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Published: 2007/03/21
by Randy Ray

Phish - 11/14/95 and 12/1/95

Live Phish Video
We seem to be entering the Golden Era of Phish Archival Releases and not a moment too soon. If last year my jamband theme was handling transitional periods, this year its all about the importance of keeping the integrity of a legacy intact [see my March Peaches En Randalia column for further insight into that sometimes challenging concept]. The latest audio/video delights salvaged from the Phish vaults confirm two points with me. One, the bands music is still fairly timeless with nary a note of dated material; the gigs appear like they were recorded yesterday and, I suppose the fact that their clothing and hairstyles were so dorkafied and out of step with modern styles helped their cause. Two, unlike so many other bandsincluding the Grateful Dead who were saddled with the yin/yang philosophical doppelganger (copyright pending) called the SixtiesPhish remained out of step with their times while embracing a mythological period which did not exist. Hence, their weird stranglehold on so many fans that continues to this day.
Case in point, I had gone four months without listening to the band while catching up on a tidal wave of modern sounds. I pop these two shows up on the screen and instantly by some phantasmorgical bit of Vermont magic, I am both transported back to Fall 1995 and tossed into the ancient ruins of Trey Anastasios carefully guarded Gamehendge. Alas, the place still exists like some monolithic Atlantis that withstood the Noah-like floodsalmost literally, if you consider Coventryand came to be a place uncorrupted by the ravaged stupidity of its various occupants. Fall 1995 on film or tape or CD or mp3 is a fairly fine snapshot of just how good Phish could be when all four members were completely in sync with their widely divergent improv genre-hopping. Heady frogs should take notes throughout the Land O Ponds because no lifeform bounced from mythical trampolines to a magical stage quite as well as these boys did back on that legendary tour of Who cover albums, chess boards and cosmic tension-and-release jams.
Ironically, Anastasio almost falls off a tramp during the obligatory stage shtick in a tight YEM but at this stage of their decade long climb to the top of the Jam Mountain, that was the only misstep in a staggering evening of great musicfrom the opening burst of Chalkdust Torture onto a mindblowing thirty-minute Stash, which contains a rare Manteca with Esther, 25 or 6 to 4 teases and some drop a needle on the floor and hear it echo moments of silence which fans of the band in the 00s may not be able to comprehend if they only saw Phish in the late stages betwixt the two hiatuses (hiatusi?). I could detail all of the fantastical meanderings of 12/1/95, as well, but it begets critical repetitiondifferent setlists, shtick and song choices equaled the same conclusion: everyone was playing very well and the crowd existed in a sublime bubble of jam unity.
Either purchase of either filmed look at the band during one of their several peak erasFall 1995 sits nicely next to the space explorations of Fall 1997 as a companion pieceis a must-have for any veteran or new Phish fan simply because it does show one rather key point. When filming a band, perhaps it is enough just to allow the camera to stand at attention, focusing on a two-dimensional master shot with Chris Kurodas stupendous lighting design coloring the tableauin short, let the music do the talking.

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