Never has one show affected the course of Phish’s musical direction as much as Halloween 1996. Deciding to cover Remain in Light, an album centered on percussive grooves, forced the band to acclimate to a different style of play. Phish approached its tracks from a rhythmic point of view; different from the arena rock psychedelia that captivated audiences throughout Fall ’95. As 1996 moved into its second half, Phish hovered in a holding pattern, ready for a fresh musical path, but not exactly sure what that would be. As a result, their initial east coast run of the Fall was nothing to write home about. But as they prepared to unveil The Talking Heads’ album for Halloween, Phish brought other musicians into the mix, and their extensive practice sessions pushed the band towards their destiny.
With the addition of Dave Grippo and Gary Gazaway on sax and trumpet, and more specifically, Santana’s percussionist, Karl Perazzo, the band worked on executing the collaborative patterns that were strewn throughout the record. Phish’s meticulous preparation for their third musical costume resulted in a masterfully interpretive set in which they killed the album from beginning to end.
During a 1998 interview with David Byrne for Sessions at West 54th, the band discussed each of their Halloween “costumes” and how they subsequently affected the band’s style. Page noted the profound influence of covering Remain In Light.
It may have had the biggest effect on us because we really learned the grooves and we really tried to get inside the grooves on the album…I took so much away from that. And the groove-oriented playing that we’ve done in the last few years – repetition, pulling things out, putting them back – all that sort of thing, a lot of it was from learning [Remain In Light].
The effects Page spoke of began to emerge at the very next show in West Palm Beach. To open the second set, Phish launched into an extended groove exploration of “Crosseyed > Antelope,” and the music sounded more like the rhythmic jamming that defined Remain In Light rather than the fast-paced, guitar-centric playing that peaked in ’95 and spilled into ’96.
“Crosseyed > Antelope” began a gradual evolution of the band’s sound throughout the rest of the fall. Starting to slow down and funk out, Phish started moving towards their groove-based playing of 1997 and beyond. When comparing the pre-Halloween shows with those after October, the changes leap out. Pieces that helped define this shift included the Auburn Hills “YEM” (11/9), the Grand Rapids “Tweezer” (11/11), the San Diego “Mike’s” (12/4), and the Vegas “2001”(12/6).
While ’96’s New Year’s Run didn’t necessarily capture this emerging style of jamming, the band was poised for a transformation come 1997. And during their winter tour of Europe in Markthalle, an intimate club in Hamburg, Germany, this evolution came together. The band references “Wolfman’s” from 3.1’s Markthalle show as the moment they realized the type of collaborative playing they had quested after. Everything simply clicked, bringing the community their first helping of “cow funk,” mastered and released on Slip Stitch, and Pass. And so it began – 1997’s rhythmic revolution was underway – but the process of transformation started late one Fall night in Atlanta – and Phish never looked back.
Jams of the Day:
Capping a three-night stand at The Grey Hall, Phish threw down a four-song second set; this is the first half. Only the second version featuring the song’s new intro, this “Ghost” sits among the upper echelon of all-time renditions.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
10.1.00 Desert Sky Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ < Torrent
10.1.00 Desert Sky Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ < Megaupload
The night after Vegas ended, Phish made their way into the desert for the last show before the final four. Markedly better than the previous performance, “Piper > Guy Forget” (an old soundcheck song never performed live) held down the opening segment of the second set, while a thick “Camel Walk” and a solid “Bowie” closed it out. After Phoenix started the fateful final four of 2000.
I: First Tube, Wolfman’s Brother, Back on the Train, Beauty of My Dreams, Vultures, The Inlaw Josie Wales, Billy Breathes, Llama, Lawn Boy, Runaway Jim
II: Roses Are Free, Piper > Guy Forget* > When the Circus Comes, Camel Walk, Driver, David Bowie
Source: B&K 4011’s > Lunatec V2 > Apogee AD-500 > Tascam DA-P1Tags: 1996, Covers, Guests, Halloween