Let me just say that Merriweather has historically sucked. The '98 show was a blast, but traffic had us tied up for 2 1/2 hours before we found a better way to go. The '99 show was a mediocre show, and we waited in traffic forever again! This year, we just blew past the traffic, got off the highway like 2 miles down and found our way there in about 20 minutes. Perfect. The vibe at the show was weird. You'd think it was sketchy since a bunch of cops were nabbing glass/shirt/veggie burrito vendors, but we just passed that scene and found a great hang out where the temperature was just right. We hung out for a few hours before we headed in, met some folks we knew, and found our seats. I got my little Blackberry two-way pager ready to zip along the setlist instantly to ultra-dedicated phish-dorks like me all across the internet at gadiel.com and phans.com.
Set 1: Guyute may signify big things to some, but to me it's standard fare nowadays. Funny, in retrospect, that this opened the show, since it was the only minute I wasn't absolutely thrilled at what I was watching! The break right before the 'spooky part' was really long, like almost two minutes, kinda neat. Back on the Train isn't my favorite either, but this was a solid version that really was fun. It was played last year at Merriweather, and this version took the cake. Gin was a treat. It didn't deviate too far from the general theme, but it got the crowd up a notch. Limb by Limb, another repeat from last year, was very well played as well. I can't seem to get sick of this song. Every time, I think it's fantastic. Up next was a clean version of Moma that was truly as plain as Moma can be, but it was well placed, and thus, I was still reeling from the Gin and Limb. Lawn Boy was a relaxing loungy break from the funk. Then, after a minute-long conference, they settled on Fluffhead, which for some reason, I had assured my buddies would show up tonight. Fluffhead is a treat, plain and simple. So it was with absolute joy that I tapped out the beat to Bundle of Joy and screamed "Fat Bulk Expanse Mass Lump Block Clod!" I love that song, and there's no way to communicate to someone who has never seen Phish the love you feel during "The Arrival" when the whole crowd songs "FLUFFHEAD!" at the end. That could have been the end of the set, but instead, out comes The Curtain. This is one of my favorite songs too. A really dead-on version followed. I can acknowledge that I'm a Phish freak...for years, one of my 'top-ten Phish wishes' has been to see The Curtain With. So as the regular version would down and slowed down instead of ending suddenly, I felt my entire body shiver. I knew I was about to see the the Curtain WITH that amazing jam I love so much. Ah, the sweet Rift-y part, then that Reba-esque jam...it's enough to make one cry. I was absolutely speechless. Sure the set was over, I sat down and almost spaced out for a fast rock-n-roll version of Chalkdust. The setlist may not reflect it, but I was sure that Trey got messed up. He missed a cue during the chorus, so they stretched it out a few measures. Then he looked lost and spent the rest of the song staring at Mike and Page waiting for a cue. Interesting that though he may have been lost, the song still was rip roaring awesome! First set clocked in at almost 100 minutes, totally 100% rockin. This set beat the last two years of Merriweather combined.
Setbreak: I went to the bathroom, bumped into a friend, took my seat, set 2 started. It was perfect. (Actually, it was a short setbreak, but who's counting?)
Set 2 opened with Rock n' Roll, which is a great song. I loved the NYE version, but this was more concise and really kept the vibe right where they left off. Had they broken out Circus, Roggae, or anything too slow here, they might have killed the super-drive they already had kicked off. They were truly in high gear. Fish's 4/4 hi-hat beats suggested Theme about 30 seconds before there was any other trace of it, and this Theme was a good one. There were some weak spots, but they were forgivable mistakes given the precedent of the evening at that point. I heard Dog Log coming, but Fish was playing a beat that was almost identical to the beat from Frankie Says. This Dog Log is really cool, it has a funky wavy kinda beat kicking in the background. It is a must hear. Sounded like everyone, especially those on stage, were having a blast at that point. From the roaring applause of Dog Log came Mango, which is another favorite of mine. God, this setlist is like gold! This Mango ranks among the top five I've ever heard on tape or elsewhere! So much fun! The jam degenerated into a dark, drummy bass filled jam that lasted awhile. Maybe 10-12 minutes. It is definitely worth hearing. Soon, the familiar "bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum" beginning of Free emerged. Free featured excellent and intricate playing by Trey, and a glowstick war during the bridge section, and some well played jamming. The set ended early, most likely due to curfew issues.
The encore was Contact, which the crowd sang in the most dedicated manner. Bravo, Paul, for making this sound so perfect! A funk-rich middle section tasted very sweet on the palate, and it wrapped up on a note that wouldn't have done the show justice. We needed, and Phish sensed, it needed to be cranked up a notch one more time. Out comes a totally nuts version of Rocky Top which blew everyone away. Yes, Rocky Top is a common song, but this one was perfect placement. It summed up the show for me -- total energy!
