Some Good Parts… – Phish and Great Woods

The Great Woods Center for the Performing Arts opened for the 1986 concert season with great regional access to many of the major population center in this part of New England being approximately 40 miles from Boston, Providence, Worcester, and Cape Cod. Situated between I-495, I-95 and the town of Mansfield the venue has reasonably strong regional access and even with newer venues having been built in the intervening years draws a consistently high level of performing group each summer. At opening the venue held approximately 12,000 people which was expanded to 19,000 in 1994 with further enhancements improving the access and comfort level for patrons. One challenge that still remains (and will forever be a problem at this venue) is the bottleneck parking situation where the majority of fans are parked around the back side of the venue and thus forced to wait out extremely long lines do get to the one main exit from the center. This is not always a bad thing for the Phish crowd who love to hang out and recreate before and after the show but when the band leaves the stage at just after 11pm and you are still waiting to get out at 1:30am it is safe to say there is a bit of a problem. Since debuting here with a single set opening performance for Santana in 1992 the band has played a total of seventeen shows with performances in all three of the main eras of the band’s history.

 

After that Santana single setter every show at Great Woods has been a two set performance as part of that year’s summer tour. 1992 and 1993 were single night stops and then the next five times the band came here was for a two night stand. Oddly, Tuesday holds the high mark for most days played at this venue with seven as the next two highest combined (Friday at 3 and Saturday at 4) total to that amount together. There has never been a Sunday night show (or a Thursday one for that matter) which should not be skipped per the axiom.

Here is your www.phishjustjams.com playlist for the Great Woods Jams.

 

Oh, hi there! Miss me? Well, life moves pretty fast and all that. And then Summer Tour comes and that whole new Phish thing gets in the way of worrying about shows from twenty or more years prior. But we are back! And I have another site update to add! I’m going to add a link to the stream of each show on phish.in for your use if you so choose. Note that this provides a good, quick way to spin each show but in most cases those are auds unless a soundboard copy leaked at some point or it was recorded by patch which would only be relevant in the old shows. Many of the shows reviewed here, particularly the ones since LivePhish was created and the band starting releasing full tours of shows, are available in remastered soundboard glory elsewhere. Join me below the fold…

Continue reading “Some Good Parts… – Phish and Great Woods”

There Is Time To Kill Today — West Valley City, UT 11.02.1998

Phish — The E Center — West Valley City, UT 11.02.1998

I  Tube->Drowned->JJLC, Driver, Bittersweet Motel, LxL, Wading>Sample

II  Disease, Mango>Moma, YEM, Harpua>Speak to Me->Breathe>On The Run, Time>GGITS>Money>Us and Them->Any Colour You Like->Brain Damage->Eclipse>Harpua

E  Smells Like Teen Spirit

Clearly we can excuse Phish for effectively taking the night off for this one night stop in Utah as they made their way from Las Vegas to Denver on this tour. Since most of the traveling fanbase skipped this one it makes sense that the band took it easy… hey, wait a minute…

::looks at setlist more closely::

::looks again because that can’t be right::

Um, yeah. So, we might not have covered it here yet but now is a good time to as there are a few axioms in the Phish World that almost always hold true. These include but are not limited to:

  1. One for three; two for five.
  2. Never miss a Sunday show.
  3. No talking during jams.
  4. Glowsticks are cool sometimes but not to be thrown at the band.
  5. Mike needs to be turned up.
  6. Always use the rock test to decide who drives home.
  7. The music is all that matters.
  8. Keep it positive.
  9. Seriously, no talking during jams.
  10. Pass the pre-rolls freely. Everyone will benefit.
  11. Never skip the ‘skip show’!

Some are more guideline than rule but that last one is the biggie as applies to our show up above. In the wake of the two shows in Las Vegas there sat this one that was a bit out of the way for those also hitting Denver considering that they all turned right in Sulphurdale, UT to pick up I-70 and head east rather than continuing on I-15 up to the Salt Lake City area for this show. This proved to be a major blunder on their part and the band made them pay for it in legendary fashion.

Now, if you the fan were really ambitious you would have gotten up there on the off night to catch Trey and Mike joining an ‘open mic’ night at the Dead Goat Saloon, a dive bar that has since closed its doors. More on this as we work through the set here but they played a decent number of tunes to a really really small crowd, from all accounts. It is highly doubtful that audio of that exists but here’s hoping it surfaces some time in the future because we are obsessive and need to hear every single last note any of these guys has ever played.

