After watching and re-watching The Clifford Ball DVDs a few times, I’ve got to tip my hat to the band for their best piece of merch ever. (Well, right after the Assface poster at least!) Filmed with an unparalleled intimacy, one can really get a feel for the shows in a way most of their other DVDs have lacked. Likely due to the poignant and unique subject matter, they certainly did this release up right!
With seven DVDs, a 52-page booklet about the festival, and a set of commemorative post cards taken in Plattsburgh that weekend- all packaged perfectly in a slide-in case, this is one of those possessions that feels good to hold. And then you put it on. All of a sudden you are shot back to 1996 as the festival opens with “Chalk Dust.” You remember exactly where you were as the camera pans out over the endless sea of people, and you are enraptured once again.
I know for me, I never watch the band at the show. Unconcerned with their largely motionless silhouettes, watching DVDs of shows is like reliving the experience from a completely different perspective. And the quality of these particular shots are simply to-die-for. Being able to watch the Clifford Ball “Hood,” “Slave,” Mike’s” and all the other monster highlights from a closeness never imagined is completely novel. The goofy expressions on their faces, or how fast their fingers move- things I simply don’t see at a show- become a whole new part of the experience. It’s like Phish-up close and personal in your living room- literally.
Shining through on these DVDS is the quality of musicianship that took place all weekend long back in August of 1996. Having not listened to The Ball in quite some time, I was struck by how consistently on point the band throughout the festival, for six straight sets. After watching the shows, I remembered just how many highlights there were beyond the weekend’s handful of go-to jams.
Beyond the music, however, The Clifford Ball was a reinvention of the concert experience, and this aspect of the weekend is not lost. Covered in depth by Parke Peterbaugh in a well-written essay and through an entire DVD full of extras, you get to spend quite some time behind the scenes. Perhaps the highlight of the package, the extra footage contains lengthy interviews with a far younger Phish, a documentary about The Clifford Ball experience, and great footage of both The Flatbed Jam and soundcheck. Trey discusses how they saw the festival as an opportunity to play at all different times of day, and that the late-night set was one of his favorite.
If you haven’t already seen these DVDs, I highly recommend checking them out. Hours upon hours of entertainment for any fan, these DVDs chronicle the beginning of Phish’s legendary festivals and the creative energy that went into making such a special weekend. The beginning of a new era in Phish history, so much started right there on the grounds of The Clifford Ball.
(Photos- Press Rebublican.com)
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
6.25.95 Mann Music Center, Philadelphia, PA SBD < TORRENT LINK
This weekend in 1995 saw the Grateful Dead fizzling out just down I-95 at RFK, while Phish was shredding apart Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park like it was their psychedelic playground. This show is the second of a two-night stand that was among the highlights of the summer. Enjoy the SBD.
I: Ya Mar > AC/DC Bag, Taste, Theme From the Bottom, If I Could, Sparkle, The Divided Sky, I Didn’t Know, Split Open and Melt
II: Maze, Sample in a Jar, Scent of a Mule, Mike’s Song > Why Don’t We Do It in the Road > HYHU > Jam > Weekapaug Groove, Amazing Grace, Cavern
E: Bouncing Around the Room, Slave to the Traffic Light
Source: SBD > DAT > Cass/1 > Nakamichi CR7 > Lucid AD9624 > AES/EBU > Fostex D5 @48kHz