This was quite an historic night for me: the first night of the New Year's Run, my second show, and my eighteenth birthday. I still had not yet gotten into the tape-trading scene, so I was not overly familiar with the unpublished music, which gives a whole new approach to the show. My first show was on 10/21/96 (MSG, New York City), but this was the one that truly sold me on Phish. You appreciate things in the moment, rather then as a comparison to the two dozen other times you've heard the same song. For example, I thought Frankenstein was amazing, it totally floored me. Now, after fifteen shows and some 320-plus hours of tape, this song has a “been there, done that” feel. With experience, you really begin to appreciate the nuances of the jam songs and the genius of the improvisations, but at the same time, you tend to lose the excitement of the composed numbers.
The first set is good. The second set smokes because of one man…Page McConnell. If you love Page, you should seek out this show. 1996 is a great year for Page, he really improved. His "mule duel" segments become amazing. This is one of the few shows I've heard that allows Page to shine through, especially compared to later tours. He gets to tear things up on “Maze”, then gets a solo from “Mike's Song” > “Strange Design” and then again at the end of “Weekapaug”. The man was in rare form. The stuff is beautiful, poetic, pure magic. Like I said, I was sold.