11/26/13Posted in Album-reviews by David Melamed

Phish - Niagara Falls (12/7/1995 Live Release)


 

From a band whose storied career spans three full decades, Niagara Falls captures Phish in their prime, at a point where the band was gaining traction… selling out large arenas, expanding and refining a diverse repertoire, and building a strong relationship with their consistently-growing fan base. The concert, recorded at the Niagara Falls Convention Center on December 7, 1995, is an expedition in early Phish, at the height of their popularity.

Phish began jamming in 1983, growing from a small arts college setting to a well-respected local band in Burlington, VT. After a cross-country road trip led to some success (see Colorado ’88), the band released soon their first album on a major record label (Lawn Boy, Elektra). At the time, the Phish live experience was unparalleled, with outlandish narrative story-telling and intriguing classical composition influences. By the time Phish played Niagara Falls in 1995, the band found themselves with an incredibly structured network of Phish fanatics.

People simply couldn’t get enough, and for good reason, too!

The Niagara Falls concert starts out with the twangy guitar tones of “Old Home Place,” an upbeat bluegrass number that gets the audience in the dancing mood. I defy you to listen to this song without so much as a foot-tap or head-bob… it is a seriously infectious tune. This segues into “The Curtain” > “AC/DC Bag,” two staples of any high-Phish diet. This “Bag” is a particularly jammy one, stretching out to nine-plus minutes. It’s nice to hear them let loose on "AC/DC Bag," especially considering that Phish has yet to play a thoroughly-extended “AC/DC Bag” in the 3.0 era.

This song transitions into another 3.0 rarity, “Demand,” a peculiar song with eerie harmonies and prominent bass-line grooves. The song is brief, providing a haunting introduction for the fast-paced opening of “Rift,” one of my personal favorite Phish songs. “Slave to the Traffic Light” comes next, with an interesting mid-set placement (the song is more commonly used to end a set), but never fails to deliver an excellently flowing jam. From here, we get “Guyute,” “Bouncing Around the Room,” an excellent “Possum,” and an set-closing a cappella performance of “Hello My Baby.”

That Phish would perform an entire set of original music, bookended by adaptations of traditional covers (“Old Home Place” and “Hello My Baby”), speaks to their awareness as artists. “Hello My Baby” was first written in 1889 (a full 124 years old), and is the first well-known song about the telephone. By choosing this tune, and by performing it a cappella, Phish both aligned themselves with a long musical tradition, and coyly expressed their sense of humor. It works, it’s great, and it’s a real treat to hear, some eighteen years later.

The second set begins with an Audience Chess Move. During the 1995 tour, Phish started a chess match against their audience, in which a single member of the audience would be chosen to make a chess move at each concert. It’s an interesting example of the Phish-audience concert dynamic, and very symbolic of our adulation for the band. This leads them into a particularly “out-there” performance of “Split Open and Melt,” which splits open and melts for seventeen rip-roaring minutes, delving into foreign keys and unknown waters before subtly closing with the song’s original melody. Melt… split open and melt…

After a standard “Strange Design,” the band tackles the then-new composition, “Taste.” This has a slightly different arrangement as the modern version, and it’s interesting to compare the old with the new. A faster-than-usual “Reba” (without whistling), funky-as-usual “Julius,” comical-as-usual “Sleeping Monkey,” and deviously-upbeat-as-usual “Sparkle” round out the majority of the second set. The band follows up with a “Mike’s Song” that directly transitions into “Weekapaug Groove,” without so much as a notion of Hydrogen. This “Weekapaug” grooves its way into a “Digital Delay Loop Jam” (credited as a separate track on phish.net but not on the album itself), an ethereal whirlwind of psychedelic experimentation. It almost sounds like they’re experimenting for the sake of experimentation, though this somewhat aimless jam does finish with a powerful crescendo. Of course, after an extended journey through the realms of musical psychedelia, Phish closes the second set with an a cappella rendition “Amazing Grace.” Amazing!

Wrap it all up with an “Uncle Pen” encore, and toss in a slowed-down “Old Home Place” soundcheck jam, and you have yourself an exceptional live release. Niagara Falls captures the musical essence of 1995, 1.0-era Phish. From the experimental space jams, the double a cappella set closers, and the pure bliss of the band’s original music, this is one joyous slice of fabled Phish-tory.

-David Melamed (@DMelamz)


Related



Comments


Lockn' Fills Out Lineup With Grateful Dead's Core Four In Different Collaborations

The 'Core Four' of the Grateful Dead, namely Bob Weir, Phil Lesh, Mickey Hart and Bil ...


Gary Clark Jr. Announces New Album, Shares New Song 'The Healing'

Guitar master Gary Clark Jr. has confirmed plans to release The Story Of Sonny Boy ...


Watch 1,000 Musicians Cover Foo Fighters For Epic Hometown Concert Plea

If you want The Foo Fighters to play your town, you can't just ask them. They're rock ...


