Posted in Uncategorized with the on December 18th, 2013 by Mr.Miner
Fall 2013 (Andrea Nusinov)
Here are the ten finalists of the December ’95 haiku contest. I put the names into a hat and drew three winners, who are highlighted in blue. Winners, send me your mailing address and I’ll get these out in time for the holiday. Thanks to all twenty-five people who entered a haiku! (I wanted to publish em all but thought it might be overkill!) Happy Holidays!
With all of the hubbub surrounding Fall Tour, Phish’s release of their December ‘95 stop at Niagara Falls Convention Center flew way under my radar. I just recently listened to the discs for the first time and I must say, it’s another winner in a recent hot streak of Live Phish drops. This show—a classic even within a classic month—had been begging for the re-master treatment for years, and this shimmering two-setter has finally gotten its due. What a treat it is to get a Live Phish release from such a hallowed era in band history. Much like Hampton/Winston-Salem provided a glimpse into Fall ’97, and Ventura opened a portal to Summers ’97 and ’98, Niagara Falls brings us back in time to December ’95, the home stretch of legendary two-leg, 54-show fall tour on which the band truly realized all the skills they had been honing for years.
Having stretched the limits of abstraction over the courses of Fall ’94 and Summer ’95, Phish spent the fall of ’95 selecting the best elements of this growth spurt and tightening things up into a full-throttle, psychedelic arena rock show. In a matter of weeks following Niagara Falls, the band would play a career-defining show at Madison Square Garden, but on this night on the other side of New York State, Phish cemented another golden block in their yellow brick road of December.
Though this show isn’t a masterpiece of set craftsmasnship, it contains elite, jaw-dropping versions of “Slave to the Traffic Light,” “Split Open and Melt,” “Reba,” “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug.” Additionally the we hear an early incarnation of “Taste” in the second set, at this point called “Taste That Surrounds.” Phish showcased their free form creativity of the era throughout this show, as they dove deep into second-set versions of “Split,” “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug,” taking each jam far off course and forming tour highlights out all three. A “Reba” that sounds like it’s in fast-forward compared to recent versions highlights the middle of this second set, as Trey’s comically confident and exceptionally emotive soloing evokes the sound and intensity of days gone by—a true gem that is often overshadowed by Niagara’s copious highlights.
Retro Niagara Print (Welker)
The first set features an out-of-nowhere version of “Slave” that sounds like it’s plucked from the end of a hugely dramatic frame of music. Unfurled in between “Rift” and “Guyute,” this standout version—which sits in an incredibly delicate space for quite some time—could anchor the opening half all by itself. However, a unique “Curtain > Bag,” a bust out of “Demand” and a full-throttle “Possum” provide solid support.
In short, this Niagara Falls release provides a stellar portrait of Phish’s sound and jamming in one of the most historic months of their career. The band brought all sorts of furious jams to Niagara Falls that December night, though they delivered them within a less-than-artistic setlist. But when Phish drops so many Grade-A excursions on a single audience, how they unfold becomes largely irrelevant. This one is a keeper.
Niagara Falls CD Giveaway!
Just in time for Christmas, and thanks to the kind folks at Phish Inc., I have three copies of this release to give away! If you’d like to enter your name into the ring, please write a haiku that touches the essence of December ’95. I will pick my favorite 10 entries (and post them), put the names in a hat and draw the three winners. Please have your haikus in to email@example.com by 7:30 pm Tuesday(tomorrow) night! Thanks for playing and Happy Holidays from Phishthoughts.com!
Madison Square Garden is one of the most celebrated Phish venues in the land. Playing the Garden for five consecutive years between ’94 and ’98, the band continued adding shows to their stands in each year but ’96, topping out with a four night stand in 1998. Four-night stands at MSG seem commonplace in the modern era, however, as this upcoming holiday run will be the third in three years. No building has hosted Phish more times than MSG, and these upcoming shows will, coincidentally, be their 28th, 29th, 30th, and 31st at the World’s Most Famous Arena. And this year the band will have a full head of steam heading into New York! On the heels of a smoking fall tour and recording their next album, Phish’s momentum will have had little time to slow come December 28th, unlike the past two years in which the guys didn’t play between Labor Day and the New Year’s Run. Needless to say, the time is near, the mission’s clear.
