Every Phish fan is constantly on the hunt for low-key, uncirculated shows. Not just any show will do. For a show to be a true sleeper, it has to feature transcendent musical experiences, that were witnessed by those at the show, and then seemingly forgotten. This is not to say these shows have not been heard, or are unknown, they are simply less talked about, less traded, and for some reason have made their way off the main circuit of Phish shows. Perhaps due to a remote location, or a lack of tapers present, these shows sit in the hands of a few people, until a time like now, when we decide to share them with all of you.
A few years back, Phish’s archivist Kevin Shapiro hinted at some sleeper shows, several of which have become Livephish releases since. A “sleeper” can be subjective to aspects such as location, available recordings, personal preference etc. Today, we have selected three under-appreciated shows for today, that we feel have flown under the radar for too long. These shows were on his list, so don’t be surprised if you see them released in the future. In terms of quality these are some of the best under-the-radar shows the band has performed. Whether you have these shows in your stash or not, ask yourself, ‘when was the last time you listened to them’.
1994.07.05 The Congress Centre, Ottawa, Ontario
Kudos to you if you have this show in your collection. Nearly unheard of in trading circles, this show has been hiding from the ears of Phish fans for too long. This show comes one day before the well-known show in Montreal which features a killer “Reba” (which was released by livephish as a bonus track on itunes). As the band made their second venture to the north in ’94, they were far more experienced than their first trip. Coming off the legendary performances that marked the spring of ’94 (Bomb Factory, my personal favorite UIC Pavilion), the band was in the process of reaching the experimental heights that would fully be achieved in ’95. Displaying some of their tightest playing, with ears more cunning than ever, it is clear how practiced the band is at this point. Every time a member of the band begins a new pattern, the other members adapt their own playing to suit it, much in the spirit of their ‘Oh-Kee-Pah’ practice sessions.
This show is special for a number of reasons. Ottawa is way off the beaten track, and the band has been known to take advantage of situations where less is expected of them. This show features the second last “Letter to Jimmy Page” ever (the last one coming 10 days after this show), which is a song that saw its end far too early. Aside from this rarity, the highlights of the show are the “Stash” which features a ripping, dark jam that is wildly outside. The “Gin” is phenomenal, featuring another one of Trey’s incredible droning-licks. Riding the drone, the band locks into a groove which eventually leads to a repeating melody courtesy of Trey. Trey feeds the jam with Jimmy Page style licks, creating a heavy layer of sounds before finally dropping into a funk groove. The jam finally reaches a point of complete outside space, taking the listener on full musical journey. The best of both the type I and type II worlds. The contrast and timing between the different sections is a true statement of the band’s tightness at this point. The “Yem” is another highlight, featuring outside experimental jamming. Jon provides us with his classic rendition of “The Great Gig in the Sky”, making for a truly Phish-filled night in the great north.
Listen to the “Bathtub Gin” from 1994-07-05.
1998.08.01 Alpine Valley, East Troy, WI
For some reason, this incredible show has not received the attention it deserves. Set amongst so many other hig quality performances, the Alpine show has been lost in the splendor of summer ’98. This period was a journey into the intergalactic side of Phish jamming, separated from the rest through the use of heavy effects, and spacey-psychedelic improvisation. From the start of the first song, the band’s first rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On”, indicators point towards a magical night. Following with “Mike’s Groove”, Esther making up the sandwich, the Phishiness begins early as Trey and Page start to converse in a “random note language”. However, the real highlight of the night comes during the “2001>Magilla>2001>Tweezer>Fluffhead”. The segueway into “Magilla” goes without notice as the songs blend perfectly together.
The “Tweezer” emerges out of the “2001″ beat, and leads into the finest jam of the night. The early stages of the “Tweezer” jam (which kicks off at4:25), are lead by Mike’s heavy bombs. In the style of ’98, the song takes on a funky, spacey form. Page layers effects over the deep funk groove, as Trey sits back providing his wah fills. The jam creates mystical feel with a hazy melody. No member of the band steps out of their role, as each contributes to the groove in a way that allows each member to be heard. The developing patterns and interweaving layers combine to produce an aura of music like no other. Absolute divinity is reached around 12:00 and follows through until the jam fades into “Fluffhead”. This is one of the finest jams from a period stacked with so many significant musical moments. An absolute gem. No amount of words can do this masterful, spontaneous composition justice.
Listen to the “Tweezer” from 1998-08-01. I hope you it enjoy as much as I do.
1999.07.31 Fuji Rock Festival, Naeba, Niigata, Japan
Phish capped off their summer ’99 tour at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. The third night, played on the Field of Heaven stage, is the sleeper highlight. With surroundings like no other, placed into a foreign atmosphere, Phish took advantage and completely let loose. The first two nights offered the band the chance to warm up and adjust to the surroundings. By night three, the band brought together the elements of their surroundings with their traditional playful form, leading toward some extremely unique moments. One of the finest came when Newang Chechang, a Tibetan monk, came out and delivered a moving speech on his people’s exile from Tibet. The speech is followed by Newang on a long horn accompanied by Jon on the vacuum. The two sounds blend to create a uniquely moving piece of music.
The “2001>David Bowie” from this show is the highlight, and is a truly magical jam. The musical contours of this jam are what make it so interesting weaving in and out of a standard “Bowie” jam, entering numerous outside sections. Eventually leading into an ambient section with short, tasteful phrasing from both Trey and Page, the song dives back into the standard “Bowie” finish. The entire show is very well played with some very interesting jams.
Listen to the “Bowie” from 1999-07-31.
Watch the video of Jon and Newang on vac and horn. Also watch the incredible “Simple” encore below.
Jon and Newang
Simple – Part 1
Simple – Part 2 (Trey rips jam apart)