Date:    Mon, 19 Jan 1998 03:11:30 GMT
Subject: My mother reflects on 7/9/97 Lyon

I recently posted my review of the 7/9/97 Lyon show and my Mom decided to
do the same. (I think she did a better job!)  --Yoda   (John)
----------------------------Original message----------------------------

To begin with, I am almost 50, have raised three sons to maturity, have three
granddaughters, have been a musician all of my life, write music of my own,
and have been a rock and roll fan since the day I first heard, as a child,
some of that rock-a-billy stuff playing on WMPS and WHBQ in Memphis.  My life
span has been parallel with the life span of rock and roll, and it has
influenced me profoundly.  I have been through obsessions with Elvis, Gene
Pitney, the Beatles (that was a big one), Led Zeppelin, Three Dog Night, Billy
Joel, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner and more recently Pink Floyd
(another big one), and Phish.  Now, I gotta tell you, I was bulldozed into the
Phish thing.  My son John (21) wouldn't let it rest!  He kept shoving it down
my throat.

When I first started listening to the Phish music he played for me, I was not
very interested.  It sounded like repetitive nonsense to me.  It was a time
when I had lost rock and roll.  I just couldn't follow it.  It was really
fragmenting into 100 different categories, because rock bands were so
determined to be "unique" and original, most of them being neither.  It seemed
that everything had been done by the end of the 70's, and the Green Day genre
of careless, unemotional, I-don't-care-whether-this-does-anything-for-you rock
and roll was making a big entrance.  I was jaded and non receptive.  But Phish
(and John) won out!  Given no real choice, I began to listen and receive.

But it was the first Phish concert that really convinced me.  I bravely took
four students from my music appreciation class at a private school where I
teach to the Charlotte concert in fall of '96.  I was in awe of Trey's
incredible skill on the guitar.  His playing revealed a very unique and
quixotic personality that smacks of delayed development in the most pleasant
and creative way.  I was mesmerized by Page's keyboard work.  It was on one
hand naive and clumsy, and on the other, focused and heart-driven, sometimes
revealing measures and measures of hypnotic momentum.  Fishman's punky, Animal
House style seemed the opposite intellectual extreme and giving a rounding-out
effect which saved the group from being too ozone-layer.  And Mike...stable,
unflappable Mike....plugging away on the harmonies and the basic beat, never
giving us a hint of the man behind the bass line.  They seemed the perfect
ensemble musically and spiritually.

Since then I have been to the Boston '96 Fleetcenter NewYears concert, 4
concerts in the '97 summer tour (that's another story!),  the recent shows in
Hampton, Virginia November '97, and the show in Lyon, summer '97.  It is that
to which I hitherto refer.

John and Marie (a German 17-year-old whose family relocated to Spartanburg
with their business when she was 12) and I left our dorm in Lyon to head out
for the unknown enclave of Americans and a small-venue Phish show in Lyon.  We
were really phyched!  It was Marie's first Phish show.  But John and I were
coming from huge Phish shows in the U.S. where the individuals on the stage
were somewhat impersonal little dots through a haze of smoke and noisy fans.

We came early as all Phish fans know to do.  The summer daylight fades very
late in France: 9:30 PM in July, so we had lots of visual time in the lot.  We
were not surprised to see people there in the casual organization that Phish
fans usually take before a show, but we were somewhat surprised to see that
there were so few there.  They were clustered under some trees there doing
their usual stuff, and being friendly if approached, but not intrusive to
others' personal space.

We could hear the sound check going on, but when John (not being able to
contain his amazement that he was this close to an open door where the
illusive four were actually playing something that he might otherwise be
barred from hearing) took his place alone by the door to listen, the few
authorities there officiously closed the access!   So we decided to find the
entrance and camp out there.  There were five guys at the entrance from
various parts of the northeast (of the U.S.) drinking a little wine and
talking Phish and life.  That was one of the best parts of the experience.  We
had time and something in common.  They were a little put off by having a mom
there at first, I think.  I didn't try to assert myself, but as time went on,
sitting on the asphalt together, they offered me a swig du vin and they
relaxed about my presence.  That was such a special gift to me that they were
probably unaware of.

Finally, the doors opened and the excitement built as it always does.  Random
cheering and unnecessary but habitual hustling for a place in the relatively
small line at the unimpressive entrance to this Transbordeur place proceeded
in good order: a sort of microcosm of the bigger venues.

