First off, thanks to all eight people who entered the contest! I realize it took more effort to describe a jam in 500 words than to send me your email address, and for that you deserve a round of applause. To decide the two winners, I chose my favorite five entries, put their name in a hat, and allowed Mrs. Miner to determine the fate of the box sets. And the two winners of Phish Thoughts Hampton/Winston-Salem Box Set Giveaway are…
Devin Concannon – “The Hampton Halley’s”
Mike Aurzada – “The Hampton Hood”
Congratulations! Shoot me an email with your address and I’ll get the box sets out to you today or tomorrow!
Thanks to all eight contestants! In addition to the winners, they were, Matt Stevens, Joshua Dobczak, Matt Gedellwas, Scott Graham, Chasin Holden, and Bob Davis. Below are the final five entries:
Devon Concannon – “The Hampton Halley’s”
It has been leaked online for some time, but the hype isn’t another case of “well circulated soundboard syndrome” – in 25 short minutes the band declared proudly that this was Fall ’97 and this was going to be one of, if not the best tour of their career.
After a legendary night-one, fans wandered back into the Mothership wondering what Phish could possibly have left to offer. After a strong first set featuring a “Mike’s Groove > Hood” opener, the band took the stage amidst high anticipation. Mike’s “bachoo” got the place roaring and we were off! Halley’s Comet itself is a hilarious mix of Phish’s barbershop vocals and blues, with nonsensical lyrics of Phish lore (though, not actually written by Phish themselves!). Regardless, on this fall night in 1997, a backdrop of comedy was the perfect launching pad for a Phishy adventure into the abyss.
Trey felt something in the air. He yells to Mike – “Let’s stay on this!” Immediately they settle into a bouncing funk groove, locking down over thumping bass and cow funk guitar chops. They begin to tell a story with the music, as if to score a film – by the 8-minute mark the groove has morphed into a thematic melody with a sense of searching, driving, yearning. Trey’s effects and delivery create a sense of tip-toeing across Page and Mike’s fluid offerings. With suggestive lines he leaves us sitting on the edges of our seats, waiting to find out what’s next in this story. Trey found an opportunity to add a new texture to the mix, orchestrally slamming the relative major chord over Page and Mike’s flowing groove. With his wizardly-wave, the momentum shifted on a dime without ever dismantling the unity of the song. Fishman transformed from groove-oriented setwork to a more percussive approach, matching Trey’s ringing bursts.
Over the next few minutes Trey would built a patient gorgeous soundscape that tapped into his inner emotions. I jot down the words that come to mind in hopes I can describe it for the purposes of this essay but I can not. The words I jot down are “wonder, gaze, awe, vastness, curiosity”. With incredible note choice, like a poet of masterful diction, Trey formed an incredible story within what became a frame of Zappa’s “He Used to Cut the Grass”.
As the band began to paint spacey textures of underwater exploration, Trey poured his soul into a guitar confessional – an emotion epiphany shared by the audience. In a telepathic build, they achieve lift off – Trey soaring through the air with the massive, glowing, Fall ’97 tone. Chills. My jotting becomes incoherent scribbles as the universe is channeled through Trey’s nerdy little pasty fingers, guiding the band through a secretive, blissful outro and directly into Phishtory as we know it. Hampton “Halley’s” is Phish, and Phish Always Wins. It’s a science fact.
Mike Aurzada – “The Hampton Hood”
A more traveled friend of mine, who was with me at many shows of Summer and Fall ’97 tour summed it up for me by saying “Every set… every song placement … from opener to closer is a target rich environment for an epic jam. It surely keeps you on your toes. There are no piss breaks”
Bold words, that Phish could turn on anywhere and everywhere. My instant cynic said that Phish struggled to pull off those introspective, subtle, victory lap ethereal jams like a great “Slave” or “Hood” in a first set. Without it being the set closer.
11/22 and Phish seemingly started a Set III from the previous night. Like they never took an encore and came out for one more set. Sea legs and ready to go. A monstrous funked out melodic “Mike’s” out of the gate, and into a phenomenal “Weekapaug.” Definitely Second Set material. Good time to expect a breather. “NICU,” etc.
The roar from the crowd makes me smile. Set two antics, and just over a half hour into set one. Hampton and “Hood” go together.
The patience of the first two minutes is fantastic. The band phenomenally tight before the first chants of “Harry, Harry, Where do you go when the lights go out!” you know that they are all just laughing and having a great time on stage. Unforced. Confident. Relaxed. And flawless. Not a note missed in the composed section. Perfection.
I won’t go into the note by notes of the “Hood” Jam. Everyone probably has a passage that grabs them. But for me, I turn this “Hood” up, close my eyes and am lifted. Starting with patience and leisure, you can sense the communication of Page and Trey listening to each other that lets you know, there is no forcing anything here. Each a melodic equal. Take your time. No curfew to worry about. Let the notes flow through you All four members come together each taking their own piece and rolling the melody along. Is there another song as coordinate as this jam? My ears wander musically between Page, Trey, Mike and Jon, and find each one with a pertinent, great contribution to say. Quiet, yet refined. Building.
I find myself breathing slower in the jam. A zen like state. Somewhere about half way through, Trey is gonna slowly lift me up. Like a friend reaching a hand out for you to get up from a comfortable sublime position you’ve taken. And at the end of that hand up, is a warm hug.
