Twelve Years Ago: 2.17.97

phish-amsterdam-97Twelve years ago today, and four shows into 1997, the Phish created a monster.  In their second visit to Amsterdam, and their first to Paradiso, Phish played a second set that was not only musically superb, but pointed in the direction the band would head during the famed year.  It wasn’t until the Hamburg show in Germany on March 1st that the band say they “clicked” during the “Wolfman’s” jam, finally realizing the style of collaborative play they had sought.  Yet, this epic night in Amsterdam was like a neon street sign pointing in the direction of Hamburg.

Opening the second set with “The Squirming Coil,” the band built the piano outro directly into the amorphous intro of “Down With Disease.”  Throughout 1996, “Disease” had become a central jam vehicle, creating upbeat rock textures and extended feel-good excursions.  Sparked by the Clifford Ball’s third set version and strewn throughout Fall ’96, “Disease” had developed into a melodic Type I Phish anthem.  This version from Amsterdam would be vastly different.

2.17.97 Paradiso

2.17.97 Paradiso

The band sat in “Disease” territory for the first part of the jam, but as the improv progressed, some layers were pared away and the pace began to gradually slow.  When Fishman dropped his driving beat, things began to get quite interesting.  The entire band found themselves in a more spacious musical medium, allowing them to greatly alter their phrasings.  This segment first developed into a mid-tempo rendition that still held some ties to “Disease,” but that all ended at once.

As the band moved into one of the first extremely slowed down “Disease” jams, a trend that would dominate ’97, this music sounded different!   I vividly remember getting this tape and when listening to it for the first time, being staggered by the pace and patience of Phish’s playing.  This was the same band that wound up 1996 in Boston’s Fleet Center only two months earlier, but they sure sounded completely different.  This was the first early ’97  jam I heard that opened my ears to where the band was heading.  Mike was far more prominent in their slowed down grooves, while Trey played far more sparsely, accentuating the band’s rhythms.  The music seemed like molasses compared to the arena rock of late ’96, and it sounded amazing!

Paradiso 7.2.97 (M. Loertscher)

Paradiso 7.2.97 (M. Loertscher)

Careening down I-95 with a couple of friends, we sat in silent amazement as this analog uncovered the raw ’97 style for the first time.  The band brought the music to a creeping pace where every note offered by each member could be heard distinctly and meant something.  There was no high-speed layering, but a focus on completing the musical ideas that were started by each other.  As the jam hit a few rhythmic stops and starts along the way, listening to this tape was like rediscovering Phish.  Their improv just kept getting deeper and deeper, leaving any remnants of “Disease” far in their wake.

Right out of this dark and methodical jam, Phish seamlessly moved into the debut of “Lucy Had a Lumpy Head,” a song that seemed to fit congruently with their new style.  Far slower than most versions played in the future, the song was a revelation- a dark, eerie composition that catered to the new sound Phish was moving towards.  This wasn’t your happy-go-lucky-Phish; this was something wholly different.  After the band moved through the verses of their newest song, they briefly sat in the thickness before Trey initiated a soaring guitar lick that brought the jam in a totally different and triumphant direction.


Paradiso, Amsterdam

Leaving the song behind and embracing sublime adventure, Phish built this segment into a cathartic piece of music, complete with spontaneous melodic chants.   Before long, the band was back to a quicker place and carried a strong melodic theme that directed the jam.  Page commandeered the lead with his aggressive piano patterns, while the rest of the band created a dissonant backdrop for his work.  This was Phish in the process of discovering; taking risks with abandon and just creating.

Flowing through more overt psychedelic textures, the band naturally arrived at a chugging rhythm which transformed into yet another section of improv; one far closer to the groove-based sound the band was gradually uncovering.  Spanning several peaks and valleys of musical creativity, this surreal jam out of “Lucy” is must hear Phish- and was so revolutionary in its context.

17Accessing a far more mellow and transcendent realm in its final stage, this jam contained it all- a beautiful illustration of Phish at their best and on the brink of something huge.  Without any awkwardness whatsoever, the band transformed their gorgeous ambient creation into the beginning of “Taste.”