But had you at least made it to the Phish show the following night in West Valley City you would have been witness to one of the biggest jokes the band has ever played on the fanbase in a venue that holds over 12,000 which was perhaps a third full for that night’s show. This made that night ripe for Phish to do what they tend to in such circumstances when no one expects them to come out and lay waste to the lucky souls who made the commitment to be a part of IT. Examples abound from all over the band’s history including 09.14.1999 (Boise Bag is all I need to say but the subsequent Gumbo and Disease are fantastic as well), 08.14.1996 (Hershey show before The Clifford Ball. Jammed out Wilson opener, awesome Reba, open jamming in Jim, and a Tweezer that’ll get you moving), 10.20.2010 (The Guyutica show! My Soul openers generally mean good things and this is no exception what with the first set shenanigans and the Melt madness in the second)… I could keep going here but that’s how I end up with 4,000 word posts so let’s just say we will all do our homework on sleeper/skip shows and get to gettin’ here.

Obviously, where I am headed here is that this show stands as THE EXAMPLE for why the axiom exists. After playing two big shows that were both very difficult tickets to obtain — and throwing down some transcendent, wonderful music in the process — you had to have thought (these future past perfect* tenses get confusing some times) a breather is coming (particularly in Utah) before they go over to Colorado where they already had a long history of performing and playing quite well. Add on to it that a lot of fans didn’t want to deal with the hassles of potential law enforcement interactions and you have a recipe for an undersold show.

So what does Phish do to not only increase that FOMO (before the term was coined, of course, but a concept that has long been a part of our scene) and also to give back to the fans who did make it to this show? Oh, just throw down a bunch of sick jams and cover another full album (one that was so rumored to be the pick for the ’94 Halloween costume that they actually played the first track over the PA at the start of that costume set to mess with everyone) that they learned THAT DAY while waiting for the show. And that album cover didn’t even start until after they were close to 50 minutes into the second set already. But before we get to all that we have a great first set to discuss. I love when that happens.

These days, if you see Tube on a setlist you can expect it to have a tight little funk jam but to stay somewhere in the six to seven minute range in toto (the longest one of 3.0 is only a shade over seven minutes) but in the latter part of 1.0 and into 2.0 the song got a bit more time to stretch out, particularly in a few highly memorable versions that include the Tube “Reprise” section after the final verse and refrain. This night in Utah the show opening Tube is one of those instances and, to me, stands as one of the best takes on the song they have ever performed (special shout out to a few other notable ones though before we dive in here:  12.07.1997 Dayton, 12.29.1997 MSG, 02.22.2003 Cincinnati, and my personal favorite 09.15.2000 Hershey). The fun part about this one though is that it combines not just the swanky cowfunk of the ’97 sound but the emerging ambient funk that will come to typify Fall ’98. In the first part of the jam Trey starts the loops early and they romp through a highly danceable section with each player adding flourishes where they see fit. After the “napkin” section and final refrain they seem to wrap the song up only to get a Fish BLAP to kick off the reprise section and here things turn sideways in a hurry. The loops are more subdued but still there and Trey goes off on a long lead journey while the band builds the pocket around him. It is highly engaging stuff that seemingly brings together the last two album influences in leading to a bliss jam that is wholly not Tube. In the final minute or so you can tell they are clearly headed somewhere but it isn’t an obvious segue until Trey throws in the power chords over the rest of the band with Page adding the signature piano line for Drowned and we are off into our second jam vehicle just two songs into the show!

This Drowned is a triumphant rocker in the first half before they settle into an upbeat groove with Trey trying out several ideas – none of them ever really catching – while Fish pounds away Moon-like, Page comping along on the piano, and Mike matching Trey with ideas of his own. Eventually they all come together and eventually move into another bit of transition space for what one has to think will be a cool down tune, only to have them emerge into Jesus Just Left Chicago. Typically this song, while rooted in its blues foundation, gets a bit more rocking and almost funky when Phish plays it but tonight they keep it cerulean with Page and Trey trading enthusiastic solos on the organ and guitar, respectively. Coming after those first two jams it kind of is a bit of a cool down tune but at the same time has a great energy of its own.

Now we get that breather section first with a little dedication/anecdote from Trey to mention the prior night’s open mic fun and to thank the staff at the Dead Goat Saloon before playing a pair of songs with Trey on the acoustic, Driver and Bittersweet Motel. There is a bit more banter between those two songs and then they also use the big Freebird-esque ending to close it up. These two songs provide the necessary bathroom break after that 40+ minute three song onslaught to start the show and then we get another shot of energy with a really quite beautiful take on Limb by Limb. It never leaves the main structure of the song but Trey and Page keep it airy and light while Mike and Fish lay down the pocket, resulting in a smile-inducing jam that far outpaces the first LxL on this tour back at the Greek on night one. From here we get a Wading>Sample closing combo that is pretty much what it says on the box and we are off to setbreak where I am certain the conversation would have been around that Tube->Drowned->JJLC segment. At least that’s what my conversation would have included assuming my talk functions were active that night ifyouknowwhatimean.

