Just seemed like the theme of the 2nd (which includes the 3rd) set was to throw repeated curveballs.
If this set happened a year later, I think it would have been taken better. In 1996, people apparently weren't ready for a Phish willing to tinker with their catalouge, play weird jams out of NICU and leave all the big peaks on the table.
Is it the best played show ever? God no. But in retrospect, it's quite a bit more interesting than a typical summer 96 show where they just stuck to the script, tried not to mess up, and got off stage. I love that it's this weird slice of summer 97 transported back a year early.