USAir Arena, Landover, MD
Soundcheck: Sample in a Jar, Drowned, Black-Eyed Katy, Funky Bitch
Set 1: Julius, Cities > CurtainThe Curtain > SampleSample in a Jar, Old Home PlaceThe Old Home Place > Runaway Jim, Farmhouse, Funky Bitch, SOAMeltSplit Open and Melt, Bouncin'Bouncing Around the Room, Character Zero
Encore: Bold As Love
 The Mule Duel contained a slow jam instead of the traditional duel.
· Roundabout tease in Scent of a Mule
Average Song Gap: 6.67
Notes: The Mule Duel contained Roundabout teases and a slow jam instead of the traditional duel. Between Simple and Ghost, Trey talked about feedback problems and the “ghosts in the machine.”
Songs by Debut Year:
This show was part of the "1997 NYE Run."
This show might be the most under-appreciated show in Phish's history. Ask any fan about this New Year's Run and they'll go on and on about the wonderful show on the 30th. School bus balloons and a confusing but entertaining movie from NYE will be mentioned. They'll be sure to mention the “Can't Turn You Loose” jam from the 29th. "Yes," the conclusion will be, "that sure was one great run at the Garden."
If the US Air Arena (formerly Capitol Centre) show is brought up at all, it's just to be dismissed. "Sloppy" and "aimless" are adjectives used to describe it. I can't deny that there is some justification for those descriptions, but that's not all that's happening in this show by a long shot. This is far from just being a "warm-up" show. During a New Year’s Run in one of the most popular years of Phish, they managed to play one of their most experimental shows in their career and no one seems to have noticed it. Edgar Allan Poe would be pleased.
I will confess to some bias of my own here. I took my friend Amanda to this show. It was her first show of any jam band and she got it. It was quite literally a life changing experience to her. Maybe I take the maligning of this show a bit too personally, but Amanda besides, I just popped in this show at random this morning and found myself listening to sections over and over again, fascinated by what had just happened.
The show opens with “Julius”. It doesn't crackle with energy (although it does have a nice peak), but instead it's long and groovy. This is 1997 after all, not 1994. In the first of many setlist treats, it segues into “Cities”. Again, this version is slow and groove oriented, but it managed to stay interesting. Especially noteworthy is the end. Trey plays a circular riff on his guitar. In the middle of playing it, he counts "1-2-1-2-3-4" and turns it into the intro of “The Curtain”. It's very slick and earns the show points right away.
I have to tell one quick story here. In the middle of the set, Amanda turned to me and asked, "Where's the angst?" She meant it as a compliment. She hadn't heard music this optimistic in a long time. The only problem was that she asked me this during “The Old Home Place”. The line being sung at the time was "I lost my love, I lost my home, and now I wish that I was dead."
"Runaway Jim" followed. There's a great bit in the mid-song break where they play a line quieter and quieter until it's silent halfway through it. They then slam into the next line just like they've been playing it all along. Through an interesting jam section, this version manages to last for fourteen minutes before just coming to a stop. This foreshadowed the jams of the second set: interesting, melodic, but not the highest of energy.
When “Funky Bitch” came on, I thought I'd show off to Amanda. "Oh this will end the set." Nope. A nice long “Split Open and Melt”. "Well this will definitely end the set." Nope. “Bouncing”. Finally “Character Zero” did, in fact, end the set.
There really isn't much bad that can be said about it. It was long. The setlist was interesting. There were some nice peaks at the end of “Julius” and “Funky Bitch” and interesting jams all over the place. Okay, the “Farmhouse” is one of my least favorite versions, but that's about it. This, by the way, is by far the worse of the two sets.
The second set opener, as far as I know, is a bit of a debut. “Axilla I” was played but with the “Axilla II” ending; I like to call it "Axilla 1.5". The ending of this song is quite extended, culminating in a rather eerie sounding space. After nearly ten minutes of playing, it finally segues into “Simple”.
