at all, but it continues to hide out in the shadow of 11/22, 12/6, 11/17, 12/7, 11/29 -- not coincidentally the shows that have gotten official soundboard releases over the years. It is every bit as good as the rest of Fall Tour, and sets the *mood* for the rest of the November/December shows: dream-music, lullabies and nocturnes, smooth emergent musical-emotional contours, extraordinarily patient psychedelic soundscapes. What's more, every single improvisation is gifted with something unusual -- the grand segue into Piper and that melodramatic extended opening (with Mike pinning down the midtempo beat and the music washing against and around it like a river cruelly dammed); deeply Weird sounds in the FEFY > 2001 transition; a Slave jam that seems to unwind over hours or years, mutating slowly into coronation music; Trey's decision to leave a deranged version of Maze unfinished, flowing into Fast Enough for You instead...and of course marquee performances of Wolfman's Brother (lurching funk, unresolved, backlights a coiled creature whose angel form would emerge two weeks later in Worcester) and Twist. Of course. Twist, the first 'space jam' of fall, is the moment when the rhythmic/erotic gravity of Phish's yearlong experiment in funk finally loses its hold on the band, Trey especially, and we hear the natural consequence of Phish's still-new minimalist method: a dense rich sonic sculpture, minimal form and maximal colour, light tumbling down an irresistible gradient of want (void's horizon, final event) to die within a dark made of *all* dark, a literal timeless place if it's a place at all...
This was the moment when Phish stopped giving their fans a Great Value for the Money, stopped being the Best Night Out in Rock, and transformed into something deeper and stranger. It seems to me this music could only have come out of the band consciously rejecting the urge, the felt need, to be anything in particular. Having burnt fuel at an extraordinary rate in 1994-96 and consciously reached for a rhythmic-experimental lifeline in spring and summer '97, the band came to the desert able (because for the very first time *willing*) to glide noiselessly through space, to listen hard to starlight rather than needing to throw off sparks. They're not showing off here, not even a little bit. Can you imagine how hard that must have been for someone like Trey Anastasio? For a mind like his to quiet down to this degree? But here they are moving beyond funk as *style* to minimalism of every sort as *method*, and finding the opposite of the academic austerity that 'minimalism' seems to imply -- an intense negative pressure that pulls from them something theretofore hidden and secret.
The difference between the breakthroughs of Fall 97 and Phish's previous 'psychedelic' playing is that there isn't a hint of forebrain in these shows. They move logically from tune to tune, but it's an emotional logic, joyfully (and darkly) irrational. Wonderland is a scary place, ask Alice. The intuitive group movement and deliberate unself-conscious evolution within and between improvisations, sets, and whole shows is the main thing separating the dark spaces of Fall 97 from previous experiments that could be antagonistic, or cute, or narrowly representational. I think I've said this before: old Phish could sound like what sad lonely music sounds like, but by Fall 97 the music could finally just be sad and lonely (and much else besides). Maybe that's the essence of their maturity as artists. 'The *biggest* idea...communication.' You can hear some of that in the Vegas show, to be sure -- there's a reason folks get weepy about the Vegas Stash -- but something emerged full grown on this night. Not just a dreamy second set, but an enveloping nightlong experience that moved from effortless mastery to a frightening intensity of engagement in the first set, and then to (what I hear as) perfect presentness in the strange winding road of the second set.
You may prefer other shows from this monthlong journey -- Everyone Knows 12/6 Is the Best, and so ploddingly forth -- but listening now I'm startled by the rapidity of the band's transformation, these first few nights of tour, from the guys who played that heartbreaking Gin and asswiggling 2001 at the Great Went to the ghost travellers darkly whispering on this night. Ultimately it's not about 'funk' at all, but about the natural consequences of embracing musical democracy and patient beat-first groove building and intense emotional presence as first principles and just seeing where it took them.
I know I should write more about other things, and let Fall 97 be, but as much as this 'review' is about the music (which is quite good, y'know; you can tell your friends quite confidently it's *good music*), it's about recognizing when four human beings, Artists almost incidentally, are undergoing a scary, thrilling transformation among strangers, and emerging -- constantly; still emerging, in fact -- as a new greater body, more robust and capable and complexly alive than ever before. You should listen to this show sometime because everything about it is, in some way, strange and new. It's brave as hell.
Our favourite band is four very brave guys. They brought back a beautiful piece of darkness to share among friends. How darkly deadly dreamily swell of them.
