Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
Soundcheck: If You Need a Fool, Shafty
 No vocal jam.
 Phish debut.
Average Song Gap: 5.5
Notes: Sneakin' Sally did not contain a vocal jam. This show marked the Phish debuts of Sweet Jane and Sabotage.
Songs by Debut Year:
This show was part of the "1998 Summer U.S. Tour."
the wedge is a really nice summer time/chill opener. it is well played here and the nicu afterwards works well too. then they go into a really nice first set sneaking sally. it is not the most jammed out version you will hear, but it's still a winner. the guyute that follows smokes. they really nail this one. as they bring back home, trey sounds particularly evil. fikus and farmhouse provide everyone with a quick breather but a rocking possum and a bonus sweet jane send everyone into set break all smiles.
i really like cavern as the opener. you don't see that one every day. also, it works really well before this very exploratory 2001. this one is a nice long funk exploration. page is really good in here. i would say this is a contneder for top 3 of the year. it doesn't hold a candle to 12/29, but hey, what does? they sneak in a surprise tela before slipping into a very strong piper. this one is a barn burner. in fact, at this point in time, i would say it's the best they'd played this song. trey is smoking. sexual healing and all that is pretty funny, before a very sharp hood closes down the set. then there is the encore. who saw this coming? phish nails sabotage to the wild excitement of the crowd. good call!
i just love the way this show flows. it is a great road trip play. if you don't have this one, get it! both sets are awesome.
the wedge, sneaking sally>guyute, sweet jane
2001>tela>piper>sexual healing, sabotage
The traffic: Got up at 5 AM, took a dip in Jake's (of Steam Dream tape covers and stage banter fame) pool instead of a shower, and hit the road around 6.
The Garden State and NJ Turnpike had their moments of stop and go traffic, as always. Damn tolls! Amazingly enough, I got to see Bill (Fonefono) and Marie Marconi on the road. At first, I noticed someone trying to wave at me out of the corner of my eye. I looked away, not wanting to be begged for a miracle for the second time hours away from the venue. As we sped away from the car, I looked back and noticed it was Bill. I told Doug to slow down and Bill and I exchanged waves and I assumed that we would meet up at the show later, so we just drove at our own pace, and Bill at his. Unfortunately, I didn't find them at the show, but I know this isn't the last concert for either of us, so Bill, we'll meet again, I promise. Jake's roommate lives in MD about 25 minutes away from the venue, and we showed up there first, so getting to the show was no problem. We had to park across the street, but we took a cooler to the main lot and enjoyed the pre-show festivities.
The scene: Not that bad, IMO. I'm sure the trash the next day was terrible, but I didn't meet up with that part of the scene. We had a surplus of cheap beer (did anyone else notice that maryland has a terrible beer selection?) and sold it at discount rates. We got into the show kind of late and set up camp near the back of the lawn. I saw Jen Marshall and her boyfriend pre-show and also Devon and Scott, all of whom I had met at Providence.
I was hoping to meet more RMPers, but that will have to wait for the 'wheel. (And for those of you who are keeping score, I WILL be at the rmp gathering. Doug, Ann and I convinced Jake to bag work on Friday, so we'll be in Limestone bright and early).