After the break they come out firing with a fiery hot Disease that stays in bounds but elevates the energy well. The subsequent Mango Song is a well played version of a song (listen to Page in particular here) that is always nice to hear which tonight segues into Moma for our second funk workout of the evening. It is a fun version with a couple of Monkey Man teases but the real highlights of this set are yet to come. They kick into a mid-set YEM and almost immediately depart from form by stretching out the pre-Nirvana section with a captivating ambient soundscape that has all of the YEM elements present while stretching the tune out in building tension for the explosion of prog funk energy to come. The rest of this YEM is well done but largely what you expect out of the song and after that we get a few rare moments of the band collecting themselves in making the next song selection.

Here I should probably tell you that the song to come is a bit of an obsession of mine, as I have long been fascinated by the ever-evolving tale of that spastic dead-eyed hound Harpua and his foil Poster Nutbag, the cat that always dies. Except when he doesn’t but that’s for another time. Any time I see this song on a setlist I know there is a story to be heard that will tickle the imagination and offer up at least a tease of a non-Phish song we all know, often resulting in the crowd or even other band members wanting to keep that song going (such as Fish asking for more “Jimmy” when Trey rips up a bit of Voodoo Chile in the famed 06.17.1994 OJ Show version of Harpua). Add in the fact that they were coming off the run in Vegas where a pretty pretty pretty notable Harpua had gone down a little less than two years prior involving members of Primus, a bunch of Elvii, yodelers, and a wonderful yarn about our man Jimmy’s trip to Sin City and you have the potential for this one to get weird once again. Trey does in fact connect the two stories, after first making a knowing reference to the “E” Center in saying how full of love and warm he feels being there. You can tell he really cracks himself up with that. SO once he gets to the story he speaks perhaps a bit in a self-reflective manner by relating that Jimmy decides to get out of Vegas almost as soon as he gets there because it is just too crazy and he can’t take it so he hitches a ride with a guy to SLC. The guy puts on one of Jimmy’s favorite albums (it is always one of Jimmy’s favorites, isn’t it?) and then the band drops out and over the PA we get the start to Speak to Me! Well, that’s a pretty cool nod, isn’t it? Should be fun to hear them go back into Harpua after this little bit of… hang on. They played the whole song and THEY ARE GOING INTO BREATHE!! At this point, if you were in the crowd you have to be wondering whether they could possibly be going through with this. Normally you get a few bars of the song Trey mentions and then we are back to Harpua for the fight and resolution. NOPE!! Not tonight! Tonight we get the full album cover of Dark Side of the Moon, only one of the most seminal and widely lauded rock albums of the prior twenty-five years (yes, I am generalizing and I know there is a huge segment of people who prefer the older, Syd-influenced Pink Floyd sound – if they like PF at all – but considering that this album stayed on the Billboard Top 200 albums for an ungodly 861 weeks you have to acknowledge the touchpoint that this album was and continues to be).

So here we are with the second full album cover in as many shows, this time one that pretty well everyone in the room would have known — many having wanted this to be the album played on Halloween. Now, I was a huge Pink Floyd in my formative youth, using that band as one of my gateway bands into the world of psychedelic music and for that I will forever have an affinity for their music. And had I been there on this night I would have totally lost my shit and maybe even dropped to my knees with head in hands in awe of this band though that last part might be the result of… other factors. But the reality here is that as amazing as it is that they pulled this off after (as all of the legend around this show indicates) only buying the CD that day and learning it together for that night’s show it is all very down-the-middle stuff in playing the album pretty much straight to form.

Before the pitchforks come out and the torches get lit though let me state that I am not saying there is anything bad in this occurring as I really think this is the master stroke of pranking done by the band on their fanbase. It is a big middle finger to those who were perhaps not thrilled with the Velvet Underground choice for Halloween as well as to those who chose to skip this one-off show for whatever reason. It proves the notion that you are risking missing out on a peak experience every time you choose to not go to a show and once again shows just how in tune with the fanbase this band was and continues to be. But musically? It is pretty average. There are no real jams to speak of and the playing, while typically good Phish, is not anything you haven’t heard before and for that reason I’m not going to do a song-by-song breakdown of the DSOTM portion of the show except to say that if Trey wants to go ahead and drop Any Colour You Like into the middle of a hot jam or even sandwiched into a great set of segued music I am all for it and will woo louder than the Tahoe Tweezer woo brigade to here it go down.

