Fourteen years ago tonight, Phish stunned an undersized audience in West Valley, Utah, with their first four-song set of Fall ’97. Fans were left counting songs on one hand after the last notes of “Slave” crashed down, and what we had witnessed was the beginning of history. Phish went on to play several more four-song masterpieces that Fall and beyond, but with Utah’s second set—a frame that featured creative jamming on songs old and new, and the onset of several fall tour trends—the golden road of Fall ’97 was just getting started.
Following a truly stellar first set, the band came out to open the second with “Wolfman’s Brother.” The last we had heard from the song was the epic Great Went version and when the guys began taking this set-opener into uncharted waters, one couldn’t help but think back to the Limestone’s monster. Pushing far beyond the funk in consecutive renditions, this final stages of this jam sounded, momentarily, as if it might land in “Simple,” just as its predecessor, but the guys crafted a melodic bridge into “Piper” instead. This “Wolfman’s” jam was a significant signpost at the beginning of the road of Fall ’97, as its foray into a deeper, groove-based psychedelia began an evolution of “funk” jams from summer’s less refined pieces into the multi-faceted excursions that became a signature of the fall. Additionally, “Wolfman’s,” itself, would blossom into reliably exploratory vehicle by tour’s end.
The band had debuted “Piper” in Europe at the beginning of the summer and it quickly became a staple of setlists throughout the season. After the previous night’s “Mike’s Song” in Las Vegas sounded as though it might merge with the new school piece, Phish used it as the landing point of a more profound jam in “Wolfman’s Brother.” Still (most often) consisting of a drawn out intro and a raucous, though circular guitar peak, the band tore through a climactic version of greater magnitude than we had heard in the US that summer, and this proved to be the onset of another emerging beast. “Piper” dissolved into its kindred song, “Twist,” and it would be this jam in which Phish dove into the cosmos.
Navigating the jam’s groovy textures and far beyond into original planes, Phish gradually worked their way into space. As the band reached a wildly abstract soundscape, Trey tore into a soul-bearing guitar solo that spoke to a new stylistic paradigm—Fall ’97’s psychedelic spectrum was just beginning to develop. Staggering in both sound and scope, it felt as though the band had broke through a portal in space-time and Trey was offering universal information in a seething, six-string prophecy. Finding into a different dimension than many summer jams, this psychedelic abstraction foreshadowed a far more expansive style that would grace so many jams of fall. Dark though deeply spiritual, this version of “Twist” warmed the psyche of fans to centerpiece jams that would routinely transcend funk during Fall ‘97—a tour that gets too often pigeonholed as Dance Party-only.
And to resolve the creative madness that had ensued since Page’s opening notes of “Wolfman’s,” Phish dripped into a massive version of “Slave,” rounding out the four-song suite. More nuanced than the linear builds of many “Slaves,” this version concluded the set with exclamatory beauty and drama. Jams were huge on this night in Utah and fans were floored. It was only the second night of tour and it felt like Phish had elevated their game from an amazing summer with a deep and cohesive adventure into a parallel universe. The band’s four-song set in Salt Lake City— 14 years ago tonight—immediately raised the bar for Fall ‘97, and provided a starting point for so many of the tour’s iconic show to build from.
Jam of the Day:
The second half of Utah’s early-Fall explosion.
The Mimi Fishman Foundation’s Online Charity Auction
The Mimi Fishman Foundation has launched a new charity auction that features many items including ticket packages to the end-of-year, sold-out Madison Square Garden shows. The online auction is currently live with the bidding period closing on Thursday, December 1st. Proceeds from this auction will benefit the Delta Gamma Center for Children With Visual Impairments, Phish’s WaterWheel Foundation, as well as the Vermont flood victims.
To view and/or bid on the auction, as well as read about the charities the auction supports, please visit the Mimi Fishman Foundation Auction Page.
In addition to the MSG ticket package, other items up for auction include:
- Signed Summer Tour 2011 posters
- Greek Theater Pollack Package: A numerically matching set of the three Pollock prints from the Greek Theater shows in 2010
- A signed poster from the recent Phish Vermont benefit (9/14/11)