Though the band has played the Garden at least three times a year since their return, only a few of those nights have truly stood out—namely, 12.31.10, 1.1.11, 12.28.11, 12.28.12, and 12.30.12. If I had to bet, this year will be different. Does this year have the potential to go toe to toe with 1998’s hall of fame run, also a four-nighter at MSG? If the band plays their cards right and really throws down, perhaps we’ll have a debate on our hands. Wouldn’t that be something? It would have to be the best stand of the era, but coming off the hottest tour of this era, why not?
What used to define those legendary mid-to-late ’90s shows was a certain grit and grime that matched the old school arena congruently. This fall, with Trey laying back on rhythm more than at any time during this era, jams took on a far gritter and psychedelic feel than at any time in 3.0. If fall tour was any indication, and it always has been, we could be looking at the dirtiest MSG shows of a notably clean modern era. And wouldn’t that be the perfect way to cap a truly monumental year of Phish?
As a fun exercise, I ran through my memory and have posted my favorites of everything in MSG history. Enjoy!
New Year’s ’95 was the peak of everything Phish had done in their career up to that point; a culmination of their career. Many fans view this show as the band’s finest night of music, thus is needless to say that it comes in 1st in MSG history.
Best Set:12.29.97 II
This set delivers for the duration with not a singe lull. Jams for days, one of the best “Tubes” of all time and impeccable flow. The only weakness of this set is a fairly routine “YEM” that doesn’t quite do the rest of the set justice.
Down with Disease -> David Bowie -> Possum, Tube, You Enjoy Myself
Best Run:New Years 1998
Four outstanding nights of music, ending what I believe is their best overall year of their career.
Best First Set: 12.31.98
Nobody was quite sure what had hit them when the lights came up after this one.
1999 > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Ghost -> Ha Ha Ha > Cavern
Best Third Set: 12.31.95
One of the best “Weekapaugs” of all-time and monster “YEM.” Plus a couple rarities to cap things off.
Auld Lang Syne > Weekapaug Groove > Sea and Sand, You Enjoy Myself, Sanity, Frankenstein
What the heck happened in Rochester? On a tour where Phish could do no wrong, they stopped in western New York on a Tuesday night and threw an absolute clunker. Not only did the band display a noticeable lack of energy, they simply couldn’t hook up improvisationally. Only two days removed from a white hot weekend in Hampton, the site of several prolific jams, things—suddenly—had taken 180 degree turn. The band gave it their best effort for the opening of the second set, but before long, set things on cruise control—at around 45 mph—for the rest of the night. Since I haven’t as much mentioned this show since tour ended, I thought it was high tome to go back and see what the heck went down in Phish’s third show at War Memorial Auditorium.
Rochester Official (Fugscreens)
Rochester was the first show that many Northeastern fans caught on fall tour, and with the buzz on Hampton’s final set still thick in the air, everyone laced up their dancing shoes for what felt like a no-brainer throwdown. But unlike most nights in their career, the band simply couldn’t get it going. A solid, if not slow, first set seemed par for the course after a monstrous three nights—an easy frame to work back into things. “Timber” provided a glimpse of jamming, though mostly standard songs filled out the set with nothing out of the ordinary. Things would clearly elevate after setbreak—or would they?
Both times the band had opened with “Crosseyed” this year, in Holmdel and at the Gorge, the jam blew up into a tour highlight. Thus, when the band brought out the Talking Heads’ cover for the third time of 2013, and the first time indoors, one suspected a monstrosity. But this time, the jam never got off the ground. What happened?
The guys had things on lock down through the structured part of the jam, but when they went to open things up, they were never able to connect. Just as they moved into free form territory, Fishman, inexplicably, dropped his rhythm out of the mix, abruptly shifting the feel of the excursion and throwing everyone off. The band members tried to adjust to this beatless canvas, but it took some time for anything to truly transpire. On listen back, Trey attempts to push things with a set of quickened chords, but nobody joins him, and at this juncture it sounds like Fish and Trey are on completely different pages and not united at all. Typically the axis of Phish, Trey and Fish struggled through this initial section, though finally reached some level of harmony allowing the jam to progress.
