(Remastered Matrix [Matrix is SBD+AUD] by @KernelForbin)
Background (Ghost Position: Set 1 – Song 4 of 5)
The debut of Ghost in the legendary Fall ’97 tour and the first indoor American Ghost. It takes until the fourth show of tour for the song to show up, but when it does…..my goodness. This is one of my favorite sets from one of my favorite shows. Preceded by monster versions of Tweezer and Reba, this Ghost was set up for greatness. (From phish.net: “In The Phish Book Trey referred to the 11/17/97 Denver “Ghost” as his favorite part of his favorite show from the fall tour, a show the band listened to many times, in a way influencing themselves.”) Much like the Lakewood Ghost, this Denver Ghost is groundbreaking and launches Ghost to a whole new level.
Composed Section (0:00-3:05)
A solid start leads to a great tempo that is not too fast, and not too slow. Pure confidence from the band already at this point. Gordon is really slapping away, and the vocals are very good. Page gets down during the solo section and rips a funky clav solo that fits perfectly. The pause is a bit longer than normal…and wait….wait….what’s this???? They nail the drop in!!! It can be done! Someone pick me up from the floor. Page plays some cool piano notes after the drop in and the vocals are solid. This is a great intro section.
Groove Funk Lockdown (3:05-5:46)
With a couple of sectioned off measures to start the jam, Phish is able to build the funk deep and early. Trey is super funky right from the start and Mike gets into a very strong, but laid back bass line. At 3:40 they move into free flow mode. At 4:00 Trey plays a fantastic funk riff that he repeats a few times over. Page lays into the riff providing some melodies to mesh perfectly with it.
This section is completely balanced. Fish is laying down a smooth beat that anchors down this section. Trey is balancing between leading out and laying down riffs which allows others to step forward. Any note that Trey holds, results in Page coming in with new melodies. Mike locks down on a groove and moves slightly away from it at times, to give the jam some extra love. A ton of patience being shown by each band member. They just groove this funk while I dance my ass off. At no point do I sense that anyone is pulling away trying to do their own thing.
Page Side Space Side (5:47-7:09)
At 5:47 Page fires some perfectly timed space lasers to see what will happen. They are fired subtly and blend together well with the funk. The crowd loves it! These are some of the cooler sounds that have come from Page’s rig. Trey answers the call and picks up his playing, really cranking out some beautifully licks. At 6:15 Mike takes his line up the ladder, then at 6:20 Fish throws down a monster fill.
After Page holds down a super long laser at 6:32 Trey decides to play in space with Page. Trey sends out some echoed sounds and it looks like we are heading to deep space nine. Not today though….
The Heavenly Ascent Part I (7:09-10:20)
The beauty of Page’s space section is that it changes things up just enough. A great groove at the beginning of the jam, then Phish changes things up for a couple of minutes with the space section. At 7:09 you can hear Trey switch tones and he plays notes that cut through the space effects, still coming from Page’s rig. Awesome stuff!
At 7:28 Page comes back to Earth and finds his piano for the first time. Trey has a thicker tone and the beauty of Page’s piano contrasts beautifully. Trey is really leading during this section, taking control but not overpowering the jam. Each note is so fluid, and at 8:18 Fish lays down another monster fill. At 8:40 Trey lets a note drift for a couple of seconds which allows Page at 8:43 to play some of my favorite melodies of any jam. He comes in and just melts my soul.
We see pure bliss from Page during the rest of this section. Trey lays down some funk riffs providing contrast to the heavenly sounds. Mike gives the jam just enough kick to really make things perfect.
The 8:43-10:20 section makes me feel like I am swimming though endless clouds on an upward journey to Phish heaven. I know what is ahead of me and all the beauty that awaits, I am just in the process of getting there. I can feel the light but just ever so lightly. Needless to say, I love this section. It truly moves me..
The Heavenly Ascent Part II (10:20-13:05)
After Trey starts to cry out with some notes, at 10:20 Fish moves into an almost all cymbal laden groove. Trey continues to climb with the new beat Fish has moved into. Mike is holding down a low key groove that allows the ascension. Page has moved from the lead to more of a complimentary role, with gorgeous interplay between he and Trey.
