Ventura: A Glimpse Into the Glory Years—Pt. II

Ventura County Fairgrounds

Ventura County Fairgrounds, Ventura, CA

Today we take a closer look at the Ventura shows from ’97 and ’98.

7/30/97: I: NICU > Wolfman’s Brother > Chalk Dust Torture, Water in the Sky, Stash, Weigh, Piper, Cars Trucks Buses, Character Zero

II: Punch You In the Eye, Free > David Bowie -> Cities -> David Bowie, Bouncing Around the Room, Uncle Pen, Prince Caspian > Fire

E: My Soul

First a little context. Ventura’s ’97 edition unfolded in the first half of the band’s US Summer Tour in about a week’s proximity to their experimental funk tour of Europe. The band was loose and honing in on a new sound they had developed since the previous Halloween. Eager to stretch almost any song into a syncopated groove session, the band had been throwing down spectacular shows in their first week stateside. Virginia Beach, Raleigh, Lakewood, Dallas, Austin, and Phoenix—all monster shows in their own right. And now it was onto Ventura.

7.30.97This Ventura show—an incredible portrait of Phish in the Summer of ‘97—has never circulated in great quality due to the coastal winds that swirled around the venue, thus this remastered soundboard comes as nothing short of a revelation. The first disc of the set brings us back to an era when first sets meant something. Right away in the second song “Wolfman’s” we hear the loose wah-funk that the band had been exploring all season. After Trey takes a solo over the bands extremely slowed patterns, the band locks into each other’s ideas in a thick dance jam that has nothing to do with the song, foreshadowing the methodical wah-grooves that would come to define the summer. The band surfs this wave without finishing the song with a brief jam on “Take Me to the River” that leads them directly into a “Chalk Dust” that grabbed me on first listen. The utter intensity and creative mini-tangents throughout this jam illustrate Phish taking no prisoners in their live show—even during a first set in Southern California.

The “Stash” that follows contains glorious jamming that smoothly moves in and out of a major key , providing a beautiful middle section to an intense tale. The band closed out the set with a four pack of songs, including a short, old-school “Piper” and a wah-infused “Cars, Trucks, Busses.” Despite the on point playing throughout the first set, this show has—rightfully—always been synonymous with the meat of the second.

Ventura Sleeve Art

Ventura Sleeve Art

Simply put, 7/30’s “Bowie -> Cities -> Bowie” is one of Phish’s finest jams from one of their finest improvisational years. Having warmed up for a month in Europe, the band hit US turf running, dropping monstrous jam after monstrous jam. But this one was special. Phish hadn’t played “Cities” in the United States since 1989, and the way the band builds into the song is nothing short of masterful. Blending their new-found groove with their intricate, prog-psychedelic roots, the guys dropped a piece of music that set the Phish world afire. Confident, daring, and without hesitation, they collectively tear apart the “David Bowie” jam as a band possessed, each contributing stunning pieces to the puzzle. But deep into the jam, the guys break down the seething music into something far more percussive. On comes Trey’s wah-pedal, and the band begins to migrate from darkness into quickened groove. The following few minutes are the most engaging of the jam as the band dives head first into some very unique funk patterns with Gordon going ape shit. The band is in destruction mode here as the music seems to be playing them as much as they are playing the music. Trey begins working in the rhythm licks of “Cities” and a James Brown concert breaks out! Straight Krush Groove here as the guys liken superhuman robots oozing with soul. “Cities” stays at its original pace throughout, far from the exaggeratedly slow versions that would follow. As the lyrics end, the band takes little time to seamlessly mesh back with “Bowie” in what seemed like an aural hallucination. And the band doesn’t just rush to finish the song, they dive back into the jam for seven minutes—longer than most current “Bowies” altogether—and annihilate the peak of the jam. Just as this sequence stole the show that summer night sixteen years ago, so does it steal the spotlight on this release, despite its mp3 soundboard having surfaced a few years ago. This sounds superior in every way.

After “Punch” kicks off the second set Free” gets the treatment in a version that serves as a signpost for the jam. The band had recently ditched the piano led direction and changed motifs with “Free,” transforming into the bass and guitar driven juggernaut of the late ‘90s. In this Ventura version, we hear the band acclimating to the new milieu, but without really building anything of significance. This would start to change over the summer and more earnestly in the Fall when the song truly started to expand. After such monumental jamming in the middle of the set, the band rode into the sunset with a quartet of diverse, well-played songs that end the show.

