, attached to 1998-11-27

Review by Campster

Campster Set I opens with a Funky Bitch that boils slowly and showcases a pretty loose sounding band. The tempo is closer to 3.0 than early 90s, in that it's slower, but the guitar theatrics are solid and this one has a nice slow cooking feel to it.

Ya Mar is a reliable two-hole hitter and this version is not disappointing. It caries a good jam. At six minutes Trey dives in with some nice jazzy and playful phrasing and at near 10 minutes is given the time it deserves (unlike newer vintages of the tune) to break free from the theme at the end.

The following Carini, Runaway Jim, Meat trifecta is a perfectly enjoyable sequence of songs that are all executed nicely. The Reba that emerges next is quite nice, with an interesting jam and a suitable stellar peak. Certainly among the enjoyable versions of the tune and better than most straight ahead takes. Old Home Place is a song I enjoy and doesn't feel out of place. Dogs Stole Things is not notable, but the Vultures, Circus & Birds closing combo works very nicely. Vultures is very notable take, with some good 98 type spacey ambience and the set closing Birds is by the book but extremely incendiary thanks to some divine soloing from Big Red.

Overall, this is a set that benefits from good construction and solid execution with some notable playing in the aforementioned Ya Mar, Reba, Vultures & Birds. No colossal jams, but a very enjoyable set indeed.

Set II is one of those crazy sets, full of segues and fun, but also some serious jams. A Buried Alive opener is never disappointing and this version is appropriately frenetic and well played. Wipeout kicks and and keeps the energy rollicking before CDT emerges. This is a fantastic version, with the Mirror in the Bathroom segment sandwiched between along with some swanky Wipeout jamming in the intro and between the verses and in the opening jam. The jam gives way almost immediately to Mirror in the Bathroom for an enjoyable minute, bore ratcheting back into CDT with aplomb. Trey takes a more rhythmic approach before firing off some inspired leads and bringing this version to an absolutely screaming peak. It’s smooth as silk. If you didn’t feel like running through a brick wall after this opening, I don’t know what to tell you.

A dark throbbing end jam (atypical) emerges from the typical soaring CDT and segues majestically into Dog Log! Woah! Seamless again and the joy in Trey’s voice is palpable as he dives into the lyrics. It doesn’t show up in the track listing, but a CDT jam emerges again (seamlessly) with another screaming bit of tension which drops on a dime in Sanity! Always welcome by me.

Buffalo Bill is up next to complete a fun sequence of rarities and segues. It’s kind of like an intermezzo course at a Michelin star restaurant before a final majestic serving of Mike’s Groove + Antelope.

I could write a novel on the Mike’s Groove Antelope combo because it’s basically everything good about Phish. Intense jamming prowess and guitar theatrics, fun yet unforced hijinks, and that general anything can happen what just happened feeling.

At just over 10 minutes, this isn’t a “colossal” Mike’s song, but the opening siren loops and jamming style make this a bundle of fun. It’s got that laid back jam feel, which fits really nicely after the frenetic beginning of the set and the loop land that Trey employed back then is just so tasty. Trey then kicks in some extra mustard via fretwork fireworks and the band dissolves into a great transition into Hydrogen. The 9th minute is really a shredfest!

Hydrogen is excellent, and slightly longer than typical at nearly 7 minutes. The first 2-3 minutes or so is deeply atmospheric stuff. This type of music gives you goosebumps. Mike signals Hydrogen after the 3 minute or so space and Trey throws out a tasty siren loop before the magical melody kicks in.

Weekapaug emerges and this version is WILD at 20 minutes. It’s got it all, a throttling full band energetic jam followed by some funky madness, a wipeout section (that is organic and fun, as opposed to gimmicky) and a reprise into the main Weekapaug theme followed by spacey ambience which yields to Antelope. Trey is on fire throughout and the rest of the band is reliably yielding the floor. It’s the show highlight (among many) and is a must hear.

Antelope is fantastic as well and a perfect rollicking conclusion to an otherworldly set.

The encore of Wading>Golgi>Wipeout is a solid sendoff.

This show, while of course being majestic and warranting a LivePhish release, is a good reminder and thought provoking piece of the past. I got to thinking about some of the modern tease laden/segue fest type shows the band has attempted and began wondering why I enjoy this one much more. Well aside from the obvious (Trey cannot / will not play a Birds of a Feather solo like THAT ever again), it’s that this one is wholly inventive and never to be replicated. It’s completely smooth (versus some clunky tease-fests like the SASS from Nashville ’18) and totally unified by full band interplay. There’s no gimmicky feel like a lazy Crosseyed quote. I think the Utica 2010 show is truly the closest we got to something like this (a fine show), but it lacks the true show-stopping nature of the Weekapaug and the X-Factor of a more practiced band. This isn’t a “knock” per se on newer shows, although I think this show reveals something the band was capable of (even though this show is 5 years removed from the wild ’93 segue-fest shows) that no one else is. This show is pure magic.


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