Inside, we found to our delight that this was a stand-where-you-please bar
place.  People learned of each other and the circumstances of being in such a
strange place in the summertime.  There was lots of smoking and tossing of the
hacky-sack.  We were almost first in (delayed by queuing up at the wrong door
inside), but we found that we could stand right up under the stage.  John was
ballistic at the prospect of actually being spat upon by Trey in concert!  We
struck up a conversation with a granola-type male of early age who instantly
started making protest about the smoking of tobacco in the club.  I decided
that I would go to the grandstands in back and smoke my one cigarette that I
allowed myself.  I began feeling out-of-place and decided to stay there for a
while and observe.  Often, people at Phish concerts think I am "event staff"
or a journalist or review writer, so I just go with that.  I enjoyed watching
the various individuals and their pets and personae parading by me.  That is
always a spectacle that I enjoy about Phish concerts.

Set I:

They came out with no fanfare.  The concert began with some random reference
to "Pierre" of Haagen-Daaz.  I was bewildered from the beginning with that,
but before the concert was over, Trey revealed the mystery of Pierre.  I'm
still not sure what it was, but everyone else seemed satisfied that Pierre was
cool and it was part of the enigma of many Phish references....random, ironic,
humorous nonsense that is fun to figure.

They began with a low-key version of "PYITE".  The familiar music was
accessible to all and instantly united us all.  Cheers rose as a short, happy
jam began.  The Latin beat and tinkling piano ended the song quickly and
softly segued into "Prince Caspian".  Phish has an uncanny knowledge of
"programing".  The concerts are often like a long story line which is followed
intuitively to those who know their style.  Phish experience is required for
the full experience.  The melancholy, thoughtful ideal of "floating on the
waves" was a gentle invitation to join in the fantasy.  It was a particularly
sweet version.  We settled in!

"Ginseng Sullivan" shows the penchant for their eclectic style....never
wanting to be pigeonholed.  Nashville, step back.  It was short and probably
threw the uninitiated totally off.

Then a funky drum beat introduced "Split Open and Melt".  The introduction
defied a tonality until the lyrics began.  It began normally enough, but as
the music progressed past the traditional non tonality of the song (always
coming home with "Melt, split open and melt...." to keep your heavy-side layer
in place)  to the almost a cappella "down, down, down...." and then to that
handicapped minus a half beat jam to which I have FINALLY learned how to
boogie, it became evident that the jam had begun.  I hear John's delighted
"whoo-hoo-hoo".  It's right there on the tape folks!  This pulled me back to
standing under the stage.  It is wonderful how the coming together of a few
elements of organized joy in the music can bring one to such a state of well-
being.  That jam made tears roll down my face.  I don't know why.  The
immersion of the entire essence of one's being in the communal experience of
music and fantasy is a powerful thing that Phish can elicit better than any
group I've known.  They are not media gods.  They are ageless, classless
fellows in nonreality.  We rocked!

Keeping things slow and relaxed with "Dirt",  Phish is delaying the real
excitement.  Trey's sweet, epic guitar plays the lead line of the break while
he intersperses little soft vocals underneath.  A very short version, it could
almost be considered a prelude to "Taste" which crescendos in with that
running guitar and dampered cymbal pattern.  What good  musicians these people
are!  Their often apologetic vocals put us all in their league, but never
obscure their musicality and heart!  In this jam with it's soft, fast
underpinnings in the bass and percussion, you can hear the excitement of the
entire concert begin to build.  Masterful in his guitar solo, Trey takes us to
the first level.  And Page, alternating between duple and triple meters in the
background, adds to the ascent.  Good golly, we're off and it feels good!  The
crowd roars and whistles as the jam comes to its inevitable climax.

Then as Phish does so well, it goes from the sublime to the almost, but not
quite ridiculous.  The crowd was adoringly polite and receptive as the group
broke ranks to come way downstage.  I heard myself on the tape laughing aloud
as they began an a cappella version of "Sweet Adeline".  Now, here is where we
have bragging rights at this concert!  We were looking up their noses as they
sang.  Wow!  Fishman's dramatic solo brought supportive laughter and applause.

Quickly, the boys manned their former positions and began a bumpy, unphrased,
non-continual intro to "Harry Hood".  Humorous unpredictability is a definite
trademark of Phish programming!  Where are we going now!?  Seemingly, nowhere!
Then as we think they have wandered into discombobulated indecision, sounding
somewhat like an exhibition of styles and meters,  and no one can convincingly
boogie, (it's always strange when the Phish crowd isn't able to do its mob
wiggle,  isn't it?)  and the non-sequiter "Thank you Mr. Minor...." makes the
conundrum more intense, the experience descends into a very chilled-out guitar
and bass duet with a bit of celeste-type diddling on the keyboard.  But, then
you hear it, a gradual perception of building intensity....and you know the
jam has begun.  It's a code from them to us.  There was another mention of
Pierre and a corny reference to "ACDC Baguette" as the little crowd roared!

