Ramble On received canonical treatment eight shows later (and you shouldn't hesitate to seek out that performance) and is pretty much by-the-book here, but the delicate complexity of the song creeps into a wonderfully nimble Mike's Song. By this point Phish's uptempo rock tunes were benefitting greatly from the yearlong ongoing experiment in minimalist funk polyrhythms; the Mike's jam blends wah/clav funk noise and rock'n'roll anger in equal measures. It's not an era-defining jam or anything, just another quarter-hour of balls-out sophisticated jamming from a band drunk on its own power. The rest of Set One proceeds along similar lines, featuring dance jams of almost pornographic virtuosity.
Standard Piper to open the second set, a little restrained in comparison to its current form. I don't know why Wilson turns up in so many second sets; it doesn't usually keep the improvisatory momentum going (not to my tastes anyway). This version features a short metal-riff jam that holds some interest, I suppose. Then it's 2001 > Magilla > teeeeeease > Tweezer, and it's as fun as it looks on the page. This is a *really* frisky 2001! The band brings things down in a skillful decrescendo. Trey gets the idea to dive into Magilla, Fishman's with him, things are a little rickety, Page hops gladly into the fray, Fishman's skittering around on spider legs, Mike takes a brief solo - pure 'why the fuck not?' goofiness at a high level of casual expertise. (Do folks realize what a talented jazz drummer Jon Fishman is?)
During Phish's mid-90's solidification, Tweezer was one of the band's great outstretched blank canvases for experimentation, and the gorgeous 8/1/98 version recalls the song's old pre-funk variety while maintaining all the emotional depth and patience that characterize the band's music since the watershed Fall '97 tour. This is a divine Tweezer: understated, precise late-nite music that ends with dark dissolution rather than climax precisely because all four band members are prepared to follow even half-formed impulses. It's 'ambient' jamming of a sort and (unsurprisingly) wouldn't be out of place in the Lemonwheel 'Ring of Fire' set, but the darkness of the closing few minutes prefigures the evil ambience of 12/28/98. Fluffhead is the perfect tonic after this complex exploration. What a set! (There are four more songs after Fluff's Travels, but by this point the set is past peak intensity and interest.)
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