Star Lake Amphitheatre, Burgettstown, PA
 Phish debut.
Notes: This show marked the Phish debut of Trench Town Rock and the return of Time Loves a Hero (first since November 5, 1988, or 1,021 shows). Runaway Jim included a tease of Maria from West Side Story. This show is also available on DVD from Phish Dry Goods.
As I've written before here on .net, fans on tour were all riding a huge high coming off the madness of maryland/virginia beach (and a great tour). This show was alot of fun as a result. The lots were extremely positive ... more than normal random high fiving and lots of "can you believe it" conversations. Kinda like the Phish community had turned a corner, and we all knew it.
The debut cover of Bob Marley's "Trenchtown Rock" to open the show was just perfect. Followed with a standard but nice version of Julius set the mood for the show. The Wolfman's jam into the bust-out of Little Feat's "Time Loves a Hero" (over 1000 shows) was awesome. To date, the only version of "Bittersweet Motel" I actually don't mind listening to (the crowd's reaction to the line "halfway between Erie and Pittsburgh" always makes me smile). The remainder of the set was a mix of standards in Sloth and the closer Sample, some nice bluegrass in Ginseng Sullivan, a nice distinctly summer '98 take on Fee, and soaring versions of Reba & Maze.
The second set opens with a very exploratory Runaway Jim, including a sublime tease of "Maria" (by Trey) from the musical West Side Story - which I had absolutely no idea what it was at the time. It's similar in ambition to the Worcester '97 Jim. Although I prefer the Worcester Jim, this one is unmistakably summer '98 and was/is a wonderful listening experience in extended open improv (35 mins). The return to the Jim theme is glorious after the sonic journey. The boys follow it up with exactly what is called for: a couple new tunes (Meat and LxL) which would later be featured on Story of the Ghost (Fall '98). The start/stop of Meat was playful and the crowd appreciated it. For a few moments it threatened to get elastic in that summer '98 kind of way, but coming off the monster Jim, a straight ahead version was called for. I especially like how it finished/went into LxL (which I used to say at the time was Reba dressed up in a Taste drumbeat). If you like Reba and Taste (who doesn't), it's hard to dislike LxL. A gorgeous "When the Circus Comes" (Los Lobos cover) fit in well after the SOTG tunes in what was emerging as the mid/late second set ballad position in the setlist (think Bug, Mtns in the Mist, Velvet Sea, etc.). A straight-forward rocking version of DwD closed the second set in similar fashion to Atlanta, five days earlier.
Depending on your point of view, nothing too exciting tonight for the encore (pretty much impossible to top Sabotage/Terrapin Station), although Wilson had some lyrical variations from Trey which I can't identify, but it's clear, he was in good spirits. Golgi ended a very satisfying show that well represents Phish in Summer '98: well played yet playful, occasional bust-outs, debut covers, rocking out and taking risks. There's better shows in my opinion from Summer '98 but as an overall document on the tour, Burgettstown '98 is a solid, yet welcome/unexpected choice for the next official dvd. Looking forward to the December release!
The Trench Town Rock opener is historically interesting, but otherwise merely "neat" for a Bob Marley fan such as myself, who prefers the original, complete with indecipherable(?) patois that Trey replicated with admirable aplomb. Julius is a particularly stirring version, with some high-fretboard action from Trey that really excites me. Wolfman's funks it up funkily before seguing into a Little Feat bustout that has a tropical feel and lyrical theme; I'm not a big Little Feat listener. Bittersweet Motel has a nice lyrical coincidence, but the Reba that follows is to me the highlight of the show, Runaway Jim included. Stratospheric heights are reached, which is made all the more astounding by watching the close-ups of the band in the DVD that show them intensely focused but lithe listeners, one of the most attractive aspects of Phish in my consideration and really what collective improvisation is--or should be--about.
Runaway Jim is one of the longest versions ever played of that quintessential Phish classic, and the run(away) is well worth the exertion, even reaching a passage that was memorialized in the 30th-anniversary audiovisual/Phishtorical montage on 12/31/13, I think. After the Jim, anything else is icing on the cake for me. They had me at "Reba sink a boulder in the water." They had me at "Danger, I've been told to expect it," in fact. Sometimes highlights alone make a show worth at least 4 stars, even though every Phish show is cohesive in its own way, a canvas that *can* be dissected but is perhaps a dish best served whole. I'll revisit this show for years to come, I hope... thanks to JEMP and Phish, Inc. for the valuable and generous keepsake, and to Phish as musicians for the content.
One of my favorite shows of 98 and ever for that matter.
A must-watch on DVD!
Jim: GOD DAMN. First listened to the version after a long tee break so I could get a job. You can imagine how entranced I was. Trey absolutely tears up this first kind of bright kind of ambient section that slowly fades away and grows darker. Great patience and listening by the band during this switch. The jam progressively grows more ambient and spacey until Trey starts ripping a signature "lets make it a happy jam" riff and off we got with an upbeat jam that gets rocking right around 22 minutes. The fast paced funky section that follows just adds to how good this jam already is. Trey switches on some cool effects at this point and Fishman kicks in a driving beat to keep things moving. West Side Story tease. Return to Jim. The crowd goes wild. The end. One of my favorite jams wish I was 20 years younger so I could have been there.