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Link Friday, 11/21/1997
Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA

Set 1: Emotional Rescue[1] > SOAMeltSplit Open and Melt, Beauty of My Dreams, Dogs Stole Things, PYITEPunch You In the Eye -> Lawn Boy[2] > CDTChalk Dust Torture, CaspianPrince Caspian[3]

Set 2: Ghost > BagAC/DC Bag -> SlaveSlave to the Traffic Light, Loving Cup

Encore: Guyute

[1] Phish debut.
[2] "Anti-drum solo."
[3] Unfinished.

Teases:
· Emotional Rescue quote in Split Open and Melt
· Emotional Rescue quote in Lawn Boy
· Call to the Post and Yours Is No Disgrace teases
· San-Ho-Zay tease in Emotional Rescue

Noteworthy Jams: Prince Caspian, AC/DC Bag (highly recommended), Slave to the Traffic Light

Average Song Gap: 5.58

Performers: Trey Anastasio, Page McConnell, Jon Fishman, Mike Gordon

Notes: Emotional Rescue made its Phish debut at this show and included a San-Ho-Zay tease from Trey. Rescue was subsequently quoted at the end of Melt and Lawn Boy. This humorous Lawn Boy featured an “anti-drum solo” - an intentionally boring one. Caspian was unfinished. The first set ended with the delay loop ending of Caspian played until after lights were brought back up. Trey teased Yours Is No Disgrace and Call to the Post prior to Guyute. This show was released as part of the Hampton/Winston-Salem '97 boxed set.

Links:
Phish.net Blog Recap Phish.net Recap

Song Distribution:
2 The Story of the Ghost
2 Lawn Boy
2 The White Tape
1 Billy Breathes
1 Stash
1 A Picture of Nectar
1 The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday

Songs by Debut Year:

waxbanks , attached to 1997-11-21 Permalink
waxbanks I'm an unapologetic Fall '97 booster, fanboy, partisan, evangelist, and myopic egotist -- i.e. I insist that Fall '97 is the best of all Phish tours, partly because it's my favourite...though I also insist that it's my favourite because it's the best (see above re: 'myopia' and 'egotism').

But some things are worth going crazy over.

(The following is occasioned, of course, by the long-awaited official SBD release of November 21 to 23, 1997.)

The fandom responded ecstatically to the tour at the time, as you'd expect; among other things it represented a sea change in how the band approached show structure (never mind the pornographic music itself) -- some folks were convinced that 'there [were] no first sets anymore,' and given that this show kicks off with a 20-minute funk workout, it's easy to see why. Time has been kind to the tour as well. With the benefit of hindsight we can see how Fall '97 began a darkly generative period for the band (their imaginative freedom nightblooming even as their technical command and professionalism began to falter amidst a rapidly decaying backstage/fan scene), while representing a historic peak of possibility and intensity. With only a couple of exceptions, the band was just absolutely *there* every single night, taking song after song to deep dangerous places.

It was a good time to be a Phish fan.

The best jams of 2011 -- R'n'R at the Gorge, the Tahoe Light, the brilliant 'elements' set at UIC -- seemed to draw some of the same dark energy that powered Phish's late 90s music: layered textures, intricate polyrhythms, effortless group interplay, soaring ambient passages, guitars put to unholy new uses, keyboards much abused, drums caressed and then shattered. Above all, the music flows now almost as it did then, with extraordinary patience and organic inevitability.

But what's missing from Phish 2011 is the black ice that became their premillennial music's center: cool austerity of early 'cow funk,' anxious chaotic 'space jams,' the *scary* quality it had. (Hear the way Izabella comes roaring out of 12/6/97's fog like an angry undead stowaway, or the teeth-gnashing mania of the Hartford Char0 > 2001. A lotta Hendrix in the air, then.)

For all the expansiveness and ambition of the band's Fall '97 work, the tour feels All of a Piece; it all belongs together, the maniacal Hampton/Winston-Salem stuff and the knives-in-blacklight Worcester jamming and the retro-dufus-turned-pornstar goodtimes in Dayton and the astral lullabies in Utah and, and, and oh those sorcerous goings-on and splashings-crashward in Auburn Hills (cloudpiercing peak of a deepwater volcanic island). The same can't so much be said of the new music; ironically, as the band's palette has grown to include more lived-in sounds (and whatever eerily the goddamn 'storage shed' jamming is, when it eerily ever is), they've lost the glasseyed focus of back-in-the-day. They might sound like any number of great bands these days, even Zeppelin a bit when the moon's right, but there was something harrowing and deeply pleasurable about knowing (walking into a familiar room, strangers at close quarters in the dark) that the approach was gonna be, ready set go, THE METERS AND PINK FLOYD ARE TRAPPED TOGETHER FOREVER ON A DERELICT SPACESHIP ALL ECHOES AND GHOSTS AND ALONE AND THEY ARE SAVED FROM COLD DEATH ONLY BY THE WEIRD COSMIC FAVOUR OF PLUNGING SLOWLY INTO AN OCTARINE SUN, GAINING SPEED, FALLING, HOLD ON...

