1st time on paper at a concert.
I'm just gonna go all out with this review b/c it was such a cathartic, life-changing night that I feel it deserves my time to do as such. Plus, where else should I write a longass review of a show? THE REVIEW I WAS BORN TO WRITE! I've wanted to review this show for a few years now, but I just never got around to it...
So I was a freshman at UTK and broke by the time November came around. I had saved some money up in the summer but ran out by early October so I was getting by on scraps.
I'd become familiar with the band through a few of my friends who saw the Chattanooga show in '94, the only show in my hometown. They then went to shows throughout '95 and so on but I just never got into it all.
My friend, Jimmy, let me borrow the 1st set bootleg of the '95 Charleston, SC show. What I remember first getting to me was the breakdown of 'Punch You In The Eye'. After it drops "in", right before they sing "HEY!". I'm NO musician so I'll be having a shit of a time describing the music itself on any known musical terms. But yeah that moment when they drop in was what got me into Phish...
So I knew I wanted to see them when they came to town.
Had no money.
Ticket in my hand!
Found some acid a few hours before and took it about 37 minutes before I got to the coliseum.
I walk into the arena with about 15 minutes til showtime. I'm walking around very slowly, taking things in, sort of looking for people I might know who might have come up from home. Ran into a few, tried to talk but just said "yeeah" a lot.
Then a yell of my name. I look behind me and it's the girl I lost my virginity to back in August in a creek called Suck Creek. I sat down beside her. She looked beautiful and I liked her still, even after she sort of messed around with a friend of mine at my goin-to-college party. Whatever. We were 18 and the massive bong I got made up for it. Even though my folks found it the next morning, they didn't find the half ounce of weed in my sock.
Seeing her made things more exciting and I got up and wondered away so I might find a place of my own. A minute later my buddy from Chicago who I'd met in school hollered at me. Cool, I thought.
He had seen the Dead a few times before Jerry died and been to many Phish shows. Seeing him chilled things out.
The acid was working well. I was in a state of luscious anticipation.
Sitting down beside my friend, who had found the very last row, with the back wall of the place right behind us, but directly in front of the stage to be his seat, I felt sort of welcome. He packed his one hitter and we got stoned. NOW...NOW>TRIPPING
The smoke had triggered the trip and I was so glad that there was nobody behind us... nobody to see what I was doing. Even though I was just being there. Yeah.
The lights went down and the smoke machine began and I heard odd drums and beats out of order and I said to myself this band sucks. They're not playing music! And the stage is on fire!!
The smoke machine stopped and the singing started and I began to feel like an asshole for thinking so quickly that I knew what the fuck was going on.
Split Open and Melt was a perfect first song. I'll never forget the beginning of this show. But after the beginning is when I begin to forget. Maybe the outright freneticness (not a word) of the music was too fast for me to process in real time. I don't know! I didn't know..
I don't remember shit until midway into Bowie when my world had brainlightning calving away the thoughts of the past into that untimed moment that let me drop "in"...for the sentence of a lifetime...that I'm currently enjoying!
Setbreak and I got up and looked to my friend and slyly smiled and then immediately felt weird. Walking down to traverse the hallways and like some sort of personal Christopher Columbus I encountered quite of few folks whose look, smell and vibe I had never experienced. It was so awesome. I floated, bobbing on the surface, with the crisp shadows gliding below- the lights showed a mischievous smile upon the yonder precipice that was my face, and all the faces had, indeed, split open and melted. After a few minutes of walking/slinking I ran into an old friend I hadn't seen in 5 yrs and though we hadn't even been real close pals the feeling of reunion was so pure and joyous in that moment I had difficulty speaking through it but I think he got it.
Heading back to my seat the lights went down after what seemed like another 30 minutes. I had been walking around for at least 20...I thought I heard Trey say they'd be back in 15. No wonder people think they do drugs.
