From the Archives
After listening to the most recent shows several times, we can start to delve back into Phish’s full catalog of live shows. 2009 is simply one of the years, gladly added to the library of Phish shows making up my collection. As I sort through, looking for forgotten favorites, or hidden gems, it occurred to me that it was right around this time last year that Kevin Shapiro, Phish’s archivist, broadcast a selection of songs on livephish.com. Having the gold-mine of Phish shows at his fingertips, Shapiro took us through some incredible moments, reminiscent of the Phish-radio broadcasts from their past festivals.
With a taste for Phish that is incredibly similar to my own, I always trust Shapiro to select gems with great sound quality. Last year was no different. Delving into a wide range of songs from the catalog, some unreleased, Shapiro took listeners on journeys that are certainly worth revisiting. Similarly, the year before on the fifth anniversary of livephish (12/20), Shapiro did a livephish radio broadcast also featuring some incredible gems (including the Haley’s from our 10 Phish Jams you Should Hear). Today we will offer Shapiro’s selections from last summer’s broadcast on livephish radio. We have selected 10 of our favorites from both broadcasts and discussed them (FYI: selecting only 10 was extremely difficult). This is a real treat for any Phish fan, and we figure it should help with the ‘end of summer blues’ that seems to be setting in. Obviously, because he’s Phish’s archivist, all of the downloads are SBDs which really enhances the listening. The first five picks are from last year’s broadcast, the latter 5 are from the year before. Both of the broadcasts are available for download below containing what Kevin calls a “highly potent combination of primal Phish”.
10 Picks from the Archives
1. Reba 1993-8-16 – One of the best versions of the song. Ever. This “Reba” is longer and more exploratory than the jams the song usually offers. The composed section is nailed with standard ’93 execution. Jon’s drumming is particularly noticeable around 4:47, as he absolutely nails the tomb section. The jam begins by straying from the normal melodic flow of the song as Page and Trey begin to lock into a descending, outside pattern. The entire band quickly picks up on this and the jam takes a very early turn in another, darker direction. The jam takes a more rock-based focus, which then slows back down and slowly turns toward the lighter side. Gradually, the song progresses back towards a more typical “Reba” jam. The contrast between the light and the dark is the extremely unique aspect of this “Reba” which places it among my favorites. Just when this jam gets good, it gets better.
2. Gumbo 1997-7-29 – From the summer of funk, this Gumbo is an absolute gem. The jam enters into a funk groove with heavy effects all around. Slowly, Trey picks up the jam and begins a simple lead pattern over top of the groove. Never standing too far out, Trey manages to solo throughout the entire jam in a way that glides over the rhythm. Page complements Trey’s lead with careful phrasing, helping to provide a thick texture over top of the rhythm. It is these full sounding, yet minimalistic funk jams that make ’97 such an incredible period. The jam never strays to far outside, yet the funk carries it to a level of groove that could not have been established otherwise. A different type of jamming, from a very interesting period in Phish’s storied past.
3. AC/DC Bag 1997-12-30 – Another one of those “best ever” jams. This one is more known than the one above, but needs constant revisiting. Each time I listen to this jam I discover some new aspect that I hadn’t noticed before. Bringing the year of the funk to a close in one of the finest venues in the world, this jam is the culmination of all the progress made throughout ’97.
Shortly after the start of the guitar solo, Trey reserves himself for a more groove-based jam. Layered with Page’s clav work, the funky, yet minimalist jam slowly begins to build. As Mike begins to slightly alter his bass-line, the rest of the band slowly layers effects moving the jam into a completely new section. Still heavy on the funk, the jam rides the groove above Jon’s beat. Trey delves into a short, interesting, octave-dropped section before returning back to the funk with some heavy rica-rica. The following sections are some of the most dynamic in any jam. The band goes in and out of a soaring jam, filling the gaps with a soft, piano-based soundscape. The jam finally closes out with a Klezmer-like sound.
4. Haley’s>David Bowie 1994-11-26 – I love the period from ’93-’95 because every show is played with so much energy, as though they had something to prove on a nightly basis. After the raging Hayley’s the band slowly, and smooth as ever, slips into the intro to “Bowie”. Similar to the “Reba” from above, from the outset this jam is headed outside places. From the show that features the “Slave” from A Live One, this jam is an exhibition of Phish’s psychedelic exploratory abilities. The jam unleashes into a full roaring tide of chaos, raging on with dark howls from Trey’s Doc. This is the type of jam where it feels like the band may take off, with a rhythmic groove that implies motion, the entire band builds on the tension before unleashing once more into the raging conclusion of “Bowie”. This version of “Bowie” is just under 40 minutes alone, and explores an extremely wide range of outside jamming, including a wild vacuum solo midway through.
This is Phish fabric cut from a different period in time, and this soundboard recording helps us cherish it. It’s impossible to point out a particular section of this jam. In fact, the entire show from the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis, MN is incredible, as is the entire month 11/94 (11/30 and 12/1 are both Livephish releases). This jam is an ideal look at Phish in possibly their most psychedelic phase. This gift deserves endless thanks to Kevin.
