Disclaimer…(My first Show)
12/11/97 Rochester, New York is a day my entire soul remembers quite well. I was just 17 at the time, but had been listening to Phish for about a year and a half. I had listened to every studio album released, and a couple of tapes I was lucky enough to have. I was so damn excited to go. I was a naive 17 year old, and also a goody two shoes. I remember walking through the parking lot and someone saying “nuggets” in my ear. Hell, I barely had ever drank alcohol in my life at that time. I thought he was talking about the Denver NBA team! I was there for one reason, and one reason only, the music.
Phish would open with Punch You in the Eye, and I was getting down right from the start. My favorite version of Down with Disease would follow (I had no idea at the time how good it was). However, it wouldn’t be until the 3rd Song…Maze…that my mind would truly be blown. I was seated in the stands Page side probably around 30 rows up from the floor. The search lights from Kuroda timed with the solos from Page and Trey made my jaw drop. I had never imagined anything that awesome, could happen during a concert. Phish had me from that point forward. The second set put me on a planet I still have not found my way back from. Every time I hear Maze my entire soul goes back to that moment, some things never leave you.
I had never heard Ghost before I heard it live that night. One of my friends around me knew it and let me know what it was. It certainly hooked me in Rochester. The placement, along with the segues from BBFCFM then DWD Reprise made it so special. It wasn’t hard for Ghost to become my favorite song after that.
Background (Ghost Position: Set 2 – Song 4 of 6)
Many of you may know this show for the Roses debut, which was heavily featured in “Bittersweet Motel”.
After two consecutive Ghost appearances in the second set Ghost moves to the end section of the second set. A very cool BBFCFM jam creates this Ghost from a very spacey place. I have also included the second DWD (or DWD reprise). Down with Disease was unfinished in the first set…so Phish finished it in the second set! Not included is the fantastic Drowned->Roses are Free debut to open the set and a ripping Johnny B. Goode set closer.
BBFCFM>Composed Section (8:03-10:53)
BBFCFM gets super crazy. It had not been played in over 100 shows, and it certainly made up for lost time. The end of it goes into a crazy space ship ride, then some Phish metal.
At 6:42, from the depths of space the true segue to Ghost begins. Almost dead space except for some crazy bending noises. It then breaks down to what reminds me of a Western. Well maybe, a Space Western. Crazy, cool stuff. Then it completely fades away until Trey counts off at the 8:00 mark.
I included the entire BBFCFM because this Ghost truly emerges from that space. It has a different feel compared to most of the other Ghosts we have looked at. It has been a while since we had a Ghost with a segue on the front end.
The space from BBFCFM makes this Ghost feel darker, and also gives it a bit of a slower pace. The start-up is very good and the entire band sounds so confident. The vocals are clear and crisp.
Page gets down in the solo section, and Gordon slaps a bit but he mostly provides Page with support. Average solo section. A longer that average pause, then they absolutely nail the drop in! Rochester 97…you complete me!
Patient, Minimalist, Grooved Funk (10:53-15:50)
The jam gets crazy for a bit at the outset, before settling down into a groove created by Gordon. After some sectioned off jamming, Trey lets a chord echo at 11:28. Gordon lays down a bass line, while Page lets the crunch go over top of it. Gordon and Fish are locking down the groove and allow a ton of room for Page and Trey to operate.
It is a serious groove, and Trey barely makes a peep until the 12:29 mark. I love when Trey sits back and lets things grow around him. It gives him time to sit back, take a look at the landscape, and find where he can be most effective. A great groove is going down already, he has all the time in the world to plan.
Even when Trey starts to play, he is very minimal in this section. Page’s crunch, Mike’s deep bass line, and Fish’s developed beat, are leading this jam. This is some serious, deep, Fall ’97 funk. The saying goes “sometimes less is more”. I think the minimalist approach Trey takes in this section it is brilliant. Some of my favorite Phish funk.
Very high marks to Cactus in this section as well. He is really digging deep into the funk but does not overplay. He is leading the jam yet never makes himself the center of attention. Mike blends perfectly with Page and Fish. Exactly what being locked in is all about.
By 14:05 Trey starts to interject himself a bit more. Very slowly, and very lightly. At the 14:10 mark Page moves to the piano and hints at his greatness. From 14:10-14:35 this might only be 25 seconds long, but in those 25 seconds Page excites my soul. In twenty beautiful seconds, I feel like I am on a beach looking at the most beautiful sunset. A couple of birds even fly by just to complete the scene. No joke, I just listened to those 25 seconds, 15 times. The smooth, deep, relentless bass line makes those notes that much sweeter.
