UPDATE (9/17/13): YEMblog just tweeted out that this show will be getting the LivePhish official release treatment.
— YEMblog (@YEMblog) September 17, 2013
Hello Live Music Blog readers, this is J$ from the Phish Video blog with a special guest post for Phish Friday. Today we’re bringing you some highlights from one of the best shows, from one of the best months in Phish history–12/7/95 Niagara Falls. It’s a show that doesn’t really get it’s due respect, probably overshadowed by the fantastic shows that happened a few days later in Albany and Binghamton. This was my first show and I know everyone loves to fluff their first show, but in this case it’s a justified fluffing. Take a listen…
12-7-95 Niagara Falls Highlights [mediafire link]
(sorry we can’t offer up our standard individual mp3s this week)
Thursday, December 7, 1995 (setlist via Phish.net)
Niagara Falls Convention Center, Niagara Falls, NY
1: The Old Home Place, The Curtain-> AC/DC Bag, Demand, Rift, Slave to the Traffic Light, Guyute, Bouncing Around the Room, Possum, Hello My Baby*
2: Split Open and Melt, Strange Design, Fog That Surrounds, Reba, Julius, Sleeping Monkey, Sparkle, Mike’s Song-> Weekapaug Groove*, Amazing Grace
E: Uncle Pen
*Unfinished, spiraling into a space jam (with digital delay loop).
It was a cold day up in Niagara Falls and not just your typical Buffalo in December cold day. We’re talking really cold, like 7 degrees and windy. The Niagara Falls Convention Center is basically a big 10,000-capacity gym, with bleachers along the right-hand side and a huge GA floor. It has since been turned into an Indian Casino.
The first few songs found Phish playing solidly, but standard for Fall 95—-meaning nothing unusual. The “Demand” was a nice treat. Then came the “Slave to the Traffic Light.” This is one of the greatest Slaves of all time; Trey is just patiently holding the notes and beautifully complementing the mellow jam as it slowly builds to it’s soaring climax. It’s on par with the 12/9/95 and 12/14/95 ‘Slaves’ as the best ever. Just gorgeous.
The second set is just balls to the wall great, starting off with a HUGE “Split Open and Melt”. It starts off sort of quick and to the point–a huge ball of energy, seemingly wasting no time to get to the jam. Just as the jam gets going, they do a bit of an ‘In-A-Godda-Da-Vida’ jam for a few measures before bringing it back into usual Melt territory and just raging it before breaking it down into the Fishman-led ending. A mellow “Strange Design” followed and then an unusual “Taste/Fog” combo that they were doing for a few weeks that tour.
Then came the world’s fastest “Reba.” We’re talking MicroMachines guy fast. It doesn’t seem humanly possible. The fast “Reba” would be just another Phish gimmick if it didn’t include an outstanding jam. And of course it does. The jam sort of starts out meandering around direction-less with all 4 members trying to lead it at some point. They quickly settle it out and take it to that place where the skies are big and blue with puffy white clouds and mountains in the distance. Note the “Pop Goes the Weasel” tease right in the middle there. The jam towards the end makes me want to drive on a scenic road where every turn leads to a more scenic vista than the last. The “Reba” just sort of ends with Trey holding a note (some might say it’s botched, but I’ll just call it weird). No whistling. An unusual “Julius” followed with Page taking the solo instead of Trey.
Last, but certainly not least we have the “Mikes>Weekapaug.” This one’s a real must-hear monster. Once again, Phish is not messing around, getting right to the jam. The Page-led “tramps” section (even though there were no trampolines) is just a complete raging fire. Once Trey starts layering the heavy chords over him the jam just takes off into soaring, note-holding, head-banging rocker territory before oh-so smoothly bringing it back around to the Mike’s theme. Trey almost immediately holds another note and heads to his drum kit for some innovative fills that fit the jam well. The jam continues to be fiercely drum-heavy with some lingering spooky notes in the background. Then it starts…quietly in the background and you never hear it coming until it’s already with you… yes it’s a Weekapaug jam. Well, more like a pre-Weekapaug or an almost-Weekapaug jam but whatever- it’s just awesome. It’s just one of those glorious raise your arms in the air ‘hose‘ jams that you can’t help but smile at. My exact thoughts (and they were just thoughts since my jaw was too far on the floor to actually speak the words) during the show were “holy shit they’re playing Weekapaug, how long have they been playing Weekapaug? Holy shit, holy shit!”
Unlike the 12/1 “Mikes>Weekapaug,” they drop this “Weekapaug” into the right key before really getting going. It continues with the melodious Trey jamming before it starts in with the machine-gun Trey portion of the jam and the closing lyrics. But wait–there are no closing lyrics! The jam just gets mellow and where the song would normally end, they start going off into a spacey tangent, with Trey creating some beautiful digital delay loops. Fishman teases “Maze,” Trey holds a note for a while, and the song ends in a cacophonous climax of noise.