PHISH AMBIENT JAM GRADE: 7 out of 10
Highlights: Ya Mar, Vultures, Fast Enough for You, David Bowie, Slave to the Traffic Light,
Listen Here: http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1999-07-04
Phish.net Phan Reviews: http://phish.net/setlists/?d=1999-07-04
After Phish seemed to veer away from the ambient style of jamming and transitions so prevalent in the first show of 1999, the band got back on track with this no frills 4th of July show from Atlanta.
It is clear from the outset that Trey means business - no fun and games tonight - and the audience benefits with a great setlist, intense jams, and masterful touches on otherwise standard set fodder (aside from the debut of What's The Use?). One of the most beautiful, patient takes on Fast Enough For You can be found in the first set of this show. After a scorching My Soul, Trey looks to move the boys in a different direction with a very ambient take on Ya Mar's jam and follows with fantastic ambient touches and sections in Vultures, Bowie, Ghost, Slave, Wilson and the debut of the ambient masterpiece "What's The Use?"
"What's The Use?" is the quintessential example of an ambient composition from a band who had spent the better part of two decades crafting precise musical songs and journeys. A stunning glimpse into the minds of artists who had been known for such attention to detail, comes a loose, oscillating and ever changing song with no real beginning or end. Almost the exact opposite of YEM or David Bowie, this new style of composed song with little structure seemed to be a cry for release from the band. An opportunity to play a song where every note and sound and texture is "right" and there are no mistakes. A song without a net... because there is nowhere to fall. The culmination of over two years of experimentation in the studio, and the centerpiece of "The Siket Disc," this song has grown to encapsulate this period of musical composition and experimentation for Phish. In 3.0 Phish, What's the Use? is the only song that has been played - even somewhat regularly given its rarity - from the Siket Disc. It is known from interviews that the band loves the Siket Disc album and counts it as the only one of their albums they have ever regularly listened to as a band together, so a return for other songs from that album may not be too far off (maybe only a few months away!). As the band puts songs together into setlists for 3.0 shows they often include music that spans their career - songs that represent eras to the band and their phans - and What's The Use? is the song that represents their foray into ambient music.
SET 1: We find the first ambient jam of the show in the well placed Ya Mar (a great summer opener or second song). The Ya Mar jam is an even-tempered ambient jam that appears like steam rising from the crowd of hot sweaty southerners. The set builds slowly through standards until Vultures changes the pace and allows for a short but penetrating ambient jam with Trey directing through guitar bursts and fuzz. A top take on Fast Enough For You combines patience, soul, and a gorgeous solo - beauty in a often overlooked song - and just helps to cement that a standard setlist can make for an amazing show. A David Bowie with a great ambient jam and a fiery ending caps a perfect first set.
SET 2: Serious business when a set opens with loops and a Ghost, especially in 1999. A multi-layered ambient Ghost jam sets the tone for a second set full of highlights. Sirens, drones, staccato picking and tireless drumming build this Ghost into Slave with a perfect transition of swirling feedback and fuzz. The notes to Slave to the Traffic Light build and emerge in a slow but beautiful and meticulously crafted manner from the darkness of Ghost. The band lets the air out of the Ghost slowly, patiently, carefully as they fill the city and the zoo with funk. While the rest of the set has a solid, funky Mike's Groove and the ever-present 1999 Meatstick... plus a bonus Carini encore. The true highlight was the unveiling of "What's The Use?" in its live form. A sonic, ambient mindstorm all at once bringing feelings of universal forces, out of body experiences, deep crushing emotion and the envelopment of a sandstorm, while laying waste to everything around. The audience has no other choice but to let their collective jaw drop.