Phish Friday | Clifford Ball Set II, A Magnum Opus?

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This week’s Phish Friday selection comes from Live Music Blog friend, Gibs, whose Phish roots run deep and whose musical mind is a bit of an enigma. He’s always been a friend whose brain swells with musical ideas that he usually keeps to himself, only to unleash them at rare moments on unsuspecting friends. I recently stopped bugging him about sharing some of his writings on LMB, and I think that may have done the trick. Just this week, he finally decided it was time to share with us one of his favorite Phish sets of all time. Enjoy.

For me, Phish has never played a more complete, perfect set than Set II from the Clifford Ball on 8/17/96. Sure, other sets might provide more craziness (a la MSG 12/30/97 or the Amsterdam worm); or nostalgia (a la the redemptive Alpine encore ’99 or Stuttgart ’97). But for this moment in time out in Plattsburgh, the Vermont foursome reached the pinnacle. Emboldended by their own confidence and progress – and probably surprised that so many people were willing to venture forth into the strangeness and share and follow in their journey together – Phish created a masterpiece. The whole weekend confirmed the greatness in our own minds, as the two days are littered with brilliant performances (Reba is pure bliss), but for me this set takes the cake by far…

“The Curtain” – how they should have played it at Coventry, a primer to set things off.

“Runaway Jim” – Trey weaves in and out but never strays too far from the theme. But this is ‘groupmind’ hitting on all cylinders.

“It’s Ice” – Page takes command of this one, the breakdown segment is filled with joy and inspiration.

“Brother” – pure, unadulterated fun with Ben & Jerry coming out for the refrain. Sure, it’s somewhat stupid, but the solo Trey pulls off against the rhythmic pulse is amazing every time I listen to it. Somewhat subtle. It never quite soars, but it slays me.

“Fluffhead” – nailed. Enough said. The composition reaches each part with anticipation and build – we all know what is coming next, but this one is practically flawless.

“Antelope” – the antithesis of the form preceeding it, as this one is all improv first with a little form at the backend coda. Easily Top 5 versions ever played – it has both purpose and direction from the word go.

“Golgi” – need a little break and fun.

“Slave” – THE reason why this set rings so true for me…patient and transcendently beautiful. Never before has the ending reached such blissful euphoria. Trey starts hitting notes that even he seems surprised by, but he is careful not to rush this song in this setting. I could listen to this version from about the 10:00 mark on and never grow bored. It is incendiary, but not overbearing. And as they reach that crescendo, they burst forth into the climax with a sense of wonder and relief.

Enjoy!

  • robotic

    wow, nice ‘phish friday’, gibs… i hope you decide to do another one soon! i haven’t gotten to listen to it yet, but i will after coachella’s over!!!

  • robotic

    wow, nice ‘phish friday’, gibs… i hope you decide to do another one soon! i haven’t gotten to listen to it yet, but i will after coachella’s over!!!

  • robotic

    wow, nice ‘phish friday’, gibs… i hope you decide to do another one soon! i haven’t gotten to listen to it yet, but i will after coachella’s over!!!

  • stan

    listening now. first comment is Whoa on the sound quality. much better than whatever source i have, which is why this set hasn’t gotten a lot of play for me.

    i’ll check back in. so far so good.

  • EJ
  • EJ
  • stan

    wow, very good stuff. sometimes i get so lost in the funk that i forget about how much i enjoy some of these older, less-exploratiory sets. highlight for me was (not kidding) brother. it just plain rips. for other brother lovers out there (weird), check the version from island tour as well as its radio-friendly reprise.

    fluff was damn near flawless. this was the part of this set that i’ve heard a bunch of times. makes you realize why they put a bullet in this song post-hiatus. if you can’t play it right, just leave it on the shelf with the pregnant hens.

  • stan

    wow, very good stuff. sometimes i get so lost in the funk that i forget about how much i enjoy some of these older, less-exploratiory sets. highlight for me was (not kidding) brother. it just plain rips. for other brother lovers out there (weird), check the version from island tour as well as its radio-friendly reprise.

    fluff was damn near flawless. this was the part of this set that i’ve heard a bunch of times. makes you realize why they put a bullet in this song post-hiatus. if you can’t play it right, just leave it on the shelf with the pregnant hens.

  • stan

    thanks EJ for spreading the love

  • stan

    thanks EJ for spreading the love

  • gibs

    i have the FM sbd source (which the band was feeding – hence the chatter to tell the pilot to get in the air for the botched Harpua encore), so quality is stellar. and this set deserves it. i will put it up against anything else – it is the culmination in so many things that came before it and heralded them into a new direction (97 sheds/funk would follow). every song is ridiculous – and the fact that brother is a highlight shows just how crazy good this set truly is.

  • gibs

    i have the FM sbd source (which the band was feeding – hence the chatter to tell the pilot to get in the air for the botched Harpua encore), so quality is stellar. and this set deserves it. i will put it up against anything else – it is the culmination in so many things that came before it and heralded them into a new direction (97 sheds/funk would follow). every song is ridiculous – and the fact that brother is a highlight shows just how crazy good this set truly is.

  • http://bromans.blogspot.com/ brian

    beautiful!

    having seen most of my shows from the ’93-’96, my favorite era, this is a treat — this nicely replaces my worn-out cassette … yes, cassette (i’m catchin’ up slowly)

    thanks

  • http://bromans.blogspot.com/ brian

    beautiful!

    having seen most of my shows from the ’93-’96, my favorite era, this is a treat — this nicely replaces my worn-out cassette … yes, cassette (i’m catchin’ up slowly)

    thanks

  • http://freshbread.blogs.com ryan freshbread

    This is THE set that made me phall in love with phish. Cheers on highlighting such a good set.

    awesome.

  • http://freshbread.blogs.com ryan freshbread

    This is THE set that made me phall in love with phish. Cheers on highlighting such a good set.

    awesome.

  • Dianna

    Completely agree with freshbread….

    and love the Phish fridays with 8 mp3s!

  • Dianna

    Completely agree with freshbread….

    and love the Phish fridays with 8 mp3s!

  • marc chiavon

    hey i been trying for days to get this fuckin show man, i have the vcd of the 2nd set if anyone wants it, ill be glad to distribute it b/c its just to damn good

  • marc chiavon

    hey i been trying for days to get this fuckin show man, i have the vcd of the 2nd set if anyone wants it, ill be glad to distribute it b/c its just to damn good