Good to the Last Drop…
Some Phish shows are like some classic albums. You throw them on without even thinking, enjoying every song from start to finish. Every Phish show has its highlights, some greater than others. Sometimes a mediocre first set can lead to a killer second set, or sometimes a single gem sparkles amongst a number of other standard songs. However, some Phish shows come out of the gates loaded with an energy that consumes the entire show into one magnificent musical experience. Today we have selected a few shows that were, and still are, good to the last drop.
1996.8.14 Hershey Park Stadium, Hershey, PA
This show is often overshadowed as it fell between the two night run at Deer Creek and the Clifford Ball. From beginning to end, the show is packed with incredible moments. Getting off to some early improv, Phish begins the show with a fiery “Wilson” that leads into a dark, outside jam. Next up comes “Disease” which brings the show back to earth with a bright, contained jam. If I had to call something “standard Phish”, this would be it. Without taking the song too far out, they carefully improvise within the song’s frame, creating a vibrant melodic jam. The first set is absolutely magical, with a divine version of “Reba”, and a ripping “Stash”.
The highlight of the second set is the raging version of “Tweezer” that should be heard by all. Trey provides some incredible lead work to begin the rock-based jam, before guiding the band into some pitch-shifting madness. “Jim” and “Yem” are also exceptional. This show is a pleasure to listen to, from beginning to end.
Set 1: Wilson -> Jam -> Down with Disease, Fee -> Poor Heart, Reba, The Mango Song, Gumbo, Stash, Hello My Baby
Set 2: Runaway Jim, You Enjoy Myself, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Cars Trucks Buses, Tweezer, Theme From the Bottom, Hold Your Head Up > Cracklin’ Rosie > Hold Your Head Up, Sample in a Jar, Tweezer Reprise
1997.12.11 Rochester War Memorial, Rochester, NY
This is another show that flows with energy from start to finish. Coming at the end of the legendary fall ’97 tour, this show stands out as one of the finest of them all. The initial “PYITE” gets things rolling leading into one of the best, and most famous, versions of “Disease” to date. Segments from this “Disease” are featured in the movie Bittersweet Motel. The band takes this “Disease” for a dark excursion which fittingly makes its way into “Maze”. The energy carries through the set feeding into a bright “Limb by Limb”, packed with Trey’s fluid ’97-style shredding. The band goes without break in the second set, as they pour their creativity into a set filled with improvisational magic. Every song is a highlight, even the extended “BBFCFM”.
“Down with Disease” 12.11.97
Set 1: Punch You In the Eye > Down with Disease -> Maze, Dirt, Limb By Limb, Loving Cup, Rocky Top
Set 2: Drowned -> Roses Are Free* -> Big Black Furry Creature from Mars > Ghost -> Down with Disease -> Johnny B. Goode
1998.11.29 Worcester Centrum, Worcester, MA
This show closed out the fall ’98 tour with a bang, featuring two sets packed with stellar music. The show begins with “Paul and Silas”, and I don’t think its any mystery that bluegrass is a great way to get a party started. The first set is highlighted by the odd combination of “Limb by Limb>Catapault>Kung>Maze”. The set closes with a sit-in by Vermont guitarist Seth Yacavone on two numbers, including “Layla”.
The second features some very heavy jams, so prepare yourself before diving into this one. The set begins with the ween cover “Roses are Free” which segues into a monstrous, exploratory “Simple”. “Possum>Wipeout>Possum” is standout and features some alternative-picking style “DEG” teases. The set follows with a spacey “Gin” that flows seamlessly into “YEM”. Both versions follow in the intergalactic jamming style of ’98 and exhibit the confidence the band has gained over the tour. This is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful second sets Phish has ever performed. The encore adds the final touch to an incredible tour with a sublime “Roggae” followed by “Hello My Baby”.
“Roses are Free>Simple” 11.29.98
Set 1: Paul and Silas, Axilla, Theme From the Bottom, Sparkle, Horn, Limb By Limb > Catapult > Kung > Maze, All the Pain Through the Years > Layla
Set 2: Roses Are Free > Simple, Makisupa Policeman, Possum > Wipe Out > Possum, Bathtub Gin, You Enjoy Myself
Encore: Roggae, Hello My Baby
Note: Rumors are swirling of a Trey solo tour in February 2010. Check out our news section to find out more. Also, if you haven’t already, head over to the newly redesigned Phish.net.