Reba did not have the whistling ending and Disease was unfinished. Ghost included a Super Bad (James Brown) tease and Johnny B. Goode contained DEG teases. This show was officially released as Live Phish 11.
I wanted to share something with Phish.net regarding changing perception of the band over the years, and I didn't know where to do it. So, I figured it was on topic for discussion of a top-ranked show, because that's a perfect example of the changes.
At every year, every tour, every moment in Phish history, the fans have included both a progressive and a conservative element. For everything the band has added or improved over the years, something else has also been lost or discarded, and fans have always noticed.
I became a fan in 1993. Some friends picked up Rift when it came out, got hooked, and introduced me to Phish with a big jumble of 4 studio albums and various highlights from "bootlegs" (what we called live tapes back then). I received the Doniac Schvice newsletter for a while, talked about the band's history with my friends who'd gotten there first, and heard them lament how they had all this cool stuff on tape that the band didn't do anymore.
That's right, I was INTRODUCED to Phish in part by laments about how they were changing. In 1993, that went something like this:
"They're doing less audience banter, less of the funny stuff ("secret language" Simpsons quotes, vacuum solos, etc.), and less Harpua. It's like they just get on stage and play, now.
"Also, why aren't they playing the Gamehendge stuff as much as they used to? And that new song Fast Enough For You is weak."
There was also some complaint about larger venues meaning pricier tickets and more difficulty in getting near the stage.
None of this mattered to me at the time; I liked Phish for the way their compositions fused the adventurous complexity of jazz, the textured counter-melodies of classical, and the energy and structure of rock. I liked the epic guitar solos. I liked the fact that the lyrics, while sometimes stupid nonsense, avoided the trite emoting of most pop/rock. I liked the crispness and virtuosity on albums and bootlegs alike.
Then 1994 arrived. At this point, Phish's niche in my mind was based mostly on their albums, and Hoist was a huge disappointment. I could listen to most of Junta and Nectar over and over -- they were the two best albums I'd ever heard, at that point -- and now the band's new installment was crap. Julius and Wolfman's were repetitive, Disease was a poppy sell-out, If I Could was a new foray into bad mainstream lyrics, and they took a dramatic building live song in Lifeboy and neutered the hell out of it (for the very first time, I had to turn off the album and dig out a tape to hear the "real" version of a Phish song). There wasn't a single amazing composition on the album, nothing close to It's Ice or the new live tune Guyute.
Meanwhile, venue sizes and ticket prices in the northeast rose dramatically. In arenas, Phish dropped the jazziest parts of their repertoire; All Things Reconsidered was the latest to follow Take the 'A' Train ('92 staple), Flat Fee ('91 staple) and others out the door. As the guys' average age hit 30, their singing got a little weaker and Fish's rocking out became less furious. At the same time, they started to experiment with what we now call "Type II" jamming, but they weren't immediately good at it -- there was a lot of aimless wandering and chaotic noise. Worst of all, they actually dared to play those crappy songs from Hoist! What was going on? Was this still Phish?
1994 was a year of much consternation for die hards, especially as concerts began to fill with newcomers who actually liked "crap" like Down With Disease. There was much anticipation for the beginning of 1995 -- would Trey go back to writing clever melodic interplays like Foam or complex rhythms like Bowie? Would the band return to their tight sets of razor-sharp segues, or would they continue to noodle around as some jams petered out?
The Lowell show that opened 1995 provided a surprising answer -- Phish would continue writing straight-ahead rock material, but they were getting better at it. Strange Design was better than Hoist's ballads, Free and Ha Ha Ha had great hooks and satisfying punch, and Theme showed it wouldn't be ALL chords from here on out.
1995 was largely regarded as a mixed bag. Acoustic Army was a random stunt to some, but a touching musical experience to others. Some fans loathed the influx of pot-smoking "frat boys" and recently dispossessed Deadheads, while others loved the bigger crowds' energy. The bigger venues sometimes gave Chris Kuroda more opportunities to wow the crowd, and fans began to praise him more vociferously. Some awful Type II jams reared their heads, but there were some really good ones too. The shows seemed less tight and polished, but more dynamic, with a greater range and depth of emotion.