So Joyful. So Chilled Out... I splashed out to get my brother and I front row tickets for his birthday. And we were rewarded. The arena was about half empty as most of the drug scene, quite understandably, avoided Utah. The police were out in full force, too, although they also relaxed as soon as they figured out that we cold, hardcore mountain types, who came out for a nicely scheduled weekend tour, (together with Denver) arrived tickets in hand, bright-eyed and were actually there for the music. Seriously: A lot of people 'on tour' just elected to not put in the effort to hit this show. I am quite confident that it was because of the quality of the audience at this spectacular show that a year later, Phish chose to play Dark Side of the Moon not in Vagas, as everyone was expecting, but at the E Centre in Salt Lake. Such a great atmosphere, you can really hear the unity in the second set. The first set we were pushing pushing them, faster and faster, (Page was ripping!) and they were almost competing with one another in Runaway Jim and Maze (They were all four just... Blistering!) until Trey broke down and started playing Fast Enough in the middle of Maze!!! It was too good, too right, too real to just let the song end... so they simply didn't finish it. To let us cool down. Brilliant. And it was during Also Sprach Zarathustra that security decided they had no reason to have so many officers around and sent them home to their families. It was almost a security-free show after that, although I saw a few offstage during Antelope who had stuck around to dance.
But it is the second set that makes this show really stand out. I wish I could say that they played only four songs in the second set but I cannot. They played one block of solid music around some tunes, including two new ones we had not heard before: the fourth Piper and the fourth Twist to be played in the USA. They were still working out the chords, harmonies and lyrics for Twist, too, not always 'agreeing' on what to sing or play; all in perfect synchrony somehow. Twist and Slave here in this show are something... something special. Something you don't get at many shows. The list could read Twist > Space > Slave. I am so lucky to have been part of this uniquely patient, fearless and peaceful show. The next year I gave my brother his 2 birthday tickets to Salt Lake again but I didn't go because I had to work!
I mail ordered for a single ticket, flew to SLC alone. Hung with some nice peeps in the parking lot. I had no idea where my seat was. When I showed my ticket to the usher and they sent me down to the floor. Cool, a floor ticket. When I got to the floor, i flashed my ticket, and they told me to keep walking toward the stage. Came upon the next security dude, he told me to keep going, and so on....2nd Row, dead center....best reserved ticket Ive ever had....Great times!
Jim starts the show out strong. Very solid short version with a good full band peak. Gumbo starts up the funk. Thick wah laced vamping eventually fades into a short effects laden spacey section with some great minor notes from Mike. Maze is next, and it is a killer version. Page has a great solo, and Trey's lead section is awesome. The build of tension during this part is incredibly precise and purposeful, yet retains that unpredictable and loose '97 feel. The peak is a little wobbly with no one quite coming together perfectly, but it's still very high energy. This version is unfinished, and bleeds into FEFY. I like this song a lot, and it works well as a breather. Trey's solo is a little sloppy at parts, but finishes strong. 2001 starts with a minute or so of space and then funks along for about ten minutes. Not a lot to say about this version, which isn't a bad thing. It's your standard '97 2001. Ten minutes of unabashed stagnant funk. This leads into Funky Bitch which is well played. A error-less Guyute is next which is always good. Antelope is really good. Good build to an interesting peak where Trey uses metal chords rather than individual notes. Gives a different, heavier feel to the song. BBFCFM tease possibly?
Wolfman's Brother starts out just pure funk and eventually gives away into a slightly looser, spacier jam. Very pretty towards the end. True -> segue into Piper. This is before the days Piper was a jam vehicle, so it's only about seven minutes long, but Trey actually has a killer solo at the end. Twist starts up and begins with some really tight funk. Mike is all over the place here, in a good way. He's pushing the jam along, making it interesting. The music eventually starts to fade/turn into a wall of sound of sorts and fizzles away into just Trey playing over a synth note. Trey's solo here is incredibly pretty, and made up of mostly arpeggios. Mike joins in at the end for a minute or so, and Slave begins. This is a very patient Slave. It takes time to build, but it's never boring. The peak is beautiful as well.
Bold as Love. I love this song, and Page does a decent vocal job this time.
This entire show is really good. Solid first set and an incredible four song second set.
This is a pretty low key show. Maze, Antelope, and Guyute have their peaks like normal, but aside from those this show doesn't hit too many other highs, which is A-OK with me because the funk is in full force. Gumbo grooves like a boss, 2001 is taken a little slower and is funky as all get out, and Wolfman's is premium funktown. Twist isn't as funky as those just mentioned, but is a beautiful jam that is not to be missed. And everything else is played with that special energy that fall 97 had, you know what I'm talking about.
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