Phish gained some momentum through the next part of “Crosseyed’s” jam, but their playing remained disjointed and didn’t resemble the well-oiled machine we had witnessed in Virgina. The jam continues in very generic fashion, though nothing, whatsoever, develops. Following an uncharacteristically awkward meat of this jam, the band found a decent groove in the final, ethereal portion of this segmented set opener. Some nice, loose textures emerged, but the guys are merely wandering, and before long, Trey cut things off with the opening to “Light.”
Atlantic City (G.Estreich)
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again—and this is what the move into “Light” was all about. Not willing to accept defeat, Trey led the band into, perhaps, their most wide open jam vehicle to see what they could come up with. But following a solid composed section, once the band dove into open waters, it was nothing but stinksville—the guys just couldn’t connect. Over a choppy groove, Trey began chording and then signing “Golden Age” in half-speed, executing a smooth segue and giving the crowd something unique to cheer about. The guys stuck with the slower tempo—one would think to foreshadow a dirty funk jam—but once “Golden Age’s” improvisational passage dropped, it sounded like all four band members were on different drugs. In short, it was a mess. Page tried to salvage things getting down on his clavinet, but it was all for naught. Before anything transpired musically, Trey counted off for “Birds of a Feather,” waving his white flag of surrender.
The rest of the set might as well have been a continuation of the first, featuring an eye-popping run of “Halley’s,” “Possum,” “Bug,” and “Heavy Things.” Trey tried to throw a setlist bone to the audience with an end-of-set “You Enjoy Myself,” but the band delivered a flat and lazy version. Oh well, ya’ can’t win em all! Thus we packed our bags and headed for Glens Falls.
What was fascinating about Rochester, however, was just how off course it was in relation to the rest of the tour. Phish are human beings after all, but this show was such an aberration from any other of fall (and even summer), it almost made no sense. On Sunday night they played their best set of tour in Hampton and on Tuesday they sounded like a JV jamband on dirty acid. Go figure. Such is the nature of live music I suppose. They say, you can’t have the highs without the lows, so I guess we needed one night to remind us just how special all the others were. It worked.
Perhaps you’ve had the pleasure to meet one of the community’s most stealth warriors, @LazyLightning55. Video taper extraordinaire and one of the nicest guys in the scene, @Lazy has spliced together HD footage of his favorite jams—and just the jams—from fall into one amazing compilation. Check out his outstanding work above. Below, I have included a little blurb about each segment of footage.
1. “Carini” 10.18 II: Starting out this video is the jam with the most swagger of any played over Fall—Hampton’s “Carini.” Trey sets up the excursion’s bluesy, feel-good peak as the camera cuts in, and what transpires throughout the rest of this footage is some of the most hooked up playing we saw from the band all fall. The video then cuts to the laid back funk at the end of the jam, illustrating the amount of ground covered in this dynamic tour highlight.
2. “Weekapaug” 10.19 I: Next we have the meat of Hampton’s first set “Weekapaug”—super percussive and with plinko textures from Page. The whole band brings the jam on a tangent, documented here, before returning to “Weekapaug’s” theme.
3. “Ghost” 10.19 II: Hampton’s second-night “Ghost” carried an incredibly uplifting vibe and the band laid into it with a passion. In this video we see them on the way to the mountain top, and we stay with them through their glorious ascent. Trey unleashes some cascading sheets of notes as the rest of the band chugs away like a single-minded entity behind him. This footage includes the jam’s denouement—a sublime, break-beat laden soundscape that gradually becomes more and more ambient, setting up an oncoming “Disease.”
4. “Tweezer” 10.20 II: The dark and stormy Hampton “Tweezer” needs no introduction. This video comes in after the initial jam segment, as the band takes a left turn into the Netherworld. At this juncture, everyone in the building knew that fall tour was gonna be something special. This footage follows the band into the abyss, and fades out once the full descent has been made.
5. “Piper -> Taking Care of Business” 10.20 II: The next clip documents one of tour’s most memorable moments—“Piper -> Taking Care of Business.” In this footage, one can actually see the band discover the idea, communicate to each other and execute the segue. And the crowd goes wild!
6. “Twist” 10.23 II: Here we have the second segment of the Glens Fall’s “Twist,” as Trey is teasing “The Line” before anyone had heard the song. This jam signified a turning point of tour from which Phish never looked back, paving a path of gold for the duration.
