Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Show #13: Oswego County Airport Volney, NY

PHISH AMBIENT JAM GRADE 7/17:   7 out of 10 

Highlights: 7/17 Tweezer > Have Mercy > Taste, DWD
Listen Here: http://www.phishtracks.com/shows/1999-07-17
Phish.net Phan Reviews: http://phish.net/setlists/?d=1999-07-17

Oswego is the platform upon which Phish builds and connects its jams - past, present and future. Inviting all of the ingredients which have fans flocking into one fire-born cauldron of magic. Clearly the Architect had set out to construct a concert experience that brought Phish's influences together to appease a little bit inside everyone. Blues, Reggae, Bluegrass, Funk, Whimsy, Ambient, Rock and everything in between. 

The ambient flourishes are ever present in these shows. By now it has become "Phish's style." Many, many Phans think that it is Phish being sloppy but that is just not the case. Phish is playing in a looser style than ever before due to the tremendous impact of 1997 and 1998 on their cache within the record industry and the perceived power that Trey had over the band. They were doing less controlled practices and trying to create music more organically. More experimentally. The Siket Disc was "their sound" at the time. They worked by not working. Sonic landscapes were what they painted within almost every show, and rarely did it matter what set it was or what song it was. This was the Phish "Wall of Sound" ...not by stacking amps, but by creating a symphony of loops and feedback. They are still very precise in most of their songs, and not as drug addled as many claimed they were at the time. Sure, they partied... we all partied at these shows. Before. During. After. However, there is a clear distinction between Phish in 1999 and Phish in 2003.  
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*Reminder - my reviews are primarily based upon exploring ambient jams. I will often skip over great rock, funk or other types of jams in my reviews as they are not necessary for this blog series. The Phish.net reviews linked above will paint a bigger picture if you are truly interested in learning about the complete shows of 1999.

Set 1: In what seems like a clear blueprint of the future jams of 2000, Phish lays down a Tweezer jam that is altogether smooth, spacey, jagged, peaked, subtle and ambient in more ways than one. Mike Gordon carries this jam on his back - connecting Trey to the rest of the band as Big Red starts to drift. However, it is this drifting that is so reminiscent of the future jams of 2000. This is one of those jams and segues that draws me to the ambient jams of 1999. Space is king. Space is relative. Space is the jam.

The segue to Have Mercy is perfect - with ambient swirls, a funk groove and reggae inflections. Twas the necessary release to the tempest of that Tweezer's futuristic ambient space funk. This is the BEST version of Have Mercy that I have ever heard Phish play. They truly make it their own - with a transition mid song that is so incredibly patient and beautiful - going from tease to full version almost on a whim. Have Mercy also goes out in true 1999 form and atmospherically twirls its way into a great Taste.
 Set 2: The ever present second set Down with Disease gets this show on the road following a historic Son Seals sit-in to open the set. This jam starts as most DWD jams begin - with a tour de force guitar solo from Trey. Attempting to show Mr. Seals how a modern bluesman gets dirty, Anastasio builds a monument to cock rock with a lesly-tinged feedback bonanza. The reverse-reverb effect has Trey really punching the solo through the garage-band-esque backdrop set by the other three as they try to keep up with Red's fire. Around 11 minutes into the song you start to wonder if Trey is going to give up some space to let the band explore, or if he plans to set the record of most trill notes in a solo. The release finally happens after 13 and a half mins, which is when Trey goes for the reverse delay pedal on top of the reverse reverb. This is the sound of a black hole eating its way through the universe. Page provides the space. Gordon seems a bit lost in space. Fishman is the passing stars and planets and comets and meteors. The ensuing ambient jam gets very cacophonous. Dark Star Trey finally fades into oblivion. The band locks up a dirty funk rhythm over the drone of the black hole loop from Trey. Page decides the groove is not enough without weird alien voices or sounds and thus provides the sound effect of tiny space mice crawling through the cascading space funk. Slowly Trey brings back the DWD arena rock chords and finished the song on the main riff. Kirk out.

Link Saturday, 07/17/1999
Oswego County Airport, Volney, NY

Soundcheck: Mr. Sausage, Beauty of My Dreams, Carini (slower)
Set 1: Tube > Boogie On Reggae Woman, Birds of a Feather, Guelah Papyrus, My Sweet One, Roggae, Tweezer -> Have Mercy -> Taste > Character Zero
Set 2: Funky Bitch[1], On My Knees[2], Jam > Down with Disease, Wolfman's Brother -> Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley[3] > Timber (Jerry), You Enjoy Myself
Encore: The Squirming Coil, Tweezer Reprise
[1] Son Seals on guitar and vocals.
[2] Phish debut; Son Seals on guitar and vocals.
[3] No vocal jam.
Notes: This was the first show of the Camp Oswego festival. Have Mercy was played for the first time since November 12, 1994 (335 shows). Son Seals sat in on guitar and vocals for his own composition, Funky Bitch, as well as the Phish debut of On My Knees. Afterwards, a brief blues jam was played as Son left the stage. Sneakin' Sally did not contain a vocal jam.

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