Ever since its debut in Dublin in June of ’97, “Ghost” has been a preeminent jam vehicle for the Phish. Boasting little composition and lots of open-ended groove, it was a song crafted for jamming. At a time when Phish was turning their focus to dance music, they wrote this seminal piece to guide their way. Evolving with the band from the raw funk of Summer ’97, to the disco-funk of Fall ’97; and then from the ambient planes of ’98 to the millennial soundscapes of ’99, “Ghost” has followed the band’s improvisational path. Taking on multiple forms, latter-day “Ghosts” traditionally diverged at one central fork- rock or funk. From each place, the jams could go anywhere and transform to greatness, but the essence of “Ghost” was in the groove.
Over the course of the summer- both in June and in August- “Ghost” was one of the band’s standout jams. With five total versions, four were spectacular, leaving everyone salivating for those opening funk chords. As we bring this show indoors, here’s to more frequent Phishy apparitions, but for now these were the Ghosts of Summer.
Jones Beach 6.4 I
This first set version in Jones Beach’s least engaging show wound up buried in the rubble of Asheville’s monster a week later- but it never shouldn’t have been forgotten. With a sparse opening segment, Gordon assumed the lead, taking the band galloping out of the gates. Trey, playing short notes, added a melodic string to the piece as it evolved to an earnest groove. Page added sounds and washes rather than leads, and the band locked in. Smoothly switching gears into a hypnotic section of dreamy ambiance, Trey played gorgeous lines over a ever-changing beat. This is really an overlooked jam coming so early in the summer, but don’t sleep on the Jones Beach “Ghost.”
Asheville 6.9 II
The laid back vibe of this show got turned upside down as the organic Asheville day morphed into this second set “Ghost.” Following the standout Jones Beach version, the heavy drop into the song was colored with anticipation. The intimate crowd drew silent, sensing something strange was afoot at the Circle K. Beginning with a non-conventional rhythm, Fish orchestrated the course of this piece from the get go, taking it in a different direction than the usual groove-fest. His abstract beats coaxed eclectic offerings from his bandmates and provided the anchor of the jam. After catching a groove, the band turned to a revelatory plane, fusing heart-tugging melodies with crafty rhythms, they continually peaked the jam with an entire section of improv. The whole band was on point as Trey unleashed some of his most sublime playing of June, pouring emotion into his melodies. As the band descended from the mountain, they slid into into a perfect respite of “Fast Enough For You.”
Alpine Valley 6.20 II
This was the only “Ghost” of summer that you won’t hear again and again on compilations. A rather pedestrian version, the band collectively meandered around the song’s basic structures but never really got anywhere. At first I thought it was an odd an interesting version, and after a few listens I realized its just not that creative. Coming in an underwhelming second set, this “Ghost” kind of fit the show’s vibe.
Red Rocks 7.30 II
This “Ghost” was our introduction to the new and improved Phish 3.0. Delivered powerfully in the middle of Red Rock’s first show, the jam boasted a far more relaxed and exploratory direction than anything we heard in June. Playing off the wide-open natural surroundings, the band settled into a wide-open rhythmic canvas, patiently building the jam, while not forcing it anywhere. Mike and Trey’s interplay throughout was awesome, but it would be Page who initiated the melodic theme that grew into the peak of the jam. Bringing smiles to the faces of everyone, this was the musical arrival we had been waiting for. From here on out, it was on- we had our band back.
Hartford 8.14 II
The final “Ghost” of summer was the jumping off point for some of the Phishiest moments of tour. Coming as a surprise, deep into the second set, this long overdue version would not disappoint. Taking the road less traveled into a searing rock-based jam, the band cranked out a short but sweet rager. Totally divergent from its Red Rocks predecessor, this version carried a sense or urgency, as the band sunk their teeth into the full-on palette. This version saw Trey firing high-powered leads as the band built the climactic jam behind him. Hitting a hard rhythm pattern at the top of the piece, Trey voraciously led the band into the second-ever “Psycho Killer,” and the rest is history.
Jams of the Day:
“Discern” 8.2.03, IT II
“Discern” 7.27.03, Raleigh I
Stemming from reader discussion, here are two examples of the rarely-played post-hiatus piece, “Discern.” The first, from IT, is an ominous spectacle directly preceding the colossal “Waves” of the same vein. The second is from days earlier in Raleigh, NC, providing another example of the abstract psychedelia that defined the song.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
11.10.1995 Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA < Torrent
11.10.1995 Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA < Megaupload
The middle night of a fantastic run, this is probably the most straightforward of the three shows. The second set is anchored by the creative combo of “YEM > Crossroads > YEM.” Enjoy!
I: Bouncing Around the Room, Runaway Jim, Fog That Surrounds, The Old Home Place, It’s Ice, Dog Faced Boy, Maze, Guyute, Cavern
II: Free, Scent of a Mule, You Enjoy Myself > Crossroads > You Enjoy Myself, Strange Design, Sparkle, AC/DC Bag, Sweet Adeline
E: Harry Hood
Source: (FOB) Schoeps mk4 > kc5 > cmc6 > Sonosax SX-M2 > Teac DA-P20 (@ 48kHz) (Taper – Ryan Varnum)Tags: 2009, Jams, Songs, Summer '09