a) well-documented and oft-lauded tour highlights (Hampton, Dayton, Auburn Hills, etc)
b) a terrible looking second set
is doing themselves a SERIOUS disservice.
The Ghost opener is 17 minutes of ferocious full-band communicado: Trey explores his wah pedal with comp-type chording for the first half of the jam, no direction given, no direction taken. It's REALLY relaxed, and the crowd erupts 12 minutes in for no apparent reason other than to say, "as an opener, this will do just fine." When Trey finally does solo proper, its in the hallmark '97 style, all serial-abduction Stevie Ray Vaugn riffs over a bed of chirping alien birds courtesy of the delay loop.
A pair of funk tunes to showcase the new direction, a short breather, and then a crazed Runaway Jim: around 8 min in, things get so heavy that I was convinced this was some sort of mountain-pass test, we were all climbing into thin air and only with some serious skill and a little (ok a LOT) trepidation would we make it down the other side. Ay 10:00, we clear the last pitch, and Trey quiets things down to begin a descent with eerie nimbled ease. The drone still pulses, we're not sure if the mountain has broken free from the glacier or not, it's ALMOST an actual segue into My Friend, Fish is playing a swing beat for chrissakes, down and down and then....
Then the segue to the first and only My Friend, My Friend of the tour! The first on US soil in a year! Not sure why these guys were able to get SO DARK during this tour, but man, this thing is spooky! Trey's laughing at the slowness of this version, but it loses none of its strange medieval-cum-heavy metal charm.
Fans of Limb by Limb should give this a spin, it's equally dark as the Jim and just as celebratory in it's resolution. During this tour (and a few others during the peak years) it seemed as though every song was an opportunity to make a grand musical statement. Whether the thing stated made any sense or was successful wasn't really the point, as we'd soon find out a few songs later. It really felt like the whole band was soloing in unison, drawing on a jazz heritage that often gets lost in the wake of recent shows.
Now, the second set. Stash as an opener was strange to me, even if it had been done once already on this tour. But as it unfolded, and I found a new spot illuminated atop the upper section stairway platform, I made the connection that this song (perhaps more than any other in the catalog) is the perfect synthesis of the phish sound: polyrhythmic, tension-filled, plumbing, a vehicle for top-flight improv. And so it was.
With Bouncing, then Julius, I began to worry about the quality of the song selection for what could have otherwise been a really strong show. Ah, but the band had other ideas for Julius on this frigid December night. Of all the songs that received a "treatment" in 1997, this was the one I would've never foreseen. And for good reason: it hadn't been hinted at before this show and it hasn't happened since. It's trite to say "best Julius ever", not because there are better performances but because fearless exploration and wide-ranging improvisation isn't everyone's cup of tea. Some will say it seems forced, that the gospel blues of Julius doesn't really lend itself to funk, or jazz, or reggae. But to iterate: this was a different time, when no song was sacred, when no basic building block of music couldn't be deconstructed or subverted in some way.
Julius proper ends some 7 min into the 18 minutes that make up this monster. Fish has been yelling his approval for the entire coda, and it's no wonder: he leads the band into a rag-time version of the song first, as an entry point into what becomes a multi-genre affair. A quick jump back to double time, a wall of noise, and a standard Trey eruption, the thing could end here and it would still be talked about in the various Phish nerd web forums. But it doesn't end. Trey picks it up with a staccato strumming, steps on the wah, and perhaps because Mike never strays from the walking bass line of Julius, this doesn't just become another in a litany of funk jams. Instead, it's a strange hybridized thing, with a reggae beat emerging 14 minutes in! Trey cuts everything out for some "Bring the Dude" action, Fish belts out his dancehall reggae yell, and things just get weirder. Scofield-esque blues, strange Page tones, another beat change, and they somehow bring things to a close with Slave.
It's worth noting that this Slave is also FAR from typical. Maybe because of the huge leap of faith everyone just took, this Slave is so patient, so far back in the pocket. Both its reggae rhythms and its bleak, technophobic breakdowns never sounded so raw. Trey really pushes his hollow-body, and these little mini-scapes are just hints of things to come. Once the jam rises up to its typical majestic conclusion, Page instigates a tidal wave of sound that really seemed like it was going to wash us all away. The truest incarnation of Trey's "My Bloody Valentine / Sonic Youth meets Brian Eno" influence, I didn't hear this kind of pure NOISE again until 12/30/98 (out of Coil, no less). The closest sonic analogy would be a shuttle lift-off.
