27 July 2007

Nedstalgia: 10 Years Ago

Phish Starplex Ampitheater, Dallas, TX 25 July 2007 (76) South Park Meadows, Austin, TX 26 July 2007 (77)

Download 7/25 here: set I set II
Download 7/26 here
The whole summer 1997 tour can be found here

[Previously in Nedstalgia: Phish shows 1 & 2, #3; Mule; Widespread Panic; The Duo; Robert Randolph
HORDE 92 (i.e. Phish #4, WSP #1)]

Man, so this is what it feels like to be incredibly busy, eh? Playing catch-up here these days, but wanted to get in a quick blurb about some Summer 97 Phish. Hard to believe it was 10 years ago, but take off a decade and you had a band that was entering what I'd call "Peak Phish." The climb started with with Clifford Ball and hit the pinnacle during the Island Tour in 98, so by July 0f 97 we were smack dab in the middle of some top notch sickness.

After doing the whole 8/96 run in a postgraduate road trip, we were now adults and couldn't swing months at a time, so we had to pick and choose our Phish trips and choose them wisely. For whatever reason, the Bis Squeeze and I settled on two shows in Texas, followed by a little jaunt into the Pacific Northwest for some actual non-music vacation time camping and such and then two shows at the Gorge in Washington. These would also be our first shows since Halloween of 1996, so we were in high anticipation of some new songs and the new, deep funk Phish.

We arrived in Dallas to learn one thing. It gets hot in Texas in the middle of July. Really, fucking hot. Honestly, I don't know that I've ever been that hot in my life. There wasn't that much to do in town considering the heat. We did check out the grassy knoll and the museum there in the book depository, which is an appropriately bizarre piece of Americana, complete with crazy conspiracy theorists willing to talk to anyone who can stand in 110 degree temperatures to get their version of the story. Enough of that, let's go see Phish!

It was sweating-bullets-in-the-shade level and that combined with the crazy little ants crawling over us -- we couldn't wait to get inside the amphitheater and get it on. There was a little special addition to those Texas shows, Bob Gullotti from the Boston noise jazz band "The Fringe" would be joining them on a second drum kit. Totally bizarre pre-announced guest spot, but as any Phish fan knows, anything different has the potential for next level specialness... so we were psyched.

As we should have been. There was something in the air that night in Dallas. Certainly the heat -- it tends to make molecules move faster, to make things soft and at some point it all just melts. Phish kind of melted that night in Dallas. Songs that usually retain a certain form got all molten and free and the jams that flowed between them or within them seeped all over the warm Texas evening.

It started innocuously enough with a tame Beauty of My Dreams and the first set had an awkward pause for Water in the Sky, but the rest was just pure, free-ranging Phishjam circa 1997. The four just flowed freely through jam after jam ending the first set with a phenomenal Bathtub Gin > Makisupa > AC/DC Bag that just about blew my lid. The Bathtub Gin is pure next-level stuff, the jam out of it is in "best ever" category, I do not exaggerate. iTunes tells me that it stretches for over 20 minutes and really all of it is tight, tight, "you've got to hear this!" shit. The band was basically boiling for that entire stretch with the set-closing AC/DC ending with a jam that got faster and faster and faster into an impossibly paced heat stroke. I can remember trying to catch a breath but not being able to stop dancing convulsively. Yeah, it was good shit.

Gullotti joined the stage for the 2nd set and things just got wilder and weirder for the next 3 sets of Phish. It was almost as if they wanted to prove how unstructured they could be to Bob. At the same time, they did not seem to tailor the set to him at all, they just played as they normally would, but let things get out there with the double drummer. Gullotti was not afraid, not at all. He got right into it like a child with fingerpaints. He seemed to lock in more with Trey than Fishman, which is interesting to note. Songs just seemed to flow into each other like one long piece. They opened with Chalkdust but did not seem committed to its form and let things go where they might, segueing from there into Taste and then Yamar without pausing to consider where they were going or how they might get there. At one point Trey tried to get Page to jam it out with the drummers -- "just Leo and the drummers..." -- but Gullotti kind of overpowered a timid McConnell and just thundered through a drum section all but on his own before they settled into a swampy, funky Ghost. Utterly exhilarating.

Appropriately, we caught a ride postshow with Daniel Gold and some Spreadnet Spreadkins which was a lil adventure in of itself. The next night was Austin and was just as oppressively hot. The venue was called South Park Meadows, but from what I remember it was basically a gigantic field with a stage at the end. Whereas the Dallas show was in your standard shed, with shade and some concrete to contain the energy, Austin was wide open... literally and figuratively.

They didn't wait until the 2nd set to let Gullotti get involved as he sat in for the entire show. Still, they didn't do a great job picking out tunes for him to play on, particularly in the 1st set which rambled like your average below-average Phish set for the day. It wasn't until the end, when they did a nice You Enjoy Myself that things let loose. I remember when they launched into that YEM wondering how Gullotti would handle all the stops and starts and time interchanges. Trey did his best to show him the way during the opening passages, but eventually he just let him do his own thing. The jam in there was free and out there and pretty nice... eventually making way into my first Izabella which absolutely floored me.

The second set was a keeper, though. Another free-for-all in the best possible sense. There really is nothing like seeing Phish outdoors in the summer after the sun has gone down. We were right front and center for this show (surprise!) with good people around us and some unbelievable music coming from the stage. It went a little like this: Timber > Bowie > Hood > Free with everything getting stretched out, filling the nighttime air like torrential rains collecting in puddles. Well worth a listen. This is where they really started to click as a 5-piece 2-drum collective and played the songs to make such energy worth it. The quintet was so wound up with thermal energy they could barely contain any song structure, opting for long, free-funk jams. By the time they got to Hood, they could barely keep the pace down, quickly launching into a Blister in the Sun jam that had Trey even singing some lyrics. That got the crowd going!

Everything after that was a bit straightforward, but we left Texas feeling we had gotten some "special Phish" and headed up to Seattle for a little R&R. Hopefully I can get to that next week, for now, enjoy these...


Mike Aurzada said...

Thanks for the memories. I was at these shows (live in Austin, TX), and had the water sprayer and fan out full force in Austin on that hot concrete RADIATING heat from the ground. People love to be spritzed.

Definitely the 100 degree day coupled with a certain chemical slowness embedded around us made the frenticness of the jams even more so. A fond memory is fans knocking down a baricade to get back to the parking lot, making the ground and baricade much like a cattle crossing, with 1000's of phans in a slow moving line bellowing "Moo, mooooo, mooo."

Good times for sure.

neddy said...

Thanks for checking us out!