After year's end, word starting getting around that you HAD to hear the New Year's '95 show. Apparently all that mucking around post-1993 had built up to something. Years later (the internet in 1995 wasn't what it is now!) it became clear that the entire year-end run in 1995 had been that same sort of playing. To some old guard Phish heads, nothing would match the intimate early shows filled with jazz and jokes and Gamehendge, but for many others, late '95 was a pinnacle of sorts. The shows had all the best of the new Phish -- exploration and drama -- but also plenty of the old Phish.
1996 was the year that broke many longtime fans. The band's choices weren't that different from 1995, but the decline in certain matters of execution reached a tipping point. Fan complaints of sloppy play had been rising for the last 2 years, and in 1996 the phrase "They don't practice as much anymore" became ubiquitous. Most crucially, 1996 was when Trey stopped writing setlists before shows. This meant more freedom to go with the moment, but it also meant more dead time on stage between songs, and the complete extinction of the already dying Oh Kee Pa > Suzy Greenberg-style insta-segue. As the band members strained a bit more to play complicated parts on their instruments, the vocals continued to decline -- it became more commonplace for someone to miss the beginning or end of a vocal part while focusing on a change.
Along with all this deterioration of the Old, there was little New to replace it -- Train Song, Talk, and Swept Away were fine but unexciting, and Waste and Character Zero offered more of the pop balladry and grating repetition that had made Hoist so unwelcome.
I mention all this because I think it's fascinating to see how much perceptions have changed. In 1996, a huge number of Phish fans were pining for 1993, in the same way that, in 2000, a huge number of fans were pining for 1997. Some still venerate 1995 to this day, while others venerate 1997, and still others can pick shows from 2003 or 2012 as better than either.
Anyway, since I'm writing this for a 1997 show, I'll close out with a recollection of 1997. 1997 drove fans wild and drove them crazy. It was a roller coaster of inspiring and maddening new trends. 1997 started out in Europe, with some gimmicky new tunes, inscrutable covers, well-played classics, and a few eye-opening jams. The band was neither consistently tight nor consistently sloppy, varying from show to show or even sometimes song to song. They seemed to be getting stranger, more unpredictable, and the odds of a really good Type II jam began to rise.
After continuing this in the U.S., they returned to Europe a few months later, introducing a ton of new tunes, and a brand new element: funk. First it was just Ghost, and we loved it for the sake of variety if nothing else, but then more and more jams started sounding like Ghost jams. A few fans may have noted that the funky stuff was nicely danceable, but most longtime Phish fans never had trouble dancing to crazed Trey rock solos, so the funk wasn't really necessary. Most old school fans who heard Trey say in an interview, "Real funk isn't played by 4 white guys from Vermont," replied, "Yes, exactly; please stop."
To many fans, a long jam with a steady beat that never escalated or took us on a journey was simply a waste of show time. For some, that remains true today (although Phish has never overdone it to the point of completely losing old fans the way the Disco Biscuits did).
To the fans who were still more disgruntled by '96 than inspired by early '97, the cow funk was the death knell of a formerly ambitious band grown lazy. Think about it -- the singing often sucked, the lyrics had grown more plaintive and obvious, the sets of classic tunes had been diluted by boring verse-chorus compositions and repetitive vocal rounds, rehearsed transitions were extinct, flubs were common, and it had been 4 whole years since Trey had written a new tune of the type that originally made Phish great. And now they're taking a breather mid-set to poke at a simple funk groove? DONE.
Plenty of new fans were enjoying it, though.
Then, the Great Went happened, the sort of event that even fans who were nearly fed up would kick themselves for missing... and it was great. I think it's sort of a dividing line for Phish fandom:
Anyone who was too troubled by what the band no longer was, and didn't want to haul themselves to northern Maine for their big festival, was probably done as a hardcore fan by then. Such fans probably look back on 1995, or maybe 1993 or 1992, as the heyday of Phish. They're probably not currently logging onto Phish.net and voting up their favorite shows.
Anyone who had adjusted to the band's changes, or resolved to stick with them regardless, or had just joined the party, had their faith reaffirmed at the Went. Whatever Phish was up to, there was plenty to like.
I don't recall much buzz about fall 1997 at the time. The Dec. 30 show was an instant classic, having major appeals to fans of all eras (Harpua!), but aside from that, it was kind of hard to hear any consensus through the noise of "like new Phish"/"don't like new Phish".
In some ways, the end of 1997 seems to me like the birth of the modern Phish era -- one could argue that the band changed more from 1993-1997 than it has from 1997-2014. From that perspective, it's weird for me to see so many current fans opine that the beginning was the best. Or maybe that's normal; maybe that's today's equivalent of a 1996 fan pining for 1993, or a 1993 fan pining for the days before any big venues were played. I don't know. I may have to grab some more fall 1997 "bootlegs" and give it another think.
