Ventura County’s show from 7/20/1998 reflects the lax location of the fairgrounds very well. Bookended with incredibly unique versions of both an opener and an encore, almost each song in between brings something special to the table. This would be the second and the last time Phish played at this location.
The Bathtub Gin is one of my favorites. The extended improvisation taking place under the California summer sun was enough to make most 3.0 second-set jams cower in a corner. Out of the gates, Trey seems like he’s aimlessly noodling. Eventually they find a lock and Trey goes into some funk. The jam switches between ’98 funk and soaring guitar solos a few times before coming to its natural end. It pops into a fun version of Poor Heart.
Set 1: Bathtub Gin, Dirt > Poor Heart, Lawn Boy, My Sweet One, Birds of a Feather,Theme From the Bottom, Water in the Sky, The Moma Dance, Split Open and Melt
Set 2: Drowned -> Makisupa Policeman > Maze, Sea and Sand, Prince Caspian > Harry Hood
Encore: Sexual Healing > Hold Your Head Up, Halley’s Comet
This version of Poor Heart ends with a number of “false” endings–like they did in 7/9/97’s version. Then, the final ending, is a Freebird-style ending.
The rest of the second set features stellar playing throughout. The Drowned that opens the second set impressively leads us into an extended version of Makisupa which, in turn, sank into an eerie Maze.
Maze gave way to the third, and last, version of Sea & Sand–fitting, considering the location. This venue is literally on the beach. For the encore, the band made the debut Sexual Healing.
When many thought maybe there wouldn’t be any more highlights to come, the band launched into a Halley’s Comet excursion, albeit only 11 minutes long. The jam turns into a sort of space-funk that I’ve never heard before, eventually just leaving digital delays behind as the band walked off stage one member at a time. What a way to end a show under the moonlight.