Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Phil & Phriends Part 2: 4/16/99

Today marks the 20th Anniversary of Phil & Phriends Show from April '99 which were the first true coming together of the Grateful Dead and Phish worlds. For those of use who remember the show announcements, the importance can not be overstated, this was going to be monumental, Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell would head west to join Phil Lesh along with Steve Kimock and John Molo at The Fillmore in San Francisco. These were the hottest tickets around and even more exciting, the shows outshine the immense hype.

They remain some of the best live music produced by either outfits illustrious careers and deserve a revisit on their twentieth birthday. (Part 1Part 3)

Today we look at the mid show of the run: 4/16/99:

(Listen through the Internet Archives streaming below and watch the youtube clips throughout)

With the mega opening and the huge closing yet to come the middle night of this run doesn't always get the love it should, but the show is straight up fun from the opening "Help On the Way" notes to the acoustic "Ripple" encore. If anything this night feels the most Phish lead with Trey and Page singing and playing in the forefront for the majority of the set.

This is the epitome of a Friday Night show as the band and crowd are in high spirits and the matrix mix captures that joy. The huge "Help>Slip Franks" continues the trend of historic jamming to open as the trio clocks in at forty minutes and while Trey gets the vocals going for "Help", it is the "Slipknot!" section which pays the best dividends with the group interlocking and weaving as if they had been playing together their whole careers; it is a snake sifting through the underbrush with slinky grooving ease. The wrap up of "Franklin's Tower" is joyful but surprisingly Page hits a few false notes with his vocals.   

Unlike post Viola Lee from the first night there is no exhale to end the first set, the immensely apropos Phil lead vocals of  "Wish You Were Here" is a winner. Here is where I will put a caveat, if you don't like Phil's style of singing these shows may not take on the legendary status they have achieved in the RtBE clubhouse. Sure there is enough music (as well as vocals from Trey and Page) but Phil is the main vocalist and his singing just fine for us, but he is clearly not for everyone. 

You don't need singing to be moved towards tears during the instrumental Kimock led "Stella Blue" which weeps with majestic beauty; The ghost of Jerry Garcia is in those notes. "Tennessee Jed" is a blast of fun, a release while the players then throw down the most Phish sounding jam, and one of the individual highlights of the full run with a funk laden "Alligator" to close this set. This version was so well received fans were convinced Phish would pull it out at Big Cypress when the band rang in the millennium, but that wasn't to be.

Second set Donna Jean Godchaux joined and the fellas instantly fell into lock step with Trey leading the way on a spritely "Bertha":
The group segued into the twinkling sea song of "Prince Caspian" which found Molo hitting big drum fills as Phil played his relaxed style adding fluid, melodic bass lines underneath as the jam strolled out to fifteen minutes with Kimock feeling right at home in a Phish tune as he and Trey worked together to raise the tune to soaring heights. The middle of set was a Lesh spotlight as "St. Stephan" > "The Eleven" and "Unbroken Chain" all received huge shouts from the crowd.

The quintet's take on "Chalkdust Torture" is fine, if a bit wandering and the relaxed, "Mountains of the Moon" is a breather before the set closing double headed joyous jaunt through the beloved "Scarlet Begonias" > "Fire On the Mountain" pairing.

A "Ripple" encore wrapped up the night with excellent supporting vocals from Page and Trey. A crowd pleasing set which still brings smiles to the faces of those listening twenty years on down the road. 

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