The three shows leading up to 11/17 are fine, of course, but this is countdown and liftoff: from this night in Denver to the drawn breath in Cleveland three weeks later, every single show is 200-proof danger, baby. (And that's not counting 12/6 II, which is a strong contender for best-ever single set of Phish.)
All that needs to be said here is that 11/17 is as good as its reputation. The first-set Ghost is a disco-ball explosion, one of the canonical Fall '97 jams; when Trey announces that there'll be just one more song in the set 'for your dancing pleasure,' it's close to Too Damn Much. Of course the Fall '97 funk is in effect here, but the real surprise is that grand, wide-ranging second set, which is a nigh-perfect suite of four songs with a YEM chaser. It's all here: technical proficiency, empathy, fearless collective experimentation, and straight-up dancefloor porno. That this isn't the best show of the tour - maybe not even Top 5! - is to say that Fall '97 was in many ways the top of the mountain, though Big Cypress partisans no doubt disagree.
The night before was also really good. Pete Wernick sat in on banjo and Farmhouse was played for the first time.
But this show is a great example of a "Magic" show. I remember tail gating in the parking lot of the McNichols Arena. That was my first Jäger experience and it has treated me well ever since.
I remember I went with my brother and our two friends. We got to talking about song we'd like to hear. I wanted a Tweezer. My brother wanted a YEM. Greg wanted to hear Reba. And Aaron wanted to hear this new song. I remember he explained that the short version was called "The Story of the Ghost", but they had a long jammed out version called just "Ghost". This I feel was the genesis of what is sometimes called "Phish 2.0" (for better or for worse).
As soon as I heard the Tweezer opener, I could feel it. If you've ever seen a show like this, then you know what I mean.
One of my favorite all time jams in this Ghost. I particularly love this jam because it contains two distinct sections: hose and funk/rock. This jam really has it all and features patient playing, interplay, exploration and HOSE.
Live Phish timings-
Post composed jam:
3:38- Band drops into jam. Page on clavinet, Trey with some flanger effect and wah, Mike with a clean sounding thumping bass and Fishman on a straight ahead hi-hat rocking beat. Trey noodles around for a bit with Page layering and Mike showing some great patience.
5:30 Trey settles on a lick and vamps on it for a bit. Page answers with a synth straight out of a spaceship, sending the jam into full funk. 6:30 is all Page, with Trey answering with some delay loops and wah scratches.
7:00 Gordo plays a beautiful bass run that goes a bit outside and seems to signal movement from the funk vamp, to a more direct jam sequence. Trey starts to play with more direction, Page comes in with the grand piano but plays the same type of building lines.
8:00 Gordo does something with his bass that builds the tension and creates a wall of sound. Awesome line.
8:30 Trey hangs on a note and modulates the jam. Mike and Page immediately follow suit and Trey hops back on the whammy. This is A+ communication and listening by the band members.
9:31 After playing around a bit, Page pulls together a line with Gordo that really shape the future of the jam. Amazing patient playing by Trey before he jumps in with a melody. Fishman also gradually opens up his hi-hat adding to the "wall of sound" that is slowly being created. The modulation to major is creating a blissful sound that, as I said, is highlighted by the bands patience in reaching this point. What ensues is the definition of HOSE/BLISS JAM/FACEMELT.
11:30 The effect Trey puts on as he trills his line of notes is juxtaposed well with Fishman's splashes and Page's rapid playing.
12:20 Trey lets out a signature fall '97 high sustain. The effect he has on his guitar here is beautiful.
13:00 This segment here is the highlight for me, Gordo drops a bomb worth of destruction, Fishman answers with a bouncy kick drum beat.
13:40 Trey takes off the effect and backs down to a crunchy distorted riff. Once again, A+ communication as the entire band follows suit immediately.
14:10 This Gordon bassline will destroy you. Jam moves into a second segment. This second part of the jam is groove based and a nice comedown
15:54 Trey and Fishman lock up perfectly here as Trey lays down some scratches and Fishman destroys his splash cymbals.
16:26 Trey unleashes his guitar screaming melody and Page switches over to the grand piano. Fishman and Mike lock up immediately.
