This was the first show of the Lemonwheel festival. SOAM was played by request for an eight-year-old boy named Sam Jarvis. Cities included Sneakin’ Sally teases and, along with Halley’s Comet, included alternate lyrics relating to the concert grounds. Gumbo included a Tweezer Reprise-esque jam. Sanity was played for the first time since Halloween 1996 (140 shows). Bowie included a lengthy intro and Mission: Impossible theme teases. After Tweezer Reprise, Trey made a long announcement thanking people for coming and remarked on the fun and joy of the summer concert festivals. He said that there would be some more music, played by the light of candles made that day by fans. The ensuing “ambient jam” was in the style of Brian Eno and was nearly an hour long and included Albert teases from Trey.
MIKE'S SONG is a great opener, IMO. Granted, it usually doesn't stretch out as much as it can when placed otherwise, but it really gets the crowd going. This version mostly featured machine-gun Trey on guitar in the jam. The segue into SIMPLE was very abrupt; it was not a smooth transition but came after the "end" of Mike's (the end being what the usually play before H2). Trey gave us the screaming guitar riff after the be-bop line, which I love. The jam stuck to the simple theme/chords, and was very mellow at times. BEAUTY OF MY DREAMS was next, which we had just heard the original of on the Badger in the morning. Leo had a nice little solo after Trey told him to play it. ROGET, which I had never heard, is a great new song. The main lyric is "The circus is the place for me" if you want to be able to recognize it. Unfortunately, there is nothing even remotely about a Thesaurus. The whole band sings on this one, trading lines like Page and Trey "Rift"-style. There is a short jam that I can only describe as psychedelic. The lyrics continue the contemplative nature of latter-day Phish, IMO. After the song, Trey says "Thanks for coming everybody, I hope you're having as good a time as we are." Then, "By request from a tiny little boy named sam" come SOAMelt. I would describe this version as medium length and typically great. POOR HEART featured some nice yelling by Fishman. Before I heard it, I thought MOMA DANCE would suck the life out of Black Eyed Katy by adding sing. I'm very happily mistaken. The song begins like BEK and featured some Simple teases. The lyrics are very cool, and I'm going to have to run to dejanews and check if anyone has transcribed them. I look forward to hearing this on the album if it is indeed there. Since the sun was just starting to peek through the clouds, we knew what was coming next. DIVIDED SKY is one of my favorite songs to hear outside and was played very tightly. It might have been a bit longer than usual but I can't be sure. The new arrangement of WATER IN THE SKY followed, continuing the sky theme. The new version reminds me of the CD single of Strange Design, with some great percussive work by Fishman. FUNKY BITCH was what I thought might be the set closer, based on the length at this point. Page was all over the organ in this Bitch. While a segue is noted between Bitch and CITIES, I didn't hear one on the tapes. Trey messes with the lyrics a bit, asking us "Did I forget to mention the garden of infinite pleasantries? Home of the portalet pagoda and the pond the steam comes out of. And the Hojo dojo." This version was nowhere near as good as the Went, however. They then break it down for the people on the ferris wheel into an almost bluesy jam and segue into WEEKAPAUG GROOVE. Trey gives us an anthem-like guitar solo which ends in a jam off the main riff of Weekapaug to close the set.
Setbreak: We headed out to the garden of infinite pleasantries and tried to figure out what was going on with the people who were heating up the rocks. As we watched, scared of the giant sentry, 4 or 5 people in yellow arabian costumes ran past us with a giant tree branch and a chainsaw, yelling "Chainsaw Bonzai!" Ever curious, we followed them as they ran to and up the step pyramid to the top. They then proceeded to start up the chainsaw and cut the branch, in a great parody of real bonzai gardening. Soon, a man on stilts came and chastized the bonzai practitioners for "killing trees" and tried to get the audience to join him. It didn't really work, however, and as soon as the guy with the chainsaw was done with the tree branch, he decided to go after the stilts. He cut them down to short stubs and then they solemnly brought the bonzai tree away from the pyramid. As we were following them to see where they were bringing the tree, we encountered some masked individuals wheeling a cart with 2 red-hot rocks in it. They brought this cart to the blue pond, and ,in a very serious manner, dumped them into the pond. The pond steamed as the rocks were dropped in, but very little. The mask people left, as seriously as they had come. We then walked around some more and checked out the shopping and other such stuff (who would have thought that they would sell phatty glass IN the venue?). We then moved back a to the second speaker tower on the right of the stage, which turned out to be a very chill place to hear the concert.