SET I The drumbeat from THE WEDGE started it off a little bit after 8. It was very similar to the version at the Went. This song is a fun way to start off a show, but this version really wasn't anything special. Just the fact that it was my first live Phish since April was enough to make me love it. NICU came up next, again not venturing into new ground, but very tight. SNEAKING SALLY THROUGH THE ALLEY is definitely one of my my favorite cover songs, because they aren't content to just play it and leave it alone. While the jam wasn't as awe- inspiring as the one at MSG last December, it was the first display of the funk for the evening, and a damn good one at that. The jam slowed into some spacey noodling that led to the opening notes of GYUTE. This was one of the more tight versions of Gyute, with the only noticeable flubs coming from Page, and not Trey. Very dark for the first half of the final verse, as usual, and the triumphant second half of said verse makes for one of my favorite Phish moments. FICUS ("Waterfalls and yellow snakes") followed, and after hearing it for the second time after the webcast, I'll reiterate my belief that this song will be a cool one to hear on the new album. The vocal harmonies are intriguing, and there is a Swept Away style pre-echo of some of the lyrics. This version wasn't considerably different from what I heard on the webcast, except for a lot less static. This song is a short transitional song for the time being, with little room for improvisation. FARMHOUSE was a surprising choice after Ficus, as I expected that it was maybe time for a song with more jamming potential. Farmhouse is a fun song, but with a guitar solo similar in feel to the one in Sample, it doesn't move me too much. I do like the lyrics, however. "Each betrayal begins with trust." Indeed. POSSUM was a welcome choice after Ficus/ Farmhouse. The jam was nowhere near legendary, but rather a fairly typical Possum. This isn't to say I wasn't loving every minute of it and dancing, but I wasn't awestruck. After Possum a very familar guitar riff started up, and I recognized it as the Velvet Underground's SWEET JANE about ten seconds in. This I happily announced to my companions and everyone else in earshot as I enjoyed the vocal stylings of MC Neon Cellgap (Page, for those who don't do anagrams). This is a cover that I would LOVE to become a permanent part of their repitiore (sp?) and a great set closer. I was reminded of the great post a few months ago talking about VU's influence on Phish. Maybe they DO get some ideas from the net. The total time of an hour left me wanting more, but I figured they would make up for it in the second set...
SET II CAVERN started the second set off, this version being about the same as always, without the screaming guitar at the end of some of the lyrics. 2001 was much more to my liking, but it was certainly not an epic 2001 by any means. There was some great funk in there, but it didn't come close to the great jams of the past (MSG for example). TELA followed, and as my first Tela, I was very excited to hear it. Phish doesn't play enough of the old-school ballads anymore IMHO, like FEFY and Tela. I must confess, though, that I've always liked the original version with the fast "Tela was born in a vulgar crooked hut..." section better than the straight-up ballad, but as a new song to me, I was happy. The end of Tela devolved into near silence, from which the opening to PIPER appeared. I have to say, until this show, I've been unimpressed with Piper. The tension and relaese of it just seems so contrived, not natural like in Hood. It's almost as if Trey said, "I'm going to write a song that's ALL tension and release, just to blow the stoner's minds." But THIS Piper was different. Sure, the buildup to the lyrics was fairly typical (and very enjoyable, if I let go of the feeling that my emotions were being toyed with by the band). But AFTER the lyrics, that is where the fun began. This was the only Type II jamming I've heard from a Piper, and the melody that was improvised was truly moving. The hose was spraying left and right, let me tell you, and if they do this with all Pipers from now on, consider me a convert. SEXUAL HEALING brought us all down from the musical high of Piper, and it marked a welcome return of Bob Weaver (or whatever Trey called Fishman). It had people laughing out loud. Watching Fishman's dance on this song was definitely one of the highlights of the show. His easy sway lulls you into a sense of true calm that makes you feel like you just had some Sexual Healing of your own. HARRY HOOD, which I hadn't really gotten into as of late (due to the spectacle of the glowsticks) got to me again and gave me IT. I looked on Ann's face and I could tell she got IT too, and it was a great moment even though neither of us said anything; we didn't have to.
Encore Listen all y'all it's a SABOTAGE! One of my favorite songs to get all riled up to, and there was Phish playing it! In true frat boy style, high tens were traded between Jake, Doug, and I. (Note for frat bashers: I am not in a frat. Note for frat boys: I don't have a problem with frats either.) I was amazed at what Trey did to his voice for this song. I just hope he didn't injure it permanently! An amazing high note to leave the show on, and it was definitely the talk of the crowd as we left.
Springer's Final Thought: A bit short overall, the new covers were GREAT, Piper was amazing, I loved Hood, Ficus is going to make a great album cut, lots of standard songs that didn't do too much for me. On the Scott Jordan Concert Review Scale, where 5.0 is a typically great Phish show, I give this show a 4. I know it's low, and I'd appreciate arguments to the contrary.
[15 year anniversary edit: I have no idea why I gave this a 4. This show was really great and fun, had two awesome debuts and it was definitely above average. I'm keeping the original score there but if I were to re-rate it it would be a 6 at least!]
Traffic can sometimes be okay. If you're travelling on the high of a great show the night before, and expectations are high, you won't even notice the clock ticking away. I must add though, once the clock starts reading 7:35 p.m. and you are still sitting on the highway not knowing how much further you have to go once you get off at your exit, it can be quite unpleasant. Such was the case on this very hot evening in the state of Maryland.