17:11 Trey lays down an effects laden chord and the jam kinda stutters for a second. Fishman is still destroying the drums with his fills and Trey goes back to the wah as Gordo thumps a neck braking bassline. Fishman switches around his beats going from ride to cowbell.
18:00 Fishman lays on the cowbell beat and him and Mike lead the come down part of the jam. Page comes in with some funky dancing on the clavinet(?) and Trey comes in with a noodley melody high up on the fretboard. They do some playful playing 'outside' but remain in a funk groove.
There are days where I just want to pack it in and say "you know what? This is the best show of Fall '97, and by proxy the best Phish show ever"; those are usually the days that I'm listening to this show. Now, I still firmly believe that it's not, but when I'm putting it on and that Ghost is washing over me...my God, it's hard to stand firm, it really is.
I'm a really big fan of "less song" sets (one of the reasons why I haven't quite warmed to earlier Phish yet - they seem to just be cramming songs in frat-boy-in-phone-booth style), mainly because you know there's some hardcore jamming in store. This famous first set might be the prototypical example of that kind of logic - you get the minimalist funk of Tweezer with the band locking into a tight groove and Trey casually soloing instead of going for broke '95 or even '11 style, a warm and relaxing Reba, and that damn Ghost, which really starts soaring at the 10 minute mark and stays in the stratosphere until the end. Sets rarely come as perfect, both in terms of jamming, song selection, and pacing (the short songs are perfectly placed - a breather after the opening epics, and a, erm, fiery closer to end things).
The second set, well, is not quite as good, but that's like saying a slice of cold pizza is worse than a slice of hot pizza - you may be right, but you're still eating pizza. The DWD absolutely *rages* (it's the ferocious yin to that opening Tweezer's yang), the jam out of Johnny B. Goode (!) roams all over the map before settling on a gentle Page-led outro (Page might very well be the MVP of this show, IMO), and YEM offers one more funk blast before devolving into an amusing vocal jam. A fun way to close a really, really good set.
Is it the best of Fall '97? I'll stick with no (the tour is just so absurdly stacked), but it's in my personal top 5, and maybe in the top 3. As has been explained numerous times, Fall '97 was not just about the funk, but about Phish exploiting a new style of playing to its fullest, discovering how to make more out of less instead of just making more, all the while still being recognizably Phish. Shows like this display just how incredibly well they succeeded.
One last note - how hilariously bad is All Music Guide's review of this show?
This is a top 5 phish show of all time for me, no question. I was not at the show, I heard it on a mix tape maybe a month after the show. When I heard the Tweezer, I knew I was listening to Phish on a night when they were channeling the energies and allowing something special to happen.
The highlight by far here is the sublime Tweezer, my favorite version of all time. I'll put it up there against Atlanta 6/14/00, '95 Memphis, '94 Bomb Factory, 12/16/99, anything. Were there longer and more exploratory versions of Tweezer? Sure. Fans often point to the 12/6/97 Tweezer that followed soon after, but in my mind, this one blows them all away. Every one of those might go through a rough patch when, even for a second, concentration and the music was broken. This one was flawless from beginning to end.
A Page-led odyssey, the Tweezer simply is the most patient jam I've ever heard Phish play, placed perfectly in their expansive funk phase on 97-98. The patience of the space funk section in the beginning. Then Page at 9:10, awesome! Trey rips a bunch of space loops, while Mike and Page keep it chugging along. Trey lays back with cow funk chording before letting loose some fantastic melodic work in the solo starting at 10:33. Sooooo smoothe! Page at 10:50 are you kidding me? Maybe deepest cutting Trey melody of all time occurs at 12:29. Wow that's hot! Honestly folks listen to this one more time again, and tell me you aren't taken away by it. It's really something special.
And to think - that was the first song of the show! Other outstanding songs/jams to come from this beauty were the very popular Reba, Ghost, and of course the YEM from the second set, one of the best YEMs ever. I don't usually spout hyperbole on Phish shows, but I just had to put my .02 in for this show, because it along with Island Tour '98 remain my favorite Phish of all time. Fantastic Tweezer. Classic, classic stuff.
I know alot of people that think the dayton show was the best show of the monstrus 97 fall tour, but IMHO this one is the best in my eyes, along with 12-11-97 Rochester in a close second, but this is by far my favorite first set of all of 97. Not that the second set is bad either, the second set is absolutely amazing!!!! But this shows ghost is the complete impitome of the cowfunk. plus this show has my alltime favorite reba, just fourteen minutes of complete musical bliss.
