, attached to 1994-11-02

Review by waxbanks

waxbanks The Tweezer is the centerpiece of this infamous show, and was included on 'A Live One' as the big Disc Two F*CK YOU jam. Like most of Phish's long pre-1996 jams, the Bangor Tweezer contains a far amount of dicking around - to my ears they still had trouble going deep with their improvisations back then. The result is a jam that's intermittently thrilling and soporific. It ends spectacularly, with a quick hurdy-gurdy groove transforming into a bit of a Sparks jam and exploding back into the Tweezer theme, and there are plenty of entertaining micro-improvisations in the middle ten minutes. But it wasn't until late 1996 and (especially) early '97 that Phish developed the patience that characterized their great improvisations.

This, then, is ADHD rock - dazzling pyrotechnics, ostentatious chops, and lots of cerebral mini-jams that manage to be both (1) short in duration and (2) oddly trying to one's patience. Weird for a 2-minute improvisation to have outstayed its welcome, but...

That said, it's a monumental rendition of this mainstay tune, and every Phish fan should hear it - if for no other reason than to help make sense of the vastly more coherent, emotionally serious music that the band was making just three years later.

This version of Possum (with extensive chordal weirdness that's traditionally been labeled 'Mind Left Body' jamming) sort of has the same problem/virtue: Trey has all these neat ideas about bringing the music up and down and all around and goofily deconstructing the Very Idea of a Blues Solo, etc., etc., and what you get is a version of the tune that's viscerally exciting and impressive without revealing even a split second of emotional depth or honesty. The band's technique in those days was positively inhuman, and 'inhuman' isn't exactly the cardinal virtue for a blues performance. Right?

But you gotta admit this too: no other band does quite what Phish does, and that was true in 1994 too. This is astonishing music: giddy high-wire ensemble playing in some weird dialect of Rock, smarter and in some ways wilder than anything else going. When they locked into a song they could perform miracles, even then. And back then they very specifically wanted to do just that. They're into other stuff now - love, death, mere living - and so the music goes deeper than ever, but is less likely to impress the music school kids. If that's your standard than enjoy this marvelous exhibition.

If you think bitter truth and ecstatic melancholy are more important to music than the blinding wizardry on display in this show, go see Phish next time they're in your town.

Well, and keep this tape too. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all.


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