A show for your weekend: Desert Sky ’98

Fitting right in with the recent kick of July 1998 shows I’ve been digging back up, Desert Sky Pavilion in Phoenix hosted a show on 7/21 to end the three-show string that included Shoreline and Ventura County Fairgrounds the previous nights.  Three nights after Desert Sky would come The Woodlands, TX that included one of the most epic Wolfman’s ever.  With a month that has so many highlights, the Tuesday night sleeper show from Arizona wasn’t to be left behind.

Phish took the stage at Desert Sky (now the Cricket Pavilion) for the second time in their careers and decided to open up with the old-school and explosive combo of AC/DC Bag > Fluffhead.  The 17+ minute Fluff is plauged by some pretty serious flubs from Trey during some of the composed parts; however, during parts of Pages composed solos, Trey switches to his funky wah pedal for a bit–something not usual in Fluff.  The jam out of the end makes up for all the flubs with Trey soaring to new levels.  Parts sound like he’s going to enter Dave’s Energy Guide at any moment but it never happens.

Set 1: AC/DC Bag > Fluffhead, Roggae, Tube, Tube jam > Sparkle > Cavern > Frankie Says > Run Like an Antelope

Set 2: Mike’s Song -> Simple -> Bittersweet Motel > Weekapaug Groove, Brian and Robert, Ghost -> She Caught the Katy and Left Me a Mule to Ride > Funky Bitch

Encore: Sleeping Monkey > Rocky Top

Honing the funk they displayed seven months earlier on 12/7/97, Phish dropped a Tube dripping with wah pedal and stop/start jamming only to be followed up by a brief reprise of the Tube jam after the original song was finished.  Instead of seguing into Slave, this one segued into an upbeat Sparkle.

Converting a mid-set Cavern into the third-ever Frankie Says made for an unusual pairing, but Frankie is always welcome to me.  The dreamy Frankie Says bled into an Antelope that was so hot, even the surrounding cacti were withering.  Trey sprints up the fretboard to insane peaks a few times during this version, sometimes using extreme effects to get his peak across.

The second set opens with an extraordinary Mike’s Song.   This 17-minute beast stays confined to an early-90s rock sound out of the gates until Trey drops the floor out on the jam with his wah pedal around nine minutes.  Immediately Fish switches his beat and Mike starts digging.  Mike’s digging turns to dirty slapping briefly as Fish moves to the cowbell.  Listen to Fish’s insane rolling as the jam approaches the 12-minute mark and beyond.  His drums became a constantly-evolving roll with a simple beat laying underneath.  This style of drumming is highlighted very well in 1998.  It’s all about Fishman from the 12-minute mark until the end.

The Simple that followed featured a spacey jam that could be compared to SBIX’s, only this one is far more melodic, keeping faint reminders of the Simple theme in Trey’s heavenly notes.  The jam eventually fades into the first-ever Bittersweet Motel.

Weekapaug was typical for the year: funk jam > rock jam.  Brian and Robert served as the palette cleaner between the massive Mike’s Groove and She Caught the Ghost and Left Me a Bitch do Funk (or, as it’s more commonly refereed to, Ghost -> She Caught the Katy > Funky Bitch).

The typical funk from the Ghosts of this era yielded to blazing rock, possibly trying to recapture the fire from the 7/6 version just weeks earlier.  The eventually-mellow jam all of a sudden locked in a way where you knew they were in another song.  After a key change, She Caught the Katy emerges.  Until that point, the song had no been played since almost exactly 10 years earlier on 7/30/88 in Telluride at the Roma with Fishman off stage, leaving Trey to fill in on the kit.  The next time the song would be played is also the most recent, on 12/28/2010 between Alaska and  Wolfman’s Brother during the first set.

The ensuing 9+ minute Funky Bitch brought down the house before the Sleeping Monkey > Rocky Top encore.

If anything, get this show for the Tube, Mike’s Song, and Ghost -> She Caught the Katy.