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!


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500 Responses to “A Record of History”

  1. Brostafarian Says:

    Friends with Benefits
    Or significant others
    Just plain ol lovers

    I think that’s a Haiku too.
    Consider it submitted Mr. M.

    Niagra falls in that list too,

  2. Brostafarian Says:

    Viagra Fails.

  3. Stoney Case Says:

    Niagara Falls Crush
    Persistent Jamnesia Cure
    Give me the damn discs

  4. sumodie Says:

    Who’s got my Buckyball?

    Sad this won’t be back in Madison Square Park this year:


  5. phishm Says:

    A show that I don’t think I’ve heard before. Absolutely jamming from the start. This 2001 should be illegal. Just a funk throw down. Enjoy if you haven’t heard this yet like me up to a few minutes ago.


  6. Joe Says:

    Luckily I take my lady to Worcester to get laid

  7. Ulysses S. Wingsuit Says:

    Right, like I’d look for a weed trade here.

  8. little umbrellas Says:

    Alice Coltrane:
    ‘Something About John Coltrane’

    Alice Coltrane — piano
    Pharoah Sanders — soprano saxophone, percussion
    Cecil McBee — bass
    Tulsi — tambura
    Rashied Ali — drums
    Majid Shabazz — bells, tambourine

  9. Gavinsdad Says:

    Checked some Niagra on Spotify.

    Per @sumo and @posternut I “attended” Telly Bluegrass in ’92 but I never went in. I specifically remember climbing up in the little scrubby hills behind the venue and watching Peter Rowan from back there. Also remember watching from the more populated side of town but outside the gates. Fave bonus was walkin thru town and stumbling on Victor Wooten and Oteil doing a little lecture/demo under a tiny gazebo. I was really loving ARU back then so was super psyched on that.

  10. Type III Jamming Personality Disorder Says:

    beer people:

    Barrier Brewing on Long Island just came out with (another) Phish themed varietal. “BBHCFM” Big Black Hoppy Creature From Mars, an imperial black ale. This joins their Icculus Kolsch and Simple California Common (both of those are year round offerings).

    there’s a healthy contingent of phish-themed beers out there on top of the ubiquitous Foam we see on almost every tour now. Four Hands out of St. Louis has their Divided Sky Rye and a Reprise Red, Cambridge Brewing has had the Weekapaug Gruit and You Enjoy My Stout, and the list just starts there.

  11. BingosBrother Says:

    Good luck poets. Love Stoneys up above. Rooting for kaya.

    @sumo:did you go to Spac this year?

    Bruce Horan is the man. Sent my poster in a few days time with extra goodies taboot. Awesome UIC poster. Love it. Got it for Pops but may need one for me.

  12. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Mornin gang. Ice rink out there today on eastern Long Island today. Crazy warm front coming though! 60 on sat!

  13. Gavinsdad Says:

    Nice to see another 4 Hands mention. Their stout is outta this world.

  14. George W. Kush Says:

    Cash or Trade hopping with MSG extras, incredibly easy Hampton tickets, new album on Halloween? what is going on? Is this crazyworld?

    Whats next? Phish announces they will play Bonnaroo???

    Oh wait…

  15. sumodie Says:

    BingosBrother, yup I did the SPAC run. The whale spoke my name that Friday night

  16. sumodie Says:

    Bonnaroo? Been there, done that

    Phish plays Jamaica mon

  17. George W. Kush Says:

    MadSq Buckyball artist Leo Villareal does some badass light work


  18. sumodie Says:

    Spiritualized – LA valentine’s day tix onsale at 1pm today


    “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space
    Performed live in its entirety accompanied by full orchestra & choir”

  19. Spasm Waiter Says:

    Did Telluride Bluegrass in 91 I believe. It was so great. Really a great event. Aside from a little bear tacoing our tent a bit, it went wo a hitch. Leftover Salmon, Grisman, Sam Bush, Steve Earle, Rowan, Obriens, etc… Definitely want to bring junior some day.

  20. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Super looking fwd to TRide Blues & Brews. Highly unlinkely I could swing expense of TRide Phish & festi but who knows.

    So yall really think Dicks es no mas going fwd? I was planning on Labor Day wknd in Denver hanging/staying w/ my sis & boogiein down w/ the freaks then returning to Colo 10 or so days later for TRide.

  21. BingosBrother Says:

    Spac Carini is a sick jam.

  22. Jerome Garcia Says:

    I can dig it Bingos. Jump right into SPAC2 Set II w/ Tweezer > Sand > Carini.

    Miner dug it too. Windows to the Soul. Split gets high marks too.

  23. Gavinsdad Says:

    I only listen to what I read on the BB and the BB told me a few years ago that Phish had 3 years at Dicks and 4 years at MSG locked up. Based on that Dicks is done and this is the last year at MSG.

    I have seen far too many shows per year in 3.0 than a married father of many should. All I ever want is a 3 pack w a ga floor or field in a new locale that doesn’t intersect with my wife or kids bday, our family week at the beach, and Labor Day wknd. Is that too much to ask? (No more Labor Day shows for me. Got the pass for this years Dicks and holy crap do I see the allure but no more for me. Duty calls.

    I’m w @sumo re: Jamaica mon and for that I’d have to bring the fam.

  24. Brostafarian Says:

    I’d just like Phish to come to some place that I don’t have to get on a plane (or drive for 20 hours) to see them.

    Probably spent $25K and up just getting to Phish and hotels. Don’t really want to think about it. And I use FF a lot.

  25. sumodie Says:

    JG, just gotta leave Labor Day weekend open and put Dick’s outta mind for now

    Sold a 12/30 pair at cashortrade in 5 minutes flat, sweet

    Still ISO two for 12/28, either 100 level anywhere or 200 level first 5 rows

    Broadway is calling us this year. May try to see Jean Luc Picard & Gandalf starring in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. The duo is also performing Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot on alternate days in the same theater. That’s hardcore

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