The Four-Song Sets of Fall ’97

Summer 1997 (S.Nissman)

Summer 1997 (S.Nissman)

Four-song sets – ahh, the memories. During Phish’s creative peak of Fall 1997, the mystique of “the four-song set” was born. Infusing intrigue and wonder into Phish audiences, the adventure inherent in these improvisational odysseys made each night’s journey into the unknown even more unknown. Setlists could do nothing for Internet onlookers trying to determine what went down; four song titles could only speak so loudly. Fall ’97 has always been inaccurately painted as a “funk-only” era, and the diversity of jams added to the absolute mysteries wrapped around these four-piece poems. Throughout Fall ’97, the possibility of four-song sets lived vibrantly in every show, seducing the psychonaut in all of us.

Phish birthed this concept in West Valley, Utah, on the second night of fall tour, playing a staggering show that left people counting on one hand – one, two, three, four. The first Fall ’97 blowout had just gone down, foreshadowing a new phenomenon in live Phish. Opening with “Wolfman’s,” the band jammed off the song’s liquid grooves, drawing many parallels with the preceding version, two shows earlier, at The Great Went. Utah’s version even hinted at “Simple,” the combination that lit up the second set of The Went. But instead, Phish blended into their new melodic vehicle, “Piper.” Adhering to ’97’s template of the song – melodically cyclical and without the fury of latter years – the band provided a gorgeous resolution to “Wolfman’s” in the first-ever incarnation of “Wolfman’s >Piper,” a staple sequence of the late-90’s and beyond.

Fall '97 (Unknown)

Another quintessential song pairing, “Piper” and “Twist,” continued to strengthen their bond in Utah, as the band coupled the songs for the fourth time in their young lives. This version of “Twist” saw things get straight cosmic in the E Centre, as Phish entered an excessively psychedelic soundscape over which Trey layered a unique and utterly face-melting solo, completely breaking form with the preceding jam. And out of this primordial soup, dripped a set-closing “Slave.” We weren’t in Vegas anymore, Fall ’97 had truly begun.

After two stellar shows in Denver, Phish got dialed up another four-song special in Champaign, Illinois. On this night, the band kicked off the second half with one of the most infectious “2001s” ever played. Carrying just the right tempo, and littered with disgusting licks by all, Phish started this Midwest party with spirit. Moving into “Wolfman’s,” which morphed from dance grooves into one of the defining, full-on, jams of the fall, Phish shredded some fast-paced, run-for-your-life psychedelia, annihilating this segment while passing through a break-neck “Crosseyed” jam along the way. To come down from this harrowing journey, the band landed in “Makisupa.” One might think any chance of a four-song stanza would end with the appearance of such a short piece, but not on this night. Instead, the band took the white-boy reggae into a galaxy far, far away. Ballooning this experiment into a supremely spaced-out realm, Phish returned to earth with a blistering “Taste” to close the frame.

1997 (R.Bleckman)

And the band went right back to work in their next show at Hampton Coliseum on November 21, bringing down the house with a deep dive into four-song psychedelia that has always been unfairly overshadowed by the greatest-hits dance party of the following night. Phish led off with one of the more exploratory “Ghosts” of the fall, bringing the piece far beyond groove, into quieter realms of ambient and experimental playing. Treading on sacred ground early in the set, Phish was far off the deep end only eight minutes into the set. Emerging from the underworld with with a slowly-building, thematic jam, Phish took a turn for the nasty. An eventual, on-the-dime transition into “AC/DC Bag” infused some old-school energy into the distinctly new-school set. The band proceeded to take the classic Gamehendge piece on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, crafting the defining excursion of the set, another funk-less gem along the road of Fall ’97. The band let it all hang down during these 25 minutes of sublime, genre-defying improv. A perfectly-placed”Slave” came out of this menacing piece, bringing the set a light at the end of the tunnel. And only a set-ending “Loving Cup,” extended this frame to four.

Directly after the blowout in Hampton that created the myth of The Mothership, Phish took their overflowing creativity to Winston-Salem for an insane ride through another four-song set, and yet another defining piece of ’97 artwork in “Bathtub Gin.” While this show is always overshadowed by the previous two, the playing is every bit as strong throughout. When they kicked off the the second half with “Bathtub,” nobody could possibly know where the band was headed. Among the upper-echelon of Fall ’97 offerings, this multi-faceted version moved into some of the most connected and aggressive playing of tour. Taking the multi-faceted jam into savage, break-beat textures, Fishman absolutely owned this piece as the band explored many truly twisted places over the course of a sinister, half-hour. (I’ll put this one up as the jam of today to save some words.) Eventually reaching a settled plane, the band subtly infused the undertones of the intro to “Disease,” and pulled off a surprisingly sly segue. Taking their explosive energy right through their classic vehicle, the band brought the piece into another full-on excursion that had nothing to do with cowfunk.

