What happens when you contain the forces of Phish with an intimate stone barn in Scandinavia? Throw in the fact that the barn is located in the center Freetown Christiania, Copenhagen- an old semi-autonomous hippie community from the early ’70s. Marijuana, hash, and mushrooms are peddled openly at stands in the town’s center square, a few hundred yards from the door to the venue- which could only fit a couple thousand people at most. The whole town wasn’t more than a few city blocks in area, and the only posted rule in the village was “no hard drugs.” These volatile ingredients were the recipe for outstanding Phish jams and a lot of excitement. This was Den Gra Hal- a former horse stable turned music venue- which Phish blew apart as the beginning of their Summer tour in 1998.
The few hundred Americans who stumbled upon Christiania the night before the first show show were greeted by a multi-color graffiti laden building, The Grey Hall, in which Phish would be playing the next three nights. It certainly had a unique vibe. As fans congregated outside that evening before the run, Phish played an extended two hour sound check with the back doors intentionally left open for sound, allowing everyone an auditory glimpse into the band’s new tunes. Trey popped in and out to chat with fans and when asked about the interior of Den Gra Hal, observed that he “could really see that room on a lot of acid,” and encouraged all to indulge on the following evening for the show. No joke; a resounding endorsement by Trey, himself. The surroundings were heavenly- the summertime “darkness” was more akin to four hours of deep purple skies each night in which to bask after the show. A few outdoor bars and a small lake atop a hill rounded out this ideal locale for a three day Phish stand.
Phish made good on Trey’s recommendation, playing a well-over three hour show on the first night to kick off the party featuring such highlights as the first Moma Dance, a huge Mike’s, a Stash>Cities, a reworked Ghost, a Tube, and a Wolfman’s> Frankie Sez> Antelope. There was no messing around on the first night of tour, but I have come to discuss the second night.
Sometimes you leave a show knowing that Phish just threw down the gauntlet. You know that throughout the rest of the tour, they may throw down some nasty stuff, but it wouldn’t be any nastier than that. This feeling happens from time to time, and the first of July in 1998 was certainly one of those times. Exiting the musty and dank stone room onto the lawn with heavy Phish grooves echoing through your skull, gazing up at the royal sky- you are amidst one of those life-affirming moments we quest after with such determination. Fulfillment. You just had the time of your life, were walking up the cobblestone path to grab some smokeables in the square, and turning left to grab some icy Tuborgs with your friends after witnessing Phish as good as they get. Smoking and joking, trying to figure out what superhuman powers had been bestowed on the band lately- you were amidst the seven best consecutive shows in history- the Island Run and three months later, these three in Christiania. Trying to wrap your head around the epic forty minute Tweezer > 2001 that had just gone down inside the confines of that horse stable across the way.
It was all so cohesive; progressing naturally through multiple groove segments, screaming to the inner dancer in us all. Settling in with bass and clav grooves, the music built to a place where Trey subtly joined in the texture before moving into lead melodies that perfectly accentuated the music. The band locked into a more unified pattern, gaining momentum, before they jumped into the cauldron together. Soon, Trey started tickling the crowd with his wah-rhythm grooves over a sublime musical palate led by a fine Gordeaux.
This was all happening in a tiny barn in Denmark! Yeah, this was dreamland- it had to be, this is what I’d always dreamed of. A third section of the jam was initiated by Fishman, and the band sounded like they had rehearsed these changes as they flowed effortlessly through some of the smoothest most refined music. Trey wove melodic tales in the context of the band’s framework, soon giving way to some of his more explosive soloing in the jam. As the band morphed into another place, Trey reaches up to the purple sky with his melodies. His playing gets sublime before the band melts into ambience on their way to a precise and slammin’ fifteen minute club-version of 2001.
Leaving the outer-space magnitude for the amphitheatres later in the summer, Phish ripped a notably clean 2001 with little dissonance and distortion, and lots of spot on funk. Everyone played tight lines, totally bouncing off each other; Page highlighting his Rhodes, Trey consistently improvising melodies, Mike thumping away adhesive, and Fishman carrying, while accenting, the rhythms. This faster note-heavy version of the song was perfectly suited for the size of the room where the sound did not need to travel more than several hundred feet. The room was crowded, yet had energy pockets that had been popping off since the beginning of the set, with plenty of room to move and receive the magic. This is what it was all about- losing yourself to a massive Tweezer in a tiny barn under a wooden roof and a purple star-lit sky.
Sometimes foreign Phish shows, like The Grey Hall, bring a new appreciation for the show experience altogether. With few in attendance for tangential reasons, the focus of everyone is on the band. The space between the band and crowd is all but eliminated, as club shows morphed into nightclub parties which band members often attended. Everyone had busted out their passport and trekked across oceans to get there- this wasn’t home turf- so there were no chips carried on anyone’s shoulder. No one was there to hang out in the “lot,” and often foreign Phish-goers were the most mellow of all. During that summer in Europe and, later, in Japan, I vowed never to miss another foreign Phish show. Let’s hope I can take myself up on that.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY LINK: 7.1.08 Den Gra Hal: Copenhagen
This Scandinavian epic is going to kick off Phish Thoughts’ “DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY.” In response to multiple requests for full-show downloads, the “DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY” will be one show, in its entirety, up for download on the site each day. Along with the link, there will be a short review of what the show is all about.These will be standout shows with great audience sources- they will sound crispy.(There will be archived links, so you don’t need to download every day.)
In response to recent slow download speed, I am using Mediafire + bandwith as a temporary solution until I get my own host. Sorry about the slow Sendspace links, revision is in the works. Miner’s Picks: Summer ’95 pts. 1 and 2 are on Mediafire already, and when I wake up all of ’95 and all DJ mixes will be bumped over to Mediafire for faster access. I hope you check back every day and take advantage of this welcome addition to Phish Thoughts. The first selection, as reviewed above is:
7/01/98 The Grey Hall – Freetown Christiana, Copenhagen
I: NICU, Sample In a Jar, My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own, The Moma Dance, Down With Disease > Dog-Faced Boy > Piper, Waste, Chalkdust Torture Set
II: Tweezer > 2001 > Loving Cup, My Soul, Sweet Adeline
E: Harry Hood
(photos: russ kahn)Tags: Grey Hall, International