Set II

They mentioned "Pierre" again to a some surreal syth noises.  This gave way to
the first watery blubs of "Down With Disease".  This is one of John's
favorites, so I was glad to hear it begin.  It's a classic, full of "hooks" to
grab your memory and keep you wanting more.  I love to sing along with this
one.  But not at this particular concert.....

The only negative note I have about this concert was an unfortunate element of
Phish concerts that I have found rarely:  the drugged-up, prima Donna Phish
officiandos who think they have first dibs on all things  at the
concerts and everyone else has to step aside.  This strange couple, the mama
girlfriend, supplier of various mind-altering substances and protector of
their large personal space at the lip of the stage, and her afflicted, but
Phish-blessed boyfriend who was having his Phish orgasm and will step on you
and flail his arms onto your head and must be protected by the girlfriend from
the lesser fans who cannot achieve this passion, were right in front of ME.
They wouldn't allow me to stand within two feet of them.  I wasn't allowed to
clap.  If I sang one word, he chastised me as if I had peed in the holy grail.
She turned to me at one point and asked me impatiently,  "How old are you,
anyway?"  She is from Charleston, S.C. And I hope she reads this, because she
almost ruined a beautiful experience for me.

The 12-bar blues shows up with "My Soul".  It was torture not to be allowed to
sing along with this one, but I was polite.  An unusually fast blues song,
this one rocked along almost like a ragtime number with its  fast-paced piano
breaks.  And what was that maniacal laugh near the end?

Next, with no break comes "Cars, Trucks and Buses" to give us a bit of jazz-
rock.  I love it when Phish cools down and plays jazzy.  Page's improv
alternated between genius and clutz.  I love that about his playing, always
human enough to make him believable.  He really revs up at the end playing
chord clusters and thickening the texture.  This piece is always a bit of ear-
hormone to listen to....too fine.

Now when Bela and the others came into things, it got a bit complex to gather
up.  We didn't know for sure that they were coming.  We heard rumors going
around of all kinds of guests.  Bela has played around our parts a lot (the
Carolinas), so I knew his group immediately as they came out and was really
glad to see them.  I can't remember the sequence of things as Fleck and the
'Tones appeared.  I know Futureman played with Fishman first.  This strange-
looking gadget that he plays on is past my comprehension.  He presents a
really good synthesized percussion performance on it.  It seems that he can do
a thing or two that a primitive trap-set drummer can't do, but I miss the
visual, visceral backdrop power of the drummer.  And I have never seen anyone
who entertains me more than that incredible bass player.

In the "You Enjoy Myself"  jam, things get much cooler and thicker in texture
with this ensemble.  The whole thing spins and spins with little bits of
competitive, tandem repetition of ideas with variation according to the

"Ghost" was an awesome collaboration for me.  The octave-apart vocal harmony
in the slow, funky tempo, combined with those blatty low-note interjections by
the tenor sax and the insistent, popping and slipping  bass part by that
Flecktones bassist made for constant just-short-of-hypnosis involvement.
There was a face-off and a pileup of different people playing each other's
instruments and all kinds of fun was had by all.  The end of this one is a
random noisy "train wreck" of atonal spastisism tripping into the first
strains of "Poor Heart".  Very fast, ultra traditional and Hee Hawish, this
song simplifies things for everyone, dispelling any mysticism (and makes the
drugged-up disciple in front of me look really stupid trying to look
entranced).  That tenor sax went wild in this one.  He was right in front of
me freaking out!  It broke the mood, for sure!  But Phish never lets you rest,
do they?

The finale "Poor Heart" jam was a oneupsmanship tourney!  One after the other,
they dared to be the last, final closer.  It got really funny after a while.
>From snippets of Gershwin to an Irish jig to radio jingles, to stripper
closers, to rock and roll knock-offs riffs, and a grand vaudevillian final
chord.  The crowd wouldn't let them get off easy.  They continued to insist as
long as there was any hope.

Trey called up Pierre to the stage (whoever that is!)  There were the
ubiquitous calls for "Free Bird" from the audience who didn't really know what
to expect at this point.  They bring out this Pierre person on the stage and
sang "Ragtime Gal" to him and us all.  That was some hot Barbershop stuff!  We
participated with laughing, whooping support.  What a celebration!  It was an
American island in the middle of France being very American!

Frances D. Davis

I'll make my offer again: Anyone who doesn't have a copy of this show, I'll
spin for B&P. Maybe a trade, but I'm really poor right now, so I have to
spread my few remaining blanks pretty thin. Just give me a buzz at  Peace to all, and I hope you enjoyed Mom's review!