After the beauty from Page, he brings a bit of space to this Ghost jam. The minimalist style of Fall ’97 is in full display. Trey is still playing ever so lightly. Fishman could be a freaking metronome at this point. I think this section is completely brilliant. The jam is so patient, you know something is coming…
The Build (15:50-19:10)
At 15:50 Trey starts to take the lead a bit. Then at 16:05 he plays a lick that he repeats several times (Known as the “build lick” form this point forward in this review). Gordon’s bass meshes with it perfectly. Page moves to the piano at 16:20 and you can FEEL the energy building. Mike starts to move around a bit at the 16:43 mark. Measure by measure the intensity is increasing.
At 16:55 Trey plays a lick that takes the jam down for just a second. Page responds with filling the room with enormous piano sounds. The jam really starts to build quickly from Page’s Piano. Trey starts to repeat the “build lick” he created earlier at the 17:30 mark. Fishman is subtly pushing the jam further and further.
Trey repeats the “build lick” over and over, and lets the jam grow around him. This sucker is hot!!! At 18:04 Page plays sounds from the piano that make me feel about 3,000 different emotions!!! I feel like I am heading back to the beautiful sunset…Only this time, I am riding in a tank, blowing shit up and running over everything in my path. I don’t know whether to sit down and stare in awe, cry from the range of emotions my body is experiencing, or enter a dance competition!!! To say no other band can make me feel that many emotions at once is an understatement.
This build is absolutely fantastic. This build moves every ounce of who I am.
A lot of my favorite Phish moments come when Trey finds a lick and latches on to it. When he explores every ounce of it, plays it to it’s last remain…Magic happens.
At 18:38 Trey gives this “build lick” one last burst of energy and you can feel the destruction coming….
Machine Gun Trench Warfare at the War Memorial (19:10-26:10)
Throughout the jam Trey and Fish have played their role. Trey has been almost non existent, then played a riff everyone else could build around. Fishman has been a metronome that locked down this entire jam. Well those times are over, from this point until the end of the set, get the fuck outta the way of Big Red and Henrietta!
After a couple of fills from Fish, Trey moves out front and center. Big Red has arrived. He rips into a solo and immediately steals the spotlight. Many times I have heard Phish fans say “Trey is the best closer in the land”. Time for Big Red to close.
Trey takes it slowly at first. He lets a couple of notes ring out, and allows the other band members to fill in around him. Trey then starts to kick it into high gear, note by note.
At the 20:00 mark, Trey works that “build lick” back into his solo. So Cool! While he continues to take it up a notch, Page is ripping into some chords and Mike is laying down one bass line after another.
At 20:35 Fishman decides to take things up a notch and Trey starts to rip his guitar even more. Although this peak, isn’t nearly Fast Enough for Fish…
At 20:50 Fish slows things down for just a second, before deciding to show Rochester, Phish can make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs (Star Wars reference). He UNLEASHES a furious beat that forces Trey into full out machine gun mode. These two former college roommates are playing with every ounce of energy in there bodies.
Trying to write about this is not easy. Every time I replay it, instead of getting words written down, I just let it play to the end. I can write two things. One, this is what “Machine Gun Trey” is all about. Two, it sounds like there are 10 drummers in Phish! I swear I hear about 15 crash cymbals being hit all at the same time..
The crazy thing is that at 21:25 the jam dies down for a bit. When I say “dies down” I mean it went from 300 miles an hour to 289. Trey “builds” it back up and then at 22:00 somehow this sucker goes even faster.
22:00-23:45 FULL OUT DESTRUCTION. My brain can’t process the pace at which Trey and Fish are playing. What am I supposed to write here? Well, I was 17 when this jam started, now I am 32, 15 years later my face is still melted onto the floor of Page side somewhere…
I tried to listen to this section and give more details about the interplay, etc. I had to stop. I felt like I was going to have to press my life alert button.
At the 23:03 mark Fishman (I believe) yells “….New York!” Not sure what the first word is. Hell yeah Fish, Hell yeah!
At 23:45 the Jam slows just a bit. Again, not by very much. At 24:04 if you listen closely it sounds like Trey might go back into BBFCFM. Still in this slower section, smoke is coming from Fish’s kit.
At 24:20 Page plays a some chords on the organ and you can feel things changing. Fish murders a few fills and Trey starts to inject DWD at 24:38. The band moves perfectly into the DWD reprise. Amazing segue…Out of the pure fire Ghost peak at “mach 1 Billion”, they are able to blend DWD. Phish is the best band in the world, their ability to play a segue like that, is certainly a great reason why.
So it is certainly easy to see why I am such a big Phish fan, and why Ghost is my favorite song. The end section of this Ghost just obliterates reality. This Ghost takes such an easy formula and executes it to perfection. Patient Minimalist Groove->Awesome Build->Face Melting->Killer Segue. We go to Phish shows to be blown away by their music, and to create memories that last a lifetime. On 12/11/97, many memories were created for me, that are still as strong as ever, 15 years later.
Score: 9.3 (If it is biased, I don’t care…It’s my Blog)
Attached is the Maze I spoke about in the intro…