All that said, in comparing it to the sonic landscapes they crafted just one night prior in drawing inspiration from the music of Loaded the performance of DSOTM just doesn’t stack up. I wrote a bit on this in the comment section of the previous post but I’ll lay it out here again because I think it speaks volumes about what both performances meant to the band. The DSOTM set was about doing it because they could but not necessarily about pushing that music forward or making it their own. In contrast, the performance of Loaded is all about putting their imprint on the music and drawing inspiration from the templates Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground set out for them to use as their starting point. Each song therein is something a bit more than just a replaying of the album; it is instead a retelling of it. Further, when you look at the songs on Loaded and which ones have become a part of the ongoing rotation to whatever frequency they tend to play them you have several songs with performances scattered over the years and one that has become a bona fide jam vehicle in Rock and Roll. Cool It Down, Oh! Sweet Nuthin, Lonesome Cowboy Bill, Sweet Jane, and Head Held High have all been performed in the years since 10.31.1998 (the last two only once) and Rock and Roll has graced the stage more than 70 times since. On the other hand, not a single song from DSOTM has been played since that night and the only tune off of that album to have been played prior to that set (excepting the jam on Breathe from St. Paul, MN 10.25.1995) is GGITS which we learned during its debut tour of Spring ’93 was a joke performance in the Fish Fun Time slot. This is quite telling to me because more than just being setlist oddity it speaks to what the band thinks of their relative connection with the music on each album, respectively, and how they wanted to use that music to push their own boundaries. As we will continue to see along this tour the impact of the Loaded set on Phish was definite and significant. The same cannot be said for DSOTM. Again, I am not deriding the performance of DSOTM because as a setlist writing geek fan I definitely love that they did it and would have been floored in the moment had I not been some 5,000 miles away at the time. But the set I will continue to spin of these two is Loaded because I both love the VU tracks and the Phishy spin that the band put on it that night, not to mention the sonic impact it had going forward.

So after that fantastically fun and awe-inspiring run through Dark Side of the Moon they come back for the resolution of Harpua, skipping the fight section since Poster apparently didn’t make the trip out of Gamehendge with Jimmy and Harpua was probably off chasing a heard of multibeasts or something. Oddly enough, this is one of 13 show closing Harpuas of the 60+ times the song has been played, not even including the handful of encores where the song has appeared. Following this one the encore seems like a big afterthought but surprise surprise they break out another debut by playing Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit to send everyone out with an even bigger smile on their pie-eyed faces. Sure, it isn’t the cleanest take ever and Trey flubs the lyrics a tad but it is just another dig at those who skipped this one. If ever anyone asks you to explain what you mean when you say “you just never know what could happen at a show and that’s why we keep going back” you can point to this night as a prime example for why that is our mindset.

So summing up we have some top notch jams for the listen back: Tube, Drowned, JJLC, LxL, YEM, and maybe the Disease if you like ’em compact and coming in hot. Plus if you have never heard it you really do need to listen to the entirety of the Harpua Suite to understand this night. Heaven forbid you skip out on the skip set to end them all…

*yeah, not certain that is a real verb tense but let’s just go with it. it sounds good, right?

A Lullaby The Breezes Whisper – Sacramento, CA 03.22.1993

Phish – Crest Theatre – Sacramento, CA 03.22.1993

I  CDT, Guelah, Uncle Pen, Stash, Bouncin’, Rift, Weigh>Reba, Sparkle>Bowie

II  Golgi, Ice>Lizards>Tela>Wilson>Bag>Forbin’s>Mockingbird>Sloth>McGrupp, Mike’s>H2>Weekapaug

E  Grace, Fire

The night after Ventura Phish would be well north in the state, some 330 miles up in Sacramento for a Monday night affair that none could expect to go down in phishtory quite in the way that it has. For this night would bring forth a Gamehendge set, the first since 1991 (193 shows) and one of only five full such sets in the band’s history. This is a somewhat debatable number considering our man Trey’s propensity to wax on the topic in that way he does but we’ll just go with it for now because there are much better things about which to argue than the relative number of times Trey has filled an entire set with his narrative fiction. What is definitely true is that there are only two full such Gamehendge sets that follow this one: 06.26.94 (as one half of the famed “GameHoist” show from WV) and 07.08.94 (emerging out of the uber rare NO2 at Great Woods). But this one from Sacramento might be one of the more famous ones due to the ubiquity of the tapes during those formative years for so many fans and how quickly and widely the news of this one spread amongst the heads. It was for this that people often clamored and shouted for that mythical set to be dropped on them only to be once again thwarted.

