PHISH AMBIENT JAM GRADE: 10 out of 10
Highlights: What's the Use?, Sneakin Sally, Wolfman's Brother>Maze, THE ENTIRE SECOND SET
Listen Here: http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1999-07-07
Phish.net Phan Reviews: http://phish.net/setlists/?d=1999-07-07
AMBIENT TOUR DE FORCE
When any fellow phan asks me to recommend a 1999 show that demonstrates what I mean by "ambient jamming," I send them to this 7/7/99 mind eraser of a show. If they are with me at the time - in the car or at my home - I stop what I am doing and put on the 7/7/99 second set. This is the PERFECT ambient jam filled show from the era. Many, many other shows from 1999 have jaw dropping ambient jams and entire sets filled with incredible ambient improvisational jamming, but very few have the complexity and continuity of this two-set apparition from the steamy underbelly of America.
Highlights include almost every song played at this show and a brilliant special guest encore with Derek Trucks on Possum, and an incendiary take on Funky Bitch.
SET 1: Standard BOTT opener paved the way for Phish to drop What's The Use? for the second time in two shows. Clearly the band knew the power of the song and planned to feed off its cosmic energy. A celestial, time-warped journey through all of the particles in the universe, What's The Use? was a harbinger of how this show would unfold. A subtle, gorgeous version of Billy Breathes followed with patience and virtue in every note. A quick jaunt through MMGAMOIO lead to a first set stunner in Sneakin Sally sans vocal jam. Replacing the vocal jam in this understated but powerful Sally jam was the funkified soul-crushing bass rips of Mike Gordon's insane slap bass line over Trey's tasteful solitary note and staccato chord loops. The ambient layers of the background in this jam are less fuzz and more like a swarm of bees being charmed by an ancient pungi, or bin, from Jaipur - controlled by all members of the band at once (snake charming reference). Bringing the energy back up with a top notch Axilla>Rift, Phish gets ambient and spacey at the end of the Axilla with Fishman talking over the fuzzy distortion in a way that fits perfect with the ambient vibe. Wolfman's Brother follows with a slow-paced, summer-calypso-blues-groove. A perfect first set addition that ambles to a low key ambient transition to Maze. Maze gets a head start with the ambient layers and loops out of Wolfman's and eases into it's relatively standard song setup. Slight ambient distortion from Trey adds to the sublime buildup at the end. And a Loving Cup set closer which almost felt like an encore at that point.
SET 2: For the first 8 minutes of this set, Phish builds an ambient jam out of nothing and builds the disarray to such a heavy fog that the crowd is both mesmerized and befuddled. The tension builds, and builds, and builds, and builds, until it bursts into 2001 at the 8:03 min mark and the crowd erupts. A 14 min ambient journey ensues and rain drenched crowd loves being a part of the steamy mix. Trey's feedback loops through the Leslie speaker creates a palpable ambient backdrop as the band takes time to alter the jam with slow spacey breakdowns (around the 16, 18 and 19 min marks) as well as building the swarm of bees for the final crescendo. I find this version to be the perfect ambient 2001 from start to finish. The dissonent breakdown that follows drops the band into the murky depths that imply the start of a Down with Disease. DWD pulls the band from the depths and soars to the surface as Trey grabs the platform and shakes the listeners with fire-breathing guitar licks on top of Fishman's breakneck tempo. Nothing close to ambient, but a wonderful juxtaposition to the nearly 23 min 2001. Waisting no time, the band seeks to return to ambient bliss but on a lighter note with a tremendous Toe sandwich. My Left Toe>Wading in the Velvet Sea>My Left Toe is a gorgeous, thought-provoking float among the clouds. This My Left Toe sandwich is a meditation on existence and our need for connections to everyone and everything. The lighter sister to What's The Use?, this MLT is a wonderful way to bring both songs to life in separate sets within the same show. Understated and the perfect cool off mid set. A well placed Bug and YEM end the set in true late 90's fashion.
ENCORE: Derek Trucks smoke-show slide guitar for Possum and Funky Bitch provides the final lift of the evening.