I stumbled upon this show thanks to the Phish.OD 'random show' feature (while I am not wild about the sound quality of internet-streamed music, this app/feature is incredible for discovering new shows). Trying to decide about which tune would accompany my morning shower, it had to be Hood (more on that later). Suffice it to say that after listening to this Hood, I knew I had to start from the beginning.
The Bowie starts out with Fish's typical high hat, but Trey & Mike hit the ground running, with Trey throwing around some great dissonant chords, before they dive right into the composed section. Flawlessly executed. The jam out of Bowie picks up the dissonance introduced at the start, with Trey and Fish really playing off each other.
The Cavern that follows is sharp and bouncy, as is the Ya Mar. Mike starts this one off with some really nice bass lines, before Trey dives in for a sparkly little solo that drops into the sung section. Page's organ fills between the verses on this Ya Mar are especially nice and prominent in the mix. Page's organ solo is also nice, but I personally found the bass lines with which Mike underpins it more interesting. For whatever reason, after the "Oh Kee Pah / my grandpa" line, Mike repeatedly yells "Spatchka!" Trey's solo is short and very sweet, ending with some really nice syncopated, raked arpeggio's.
D&M up next, and you can hear Trey is smiling as he sings the lyrics. An uptempo version, the composed piano/guitar section is a bit wobbly at the start but finds its footing quickly. At the vocal refrain at the end, you can hear a lot of the crowd providing the "ooooh"s and "aaaaah"s.
The Sloth blasts its way in just as quickly as it blasts its way out. Raucous and note-perfect, this Sloth doesn't linger around. Like the hit man protagonist, this one comes in guns a-blazing, does the deed, and promptly flees the scene.
The Landlady follows. Very solid work from Mike & Fish here, who seem to really burrow into the tune, allowing Trey to flutter and fly.
Bathtub next, with Mike sliding in with some slippery bass lines before the groove firmly establishes itself. Short and sweet, this one briefly threatens to get wild, as Trey really starts playing out with some repeating, ascending lines which almost lead everyone down the blowhole of the purple humpback whale. Fish starts to break it down and things get very loose. Easy to imagine this Gin being played in 2000, in which case it would surely have continued down this path. But this is 1991, and it all comes to an abrupt - but not in a bad way - end.
Keeping the dissonance rolling, Buried alive is up next, with Fishman providing some creepy back-up vocal banshee scream at the start. Not much to say here, really. Nice version and a great juxtaposition with The Lizards, into which it quickly segues.
The Lizards is nailed. This song is, in my mind, one of the quintessential Phish songs - musically compelling, lyrically silly and sincere at the same time, ambitious vocal harmonies (not always pulled off, but you hear what they're going for!), a complex of seemingly unrelated sections that nonetheless fit perfectly together, culminating in a wash of soaring and uplifting guitar work. This version does not disappoint. Page really shines, with some shimmering piano work, backed by some nice volume-pedal fades from Trey. Fish wraps it up with some super-tight drum work as they slip right into Possum.
The Possum to close the set is its usual sharp and bouncy self, with an especially nice and loose start to the jam between verses.
The Golgi that opens the 2nd set is missing on the sbd recording I downloaded on etree, but for is present on Phish.OD from a patched audience source. Great set opener.
Now we get to the turning point of the show. This Hood is a MUST listen. Having heard it for the first time just this morning, I can say with confidence that it is undoubtedly one of the best early versions I have come across. The way I see it, Hood is actually a very delicate flower, easily destroyed with too much or too little work from the band. Early versions often sound over-excited and lacking in the gravitas the song would gain in years to come. Conversely, most post-hiatus versions seem almost lethargic, or at least lacking in that joyful vigor which is so palpable in the best renderings.
This Hood clearly represents a moment in time when the song is shedding the excess of its youth, growing in stature, but still emphatically spry and virile. The perfect combination of patience and exultation, this Hood SHREDS. Especially important contributions from Fish, whose drum work is as precise and eclectic as it ever was. A great burp of distortion from Trey's guitar precedes the "thank you Mr Minor" section, which they nail before sliding into what can only be described as a truly radiant jam section. Trey's playing here is heavy on rhythm and tasteful repetition, allowing Page and Mike to fill out the song and build it up to a white-hot climax, led by Trey and Fish. Compulsory listening, imo.
After the Hood, the show sags a bit, mostly due to song selection. Not that I don't love all the tunes that follow, but there is a lack of cohesion (not unusual for second sets up to '90 or so, but slightly out of place on this tour - see the night before and after for second sets with much more coherent song choice).
Wilson > Poor Heart is a great combination. Both well played. Fish leads on the falsetto "Wiiillllsonnn", causing Trey to laugh audibly on the recording.
The seventh Poor heart ever played (and the 5th of 1991, after the Poor Heart-less years of 1989-90), is a bit ungainly at first, but soon smooths out and features some great bass work from Cactus and a firey solo from Trey.
Foam is also nailed. If you listen closely, you can hear Page singing along to Trey's guitar lines in the early part of the song. Then during the guitar solo section, Trey can be heard singing along to his own lines.
McGrupp is always a treat, and this one is especially weird, with Fish dropping off the drums for a little vacuum backing to Page's solo.
The short and rockin' Chalk Dust that follows does what it says on the tin. This is the 28th time this song was played, incredible given that it had only been introduced a few months before. Born a workhorse, I guess.
Up next is a foray into the world of Henrietta. I love me some vacuum and always delight in Fish's takes on Syd Barrett tunes. But placement is key, and this one might contribute to a sense of disjointedness in the middle of this set. Fish gives us an extended vacuum solo, followed by an apology "I got lost" and band intros. Hilarious.
And with a killer Mike's Groove to wrap up the set, who am I to complain? This is a great version of the Mike's suite with some flashes of real rock and roll wizardry. The Mike's is white-hot. The H2 that follows finds Trey using his volume pedal at the start for a brief foray into dream-world, before the piano/guitar chase begins, supported by some interesting playing from Mike. This Weekapaug is a bruiser and starts with some furious Cactus slapping before Trey lets loose with some machine gun guitar. Very bouncy and energetic.
For the encore, the crowd was treated to a pairing that only Phish could provide, with the bizarre combo of A Train > Highway to Hell. Weird. Awesome. Phish.
A great show, undoubtedly worth seeking out and playing on repeat. Hood is a must listen, but the rest of the show deserves (demands?) a spin as well.