7/20/98: I: Bathtub Gin, Dirt, Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, My Sweet One, Birds of a Feather, Theme From the Bottom, Water in the Sky, The Moma Dance, Split Open and Melt

II: Drowned -> Makisupa Policeman > Maze, Sea and Sand, Prince Caspian >Harry Hood

E: Sexual Healing > Hold Your Head Up, Halley’s Comet

Ventura '98 Promo

Ventura ’98 Promo

While Ventura ’97 stood out amidst its tour, Ventura ’98 most definitely did not. It was a solid show, but coming right after Europe, Portland, the Gorge and Shoreline, the SoCal Monday nighter felt like the West Coast afterthought before it started. But when the band greeted the crowd with a colossal “Bathtub Gin” to open the show, the possibilities opened wide. The Riverport “Gin” that came nine days later is often hailed as the top version of all time. This Ventura “Gin,” placed in a similar show-opening slot, paved the road for the all-timer with a jam that progresses through many similar stages. Check ‘em out back to back. Interestingly, this show all but excludes the chunky, rhythmic style of Summer ‘98, and the “Drowned” opener of set two illustrates this alternate path. Taking the arena rock cover in a direction that The Who might have if they jammed, this excursion was underlined by white-hot rock and roll. Loud, fast and boisterous, this jam is a musical depiction of a hyena going for the jugular of its prey. Once he has conquered and killed, the music shifts to a more down tempo feel as the hyena salivates over his family’s still-warm dinner. As he begins to drag it back to his clan, Trey hits his wah grooves and the music becomes decidedly chilled out in a gorgeous, sinister final few minutes.

Aside from these two prime-time jams, however, this show features unbelievable intensity throughout, allowing the performance to come off totally fine. The second set features the classic pairing of a hearty “Makisupa” and a full-throttle “Maze,” and a big-time bust out in “Sea and Sand” (the set’s second Quadrophenia track about water) paying homage to Ventura’s surroundings. Closing with strong versions of “Caspian” and “Hood,” this show set is carried by the band’s type I creativity and is a very smooth listen the entire way through. A quality “Split” punctuates the first set, while a looped-out “Halley’s Comet” provides the second selection of a double encore (after Fish had debuted “Sexual Healing) and sees the band exit the stage one by one leaving a series of delay loops behind them. The “Bathtub Gin” is the only lasting jam of significance from this night, but the strength of this show illustrates how effective Phish was at doing everything in their repertoire in the summer of ’98—not just open jamming.

Ventura Liner Notes

Ventura Liner Art

The final details to add about this Ventura release are the two soundcheck jams. Each feature extended, instrumental takes on “Makisupa,” with ’97 ‘s carrying a bit more musical depth. The ’98 soundcheck features” jokingly layered lyics from “Venus,” (“I’m your “Venus, I’m your fire…”). Though both are fun listens a couple times through, these aren’t like those crack soundcheck jams we get every now and then—just Phish having fun.

In summation, the Ventura box set is a fantastic release, easily the strongest since Hampton / Winston Salem. (Though 12/6/97 was in there too!) As time moves forward into this Golden Age of Phish, more and more re-mastered releases from their glory years continue to hit the shelves—a welcome trend that is sure to continue. Providing us crisp memories of magical nights gone by, sometimes all we need in a moment and a CD to take us back. And Ventura certainly does that.


Winged-music-noteJam of the Day:

Bowie -> Cities -> Bowie 7.30.97 II, Ventura

Here is the mp3 SBD that has been out. This is NOT the release.




The Ventura Box Set

The Ventura Box Set

I have three Ventura Box Sets to give away for free! If you’d like to be eligible for this contest, please write two haikus—one that captures the essence of eachshow. Email these haikus to by Wednesday at 8pm Pacific and I will post the three winning entries on Thursday or Friday! Make sure you adhere to proper haiku format or your entry will be disqualified. UPDATE: I’ m getting some really good entries and it will be tough to choose the three winners! Get yours in!

Tags: , , ,

762 Responses to “Ventura: A Glimpse Into the Glory Years—Pt. II”

  1. kayatosh Says:

    they’re ticketmaster tix. and they look real enough.

    93 mike’s. that’s the stuff i like.

  2. bouncin fan Says:


    they guarantee comparable tickets so even if they have some on their site for $5000 they will pull them and charge the person that fucked you over.

    so ya I guess the only way you would get shut out is if there aren’t any available at all on their site.

    in Cinci it happened to me and they just had me go to the box office and get seats printed.

    they also can open ended fuck you if you rip them off so most do not. nothing like rippin off them for $75 and getting charged $5k for the tickets they replaced them with.

  3. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Ok, that makes sense. I actually kinda like that.