To the matter at hand.

Emotional Rescue isn't a great choice of cover beyond its novelty/comedy value -- the jokey falsetto and sparse texture wear thin some time before the jam starts -- and the jam does feel like a show-opening warmup, which of course it is. But 17 minutes of shambolic Phish funk (climaxing in a transitional few minutes of lovely dark ambience) is a fine easygoing thing, regardless. And it leads into a very nice Split, for which we supplicants are naturally thankful.

Et cetera et cetera, and Caspian (a tune tailor-made for smoky indoor-venue AUDs, by the way) is a strange but appropriate choice for a first set closer: excellent version here, particularly Trey's digital-delay offering to Hades in lieu of those closing rock chords from the album, which...

1. ...fondly recalls the beloved 12/31/95 Mike's, and...

2. ...helpfully signals to the crowd that we are setting our course for darker night in Set II.

The show's back half kicks off seven consecutive must-hear sets (next breather: 11/28 I). During Ghost the players bail on that song's basic funk patterns in favour of a haunting spare passage typical of Fall '97: minimalist assembly, assured group rhythm work, and a patient crescendo and sighing wavebreak into a wry, spry midtempo jog at the outro. 1997 is THE year for Ghost, but this performance trades its standard snap/pop/wah funk for something moodier and more meaningful.

Then yeah, a true segue arrow before AC/DC Bag, and *get ready* for this Bag. Less decisive and authoritative than the canonical 12/30/97 version, but also less linear, the 11/21 Bag takes a few minutes for somewhat clumsy I-IV thrashing (a climax too early, it seems) before settling into a deadly take on the introductory PYITE groove. Fishman slides over to the ride cymbal, Page leaps onto piano, Trey sprinkles some space-jam fairy dust over everyone, and suddenly we're working a slightly ambivalent variation on that I-IV, posing as Triumph while whispering Collapse, Dissolve...and after a twinkling ambient passage, we return to ambivalence: minor-melancholy rock clatter and swerve, Page's piano diagonals zagging at everyone else's zig, or I guess vice versa. 25 minutes of top-shelf Phish, and another true segue into Slave.

Slave, as you'd expect after the foregoing 50 minutes of music, is devastating. Well, it's a 1997 Slave; the mycological languour of late-90s Phish was well suited to tunes like this one.

More Stones to close, of course. They've always killed on Loving Cup. And is there a better, more coherent long-form composition in Phish's catalogue than Guyute? Pure prog mayhem in the encore. Nice.

...

11/22 gets the press, 11/23 gets the 'underrated masterpiece' tag, and of these now-forever-conjoined triplets, 11/21 is the li'l sibling with -- hey whaddaya know -- some earth-shaking powers of its own. I think you can pass on this first set without feeling TOO bad, if you really don't think you can spare that hour of your life, but that's a swell half-hour you're missing at the opener, and a ringading Caspian to close. The second set, meanwhile, is as good as Fall 1997's usual, which is to say it's a solid hour of deadly focused improvisation, favouring eventide melancholy and dissolution, crescendi desperately imploding or exhausting themselves in gouts of terminal noise, minimalist funk with a mischievous dancing step and slow poison on its blade, visible in the right kind of dark...

Ego-costumes aside, in the end it doesn't matter whether Fall '97 is the 'best' Phish tour. (One hopes the best is yet to come, right? What kind of person *doesn't* hold that hope, or pretends not to?) Those are fun arguments to have, but it's all just circles around imaginary selves, signs that read No Trespass: there's no place for borders like those when the music begins. I'll say instead, quite confidently, that on these nights 14 years ago, Phish reached the windblown jagged top of one peak, bringing thousands along with them; several other peaks would follow, as several had come before, but this one had a Weird light, and everyone why got up there saw something extraordinary. And would you believe it: it's still there. Might I recommend heading up alone some night. Go on: follow the strange glow that won't fade. The dark will keep you warm.
Score: 20
MiguelSanchez , attached to 1997-11-21 Permalink
MiguelSanchez this show is a real gem. the next night has the legendary set list with some monumental jams, but this one is almost equally as hot.

they come out of the gates setting the pace for the rest of the weekend. i'm not a big stones fan, but i do like this unusual ditty. phish made this one their own. they took this for an exciting '97 phish ride. the whole band is in sync as they go on a 20 minute exploration. split open and melt follows. it is not legendary but it has a really nice improvisational segment. it certainly keeps the weird, experimental vibe going. beauty of my dreams is a pleasant shift as they drop this lovely bluegrass jam on the crowd. dogs stole and punch were both good but straight forward. then they play quite the humorous lawnboy. after introducing fish, he played his "anti drum solo." gotta hear it to get it. the rest of this set is some what unexciting.