This “Taste” was phenomenal, carrying all the energy and momentum Phish had built over the course of the night; however, instead of focusing on the jam itself, I want to highlight one of the most masterful transitions in the band’s history.  As Phish built the song’s polyrhythmic patterns, it was clear that their musical brains were adhered tightly together.  Moving effortlessly through the soaring jam, the band prepared to approach the final ascent to the peak of the jam- and they were absolutely crushing it.  Building…building…building…the peak was imminent, as Trey hit  the melody signaling to his mates to enter the final stages.  Yet, instead of playing the shrill peak to “Taste,” Trey perfectly- and i mean perfectly- laid down the “Disease” lick at the peak of the jam, bringing them back to where this madness had begun.  The rest of the band moved triumphantly with him, reentering “Disease” immediately.  This was one of those spine-tingling Phish moments that my friends and I listened to at least 1000 times, often cheering in response, as if the band had just hit a home run.

1997-02-17gnPhish pulled off such a full-speed and wildly creative idea with absolute flawlessness it was almost too much to believe.  The perfect apex to an incredibly new-sounding set, Phish was off and running down the yellow brick road of 1997.  The final three songs-  “Suzy, “Caspian,” and “Sleeping Monkey”- were mere afterthoughts to the revolutionary playing that had preceded them.  This was only the beginning, but what a beginning it was!



2.17.97 Paradiso, Amsterdam, NL < LINK

I: Soul Shakedown Party*, The Divided Sky, Wilson, My Soul, Guyute, Timber Ho!, Billy Breathes, Llama, Bathtub Gin > Golgi Apparatus

II: The Squirming Coil > Down With Disease > Lucy Had a Lumpy Head* > Taste > Down With Disease, Suzy Greenberg, Prince Caspian

E: Sleeping Monkey, Rocky Top

*First time played




The Mothership

We are making quick progress in our quest to bring “No Spoilers” versions of the Hampton shows to anyone and everyone who can’t make it.  We have created a FAQ and all information related to this project will be hosted at  If you have any further questions, comments or suggestions, please email them to

If you are patient enough to stay off the grid, this will be the next best thing to being at Hampton.  You will experience the show in tape delay, but also in mystery, without knowing what Phish decided to bust out.  You can have a legitimate Phish party if you have enough like-minded friends!

Remember, bookmark !!  (This URL is subject to change; stay tuned!)



Paul @ Hampton '04

Paul @ Hampton '04

The rumor that has bounced around the Internet has been confirmed, Paul Languedoc will no longer be mixing sound for Phish.  Here is some recent correspondence between a Phish Thoughts reader (name removed) and Paul:

Hey Paul,

you’re probably getting a lot of this but the band wont be the same with out you. I hope your back to keep those boards consistent and the band pumping. They need you and most of all we need you! A band is like an instrument with out a main component it will never be the best! You know this better then anyone!

Thanks so much for the compliments, but I’m sorry to say I won’t be with the band on the upcoming dates. I had to move on a few years ago and I like very much what I’m doing now. It’s true that I’m getting a lot of this, nice to be appreciated.

Take care,

Paul L

Best of luck, Paul.  We will miss you.

Just keep making those guitars for Trey!

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75 Responses to “Twelve Years Ago: 2.17.97”

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  1. nonoyolker Says:

    That shit from Contact was annoying, thanks to whoever said something. If you want your own site, then do it. It can just have a link to etree. I like phishthoughts for more than just the show links.

  2. full tour: announced! Says:

    i love phish and i love amsterdam…been 5 years since i’ve gone phishing and 8 years since i’ve been in the dam. How cool would it be to get phish 09 shows in the dam???
    1997 was hands down the dankest year i got to see shows in…just this huge experimental rollercoaster funk feel and they were hitting their stride.

    thanks for the confirmation on paul. I wish him thanks and good health. Phish’s live concert sound was always the best in no small part to Paul’s sonic genius.

