Phish recorded this album live during their tours from 1994* and released it to a ravenous fan base in 1995. Two discs of live Phish, divided as a Phish concert would be: a set of shorter, more straightforward crowd-pleasers to set the mood, and then a set of long, delicious jams. Both discs are great examples of what Phish can do live, and show off some of the little perks of attending a show instead of sitting at home with your albums.

* - not during the Clifford Ball, as the liner notes would have you believe. The Clifford Ball was held in 1996, and is just one more example of Phish's incessant tomfoolery. Thanks to QXZ for the tip.

Disc One

Oldies and Goodies

Not an official title--my own synopsis of Disc One's content. Their first three albums--Junta, Lawn Boy, and A Picture of Nectar--are all represented here for fans of their older, less pop-influenced sound. Fans who had been to a show might recognize Slave to the Traffic Light, and Montana was a filler jam that the band named so it would have a name besides "filler jam" on the CD. The opener is Bouncing Around the Room, with its unforgettable chorus, the aquarium-tinted lyrics, and flourishes on the piano by Page McConnell. The harmonies, especially Mike Gordon's brief solo before the group joins in on the closing choruses, are somehow sweeter for having a screaming crowd behind them.

Stash is another crowd pleasing Phish fave; the silly lyrics and the audience participation on the handclaps make it ideal for fans who enjoy the mellow buzz that comes from sitting close to the ceiling of an enclosed amphitheater full of pot smokers... If you're not high, the noodling halfway through this twelve minute performance may grate on you a little, but you've got to admit they're talented, and if you stick with it, you'll be rewarded with a car crash jam similar to the Split Open and Melt in Hoist's "Demand", and a quiet, foreshadowing vocal jam on the "Maybe so and maybe not" theme.

If you don't stick with it, you'll skip to Gumbo, a previously unreleased tune with lyrics that could be entitled "Stash II". Jon Fishman penned them to go with Trey Anastasio's tune, but the meaning is, well... obscure at best. The Giant Country Horns add just the right cajun flavor to this Gumbo, and even if you never understand a word of it, this song has groove--that ineffable, laid-back simplicity that makes all the noodling worthwhile. An a cappella chorus, and a slow sassy brass out jam are the highlights, but there are no low lights in this tune.

Montana is filler while the band prepares for a twenty minute You Enjoy Myself. Any song at twenty minutes is an epic, but when the song only has four audible words, have a seat and close your eyes--you're about to be blindsided by Phish's inevitable jamming. Their jams are rarely mediocre--they either dazzle or bore, both intensely--but the fresh new coat of paint that You Enjoy Myself gets here is proof that one twenty minute session of their best work makes you forget that you just sat through two minutes of Montana. In addition to the usual, there's a true a cappella vocal jam, rare for Phish, including vocal percussion and a buildup into a haunting closing chord that's miles away from the beginning of the song.

Time. Pure. Caffeine. Aorta. Rock and Roll.
Chalkdust Torture explodes into the quiet, lulled auditorium with Mike Gordon at the helm on bass guitar, playing his little obese snatches of funk for the madding crowd. Trey powers through the vocals, Jon keeps the rhythm tight as always, and one gets the feeling that the biggest difference in the song from the studio version is the fact that they spent twenty minutes focusing on each other's groove and mood in the previous jam.

Phish close out the first set with Slave to the Traffic Light, a Vermonty tune about the nine to five grind, and an appropriately laid-back jam. Great sung harmonies, and a nice transition back and forth between a bouncy funk & reggae, a hurried jazz, and a quiet rock epic. Tough to pin down, but lovely to listen to... Page McConnell gets in his licks on piano again, foreshadowing the beginning and the end of this particular concert with what almost amounts to an expertly played lullabye, then into a rocking guitar-focused closing movement. Slave to the Traffic Light shows that Phish is prepared to stretch their music out during this show, and the second set it going to be short on titles and long on jamming.

  1. Bouncing Around the Room
  2. Stash
  3. Gumbo
  4. Montana
  5. You Enjoy Myself
  6. Chalkdust Torture
  7. Slave to the Traffic Light

* - not during the Clifford Ball, as the liner notes would have you believe. The Clifford Ball was held in 1996, and is just one more example of Phish's incessant tomfoolery. Thanks to QXZ for the tip.

Disc Two

What a Beautiful Buzz

Five songs--two less than 5:00, two in the teens, and a half hour Tweezer. Wilson and Simple are the short pieces, each twice as long as Britney Spears' radio hits. Clever lyrics, tight rock and roll grooves, and great singing distinguish the runts of the album; but then they do bracket the behemoth. How much of a thirty-minute song can one put into words? This is what the second set of a Phish concert is about, and if you don't like it, don't buy tickets.

Each of the short pieces has memorable moments--Trey screaming out the cue to end the instrumental in Wilson ( "BOP! BOOM! Ba-digga-boom-WILSON!") and the hopelessly jumbled chorus at the end of Simple ("Cym-bop and beebaphone, sky-balls and sax-scrapers...")--but the first half of the album belongs to Tweezer. Unfortunately, I can't sit through it. Maybe I'm not high, or maybe I need to be thinking really deep thoughts, but thirty minutes is too much. It's great background music for when you're doing dishes or cleaning, but you can't just listen to it.

In contrast, Harry Hood is eminently listenable. Starting out in a reggae mood, and progressing to the runaway chorus--"You can feel good, good, good about Hood...", it's a charming reference to a New England dairy, and at the same time an existential question: where does the little man in the refrigerator go when the light goes out? The jam has highs and lows, but all are played for maximum effect, and it's one more live song that's finally available on disc for the fans who can't get tickets.

The Squirming Coil ends the album, bringing the concert full circle to a Lawn Boy song, Page McConnell's finest moment on piano, and one more marijuana reference for the phans. Page's grand piano solo at the end is easily my favorite five minutes of the album, on either disc, and makes wonderful falling-asleep music or makeout music. The song is always well done, but this version is the best I've heard, on bootleg, live, or studio. They omit the "steam dream" bridge, but otherwise, this song wraps up an album that proves one thing: when Phish have it together, they're on, and there aren't many bands around who can touch them.

  1. Wilson
  2. Tweezer
  3. Simple
  4. Harry Hood
  5. The Squirming Coil

Hoist-=%{A Live One}%=-Billy Breathes

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