Tweezer's jam begins with a ridiculously thick funk vamp. Page and Trey both add occasional short melodic runs, but stay within the confines of the vamp that's been created. Trey slowly makes his way to single notes, and lays off the wah for a bit. The playing from Trey here is incredibly patient and purposeful, each note moving the jam forward. He begins to make his way into the higher register, as Fish moves to the ride. This opens the jam up immensely. Page soon switches to piano, which opens the jam even more. Trey and Page play off each other wonderfully, communicating very well. Trey ups the amount of notes he's playing, and creates a huge wall of sound with the help of Page playing full chord voicings now. They continue for a short time on this and eventually reel back into a brief passage of minimalist funk that ends with Trey's siren. I think this Tweezer is a turning point for the band. The patience of the playing of everyone involved is great, and was something not seen before. The slow build of Trey and Page's playing is very purposeful and loose at the same time. The opening up of the jam is accomplished with a minimal amount of notes, and the peak creates a wall of sound just as powerful (if not more) as anything the band had created before, all with a significantly less amount of frenzied confusion/unnecessary amount of conflicting notes and ideas (see 1996). The band creates more with less.
Jesus... and I'm not even at the Ghost yet.
Reba continues the energy with a decent composed section (albeit a few flubs from Trey) and a solid jam. It has a few awkward missteps, but makes up for them with a great peak. Train Song is a much needed breather.
Now for Ghost.
The jam begins with wah noodling from Trey and sparse but solid playing from Mike and Fish. Page adds some nice effects into the jam, giving it a spacier feel. After everybody quieting down, Page switches to Piano which gives the music a much different, more open feel. Trey very subtly switches the key to G major, and Page and Mike follow. Once again, great communication. Fish opens the high-hat a bit more giving an even more open feel to the jam. Trey creates absolutely beautiful melodies during this part, as Page compliments with chords. Trey latches on to a high G and plays the shit out of it while Page, Mike, and Fish create a huge sound under him. At 12:40, one of my favorite (and in my opinion, most interesting) moments of Phish happens. Trey plays a beautiful passage of notes up to an unexpected (not in the g major scale) note that Page somehow plays off of at the same exact time while Mike stays consistent playing a low G. Trey continues ascending up, back onto the g major scale while Page and Mike build tension below him with a passage stemming from the earlier odd Trey note. Trey hits the high G and stays there, once again playing the shit out of it while Mike and Page patiently resolve the tension they early created, and land on a G, which creates a massive and beautiful and triumphant peak. Fishman compliments with a crash that adds even more power to it. The peak swells a couple of times and thins out into a funk rock vamp from Trey as everyone decreases in volume and intensity. This soon turns into a minimalist funk jam, with Trey playing a very nice staccato lead over Page and Mike’s incredibly funky playing. Trey stops playing to address the crowd and tell everybody that “we’re gonna have a lot more music for your dancing and listening pleasure”. This part is awesome because Mike and Page and Fishman continue to play behind him, laying down a cool as fuck, effortless little funk groove.
Note: that part at 12:40 is awesome to me because it stems completely from what TO MY EARS, sounds like a mistake/accident from Trey. The band is playing so confidently and in the moment at this point that they just go with it and create something beautiful from it. And by that, can you really even call it a mistake from Trey? Everything in this piece of music seems so purposeful and important.
Fire rages to close the set.
DWD is a pretty straightforward rocker. Very high energy and changes up enough to stay interesting. True -> segue into Olivia’s Pool. This leads into a really fast Johnny B Goode which has a very weird jam. Slightly atonal blues? Just a ton of interesting ideas with none really being fleshed out. Good listen nonetheless. Jesus Just Left Chicago is next, continuing the bluesy shred fest theme of the set. When the Circus Comes to Town is one of my favorite songs, and works well to slow down the pace a little bit. YEM is played well and has a smooth jam. No peaks or anything. Just smooth, dormant funk.
Character Zero…not a standout version or anything. It works alright here though, high energy close to a great show.
This show comes up in “best show ever” talks all the time, and justifiably so. The first set is easily one of the (if not the) best first sets ever, and the second set is a strong compliment to it.
This show was great. From our seats you could see the backstage area where the band entered from. All I can say is Trey was extremely pumped, he was jumping up and down waiting to take the stage for both the second set and the encore. But, that being said I thought the night previous was a way better show. The funk and jams where incredible second night but over-all show and performance was top notch night one. But I prefer spring 94-summer 96, to the fall funk of 97.