  4. kayatosh Says:

    good info, bouncin. now where’ this mrkt. going? back in the limbo, range bound zone. got short IWM again today.

  5. kayatosh Says:

    nevada is now medical

  6. bouncin fan Says:

    most feel the yen volatility and JGB volatility will no longer effect US markets Kaya

    the ? is will our printing eventually lead to similar issues. some feel since we are the reserve currency we probably have a bit more room to fuck around with our rates and money flows without causing havoc.

    I still think we eventually settle in to where the US is the best place to park your cash. seems like vol should start to come out next week and resume grinding up.

    i don’t know shit but seemed the S&P didn’t give a fuck about the move in Japan overnight. it’s over it.

  7. sumodie Says:

    Voopa, huge fan of 2000 light years from home too! That was one of my faves during that tour

    After Dark?

    As in this Italo disco comp:

  8. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Shapiro hosting gone phishin on JamoN tonight to premiere Ventura release

  9. kayatosh Says:

    nice mrkt. read.

  10. dorn76 Says:

    I know it’s been covered on these pages before, but can anyone recommend some reasonably priced earbuds for a very sweaty runner? Too old to ignore all the creaky parts nowadays without serious musical distraction/motivation.

    Whoever compiles the Ultimate BB Buyers Guide will be $$$ in my book.

  11. voopa Says:

    Got my medi card yesterday…interesting experience. I’ve never, _EVER_ felt the need to “get legal” for my smoking, but my grower wants the documentation, so I helped him out. An hour of my time, and he reimbursed me for getting it for him, so now I have a funny looking laminated prescription card in my wallet for cops to laugh at.

  12. voopa Says:

    dorn- Beats Audio came with my HTC One…nice earbuds with massive drivers that produce good low end, but I don’t know how they compare or cost, or how long they’ll last.

  13. kayatosh Says:

    hopsickle’d. on bomber #2

  14. bouncin fan Says:

    at the price I’m seeing these Klipsch’s on sale can’t be beat. I use em for my running phones. great sound for the price. fairly durable.

    get the foam ear inserts though. only way to get that true perfect fit. not sure if those are the right one’s but you can get them on amazon.

  15. sumodie Says:

    I rock the same buds as AW. Great warranty return policy, which Ive used

    Foam inserts a must! And they improve sound too

  16. clarky Says:

    Good article, especially the points you made about the lack of creativity in the non jammed out portion of the show, which it’s why I wish they would just jam now more than ever. When they do jam these days they pretty much always produce great music, stuff that I’m like to listen to many times. This is why I get really disappointed when a show doesn’t even have a single jam beyond 10 or 12 minutes, or when ghost, or any other heavy hitter clocks in at less than 10 minutes. If the band had an itch to jam these days we’d be in for another golden era. The jams ate THAT good now.

  17. DavidSilver Says:

    The music writer for The Reader pamped these last week. $15

  18. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Reading back….

    It is a futile exercise trying decide what Phish shows to hit by predicting what shows will be the hot ones. You will drive yourself crazy.. Only place that has been consistent is Dicks..

    Find a nice 2 or 3 pack with some friends in a nice locale and let er rip.. Good times will ensue.

  19. kayatosh Says:

    highway to hell

  20. DavidSilver Says:

    Whoops. Those are over ear. The yurbuds I use will never come out and have a simple but brilliant design. $30 at bestbuy.

  21. phishm Says:

    For the beer drinkers out there if you haven’t tried Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale give it a try. It’s a really good beer.

  22. alf Says:

    like the JT record

    haven’t heard MBV yet b/c i know i’ll want to hear it on vinyl, but have a hard time justifying the price when i can pick up a bunch of used records for the same price to build my small collection

    3rd the klipsch buds with foam inserts

  23. alf Says:

    nice to see charles bradley in someone’s 2013 list (maybe the canadian flacs make it a better album?), think i’ll spin that one now

    speaking of daptone, sharon jones had surgery this week for a tumor and reports she is doing well. her album that was supposed to come out this summer is currently on hold i believe, was looking forward to that one

  24. kayatosh Says:

    7.30.93 Tweezer — $$$. old school

  25. phishm Says:

    So I worked all day and now have to work all night to get a bunch of wireless access points converted over to lightweights so that they can join a new wireless lan controller that I installed recently. Is it wrong to catch a buzz when working? I think not since it seems to be all the time (work that is). What they don’t know won’t hurt them. The hardest part is the project closeout call that happens after all devices are transitioned and tested. I have to lead that call. Guess it will have to be a slight buzz until after that call. Oh well.

Leave a Reply