5. Ghost>Slave to the Traffic Light 1999-7-4 – This “Ghost” is the way the song is supposed to be played. Recent versions are a bit sloppy at the outset, and this version should be used as a lesson. This is how funk music is played. Each member, slowly builds together a piece of the groove, making for a sound that is greater that its parts. Layering effects early on in the song foreshadows where the jam would eventually lead. Hardly containable between the lyrical sections, the band explodes into raging funk at every opportunity. When the actual jam begins, the band dives into a deep groove which Trey floats above with his effect-laden tone. The melodic jam continues and eventually flows right into “Slave”. Slave features a soaring melodic solo that makes for a stunning piece of music. Trey’s solo is very interesting as he encorporates several different techniques and effects to make for an ethereal layer of sounds. The combination of these two songs works perfectly, showing two contrasting styles of Phish.
6. Stash 1998-4-2 – From the famous Island Tour. Need I say more? One of the greatest four night runs in Phish history, and this “Stash” is certainly a highlight. Reaching into the intergalactic soundscapes that defined that period, this phase separates the band from any other period in their career. As tight as can be, and exploring a new realm of music, post-funk, the island tour is a display of Phish at the peak of their jamming. The jam enters into an early groove, avoiding the all out wailing that typifies standard “Stash” jams. By no means is this jam standard.
7. Bathtub Gin> The Real Me> Bathtub Gin 1995-12-29 – This second set “Bathtub” seems pretty standard at the start, going through the song’s typical melody. However, when Trey locks into a riff with a droning ring to it, the jam takes a different turn. Going back and forth between the drone and an explosive chord, over Jon’s standard 1-2 rock beat, the jam begins to take a dive into a new form of rock.
Completely leaving behind all memories of what was “Bathtub”, the band slowly picks up on the queue for “The Real Me”, a raging The Who number. Giving the song the fierce Townshend-like energy it deserves, the jam continues to build steam. Adding tempo, and feeding into the rock, the song leaves the cover with a smoking trail behind it. Trey’s droning continues, leading the jam into an all out rocker, with a mind-blowing bass line by Cactus. Trey and Page then lock into a chord battle, and with Trey’s quick wahs, it makes for a glimpse into the funk that would soon emerge in the months following the show. The melodies of “Bathtub” slowly rise up from underneath the jam, eventually leading the song to a slow end.
8. AC/DC Bag 1999-9-14 – Another AC/DC bag with a magical jam. A previously unreleased SBD with incredible sound quality offering a much better listen. Mike absolutely kills this jam, as the other members layer effects, creating a psychedelic blend with Mike’s Talking Heads-like bass line. A fully equal parted jam, exploring the psychedelic realms, with an unexplainable halt in the midst of the jam. Full of funk, yet completely outside, this jam is such an interesting blend of the different Phish sounds. Coming in and out of the stop-time, into the same roaring funk which continues to build as the jam progresses. This jam is a lesson in timing to any musician. After a few bits of stop-time, with dives back into the funk, the jam dips deeper into the abyss. Eventually trailing off into an ambient layer of sounds (with bird sounds included), this jam is an example of how the band can carry an entire jam from start to finish, with no noticeable lead instrument. Did I mention Mike absolutely kills it?
9. Contact 2003-1-3 – This is one of my personal favorites from any jam in ’03. When I heard this recording I was so optimistic about the direction the band was heading. This jam made up for all the flaws that occurred on that tour in the winter of ’03. Funk-laden, and playing as tight as ’94 the band leads this jam through the ultimate funk journey. Full of pauses, which feature individual solos, the jam is absolutely great. Every member of the band is at their best during this “Contact” encore.
10. Tweezer 1994-11-28 – No list of Phish jams would be complete without a Tweezer from the ’94 period. In a time that took this song to heights that were rarely seen after, this version from the MSU Field House in Bozeman, MT is one of the best examples. Another previously released SBD, this gem spent too long in the distorted sounds of an AUD. Clocking in at over 40 minutes, the jam is a real musical journey, leading the listener through numerous sections. Starting with a heavy rock focus, the jam turns sideways yet stays within the frame of the song. Eventually, the band takes the jam toward ambiance with scattered sections of build-up. Finally the jam returns to the basic foundation of the rock jam before finishing off in an outside, chaotic, jumble of sounds.
Here are the downloads for the two broadcasts by Kevin Shapiro on Livephish radio.
DOWNLOAD Kevin Shapiro’s Broadcast from 2007-12-20
Interesting factoid: In a response to whether or not there is a possibility of a Big Cypress DVD, Shapiro had the following to say (click HERE to read the interview with jambands):
“If you were asking my opinion I’d say 99%. Unedited or uninterrupted is the only way I’ve ever presented the idea. I think that’s how Cypress deserves to be presented. And no one has ever disagreed with that in principle. But that’s a very meaty video release. I don’t doubt that somewhere along the way, someone will suggest that we should release less than the whole thing. And by advocating a full-show release, I don’t think we rule that out. We could do it in full length, either in parts or altogether and still do a documentary or more creative piece on it too. I hope we do it in full even if it takes other forms as well. Nobody disagrees with the magic of Cypress. It’s a great show; a landmark event and we have excellent quality audio and video. It would be sick! The holy grail.”