THE WEDGE got things going and was an obvious choice with Limestone in the lyrics. It was similar to the version at the Went. Next came one of the songs that, IMO, defines Phish, REBA. There was a pretty mellow jam (beyond the typical composed part) that had some nice interplay (echoing, etc.) between Page and Trey. This version included the whistling, which I was happy to hear. GUMBO followed Reba, and included the the best jam of the night, if you don't count the 4th set. It was long and funky, and left the funk to build using chords similar to Tweeprise. I was hoping for a segue into Walk Away, but instead, I got the rare treat of SANITY. Trey probably looked up and noticed that the stars sucked, and got a big cheer when he announced that fact. There was a little spacey messing with the mnain riff at the end of the song by Page, Trey and Mike, which ended when Trey played the beginning of TWEEZER. Page gave us a little Frankenstein style-keyboard work in the beginning and Mike was laying down a thick groove throughout. Trey was playing in true machine-gun style, not funk, and then the jam slowed to a hard rock groove that slowed to a stop. THE HORSE>SITM was standard, but that doesn't mean I (and everyone else) didn't cheer at the "just last year" lyric. CHALKDUST was a typically rocking version that didn't stand out in my eyes, but was fun to dance to. The glowstick war during SLAVE was amazing to watch, and Limeston secured its status as the best place for such a war. Slave was definitely great, but I don't feel like I can say objectively how great, just because all of my senses were working overtime.
Setbreak: Quick run to the bathroom and then an hour or so of chilling (literally and figuratively) before the next set.
NICU is a song that I've been hearing a lot lately, so I'm getting a bit tired of it. It still has some of my favorite lyrics, which Trey flubbed a bit with a laugh. It melded into BOWIE, or as I termed it, the space intro, because it was at least 8 minutes long. The band pulled out all of the space effects that they have; Fishman started and stopped the bowie cymbals several times before they kicked into the beginning of Bowie. The jam was mostly guitar-based, and didn't stray too far from the song structure. In between climaxes at the end of the song, Trey mixed it up a bit, bending notes like crazy. STRANGE DESIGN, far from being "dreadful" as the Bangor paper called it, actually served as a nice comedown from Bowie. Had very appropriate lyrics, considering the long drives everyone had made with their companions. Next up was LIMB BY LIMB, and I really enjoyed the stop after the lyric section and the way they bust right into the jam after it. Has this been happening all summer? This was a very good Limb, but not quite up to the standards of the Went. BRIAN AND ROBERT has some very cool music, but the lyrics leave me a bit perplexed, as Phish usually doesn't write things this dark. If anyone wants to take a chance on interpreting them for me, I'd love it. LOVING CUP is a classic sing-along cover and a great set closer. The solo may have been a little longer than usual, but maybe not.
HALLEY'S COMET was nothing like the Went, but more similar (if a bit shorter) to the Ball, with a building jam. Trey again referred to the garden of infinite pleasantries in the lyrics. CAVERN followed immediately after Halley's, and I was disappointed to see no one throwing shoes at the band like in days of yore. We all knew TWEEZER REPRISE would follow, and we weren't disappointed. At the end of the song, Trey tells us all about the Ambient Jam that would follow.
Setbreak: We made our way back to the tent as fast as possible in order to change into some warmer clothes. We figured we had plenty of time; so we grabbed some great organic coffee from a vendor to warm and wake us for the fourth set. As we attempted to go back to the venue, we were met with a large exodous of fans leaving the jam. Was it that bad, I thought?
The AMBIENT JAM was wonderful, and my only regret is that the damn setbreak was too short for me to get into my warm clothes and get back into the venue in time to hear the whole thing. This was the ideal Phish experience for me: sitting down on a blanket and taking in a completely improvisatory set. I was extemely happy they didn't make us wander around the parking lot this year to hear the experimental stuff. Take your favorite moments from the Type II jams over the years and meld them into a long jam and you will have this set.
After the jam, we waited until the lights turned on to be sure they were done playing, and then went home to sleep.
Other than Oswego, doesn't it seem like Lemonwheel's the least talked about Phish festival? Maybe it's because it has the least going for it in terms of "big event" stuff - yes, it has the Ambient Jam, which is great (more on that below), but "50+ minute ambient music" is never really going to be a selling point, IMO. Compare that to the Clifford Ball (1st festival, big DVD release), the Went (best festival musically), Cypress (which is Cypress), IT (Tower Jam, major 2003 moment), Coventry (which we don't need to get into), Fest 8 (Exile, acoustic set), and Superball (which just happened last year, and has the Storage Jam). For such a major show, Lemonwheel kinda feels like it's fallen through the cracks (note the lack of reviews here). As I'd never heard Lemonwheel outside the big jam, I'd like to know what it is I've missed.
Set I: Starting off a two day festival with a set-long Mike's Groove is a pretty sweet move; yeah, the song selection doesn't knock me on my ass, but there's a lot of fun "we're getting warmed up" songs, Cities has a charming "lookit all the cool festival stuff" improvised lyrics moment before the jam stomps into Weekapaug, and Mike's/Simple/Groove are all cool, if pretty standard Type I jams (Weekapaug does have an interesting double-time breakdown at the end).
