Huh? Yup. It happened. Eleven years ago today at the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State, right along the high key tour of Fall ’97 . While this majestic musical segment is buried within the first set of a oft-underrated show, it featured one of only several masterful “Stash”s in Fall ’97. Overlooked due to the prominent focus on funk in Fall ’97, “Stash” absolutely blew up every single time it was played on tour. Starting with Vegas’ twenty-minute epic, moving to the hyper-intense first set version from Winston-Salem, to Worcester’s mind-altering adventure, Cleveland’s massive second set opener, to this “Stash Groove” in Happy Valley; Stash’s five song campaign was truly epic. Yet, today we shall focus on this first set oddity.
Having opened the show with a fluffy Mike’s, featuring copious light dance funk to get the party started, the band took an abrupt left turn into Chalk Dust as the jam wound down. Since they didn’t move into a traditional interlude, it seemed as though the band would create a set-long Mike’s Groove sandwich, as they often did. Hence, when the band dropped “Stash” after their blues-rock excursions into Chalk Dust and “My Soul,” no one thought anything of it (other than the routine 100 cc’s of adrenaline our brain was shot with by that opening lick.)
This version jumped into the fray immediately, as Mike led the troops into battle with strapping bass lines, complementing Trey’s solo which had begun firing before the jam dropped in earnest. Taking zero time to get into the thick of things; as the vocal refrain ended, we were smack in the middle of deep Phish improv. Page began with some tasteful jazzy accents, but the course of this version would see him pounding his piano like a madman. As the jam entered the depths, the entire band began passing musical ideas around as easily as a spliff, while the jam built as if composed and practiced. Oozing with ferociousness and furor, this version stands in maddening support of the “Stash” ’97 candidacy.
Yet, as the band twisted the music to a climax, they entered into the “Maybe so, maybe not” refrain only briefly, continuing the intense textures moving. Within a flash, they band slid naturally into a spiritually-melodic segment fora short bit. Literally coming out of nowhere, one couldn’t predict where we were headed. As Phish settled to an ambient place, Fishman began the delicate drumbeat of Hydrogen as the rest of the band gradually fell into place one-by-one in what was a gorgeous transition.
A certain mind-fuck, the band brought Hydrogen out of something other than Mike’s for only the fourth time in their career. (The three previous times were out of Kung at the Roxy 2.20.93, out of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav at Holmdel, NJ on 7.2.94, and out of Simple at Raleigh 7.22.97.) As they do, Phish had one again executed something we never saw coming to perfection. As the melodies of Hydrogen rolled around the arena, you had to think Weekapaug was coming next to not only complete the Mike’s Groove, but also the first-ever “Stash Groove!”
And so it was. Though the band stumbled momentarily, into the opening notes, once they got this Weekapaug grooving, it transformed into a centerpiece of the set. A blistering thematic jam gave way to a rhythmic section that sounded like a hidden track off of Remain In Light. Taking jams into percussive explorations became a hobby for the band during this tour, and this Weekapaug is a prime example of how far they took them. What started in a grounded and grooving place took off into some militant and scorching improv that featured Trey at the helm, wailing out orders to the people. Fishman kept the vessel rhythmically anchored in Weekapaug while the others steered the jam into more turbulent waters. Finally landing ashore, back in the Weekapaug chorus, Phish had just completed yet another adventure into the universe; this one amidst a string of songs in the first set. The unexpected had struck again. Bring your head gear to Hampton and beyond, for all those left hooks that you can’t see coming, something tells me the unexpected will strike again.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
5.28.94 Laguna Seca Raceway, Monterey, CA SBD
This classic spring ’94 show was the first of two at the Laguna Seca Daze Festival. A relatively standard first set was upstaged by the second that brought two classic versions of “Tweezer” and “Reba,” the quintessential ’94 songs. The entertaining show ended with a YEM that featured a visit from Les Claypool for a bass duel with Gordeaux. This soundboard captures the show vividly!
I: Rift, Sample in a Jar, Foam, Bouncing Around the Room, Stash, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, The Sloth, Maze, Cavern
II: Axilla [Part II], It’s Ice, Tweezer > Lifeboy, Reba, Fee > Llama, You Enjoy Myself*, Dueling Bass Jam*
E: Poor Heart
*With Les Claypool of Primus, on bass
NOTE: If there is ever a show you are searching for or jonesin’, drop me a line. Thanks to Ginseng Jeff, I pretty much have em all. Look forward to hearing from you!