From: Charlie Dirksen
11/23/96 Pacific Coliseum, Vancouver, BC The Curtain to open this set is a little fudged in parts, fwiw. Mike's Song opens
on the last note of Curtain. Kinda loose opening, it would seem. Almost groovy, even (i.e., not tight..). A little on the slow side,
too, but not so much for 1995-6. Tramps jam opens around 2:45 or so and Trey is right there with Mike and Page,
chording/strumming low on the 'doc. This Mike's has the feel of old versions. Trey solos in a spooky, off-key manner, for the
most part. He is, though, more melodious in here than he was in those old, practically dissonant versions of the first five years or
so of Mike's Songs. Around 5:30 Trey picks it up a bit (Page was chording pretty fiercely), soloing in a sickly ominous fashion.
Raw. Vader! Release Him!! The jamming around 6:30 is forceful and serious. Mike is repetitively funking low, Page is
sustaining chords, Trey is soloing in a off-key eerie fashion -- climbing the 'doc slllowly. Fish just keeps pounding out a thick
groove, until around 7:40 or so he nails the snare a bit (he doesn't do this very often!). By 8 minutes the Mike's is in a HAZY
FOG, a frightening wall of sound. Mike starts melodiously funking away, though, which is cool! Quite a noisy, severe Mike's
Song. I really hope there was FOG and STROBES for this jam. Anyone who was there care to relate? Closing Mike's Song
tramps segment chords around 9 minutes, and at 9:20 the post-tramps segment begins, with Trey distorting and sustaining ... At
9:47 Trey begins playing Simple. And at ten minutes the first lyrics of "Simple" begin. This sounds like one of the MEANEST
Simples I've ever heard, fwiw. They sound almost PISSED to be singing it. Fits right in with the EVIL Mike's Song that
preceded it. Chorus at 11:54 or so. "We got be bop" around 12:20... The Simple jam segment begins at 13:40 or so. Trey
solos well, naturally, and the others accompany well. But he doesn't get into the upper reaches of the 'doc until around 14:45,
and by then.. well. He doesn't do all that much. He still solos mellifluously.. Decent, but really. There are a lot of more inspiring
Simple jams, in my opinion. He gets really repetitive around 16:15 or so, and it sounds pretty cool -- he turns on the LESLIE
watery psychedelic guitar effect, too. This is a cool jam in here (16-17) for Simple, but still, nothing that really strikes a chord,
until about 17:10 when Trey starts trilling!!!! =^] Cool!! And he keeps it up!!! Page Mike and Fish kinda drop out.. lightly
play!! Sweet! =^] Very beautiful segue going on in here. The Simple jam just DISSOLVES away.. preciously. At 18:20 Page's
piano is clearly audible out of the remainder of that Simple jam. Page is just tooling around now (18:40). Still the hum of the
'docs.. Basically just Page until 19:14 when Trey just starts playing Makisupa! (!) I really doubt this was planned. I don't think
Page expected it (at least). This is a strange segue, fwiw. It certainly wasn't what I'd call "magical" or smooth. (still a segue,
though) Certainly not as cruddy as the JUMP into the DWD Jam out of the Tweezer from Seattle. Trey mentions losing his
dank at the border. Otherwise, a somewhat lethargic and dreary version of Makisupa. Page funks out a little on the clav, but not
much. A very, very loose, spacey version. HO HUM. Some queer noises in here from something (sounds like a mouth). Mike
loosely plays, but .. not much, uh, power to this, uh, version. Trey appears to move to the percussion kit and lightly tool around.
This is honestly one of the most BLAH, WHATEVER versions of Makisupa I've ever heard. Trey tools around on the
percussion kit, which I suppose is somewhat cool. But this version drags, imo. Sortof a "WHO CARES" version of Makisupa.
They don't sound very enthusiastic. At 25 minutes or so Trey lets loose some effects on the 'doc.. (that was a complete
Makiuspa, fwiw) And out of what sounds to me like SHIT, at 25:36 they just RIP INTO AXILLA PART ONE!!!!
