Everyone has a go-to jam. It fits any mood you could ever be in, and you’ve listened to it several hundred times in your life. It is the first piece of music you want to hear when you are glowing after a show, ready to conquer the world. It is the first piece of music you want to listen to after a hard day at work. It is the only piece of music you could never possibly get sick of, even if played on a loop in your head forever. It is that analog tape you played to death, that CD you never lost, and now it is forever stored on your computer, iPod, and several other devices. It is part of you; you feel like what you hear- it just all fits. For me, there is only one answer to this scenario- the “Tweezer” from Auburn Hills ’97.
For twenty-two minutes in 1997, Phish actualized a dream turned memory that would last forever. With the musical path of nasty funk leading into searing psychedelia, Phish created one of the lasting highlights of the late ’90s. Opening the second set in Detroit, the band toyed with the opening of the song before an extended drum roll, a la “Possum,” dropped into the opening. A version that contained many unique improvisational brushes throughout its composed section got downright nasty the moment the jam opened.
Leading with a tweaked keyboard line, Page was soon overtaken by the brontosaurus bass lines of Gordon. Methodically leading the band into the grooves, Mike took the lead, while Trey hopped atop his pattern with crack-like rhythm licks. This jam took place at a time, specifically a weekend, where Phish was flying through the stratosphere seemingly on auto pilot; tearing every night to shreds with focused abandon. When Phish gets into grooves like the one they were in, everything seems composed, like there is a master plan behind in all. Maybe Phish didn’t compose it, but the higher powers did, and they were just the messengers. Either way, what happened this night was certainly touched by the divine.
The funk was as thick as ever, dripping from the rafters of The Palace like vines of a prehistoric era. The band was so precise, they sounded like a machine. Cohesive and imaginative, Phish threw down a groove session that holds up to any of that famed fall. So polished and nuanced, their “funk” had become an entity all its own, as there was really no word to describe their massive musical textures. It was larger than life, and in Detroit that night, every note filled the arena with purpose and meaning. The band members played off of each other flawlessly, channeling the Spaulding burgers Michael once dropped against the Pistons in the very same building.
Churning and crunching along, the dinosaur grooves ate up the arena. The band was absolutely crushing it, speaking fluently to one another, while nailing stops along the way. As the raw funk concluded, Page laid down some insane clav lines that opened up a new section of grooves with enhanced layers and textures. After looping some effects, the way in which Trey joined in was stunning. With an interpretation of one of his classic melodies, adopted to the increasingly futuristic milieu, his notes resonated deeply as he gently entered the mix.
Before the band took it out to another galaxy, they sat into one more funk groove, climaxing in a classic ’97 guitar-scratching, stop and start section. But directly following this, Trey played a lead melody that galloped the music outwards into the cosmos. As the band joined this celestial path, Trey opened up the universe with one gorgeous lick- and if you know this jam even slightly, you know the one I mean. Within a few minutes we had time traveled from the Mesozoic era to outer space.
From here the music became poetry. Taking an awing path of psychedelic exploration, the band visited a transcendent plane that we dream about. Over-taking every atom of energy in the building, the music transformed into a seething dungeon of the unknown. Taking a turn for the dark and dramatic, the ensuing improv was one of the most powerful passages of music I have ever witnessed. Phish explored the deepest of places and never once missed a beat. The band put on a display that no other four humans on earth could even approach.
As this colossal segment peaked, the band emerged from the eerie swamps of the mind with another groove!? Whoa! Before we could even process what was happening, we found ourselves smack in the middle of “Tweezer > Izabella,” a term that would live on forever in Phish lore. The ensuing “Izabella” would produce the most full-on dance rhythms ever heard from the song, and the band would go on to create one of the greatest sets of the late ’90s.
I could listen to that “Tweezer” forever, and once started, it’s hard to stop before the end of the set because the band never did. But in those twenty-two minutes Phish took us on a journey of a lifetime. In a timeless moment that might as well have lasted twenty-two days, Phish bore their soul while touching ours in a spiritual exchange that defines the very ethos of what this is all about.
What is your “go to ” jam? Respond in Comments!
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
4.1.86 Hunt’s “Festival of Fools,” Burlington, VT < TORRENT LINK
Let’s rewind 23 years to April Fools day 1986. Phish was still playing covers around Burlington, and writing songs that would become classics. Highlighting this April Fool’s Day show was the second set opening prank of “Help > Slip > Bag,” as well as early versions of “Harry Hood” “You Enjoy Myself,” “Icculus,” and “McGrupp.” Enjoy this slice of comedic history as we enter April, or in other words, one month closer to June.
I: Quinn the Eskimo, Have Mercy > Harry Hood > Dave’s Energy Guide, The Pendulum, Jam*, Icculus, You Enjoy Myself
II: Help on the Way > Slipknot! > AC/DC Bag, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Alumni Blues, Dear Mrs. Reagan, Not Fade Away^
*With Zenzile, a poet from South Africa who may have been a student at Goddard College. ^Featured members of The Joneses, with whom Phish alternated sets.Tags: 1997, Jams