Set II: Now we're getting to the deep stuff, starting with a fine Reba and then one of the highlights of the festival, the Gumbo - Tweezer run. Gumbo breaks out of its usual structure pretty early in the jam, finding a slow, very funky, milkshake-thick groove that actually finds a motif of escalating chords similar to 12/14/95's fabled Timber jam. The Gumbo jam then segues excellently into Sanity, and then upon Sanity's conclusion the band kicks into Tweezer. The Tweezer jam starts with an ominous, fast-paced energy, settling into the kind of groove Tweezers settled into in the late 90s...but then Trey starts pouring on the rock, and the groove turns more heavy and muscular before petering out into The Horse. There's a pretty fine Slave to close, with a powerful closing peak.
Set III: NICU leads very easily into Bowie, which builds and builds with some nice Fishman cymbal/chime work, a dense, spacey guitar effects fog, and Page adding some atmospheric piano work before entering the song proper 8 and a half minutes in; the actual Bowie is good as you'd expect but doesn't break any boundaries. Neither does the rest of the set, although the Limb is worth a listen.
Encore: It's an encore.
Ambient Jam: Worth at least a star of my show rating all by itself, this is an astonishing, lovely set of free improvisation. The through-line to Fukuoka is pretty obvious, as well as to every other big jam Phish has ever done since - guitar playing that's more added ingredient than solo voice/jam starter; atmospheric soundscapes from Page; Fish's drumming and cymbal washes serving almost as another solo instead of rhythm; the temperature of the music rising and falling with each new movement. I don't know if I made this particularly enticing to listen to, but understand that if you love the Waves soundcheck, the Headphones Jam, and every other "we're playing for you and you alone" moment of Phish's career, this jam is every bit their equal and often their superior. There's hushed moments of sheer beauty, atonal weirdness, chugging rock and funk inflected mini-jams, all delivered with a languid air as though the band knows they have all the time in the world to do whatever they want. It's certainly not all perfect (or totally interesting - I mean, 50 minutes of jamming is a LOT of jamming), and many of the ideas in the jam would be better expressed elsewhere, but that's a big point - without this jam there's no Fall '99, no Cypress, no Japan tour, maybe no 2.0 style. It's a brilliant listen, and of immense historical value.
The second set is my personal favorite set of Phish, all time. As always, the enjoyment of a set depends on more than just song choice. I was with great people and we had an amazing spot with great sound. We were actually walking into the venue as The Wedge started so it was great to get into position with a little walking music. Reba was wonderfual and Gumbo went into some nice little areas not often seen. Sanity was a perfect break and then Tweezer starts up...perfect. The Chalkdust and Slave closer made for a rocking set.
They could play the exact same set again and it wouldn't even come close. I've been "chasing" this perfect set ever since. Some have come close, but I bet none will ever beat that magical hour of music.
This was my first Phish show. I had convinced my older deadhead cousin to come to this festival with me (didn't have a license yet). I had been well immersed in the music for a long time at this point but he had never heard a note. The whole weekend was an absolute blast. The complete sense of community displayed at Lemmonwheel has been unmatched in my eyes since. No sense in rehashing what the other commentators have already mentioned as far as individual songs. However, I remember feeling really lucky to catch that Sanity at the time, and really this whole second set is one that I return to for a regular listen. My cousin and I wandered off from one another at the start of this show (think the same thing happened on the second day too) but I remember how giddy we both were back at the campgrounds post shows. We did catch the ambient set together relaxing in that beautiful field while the boys played to all of us. 16 years and many many shows later my cousin and I try to catch as many shows together as we can, all the while him thanking me for "dragging" him to Lemmonwheel 16 years ago!
If you only listen to one set from the first day of Lemonwheel, I (highly) recommend Set 4: the (legendary) Ambient Jam. The first set technically comprises an entire Mike's Groove, though not all of the songs are segued. The Mike's Song > Simple to open is pretty heady, even though Mike's isn't very long, and neither is simple. Things pick back up with a nice microjam out of Cities > Weekapaug Groove. As for the second set, the Reba strikes my fancy quite a bit more than the one from Clifford Ball two years earlier, and it features an interesting, modulated segue into Sanity. Tweezer is about all she wrote for the big outside-the-box jamming in this set. In Set 3, David Bowie has what the setlist team calls a "lengthy intro," which is certainly an interesting listen, and perhaps can be viewed in retrospect as having foreshadowed what would happen in the Ambient Jam. You then get a nice triple encore with the perennial favorite Tweezer Reprise, but as I said, the Ambient Jam is the big thing of note here if you're relistening. It may in fact be true that this jam goes a long way towards explaining the further shift in style from the cowfunk of 1997 into the more "superextended grooves" of 1999 and 2000.
This was the first show I was ever introduced to. At the time I liked the sound of the Dead, but with phish I just didn't get IT. This show definitely changed all of that, The first set Mikes>Simple is when I remember saying whoa I think I've got something here!! But it was the Reba.. and Gumbo>Sanity>Tweezer segue that changed my life forever. I would sit down my camper every weekend and play this show for the next couple years along with many others, they were some seriously magical times in my life.. It's very nostalgic now thinking about it.. Long story short, 16 years later I've grown into a man and I'm a better person because of this beauitiful music..The heady phish from vermont
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