  3. SOAM Says:

    AAH-the proverbial elitist phish fan heard from-“this web site ….

    this is the type of guy who leaves a show and ssys “that show sucked , last night was waaaay better”

  4. Davey Says:

    What what what??? I was merely making an observation. And you got me all wrong. I’m the type of guy who leaves the worst show ever saying “That was the best show I’ve ever seen.”

  5. Chalkdustin Says:

    Oy, the vibe here is getting too heavy. So…

    Phish 3.0 is upon us! WOOT WOOT! Gettin ready to bust a move!

  6. Davey Says:

    I think all these things happening will make for a completely new phish experience. Hopefully new is good. A collective conscious mind shift in the population mixed with new phish could create some extreme magic. So what’s the confirmed news with CK5? Is he on board?

  7. Los Says:

    Luv pHISH!!!!

    ….Dbags…not so much…

    Amsterdam is way overrrated…go to copenhagen

  8. Billy Breathes Says:

    Copenhagen dominates. Christiania?! Self-governed community…free trade…wow.

  9. nonoyolker Says:

    Was going through old favorite YEMs the other day and faced out to the 11/19/96 version with the “groove is in your heart” jam. Started laughing my ass off and did a little two step walking home from work. Shit is fiya if you haven’t heard it. The video is pretty tight too. Here is the youtube with part 1:

  10. Billy Breathes Says:

    @nono….ah yes…this was KC i believe? i was there…about an 1/8 of shrooms in my head….felt as if they were playing this one for me…i was inside their instruments….helping them with musical guidance….very tightly played and wonderfully orchestrated improvisation.

  11. nonoyolker Says:

    Nice BB. Would have loved to see that shit live, especially with a noggin full of fungus. That jam is awesome. Love that they give a tip of the cap to early 90’s R&B.

  12. Frankie Says:

    Wow! Nice jam! Thanks for sharing… i always thought Fish was doing that little bell sound that Mike is doing with his kick…

  13. jonathan Says:

    I am sure I must have missed this but I am sure you guys know/

    What’s the deal with the lights this upcoming tour?

    CK5 – Is he in?

    He once did the lights for David Hasselhoff’s reunion run at the old Rocky Point Paladium. He blew that shit up!!!

    Me and the 3 other fans in attendance where mezmerized by his skills!

  14. Davey Says:

    I asked the same thing up the board but I don’t know if anyone knows yet.

  15. dyda Says:

    haven’t been able to find the actual quote but apparently CK5 has ‘verbally confirmed’ that he will be at hampton

  16. ~TanMan~ Says:

    7. What’s the source going to be?

    The detailed technical specs are as follows: “whatever> we > can > get > our > hands > on > first”


  17. Davey Says:

    Ya, I saw that on Wikipedia but can’t find it either dyda.

  18. JPhishman Says:

    I haven’t even read this thread yet… busy day. Before I do though:
    Miner: you are the only person I’ve ever heard defend that Hampton show. Interesting…. I will take heed, as I have not heard it since but you have yet to steer me wrong.

  19. brandofunk Says:

    wow! Minor!! amazon!! Just downloaded the show of the day at 1.2mbps thats damn fast!


  20. Bryant Says:

    why did contact 420 need to post that whole 2/17 setlist, really annoying and unecessary …

  21. Mr.Miner Says:

    @showhe: rumored Europe Tour next year

    @BillyBreathes / Los: Christiana most definitely dominates (And if you meant the 3.2.97, that show is great too)

    @JPhish: set 1 is the heat. Much better than set 2. Most people weren’t ready for it 😉

  22. lot rat Says:

    stack of tix in front of me

    t minus 16

    LOTS OPEN @ 2

    Rock and Roll (Zeppelin) out of the gate 3/6…

  23. Matso Says:

    @ Miner –

    My favourite words in the whole english language – “rumored Europe Tour next year”

    Now how am I supposed to concentrate for the next year!?

  24. Al Says:

    Check out a nice paradiso PIC!

  25. whole tour! Says:

    rumored trust fund tour of africa next month!

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