then there is a very crazy second set. there were many fine ghosts in '97 but this is one of the best. they take this one for a mighty fine funky ride. like many versions in this year, page and trey are so in sync playing over a super tight gordo/fish groove. eventually this finds its way into a very experimental ac/dc bag. there are many songs that you hear about from '97, ghost, wolfman's, etc, but bag may have been one of the unsung heroes. this song was always a classic, but they really started to experiment with it. in fact, this was the first version that they really took for a ride. this was the precursor to the shorter but super fun dayton version and the similar take from msg on the ny's run. the msg version seemed to meld the hampton and dayton versions. as for me, i think i may like this one best. it is just straigh improvisation. there are some nice funky spacey segments. eventually, they drift into a beautiful slave to the traffic light. page really lights this one up. i'm not much for loving cup, but it works well, especially since they opened the show with a stones tune. then there is another great '97 song springing up in the encore slot, a nice focused guyute. the whole band buries this one.

there are so many nice shows on this tour, so it can be easy to miss this one. either way, go ahead and get both nights of hampton, and grab the next show too...that gin might be better than anything at either hampton show.
Score: 5
papadance , attached to 1997-11-21 Permalink
WOW.... Had tickets to the next night but drove from Florida to see my only "northern" shows ever. Myself and 2 other friends made it in time for the first night but had no tickets. We parked in the mothership parking lot and figured someone was selling tickets somewhere..... I got out of the truck, looked at the ground, and picked up a ticket! MIRACLE.... My 2 other friends bought tickets at face value and we made it inside during the emotional jam. Amazing how it all worked out. We were inside 15 minutes after parking.
1st set highlights.... Of course the Stones song but SOAM was great. Lawn boy was funny. Caspian was awesome. Trey's loops kept going until the lights went on.

2nd set. Jammed out everything. awesome Ghost>AC/DC transition. We were up front for this and loved it. The encore was perfect and we new the next night was gonna be on fire.
Next night....SICK. Never seen the wave at a Phish show before. Dont even know what to say except I feel lucky to have seen some of the best shows off all time.........
Score: 3
kipmat , attached to 1997-11-21 Permalink
kipmat I love waxbanks' review of this show, but I must offer a dissenting opinion of the Emotional Rescue opener. Kicking off a two-night stand at a venue like Hampton Coleseum with a debut cover, and then extending it out past 16 minutes, indicates that this band was (justifiably) oozing with confidence in their own abilities. Maybe the NYE version was better, but the fact that they went ahead and did it on this night counts for something in my book. Anyway, although this show may not be as altogether superlative as its companions in the must-own boxed set, I could not deny the excellence of the overall performances and worthiness of a five-star rating.
Score: 3
Penn42 , attached to 1997-11-21 Permalink
Penn42 I'm going to say something controversial: I've always felt this show doesn't live up to the hype. And I certainly think it is the weakest of the three on the release. However, it's also Fall '97, so there really isn't that much to complain about. Maybe it's because I have no real connection to Emotional Rescue as a song. I don't mind it, and I have even, after quite a few listens, learned to appreciate it's really mellow jam, but in the end it really isn't that big of a deal to me. I also initially found the Ghost to be pretty underwhelming. It's by far the most mellow of this hallowed tour and, like Emotional Rescue, I have learned to appreciate it more with a few re-listens. Bag -> Slave is by far the best part of the show, IMO, but other than that, there isn't that much else to see. Split rages pretty hard, bul ultimately fails to reach somewhere that really grabbed me, PYITE is one of my favorite set-in-stone songs, so that was nice, and that's about it.

This show is plenty of fun, but I don't feel it's a classic like the next two nights.
Score: 2
Fallopian_Dude , attached to 1997-11-21 Permalink
Fallopian_Dude A solid show throughout, punctuated by an explosive Split Open and Melt and an exploratory, shape-shifting AC/DC Bag.
Score: 1
dogogbyn , attached to 1997-11-21 Permalink
dogogbyn I don't have much to add to thoughtful reviews above. However, I'd like to make a case for all phans to give multiple listens to the Emotional Rescue > SOAM which opened the first set. From roughly 12:00 onward, this Rescue covers some delightfully dark territory, and the SOAM (particularly at about 6:30) highlights the band's ability to effortlessly 'lock in' with one another in the midst of each member blazing their own path. Moreover, I find this SOAM to be more aurally pleasing than, say, the Niagara '95 Melt--a take that many fans love for its 'demented', knotty essence. Is this Melt arguably 'Type I'? Yes, but it'll bite your face off. I won't weigh in on which show is the 'best' of the 11/21-11/23 run, I'll simply conclude by positing that if you want to hear Phish shred like maniacs in the era of '97 funk, this Melt's for you.
Score: 0

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