The second-set opener is a unique Stash that dissolves into one of Fall Tour's most stunning ambient passages - not just a transitional 'noise space' (cf. summer '09) but a brief, fully-integrated meterless jam in the *middle* of the jam. Stash has always brought the best out of Phish, and 1997 was a fine year for the tune (check out 11/23, 11/30, and *especially* 7/2), so when I say that this is one of the best Stashes of 1997 and could slip into the Top Ten Ever, you've gotta take my full meaning.
Oh hey, and Phish played a whole concert that night! Whaddaya know?
I have several profound memories from my first Las Vegas Phish experience. The first is a clear memory of how unprepared many of the "old skool" fans were for the modern era of Phish. The most notable example of this was found during a setbreak trip to the bathroom with my girlfriend. She had elected to go the extra mile in the fashion department for this show, as this was after all "Vegas Baby!" Her outfit for the evening consisted of a set of those sexy-as-hell clunky black hipster girl shoes, a skin-tight ensemble of black hip-huggers with a blue and white fractal belly shirt, a glittery pink pleather jacket, and a Vegas show girl coiffure.
This apparently cutting edge fashion statement was met by an inordinately high number of sneers, hisses, and bitchy comments (apparently they figured her for a Vegas call girl and apparently disapproved of her career choice) from a whole host of the stinky, dirty, poopy-dread-headed tour-ratesses that were infesting the arena. My advice ladies"...take a shower, brush your hair, and lose the fucking Patchouli"...that shit gives me a headache. Allow me to introduce you to the future, you are not it.
My second memory is my grasping for the first time just how important the work of Mr. Kuroda is in generating the landscape through which the music meanders. During "Split Open and Melt" I actually felt like I was involved in a high-speed car chase with a State Police cruiser bearing down on my tail. Throughout the second set "Prince Caspian" and "Bouncing Around the Room" combo I was embroiled in the interchanging points of view of a man in a boat and the fish he was trying to catch swimming below him in the crystal clear waters. As the band thrashed through the "Mike's" > "Sparklepaug" that followed, this vision persisted. Although I was still viewing the underside of a boat from the perspective of a fish during this part of the show; the guy on the boat had now cranked up the outboard motor, thereby destroying the tranquility of my choral maze and cutting me and the other fish to shreds as it churned up an enormous wake of light and sound. Finally, it had become quite clear after only two visits that it was impossible to have a bad time in Las Vegas. Consequently, you can be sure that whenever Phish is there, I will be too.
A quick note on Black-Eyed Katy:
My best friend in the world was named Katie (RIP)and while we were both bummed it got absorbed into MOMA there was a brief time in that magical Fall 1997 tour that BEK was a singular beast. Seeing the debut was something we all crave from Phish after we get some shows under our belt: the "what the f--k are the playing right now???!!??" moment that eludes us more and more as time goes on and we read the book from prologue to appendix.
This was a pimp-slap blast of otherworldly funk that caused a massive outbreak of bad white person dancing and good white person smiling alongside the confused eyebrows and wavering pens of setlist takers throughout the curtained off, surprisingly intimate Thomas & Mack.
I remember calling my roommates from a payphone (1997!!!) immediately after the show to give them the full report and not knowing how to describe this funk blob that came from out of nowhere. RIP BEK, RIP Katie Mae, may you both live on in MOMA Dance for infinity and beyond....
This was my second Phish show, but it was really the first time that I knew all of the songs and really got what was going on. An important factor to keep in mind in for this show was the giant curtain that cut the venue in half, giving this show an intimacy that was unusual for 1997.
High energy Chalk Dust to start. Tight soloing by Trey. The debut of BEK is pretty solid with a nice jam at the end. It's not as funky as it would become later, but still a fun song. Theme has a great jam at the end. Page and Trey play very well off of each other. Train Song is always a welcome cool down. SOAM is a little sloppy, but ends up having a pretty interesting jam. Mike has some really interesting ideas that he pushes throughout the jam. Fishman catches on and they work really well together, but Trey is a little lost. Has a good rocking peak though. Beauty of My Dreams is a nice goofy breather. My Soul comes next. Tight version with good solos by Trey and Page. YEM is great. Stays interesting and funky the entire time with a pretty restrained vocal jam at the end. Character Zero has Trey go Hendrix on everybody for a couple minutes, which is always a treat.
STASH. This is the jam of the night. Good composed section and the jam starts out as any other Stash jam would and then after hitting a mild peak it finds it way to a very pretty major key jam that quickly fizzles out and descends into an interesting ambient passage. Page stays consistent on the synthesizer as Trey plays over it. Trey's playing here is patient and haunting. Good shit. This peters out and somehow they find their way back to Stash and finish it up with a solid peak. PYITE starts after this to keep the energy going. This ends into Prince Caspian which doesn't really go anywhere. And then a good version of Bouncing. An outstanding Mike's groove finishes. A rocking jam in Mikes leads into a 2 or so minute very pretty ambient passage that leads into a wobbly Hydrogen. Very good playing in the following Weekapaug.