1997 Advertisement

As the band picked up the theme to “Low Rider” seemingly out of nowhere, they smoothly sailed into a jam around the ’70s anthem, providing comic relief with their lyrical offerings, and drawing a huge cheer for the line “Take a little trip with me.” Stopping off for some minutes of thick groove, Phish gradually revved back up into the ending of “Disease;” a truly transcendental hour of music. With an “Axis” closer, this set also added to four.

While Phish played several other five-song sets during the tour, some with short, insignificant set closers, these are the four-piece puzzles that drew so much attention along the road of Fall ’97. There would be a handful more through post-hiatus, peaking with Nassau’s 4.3 holy trek. (And if you don’t count a “Rotation Jam” as song, Deer Creek ’97’s first night holds the candle as the first incarnation of such a set.) But during Fall ’97, the term “four-song set” burst onto the scene, and the above evenings are the reasons why.


Audio Archive

Audio Archive Links:

11.14.97 E Centre, West Valley, UT

11.19.97 Assembly Hall, Champaign, IL

11.21.97 Hampton Coliseum, Hampton, VA

11.23.97 LJVM Coliseum, Winston-Salem, NC


Jam of the Day:

Bathtub Gin” 11.23.97 II

An instant classic from Winston-Salem.




4.3.92 Hyatt Regency, Beaver Creek, CO < Megaupload

4.3.92 Hyatt Regency, Beaver Creek, CO < Torrent

Hyatt Regency - Beaver Creek, CO

Sticking to the soundboard train this week on Downloads of the Day, here’s another from Spring ’92.

I: The Landlady > Poor Heart, Stash, Rift, Guelah Papyrus, Sparkle, Maze, Fluffhead, All Things Reconsidered, Split Open and Melt, Golgi Apparatus

II: The Curtain > The Sloth, Possum, Mound, You Enjoy Myself, The Mango Song, Llama, Harry Hood, Suzy Greenberg

E: Rocky Top

Source: SBD

796 Responses to “The Four-Song Sets of Fall ’97”

  1. BTB Says:

    Clapton is on the Palladia channel right now – “After Midnight”

  2. Corey Says:

    I’m going to hope these are fallen wings.
    Wings that he’s collected since he was four.

    Those panels are beautiful. Must’ve been impressive in the room…that close to the butterflies and all. Thanks for sharing, BTB.

  3. BTB Says:

    Not sure how he collected the butterflies. You’d think with that many it would have been through an environmental source.

    Weirdest part is that they were all identical – the entire piece was perfect. Mind was blown.

  4. Mr. Completely Says:

    there are a few artists that you just can’t perceive what they’re doing until you see the paintings in person

    Monet is one for sure – they have one (or 2 or 3?) of his incredible “cathedral at dawn” series in Boston. For one thing, it’s amazing what he did – he set up a bunch of canvases and then every morning would start at the first one, then when the light changed move to the second, etc – so he ended up with a series of paintings that are basically a time lapse.

    Even awesomer, these huge ass paintings totally change how they look depending on how close you are. At arms’ length they are simply abstract: blotches of color. Take a few steps back and you see the vague suggestion of shapes. A couple more and the outline of hte cathedral becomes clear. Further back, fuzzy details emerge – and finally, from across the room, you see what looks like a basically realistic, representational painting of a cathedral.

    Pure genius. A master class on the relativity of perception, in the form of a painting.

    Other artists I thought I kinda understood, but then saw in museums and realized I hand’t grokked at all, include Van Gogh and the giant Dali masterworks we’ve discussed a few times here.

  5. Mr. Completely Says:

    Celtics puttin’ the grind on ’em. Take this one and it’s over. Consider: this Boston lineup, when healthy, has never lost a playoff series.

    We’ll see how kobe’s knee holds up…supposedly the bounce from getting fluid drained doesn’t usually last…should be interesting

  6. Corey Says:

    @MR. C Monet in Boston, yup. C’s in Orlando, yup.
    Two forms of art. Both larger than life.