So yeah, it's easy to forget this seemingly de rigueur show. It's far from conventional, and the only thing typical about it is that, like it's Fall '97 brethen, it's typically brilliant.
The Ghost was great and the whole 2nd set is great. You can hear that they were ready to
jam as soon as then stepped foot on the stage in the 2nd set. The Stash was a killer opener.
The Julius was so rocking! The jam is swinging so hard and it was nice to hear a song take
the spot light in 2nd set that normally wouldn't be there and the Slave is killer.
1. Do not skip this show.
2. do not skip any 97 shows.
(posted over 12 years ago, the morning after the show, to rec.music.phish)
12/5/97 Cleveland State University Convocation Center
Times are in paranthesis.
Set I: Ghost (17) --> Wilson@ (5), Funky Bitch (6) Black-Eyed Katy (8),
Sparkle (4), Runaway Jim* (14) --> My Friend, My Friend+ (7), Ginseng
Sullivan (5), Limb by Limb (10), Character Zero (9)
Set II: %, Stash (13), Bouncnig Around the Room (3), Julius# (17), Slave
to the Traffic Light^ (16), Lizzards (11), Loving Cup (10), Chalkdust
Encore: Axis: Bold as Love (7)
I: 85 min
II+E: 90 min
@ Someone held up a HUGE (12 foot) Wilson tennis ball flag during this
tune which Trey acknowledged.
* Runaway Jim included a Harry Hood Jam in the last minute and a half.
+ Trey motions to Fishman on "My friend, my friend, he's got a wife" and
Jon looks out at the crown with a big grin on his face.
% Fishman teased the opening drumbeat to Buffallo Bill, then he and Trey
shot each other a series ofdirty looks...all in jest of course.
# Makisupa-Like jam in the last 3-4 minutes of the Julius Jam.
^ Slave included a heavy-metal jam
I heard someone say that they heard 2 Camel Walk teases and a Mike's
teased in the first set. I think he was on crack... but the Hood tease
*is* there, though, I swear. If you happen to have the tapes already
check at about 12-13 minutes into the Jim Jam and please confirm my
We meant to leave Ann Arbor at noon, but it quickly became nearly 2 pm
before we got of town (you know how those things go...). The drive to
Cleveland went really quickly; I think we made it in just under 3 hours
listening to some Bela and the Flecktones. The stop for gas featured a
bizarre exit on US Route 420, and Reilly's Gatoraide and junk food purge
rang up to again the mysterious total of $4.20. Hmmmmm... We met up with
2 friends, Elizabeth and Elizabeth at their apartment in Cleveland.
Elizabeth #1 was an *excellent* cook, and made us a tasty dinner of beans
and rice and baked chicken. Elizabeth #2 had a pair of pet lizzards...was
this a sign?
It was butt-cold outside, but that didn't stop a good number of people
from setting up outside just across the street from the Convocation
Center. Snaps to whoever made that Meatball Sub...it was great! I met
Aaron outside of will call as I was waiting to drop off tickets to a
friend who never showed and I met Sauldude there, good to meet you
finally! But it was freezing and we had to get inside and warm up. The
Convocation Center itself is a really nice building, it seemed really
small but I overheard someone saying that it held 1,000 more than Assembly
Hall in Champaign. We found ourselves a good spot on the floor, about 20
feet directly in front of Fishman. We were sitting next to some nice
people from Notre Dame and, despite the rivalry, they were great people
after all. ;^) We chatted and listened to some nice Jazz and then
something with more of a clubby-bass feel to it. But at exactly 8:00 the
lights went down...
GHOST: Bold opener, in the words of Steve Williams. I was happy to see
this right off the bat. No throw away here, just unadulterated jamming.
This Ghost was nice and funky, like they all are, a healthy 17 minutes.
Trey stareted doing the Digital Delay Loop stuff that he's been doing a
lot more of (see 8/9/97 Alpine Valley SOAMule and Mike's Jam) this
Summer/Fall and at about 14 minutes into the jam it turned really dark.
