A Show For Your Weekend: Rupp Arena ’96

Rupp Arena - Home of the Wildcats

A couple of months ago, I wrote about Foreshadowing the ’97 Funk era; It explains how many fans overlook the importance of the late 1996 shows. It’s blatantly obvious that, after The Clifford Ball, Trey was searching for a new sound and direction for the band. Scattered throughout October and November, Trey started playing with his wah pedal and Mike with his effects. While almost every show on this tour is great, I decided to pick out one of my favorites to share with everyone for this weekend’s download.

As some of you can remember, Phish used to actually tour in places outside of New England. On November 7th, 1996, Phish arrived at the Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.

Set 1: Chalk Dust Torture, Weigh > Rift > Guelah Papyrus, Stash, Waste, Guyute, Free > Tela, Character Zero

Set 2: Suzy Greenberg > Bathtub Gin -> Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head Up, You Enjoy Myself

Encore: Frankenstein

After opening with a high-energy “Chalk Dust”, the band quickly went into an early “Weigh”. Trey actually bust out his wah pedal for a guitar segment in the song, something that’s certainly not typical. The first set was held together by an impressive “Stash”, however, that’s par of the course for ’96. Entering the jam, Trey found a delicate but loud pattern. This whole show featured a louder Trey, he is real into this show. In this “Stash”, Trey was clean and crisp with darting notes. He built tension, dominating the jam. Eventually, he released before exiting the song–something he needs to do before he ends “Stashes” in this era of Phish.

“Guyute” was particularly spectacular; the ending guitar segment was crisper that I have ever remembered hearing it. Trey’s playing was soaring and stabs at your soul upon relistening. Out of the end of “Guyute” came “Free”, featuring Trey on his drum kit and a more ambient jam– par for the year. “Free” sliped into a gorgeous “Tela” before closing with a screaming (literally and figuratively) “Character Zero”. There is a perfect mix of effects and straight-forward rocking from Trey in this “Zero”. This version marks the first time it was played with the ending vocal jam.

After an unexpected “Suzy” opener to the second set, Phish started up “Gin” without missing a note. This “Gin” was featured as a bonus track to the official release of their 12/06/1996 show. This is one of the year’s defining jams, among many standouts. The jam started normally, Trey’s casual noodling turned fierce when he discovers direction. He noodled with accuracy, not aimlessness–something many newer fans see no difference between. Trey starts picking the jam up, and it enters into a segment that is a dead-on “Runaway Jim” jam, only with more WAH. Page reprises the “Gin” theme behind Trey’s lead before they enter the second part of the jam. Trey moves over to his drum kit and Page takes the lead–we are now entering type II territory. Page’s solo becomes heavy and more prominent. Mike lays down an understated and throbbing back bone, slightly morphing it as it moves into an upbeat strut.

Trey picks his guitar back up and solos from low to high over the beat that Fish carried over from when Trey was on the kit. Red starts soaring with a pattern clearly in mind. The jam becomes heavy handed for a bit before Trey busts back out of it and starts soaring again. When Fish realizes that it’s on, he rolls out of the beat he was so stubbornly holding on to. However, Trey and Page quickly fade back, with Fish following suit. Trey starts making spooky and spacey loops with Fish only on his ride. Out of nowhere, a new jam spontaneously combusts; led by a distorted guitar, this jam lasts only a couple minutes before intensely pulsating and Fish leading.. Fish speeds up faster on the ride and joins Page in perfectly segueing into “HYHU”. They played “Bike”, per request, with Fish stumbling through it.

The “HYHU > Bike > HYHU” sandwich was merely a breather before the next monster jam of the night. The following “YEM” showcased the band in a truly and permanently transformative month for their music.

In one of the most heavy-handed examples of Trey starting the ’97 era of ‘cow funk’, Trey relentlessly used his wah and his new style of jamming immediately after “BOY!” on this particular night. Trey goes into a thick funk during and after the “Wash Uffuzi” segment; I love playing this song for people that are not familiar how funky late ’96 really was. Mike quickly caught on to what Trey was doing and started using a new bass effect to highlight the improv’s smooth thickness. The effect he was using is what would become the ever-popular ‘underwater’ sound that was so prevalent after he switched from his Languedoc bass to his Modulus Q5.

Fish sped up the tempo of his hi-hat while page led. Trey started alternating between funk chords and punctuated notes. The band started riding what Trey was doing, stopping periodically for Mike’s funky interjections (what would become the start/stops and funky break downs of 1997). Page changes pace completely, hops on his synth, and starts mimicking the notes Mike is playing. It’s a sound I have never heard Page play outside of this one song in this one show. Page sounded like he’s fresh off the P-Funk Mothership.

Eventually, they all snap into the next section with a drum roll cuing all to follow. Trey sinks back into the funk for a while before sliding his finger down the guitar’s neck to get low, setting up a lick taken straight out of the “YEM” NYE ’95 version. Most fans will know what I’m talking about; it’s the epic, peak-building lick that set MSG ’95’s “YEM” through the roof. The jam eventually sinks back down and dissolves into a melodic, rather than rhythmic, bass & drums section.

This show, among all of this tour’s shows, is a must have. Enjoy it this weekend!

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