But before we get to all of that we have a very engaging first set to talk about that gets overshadowed by what went down after the break. The band came out firing, throwing down a fun romp of a CDT that gets the room moving before dropping that second song Guelah they loved to play so much back then. Uncle Pen steps into the third slot tonight before a rocking straight forward Stash surprisingly fills in the four hole. This one is not big on the jamming but high energy and goes with the T&R over the dissonance. The midset segment of Bouncin, Rift, and Weigh is all well played with nothing major to write home about before we get to our girl Reba. This one is nicely done with a bit of a plinko-ish, sparse section in the jam that precedes Trey elevating things towards the end peak. It is a nice alteration of the standard theme for this tune. Next we get a quick Sparkle before the set closing Bowie where Trey throws in some cool phrasing at the start while throwing in several SL cues (Simpsons, Oom Pa Pa, Random Note, All Fall Down) before they devote a lot of energy towards the construction of major T&R in heading to the top of the mountain. Good payoff with that in mind and we are headed to the break still none the wiser for what is coming.

So then the second set starts out innocently enough with Golgi and you are thinking “okay, should be a fun one I guess” before they drop into Ice and you think “yeah, okay, this could work. I wonder how the Mike’s Groove will be tonight…” but then right when they are supposed to go into the jam portion of Ice the band shifts slightly and Trey starts in with the narration over the Ice tempo and it is kinda like when you are watching pro wrestling and everything is going along fine enough but then OH MY GOD IS THAT WILSON’S ENTRANCE MUSIC??? (I think you know what I mean and if you don’t you are clearly not ‘Murican which is fine, of course, but probably has you a little confused right now). And clearly some people there know what is happening right away while it takes others quite some time to figure it out (like, maybe the whole set). I’ll be interested to hear from anyone who was there about the mindset of the crowd. So now we are cruising through the narration and Trey uses this to set up each song along the way including Lizards, Tela, Wilson, Bag, Forbin, Mockingbird, Sloth, and eventually McGrupp. Musically, it is all pretty straight forward as the focus is on imparting the story in toto but really nothing is lost here as it is all well played and moves along quite nicely as they intersperse the narration with the music in the way you would want if you happened to be in the crowd that night. Granted, if you knew nothing of this band and stopped in to check them out and this is what you experienced it might not be the thing that adheres you to them for life – or perhaps it would be – but that is another facet to this whole conversation. The one bit of oddity is that during McGrupp Fish hops on the Madonna washboard to accompany Page during his solo section. Perhaps he was sad he wasn’t getting Fish Fun Time that night. So after they wrap up the GH Suite (with Trey noting there are several other related songs) they start up that Mike’s we knew was coming. This one rocks a bit more than what was typical then which is nice and then after the H2 the Paug picks right back up for a rollicking finish to the set while staying in bounds the whole way. Grace and Fire provide the encores tonight and the crowd is left to discuss what they just experienced as they wander out into the night.

Okay, look, let’s just get this out there right away. There are a couple of different camps on shows like this. If you are in it for the music (i.e. the hetty jamz, yo) then perhaps this isn’t your cup of tea and you think the hype about The Crest Theatre Show make this one highly overrated. I get that and there is no denying this position. On the other hand you have the Gamehendge fanboys who laud this for being a shining example of one of the handful of times they have blessed us with the performance of this mythic performance art and we should all be so lucky to even have the opportunity to spin it again (not to say anything of the wonderful sbd out there in circulation, of course!).This view is also acceptable because let’s face it we are a collection of a wide array of different levels of band nerds and that is just one strata voicing their opinion from the top of Mt. Icculus ( ::insert nasally snort laugh here:: ). And then there are the middling folk who can possibly appreciate it to a certain degree but are maybe left wanting for one reason or another – and that view is perfectly valid as well.

I suppose the point is that this is a perfect show to showcase the wide range of opinion about this band of ours. You have the high energy, on point playing of the first set with a few jams of note followed by something so special and sought after by a certain segment of the crowd that it is still talked about more than 20 years after the last time that it happened. At this stage I’m not going out seeking a Gamehendge set but I do know that if I happen to be in the room when it happens I will be happy as hell to be a part of the experience. Which is not something every fan will say. So in the end I’ll tell you that should spin the Stash, Reba, and Bowie from the first set here along with the second set pretty much from Ice on (though at that point you might as well add in the Golgi because that’s only another 5 minutes of your life, right?).

After a night off the band would be in Santa Rosa for a Wednesday night show which includes the good ol’ Prison Joke, a hot Melt, and a mess of other somewhat messy stuff. Should be interesting to discuss…