, attached to 1997-07-09

Review by Anonymous

(Published in the second edition of The Phish Companion...)

Well, Mom and I took off to study abroad in France for July 1997 and were lucky enough to have Phish come to visit while we were there. We really had no idea what to expect, having only seen shows in the U.S. A week before the show, we practiced the bus route to Le Transbordeur to check it out. I really couldn't believe they would play in a bar, but it appeared as such. The smallest venue I'd ever seen them in was a medium-sized theater in 1994, and Mom only had experience with coliseum/arena Phish.
The lots were just like any Phish show, except there were only about a hundred people out there. There were no French people, all Americans. Someone told me that many people had jumped off tour after the Italian shows. So there ended up being no more than about three hundred people there.
There were rumors going around the lots that Medeski Martin and Wood, Béla Fleck and the Flecktones, and Blues Traveler were all in Europe and that we might get a guest performance. I was pessimistic. I managed to get on front row, which was a first for me. Trey started off the show with a query to the location of Pierre from Haagen Dazs before counting off “PYITE”. (Who's Pierre?) The first few songs of the first set were pretty solid. All the songs had a strange new energy to me. Phish in a bar; the way it was created and meant to be! “Caspian” was pretty in a quiet sort of way, compared to U.S. shows. To me, “Caspian” is one of those songs that depends a lot on mood. I still dislike this song at large shows, but it really did seem to fit the vibe of the smaller show. Instead of the soaring Trey solo, there is a more thoughtful and beautiful guitar solo. And Page had an opportunity to draw out the pre-ending with a delicate “Coil”-like solo.
The “Melt” was the gem of the first set. I had heard that Phish had "funked out," as a friend put it. This “Melt” illustrates that trend quite nicely. I knew something great was in the works when they started off much slower than usual, almost ponderous. Trey bobbed his head and strummed the slow groove with a smile. They kept the slow tempo through to the end. It was almost like hearing a completely new song. My only complaint is that they stopped after about thirteen minutes. The whole room was entrenched in the funk and would have been happy to stay that way for much longer! After twenty-three shows and eight “Melt”s, this remains the most memorable one I've ever seen, mainly because I think “Melt” was meant to be slow and funky.
“Taste” was a good energy builder and got the small group of fans present together with a smile. “Sweet Adeline” (and later, “Amazing Grace”) was one of the songs most improved by the small size of the venue. I was standing right in front of Trey's shoes and could hear each melody line coming from each individual singer. Despite the few yelled requests, the only problem was the multitude of flashing cameras. Trey said, "Chris, if you could just turn on the strobe lights and get 'em back…" Fish sang beautifully.
Like many of the modern ones, the beginning of this “Harry Hood” was fraught with strange sound effects and had minimal playing. The jam segment was pretty and relaxing, as usual. I was hoping that the jam segment would feature a delicate, peaceful interlude, maybe even a silent jam. Trey seemed to be trying to quiet things down, but gave it up for the classic tension-release style, resulting in a very nice “Hood”. Mom thought it was much more than nice, though, as she was almost brought to tears. "You can feel good about Fishman, about Haagen Dazs, about Pierre!" While the band drew out the end of “Harry”, Trey did some quick band introductions (nicknames, of course) and yet another salute to Pierre, and then to "all those people we met in the bar graduating from high school." Then, "You guys like that song ‘AC/DC Baguette’?" It's always nice when the boys are in a good mood.
Second set was a blast. I'm still trying to decide if I like this set so much because I was there, or because it was truly great. The answer to that is "yes!” They came out and explained, after yet another salute to Pierre, that they had all gone to a Haagen-Dazs, "the second-best ice cream in the world," before the show and talked with a guy named Pierre who worked there. Trey expressed his hopes that Pierre would work at Ben & Jerry's when they opened a store in Lyon.
