Page teased HYHU before Suzy. Trey teased Dave's Energy Guide during Gin. Fish humorously stumbled through Bike, which was played by request. This show is available as an archival release on LivePhish.com.
This was my only chance to see Phish in my hometown. "Why the hell are they coming here?" everyone asked. To drop one of the best shows of the year!
I went to Deer Creek earlier in the year and had a great time. The shows didn't measure up musically to my first show in Louisville Gardens, but they were good enough to keep me coming back. Rupp Arena gave me my second magical night to hang on the rafters.
Being a hometown show, I had the ticket situation figured out. A buddy at one of the local Ticketmaster sites got all of us 4th row on the floor. After seeing so many UK basketball games from the nosebleeds, this was a treat.
Around 13,000 tickets were sold for a 24,000 capacity venue. For many bands, this would be a recipe for a lackluster show. I think the out of the way feel and the HUGE energy from the crowd set the band on fire.
The first set's energy and song selection were huge (I got my second Tela of the year in 3 shows), but the real gem was the second set. The Bathtub Gin was insane. I kept asking tour rats if this was normal. They assured me that jams like this were very rare. Page was given ample time to open up and lead the band. Trey physically and musically got out of the way. He grinned from ear to ear throughout the entire jam, even fist pumping a few times. Bike kept the unique vibe going and this still stands as my favorite Fishman solo number. The crowd tried to sing the lyrics for him, but we seemed only to make it harder for him. The strong YEM and Frankenstein finished the night off with a bang. The crowd cheered loudly as we exited the arena, a first for me. "That's how you know you saw something special," a wook told me. I already knew.
Took my girlfriend at the time to her first show. Took my brother to his 2nd and his girlfriend was her 1st. They all loved the show along with me. I took an 1/8th of shrooms so don't remember much other then the fact that the girl I took to the show hated Phish prior and loved them after. Thanks boys.
Reviewed upon the archival audio release... Phish once again shows that they can do anything, this time by burning down the house in what was apparently then being advertised as the largest arena in America. Many phans agree that 1996 was a transitional year--due to a variety of factors, but mainly because of the awe-inspiring sea change in Phish's sound that occurred with the ushering in of the cowfunk era in 1997--but that doesn't mean it's to be skipped, as many of those same and some other phans also agree. You've got the Clifford Ball, the inaugural large-scale Phish festival, an Europe tour, and many highlights sprinkled throughout a year that saw more shows played than is de rigeur in the common era of 3.0. This show is a great example of where Phish was at in 1996, the previous standalone release of the Bathtub Gin from this show ("The Rupp Gin") on the Road to Vegas Bonus CD packaged with Vegas 96 DVD pre-orders notwithstanding. Now on to the music!
The energy is palpable from the beginning crowd roars. Chalk Dust Torture appears in its then-standard show-opener variety--far removed from the extended, psychedelic 2nd-set versions of nowadays--but is played with relentless verve and really kicks you off right in showing the benefit of recording in multitrack. Guelah Papyrus has an interesting recurring variation in the first half or so of this rendition that makes that song--one of my favorites of the songs yet to receive true Type-II treatment--a little more gripping than usual. Stash, simply put, smokes. I mentioned above that '96 is often viewed as a transitional year, but it's Stashes like this one that show even a "transitional year" of Phish is unmissable. It's not difficult to understand the "fire" metaphors often employed by longtime phans to describe performances like this one. We get a breather in a beatific Waste that showcases Trey's vocals in a very flattering way, an arguably standard Guyute that is nonetheless met with screams of glee, and then it's Free time. If I remember correctly, Free was only about a year and a half old at this time. This setlist seems very intelligently constructed to appeal to the natural ambiance of an arena as large as Rupp, and Phish doesn't miss a beat in providing an uplifting and mostly rocking first frame that steps into Tela before closing with another new song, Character Zero. MVP of set, for my money? Jon "butt with ancillary arms and legs" Fishman.
Phish has almost always tended to really let loose in the second set. There's some fun ribbing of Fish not having "sung this tour yet" before the opening Suzy Greenberg which does in fact see Fish... sing?!? Kind of a James Brown series of excited yelps, but fun! The funk is nimble and groovy, with Trey laying back into his percussion rack for a minute or so before the closing portion. Now for the infamous Rupp Gin, whew! I'll say little about this jam, which really has to be heard personally to be appreciated for its many virtues, but I noticed upon this relisten that it seems to presage the vaunted Went Gin in the soaring, majestic, if somewhat monochromatic (in the sense of little modulation) long jam, which eventually culminates in a section reminiscent of some of '94 and '95's weirder, more "out" excursions. HYHU > Bike > HYHU is phun and bantery. Fish takes his Bike out and nearly wrecks it, though we're all in this together and it's securely weird. The YEM that closes the second set is particularly long, though not as whipcrack-tight as you can find in earlier Phish, or even other shows from 1996. Frankenstein closes out the show in style, evincing the fact that Phish are nearly inhuman (!) in this phan's opinion in that they--from early on in their career--broke out of the box of prepackaged rock shows with their formulaic setlists played the same from night to night, by throwing curveballs wherever appropriate in a relentlessly experimental yet cohesive fashion that continues to engender appreciation amongst music cognoscenti to this day. I'm not saying it's aliens, but it was aliens.
Great show, great candidate for release, upgrade in sound, and generally enthusiastically welcomed additional option of how to spend this March morning!
This is a very solid show, from start to finish. First set is fun and flows pretty nicely in my opinion. CDT, Weigh>Rift>Guelah is an awesome star to a show and the Stash that follows rips. A chill out in Waste and one of my personal faves Guyute following. Another great '95 Free jam and an always welcome first set Tela keep the set rolling with a fiery Zero jam to close this set out. Solid set to lead into....
Suzy set 2 opener, liked this and was unexpected as I didn't look at the setlist before listening to the show. GIN. Man oh man is this a jam, goes through so much, rigbht up there with all the other epic Gin's in my opinion. -> into HYHU is lot's of fun and gets the cheery vibe going again after a pretty weird finish to that Gin jam (Weird in a great way of course). Nice rarity in Bike and an INSANE MUST HEAR YEM!! This YEM rages for nearly a half hour and caps off this crazy set in perfect fashion. Frankenstein encore is an awesome choice and must have has the energy in that place through the roof after showtime. 4/5 is my vote!
Who would ever think that a Thursday night show in Kentucky could be so hot. This show is one of the best from this tour. The highlight is Bathtub Gin. Page drinks this Gin down. The Chairman stands out in this version more than usual and it is a pleasure to hear. I had to listen to Gin 4 times because I could not comprehend its immensity. Take a listen. I just wish Phish was introduced to me earlier than 2000.
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