Phish returned from Europe in July of 1998 to start their US summer tour in the Northwest. Before their sexy two-night stand at the Gorge, Phish crushed the tour-opening show in Portland with a second set that was anchored by a Tweezer containing California Love. A few nights later, Phish showed California just that with two outstanding shows shows back-to-back. I’ve already discussed Ventura’s show on the 20th; but I have yet to discuss Sunday’s show from the day before.
Until a few days ago, I had never heard 7/19/1998. The only reason I sought it out is because Dave “ZZYZX” Steinberg wrote about it on his site’s fan page saying that it’s a show he has no recollection of. After looking at the setlist, I wondered how this ever slipped through the cracks.
7/19/98 is my mystery show. I have notes that say I was there but I have no idea how I got there or where I stayed, let alone any show memories.
While 1998 gets some flac for being a relatively boring year compared to 1997, I think July 1998 Phish is great. Along with some European gems like 7/6/98, the US shows that take place in that month boast some are some of my favorites. It’s as if the funk from late 1997 had its edges sandpapered and waxed. The improv contained in the month is a dense and lumbering beast–one of the few things on Earth that’s able to treat us to a glimpse of what perfection really looks like. Trey was able to seamlessly blend the genres of Phish rock and Phish funk together with dazzling creativity–just take a look at 7/24/98‘s Wolfman’s Brother, or 7/28/98’s Gin (you probably should visit next week).
The Mountain View show opened with a perfect combination of funk and rock: Moma Dance. This 13-minute, icy-hot stunna got things off the chain quick with Trey coming to a fantastic peak. After a solid string of energetic numbers, Beauty of My Dreams; Sample; Guyute, a serious first-set jam erupted on stage.
Set 1: The Moma Dance, Beauty of My Dreams, Sample in a Jar, Guyute, Ghost > Limb By Limb > Roggae, You Enjoy Myself
Set 2: Llama, Wolfman’s Brother > Piper > Tweezer -> Jesus Just Left Chicago, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Jam -> Down with Disease
The first American Ghost since the epic Island Tour’s started with eerie delay loops from Trey. Page slowly descended on the synth and Fish and Mike slowly emerged out of the Pacific Ocean to all come together for a locked-in Ghost intro (the way the song is supposed to start–not with scratchy guitar). Shortly after the slow jam starts, Mike’s bass pops ahead of the band. Fish quickly comes into lock-step with it by a simple hi-hat/snare beat for Mike to rest his heavy head upon. Trey comes in with a sort of euphoric strum, much like he does in part of 5/23/2000’s Ghost. As Trey does this, Fish switches to the cow bell lightly and Page plays well-accented notes atop the sonic opiate. At about 9-minutes, it sounds like Trey is going to start bringing out the rockstar, but the jam quickly sicks back into dirty funk. Gradually, Trey leads the band out of the thick quagmire. Trey comes to a raunchy peak that’s reminisant of the Ghost jam just weeks earlier on 7/6. While riding the peak’s extended crest like a surfer in a storm, Fish starts belting “I feel I’ve never told you, the STORY OF THE GHOST!“. As the jam starts coming down, Trey switches back over to his wah pedal until the stage becomes silent again. Limb by Limb starts up shortly thereafter perfectly.
The first set ends with a hose-funk jam, complete with funky break downs. Aside from the insanely smooth dance funk and Trey’s loose funk playing–so loose his notes sound like silly putty–one of my favorite moments is the Mike breakdown where Trey reenters the jam right after laying a perfectly-placed delay loop–listen to the short clip below.
The second set opens with a particularly blazing rendition of Llama–not a song that, since the earlier 90’s, is usually used in the second set–let alone as the opener. A funky 10-minute Wolfman’s follows. The Wolfman’s reminds me a lot of the versions of 3.0–it’s short, dense, and funky. This one segues into Piper, with old-school ending and all. I think it would be really cool if a 3.0 Piper ended with its original ending. I wonder how many people would even know what it was.
Tweezer had been patiently waiting on deck during Wolfman’s > Piper and it was finally time for him to throw down. The jam starts of sloow and funky with Trey layering in a couple menacing loops. Trey starts a rolling-funk theme on top of Fish’s mellow ride. Fish soon switches to the cowbell, and eventually (correct me if I’m wrong–I’m not any sort of expert on musical keys) the Tweezer jam switches from the key of A to A major briefly during a bluesy-sounding transition with a driving drumbeat. Soon the entire band switches over to G major and we’re in Jesus Just Left Chicago; or, as I like to call it, Jesus Just Left Tweezer.
Jesus’ patient blues jam built to a glorious peak (no, Jesus Christ did not sit in on guitar, I’m referring to the song Jesus Just Left Chicago). It was the first of the only two versions that were played in 1998.
The McGrupp that followed Jesus is certainly of note. As you can see from Phish Net‘s setlist above, there is a jam between McGrupp and Down with Disease. After the pretty rendition of McGrupp, Trey just kind of keeps playing. A light and noodley jam follows–it becomes spacey and soon you can hear Mike starting the set-closing Down with Disease.
DwD is awesome. The jam starts as if it’s going to be a typical DwD rocker to close the set, but soon the rock gets crazier and crazier and crazier. You know how 12/11/97’s DwD features Trey slaying his Languedoc (think the Bittersweet Motel clip about “cumming”)? Well this entire jam is like that. Trey served up a dish of whoop-ass what just wouldn’t quit–sending the crowd home with their faces melted. One of my favorite rock jams ever.
The unexpected Possum treated everyone to a good encore jam before closing with the expected Tweeprize