Historian: Elayne Best (jugglerswithfire)
The cities that Phish festivals become provide many opportunities for unique connections between the band and the fans. At the Lemonwheel fans were treated to numerous artistic delights including the Garden of Infinite Pleasantries (a Zen-styled playground that included a steam pond and a "Port-o-Let Pagoda") and an interactive area for fans to create their own candles. The fan’s creativity would light the way for the fourth set of 8/15/98, the "Ambient Jam."
After the encore-closing "Tweezer Reprise" Trey explained that the band wanted to combine ideas from The Clifford Ball and The Great Went, citing details about the band/fan artwork from previous years, and announced that the band would perform a fourth set, a free-form ambient jam "in the Brian Eno style of ambient music." The stage was surrounded by candles that were made by the audience throughout the day. There were no other lights used during the jam. The Ambient Jam that ensued was nearly one hour long. It was spiritual, emotional, and funky improvisational jamming at it’s finest.
Brian Eno is a British musician and producer best known for his solo works Another Green World and Before and After Science, his production of Talking Heads' Remain in Light, and his work as a member of the 70's group Roxy Music. Perhaps less popularly known but no less influential is his four-album Ambient series. Eno wanted to make music that would support reflection and space to think. He did this by creating music that was beautiful, but did not have a center of focus to demand your attention. In his liner notes to Ambient 1: Music for Airports, Eno puts it this way: "Ambient Music must be able to accommodate many levels of listening attention without enforcing one in particular; it must be as ignorable as it is interesting." This statement is quite true as there was certainly a mixed reaction to the "Ambient Jam" set. Many people were sleeping or left the concert grounds, while many others were completely engaged and in awe of the experience.
After the set, the band used the audience-made candles to light a set of four propane burners in a cement pagoda, each one symbolizing the light of each band member, that remained lit throughout the remainder of the weekend. The "Ambient Jam" will always hold a exceptional place in Phish's Limestone history.
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