“Down with Disease” opened fast and tight. This is the third song that was vastly improved in a smaller venue. They were just on! At the beginning of the jam segment, Trey almost went directly into a solo instead of the “DWD” riff. He was feeling the flow, as he didn't let up for quite a while. Page was chording along like mad, but Trey was in the spotlight for several minutes before I could pay attention to the Phish instead of just Trey. Trey's intensity spread to the rest of the band resulting in one of the best high-energy “Disease”s I've ever heard. All "Type I" jamming, but fire the whole way. This one's underrated, if you ask me! The energy led right into a fast and upbeat “My Soul”.
“You Enjoy Myself”. Hmmmm…I know some people think that a special guest makes the night twice as good. And others think it just dilutes Phish. Well, je m'en fiche, the rest of this set was incredibly fun!
A very quiet, almost silent jam in the beginning of “YEM”, with complete silence from the crowd, save for a couple of hoots and one cough. Gosh, I love that. Pretty standard beginning, other than that. After a few turns on the tramps, Mike and Trey stepped off and Future Man (Roy Wooten) and Jeff Coffin came out and jumped. They dismounted and out came Béla Fleck and Victor Wooten for a couple of bounces. The energy in the crowd immediately went up a notch or two. And thus began the rest of the set.
After the tramps, the four new additions got a chance to solo. Before too long, Trey introduced the musicians to Pierre. (All stage banter was directed to Pierre.) Future Man had the first solo, joined by "The Greazy Troll" soon after. If you have never seen Future Man, he plays a "synth-ax drumitar," which is an electronic drum set in the shape of a guitar. He designed this thing himself. After a few minutes of drums, Victor (one of the best bassists in the world) "lays it down in Lyon for Pierre." Then Jeff (tenor sax) blew himself apoplectic for a good few minutes. Trey really enjoyed this, smiling at him with that goofy grin. Last, but not least, Béla had his turn on the banjo for a few minutes before Trey joined him.
Trey and Béla stood facing each other and playing off of each other. It looked to me like Béla felt a little intimidated or out of his league, maybe. “YEM” isn't really like any song I've ever heard the Flecktones play. But, much like Mike, Béla has a hard face to read. (Trey seemed to be able to draw Jeff out easier than Béla.) But Trey and Béla did produce a beautiful duet, nevertheless. While this was going on, Victor and Mike joined in, both playing Mike's one fretless bass — Vic behind Mike and reaching around. I wonder if that bothered Mike? He was wearing his usual blank face, though.
After the dueling with Béla, all eight of them went into a very intricate and full-bodied jam. (Eight instruments at once is quite an earful.) This descended into a more dissonant, exploratory jam (Type II) for several minutes, becoming kinda funky. Funky led into “Ghost”, of course, with a smooth key change. At this point, “Ghost” was less than a month old and completely new to my ears. Because of this, I will forever hear a tenor sax in “Ghost”, much like I will always hear the Giant Country Horns on songs like “Suzie” and “Cavern”.
“Ghost” had some pretty unique jamming, as well. Vic and Mike had a nice duel, and I would have to say that Vic is a little better at soloing. Vic started to play the Andy Griffith Show theme when Trey and Mike came back in with the last verse, cutting him off. Oops! The jam started off like most “Ghost” jams, but quickly diverged from the norm when the four Flecktones added their voices. The jam eventually turned toward some really spacey stuff, which is interesting, to say the least, with eight contributors. It was not a very long “Ghost”, relative to what it has now become, but still the most unique one of which I know.
“Poor Heart” came out of the fray. Finally, we get to a song where Béla can shine, and he tore it up! Page also had a go, followed by some excellent saxophone. At the end, each person on stage had the opportunity to play a little solo and pass to the next person. Each member had two or three goes. Trey even started a “Freebird” tease during this jam. Trey ended the set, starting a chant of "Pierre! Pierre! Pierre!" which the crowd took up mightily after the stage cleared.
Upon the band's return for the encore, they asked Pierre to come up onstage, which he did. He was a lanky fellow with long, blond hair and a cigarette. They put him up on one of the monitors and stood around him singing “Ragtime Gal” to him. He didn't know what to think and look quite confused. It was a very good-humored way to end the night.
This show is the most well-rounded show I've seen and also the most fun. There were hardly any bland songs in the whole show, and the three songs with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones are unique and somewhat indescribable. Everyone should give this show a listen. And if you're in Europe when Phish is, it would be worth your while to catch a show!
John H. Davis


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