Loving Cup. Well played. Good Trey solo at the end.
Basically you should check out the Stash and the Mike's Groove. Both are great Fall '97 material.
It almost feels like Denver is where Fall '97 actually started, such is the praise 11/17 gets and the relative lack of attention the three shows preceding it get. 11/14 has gotten more attention as of late, but it still feels like that part of the tour (3 out of 21 shows, no small percentage!) gets no love, having to live in the shadow of one of the Almighty Shows.
As the first show of the tour, especially after a great summer tour and the awesomeness of the Went, there were probably some high expectations attached to this show, and Phish delivers on the promise of the year's earlier tours (they'd shatter them 4 days later...but enough about that show!). The first set has some fine moments, including the debut of BEK, which is tentative compared to the super-sharp funk of 11/22-23's versions, but still worth hearing. SOAM delivers a really good jam (though it often does), and the YEM packs a pretty mean funky wallop (including a mellow vocal jam).
The second set is really strong, and serves as a fine trailer for the greatness of the entire tour. The opening Stash dives into the usual murky depths Stash jams tend to dive into, but the jam suddenly turns melodic and sweet for a brief moment - in fact, you can hear a lot of what Phish did so damn well in 2012 in that snippet - before entering some real uncharted waters via a really out-there ambient jam, then somehow finding its feet and returning to Stash. This is one of the jams of the tour, plain and simple, a glorious trip into the beyond. We then get a three song breather before the band launches into a superb Mike's Groove. Mike's is powerful and muscular (the Bayou tease is especially nifty since it comes out of a jam you'd expect would lead to Hydogen), Hydrogen sweet (if kinda bobbled), and an especially hot Weekapaug that somehow manages to go triple-time into its big finish. Even in a tour of nonstop highlights, this set manages to establish itself as a must-hear.
This is a heck of a show, and the AUD on the spreadsheet is of fine quality. It's a keeper in a tour full of keepers.
In total I have only been to seven shows, this being my only indoor experience. The energy in this venue I remember being very intense in a positive way. I danced my ass off feeding off the crowd's energy. I am a strong believer in the venue, inside/outside, intimate/stadium and day/night, no matter the band plays a large factor in one's experience. Like previous comments, I remember the giant current behind the stage making the venue appear and feel much smaller. I still have a clear memory of the floor being a sea of humanity as I looked down from the first deck at Fishman. Leaving the venue was a mass exodus to the Vegas strip which I skipped due to a final the following morning. My friends and I drove the three hours back to Flagstaff enduring a blizzard on I-40. An experience, like all Phish shows, I'll never forget.
This show is incredible, as is expected from the tour opener of Phish's most consistently amazing tour in their history.
Chalk Dust opened up furiously, and led into Black-Eyed Katy, the debut of the new funk instrumental. I may be in the minority when I say I prefer The Moma Dance, but they still weave and shred through BEK with authority. Theme From the Bottom has a good jam (as it always seems to have, anyway) and Train Song is a nice breather. Later in the set, the YEM is groovy, and pretty spectacular in my opinion. Zero is Zero.
But they brought something entirely different for the second set. In my opinion, the only better versions of Stash in Phishtory are 11/14/95 and 7/2/97. This version rages at the beginning, then gets contemplative, ambient, and melodic, and very craftily returns to the "Maybe so, Maybe not" ending theme. The 21 minutes flew by.
PYITE>Caspian>BATR is a neat little combination, and the Caspian especially is very soulfully delivered and stretched out. The Mike's Groove to end the set, however, is one of the greatest post '95 versions of the combinations. The tramps segment of Mike's is downright evil...Trey and Mike sound possessed. Once the closing chords come and go, they enter into a lower key, enchanting jam (complete with Born on the Bayou teases) that leads into a longer than usual Hydrogen. The Weekapaug rages (as per usual) but kicks into maximum overdrive near the end. One of the fastest Weekapaugs I've ever listened. Trey is a god.
Fall '97 tour opened in Vegas, and is frequently overlooked given the stiff competition from other shows on this incredible tour. The lot scene was actually pretty mellow and the show was so far from sold out that they cordoned off the backstage of the arena, making the Thomas and Mack feel even more intimate.
The first set gave us our introduction to Black-Eyed Katy (later to become Moma Dance) and the first taste of the funk sound that would eventually dominate this tour. The YEM isn't extraordinary but the Stash that opens the second set stretches out to nearly 30 minutes and visits numerous themes. After getting a standard Caspian and Bouncing, the band turns up the heat with a blistering Mike's Groove, with a faint Born on the Bayou tease. They hadn't been playing Hydrogen much during that era (it was the 7th version since Dec. 1994) and Trey botched it somewhat badly. That was more than forgiven by a BLISTERING Weekapaug, easily among the fastest versions every played. Just when it seemed to be over, Trey drove the band into double-time, Fishman struggling to keep pace.
During the encore, people cheered the "I know I play a bad guitar" line, with Trey grinning ear to ear. Stash and the Mike's Groove are definitely worth checking out.
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