, attached to 1997-12-09

Review by JerrysMissingFinger

JerrysMissingFinger Set One Notes:
Mike’s Song kicks things off, and you know that a Mike’s opener usually means a good show is in store. Mike himself gets that bass bumping right off the bat, before the groove starts to widen, with Trey floating triumphant lead lines over it. It builds to a peak before settling into a low-key wah-groove, and the clav gets cranking before Trey’s wah-spotlight moment hits, winding things down into Chalkdust Torture. Energy comes bursting through, a fast, tight, and knotty version, Type-I, crowd approved, with some rock and roll peaking action. My Soul is next. At this point, really? Overplayed. Stash shows up next, in a promising position to add some exploration to the set. As the jam progresses, Trey steers slithering lead lines through a cave of piano note droplets, bass bumps, and tribal-jazz drum pounding. Stash continues to wind, tangle, and build, before peaking and finding its way to its proper ending. But it is not finished, as dissolution into warm ambience occurs, the music flowing through the arena. Hydrogen emerges from the ambience, a fantastic transition, reminding the listener that we are, in fact, still in a Mike’s Groove here. Hydrogen is calm and serene, contrasting with Stash’s tension. Weekapaug hits next to close the Groove, and this is a rocking, full-sail version. “They’re fucking moving quick tonight!” a friend comments. Paug transforms into a very rhythmic groove on which Page lays his piano commentary, Mike playing lead under Trey’s wah-groove, before the true Paug jam re-emerges, really raging into a nice peak. Dogs Stole Things is up next, relaxing the energy for a bit, Page doing work on the organ. Beauty Of My Dreams fills the “bluegrass” spot nicely. Horn shows up next, once again, a great cold-weather, indoor tune, with the beautiful composed middle section erasing any late-fall blues. Loving Cup finishes off a good Set 1 with a big cathartic rocker.

Set Two Notes:
Julius, the high energy big-band tune, kicks things off to get the place moving again. A solid Type-I version, it just keeps building and building on its way to a peak, Fish (?) crying out in approval. Once Simple hits, you know that it is time to settle in for The Show, who knows where we will go? The traditional Type-I “floating jam” is especially energetic, reflecting the energy of the show thus far, but it soon evaporates into a low-key, blissful progression, pushing forward into space towards a new solar system. Mike starts bumping a new riff as the new star system is finally reached, orbited in total calm. The jam then dissolves into nearly freeform playing, Fish tapping the highest toms. After some time spent on the freeform planet, a new sunrise appears in the form of Trey’s distorted, effected guitar chords, presenting new energy, heat, and light. The jam really gets galloping, Mike getting active, the baby grand coming alive, Trey shredding over a locked-in Fish, before the jam descends into a low cave groove. Trey is laying down menacing riffing, Page mastering the Rhodes-space, laying out stereo-swirl chords. The groove picks up as Trey gets plucky with chord hits, Page moving to the wah-clav. Trey soon deploys the wah as well, Mike absolutely bumping along, Fish riding the ride cymbal like a clock. Synth beams and sirens soon emerge until the jam melts into what seems to be a beautiful close. Alien abduction beams persist along with sirens, modulating their frequency, a truly weird ambiance, slightly menacing at that. Fish’s hi-hat emerges, sounding a bit like the Bowie intro. Deep space noises continue, Trey using the whammy pedal to accelerate the stage upwards through the roof, glitching and swirling, before Trey dive bombs some notes into the basement as Mike drops his own bombs. Soon, the Bowie-style beat expands to reveal itself as the Timber beat. Timber-proper emerges, its jam winding the tension up and down as it builds, a solid, contained version, in a great position after that monster Simple. Contact serves as a funky, weird little interlude, a great return to foundational Phish silliness after space-cruising for the last 40 minutes. Axilla has a sloppy intro, where nobody is really sure how many hits there should be, but who cares, it provides high energy to continue the set with. Hood comes next to close the set, but it doesn’t proceed without a Phishy return into Axilla during its intro. The Mr. Miner section rages, and the jam is very calming, bouncing its way towards a gently rising peak, the hose slowly but surely turned on, the dam bursting as everyone feels good about Hood. Fire, in the encore slot, burns the place down as Rockstar Guitarman gets one last chance to conjure his Hendrixian spells.

I think State College is a great show in an all-time tour, with a must-hear jam in the form of Simple. If you asked my friend, though, he would call it “the sleeper show of the tour.” You might as well hear it and decide for yourself.
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