I haven't been particularly inclined to write any show reviews recently, but after listening to this one today, I feel inclined.
First off, to really appreciate how great this show is, you have to understand how many unusual things happened on this evening. By the fall of 2000, phish was just sounding tired. There were moments, but all in all, it was a very missable tour. This show, imo, is THE glaring exception. There are so many points in this second set where if you were hitting a lot of shows in '99-'00, you would think you knew exactly how things were going to play out, but at each of these points, phish turns the predictable into something wild and exciting. I'll explain as I go...
Guyute: while guyute was quite common place at the time, it was quite rare for phish to open with something that required such technical precision. this is a strong version, that works well in the opening slot.
GBOTT: once again, they had played the shit out of this one since '99. i can't imagine too many people were too amped when this one popped up, and that is the last song in this show that I will say that about...
Bathtub Gin: by 2000, gin had largely been relegated to the first set. in fact, off the top of my head, i can't think of a 2nd set version. well, this take shines in the 3 slot. it follows a similar pattern as most 2000 versions, but trey adds several nice embellishments and interacts with page brilliantly throughout. fishman does his typically fantastic job controlling the tempo. they make sure to add a little extra oomph to the rousing send up that is the end. does this one break any new ground? no. does it do a nice job in the 3 slot and loosen the guys up for a fantastic back end of the 1st set? you better believe it.
Limb by Limb: this song sounds a little bit redundant after bathtub gin, but it still works out very very well. trey comes blazing into the solo and nails it all the way up to the spiraling climax.
the moma dance: this is a nice change of pace. outside of trey kind of air balling as they move into the second section, this is well played. it's a standard version, but it's a song i always enjoy.
lawnboy: time to let page take center stage and give everyone a breathe before a rather intense set closing trio...
fluff head: this one had become a bit rarer by this time. they still deliver the goods.
the curtain with: this was only the second version of this tune since '88. even if you caught the big bust out at deer creek, i would assume you were still ecstatic as trey leads them out of the curtain and into with. the deer creek version was a spot on rendering. this was that and then some. trey soars through out and his playing is bursting with creativity. if you are a fan of this song, this is a must hear version.
chalkdust torture: after keeping it pretty tight for the previous two songs, they use cdt as an opportunity to cut loose. it didn't break any new ground, but it's still a power house version. great three song stretch to go into set break.
here's wehre the fire works start...
Rock and Roll: here is where the curveballs begin. for many of you younger folk, a jammed out second set rock and roll opener is pretty common place. up until this point, rock and roll had pretty much stayed within its framework. yes, there were some straight up scorching versions, but this song had yet to fully detach from its framework. for most of '99, it could be found in the encore slot as a nice pleasant 6 or so minute good night. this version, well, it has some movement. as this jam begins, they stay close to home, but you can tell they are looking to slowly branch out. trey leads the way, using the delay loops to tell the boys that they won't be bringing this one back around. as he eases on the loops, he plays a quick lick similar to the intro of llama, and everyone picks it up again. they want to take this one deep, but they have some issues figuring out how. fishman slows the pace, and once again, trey fires up the loops. this time, they don't back away from the descent. trey sprinkles some nice melodic flurries and gordon backs him with some wonderfully spacey playing. trey steps back and let's everyone else enjoy this wonderful spacey realm they've happened across. eventually, fishman pulls everyone out of oblivion and into...
Theme from the Bottom: well, everyone knows how theme from the bottom goes, right? this one does not do that. the playing throughout this version is strong. as they work through the theme's middle section, it just becomes unhinged. they just wonder and wonder until you start thinking that they may not be able to bring this one home. as the move further from the typical destination, gordon seems to come out of the blue and lands perfectly on...
dog log: this is a song that does little for me as a stand alone, but it seems that when a song segues into dog log, something special has happened. this is dog log. great rare score. great placement.
mango song: this is one that i'm pretty neutral toward. i'm never pulling for it preshow, but if it pops up, i dig it.
anyway, as they move toward the closing section, fishman just starts honing in on this heavy percussive groove. gordon comes in right behind. trey doesn't do anything in this jam to distract from the hedonistic landscape that fishman has painted. he scatters around some delay loops, feed back, and some dissonance laced rhythm. page throws in some nice weirdness on the synths. they move nicely through the abstract, and right when you think they might be losing steam...
free: bam!! i have always thought that '99 was the year for free, but don't think they didn't still have that mojo in '00. for all of his patience and "non rock star'ness" in the mango song jam, he absolutely attacks this middle section. his guitar hisses and snarls throughout the middle section. fishman and gordon, after being allowed to shine in a 15+ minute mango song, were obliged to back trey, providing him with a super thick foundation to wail over. i absolutely love this song in the slow closing slot, and i'm not too sure why you don't see it there more often. perfection.
contact>rocky top: standard, but after that set, who gives a fuck?!?!
on a sleepy, missable tour, this show is a sure-fire classic. for most of '99-'00, a rock and roll>theme>dog log>mango stretch could have been wrapped up in about 25-30 minutes. this stretch moves like an hour long roller coaster. absolutely must hear.
set 1: bathtub gin, fluff head, curtain with, cdt
set 2: the whole damn thing
By the way, i am running with the @kennypowers remaster, and I give this recording a big 2 thumbs up. grab it on the spread sheet or on www.phishauds.com. @kennypowers does great work. hats off to you sir!!
