A tour that started in Vancouver exactly one month earlier, had traversed the nation moving down the west coast, across the south and back up the east coast. We had made it to Albany on October 9 for the final two-night stand of tour. Boasting many fine shows along the way, Phish returned to their home turf of the Northeast to close another tour in the friendly confines of “Knickerbocker” Arena. Fall ’99 saw Phish experiment with sound in a different direction, favoring abstract dissonance and amorphous spacescapes. Following a trend that began during summer, their jams became increasingly layered, veering from the groove and calm ambient playing of ’98 to more aggressive, distortion-based textures and artistic sound sculptures. Phish displayed these trends in droves this night on this next-to-last night in Albany.
The first set had its own space-excursion, as a straight-forward “Ghost” grew outwards in scope, then seamlessly merged with the primordial soup of “My Left Toe.” In the middle of the first set, Phish set their controls for the heart of the sun, morphing from a fast-paced rock-groove into a slower arrhythmic pattern that suggested a voyage to the other side. Page layered walls of sound that supported the jam, while Fishman flowed with all sorts of polyrhythms. A magnificent showcase of one of the band’s current foci, they wasted no time merging with the infinite, dripping into “My Left Toe” without anyone really noticing. A free form jam, itself, it has no set pattern but for a drum beat and some distinct guitar groans. Deep into space exploration, Trey looped one pattern while adding others; Fish played a shimmering ever-shifting beat; Page’s favored sound over melody; and Mike blended his notes in a non-linear pattern. The band took a high dive into celestial sludge before emerging with the heavy opening of “Free,” back in the era when “Free” was still a legitimate piece of improv. The thick groove showcased Trey’s classic “millennial” style, moving from searing sheets of resounding terror into growling leads. With the end of tour within reach, Phish rejected complacency in favor of cerebral creativity – good to the last drop.
Phish stepped back into the cosmic realm at the beginning of the second set, combining “Limb By Limb” and “2001″ into 35 minutes of millennial madness. Slaughtering the typically complex “Limb” jam with super-glued communication. Just before the band collectively peaked, they descended from their melodic heights into a darker, rhythmic milieu. Fish kept the polyrhythms flying at lightning speed, as Trey and Mike’s dark interplay led the band down the road less traveled. Creating an abstract sonic brew, Phish embarked on a distinctly ’99-esque segment of improv that the band absolutely annihilated – you can hear the response from the crowd on tape. Effortlessly re-merging with “Limb’s” cathartic theme, the band – and specifically Trey – smashed the peak of the jam to smithereens, leaving approximately 17,500 jaws firmly lying on the arena floor.
Trey joined Fish’s ending drum solo, and as the song formally ended, Trey continued his pattern over a blanket-like ambiance that the rest of the band instantly created. Oozing back into a quiet jam that suggesting “Limb’s” rhythmic structure, Phish began to build a spacescape whose intensity and stature grew with each passing moment. Entering a gorgeous plane, Fishman faded his drum beat in, the lights came up, and the arena lifted off into the tour’s last “2001.” Leaving the laid back grooves in the summer amphitheatres, this version took off with a faster pace and an enhanced zest. After joining the dance party with a series of choppy funk licks and leads, and once the the band locked into some full-on grooves, Trey left his axe behind, hopping onto his mini keyboard. He immediately complemented Page’s Rhodes with staccato patterns he might play on guitar. Mike and Fish pulsated consistently, never coming apart, providing the adhesive for the top-layer experiments.
Trying all his tricks, Trey used his keyboard proficiently and enhanced the groove with an array of sounds and effects. But once the band passed through the song’s first theme, he stuck to his guitar. Mike’s super-sized bass patterns dominated the second half of the piece, as Trey and Page wrapped slick melodies around them. Thumping throughout the arena, his diverse lines led the band away from clap-able rhythms into alternate grooves during this “2001″ marathon that lasted almost 20 minutes.
Segueing into “Disease,” Phish’s space-camp ended for the evening, as they closed the show with the energetic anthem followed by “Simple” and “Loving Cup.” But our galactic treks in both sets comprised the enduring memories from this night in Albany ten years ago.
Jams of the Day: 10.9.99
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
10.9.99 “Knickerbocker” Arena, Albany, NY < Megaupload
This is the typically darker and more exploratory first night of Phish’s two-night finale to Fall ’99. Getting to some spaced-out jams, the band showcased their abstract millennial sound that grew throughout the tour. A great setlist with great playing – good stuff all around.
I: Punch You In the Eye, Wilson, Guyute, Ghost > My Left Toe > Free, Sparkle, Possum
II: Limb By Limb > Also Sprach Zarathustra*> Down with Disease > Wading in the Velvet Sea, Simple, Loving Cup
E: Slave to the Traffic Light
*Trey on keys for part of jam
Source: UnknownTags: 1999, Jams