In the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that recently hit northeastern Japan, yesterday Phish announced the official release of 7.31.99‘s iconic performance from the Fuji Rock Festival’s Field of Heaven as a benefit for the Japanese people. The show will be remastered by Fred Kevorkian and released in both download and CD formats, with all proceeds going to Peace Winds America. All funds collected for disaster relief will go to support operations through their sister organization, Peace Winds Japan. Relief operations are currently underway in Miuyagi Prefecture, where Peace Winds is on the ground providing food, clothing, medicines and temporary shelter to survivors. With an inevitably abrupt transition, let’s now take a look back at the show selected for release.
Right after the their US Summer Tour concluded in Deer Creek on July 26,1999, Phish hopped across the Pacific Ocean to make their first appearance in Japan at the Fuji Rock Festival in Niigata. And ever since the 40 minutes of “2001 > Bowie” traveled from the Field of Heaven back to America, this show has been one of legend. One of the finest “Bowie’s” of the late-’90s built into an intricate psychedelic beast in the intimate wooded setting of the Field of Heaven. And coupled with a smoking and extended ’99-style “2001,” this segment has lived in lore since it happened. But there are other treats in this show as well.
First and foremost, late in the second set Phish played one of the greatest versions of “Prince Caspian” of their career. The usually uplifting song reached a whole ‘nother level on this night, and the result was nothing short of astounding. Carrying a far slower pace than usual—a characteristic that defined all of Phish’s playing at open-air Field of Heaven—the band patiently built one “Caspian’s” most cathartic versions. With searing guitar licks amidst a laid-back groove, Trey screamed from his soul through the entirety of this majestic highlight. Mike and Page joined in the climactic jamming while Fishman framed the piece with an unusually slow and dramatic beat.
Following this all-time “Caspian,” Phish stepped right into “Fluffhead,” maintaining the triumphant feel of the latter part of the night. One last explosive peak on this signature set gave way to a “Squirming Coil” denouement. And even the encore included something special. Before any song started, Tibetan monk Nawang Khechog came on stage to discuss human rights in Tibet. When he was done, Khechog performed a meditative piece with on a traditional horn with Fishman on vacuum, and then joined the band on wooden flute for “Brain and Robert.” The show finished with an experimental jaunt though “Simple” as Trey built his solo into furious sheets of sound over the band’s mellow textures. Morphing into to a searing-turned-ambient-turned-rocking jam, the band never stopped bringing IT until the show’s final cymbal crash. The first set is no slouch either, highlighted by a gorgeous “Limb by Limb,” a tar-thick “Free” and a particularly snarling version of “Character Zero. Needless to say, the band was on all night—and all weekend—at Fuji Rock.
It’s great to see Phish using their music for a good cause, but it seems like a odd move to choose a show that widely circulates in soundboard fashion to generate donations. (Some believe it to be a pristine audience recording.) While I am sure Kevorkian’s treatment will juice up the recording and provide a considerable upgrade, why not drop something completely new from Phish’s Japanese exploits—specifically Summer 2000? Aside from the already-released gem from Drum Logos in Fukuoka (6.14.00), the band played several other monster shows during that tour—an awesome run that represented their last full-on gasp of creativity before slowly winding down over the rest of summer and fall towards Shoreline. Why not drop the Tokyo “Tweezer” and the On Air East show (6.9.00) or the Zepp-Osaka tour-closer (6.16.00) and its next-level “Runaway Jim?” And there are also stellar options in between, such as Zepp-Tokyo (6.10.00) and The Big Cat in Osaka (6.15.00). Despite all these choices however, the organization definitely chose a stellar show for remastering; a gorgeous portrait of Summer ’99. I just hope, for charity’s sake, that as many people buy the upgrade as would a brand new show.
The expected release date of the download at LivePhish will be April 15th. The expected ship date of the CD from Phish Dry Goods will be May 10th, though pre-orders are being taken now through both sites.
In the past, charitable downloads at LivePhish.com have raised over $100,000 for four non-profits: the Harbor House of New Jersey (The Headphones Jam), the New Orleans Musician’s Clinic, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fund (Katrina Relief) and the American Red Cross (Haiti Relief). Additionally, the Mockingbird Foundation receives funding on an on-going basis from the proceeds at LivePhish.com.
I: My Friend, My Friend, Golgi Apparatus, Back on the Train, Limb By Limb, Free, Roggae, Sparkle, Character Zero
II: 2001 > David Bowie, Wading in the Velvet Sea > Prince Caspian, Fluffhead, The Squirming Coil
E: Jam* > Brian and Robert**, Simple
* w/ Nawang Khechog on horn, ** w/ Nawang Khechog on wooden flute
“Prince Caspian” 7.31.99 II
Jam of the Day:
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
3.22.2011 MGB @ Brooklyn Bowl, NYC
I: Idea, The Walls of Time, Sugar Shack, Cities, Can’t Stand Still, Heavy Metal > The Spiritual Jam, Crumblin’ Bones, Black Tambourine, Hap-Nappy
II: Horizon Line, The Void*, Cruel World, Got Away, Middle of the Road, Suskind Hotel > La La La > Suskind Hotel
* w/ dance contest
Source: AKG se300b/ck91 > Edirol UA-5 (bm2p+) > iRiver h120
*****Tags: 1999, Benefit, Japan, Releases