The Riverport Gin
There are certain jams that come to define the shows from which they are a part. Like the “Camden Chalkdust” or the “Providence Bowie”, these jams contain extra special musical highlights that represent peak moments in the band’s career. One of these jams is the “Riverport Gin” from 7.29.98 (included as the filler on Live Phish 17), which frequently contends with the “Went Gin” for the “best ever” version. While any “best ever” discussion is sure to enter subjective waters, there is little argument that this version is the strongest of the year (which happens to feature several memorable outings of the song).
The “Riverport Gin” landed in the opener position and treated fans to an extended jam right from the outset. Following the composed section, Trey quickly begins to latch onto some melodic lines that seem to effortlessly glide over the groove. The jam takes on a soaring, “Went-like” quality, but eventually Mike begins to slightly alter his phrasing, hinting at a new direction. It takes little time for the other members to jump-on, and before we know it, we’re riding the rails of a charging funk train. The transition is so smooth its as if the jam was charted out; as though there are no wrong notes to be played.
The funk paves the way for a heavily syncopated jam and we are taken into a section that can only be described as “primal groove” – each member riffs of one another; fully connected on all levels. As they ride this pulsing electro-groove, you can’t help but be amazed at how close the band is listening to one another. Phrases are exchanged; volume and tempo swell and recede. All signs demonstrate that the band is far less than four separate individuals, but rather one single expressive force bound for the deepest form of cosmic exploration. As the funk winds down, the song’s theme reemerges for a triumphant finish that concludes one of the finest openings to any Phish show, ever.
So without further ado I present to you:
“The Riverport Gin” (1998.7.29)
Let us know which version you prefer, and leave a comment telling why.
[picture courtesy of GlowStickWars.com]