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. phishm Says:

    I was just going to say the same thing there Stoney. Definitely don’t skip set 1. It was one of those nights where both sets were like set 2.

  2. Stoney Case Says:


    read review 1 and 3 to see what i mean. and of course wax ranks, with the ‘Ramble On’ reference.

  3. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Sold Stoney. Will give the phishtracks version top to bottom treatment during post work post haircut walk later esta noche. Should be commencing in 3 hrs. Might be an extra long walk this evening… Girl Scout Cookies or Mendo Purps; think threw both into my travel case. Either or any way you slice it = winning.

  4. Mr. Palmer Says:

    Re: the Phil and Friends Cap package…. Seriously? Who the fuck is going to buy that? I can’t imagine very many people. Tickets were 80 last year. You would think if one would get a discount if purchasing in bulk? Seems like a money grab spearheaded by Shapiro and Jill…

  5. Brostafarian Says:

    Prague Ghost now. Deer creek ’97 next.

    Never been disappointed by a DC show. Maybe in 2004 … But I remember liking both those shows even.

  6. Jerome Garcia Says:

    How much more $ could they conceivably need? The Leshes I mean; Shapiro is a businessman & that’s why he gets up every morning to make mas dinero. Aren’t Phil & Jill pretty well off? Or is it that when you amass some stacks all you want are more stacks?

  7. Jerome Garcia Says:

    ^think I answered that question for myself; it’s also rhetorical. $100 per seems to be pretty much going rate for PL&F be it on the road or at TXR & The Cap’s pass includes some ‘VIP’ type perks. Bet they sell the shit out of those passes actually.

  8. Dorn76 Says:

    Da Bourgeoisie, finally a song for me!

  9. tela's_muff Says:

    Never been disappointed by a DC show. Maybe in 2004 … But I remember liking both those shows even.

    ^ yeah, they were actually pretty good shows. danced my ass off to the last big Tube (although a classic dirty ’04 tone munches into the groove). other highlights include an underrated Gin, amazingly dark Nothing (jam)>46 Days, followed by even more tension via SASS. Second night had a real nice Disease>RnR to close set 1.

    only set of music at DC i could say i disliked was the first set of 8/12/10. yuck.

  10. Don Gordleone Says:

    What up BB?

    I read back far enough to catch some Lego talk. Damn I love me some lego’s. I really want the Maesrk Train and a bigger house with room for a lego city.
    I’ve been trying to get Lil miss snow into City lego’s but the Friend’s kits are foiling my plans.

    T3’s science-y photos instantly made me think of space boobs, first, cause boobs are generally the first thing I ‘think’ and then space sex. Obv, the key here is the lack of gravity. Zero gravity sex could either be awesome or frustrating…. either way it would be messy.

    I’ve kind of gone childhood to adolescents here and sadly that’s where the progression ends.

  11. Don Gordleone Says:

    Okay, here is something more adultish-

    Rick Doblin: Promising Psychedelics

  12. Don Gordleone Says:

    I’ve more or less been sick since Hampton. Just had the flu the past couple days. Pretty sure I’ve been working through all of the w00k virus’s I contracted there progressively.

    Still worth it! #TweezerAge

  13. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Philly peeps not heading to MSG on 12/29 Everyone Orchestra will be the final show at The Blockley. Get there if you’re able.

  14. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Majority of the EO lineup was part of the EO on JamCruise this past Jan & it was one of my favorite shows from the boat fwiw

  15. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Brostafarian did you see this? Probably already got your tickets. Good b/c only ADA tickets left.

  16. Gavinsdad Says:

    Think we might walk into quite a bramble patch here…per your wondering @JG. Never ceases to amaze me that the paying audience and fanbase thinks that “an artist”…..in this case Phil Lesh (but it could be any musician that no longer has a day job), because of whatever perceived vibes we have of him, might not be the same type of businessman as a Pete Shapiro. I’m sure we can name a long list of musicians who protested the ravenous greed of the music biz but I’ve always thought of these folks as businessmen.

    They want money, and in Phil’s case can mint money, while he rides the tail end of his career bus to Moneytown. His greatgrandkids college is more than likely paid for at this point.

    GDM knows this….how’s your stealie driver cover or stealie shot glass? No different for “the artists”. Thank god we have ticket prices set for us or we’d never get into a (popular) show if the market drove prices.

    This is all to say that I have NO IDEA if Phil Lesh and his merry men are worth $100/per performance. I don’t think he is any more. I just counted my post Garcia stubs and I have 26 of them since ’99 when Phil opened for Dylan. I know I’m missing another 15 or so. That’s not a ton but I have supported the guy. And lately I’ve wondered if “being in his presence” is worth $75 because that’s what I’ve said I like to do. I like seeing Phil because he is a direct line to music I think is magical. To see him up there still chugging along makes me happy. But it also makes me poor. Cause the shit is expensive and dude is Basically always playing.

    Working this out on the fly but here where I’m at: I’ll see some Phil shows but not all. And Phil and Jill must own a fucking private island from all of our ticket purchases but i really try not to get caught up in that…I like to put up a wall of denial that slices clear down the middle of the business whose public face is an artist.

  17. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Future Vision from Fanfare also $$$

  18. Jerome Garcia Says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful insight as always Gdad.

    Never ceases to amaze me that the paying audience and fanbase thinks that “an artist”…..in this case Phil Lesh (but it could be any musician that no longer has a day job), because of whatever perceived vibes we have of him, might not be the same type of businessman as a Pete Shapiro. I’m sure we can name a long list of musicians who protested the ravenous greed of the music biz but I’ve always thought of these folks as businessmen.

    ^good point on the above & think you’re right to be a successful artist you’ve got to have some business accumen & know & play the game if you will.

    Hope Phil & Jill’s private island is kick ass.

  19. dorn76 Says:

    As far as “songs for the Bourgeoisie”, there is also the entire Phish catalog.

  20. BingosBrother Says:

    It’s always about college. He’s prolly just storing up on organs though. You can never have too many.

  21. dorn76 Says:

    2015: P&F Private Island Run.

    VIP Packages are in the works. Check back soon!

  22. sumodie Says:

    8/10/97 DCreek

    ^ Too weird? Phish’s reputation was built on being weird.

    Our first time to the Creek! We raged that ‘weird’ show hard on the lawn. Great summer

  23. Don Gordleone Says:

    Phil’s Liver Bank is a thing of beauty, or so I hear.

    Phish is adding an HD stream for NYE? For an extra $22?
    Very strange. I know my w00k ass friends are going to want to get the HD version just cause it must be better.

    My question: Is the sound any different? That’s what I would pay more for.

  24. HeadyBrosevelt Says:

    i just listened to 8/12/2004 ghost from Camden. dark music for dark times, indeed! a must hear version, if you have never given it a spin.

    also, jesus christ super twist never gets old- shit is a classic

  25. dorn76 Says:

    I need to see how poorly Fish is aging.

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