Phish has just announced that they will be releasing a new 6-disc box set titled “Phish: Ventura”. It consists of 7/30/97 and 7/20/98, both shows that took place at the Ventura County Fairgrounds in California. The box set will be released by JEMP Records on June 18. Both shows are considered to be top notch in their respective summers and of all-time. In fact, OPT has already written about both!
In our second installment of ‘Tales of Mental Tangle’, Poster Nutbag took on Guy Forget in ‘A War Over Sandwiches” where each defended their favorite ‘sandwich’ jam–in fact, you can still vote for which is better! Poster took the 7/30/97 Bowie -> Cities -> Bowie. Here is a snippit of what he said:
As the first song of the three-song sandwich, this is the one that provides the foundation. And at this point in its evolution, I just don’t think this Disease can hold up to this Bowie. In the summer of ’97, Bowie was still a MONSTER. Here we have an extra long spacey intro, complete with secret language, a 100% nailed composed section, and a great drop-off into Bowie space as the jam begins. I love Bowies that get this quiet from the start–it gives the song extra room to grow. And this Bowie has a gradual, epic growth. It’s longer than the Disease (about 30 minutes for the whole sandwich, vs. about 23), and thus has 7 extra minutes of epicness. In fact, this Bowie is so strong that even if you were to take out the Cities, we’d still be talking about an above average/great Bowie.
It’s important to point out that this concert was one of the latest instances of the ‘secret language’ being used.
The 7/20/98 show may get a bit more attention in the Phish world because of the absolutely outstanding Bathtub Gin opener which you can listen to below:
Here is what I wrote about the 7/20/98 show in ‘Summer Rage Sauce: Ventura ’98‘:
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.
Looking back, that short song review doesn’t do this jam any justice. It’s one of the best versions of Bathtub Gin ever and goes into one of the best versions of Poor Heart ever. While the beginning of this concert is outstanding, don’t assume this is a front-loaded show. The second set is incredibly hot–even the Halley’s Comet in the encore is enough to consider releasing this show officially.
Phans who pre-order this show on Phish Dry Goods will receive a BONUS disc of songs from their only other Ventura concert on 3/21/93
Here’s what Kevin Shapiro says about the Ventura concerts:
The site of the Ventura County Fairgrounds shows was a general admission dirt racetrack between the Pacific Coast Highway andSurfers Point Park; with palm trees and mountains behind the stage and a view of the Pacific Ocean from the bleachers. July 30, 1997 was Phish’s first Ventura stop since Trey learned to surf nearby in 1993, and both the 1997 and 1998 Ventura Fairgrounds setlists were laced with coastal themesreferencing the scenic locale. Ventura ‘97 featured a number of must-hear performances including a bass-driven, syncopated Wolfman’s Brother > Chalk Dust Torture, a deep and spacey Stash and a gnarly Character Zero in set I. Peak improvisation of the highest order defined set II with a Free > David Bowie > Cities > David Bowie combination thatdominated the show’s second half with some of the summer’s biggest jams. Add in Weigh (played just twice that summer), the first West Coast Piper and a blazing cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Fire and the result was a steaming cauldron of patient funk and cacophonous shredding that defined summer 1997 Phish.
On July 20, 1998 Phish again encountered Ventura’s breezy oceanside. Ventura ’98 was characterized by some new songs, some bustouts and some wicked jams played with a democratic group-mind that conjured a stellar Bathtub Gin opener, a new arrangement of Water In The Sky, the swinging funk of The Moma Dance and a hairy Split Open And Melt set I closer. Set II exploded with a crucial bass-and-drums-fueled Drowned > Makisupa Policeman pairing that utilized Page’s synth stylings to seamlessly blend rock and reggae. A concentrated Maze led to a perfectly placed, self-referential Sea And Sand – played for the first time since 12/31/95 and only the third time ever. An inspired Prince Caspian carved the way into the Harry Hood set II closer. The encore was the Phish debut of Sexual Healing as Trey played drums and Fish, to the crowd’s delight,sang Marvin Gaye’s tale of capsizing in rising waves of love. A funky, experimental Halley’s Comet capped the show as the band left the stage one-by-one to waves of digital delay thatswept the beachside fairgrounds.
The Ventura box set captures the feel of two magical nights of Phish – recorded by Paul Languedoc to multitrack tape, mixed by Jon Altschiller and mastered by Fred Kevorkian. Jams from the soundchecks were included at the end of both shows for a glimpse behind the scenes. This collection is a summer soundtrack that just gets better with every listen.