David Bowie

, comment by ndphanjeff
ndphanjeff Just listen to the roar of the crowd almost 40 seconds after they finished this one. 'Nuff said.
, comment by Pinhead_Larry
Pinhead_Larry Often considered a quintessential Phish song in their LARGE catalog, David Bowie was an early jamming vehicle, and an effective one at that. However, nothing could have prepared anyone for the infamous "Providence Bowie" as it came to be known.

We get a preview of what we're in for right at the beginning (even before Jon's high-hat rolls) with the 3-minute long Digital Delay Loop Jam. Now this DDLJ, like most others, is layered and adds a certain atmosphere. But this is a foggy, night-at-the-cemetery kind of "foggy." Also, this DDLJ is given more texture with Trey looping some guitar slides and other scratching type sounds. Then, *BOOM* the famous Bowie high hat. I've never heard a crowd quite as excited as this crowd on this night (the crowd at IT's Tower Jam is up there, too).

This Bowie is something else. It's massive (35 minutes if you include the DDLJ), it's powerful...and it's a little disjointed. But that's OK because this isn't Fall '97 Phish where everything flowed into one singular idea. This is Fall (technically Winter, but I still say Fall) '94 ADHD Phish where the big jams contained jams withing the jams, and any and all ideas are tried, which makes for a multifaceted and multi-section jam. This is not meant as an insult. Actually this is the reason why I love 1994 and 1995 (and to an extent) 1996 so much. The experimentation was high, and the energy as a result was even higher.

Back to the Bowie at hand. The beginning 10 minutes are an eerie and colossal jamming segment that loops some of the Trey scratching effects from the DDLJ. In fact, I'd say at about the 10-minute mark they abandon the "song" Bowie and go straight into a free-form improvisation jam-fest. However, not too long after, say around the 18-ish minute mark the jam takes a 180 degree turn into an upbeat I-IV-V style jam (or at least that's what I make out of it). Make no mistake, though, this is a temporary segment. Then probably the scariest vocal jam I've ever heard (tied with Halloween '95 YEM) takes place. It starts with a whistling (from Jon, maybe?) and then Lassie banter. *I remember when I took an Abnormal Psych class and our professor gave us an MP3 file of audio hallucinations so as to simulate Paranoid Schizophrenia. This Lassie-based vocal jam gave me a flash back to that assignment*

Cue Page's eerie, "now we mean business" synthesizer funk keys and the jam comes back full circle to the big monster it was before wrapping up with the shredding guitar solo from Trey, and the jam is over.

This David Bowie is one of the biggest, monstrous (I know I've used this adjective a lot, but it's the only word that accurately captures the mood of this jam to my ears) jams I've ever heard. It's not on the jam charts simply because of its length. It's there because, while not flawless, this is representative of one of the most experimental eras the band saw. And this is one of the most experimental jams of said era. Words can't do it justice (or I lack the proper vocabulary). Just take half an hour out of your day and check it out. Or if you're familiar with it, listen again. There's always something more to catch with a jam that has so much stuff going on with it as this Bowie does.

Is it the best Bowie? I don't really know. A lot of fans will make that claim (though I'm partial to the 7/30/97 Bowie-> Cities-> Bowie, myself) but this one, as well as the 11/26/94 Bowie are certainly not to be missed by fans of the band. In fact, if you're willing, just check out the whole 12/29/94 show. Beyond the Bowie, there are some real gems and other cool jams here. They didn't just release it on Live Phish vol. 20 just for the Bowie! (though I'm sure that was a big part of it)...
 

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