This show's success is the result of a band that, more-so than ususal on this night, was both extremely loose and also intently focused on listening to each other. By the time they reined in the opening "Tweezer," I had already forgotten not only what song they were playing, but what set we were in. Somehow, they had just started in the middle. The following "Reba" provided a silly counter to the delving "Tweezer," and the always-welcome "Train Song" countered "Reba's" climax. I would say that this much-acclaimed "Ghost" is one of the band's best pieces improvisation, period. It moves through distinct movements, with each section buoyed by its own tone and melody. The jam's movements and dynamics feel composed. Nothing feels excessive or meandering. They were "hooked-up" all night long, but the interplay in this tune is particularly inspiring. The mix of manic lights and manic Trey in "Fire" almost made me fall over. The kid next to me was having convulsions like he was at a Pentecostal tent revival.
"DWD" has a few delightfully frenzied peaks before settling into what everyone was calling "Oblivious Fool" at the time. Of course, the lyrics have been transposed into "Shafty," but I kind of like the contrast of the upbeat, old-school rock tune that is smilingly informing you that you may actually be in hell, you fool. This version of the tune should be playing on an old jukebox in the background of a scene in a David Lynch film. No one actually knows the lyrics to "Johnny B. Goode." The jam out of it reveals how intent the band was to really compose that night. The melodies are never sloppy or generic. The imagination is on eleven, and all ears are sharp and attentive. Page received a thunderous applause after his "JJLC" solo, which you hear more clearly on the AUDs. "Circus," "YEM," and "Zero" wrap up a hot show on a cool Denver evening.
I wouldn't say this show was the most "fun" I've ever had at a Phish concert, but it is the most intense musical experience I've ever had at Phish. It's my favorite.
Do I deserve to review this show even though I wasn't there? Maybe not, but I love this show very much, and that must count for something. I think the first 2 songs of the show are some of my most listened to Phish songs. The first 2 alone!
I don't think I'm alone in stating that this Tweezer is just top shelf. It's so patient and textured. Trey shines of course. I dig it so much I even learned this solo from where his lead starts up to where he starts he starts hosing. It is quite a brilliant solo. Page is playing perfect textural counterpoint. This Tweezer holds up really well over time. I'd chose it to play for a non Phish fan.
The Reba is damn fine as well. Of course the Ghost is probably legendary at this point.
2nd set is killer too. The YEM has maybe my favorite vocal jam. Very subdued and melodic.
But here is what I wonder about years later. Where did that music come from? How did things line up in Fall 97 to get show after show that just kills? I read somewhere that Phish actually listened to this show on the tour bus. They liked it so much they replayed it to themselves. Not something they did very often or at all. They somehow influenced themselves. They must have knew they had struck gold and they proceeded to wring every last drop from this discovery.
Of course I dream that Phish will find that magic like they did at certain points in their career and go on a tear like they did in Fall 97, or late 93 or 95, or the Island Tour. Even in middle age and sober Phish is still one of the best bands that ever lived but when they really hit their stride, at times they really rise above and play music at the highest level. Dare I say a spiritual plane. This show has got it fer sure. About 10 minutes into Ghost you'll know what I mean.
Today as I was running errands, I popped in 11.17.97 (2nd night Denver)
set I for another listen, and was reminded of it's greatness. When
listening to the Ghost, I decreed out loud, and to no one in particular:
"Phish is good."
First off, this set goes Tweezer, Reba, Trainsong, Ghost, Fire. The Ghost
in particular is what caught my attention (although the Tweezer & Reba
are certainly nothing to be unimpressed by!) At first I was a bit
saddened when the jam started off a little directionless and boring, but I
soon remembered who I was listening to.
This was no ordinary band. This was Phish 2000.
And after about 4 minutes of what I consider a boring jam, they started
kicking my ass. This jam passes effortlessly (as any Phish 200 song darn
well should!) into the inspiring driven jams in the vein of the 11.30.95
Dayton and 12.6.97 Detroit Tweezers. Yes, Phish is good. This jam
then segues into (after a short letdown) into a Trey rock-star jam, where
Fishman switches to the cowbell about 4 or 8 measures into it. I didn't
time it, unfortunately, but from occasional glances at my watch I'd say
that jam occurs about 15 minutes into it.
