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Hampton/Winston-Salem 1997, A Look Back, pt1

Posted 3 years ago by ericwyman - 12 comments Link: http://phi.sh/b/4eca7451

[Over the next three days we’ll look back on each of the shows included in the new Hampton/Winston-Salem ‘97 box set on the respective 14th anniversaries. First up: Friday, November 21, 1997, Hampton Coliseum.]

Friday, November 21, 1997

The Phish shows in Hampton, VA the weekend before Thanksgiving 1997 are ones of legend. They’re probably the most complete show experiences I’ve ever had and they probably will never be topped. I was a student at the University of Connecticut, but with one of my best friends at school in Virginia there was no way I was missing it. My friend Tim and I had made the trip a year previous (10/25/96) and the weekend was a blast. Now we had two shows, even better. We loaded up his Chevy Blazer with a bunch of tapes and a pony keg of Long Trail IPA, there wasn’t a need for much else. When we rolled into Fredericksburg late Thursday night we were greeted by plentiful smiles as the Vermont beer was nectar from the north. We spent the night and made the trek to Hampton the following morning.

Hampton was a scene, but nothing like what it became in later years. People everywhere, but it wasn’t chaotic. We stayed at the Days Inn on Coliseum Drive, but I remember a low key afternoon that made its way into the parking lots to wait for the show. When it finally came time for the show, we entered the venue early, scouting out our area on the rail of Section D. Every show I’ve seen at Hampton has been from this spot. It just feels like home.

The opener in hindsight is a tremendous treat, the debut of The Rolling Stones “Emotional Rescue.” A song that only Mike could properly handle his shift between baritone and falsetto tones pays a nice homage to a legend like Jagger. It’s also a glimpse into the vocal range Mike has always possessed. In 1997 his vocals felt more like a goof than a talent, but fourteen years later you can hear the potential and see the connection to the extremely strong vocal presence he maintains now.

The subsequent “Split Open and Melt” reaches a great peak, but hardly foreshadows the level of jamming that will come later in this show. For all intents and purposes the first set is very solid, but not remarkable. Even the closing combo of “Chalk Dust Torture” and “Prince Caspian” lacked the fiery emotion the weekend is known for. The set that follows is a different story.

The second set opening “Ghost” is a sixteen-minute exploration into spacey territory. A quiet and delicate space throughout the first half of the jam, it focuses more on sound than melody as a steady cymbal beat carries Trey, Mike and Page in to and out of different spaces. By the eleven-minute mark, Fish presses the tempo upwards and Trey responds by quickening his riffs and pushing to a more defined melody. Just two minutes later the jam spirals back into space highlighted by Page’s looping under Trey’s funky riff that launches a progression into a much brighter major key and ends with a direct turn into “AC/DC Bag.”

Greeted by a huge ovation, “AC/DC” clocks in at an impressive 26-minutes. At six minutes the song sounds as if it could immediately fall apart and move on, but Trey holds the collapsing notes and Fish immediately picks a new beat that a rising jam begins to develop from. Quickly picking right back up on the upbeat transition that preceded it, Trey wails on some huge chords around seven minutes as the steam builds behind him. Through the ten-minute mark, the jam has a feel that is much more akin to 1995, with Page creating rhythm via the baby grand and Trey riffing as the power chord conductor. Past this moment, however, a decidedly ‘97 vibe comes to the foreground with heavy wah’s, driving drum beats and textured bass rhythms. With a dramatic peak at the sixteen-minute mark, all four band members are playing with a fury and fire that slowly carries the jam to a classic moment of tension. The impending release never materializes and by the 21-minute mark Trey is playing a trademark falsetto melody as Mike and Page fade into near silence and the crowd urges the band on. One final push at the 24-minute mark quickens the pace yet again as the band begins a segue into “Slave.”

With the rather anti-climactic tension in “AC/DC,” the build in this “Slave” is primed to make up for the release that never came. Trey slowly controls the build to a point where it could easily drop into a thunderous finish, but is yet again unrealized. Which isn’t to say that this version is disappointing, only that it has some unrealized potential. Any release from the highly improvisational set is left in the hands of the beautiful buzz of “Loving Cup.”

This will always be a very special night in my memories, but the real fireworks can be seen less than 24 hours later.

************************************************

Pre-order Phish’s Hampton/Winston-Salem ‘97 from LivePhish.com and a portion of total proceeds will benefit The Mockingbird Foundation.



Image (Copyright 2011, Phish)

Comments

GAMEHENDGEPHONICS Reply
GAMEHENDGEPHONICS I wish I could have been around when ticket prices were more acceptable^ cool review of night 1, I think I'm going to get this
Score: 0
johnnyd Phish.net Staff Reply
johnnyd How on earth did you secure a keg of the LT IPA back then? I worked there from '98 - '01, and the IPA was not available (other than bottles) to the general public at all. Well done, @ericwyman, well done.
Score: 0
phearless Reply
phearless After reading this amazing review, I think I made the right decision a few weeks ago when I pre-ordered the cd's from livephish.com, I haven't listened to a single note of any of these shows ever, so I'm pumped! Good article, looking forward to the next 2.
Score: 0
ericwyman Phish.net Staff Reply
ericwyman @johnnyd said:
How on earth did you secure a keg of the LT IPA back then? I worked there from '98 - '01, and the IPA was not available (other than bottles) to the general public at all. Well done, @ericwyman, well done.
Ahh, bit of poor classification on my part. It was the original ale, which upon further review is not an IPA at all.