My last Phish show in Maryland (in December of ‘97) was, to put it bluntly, a personal disaster. I will not go into it here, but I wanted to redeem myself and enjoy this show. Plus, hearing about the venue itself, and some past Dead shows here, I was filled with anticipation bordering on extreme impatience. After sitting on the highway not moving for close to ninety minutes, my car began to move closer to the exit, and I was eventually off and directed to…nowhere! I figured out I was to find my own parking space, so after a few minutes, I made my way to a Sears parking lot and followed the herd. "The herd" is definitely what I felt like, as the crowds had to walk slowly through woods, up hills, down hills, through more woods, and eventually to a roped area that would be the entrance.
My first thought upon entering the venue was of a summer camp. There were trees all over the place, and behind the lawn you could hang out on the hill amid trees and people. There was a barn at the top of the lawn, at the sight of which I immediately called the first set “Farmhouse”.
“The Wedge” opened the show maybe ten minutes after I found an area on the lawn from which I could see the stage. This is the quintessential Phish opener to me, perhaps because of the perfect placement at the Great Went the previous summer. “NICU” followed, and as usual got the crowd smiling, always a pleasure to see this early in a first set. The first funk of the evening came next in the shape of “Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley”. This version, although not the longest, is worth hearing as there is some serious, thick funk being laid down. Very similar to the one on Long Island in the spring, except this one eventually made its way to “Guyute”. The “Sally” ended with Trey playing the muted counting he normally plays to kick off “Guyute”, except he had some heavy delay on his guitar and played it for a bit longer than normal. Rocking as usual. I was unfamiliar with the next song, and learned it was “Ficus” at set break. Although not my favorite song, it was a fine addition to the many personal debuts I got in ‘98. My predicted “Farmhouse” was next, and I enjoyed it amidst the trees and hot weather. This song is great in the summer for me for some reason. “Possum” followed and was rocking as usual. I thought the set would end, when the band started playing another unfamiliar song to me. As soon as Page started singing I realized it was “Sweet Jane”. Perhaps a Halloween tease? Whatever it was, I was happy with it as a set closer.
Setbreak seemed longer than normal, which gave me time to explore and try to find my friend, who I was supposed to meet at Will Call at 6 p.m.. This proved a bad idea amongst the thousands of fans, so I settled on the hill behind the lawn. A guy plopped down on his back directly in front of me, and proceeded to "pull a Jimi Hendrix" (vomit while lying on your back). This was my cue to get back on the lawn.
“Cavern” opened the second set in a similar fashion to the version on the Island Tour in the spring, with Trey starting it. I love this song but enjoy it better at the end of a set. “Also Sprach Zarathustra” followed (another prediction of mine, because of the venue) and was, as usual, funky, visually amazing, and all-around fun. Not as great on tape as some versions, but always welcome in my opinion. A beautiful “Tela” was next. After seeing “Forbin”->”Mockingbird” the night prior, this was another great addition to my summer.
Before this show, I still was not sold on “Piper”; it just seemed very loud and cacophonous to me. I will also admit I was not paying much attention during the composed part this particular evening. What eventually happened in the jam, though, blew me away. Pure jamming, my first "big jam" of the summer so far actually. Immediately following the composed section they start building and building until a bomb goes off, and some rocking Type I jamming. Eventually they lock down a heavy groove thing for a few minutes with Trey busting out some funky licks with his effect made famous in ‘97 (see jam before Great Went “Gin”). Fishman keeps it interesting on the ride cymbal as Trey starts playing some great melodies that Page picks up immediately. This fades out as Fishman comes out from behind his drum set for my first “Sexual Healing”. This is the perfect song for him, and to hear the band sing the backups is hilarious.
What better way to close a solid show than with “Harry Hood”? Call me crazy, but I was never that big a fan of this song, but I always enjoy it when I'm there, and it always seems to end a great show. It's just not my favorite, kill me. I think I enjoy the band/audience bliss during this song more than the actual song.
A glowstick war started, and as usual, seemed useless after the one that took place at the Great Went the summer before. I had no idea what the encore would be, and given the, quite frankly, bizarre covers debuted this summer, I was ready for anything. I was not ready for “Sabotage” by the Beastie Boys, though. I was very surprised, and even saw some people leaving! It was pretty funny to hear Trey screaming like a little kid. I'm a fan of the Beastie Boys, and I'm not sure what they would think of this, but it was definitely another surprise on what was a great Summer Tour.
