From: Yance Davis
The Harpua Files: 8/17/96 The Clifford Ball

This Harpua has gotten much bad press, you might say, and unfortunately it's well-deserved, even though the first part of the song is quite tight. Before I do any bashing of this, I have to say that the Ball was one of the most fantastic weekends of my life. Besides great music, every aspect of it was and is a pleasure of a memory to look back on. There were constant smiles everywhere I looked, and really never a dull moment. Everything was just so perfect that when they walked off the stage after a cacophonous screeching end, it just seemed so wrong. All around, people had this dazed and confused look on their faces, as if they wanted to bitch but the rest of the weekend was too damn fantastic to have any justification for dissatisfaction. It's like being a kid and having your dad get your your favorite candy in the world, and he Never lets you have it, and then you settle back to eat it and savor it like nothing else, only to have him take the last bite from you and grin as if it were such a good joke, and you have to smile back even though you're kinda pissed... or something.... I just wanted to put into words a vague feeling for it, since some people who weren't there didn't see what the big deal was at the time, when all the original bitching took place. I digress way too far. The beginning of this Harpua is unlike any other. I figured we were going into Mound, and a few other people I talked to later felt the same way. It was that slow, somewhat uneven beat that Mound starts with, and there were No Oom Pa Pas. Still now that I know it's Harpua, I can't see how I thought otherwise. God, when they first go into Harpua, I almost still get the chills, remembering nearly jumping in the air as I realized what it was. It was the type of encore you'd expect to see on someone's "dream setlist", and hence, I didn't expect to see it. Some fine keys by Page, and this is after a very long weekend for the boys. No real mistakes either that I could discern. At the usual point, Trey steps to the mic and most of the audience even quiets down for it... "Well thank you all so much for being a part of this whole's just incredible, man. (loud loud applause) "incredible" (inaudible mumbling from someone as a slightly fucked up concert-goer hops up on the stage and stumbled over to Trey to hug him before getting carted off) "hahahaha...Other than that guy it was incredible." (laughing from stage and audience) "No, really...unbelievable. Um, thank you really. Anyway, I'm gonna leave you with just this last little story...Something that I was kind of dreaming about last night. This of course take place with out old friend Jimmy, who you know so much, on the outskirts of Gamehendge somewhere, and um, on this particular day, Jimmy is in his house and as you know, what I was just singing about was Harpua, the evil man and Gamehendge and all that stuff and you know what's going on, but on this particular day, our good friend Jimmy is sitting on his couch in his house, and uh, he's sitting on his couch and as he's sitting there he starts to drift off into sort of a dreamland. And as he drifts off in the Dreamland, he's kind of, eyes rolling back in his head and he's drifting off and he starts to have this incredible dream, and in this incredible dream, he realizes that he can fly, so he looks forward at the window in front of him, and with his mind, he lifts up the window, because it's a... lucid dream, and he starts to go out the window. "And he goes out the window and he's flying along and it's just the most beautiful, deep and amazing dream he's ever had. He feels like the air underneath his arms pushing as he kind of pushes up, and gets better and better; everything is crystalline and crisp around him. He can smell the beautiful clean air. And he pushes with his arms and feels himself flying and he goes up and he goes up, higher and higher... (Now by this point, the airplane had started to fly. For those of you who weren't there, this event was wholly based on the concepts of flying and aviation, so many planes were about. Anyway, it's dark and late now and while Trey speaks, a plane flying above the stage that was previously unnoticed by most, began to emit a sparkling trail of fireworks from its tail, lighting up the sky while doing all sorts of spins and dives. It was really incredible to look at. It seems that since he was directly over the stage and not to the front of the stage, the band couldn't see him, and so Trey appeared worried to some, though I didn't notice at the time. Back to the story) "...up into the air, and as he flys, he realizes that he's sort of flying through time and through space, all at the same time, so that everything is kind of blending into one, and as he comes along, he comes over and he starts to fly over the Clifford Ball, and he looks down out on the Clifford Ball.. (another heavy applause) "..and as he flys over, he gets this incredible energy from this audience, all these people that were here, hanging out, and all the people up at Ball Square.. (Ball Square was a circle of one room buildings built like something you might see on a playground and all fully painted, with a 20 foot statue of Clifford in the center of it. People would hang out there, and at times bands played. A couple chose this spot to wed each other as well, I might add) "..just beaming up towards him, and he feels himself kind of turning into this mass of beams of color, beams of sparks flying off his arms, and he just looks down, and he thinks to himself "What an amazing weekend it's been!" (Page starts in on the keys, and the others follow, though rather than working together, they seem to each go off in their own direction building a wall of noise and crazy effects that are almost painful to listen to. It really goes nowhere in my opinion. My mother heard me listening to it one day a while back and when she said "How can you listen to that noise?" I couldn't even argue like I generally do when it comes to Phish, because it Is kind of noisy. Fishman beats on his drums in the background with a solid thump-thump-thump-thump rhythm, while Trey is going nuts on this spacy effect. Then it dies down for a second for Trey to say.. "Thanks a lot everybody, I hope you come back next year. We'll see ya" ..and then the space builds up again, as Trey starts to use that weird nightmarish Free effect, which the 'jam' ends on. Hesitant clapping, that builds as people realize that they really did leave the stage. Patsy Cline begins to sing 'Crazy' over the PA.) Overall, it was a great story, and the special visual effect was a treat and added to the rating while there, but since it doesn't exactly transfer to tape well, it does nothing here. Besides not finishing, the Harpua cover tune which we've all grown so accustomed to was replaced with a Surrender to the Air-esque jam that didn't make the album. In my opinion, it was chaotic and CACAphonous with a capital CACA, but hell, I'm already starting to get that "But-it-was-such-a-great-weekend-How-dare- I-bitch" guilt thing going, so I'll stop with that. On the one hand, the Poster/Harpua story doesn't really fit in with the one he told, but on the other, I can think of other times where they never did anything involving Poster or Poster's death, where Trey ends the story with a line like "So all that happened, and then later on, Poster dies, and I remember that day well.." which actually adds a little more silliness to the tune. Enough though. Total Time on this: 7:25