@&$#@@*!%?$!@&$^ And SLOPPILY, I might add. Trey doesn't sound on top of it for about ten seconds or so. This is
definitely part one.. I missed these lyrics (sniff). Good to hear them so clearly on the 12/31/96 DFM. This is Axilla Part One.
You know how it goes. BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM.. any of you watch the "Tracking" video? You remember Mike
screaming "AXILLA" over and over? Highlight of that film for me.. that was hysterical. It is worth the price of the video just for
that. I was so relieved to see him mocking this lame-ass "song." I'd always thought that this song was deliberately amusing.. a
"joke," like Fish playing vacuum during Great Gig or something.. At 29:05 the Part Two ending does NOT come in,
unfortunately. There's just this wicked, evil FOG of sounds, out which Fishman at 29:22 or so just starts up the Weekapaug
drums. Weekapaug is at the typical speed. Jam segment opens around 31:10 or so. Trey is low on the 'doc strumming
repetitively. This is one of my favorite Phish songs, by the way. I basically always love it. Trey lets loose some nice licks, and
Mike is noticeably funking away in the background (Page is playing typical weekapaugian accompaniment). Trey solos quite
well around 33 minutes.. FINALLY starts playing this with some PASSION!!! =^] Yes!!!!! =^] The jamming around 34:40 is
very good, but then Trey blows it by hitting and sustaining a Note that really didn't belong. He drops it shortly, though, and
starts mellifluously soloing in typically Weekapaugian Glory. =^] At 35:40 or so Trey gets low on the 'doc and starts Flllllying!!
=^] He hits some AWRY notes that don't sound too sweet around 36:20, though. :( Very nice jamming for the most part in
here, but it really is all Trey it sounds like (Trey leading it, as usual). At about 37:10 Trey just sustains a note.. for awhile.. uh..
Trey... RELEASE IT.. nope. He starts strumming away beneath it... Wow. At about 37:45 or so the jam drops into "The Quiet
Mode" where they all just grooooove in a somewhat laid back fashion. Page starts playing that clav! Mike & Fish punch out a
funky bottom. Trey repetitively strums/chords. The jamming in here begins to RAGE and frolick.. Fishman starts FLAILING
AWAY!!!! =^] =^] Don't often here him go off like this! DAMMIT!!! Again, Trey makes some noises on that damn 'doc that
really sound like crap. Oh well. This is like the ANTI-12/31/95 Weekapaug, folks. MUCK MUCK MUCK MUCK..
BLECH!!! (40 minutes) Trey starts soloing with a weird effect turned on out of The Muck.. steadily climbing. But where?
Seems pretty damn directionless. Fishman is still pounding away (with Mike and Page trying to salvage a groove of some kind).
(insert big farting noise here) At 41:10 or Trey jumps on the percussion kit and just starts rapidly WAILING AWAY on the
damn thing!! Page tools around on the clavinet. At 41:51 Mike starts loudly, and in a Very Odd Voice, singing CATAPULT
(meanwhile, Fishman is lightly keeping a weekapaugian groove going, basically, and Trey wigs out on the percussion kit.. no
page). At 42:40 it ends, and Fishman rolls a bit on the BASS TOM, which I don't think I've ever heard him do before. Trey
pounds away on the percussion kit, then Page comes back in playing very peculiarly on what I guess is the damn clavinet. Very
odd. CRASH BAM SLAM THUNK CLANK!! BOOM!! SPLAT!! 43:46 tota time.. .. and that's how this Mike's Groove
ended. @%$*^@##%@%(@!*#^)(%* Well, this is OBVIOUSLY an "N/R" rated MikeSGroove. What a bloody TURD
ending, in my opinion. Just MUCK for the most part. Directionless improvisation all over the place... As I said, it is basically the
ANTI-12/31/95, or even the ANTI-12/30/93, of Mike'sGrooves. You should hear it for yourself, of course. Maybe you will
like it. It is Absolut Schwag next to 12/30/93-2, for example. And Icculus, I'd rather listen to the 8/6/96 Tweezer or the
12/31/96 DWD or the Simple jam of the 12/28/96 Mike's Song or the [insert many other 1996 jams here] than this
MikeSGroove. After the fall '96 tape offer, this will be an EASY liquidation. Sure, there were moments of Glory in this version:
there was some *GREAT* stuff in the Weekapaug before it went to shit, and a decent close to the Simple jam segment. Um..