2000 has a pretty weird halo effect around it IMO, as to my ears it's something of a step back from 1999, with the hiatus obviously on their minds (as it had to have been since Cypress) and some decidedly less than compelling shows scattered throughout both Summer and Fall. But every year has a plethora of great music, and this is what I consider one of the year's stronger shows.
The first set starts with Guyute and BOTT, both perfectly fine versions, before a pretty good Gin that stays away (mostly) from Classic Gin fare and offers up a more stripped-back jam that still gives Trey the opportunity to fire off some nifty solos. The rest of the set is fine, although there had to have been some kind of wager in place that the band couldn't play two of their most demanding compositions (Fluffhead and Curtain With) back to back for the one and only time in their career. Remarkably, both of them are pulled off without much of a hitch, which is surprising given how sloppy they got towards the end.
Set 2 starts with a Rock & Roll that builds up an unholy noise before finding a really nice and entirely typical of late-90s Phish musical realm. But that's not the highlight of the set - the Theme through Mango sequence is, as out of the typical Theme jam Mike starts thumping on his bass like he's about to play Maze, but the band slips into a relaxed groove instead, with Page really stepping up. This neat groove lasts for a few minutes, until they make a left turn into Dog Log, and then go into Mango. The actual Mango jam is fine, but then the band pushes into another Mike-led jam, and they drop into another groove, this one more mischievous and odd, laden with some Halloween Wolfman's-type spookiness. An extended Trey-showcasing Free closes the set (wowee, do they blow the vocals on the final verse), and it's always nice to hear Contact in any setting.
Final thoughts: everyone's mentioned the Theme -> Dog Log > Mango sequence for a listen. The rest of the show isn't totally essential, but that chunk alone make this bad boy definitely worth a download.
As usual, waxbanks has it. The extremely creepy, shiver-up-your-spine
"->" between Theme and Dog Log is worth the price of admission alone. Page is playing his best Haunted House music when out of nowhere appears a Dog Log. The Mango is just a victory lap...
Yes...this show is an interesting one. MPP is a strange venue in that it is kind of tucked away in a relatively (for suburban MD anyway) idyllic setting. Woodsy, a kinda camplike feeling, the venue is a nice little barn that you can tell has seen the likes of the Dead, Little Feat, and others through the years. There are few sheds still on the circuit that are this old. Coppers are notorious in Howard County, MD and they look to bust everyone and anyone since the 90's Dead scene horrified middle America. As far as the show goes, at the time, I thought it was great. A nice mix of goodies from the lot despite the heavy "Guyute" presence put me in the right mood. Coming off a so-so Hershey show, I had high expectations for this one.
Guyute was an interesting and I thought inspired opener. Listening back, it seems a little sloppy, but in the moment, it rocked. I have to admit that I sorta zoned hard through Gin but came around for some serious funk on Moma Dance. To me, this was the highlight of the first set. I had a good laugh when I burned all my CDs onto the computer in a technological update of my music several years back and noticed three stars next to one song...Moma Dance. It reads nice, but the rest of the set does not stand out for me. Honestly, i can't really recall.
Set Break: A quick downside of MPP is the overwhelming population of lacrosse style meatheads that pound beers and yap during jams. Set break on the lawn that night was sloppy at best. Bodies were down. Still, set 2 would transcend that.
I love RandR and this version got people off their asses on that lawn. Theme took us to dark places and I remember this being an above average take on a great song. Well placed I might add. Theme can sometimes be misplaced in a set, but it seemed right on this night. A unique Dog Log cruises into a gentle Mango which gains steam and jams out hard right into an excellent Free. Nice run to close the set. This set was thought out and flowed really nice compared with some of the other 99-00 second sets that I saw. Contact is fun and Rocky Top follows me around as an encore.
There is some really nice jamming from the end of Theme on to end of the set. Worth a listen back especially if you were there and memories are hazy. As the band was careening towards the first hiatus, this show represents an above average night, but also shows the cracks.
The entire show was a lot of fun with a super jammed out second set. What keeps me returning, all these years later, is my all time favorite version of The Curtain With. Like the RnR later in the show, mesmerizing.
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