Friday, October 23, 2009

Tour Opener #4 - Thursday, 09/09/1999 GM Place, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Set 1: Mozambique[1], Axilla > Limb By Limb, Horn, Guyute, Chalk Dust Torture, Back at the Chicken Shack, Stash, I Didn't Know, Character Zero

Set 2: Birds of a Feather, Ha Ha Ha, Ghost, The Inlaw Josie Wales[1], First Tube[1], Tweezer, Bug, You Enjoy Myself, Hello My Baby

Encore: Sample in a Jar, Golgi Apparatus, Tweezer Reprise

[1] Phish debut.

Notes: Mozambique, The Inlaw Josie Wales, and First Tube made their Phish debuts at this show


I think without a doubt, following Halloween '96, the biggest influence over the band's sound came from Trey's solo tour in the spring of 1999. Not only did the last batch of 1.0 songs come from these shows, but the multi-layered soundscapes of 99-00 differed greatly from the funk throw-downs of 97-98, probably in no small part to the fact that Trey had a lot of space to fill on stage with only a bass player and drummer.

Going back to listen to the 2nd set of those first Trey shows really reminds us that there was an extremely prevalent experimental vibe strung throughout the tour. The wide open nature of songs like Sand and Gotta Jibboo presented him with a new opportunity to build something special each night by himself on stage.

Bringing these themes and new compositions back to Phish, a directional change in their sound is almost instantly recognizable as they began their June run. New songs Back on the Train and Bug as well as the instrumentals My Left Toe and much later The Happy Whip and Dung (from the Siket Disc) were all indicative of a slower paced, mellow groove style.

In choosing this show over the June opener, the basic reasoning is that the monster songs from Trey tour had yet to be incorporated into Phish's rotation. While there are some incredible shows from that tour like Atlanta and Oswego, our discussions came to a head and were finalized in that the tour that debuted First Tube, Gotta Jibboo and Sand HAD to take priority. Some of the most memorable moments of 99-00 and beyond sprouted from those songs.

In starting another new song, Mozambique, a song only played on this tour but one that pop's up frequently on Trey Tour, the band was making it clear that there was some new music to be played and that they were toying around with some new musical textures.

I happen to love this song, and other songs from the 8' Fluorescent Tubes gig.

A powerful Axilla (sans ending) drops into a Limb by Limb that had some good length and some interesting improv to it. At this early juncture in the show, it was already slightly apparent that a shift from layered funk to sheer soundscapes had occurred.

Horn and Guyute were both nice first set adventures, Guyute bringing some real darkness to the mix.

Again during Chalkdust, there are moments when it seems that they were going to break away from the song strucuture, but eventually are pulled back in and take a breather with Chicken Shack. As much as I loved the new Trey songs, the inclusion of the blues standard does very little for me.

Closing the set down with pure madness, they launch into an epic Stash that explores some exceptionally dark and rhythmically obscure places. Great version.

In only the 5th performance since 1996, I Didn't Know (with vacuum) provided some great fun before ending with a standout take of Character Zero. In listening to this show for this post, I found myself starting this track over again to make sure i'd heard this correctly. For a song that has recently become a bathroom break for many phans, it was refreshing to hear a top notch version.

The second set opened up with a raging Birds of a Feather, this one showing signs of laying texture over the structure unlike many traditional versions and the comical Fishman tune Ha Ha Ha.

Out of the silence comes the eerie whistle of Ghost bringing us all to a gooey and delicious land of thick beats, bass chunks and mellow improvisation. Having been a product of the funk explosion in early '97, Ghost was primed at this juncture to be a breeding ground for cutting edge jams and exploration.

Treating us to back to back new tunes, Trey debuted The Inlaw Josie Wales on acoustic guitar and then gave us perhaps the best new tune of the Farmhouse era, First Tube.

I'm not sure there are enough words to describe the energy this song brings to every show. Placed all over the set list throughout the years, its an instant lift from a long jam or slow song and can kick start a set or bring down the house as an encore.

Keeping the mood high, they rip into a Tweezer, heavily infused with funk before Trey starts ripping some rock star lines about halfway through the jam.

Giving us all a break for a moment with Bug, the band was swinging back and forth between massive improvisational conquests and tighter composed tunes quickly as we were instantly hit with YEM.

Crescendoing toward a tight, funky jam with an ambient decay in sound that melts into an intricate vocal jam, the band then comes together for Hello My Baby.

Sample in a Jar, Golgi Apparatus, Tweezer Reprise

A great encore of high energy classics topped with perhaps the best way to end a show and leave everyone high on a cloud.

This show was the first of a giant cross nation slog that would take them to some great venues and produce some incredible music.

First Tube, Gotta Jibboo and Sand (debuted on subsequent nights) would go on to become rotation staples, exemplifying and pushing the new sound the band was leaning towards.

Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to discuss the Japan shows, which also left their mark on the band. Touring in Japan in smaller venues and to large festivals to fans that looked and sounded like nothing the band had previously experienced must have been an eye opening and humbling experience.

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