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. Stoney Case Says:

    No clothing LiLUmb. Real bad boys move in silence.

  2. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Ha! I can see Stoney rockin a Fatbol flat brim. Actually their DMT tshirts are pretty rad.

  3. little umbrellas Says:

    Vulcan used to to an old iron forge, a factory where trains and train rails were made. It was renovated in the 80’s into multiple live/work spaces. Big spaces, lofts. Lots of different kinds of people live and work there. Not really a collective or anything.

    We’ve got a music set up, our neighbor record music… we practice there…
    then there’s the lady with the Ceramics studio, another a Dark room for Photo, Painters, Dancers, A Theatre, Metal Welding, a Thai restaurant, a Dojo, a Gallery space, rock climbing, etc..

    But yes there is a large tie to the Burn here in the history of the building. Lots of DPW, some organizers, some huge Welding installations..
    … there is a big contingency of Dance/Fire Spinners/Aerial/Movement and Performance artists who’s mediums are pretty Burn friendly. they have a whole scene.

    Bay Area circus trailblazer, Yard Dogs Road Show, Extra Action Marching Band, Beats Antique, March 4th connections, Fishbone among others got their start here.

    We’ve got our music corner though.

  4. Jerome Garcia Says:

    ^super cool! Thanks lilum.

  5. little umbrellas Says:

    as for the SHF name derivative, you got it JG.

    but Yeah StoneyC, I don’t really rock logo shit, but still, them boys are fairly into it and doin pretty well with there work. cheers to them.

  6. ren Says:

    I’ve been in a video conference…literally ALL DAY…going on my 8th hour now. Even Jesus didn’t have this kind of patience.

    Cruel and unusual treatment as far as I’m concerned. Fish out of water here gasping for breath. I want to move into LilU’s building

  7. little umbrellas Says:

    BooVT. consider that a reminder! 😉 Just passing along some advice that an old woman gave me once.. pay it forward..

  8. phlorida phan Says:

    Haley Joel Osment taught me to pay it forward!

  9. Jerome Garcia Says:

    12/31/93 Set 2 is balls deep awesomeness. Tweezer kicks it off proper. Great It’s Ice > Fee. Killer Possum taboot. Lovely Lawn Boy cool down. YEM gets mad funktastic.

  10. Jerome Garcia Says:

    ^wow Trey absolutely annihilates this YEM. More shreddy than funky actually.

    Can we get some sick soloing like that at MSG? Pretty please?

  11. Jerome Garcia Says:

    1st spin of Jonathan Wilson’s 2011 release Gentle Spirit. Going to spin his 2012 EP Pity Trials & Tomorrow’s Child next.

    Gentle Spirits

    Pity Trials & Tomorrow’s Child

  12. Stoney Case Says:

    Desert Raven a $$$ track.

  13. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Whoa! Desert Raven just started up…I concur w/ your assessment.

  14. tela's_muff Says:

    so it’s very very early for this, but i’ll contribute to the rumor mill. just spent 3 days chillin in Telluride and got to talking to a very knowledgable business person in town, that has what sounded like very real and in the know connections. apparently the town was a little bummed Phish hit Tahoe again w/o considering Telluride. So they wrote a letter to the band reassuring them Phish was always welcome to town. With the Dicks contract complete, and nothing set in stone for CO shows, i was told it’s very likely Phish plays Telluride in 2014 as the town is pushing very hard for it. we’ll see. exciting prospect.

  15. Stoney Case Says:

    Tela. Good stuff. Imagine if we get the make up shows like we did at Tahoe this year.

  16. Stoney Case Says:

    TBH though, I am completely against the policy that gives a large ticket allotment to T’ride residents. Elitist bullshit. Hope they don’t instill that policy.

  17. Jerome Garcia Says:

    That’s some damn fine reconnaissance if it in fact turns out to be true tela’s. Appreciate your boots on the ground intel. Likely it’d be over Labor Day wknd a la Dick’s or earlier in August a la 2010?

    How many tickets went to ‘residents’ last time Stoney? 30% or more?

  18. Stoney Case Says:

    1 = too many. I think Sumo knows.

  19. Stoney Case Says:

    1500 tickets per night for locals out of 9000 total.

  20. Jerome Garcia Says:

    16.667% a hefty amt to be sure. Thanks Stonerific.

  21. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Wouldn’t Dicks be better anyway. Why mess with a good thing? Plus everyone gets into Dick’s.

  22. Gavinsdad Says:

    If I go into Telluride I may never come back out.

  23. tela's_muff Says:

    Stoney – after spending just 3 days there, i can safely tell you none of the the locals, bartenders, business owners, town officials, etc. give a shit what we think about ticket allotment. it’s what makes that place one of the greatest towns in America. i’m not arguing with ya, i’m just telling you what i know to be true.

  24. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    that’s cool info, tela’s. i would love for phish to play telluride again- town park is one of the great venues in the country. however, i would really miss dick’s labor day bash. that has become one tradition i really look forward to. ideally, they should play both. give colorado five or six nights this summer!

  25. butter Says:

    Telluride in Summer

    Dicks over Labor Day

    Boom, lets plan the Summer 14 for the Phish !!!

Leave a Reply