Phish Releases Pro-Shot Footage Of Epic 'Simple' Jam From Bend, OR

Debut music aside, one of the improvisational highlights from Phish's two-night Ben ...


Billy And The Kids To Join Railroad Earth And Snarky Puppy At Red Rocks

As if an evening with Railroad Earth and Snarky Puppy at Red Rocks Amphitheatre ...


Listen: Prince Shares Funky New Single, 'Stare'

With the building anticipation of his 34th and "super funky" studio effort, The Hit ...


Watch Full Sets of The String Cheese Incident, Twiddle, Dopapod, and Nahko at the Red Rocks

The String Cheese Incident, Twiddle, Dopapod, and Nakho and Medicine For The People ...


Watch Branford Marsalis Jam With Dave Matthews In Florida

Renowned saxophonist Branford Marsalis has been making his presence felt on the curre ...


Gaslight Anthem Release Statement Announcing Indefinite Hiatus

Rockers The Gaslight Anthem have just announced an indefinite hiatus. The news came v ...


Phish Busts Out 'The Connection' In Jam-Heavy Texas Finale

Now on the sixth night of their 24-date summer tour, Phish was clearly ready to have ...


Watch Dr. Klaw (Members Of Lettuce & Dumpstaphunk) Heat Up Brooklyn Bowl In Rare Performance

Dr. Klaw is a next-level supergroup comprised of Eric Krasno (Lettuce), Nigel Hal ...


Gregg Allman Wants To Jam With Estranged Allman Brothers Band Member Dickey Betts

In a recent interview with Alan Paul of the Wall Street Journal, Gregg Allman discu ...


Bob Weir Is Working On A New Album

Bob Weir has recruited a number of indie artists for a new album of "cowboy songs", a ...


The Official Mysteryland Aftermovie Is Here

Mysteryland 2015 brought over 50,000 attendees to Bethel Woods, NY, the site of Wood ...


Souper Groove Fest Announces Complete 2015 Lineup

Super Grouve Festival is back with a big lineup! The Labor Day weekend throwdown i ...


Here's Why Spotify's New 'Discover Weekly' Feature Nails It

Spotify recently implemented "Discover Weekly", a personalized playlist based on t ...


Skrillex Turns The Tables On TMZ, Inspires Cameraman With Kindness

Being a celebrity often means having to put up with the paparazzi, and no outlet does ...


Top 12 Music Venues In The US To See Before You Die

America is truly a wonderful place to be a music lover. This country has so many min ...


A Farewell To Camp Minglewood: Catskill Chill's Many Memorable Musical Highlights

With the Catskill Chill Music Festival celebrating its final year at Camp Minglewood ...


A Behind The Scenes Look At Camp Bisco 2015

Camp Bisco was truly a special weekend! Photographer Dave Vann was there to get a ...


Top 10 Bassists Of All Time By The Motet's Garrett Sayers

Garrett Sayers is the extremely talented bassist behind Colorado-based funk powerhou ...


L4LM Premiere: The Jauntee 'Flutterby' On New Single

With a brand new album, Excelsior, due out on August 7th, The Jauntee are spreading t ...


L4LM Exclusive: Watch SCI's Jason Hann, Nigel Hall & More Collaborate With Analog Son

Analog Son is a funky new supergroup with a rotating cast of talented cats lead by ...


Graham Nash Talks Moving On From CSN Drama, Focusing On Music

With the wonderful life that Graham Nash has had to date, there are many things to b ...


Over 45 Years Later, The Who's 'Tommy' Remains A Rock Masterpiece

In the first part of our Retrospective series on The Who, published oh-so-long-ago, ...


Top 6 All-Star Collaborations Set For Vibes 2015

It seems that one motif of 2015’s Gathering of the Vibes Festival lineup is artist ...


6 Undercard Acts Not To Miss At Gathering Of The Vibes

Gathering of the Vibes is fast approaching, and we couldn't be more excited! With an ...


These 15 Photos Capture The Excitement Of Phish's Tour Opener In Bend, OR

Phish played two sold out shows at the beautiful Les Schwab Amphitheater on July 21st ...


The Top 15 Umphrey's McGee Covers

For nearly 20 years, Umphrey’s McGee has steadily climbed their way to the tip-top ...


Top Photos From Pitchfork Music Festival's 10th Anniversary Celebration

Pitchfork Music Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary in style in Chicago’s beau ...


North Coast Music Festival's Co-Founder Reveals His Top 10 Can't-Miss Acts!

Michael Harrison Berg of Silver Wrapper, co-founding partner & co-talent buyer of ...


L4LM Exclusive: Watch Umphrey's McGee Record 'Plunger' Live For The London Session

Last year, Umphrey's McGee had the honor of recording in the world-famous Abbey R ...


The Most Anticipated Acts At Gathering Of The Vibes

With the 20th anniversary celebration of Gathering of the Vibes right around the corn ...


Top 20 Photos From Camp Bisco 2015

Camp Bisco 2015 was a blast, featuring fantastic sets from The Disco Biscuits, Pre ...





L4LM Twitter