Like I said, it was a good jam. Nothing stellar, but a heckovalot nicer
than a lot of openers they could have done. This segued nicely into...
WILSON: Trey forgot to do the second verse right off, and went directly
into the "I must inquire..." section, but quickly recovered. Nothing
crazy here, but toward the end of the song Trey did acknowledge a couple
of people on the left side of the building that had one of those big
Wilson tennis ball flags that you would hang up at a baseball game or
FUNKY BITCH: This tune was average at best. Mind you, average is a good,
rockin' Bitch, but having just heard this in Champaign and before at the
Went and before that at Darien, it didn't get me as pumped. No complaints
thus far, though...
BLACK-EYED KATY: This tune is as good as everyone has been saying. When
they first hit that rhythmic pattern of double stops, I got the famous
ear-to-ear show grin that happens when you just heard something you know
you liked. Katy is like a slice of a really good Ghost jam restructured
and given a better build and more room to experiment. Trey used the DDL
again here, and Page had a (new?) keyboard to the right of his Baby Grand
that he did some cool swells with. This might be (not counting Sampson,
which seems to have vanished like a Leprechaun) the first completely
instrumental funk jam tune. I think that this tune will be the one to
watch for the next, say Tweezer. Katy will go places...
SPARKLE: well, the lights were nice...
RUNAWAY JIM: This was a great first set Jim. Nothing like the 58 minute
Jim of a few days ago, I'm sure, but there was some solid playing
nonetheless. about 8 minutes into the jam it again turned really dark...I
was really conscious of the darm jamming today because on the way down
someone mentioned that Phish likes playing the dark, brooding jams more
that the happy, get-everyone-on-their-feet jams. Toward the end of the Jim
jam, though, it turned quickly back into a happy jam, and at about 12
minutes into Trey began the chording of the Hood jam. They played the
Hood jam for about 1.5 to two minutes before segueing (technically a > and
not a -->) into...
MY FRIEND, MY FRIEND: This is good tune to hear every once in a while.
Trey looked over at Fishman for the line "...he's got a wife" and Fish
kind of looked out at the audience and smiled. Fish was very active
tonight...a lot of little fills (more than usual, I think) and lots of
yelling (esp see Set II Julius) from him tonight. During the crazy build
section toward the end, Trey crouched down and played his guitar on the
mic stand. Trey was all over the place tonight, bopping and churning and
rocking hard. After MF^2 was done, they kind of hung back and talked for
a minute or so about what to do next. They ended up playing...
GINSENG SULLIVAN: well, the lights were kind of nice... Seriously, I
don't particularly care for this song anymore. It's a good blugrass tune,
but I think I've heard it too much. I could have used a My Soul, Beauty,
Uncle Pen, or Old Home Place. Oh well...
LIMB BY LIMB: This was a good version, not as good as Champaign, though.
I think they pulled out early at the end, and that they could have gone
elsewhere, but the jam stayed pretty basic. One *small* complaint as a
singer, though: when Fishman started his solo "Limb by Limb by limb by..."
on the outtro, he was a bit flat. Just an anal singer's thing, sorry.
CHARACTER ZERO: Our companion said it lacked the intensity of Hartford,
and it was definately not the most rocking version of Char0 I'd heard.
Chris did not seem "on," in sync with the band throughout most of the
first set. Of course it had it's moments, but the set was pretty weak,
IMO. There was too much "whatever" music...songs that you just say "huh?
Ok, whatever." when they start up. At setbreak Steve and I talked briefly
about being slightly dissapointed, but were were psyched to be hearing one
more set before going home.
Setbreak: 44 min
Fish sat down and immediately played the opening beat to Buffallo Bill,
and Trey shot him a look-of-death (in jest, of course), to which Fishman
replied with his own look-of-death, and they went back and forth a couple
of time, it ended with both of them laughing and Trey saying "Stash" about
STASH: Not bad for a second set opener, but it did not get very far out
there. This was a straightforward, good Stash.
BOUNCIN': Hmmm...the lights weren't even cool... ;^)
JULIUS: 17 minutes. This was a _very_ healthy Julius. Page had some
nice B-3 work throughout the song, in at least 2 different occasions.
