The day had finally come. We hadn’t seen the band for six months- six months that had changed everything- and we had finally made it. We were in Virginia Beach, and it was July 21st! It was here. After waiting over half a year that seemed more like an eternity, we would finally see what this new funk was all about! Unless you were lucky enough to make it to Europe earlier in 1997, you were in the same boat- fiending for Phish and more curious than ever.
After finishing off 1996 with a smoking New Years Run, peaking at the Fleet Center amidst unreasonably cold temperatures in Boston, the band disappeared from the American scene. Only two months later they were off on their first of two European tours before we’d have a chance to see them in the states again*. Their twelve-show winter run continued the transformation to groove-based playing that had begun during the second half of Fall ’96. And once we got a hold of that 2.17 Amsterdam tape, we knew something special was going on. That “Disease” slowed down into some thick music we’d never heard before- and then segued into a dark, new song called “Lucy Had A Lumpy Head”- who was this band?! This was different music than we heard in Boston- that was for sure- and it was very engaging! Phish went on to play their infamous Markthalle show captured on Slip, Stitch, and Pass, but at the time, that Amsterdam tape was all anyone could talk about. *(Phish did play a small benefit in Burlington on 3.17)
We got some of the other winter tapes as well, and then we waited. The band took off across the pond once again in June- this time armed with an array of new songs that spilled out quickly over their first two nights in Dublin. “Ghost,” “Twist,” “Limb By Limb,” “Dogs Stole Things,” “Piper,” “I Saw It Again,” “Oblivious Fool,” “Vultures,” “Velvet Sea,” “Water In the Sky”- and come Virginia Beach, most of us had never heard them! These were not the days of instant uploads and digital Phish; the tapers were all in Europe. With only ten days separating the last European show and Virginia Beach, most of us didn’t have time for a blanks and postage deal.
But while we weren’t getting Phish music instantly online, it was around this time that Phish internet space- and the internet in general- began to catch fire. On message boards and over email, we heard stories about twenty-minute funk jams played really, really slow; about this new song called “Ghost” that was all the rage; about bass led grooves coming from everywhere! But they were just stories. With each passing day and setlist, excitement amongst fans grew exponentially. After six and a half months of no Phish coupled with tales of legendary jams, our imaginations were about to burst- we couldn’t wait any longer. And we didn’t have to, because the day had arrived.
When we got into the amphitheatre, the energy was palpable as the entire crowd seemed to be on the verge of explosion. How long would we have to wait before we heard all these new songs? As a rainbow appeared over the lawn, breaking the day’s inclement weather, Phish stepped on stage with the first stateside drop into “Ghost.” The music felt immediately addictive- its deep bass and slow grooves coursing through your veins. It was a new high you’d never felt before- and Wow!- it felt good. You had to dance, no matter how awkward it might have looked; this shit was funky! And as the band entered the jam, we experienced the first gooey excursion of what would be a stellar summer tour.
Following up with “Dogs,” “Piper,” and “Dirt,” the band was as eager to introduce their new material as we were to hear it. When listening to just the abbreviated version of “Piper,” you could feel the magic in that song from day one. And finally, to welcome everyone to their US Summer Tour, Phish ripped apart a funktatstic “Bathtub Gin” that saw Trey jokingly chant “USA! USA! USA!” at the end. Spirits were soaring; the band was as ecstatic to start a long US tour as we were, and a new era had truly begun.
“Bathtub Gin“ ———————————–
7.21.97 Virgina Beach, VA – 12 Years Ago Today
I: Ghost, Dogs Stole Things, Piper, Dirt, Ginseng Sullivan, Bathtub Gin*, Character Zero
II: Wolfman’s Brother > Magilla, David Bowie, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Theme From the Bottom* > Funky Bitch*, Slave to the Traffic Light
E: Loving Cup
*w/ Leroi Moore
Jam of the Day:
“You Enjoy Myself” 11.28.97 Worcester SBD
Perhaps the greatest version of “You Enjoy Myself” from Fall ’97, this one will get anyone’s head bobbing. Coming in a show opening combo of “Curtain > YEM” to begin Worcester’s three-night stand, Phish got the party started right. While not necessarily a dark-horse, a run through the SBD of this impeccable jam brightens any day. With a fierce and funk-laced “Crosseyed” segment, this one is a keeper.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
3.20.92 Broome Co. Forum, Binghamton, NY SBD < MEGAUPLOAD
Keeping with the early-era soundboard trend of yesterday, here we have one of the greatest shows from the hallowed Spring of ’92. This Binghamton show was an analog staple back in the day, with a SBD source that circulated early on. In a show strewn with highlights, the “Antelope” stands out as one of the greatest early-90’s versions. The first set is absolutely flawless, and set two isn’t far behind. Enjoy this gem!
I: Wilson, Reba, Brother, Glide, Rift, Fluffhead, Maze, Lizards, Mound, Run Like an Antelope
II: Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Sanity, The Sloth, The Mango Song, Cavern, Uncle Pen, Harry Hood, Terrapin*, Possum
E: Lawn Boy, Fire
* Trey explains “Secret Language” before “Possum”Tags: 1997, Culture