This band communicates to us. And while there is tons of raging porno funk and melodic jamming layered everywhere over these three days. It’s a simple “Harry Hood” that turns me on. Maybe it’s the placement. Maybe it’s the patience. But if someone wanted to know why I love Phish. Hey, listen to this.
Fall ’97 And every set and song placement is a target rich environment. Ain’t that the truth.
Matt Stevens – Hampton’s “Emotional Rescue”
My favorite jam of the Hampton/Winston-Salem ’97 run is the very first one of the three nights, the” Emotional Rescue” opener on 11/21. Is it the best jam from these shows? Maybe, maybe not; there are certainly no shortage of contenders—among them the 11/21 “AC/DC Bag,” the 11/22 “Mike’s” and “Halley’s,” the 11/23 “Bathtub Gin,” and both “Black-Eyed Katy’s”. What sets the Emotional Rescue apart to me is what it signifies where Phish was at the time it happened. Phish, in Fall ’97, is the only band in the world that could open a show with a first time performance of the Rolling Stones’ 48th most well known song, one with bizarrely falsetto vocals Mike admirably committed to and pulled off in his own twisted way, a song that 90% of the attendees had likely never heard before that night, and absolutely crush it for 17 minutes. A moment like this could only happen as a result of the confidence, precision, and majesty that the band was playing with at the time.
Led by Mike’s thumping bass, Fish’s sharp drumming and Trey’s wah-pedal driven funk scratching, “Emotional Rescue” fits perfectly within the central tenets of the Fall ’97 sound. As the jam begins out of the closing chorus of the song, Trey patiently allows his band mates to shine. Mike continues to lead the charge as Trey starts setting a series of loops. Trey then begins soulfully strumming chords over his loops as Page becomes more prominent in the conversation on the piano. At about 9 minutes Page moves to the synthesizer and starts creating sounds to match the spaciness of Trey’s loops. He returns to the piano after a minute and Trey’s playing gets a bit more aggressive as a really nice section stressing “the one” of each measure develops. Trey starts an eager riff which Fish picks up on and the tempo of the jam begins to increase. It is here, at nearly thirteen minutes in that Trey begins to play what would typically be considered lead guitar for really the first time in the jam, which is not to say his previous playing was not impressive or compelling as it was certainly both, rather that it was this thoughtfully restrained playing that allowed this and countless other full-band improvisations to flourish that fall. As the jam works its way out of the “Emotional Rescue” groove and into a darker, spacier place, Page returns to the synth and layers a wash of sound over Mike’s ever deepening bass bottom. The tempo slows way down and Trey delicately plays a pattern of notes as the jam begins to resolve. Finally Fish starts “Split Open and Melt” and it’s clear that this is not just any show. Neither, as it turned out, would it be just any weekend.
Scott Graham – “The Hampton Halley’s”
Trying to decide what jam you like the most from three stellar nights of rock-n-roll of that late November weekend in Hampton, Virginia is tough. Each show has its own unique qualities that stand out from the next. Personally “Halley’s Comet” stands out to me as a once in a lifetime “Halley’s.” Over the crowd noise you can hear Mikes low voice start the beginning of “Halley’s!” The vocal portion of the song is flawless even with the crowds help and the energy builds. Just under 4:30 into the song the band dives directly into a 70’s porn funk groove without missing a beat. Thick and crunchy all at the same time with a perfect blend from each of the members it’s an instant dance groove. Page and Fish lead the way as Trey and Mike sit back and build momentum. Trey and Page start to exchange ideas and immediately seem to be on the same page. Trey’s light patterns are filled with delicate notes from Page as the four members start to blend on a single idea. These are the jams I miss today. The band takes an early idea to another level as Trey grows increasingly confident with the direction the music is taking him. A patient build and Trey takes control of the entire audience. This is one of the musical adventures that we chase as fans. Twelve minutes into this song we all have a pretty good idea where this adventure is heading and it’s fantastic. Fish Mike and Page are locked perfectly in a complemented beat as Trey in detail expresses his emotions over the top. When the band decides to switch directions they do so with little effort. Page stands up and goes “up top” and starts to drop that old school funk feel which Mike and Fish pick up on instantly and seamlessly. You can tell Trey and company are enjoying this as much as the crowd.
As the music slows to me is where Phish’s true “art work” is on display the most. The delicate textures that keep the adventure going is something that sets this band apart from other jam bands. Instead of going into another song they decide to keep this story alive. The next seven minutes, to put it simply, is Phish at its finest. Pure art work directly from the minds of four musical magicians. Its masterful, beautiful, dark, simplistic, delicate, deliberate, and complicated all at the same time. This song is why I drive thousands of miles and spend hundreds of dollars each and every year to see this band play. It’s a once in a lifetime moment that will never be recreated on stage. The energy that is created when four minds are thinking as one and there music is the idea we hear as a result is something that is hard to explain with words. Locking eyes with a complete stranger sharing a smile during what can only be described as a “moment”…
Thank you Phish!
Bob Davis: “The Hampton AC/DC Bag” – A Haiku
This is what it’s all about.
You had me at Ghost.
Jam of the Day:
“Harry Hood” 12.5.95 II Amherst, MA
A phenomenal Fall ’95 rendition from UMass from 16 years ago today. Trey playing through the haunting Leslie cabinet…
“Slave to the Traffic Light” 12.5.97 II, Cleveland, OH
A dark and exploratory “Slave?” Fourteen years ago tonight…