Anyway, that again winds down at which point Trey says something to the
effect of "Hi...ok, we're going to play one more song and then we'll be
back with much more music for your dancing pleasure, and your listening
pleasure...so, uh, stick around!"
So, I just thought I'd share my earth-shattering revelation: Phish is,
This was my first show after moving to Denver from the East Coast. At the time I wasn't really in a good place to receive such an amazing show. For one, I was chasing songs, not jams. I've done a total 360 on that since. For two, it was the first show that I attended solo. I hadn't really found any people on this Phish scene out here yet and I remember feeling like the crowd was unlike any crowd at a show that I had encountered. It kind of put me into a shell for the night as I had a weird cloud of negativity hanging over me...
With that said, Tweezer was definitely a welcomed opener. I remember thinking that this was a great start but found myself struggling to find my groove. I was feeling particularly anti-social at this point and the scene seemed very foreign to me at the time. (I was used to east coast shows and this was already seeming very different).
What followed was some mind bending versions of great tunes, but still, I just wasn't in the moment. Ghost killed it but was still a "new tune" to me so I kind of dismissed it at the time...what a waste. At the time, everything from albums after Rift were, in my mind, "New Phish" and I really didn't give them a fair chance. That's on me though. This Ghost is absolutely ridiculous! When they ended the first set with Fire, I was particularly annoyed. It's really never been a favorite of mine. I love Hendrix. I love Phish. I don't (or, didn't at the time) like their version of this tune and felt like they were above covers...So on to intermission.
DWD killed it. Period. But again, this was newer material from the boys and not Fluff, Bowie, etc. I don't remember my reaction to Olivia's Pool off hand. I do however know that Johnny B. Goode has NEVER been a song that I look for. When the Dead did it as an encore, I usually switched tapes. When Phish did it, I just thought it was a throw away tune. Funny thing is that this version and the one from Sugarbush '95, for both of which I was in attendance, are face melting rock n' roll! They kill it! But again, at the time I was chasing setlists. I was looking for "old school" shit, or something obscure. This didn't fit the bill...maybe the next tune? Nope. A standard blues cover...JJLC. I remember being annoyed at this point. Only 5 songs in the first set, one of which was a "new" song and another a cover. Now, 4 songs into the second set and we've got 2 more covers and another "new" song... Well, they end JJLC without an arrow and go into WTCCTT. At this point I'm just like, wtf?? They get through a very well played version of it and again...no arrow. What are they doing?? Next up, YEM. Finally! Some old school Phish! But at this point, the wind was just kind of gone from the sails. Again, a brilliantly played version, but I just wasn't in it. They lost me long before this...
Encore - Character Zero. Another "New" tune. haha. Jesus...
My experience before the show probably influenced my mood for the night more than I realized. I was a dude in a new town with seemingly no allies on the Phish front. It was a pretty negative situation honestly. Easily the most negativity that I've felt on the day of a show.
I've since listened to this show about a thousand times and each time I sit and kick myself for not being in the moment. I absolutely love this show now and love that it's in my modest stats. What kills me is that Mike's bass during Ghost is so sick! He has since changed the way he plays it. He was doing all kinds of slaps and pops back then. Now he plays it pretty straight up. I really wish he'd go back to the slap action.
As far as the show goes, this was pure fire. A five song first set and six song second?? That's nuts! They were having a freaking blast the entire time. You can hear Trey smiling through most of the lyrics. All four are so engaged and on point. At the time I would've given this show a 2 or 3/5. I've since changed my stance on it.
This show taught me a very important lesson about Phish. It really doesn't matter what song they play, they can make it amazing. It could be a Jackson 5 tune or something from Brittany Spears and they could find a way to put some crazy spin or amazing jam in it! This show taught me to live in the song in that very moment. A lot of people have pretty strong opinions about set list construction and I was one of them for a long time. Just let the boys do what they do and 9 times out of 10, you'll come away with a blown mind and melted face.
Next chance you get, spin this show and then spin it again. I had a rough night but I'm left with some amazing music. They always give you what you need. Sometimes you don't know it until later I guess...
I wasn't there but I do love this show like many others. Just wanted to point out that about 10 minutes into Ghost the band just takes off, it might be my favorite jam by any band ever after that point.
Take my advice and the advice of all others and please hear this show.
A truly fantastic show. After all these years, it remains firmly in my top 5. The first set's Tweezer and Ghost are some of the funkiest, dirtiest porno-funk inspired improv your ears will ever hear. Sandwiched in between is a gorgeous, soaring Reba. The Fire closer is simply afterburners. I can't say enough about the first set. It's transcendent fun.