:)
Score: 0
ledzepmaster Reply
ledzepmaster Can't wait for this box!
Score: 0
johnnyd Phish.net Staff Reply
johnnyd @ericwyman said:
Ahh, bit of poor classification on my part. It was the original ale, which upon further review is not an IPA at all.

:)
Still an extremely advanced move for that day and age, especially coming from CT!
Score: 0
Stars_Suck Reply
Night two surely provided the fireworks the weekend was known for. Same with second set in W-S. But this review of the first night sells this night one a little low.

This show was essentially the beginning of what we would later think of as the "Fall 1997," the legendary tour, per se. The opening segue of Rescue/Melt/Beauty, Punch, Lawn, etc was a great diversity of songs and will really surprise you with how great of a flow the set has. The ending Caspian was a nice treat, too, with the delay loops going until the lights came on....

Personally, I think the first night was a tremendous show and highly underrated. The band had a certain playfulness that was exposed in the first set and really set the stage for how comfortable they were going to be for the remaining three sets, and really for the rest of the Fall 1997 tour and Holiday Run. You can also tell in this set (and run) that this was the run Phish decided Hampton would be a special place. I hit both 1995 and 1996, both unique shows in their own regard, but this was the weekend Phish had figured out the sound and space of the room and what was possible. And you can feel some of that spirit from both the band and crew. The first set may not have shred, but it often becomes the black sheep of the family due to the second night and whatever the hell happened in Winston-Salem, Hartford, the Centrum, Dayton, Rochester, and so on....

I certainly respect every opinion and experience of ever show goer!!! But I respectfully disagree with some of this review and encourage everyone who grabs this box set to think of it in the broader context of the Fall 1997. Night 1 was filled with highlights and will sneak up on ya upon a close first listen.... I cannot wait to hear these Kevorkian copies!!!!!!!
Score: 1
andrewrose Reply
andrewrose I also think this show is getting a bit of a short shrift here.

For one thing, they don't just open with Emotional Rescue. They debut it seemingly out of nowhere, and then take it for a 17 minute sojourn. Funky shit that's appropriately Mike-heavy and in retrospect kind of reminiscent of the 4/3/98 Roses jam. Awesome stuff. To open.

The awesomeness of this AC/DC Bag shouldn't be understated, but what's really remarkable is the segue INTO it. The last five minutes of Ghost showcases some spectacular grooves; they hit a funky little riff that's very Talking Heads/Stop Making Sense (were the seeds for 12/7/97's Bag-> Pyscho Killer planted on this night?). Then the ensuing transition into Bag is up there with their best of manoeuvres on this tour, which is saying something (12/6/97 Izabella-> jam-> Twist anyone?). While it might not to be up to the greatness of the 12/30/97 version (and really, not much is), it's certainly a noteworthy precursor. Beautiful Slave taboot, taboot.

Also, sweet: "Thank you for ordering from Phish Dry Goods. We are pleased to inform you that one or more of your items has shipped."
Score: 1
ericwyman Phish.net Staff Reply
ericwyman @Stars_Suck said:
But I respectfully disagree with some of this review and encourage everyone who grabs this box set to think of it in the broader context of the Fall 1997. Night 1 was filled with highlights and will sneak up on ya upon a close first listen
I don't think I provided a narrow viewpoint on the show. Not sure what you are respectfully disagreeing with.
Score: 0
Stars_Suck Reply
@ericwyman said: I don't think I provided a narrow viewpoint on the show. Not sure what you are respectfully disagreeing with.[/quote]

This was the piece I disagreed with: "For all intents and purposes the first set is very solid, but not remarkable. Even the closing combo of “Chalk Dust Torture” and “Prince Caspian” lacked the fiery emotion the weekend is known for..."

Just my own opine, I just think this set is remarkable. Not on par with the Halley's, by no means, but remarkable. The band is loose, happy, flirty and it has some unique flair. You can tell they are playing around quite a bit and that this is the set that sets the band on a course for the rest of the tour (although Denver can be argued, as well). It certainly does not have a big centerpiece, like the Halley's, but it flows real well and you can tell they are truly locked in throughout, culminating in the cool delay loops into set break....

I just think its a set is underrated, and a very good example of Phish having some fun on stage, outside of the regular, longer jam oriented tunes...
Score: 0
andrewrose Reply
andrewrose My discs arrived yesterday. They sound AWESOME, and that Emotional Rescue jam is TOPS. So much space.
Score: 0

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