Aside from the traffic and parking issues, this show had good song selection, a lot of covers, and a good vibe all around. Phish should make this a two-night Summer Tour venue.
We're on (Whats that road, 32?) sitting in traffic, with the woods to our right. We suddenly hear the first notes of Wolfman's Brother chiming through the woods. We- in all our 17 year old glory- look at each other, whip the Jeep to the side and pull up on the very tip of a grassy median seperating north & southbound lanes. With ass and nose of the jeep just hanging off into the little one foot mini-shoulder on either side.
We run into the woods and the music becomes murkier, our friend Julie says she hears Horn but we're pretty sure it's still Wolfmans. We come out into the parking lot and.. There's a Ryder truck with a big speaker system. Playing Hoist. Julie looks at us and goes "Huh. I told you guys I heard horns!"
This is a really good show, but I'm pretty sure both sets are under an hour long. Sally->Guyute and Piper>Tela are the only parts to really write home about. And Sweet Jane, Sexual Healing and Sabotage were all a nice treat. The Hood was breathtaking at 17 years old but doesn't feel like a very above average version now. I like Fikus a whole lot. Always wished they would let it emerge from some creepy jam.
I've always wondered if the 100 minute first set at MPP 2000 (And if you want to hear a Guyute that gets REAL evil at the end..check that one out..I think it ends up being like 13-14 minutes with all the weird effects) was in some way a makeup for how short this show was.
Those helicopters were nuts. I was 10 feet from a horse cop that got hit by a bottle. Smart move, hippie. You singlehandedly ensured that this venue wouldn't be a fun time again until 2011. When they inexplicably relaxed big time. Cavity search? Hell, they didn't even check my ticket in 2011!
Maybe not too inexplicably though. Furthur was in Brooklyn and I didn't see a single dreadlock. How far we've come since my first trip to this strange venue that almost always generated cool ass shows.
THE TRAFFIC: I don't ever remember more brutal traffic driving into Colombia. Not sure what it was all about but, man, it took forever to get those last few miles to the venue.
THE SHOW: Just listen to it. Awesome stuff. Solid Wedge opener. Nasty Sally. Excellent Piper. Sweet Jane (really wish they would play it more often). Fishman singing Sexual Healing. And, of course, the energy bomb, Sabotage -- still never seen that much energy at a show since, Phish or otherwise. What a way to end a show. Everyone was FIRED UP exiting the venue (screaming and high fives everywhere). No one expected that kind of finish.
THE SECURITY: Pretty sure you had to be a bald redneck with a goattee to work this show. They were brutal, angry, and ready to kick some concert goer ass. Really sad. We watched a poor kid who had passed out get carried out by two mongrels...one carrying his feet, the other his head. Kid comes to as they are carrying him out of the gig...starts squirming...then these pricks drop him on his head (on concrete no less). I can still hear his head hitting the ground. Lots of people were screaming at these security guards afterwards. Just brutal.
The back of the lawn has a little wooden fence that you can sit on (not sure if it's still there, I haven't been back). If you hop the fence, you hit a steep hill that goes down to a sidewalk that traverses the rear of the venue (you can't see the stage at all if you are walking on this sidewalk). My buddy had a medical issue mid-set, so we parked on this hill while our friend sough help. Our view as we sat on the hill was directly toward the hurricane fence marking the rear of the venue. The bald, goatted security guards were patrolling this fence like robot sentinels. As the two guards made their way closer to the sides of the venue (away from us on the hill, near the middle of the sidewalk), a group of 8 or so wooks come running out of the forrest, jump onto the hurricane fence (must've been 10 feet high), scale it, run up the hill we are on, and then disappear into the crowd. Hysterical. The redneck guards didn't have the speed or strength to follow suit. I don't like gate crashers or endorse that conduct; however, the cheers from the fans at they watched the angry guard's helpless efforts to catch the gate crashers was great.
OVERRALL: Super fun show albeit really short (just over two hours). Lots of fun covers and originals -all well executed. This show changed it all for me. Highly recommend giving this one a listen. Still shines 18 years later! Listen all of y'all....!
(Posted 18 years later on 8/8/2016)