Something In The Air Pt. II: Providence Civic Center
With fall tour rapidly approaching, it seems appropriate to start looking at some of the venues Phish will be visiting along the way. As soon as fall tour rumors began to spread, the October 22 show at the Dunkin Donuts Center (formerly the Providence Civic Center) in Rhode Island quickly caught the eye of many fans. The venue carries a deep musical history that includes a long list Rock Hall of Fame of performers that seems to inspire Phish whenever they take the stage there. As a result, this destination has become one of the most anticipated tour stops on the upcoming fall tour, and I predict it to live-up to these expectations (Part I of this article was posted just weeks before the two-night run in Camden this summer).
Three of Phish’s visits to the venue have been officially released, and are among some of the band’s finest performances to date – these being the 12.29.94 show featuring the monstrous second set “Bowie,” and the two night Island Tour run from ’98 (with far too many highlights to mention). But those who are familiar with the visits from ’95 and ’99 as well, will be able to draw the connection that Phish has simply never performed a bad or even an average show in this venue. Like Camden, Phish taps into some unknown cosmic energy in Providence that allows them to journey deep into psychedelic territory.
However, Phish is not alone in realizing this powerful energy that permeates from the PCC’s walls. The Dead have also managed to discover the same source on more than one occasion. I find it to be no coincidence that the Dead have a segment included on an official release from this venue (Dick’s Picks 12), and another show that contains a “best ever” version (along with many other memorable visits).
I’ve chosen some highlight moments from both the Dead and Phish’s past performances at the Providence Civic Center that span the course of 36 years. These examples show the bands in heightened improvisational states, resulting in some top-notch jams. (audio to come shortly…)
1. “David Bowie” 12.29.94
Nearly 35 minutes of pure magic unfolds in this quintessential Phish jam. From the opening note of the “Digital Delay Loop” that precedes the intro to the roaring finish, this jam contains everything that one could ask for.
2. “Jam” > “China Cat Sunflower” >”I Know You Rider“(6.26.74)
Featured on Dick’s Picks 12, this segment is stunningly beautiful. The opening jam delicately eases its way into “China Cat” which blossoms into another sublime jam prior to the lyrics. Here we have an incredible recording by the legendary Jerry Moore that perfectly captures the Wall of Sound in all its glory.
3. “Birds of a Feather” > “2001” > “Brother” (4.4.98)
The highlight from Phish’s first night in Providence on the Island Tour in ’98. An early, but exploratory, “Birds” leads into one of the best versions of “2001″ ever played and is followed by a deeply psychedelic “Brother” (three “best ever” versions). This combination served as one of the top highlights from Phish’s much-loved Island Tour.
4. “Down With Disease” (12.12.95)
A classic from December ’95. Trey reels the band in toward a collective bluesy-funk theme that sends the jam on an extended psychedelic journey. The jam continues to balance itself between several darker themes and the blues-funk groove from which it emerged.
5. “Let It Grow” (5.14.78)
While length rarely determines quality, this “Let It Grow” is among the longest versions ever performed, but also the best. As the jam begins, the band locks in on charging groove that propels Jerry’s flurry of guitar acrobatics. This is one of those jams that requires your full attention – there’s so much going on. I suggest turning it up loud allowing the music fill to the air.
6. “Oh Kee Pah Ceremony” > “YEM” (4.5.98)
Every Phish fan knows the power an opener can bring to a show. This opening combination from the final night of the Island Tour was no exception. On the last of four nights in the Islands, the band had fully realized a new form of cosmic-funk allowing them to reach higher levels of musical discovery.
7. “Piper” (12.13.99)
This is one of those classic effect-driven ’99 jams where Fishman is at his best – gliding above the groove and perfectly locked in with Mike and Trey’s playing. A fan in the taper section yells “Yeah!” just as the band begins to dig into a dark funk-groove. The band comes together in a King Sunny Aide style moment where it seems all four musicians are working to produce a single collective sound. The drums carry the jam through modulations in volume and tempo, with syncopation being the element allowing tension to build. Trey’s use of loops, as well as the the “reverse” effect, are in full-force, aiding the band’s soaring trance-like sound.