The “Simple” jam starts out normal enough, but about eight minutes into it, it leaves the normal universe of “Simple” to enter a pretty space. The jam is really atypical for a “Simple”. Unfortunately, it's cut off just as a really interesting groove theme was being explored, due to some feedback that Trey refers to as, "The Ghost of the Machine," in a rather long ramble. It would have been interesting to hear where the jam would have gone, but I guess it wasn't in the cards.
In honor of the feedback, “Ghost” follows. The jam takes a few minutes to get going, but once they speed things up a bit, the it gets quite interesting. In fact, if this show has a weakness, it's that it gets quite hard to explain how every jam goes to unusual spaces for the song, and is quite interesting.
There are so many highlights left in the show though, from the Mike-led jam in “Drowned” that transforms into a rather threatening space, to the “Roundabout” jam in “Scent of a Mule”, to the high-energy jam in “Halley’s”, to the wall of noise effect Jon and Mike create about 9:30 into the “Slave”. to list the songs is to list the highlights. If your reason for loving Phish is that they sometimes throw out the normal ways of doing things and improvise, then this is your show. It might not inspire you to put on your dancing shoes, but there's a chance you'll feel the need to get out pen and paper to write an ode to it. Pop this in your CD player sometime, especially if you were one of the people who went to this show and didn't think it was all that great. You have a surprise waiting for you.
TREY: "We're just gettin' rid of that little bit of feedback there - so we could move on with the - UP - there it is again. Somtimes those things creep into the ahh ahh.... the ghost in the machine or something, but Paul always gets rid of them, but ah, we just move right along. I don't know. Maybe this is what this song is about anyway cause. I lot of people told me different things what they think this next tune is about. But maybe it's about the little - um - um weird little feedback things that creep back into the Ghost in the Machine. I'm just mumbling - I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about. LOL LOL....ahhhhh. So back to the music now........hahhhhh..LOL." LOL...........ahhhhhh."
Though the 1997 New Years Run started in Maryland, it was viewed by many as a one-night mid-Atlantic warmup followed by a three-night romp through the Big Apple. And what a romp it was!
As with many fans, and as I had done in 1996, I spent the New Years Run traveling with a large group of fans and friends. There was a distinctly different feeling in the air this year, though. The 1996 Run came on the heels of a solid but unspectacular tour, while the 1997 Run came at the close of one of the most exciting Phish years ever. I was lucky enough to catch a few shows earlier in the year (most notably the lightning-inflected Raleigh show in the summer and the underrated Winston-Salem show in the fall), but most of the hose I felt was through tapes of the then-recent Hampton extravaganza and shows like Rochester and Auburn Hills. None of this prepared me for the four night Run.
Sure enough, Landover was a warm-up. A strong warm-up, mind you, but definitely a warm-up. There were some minor technical problems (the ghost in the machine, according to Trey) and some rough spots, but it was, overall, a solid Phish show. My fondest memory of that show was visual rather than musical. My group was scattered around the arena but six of us wound up in the same section on the Page side of the building. During the second set, as we looked across the arena, we saw that some fans had strung a series of glowrings together. The glowrings were being passed around a few rows of that section, bending and gyrating with the music, seemingly under some greater control than the hands that held them. I had gotten somewhat used to seeing and hearing about glowstick wars through the summer and fall of 1997, but this innovative (and harmless) visual spectacle was incredible to watch.
This second set is awesome. The axilla>simple is amazing. Some beautiful type 2 space on the simple. The feedback does not interfere with the show what so ever, and does not effect an incredible ghost form occurring.
The drowned was a typical jammed out drowned, good but not incredible.
The SOAMule jam was awesome! the round about teases are great!
There are some really great jammed halleys from '97, this is not one of them. This one isnt bad but cant hold a candle to some of them like, hampton.
All in all, this is a very solid show. As i said before, It's flawlessly played, but at times just a little typical. In the 2 month span of nov-december 97, the boys played some of their most memorable shows. They cant all the auburn hill, hampton or the nutter, right?