Two Dicks Picks:
Phish 12/2/97 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA
By: Rich Johnson Published: April 20, 2018
Hey Jamburgh, it’s your favorite Jaded Vet, Dicky Two Rich, with the first installment of "Two Dicks Picks".
In this column, I’m going to discuss some of my favorite shows, both old and new. All from the first-person perspective of someone who has seen a whole lot of bands noodle incessantly, power struggling with each other and using their instruments phallicly with overuse of musical tension and release. You know, jambands.
I just turned 40 about a month ago. I know, “it’s just a number,” and “You’re only as old as you feel,” blah blah. I’ve heard them all recently.
Regardless, milestones like that cant help to make you look back and take stock in where you’ve been, where you’re at and where you’re going. What decisions brought me to where I am today? If I hadn’t bought all those concert tickets for the past 23 years, maybe I could have some sort of a retirement plan? Or why did I pay to see Twiddle…twice?
So with that in mind, the first show I’m going to discuss ‘twenty years later’ is Phish’s performance 12/2/97 at The Spectrum in Philadelphia.
It’s common knowledge that Fall 97 was the musical peak of this band. Some may tell you otherwise, but they’re fucking morons. A lot of shows from this tour get seriously fluffed; Denver with its sick Ghost, Dayton and its stop/start Tube to name a few. I feel the Philly run gets overlooked because they were sandwiched between these epic shows.
But don’t get it twisted; this weekend had all the cowphunk and impressive jamming of the other better-known shows that tour.
Let me set the scene. It was a chilly early December evening, the air almost as cold as the hundreds of nitrous tanks running wide open in the lot (I mean, it was Philly). Yours truly was still a young, budding Wook. Picture yourself at one of your first Phish shows back in 2009. Except, you know, the music was good.
This was my fourth Phish show but my first on the floor. I get down there just as the house lights go off, and they open the show with Buried Alive. I’ll say to this day, if a show opens with Buried, you know it's gonna be hot. After that, Mike begins the rumbling opening to Down With Disease. DWD wasn’t the jam vehicle it is today, but Trey gets it going around the 6:00 mark with some great work.
From that jam they segue beautifully into the reggae funk of Makisupa Policeman. I'll never forget the sea of smoke that enveloped the floor area during this song. Kuroda also turned on the fog machines on the stage, but they seemed superfluous.
The highlights of the opening set for me are the Ghost that came out of Chalkdust and Dirt. It was my first time hearing both. The latter was positioned perfectly in the set after a Divided Sky that really got the crowd moving. Ghost had a lot of the funk elements that make this tour so fun.
Side note; I also remember this Ghost, and other songs this show, have included in them one of the most annoying aspects of going to a show in the late 90’s. And that is Phish crowds attempting to clap to the beat the band is playing (Thanks, Dave Matthews).
As with any Phish show, the second set is where this show shines. A powerful Mike’s opens the set, segueing into an interesting Simple with some nice back and forth with Trey and Page. The bust-out of the show came next with a short and sweet calypso sounding Dog Faced Boy. It’s rare when two of my favorite songs of a show are ballads, but I really enjoyed the placement of both Dirt and DFB.
Always a crowd pleaser, Ya Mar was the last slice of meat in the Mike’s sandwich before a thumping Weekapaug finished it up.
Of all the Phish shows I’ve attended, this one always sticks out as one I remember well. Probably because it was my fourth show and I was starting to get “It”. Also experiencing my first show on the floor brought a whole new perspective. I would recommend you check out both shows of the run, with the second night just as good if not better than the first. But I don’t remember that one as well. What do you expect? I’m 40.
Set 1: Buried Alive> Down With Disease> Makisupa Policeman, Chalkdust Torture, Ghost> Divided Sky, Dirt> Taste, The Star Spangled Banner
Set 2: Mike’s Song> Simple> Dog Faced Boy> Ya Mar> Weekapaug Groove, Bouncing Around the Room, Character Zero
Encore: Ginseng Sullivan> Sample in a Jar