Phish Friday writer extraordinaire, Stanley T. Roper, is back this week with an interesting gem from Phish’s 1997 summer tour in Europe. If you dig Mr. Roper’s submission, be sure to dig into the archives for some of his previous installments. And remember, we love hearing from the rest of you on this weekly feature, so feel free to send us your own submissions or drop some comments to let us know that you’re listening. Have a great weekend!

Phish, 7/10/1997, Espace Julien, Marseille, France

I discovered this show last week and I have enjoyed a passionate love affair with it ever since. I’d heard nothing about it – just a lucky find. Turns out, it’s one of the best new shows I’ve scored in a long, long time. So good, in fact, that there’s too much to share in just one Phish Friday post. So I’ll review the first set today and you can tune in next time for the exciting conclusion.

My one complaint: the tracking is weird. Because there are so many distinct jams, it gets a bit choppy if you’re listening track-by-track and re-buffering each time. That said, it is completely worth it. The sound quality is great because of the small theater’s acoustics. And the band is on fire.

Part I – Gin > Jam > Gin, Llama > Jam > Velvet Sea, Jam > Lizards Jam:


The first set opens with some warm-up tunes: Dogs Stole, Limb by Limb, Ginseng. Then things pick up and don’t really settle down until the encore. In fact, the band barely stops playing.

Let’s cut to the chase: “Bathtub Gin.” The Gin itself is pretty standard and not really worth talking about. If you’re a purist, which I am, listen to it in order to get a feel for what was going on before the funk throwdown that emerges. The funk starts simple: Fish dropping a tight beat, Trey hitting rhythm; Mike, as is his way, lays it down thick; McConnell is all over the clavinet. At the height of the funk, the band does a little start/stop groove punctuated by Trey hollering “OHHHH” with every stop. But Trey is off-mic – it’s as if he’s hollering to the band: “dudes, this is some serious shit that we’re dropping right now.” Around the same time, just to up the ante, Page gets absolutely ridiculous on that keyboard setting he uses during “Meatstick” (you’ll recognize the sound). This is the band, in the early stages of its “funk era,” exploring just how funky four nerdy, white mofos can get. Somehow the start/stop evolves into an alternating major/minor key jam, and Trey’s noodling brings the band full circle back into Gin. Not bad.

Gin fades out and Trey hits the opening rhythms of “Llama.” “Llama” is standard, not worth talking about, but worth listening to in order to maintain the vibe of the set. “Llama” the song ends, but the groove does not. The band is so impressed with their last funk jam that they drop into another. This one is more of the same craziness: Mike letting loose with bass-bombs, Trey on wah-wah pedal, Page on the “Meatstick” keyboard. The band eventually burns itself out and is left in an ambient jam of sorts. Trey sets a loop and quietly plays the opening chords of “Velvet Sea.” This is cool for a few reasons. First, “Velvet Sea” is one of my favorite Phish tunes, so I’m always happy to hear it. Second, the way they go into it — the loop Trey sets — is almost exactly the same loop that they use on the album version as they fade into the song from “Roggae.” It’s as if they liked this transition so much, they filed it away for later use in the studio.

“Velvet Sea” ends and the band is ready for more funk. This particular funk jam is more organic, like something I imagine you’d hear during band practice. It’s not coming out of another song; it is another song. They just sort of make it up. This is the band, knowing that it’s firing on all cylinders, daring to just create a song on the fly. And it’s pretty cool. Trey, taking another chance, somehow realizing that the improv they’ve created parallels the classic riff that serves as the “Lizards” coda. Except slowed down. And in the wrong key. How he hears this, I know not. Actually, I do. He’s Trey. Anyway, the resulting “Lizards” jam is novel, if not tight, and a fitting end to one of the most daring, creative sets that I’ve heard this band play. They close it out with “Oblivious Fool” and call for a break. Well deserved.

Enjoy.

You can grab the full show here.

Full setlist via Phish.net:
07-10-97 Espace Julien, Marseille, France

1: Dogs Stole Things, Limb By Limb, Ginseng Sullivan, Bathtub Gin, Llama-> Wading in the Velvet Sea, Lizards Jam*, Oblivious Fool

2: Also Sprach Zarathustra-> Julius, Magilla-> Ya Mar^, Ghost-> Take Me to the River**

E: Funky Bitch#

*Very slow, no lyrics, largely unrecognizable until the end. ^Apparently they took turns jamming in pairs: Fish and Page, Trey and Mike, hi-hat and clavinet (Fish and Page again), bell and low guitar (Mike and Trey), crash cymbal and Rhodes (Fish and Page), footstomping (band and audience); also Magilla teases. **An Al Green cover, from his “Explores Your Mind” album. Also performed by Talking Heads. #With Son Seals and members of his band (guitar, trumpet, bass, and drums) and Fish dancing at the front of the stage; “Funky Bitch” is a Son Seals song); with “Bathtub Gin” teases.

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