A Record of History

Niagara Falls 12/7/95

Niagara Falls 12/7/95

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.

imgresThough 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)

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!

Hippie Santa

Hippie Santa

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 mrminer@phishthoughts.com by 7:30 pm Tuesday (tomorrow) night! Thanks for playing and Happy Holidays from Phishthoughts.com!


Tags: , ,

500 Responses to “A Record of History”

  1. dorn76 Says:

    1080p Nostril-Cam FTW!

  2. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    Not too long ago I shared a truly awful holiday song. Here’s one I just heard for the first time to make up for it.

    Holiday Marmalade, Jorma Kaukonen. Starts typically for our man and then just gets great. Top notch stuff right there.

  3. Gavinsdad Says:

    I’m gonna listen to that DC show tonite.

    @heady I went to that Camden show and it was def dark vibez. I haven’t listened to a note of it since. I’ve mentioned it before but I gave my Coventry tix to a friend right there in the moat. Also was beefing with my friend who is no longer with us cause she was forever late (tho we squashed beef at bethel ’06 paf/grab). Also was sober. Also went to phellowship meeting and at the end we all sang the lyrics to Black Peter like 50 of us just belting it out….

    “See here how everything/lead up to this day”…etc…such a high moment…Battle of light and dark for sure that nite!

  4. dorn76 Says:

    Oh man, that Camden Shitshow. 6 months post major surgery, zooted on pain meds, unhappy camper.

    Cool new jam charts on Phish.net. Tally up your “key jams” as designated by the .net gurus.

  5. Gavinsdad Says:

    This deer creek 97 rotation jam pissing off wife but making for suspenseful backdrop for this Jenga session I’ve got going on here w the kidz

  6. BingosBrother Says:

    Seriously crazy article in RS about Camden this month. Whata fucking shit show. Can’t believe Phish played there. Bad vibes everywhere. The war on drugs at it’s finest.

  7. dorn76 Says:

    Here’s a retort to that article @bingos you might find interestin’.

    Everybody got an angle.


  8. joe Says:

    @willowed – email sent re: ticket. I’m pulling the trigger on the 29th by hook or by crook. It’s funny to tell myself that maybe I’m sitting the whole run out but as it gets closer the pull becomes greater.

  9. sumodie Says:

    Great news, Joe. Finding a 29th shouldn’t be too hard online (as you know, gotta be real careful buying tix on NYC streets)

  10. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    And I believe I’d be remiss if not to wish a happy 70th to Keef. Unreal a guy who lives so hard could last so long. Keep the riffs coming.

  11. Gumbomaniac Says:

    I know this unlikely guys, but what if? the Madison Square Garden show! 2010 they played the Meatstick show.
    2011 they did Steam.
    2012 was the Garden Party.
    I think you know where I’m going with this. I’m sure everyone
    has already seen this connection, I’m just trying to get myself amped for the new years. Enjoy time off everyone and be safe!

    set 1: meatstick>axilla>down with disease>icculus>steam>ocelot>no quarter

    set 2: sample in a jar>quinn the eskimo>undermind>a song i heard the ocean sing>runaway jim>energy

    set 3: golden age>auld lang syne>rock and roll>david bowie>easy to slip>new york new york


    I’m just amazed that they actually could spell out an entire show: MADISON SQUARE GARDEN. 30 down 30 more to go!

  12. sumodie Says:

    Don’t be pointing a finger at Phil. The article linked below (see quote) indicates that Shapiro is the one behind the CapPhil 2014 memberships, not Phil.

    Obviously Phil wants to play music but not race from city to city on a bus. Seems like a great win for him as he can play a single cool venue while enjoying life in NYC.

    Curious how much the convenience charge will be for a CapPhil membership.


    “The arrangement gives Mr. Shapiro control of the ticket sales, merchandising and recorded music rights from the concerts, in exchange for guaranteed payments to Mr. Lesh. (Exact terms were not disclosed.) Some special fan offerings are in the works, like “bowling with Phil” V.I.P. packages and posters each night that add up in a comic-strip-like sequence.”

  13. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Another dark night from the 2.0 era in Camden… Set 2, 7-31-03.. Huge Hood to close.


  14. Gavinsdad Says:

    Sumo quit Trollin me.

    Can’t believe I actually paid to watch this CBGB movie.

  15. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Extreme Ice on NOVA on PBS. Ice going bye bye real fast. Mind blowing stuff.

  16. bob dylan Says:

    Thanks for that article dorn. Nice to see the counterpoint. Still no desire to go back to Camden anytime soon. Even tho phish like to scorch the earth when they are there.

  17. bob dylan Says:

    I went to glacier national park in 05 and it barely had any glaciers left.

    Also I heard they found volcanic activity below the ice in Antarctica so that should be fun when that decides to rear it’s head up.

  18. Jerome Garcia Says:

    & magma chamber under Yellowstone largest it’s been in millions of yrs & could be primed to blow. That’s not friendly fire.

  19. BingosBrother Says:

    If they were looking to show a different side to the story, they failed miserably. Taibbi def exaggerates, but his reporting is pretty dang good. Drug Prohibition has and will continue to decimate huge segments of this world. Legalize All.

  20. phishm Says:

    Actually the best way to stop worrying about the unavoidable is to turn off the tv. At least that’s what I do when I start getting into the head space of ‘it could all end tomorrow’. It hasn’t yet and won’t for some time now. The only difference between now and thousands of years ago (or even 20 years ago) is we have the science to determine what could go wrong. Then again I trust that there is something greater out there and much more meaning to our lives here on this planet other then to see it succumb to worldwide tragedy. I could be wrong though and tomorrow may never get here. I’m not going to worry about it anyhow.

  21. Random Poster...Nutbag Says:

    Could be worse. I just inadvertently watched Miley Cyrus with a dwarf (is that proper?) lady and a quasi giant lady on stage at MSG for some holiday special. Thankfully the boys will be cleansing that place to end the year.

  22. phishm Says:

    And I personally believe that the people that run what is put on tv want us all to live in fear. I see it everyday on most things I watch. It’s the shit that is chosen to be covered that keep those without the ability to make up their own mind in fear. To know the truth makes it all the more funny IMO. I still don’t do commercials. Talk about useless crap. Thank you DVR inventor.

  23. phishm Says:

    Taking in that 97 DC show in a little bit. Looking forward to it. I say it was a fun show now, but at the time it seemed like unreal mental work. Just a show that I lost my mind at. Completely. Ball tripping good times you could say, but that was very close to the point where it was no longer fun and just explained too much for my fragile little mind to handle. I get it now of course. At the time it was weird as fuck, but no one had taught that to me yet. Glad I figured it out however. That shit could drive someone insane if they let it.

  24. phishm Says:

    Any lurkers know what I’m talking about? Tell us your story and the first time you got it at a show. We’re all ears.

  25. Dorn76 Says:

    The Drug War is a travesty. No argument from me. Camden still a shithole.

    So A&E pulled a guy off Duck Dynasty for being a redneck… Isn’t that the show’s premise?

Leave a Reply