  7. flarrdogg Says:

    question: I am sending out junk e-mail from my account to all of my contacts. What should I do and how does this happen?

  8. Mr. Completely Says:

    you haz virus in ur machine probly

    virii are everywhere, not sure how it happened exactly

    I avoid it by only using Windows at work where I have 5 top level security professionals keeping it clean, and using a Mac at home

    not sure what to do exactly since I have taken the above easy way out I never have really had to deal with it

  9. Mr. Completely Says:

    refs trying to keep orlando in the series? I’m working late and following the gamecast so I can’t see it.

  10. Mr. Completely Says:

    looks like a crazy blast of fouls on the C’s but then they are a tough team so it might be legit

  11. flarrdogg Says:

    Mr C- I use mac at home, but I hop on the pc’s at school. Could this be where it is taking place? Receiving spam is one thing, but sending it out from my account unknowingly is kinda creepy.

  12. flarrdogg Says:

    You guys were on fire today- just reading back. Fall ’97 write up brought everyone out. Wish I’d had more time to participate.

  13. Mr. Completely Says:

    flarr I really am far from any kind of expert on this

    but just in general if you have 2 points of exposure and one is a Mac and one is a PC, then the PC is the first place to look

  14. Mr. Completely Says:

    you might want to contact the email provider I guess, but who knows, they might hork your whole account

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    wow vince carter misses 2 to probably lose the game

    the sports guy will be ecstatic

  16. Mr. Completely Says:

    so long Orlando

    was nice being briefly impressed by your play against creampuffs

  17. flarrdogg Says:

    Mr C- Thanks. Yeah I emailed yahoo and we’ll see what happens. Get kinda freaked out when I hear the word “virus”. My greatest fear is that my now almost fully digital music collection is jeopardized/ sabotaged. Truth be told, if that is my greatest fear then life must be pretty damn good. Right?

    still reading back…Those who don’t like Vegas Wolfmans are in it for TOTALLY different reasons than I am. Not hating, but I thought that one was universal.

  18. butter Says:

    flarrdog – the email is now dirty, you pretty much need to shut it down or delete your contacts

    my hotmail account did this, i just deleted all my contacts

    but then this dude hacked my password, changed my primary language to Chinese so i couldn’t even answer my secret question to get back in

    he then hacked my paypal and stole all my money i had gathered from selling lawn tickets for well under face…lol

    paypal gave me the money back

  19. halcyon Says:

    LOST = Sad 🙁 but Pumped 🙂 for Sunday


    Saw that exhibit last year in Denver. Really impressive up close. He had the butterfly art, the cow/bull in formaldehyde, and some other interesting works…

    Re: other artists, though Dali was about the money and fame, his jewelry is really interesting.
    Picasso’s Museum in Barcelona was a treat, saw some interesting styles of his.
    Going to check out Matisse, and Chagall’s in Nice on our honeymoon this June, looking forward to it.

  20. flarrdogg Says:

    butter- Is there a way to keep my email addy the same? I don’t speak Chinese.

  21. halcyon Says:

    The butterfly art was different from the ones at your local museum, but nevertheless it was in the same spirit. Interesting art it is.

  22. butter Says:

    yea great discussions on here today

    takes all types to make a well rounded community

    i think zzy just likes to be different and not have the same “wow” moments as everyone else

    i actually am starting to understand the dude a little better

    what would we have to get fired up about if Tweezer was everyone’s fav song and Lost was everyones fav show….

    …oh that tour starts in 23 days…. snap

  23. Mr. Completely Says:

    I think Z is just a quirky dude who likes what he likes

    If I ever met someone who agreed with all my opinions I’d check my wallet immediately

  24. She Divides Says:

    just checking in after several days away. Seems like another great day on the blackboard.

    @silly–thanks for the shout out as part of this community. I definitely find many of the people here to be inspiring and hope to meet a good number of you in the future!

    @fee4zy–great reflections there. You seem to really be looking inward and striving for the best possible outcomes…sending good vibes your way!

  25. butter Says:

    sure flarr – keep that addy the same but maybe transfer your contacts to a clean new email

    then you can still get email delivered to your old one while you slowly convert over your friends/ family/ work to your new clean one…not sure if their is an easy way to transfer your yahoo contacts to a new acct.

    probably not the easy answer your looking for, but a solution of sorts

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