Background (Ghost Position: Set 1 – Song 6 of 9)
Skipping just one show and making a late first set appearance. After contrasting Ghosts at Lakewood and Dallas what would happen next? No segues on either side of this Ghost.
Composed Section (0:00-2:59)
Not the best start, but certainly better than the awful start at Starplex. A good pace to this Ghost and the band seems confident right from the start. Trey lets out a fun “Yeah” at 1:19. The solo section features a heavy dose of Gordon to go along with Page. A good pause with some good crowd noise is followed by a botched drop in.
Opening Jam (3:00-5:00)
Gordon lays some extra stank as soon as the jam starts. He really hammers into the bass, while Trey and Page get some Captain Crunch going. Trey yells again at 3:15, always a good sign. The jam stays in this smooth groove with Mike doing most of the leading for the first 50 seconds. Cactus is really laying it down!
At 3:50 Trey starts to move slowly towards the front and begins to solo. Gordon stays with the same pattern for a bit, before slowly moving to a more supportive role. At 4:08 Trey begins to repeat a lick and the jam changes directions. It seems like the jam is going to have a more blissful tone but Page has other ideas. After playing a quick couple notes on the piano 4:43, he digs into the clav. Trey, moves into a much crunchier sound and the jam moves towards that direction.
A funny thing happened on the way to the murk (5:01-6:44)
Deep, deep crunch to start this section. For the first minute Page’s clav and Trey’s axe are almost one instrument. Gordon is really laying down a deep bass line, while Fish plays a steady, smooth beat.
At 5:40 Page hits the piano and the jam really finds an awesome space. Page starts to fill Trey’s gaps and Trey responds by letting his guitar breathe. Trey’s tone is a boisterous dirty sound, Big Red is letting each note ring out and letting Gordon and Page really make this section gorgeous. 5:40-6:45 is really top notch stuff!
Into the well (6:45-8:04)
At 6:45 Trey starts to move things into the black a bit. He begins to dive down into a what I picture as the band falling down a well. Gordon follows Trey and starts to push things downward. Page is the key to this section, the Chairman is playing dark chords on the organ, while he is still on the piano. Page is offering a lifeline with those beautiful piano sounds, back to the light. Fishman is brilliant, staying neutral and allowing the other three to find the path. At 7:13 Trey responds to Page’s lifeline and begins to climb out of the well. Slowly, measure by measure, he is taking steps towards the light. Gordon nudges him along the way to help the cause. The light is coming! This section is super cool, and took me about 10 listens to really understand what was going on. I love it when every note means that much!
From the top of the well….funk! (8:05-10:32)
At 8:05 Big Red alerts the crowd they are back from that little trip with a quick melter. The band is just as happy as Big Red, and really dig in around him. So what should we do now that we made it out of the well? We dance! How do we dance in 1997? We funk dance. At 8:25 we get a classic funk lick from Trey, and in no time James Brown has showed up to our top of the well party.
DO NOT TOUCH THE CACTUS, IT WILL HURT YOU 8:40-10:32
At 8:40 The Cactus takes this funk to another level. He lays down an awesome beat with quick notes right next to each other. As if that wasn’t enough he lays down some slaps sounding as if they had been delivered by the hand of Thor at 9:08. Folks, it does not get much funkier than this! We have hit some funk in other previous Ghosts, but not like this. Gordo is just playing his F’ing ass off. Each slap of his bass is a jolt to the soul. Funny, I thought they left Victor Wooten back in France. His bass destruction leads to everyone else moving around him, while making sure they steps their game up to meet his. At 10:10 the crowd can only start to cheer for this performance.
The Payoff 10:33-13:49
At 10:33 Gordon has officially jolted Trey with energy. Big Red’s turn. Trey lets each note ring. We have gone down the well, climbed back up, and danced at the top. Time for the celebration! At 11:07 Page lays down some beautifully timed chords and Phish is completely locked in. At 11:38 Trey picks it up and Fish follows right behind him. This celebration is building and by 12:00 they are clicking on all cylinders as all four band members are really bringing it. At 12:30 Trey notices the full band beauty and starts to play less notes. Each note echoes through the bliss melodies created by the rest of the band. At 13:07 Trey hits a series of notes that I could listen to every day of my life. At 13:30 Gordon throws a super fast bass line in just for good measure. LawnMemo claps!
Every celebration must come to an end (13:50-15:08)
At 13:50 Trey changes his guitar tone and lets each note fade out. The jam follows and fades with each passing measure. Quieter and quieter, until nothing but Page and Fish are left. Beautiful!
I didn’t give Fishman nearly enough love throughout this review. He holds down the entire jam perfectly. He does not overplay, and gives the other three the freedom to create magic.
This Ghost doesn’t get nearly enough love. What is it missing? A 20 min track length? Who cares! In 15 minutes we get a blissful murk, a dark section, a climbing section, MASSIVE funk, and a great payoff. Through all these different sections, it moves beautifully forward. This Ghost is a gem! I really recommend giving this version a few spins to truly grasp the greatness.