Phish wound their way down to Raleigh on December 16, 1999, and after their performance at Reynolds Coliseum on campus at North Carolina State University, only two shows separated the band and their millennial destiny. On this night 11 years ago, Phish threw down a show that would top Hampton’s next two, featuring a pair of December 99’s defining jams in the second set.
“Sand” 12.16.99 II
Opening the set with “Sand,” the song of the tour, this version blossomed into, perhaps, the most impressive until Big Cypress. A colossal excursion filled with layers of sonic manipulation, this version brought together many of the ideas presented in “Sand” throughout the tour. The initial section — an eerie bass-led soundscape — featured more effects that Phish used during all of Fall 2010. Stirring this psychedelic cauldron, the band brought the jam to a lead-less rolling boil before Trey got onto his keyboard to offer a sense of guiding melody. Building off his work in Washington, DC’s “Free” from the night before, Trey laid down a more complex, hypnotic melody that infused the sinister jam with swagger. Toying with this layer for some time, he then got onto guitar and improvised around the identical melody he had just created on keyboard. Turning into a showcase of apocalyptic groove, Page offered piano retorts to Trey’s seething lines, while Fish and Mike annihilated the bottom half of the music. Morphing his notes into dissonant melodies and then abstract phrases, Trey joined his band mates in creating a wide-open wall of psychedleia. Easily the most listened-to “Sand” in my collection, this version provided a perfect snapshot of Phish as they headed for the their all-night trek into 2000.
“Tweezer” 12.16.99 II
The second set of Raleigh started with “Sand,” and peaked with this millennial journey into the stratosphere. Setting the jam at a menacing pace, Phish used its initial section to, specifically, craft the drone backing for their musical conversation. Upon a mini-build, Mike burst onto the scene with a section of lead-bass acrobatics that got the jam moving in earnest. And then Earnest came in. Offering the perfect compliments to Gordeaux’s monster statements, the entire band locked a series of slamming ’99 grooves before taking the jam to a place of calm. Out of this brief respite, Fishman switched into a delicate rhythm nd Trey joined him with short, accented licks that pushed the music in an original direction. As Page and Mike hop joined this groove, one of the most magical sections of Fall ’99 Phish emerged. Taking a cathartic climb out of the dark and dissonant, the band gradually built into a soul-searching “Slave” jam that retained aspects of the grungy backdrop. A blissful sequence that peaked with passion and descended back down into abstract layers of sound, this “Tweezer” provided one of those out-of-body experiences that are only possible when Phish is tapped into to the universe’s greater powers.
Jam of the Day:
“Reba” 12.16.95 II
Since I haven’t mentioned the first night of Lake Placid — 12.16.95 — here is the show’s most significant jam. The following night would blow this one out of the water.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
10.7.1994 Stabler Arena, Bethlehem, PA
The first show of Fall ’94 goes out as a reader request for Henry Gale — or so he says.
I: My Friend, My Friend, Julius, Glide, Poor Heart, The Divided Sky, Guelah Papyrus, Stash, Guyute*, Golgi Apparatus
II: Maze, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Reba, Wilson, Scent of a Mule, Tweezer, Lifeboy, My Sweet One, Tweezer Reprise
E: Foreplay/Long Time*, Cavern