7. “Waves” 10.25 II: Worcester’s “Waves” has been severely underrepresented in the post-tour chatter. A gorgeous piece of psychedelic Phish, the band moved from something far more upbeat into this dreamy ambient realm—the beginning of the footage we see here. The video tracks the jam as it moves into a heavier outro, one that sparked the idea for the move into “Carini.” This one is a gorgeous clip of Kuroda’s light work, taboot.
8. “Bathtub Gin” 10.26 I: The next clip documents the first set “Bathtub Gin” from Worcester’s second night—a version that I highlighted last week and one that has to be among the most dynamic of the year. The band locks into a swanky, airtight groove and lets it ride in a spectacular segment of musical catharsis. Even with all the jams in set two, this was the most energetic, collective peak of the entire show.
9. “Drowned” 10.26 II: Next up is the Worcester “Drowned,” a sprawling jam that the video picks up as after it had moved through a couple feels and has settled in an uptempo, “Guy Forget”-eqsue groove. We follow the band as they stop on a dime and drip into one of tour’s most sublime musical sequences—A soul-tugging, blissed out segment that eventually blends into an instrumental and chill-inducing nod to Jimmy Cliff’s “Sitting in Limbo.”
10. “Tweezer” 10.27 II: The final jam before “Intermission” is the final segment of my pick for jam of tour, Hartford’s “Tweezer.” The band has navigated an extended segment of hooked up grooves, and have found their way—seamlessly—way into this melodic second part of the jam. The guys find a three chord progression that provides the melodic framework for the rest of the jam.
Setbreak: part of “Fuego”
11. “Golden Age” 10.27 II: The second part of the video picks up with Hartford’s “Golden Age,” by my estimation, the standout version of tour. We hear the band center this jam around Fishman’s rhythmic fireworks, as he consistently changes beats, adds fills and generally destroys his kit. The guys eventually blend into a more ambient soundscape towards the end of this footage, a jam that would eventually end with the onset of “Halley’s Comet.”
12. “Split Open and Melt” 10.29 I: Had the band nailed the ending of Reading’s “Split,” we’d all be talking about it as a highlight of tour, and this segment of footage shows you why—Phish got into some super-locked, menacing-as-fuck jamming. They seemed to have the piece by the jugular, but just as they were set to begin working their way back from this musical dementia, Trey pulled the string for an abrupt change into “Julius.”
13. “Down with Disease” 10.29 II: Reading’s second set was among the best of tour, and the spine-tingling peak to the set-opening “Down with Disease”—captured here—is one of the central reasons why. Trey’s magical guitar solo is among his most prolific of the past five years, and certainly one of his most original—pure transcendence on every level.
14. “Twenty Years Later” 10.29 II: But while many have focused on “Disease,” I find the true improvisational gem of Reading to lie in this “Twenty Years Later.” Patiently working their way into a pre-historic dancehall groove, the band evoked the feeling of ’97 amidst a truly sinister milieu. The entire fan base had been waiting for this moment ever since the guys debuted the song back in ’09, and boy was it worth the wait! Eventually, they pull off a back door transition into another Americana outro, this one likening “I Know You Rider.”
15. “Ghost” 10.31 III: After the band introduced us to the songs of Wingsuit, they came out and did something far more familiar—jam their faces off. This set-opening “Ghost” provided a jolt of adrenaline to a crowd half comprised of those disappointed in the Halloween set. Nonetheless, the band put a smile on everyone’s faces with this ripping rendition of a crowd favorite.
16. “Twist” 11.1 II: This sequence from the AC “Twist” is why we go. ‘Nuff said.
17. “Sneakin Sally” 11.1 E: This surprise encore of “Sneakin Sally” put the cherry on top of one of Fall’s most complete shows on the second night in Atlantic City. This night had it all, including the most hard-hitting encore of the tour.
18. “Theme from the Bottom” 11.2 II: We end this video tour through fall tour with the first set funk throwdown that emerged out of “Theme” in Atlantic City’s penultimate set. This one felt like the olden days as the band hadn’t unleashed grooves of this nature in quite some time. A truly electric moment in a tour filled with them.