Then the whole crowd begins shouting something like, "WILSON" or "MILTON" I couldn't tell. Possibly a poetry thing? But then the band played one of the coolest rock songs I'd ever heard. I certainly had a lot of classic rock cd's and loved Zeppelin, Skynyrd, and a love of The Moody Blues that my Dad had managed to pass on to me. Their albums are as melodic as any of Phish's and some songs have composed sections like many Phish classics. SO FUCK OFF. (Probably why I have a nice boner for 'Friday'- that outro jam is the blisses tits.)
So they rock 'Wilson' and I'm drawing no memory of 'The Curtain'. Then 'Mike's Song', which is, besides Bowie, one of the few songs I was familiar with before the show. Like I said, it had been 'PYITE' that got me hooked but I don't have any memory of it from that night, so yeah. I remember the scream in 'Steep' and from that disconcerting aural reacharound then into 'Weekapaug Groove' seconds later, with its beats and bounce and women reminding me of a Plautus excerpt, I had my LSD nerve in full envelopment. This was so great I felt. I felt such greatness in that room of 4000 or so strangers. Such a different area of the USA that I began to doubt I would ever grasp the weird brilliance of what I was in attendance at.
I remember 'Scent Of A Mule' for the quietness and the strange playing during the duel. This was the longest song with continued vocals throughout and became the most engaging for me, as the crowd became more involved than at any previous song and I guess gave me the inclusion I had heard about w/ the Phish community.
Then 'Sample In A Jar', which was a song I had heard off that '95 Charleston show and I have to say the lyrics are superbly interesting and in the end I just respected the band for having the confidence to sing, "the simple smiles and good times seem all wrong!" As if we're all doing something we shouldn't be but feel so fucking good about it we all know it's worth it, whatever "it" represents.
Then 'Funky Bitch', a song I hadn't heard before but could definitely relate to after having run into my virginity taker.
And, in the end, they encore with 'Rocky Top', a song I, as a "student" at Tennessee and someone who had been to the rock outcropping in the nearby Smoky Mts named Rocky Top, of course know. But, a song I would never in a billion years have thought this jamrock band from Vermont would even care about, much less know. So, I was just giving these four men more respect and awe once this final choice was made. I was spent, loved, enlightened, transcended, and made into a fan that believed a band had done more in almost 3 hours than many YEARS of, at least in my mind at the time, anything.
Walking out I couldn't really speak to my buddy from Chicago. He was rattling off assessments of the songs from the show while I just trudged along, baffled in bliss.
This is one of the better shows of the tour in my opinion, thanks in large part to great Mike's Groove in the second set.
First Set - I like the song selection and placement well enough, and the set starts and ends with solid jams and SOAM and Bowie. The Bowie goes out there a little more than I was expecting.
Set 2 - The whole second set works well, but the big story here is the Mike's Groove. Mike's Song itself is over 23 minutes and includes both rock and some early funky jamming. The Scent of a Mule is also pretty good and worth hearing if you're a fan of the song.
Highlights - If you're not into listening to the whole show, I would check out the Bowie and Mike's Groove first.
I've been plowing thru '96 shows to get a better sense of how the '97 funk evolution came about, and this Mike's provides a window into the future.
There is an extended funk section, and an extended Trey-taking-a-backseat section. Neither of those things were commonplace during '96 (at least not to the extent that would become perfectly normal in '97 and '98).
You can find fun Europe Summer '97 shows that also hint at the funk emphasis that was about to unfold. But having listened to every show of '96 for the sole purpose of seeking out when the guys started to sound different, this is the first obvious precursor I've found of what's to come. Worth a listen!
My 3rd show, and I distinctly remember the usher, an older guy, guiding us to our seats and how he kept getting closer to the stage and how I had no idea my seats were so good, and also how good Lucy was that night. The fact that I was laughing hysterically at the seemingly random "hey's" in PYITE, one tune I had never heard, makes it one I now love. David Bowie was a great set closer. The Mike's Song>Jam are very nice indeed with Weekapaug and Scent shining in a solid show.
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