About 15 minutes into the jam, everyone dropped out but Trey and he just
kept chording on the downbeats, while Fishman started screaming "yeah!"
with him. This jam had gone Makisupa-style a few minutes earlier, and I
was almost certain they were going to do it (even though they just did it
in Philly). This also had a nice segue into...
SLAVE: This was the highlight of Set II. This Slave was great. There
was a heavy metal jam starting at about 11 minutes in and lasting a good
5-6 minutes. Right at the end Trey again (for the fourth time??) used his
DDL to layer guitar effects, and the jam got a little spacy. But when
this jam was up, it was rocking. The spacey jam disolved into...
LIZARDS: Fun song, especially for the glitter laden twirler girls next to
us that decided that now would be a good time to flip their hair in my
face...actually, I was suprised and impressed that nobody screwed this
song up. Of course, they play it enough...
LOVING CUP: Yes. Now this song I'll take any day. Hard rocking and most
of the crowd gets into it. Trey was loving it up on stage, crouched over
his guitar and playing like a madman. I love this tune.
CHALKDUST: I was actually really impressed by this song this time around.
I had sarted to grow a little tired of it, but it had the energy of a '93
machine gun Trey, with the musical prowess of 1997. (aka Phish 2000 - for
ENCORE: AXIS: Bold As Love: My first live, and I actually mistook it for
Amoreena from the 8/13/97 Pittsburg show...I don't know why. Oh, I forgot
to mention Page's beard...it's huge! I know know if anyone else has
mentioned it but he looks like a hippy now! Axis is a good tune. That's
about all I can say for it. It sort of seemed like they wanted us out of
there. Security was not very cool about letting us take our time getting
Oh, one thing that was hysterical was when they were inbetween Set II and
the Encore, the guy infront of me said "Did you hear? Cleveland gets a
special treat of a really spectacular ending!" In case you didn't see,
Phish ran a series of "Phish destroys America" ads and for each city they
put a the bottom something like "A New show with a Spectacular ending in
[enter city] only!" Go Phish.
I'm glad I went tonight, but I'm more glad that I am going to two more
shows this weekend. I would really have to give Set I a 4 on the Scott
Jordan Polls, I have heard much better from these guys. The Jim was
great, and I really liked Katy, but there was too much "whatever" music
like I said. Set II earns a good 6 from me. It was a decent set, and
solidly played. The Slave was just great, and will warrant (at least for
me) multiple listening when I get the tapes. The Julius is something
special, too, but nothing groundbreaking at this show. Hopefully,
tonight's show will be completely overshadowed by what's going to happen
alright, so this is not the greatest show of the tour, but on the flip side, if this show were played in the winter of '99, people would be singing its praises. the first set is pretty solid. ghost jams out a little bit. all in all though, this is just a nice sharp rocking set.
stash does not go too far back, and batr room makes one think that this set is heading into loser'ville. julius all but confirms it...but wait! the julius just takes off into a hellaciouos jam. this quickly leaves the julius theme and trey drives it into the stratosphere. without a doubt, easily the best julius ever. if finally dips into a lovely slave. the rest of this show is missable, but do not count out that julius. its not my favorite tune, but this version really blazes.
Its funny because This venue is in a super bad run down neighborhood. I remember before the show there was this manhole cover that was loose and you fall into it. This chick was standing next to it yelling Danger zone! the whole time. This is burned into my memory every time I think of this Cleveland show.
What I remember about this show, it was my 5th ph show and we were running late. We got inside during Ghost: good thing it was a long one and a kick ass one at that. Wilson rocked. 1st st was killer b/c of rare tunes b.e. katy and gingseng. Stash opener 2nd set was great. Stash should be an opener 1st or 2nd more often. cleveland rocked this night but 2nd set detroit and all of dayton sunday night was some of the best phish ever. Still seeing ph to this day but these wknd shows will rank as the best ever. 1997 rules
The Mockingbird Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Phish fans in 1996 to generate charitable proceeds from the Phish community.
And since we're entirely volunteer – with no office, salaries, or paid staff – administrative costs are less than 2% of revenues! So far, we've distributed over $1,000,000 to support music education for children – hundreds of grants in all 50 states, with more on the way.