The second set starts off pure fire with a flawless, energetic DWD that transitions into wide-ranging run of songs covering all the bases from pure improv to classic soul. The YEM set closer is the band's way of stamping 11/17 as signature Phish.
This show is a must for your collection. You will come back to it time and again.
If this show isn't a 5-star show, I don't know what is. The appearance of Olivia's Pool (a fine version) is the only hiccup in two sets of flowing, frequently transcendent music. Three great jams in set 1, four more in set 2. A performance like this show would be superlative in any era of Phish. Get the official release from livephish.com if you haven't already.
The legendary "James Brown on his worst night" show Up until last year (2015), we didn't see many 5-song *second* sets, much less 5-song first sets. This show has been a fan favorite for a long time, and the band chose it as one of the original 6 out of 20 Live Phish releases for good reason, as it's an exemplar of Fall '97 par excellence, while showcasing some jamming in Johnny B. Goode that shows where Phish would go over the next 3 years, to my ears. Tweezer starts us off in fine style, with a long, patient jam that is funky as all get-out. Trey loops a siren on the Boomerang and all four members ride the rhythm, as much a part within it as they are from outside, in the sense of a creator being distinct from his or her creation. Reba is taken for one of its more--what I'll call--melancholy excursions, though still being quite capable of life affirmation... with all of Reba's potion-making skills, did she ever consider a career as a social worker or educator? You can feel good. Train Song is a welcome and perfectly placed breather tune for this very attentive though enthusiastic audience at McNichols Arena. Ghost simply rages! I'm not familiar enough with the Jamesest of Browns to recognize a Super Bad tease when I hear one, but I can definitely groove with this Ghost. "A lot more music for your dancing pleasure and listening pleasure" before Phish rips into Fire and rips Fire apart. This first set alone is recommendation-worthy, but we still have one more set and an encore to go, thank Icculus!
Down with Disease stays in Type-I territory for a while before evolving into a kind of Floydesque slower-tempo jam that eventually finds its way into the long-lost Olivia's Pool (Olivia's Pool was reworked into Shafty by the time the Island Tour happened.) Johnny B. Goode's composed portion is interesting--and I'm gonna make the dreaded comparison here--in its contrast to Grateful Dead renderings of the Chuck Berry classic, but the Denver Jam (as it's labelled on the Live Phish release) is also quintessentially Phish, and again, fonk be hangin'. The funk is nimble and tight before giving way into some Fall-'94-esque deconstruction, and in my opinion an early glimpse of what one reviewer called the "twinkling psychedelia" of Big Cypress. Legitimate segue into Jesus Just Left Chicago, which proves a PTer whose handle I can't remember, wrong, when he or she claimed that "Trey can't play blues." Page's vocals are on point, per usual. Circus bridges the exploratorier portion of the set with the set closer, YEM. Few countoffs elicit the certainty of reaction that Trey's "1, 2, 1, 2, 3, 4" for YEM does amongt phans. Not exactly a YEMmer's YEM, as there are a few flubs or fudged notes, but the bass & drums segment showcases the Fall '97 cowfunk to a T. The encore has zero character, it's just really unpersonable. Just kidding, of course! Character Zero's a great, fist-pumping victory lap on most occasions, and this one seems to have a more laid-back feel than some I've heard, but I'm not watching Trey probably jump off his amps and play behind his back with his teeth and so forth, so YMMV. Live Phish 11 contains the 11/19/97 Wolfman's -> Makisupa, which is a great extended Wolfman's and definitely worth purchasing this show for (the filler is included in the LivePhish.com download.) Amazing show, and many would contend that it's not even their favorite of the tour! What does that great, gaping grin portend? Stay tuned if you're listening through the tour for chills and thrills.
"I listened to the McNichols center Ghost again and its apparent enough to me at least that maybe there’s some more primary, yet better actions taken in the 1997 Ghost. It just kicks faster. Its beat is funky rather than spooky and dark, overall much more bouncy and groovy. The breakdown is all playing rather than indefinite sound effects & pedals."
Was there a Wolfman's Brother and Makisupa Policeman? I have those two songs following Character Zero on Live Phish 11. This show is up there for one of my favorite shows of all time! that YEM! Wow! Phenomenal! the tweezer is so sick too!
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