, attached to 1999-07-16

Review by Anonymous

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

Since my husband Lyle and I were a little low on funds, we decided to justify spending the money for tickets and travel to five Phish shows in mid and late December 1999 by declaring those shows as Christmas presents to ourselves. It was the first time since the 1995 Fox Theater shows in Atlanta that we had the chance to see three shows back-to-back, and the only time we had seen five shows in one tour, much less the tour-closers. Big Cypress was to be both our first Phish festival and first New Year's Eve shows. Needless to say, we were ending our year and the decade with quite an unforgettable bang!
We made it to Raleigh in the early afternoon and had plenty of time to check into our hotel and grab some dinner before heading to the show. It wasn't until we were headed to the venue that I glanced at the tickets and saw that the doors to the venue were scheduled to open at 5:30 PM for this general-admission show, instead of the usual 6:30 PM. It was already 4:50 PM — yipes! After some mild panicking, we rolled onto the NC State University campus at around five-ish. After a quick but unintentional detour, we found a handy parking spot at the entrance of the parking deck, which was about a hundred yards away from the front door.
Thankfully, miracles never cease at Phish shows. Even though it was less than thirty minutes until the doors to venue opened, the line was surprisingly short. We were not out of luck after all. Actually, the doors didn't open until around 6:45, so we had a bit of a wait, but it was not too bad since we had fun listening to the conversations of the excited phans, mostly college kids, all around us.
We found seats in the too-close-together rows of bright red bleacher chairs inside the basketball gym (behind the one guy who was saving literally sixteen seats for all his friends — what's up with that?), Page side, right beside the soundboard. We settled in comfortably and chatted with the friendly folks all around us. I was enjoying the diversity of the crowd, and though the previous night's show in Washington, D.C., snagged my “Reba”, I was certainly ready to open up my first Christmas gift (so to speak).
“Wilson” was a great opener that really grabbed the crowd. Nothing outrageous, just “Wilson” in show-opener mode. I've heard a lot of “Chalk Dusts” and this one seemed to rage harder than usual. As long as Phish continues to surprise me, I'll continue to be delighted! It was wonderful to see Page croon “Lawn Boy”, but though he stood up and walked out in front of the piano, I thought it was strange that the spotlight never could seem to find him. “Horn” is one of my favorite tunes and this one was beautiful and delicious as always. I was hoping to hear “Limb By Limb” since I haven't in a while. I really dig the Fishman solo at the end. “Roggae” was very ethereal. I love it! “GBOTT” was a first-hear for me and I thought it was a lot of fun. Very catchy, in the best way. I saw some dudes throwin' down some breakdancing moves at the back of the floor, which had gracious plenty of room. I always enjoy scanning the crowd and watching others who are having as much fun as me!
Whoa, where did that “Camel Walk” come from? Right out of nowhere, I'd say! Another first-hear for me and I thought it was fantastic! What a rare gem. The band really seemed to be having a lot of fun in that odd little gymnasium. If that wasn't enough, Phish played another one of my favorites, “Possum”! I love this tune but I seem to keep missing it. A great way to end the set. The energy level during the first set was strong, yet very chill, which I thought was extra cool. I was not a bit disappointed.
Set II got rolling with “Sand” — my first live one and I gushed my toes all in it! Lyle and I both agreed we were hoping they'd save it for Hampton — little did we know! But it was absolutely lovely and at the time I thought it was one for the books. I've been lucky enough to hear several “Mango”s, and this version was definitely the finest one. The band seemed to be taking their time with it and playing it carefully. Chills up and down my spine…exquisite! When Page struck the very first cord to “Velvet Sea”, three girls behind me (not your typical phan girls, either) all squealed really loud. They sang the "mailed it off to you" part loudly, too, but it was not off-key, so I thought it was cute rather than being irritated by it as I usually am when people feel the need to drown out the band with their own voices. “Tweezer” was jammed out in a way I had never heard before, very solid and fabulous. I love when Phish takes an old classic and gives it a new spin. “Runaway Jim” was nice to hear and Trey did the guitar-over-the-head trick, which always makes me smile. To me, that signaled that the boys were definitely having a blast in Raleigh. The “Bittersweet Motel” encore was another surprise; I didn't even recognize it at first but it was great to hear. “Tweeprise” was expected but fun, as usual.
Overall, this was a great show. I think it's one of the sleeper hits of the tour. The second set is well worth adding to your tape or CD-R collection. I was thinking that the chilly willy energy level was an indicator of things to come and I was more than ready for what awaited me in Hampton and Big Cypress!
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