From 10:20-12:00, the climb towards the heavens is bit quicker. Much like when you are almost at the end of a journey, you seem to get more of a burst of energy at the last few moments. You can’t wait to get there! The Phish ascent is still happening, it is just at a quicker pace.
An interesting thing happens before the breakthrough of the clouds…Phish stops to look around for a bit! At the 12:00 they slow it down just a bit, in this heavenly place they have created. Why rush? Sometimes you need to slow it down and just take things in. Remember the beauty that is around you, it is a place that is difficult to come back to. Phish is driving in their own journey, they set the pace. You can feel the breakthrough coming now. You know this jam is about to take flight. Sitting around and enjoying things makes the payoff that much better!
Welcome to the Phish Heaven Dance Party (13:05-16:00)
At 13:05 Trey reaches down from up above and grabs my hand to pull me up the rest of the way. Only at 13:25 do I realize he has a machine gun in his other hand!! He rips into a few seconds of “Machine Gun Trey” before deciding on a different path.
At 13:47 I have firmly planted my feet in this Phish created heaven. Trey wants to welcome me to what Fall ’97 heaven is all about. Dance party cow funk rage!!! He rips into a nasty lick that Mike answers beautifully. Mike comes ripping in with one of my all time favorite Cactus bass lines. Even when Trey scales back for a bit, Cactus just picks it up. Page then throws some funk into this party.
Groove> Ascension>Full out dance party…Phish I love you! After doing an awesome job holding things down through the first 14 min or so, Fishman and Gordon are completely unleashed. The groove to my dance step is powered by the Fish/Gordon combo. The top half of my dancing madness is created through the melodies of Trey and Page. What next?
Running and Destroying Everything in Our Path (16:03-18:18)
At 16:03 Trey leans over and whispers to me “Even this heavenly jam must end…However we need to run and see everything before it does”. The band grabs my hand and we run like few have run before. It does not matter what is in our path, we run it over. Nothing is stopping us.
Every endorphin in my body is being released during this sprint. Gordon is murdering a bass line, Fish is beating the drums like they are a red headed step child, and Page plays some piano for some crazy contrast. But Trey…Trey at 16:36 destroys all of existence like only he can. The beauty of this peak is not necessarily the magnificence of Trey, but what he plays in conjunction with the other three. The other three are killing things, while Trey finds this amazing peak, yet doesn’t overplay it. Pure brilliance.
At 17:30 Trey has to slow himself a bit. Fishman is still killing it though, and Trey plays an uptempo funk riff. The sprint starts to slowly move into a jog, then a walk.
The Downward Outro Home (18:18-21:24)
At 18:18 Page plays a very cool chord over the massive bass line Mike is playing. Our time up here in the clouds is over. The crowd, like myself, is very appreciative. This journey is not over however…We are going to ease our way down.
Gordon plays a fantastic melody that provides the soundtrack for the route back home. Still you can feel the happiness in the band. It reminds me of when something great is ending, or is over. Almost as much fun as the actual time, is the time spent talking about what has happened. This outro jam is that for me. Instead of just ending after the massive peak, Phish gives us time to reflect on what the hell just happened. There is closure, and some fantastic sounds to let us think about the adventure we have just undertaken.
Some last sprinkles from Page’s Piano at the 20:20 mark provide the final light. Beautiful, beautiful Mike and Fish led outro.
Trey reminds us at the end…Oh and by the way…that was not even the end of the first set….FIRE!
When Phish plays some of it’s greatest moments, it makes me feel the music and just listen. This Ghost, is a jam that changed the band, inspiring them for one of their greatest tours ever. I wrote what I feel, and hopefully you followed along and enjoyed it. I think this Ghost is perfect. It has a great intro, a fantastic groove, a bliss ascension, an insane peak, and an awesome outro. Five (at least) distinct sections that are all great. The flow is as good as any jam. Each section moves beautifully to the next. The balance between each member is fantastic. I am not saying there are not other Ghosts equal, or possibly even better…I am just saying this Ghost does nothing wrong, and in my opinion, is perfect.