otherwise. Well, in my opinion, there's better improvisation in the Jones Beach Tweezer (see the Dave's Energy Guide section
of that Tweezer.. all one and a half minutes of it), and I don't even LIKE that exploratory version that much. Honestly, having
heard the Bozeman Tweezer and the Providence Bowie so recently, not to mention various jams from Dec 1995 recently, this
MikeSGroove just SUCKED. I'm sure it would have been fun to see **LIVE**, though. I'm just talking about what I hear on
tape. I am spectacularly disappointed. I can completely understand why people got their rocks off at this show. The Harry and
GTBT are both fired up (there are plenty of more exciting GTBTs out there, though, like even the one on the NYE run). It is
certainly one of the most unusual setlists of the month. But musically, there's just too much NOISY CRAP in this Mike's Groove
for me to appreciate it. In my opinion, ALL OF THE DEC 1995 MikeSGRooves put it TO SHAME, musically. ALL OF
THEM!!! Not a fair comparison!? Ok then. The jamming in the Simple-like jam before Strange Design on 12/28/96 is faaaar
more beautiful (that jam sounds composed!). Gorgeous improv. Axilla Pt 1 was completely appropriate in this Vancouver
groove, not to mention the Catapult. Again, I can completely understand why this show kicked a lot of people in the ass. I just
think that, musically, it is pretty blah. This is where Dan Purcell's height/width rating system comes in. This setlist had all sorts of
width -- lots of stuff in it (strange placements, Axilla Pt One, Catapult..). But height? I don't THINK so. There were moments
of glory, to be sure, but overall, this entire set is a TOTAL DOG LOG next to, say, the 12/30/93 Mike's Song. Too much
mucky schlocky gook. I absolutely DO NOT recommend this MikeSGroove. There's some passionate playing in it, to be sure,
but the version as a whole leaves a very wretched taste in my mouth. But that's just me. And as all of you are fond of saying,
you don't always agree with me. Which is why perhaps you should check this version out -- it really isn't "typical." The Harry
Hood closer of the set sounds a bit rushed, btw... the build really isn't at all good. The Plateau is reached pretty damn quickly,
and the ending is effectively just FIRED UP FOR A LONG TIME!! The last couple of minutes are just harsh harsh harsh
Harry.. still, I love this song! =^] And there's some delightful trilling from Trey (see also 11/12/94 Kent and even the Ball
version) at the close!! =^] This Harry really does JAM OUT WELL, and I'm so glad they ended the set with it!! Damn I love
Harry Hood. (if you are more fond of the JAMMING HARRIES than you are of the long, Slave-like, beautiful-build Harries,
then you definitely should check this version out.. I tend to prefer versions like 7/1/95 and 10/7/95...) Well, it sure as hell ain't
"all hood," folks, and this MikeSGroove is evidence of that, in my opinion. I happen to LOVE Phish, and can get very
disappointed when I hear them suck. I still prefer them to take risks (the most powerfully glorious experiences I've had listening
to their music have been when they've improvised, i.e., taken risks..). This is still one of the most unusual sets of the year. I'm
sure this show was GREAT FUN to be at, but well, on tape... I really don't want to listen to this again (but I'll make copies of it
for folks when the fall '96 tape offer is made in a few weeks). Even the GTBT is kinda sloppy in the composed section.
Whatever.. Powerful show to be PHYSICALLY PRESENT FOR, I'm sure. Just a fired-up gig. But on tape? I wouldn't give
this to someone I wanted to impress with Phish's music (unless they liked metal or hard rock, I suppose.. this is a pretty harsh
set in places.. but of course, there's waste and amazing grace and the opening ten minutes of Harry.. oh well.. scratch that) I'd
better stop.. two cents charlie