Date:    Thu, 12 Mar 1998 20:01:50 -0500
From:    Dan Nooter 
Subject: Show Review: 11/12/94 Kent State

Hey y'all,

This is the recently rewritten version of a review I wrote about two years
ago. Enjoy!!!

Dan =^)
The second set of Phish's 11/12/94 show at Kent State is among the finest
sets the band has every played. In fact, the entire show is consistently
great, overflowing with the melodic sensitivity and imaginative
experimentalism that make November 1994 such an exciting month of music.
The show is notable both for its diversity of musical styles and for its
creative use of dynamics: the chiaroscuro of its sudden jumps from very
quiet to very loud. The show builds to a climax in what is among the most
intense and transcendent versions of Harry Hood ever played: a version
that remains my personal favorite.

The show opens with an excellent version of Runaway Jim, and from as early
as the lyrics section, it's clear that there's magic in the air. In the
mini-jam that precedes the song's final verses, the band gets quieter and
quieter until they are hardly playing at all. In so doing, they introduce
the themes of subtlety and control which will pervade the show, and which
will prove so crucial to the incredible Harry in the second set. Although
Trey leads the jam out of Jim's final verse, all four band members are
_on_ -- especially Page, who just begins going off. The song begins to
take on a Frankenstein-esque feel as Trey starts sliding up the fretboard.
It is Fish, however, who sends the tune out of control. He begins smashing
the drums in passionate syncopation with the rest of the jam. From the
quiet musings of the middle lyric section, the song has built to an
energetic fury by the time Trey comes in with the final chorus.
Considering the context of this version -- seven months before the first
truly "experimental" version of Jim at Raleigh, NC, it demonstrates an
incredible amount of energy and creativity, and places easily in the upper
echelon of pre-'95 Jims.

If Jim introduces and foreshadows the explosive aspects of Phish's jamming
in this show, the Foam that follows provides an excellent exposition of
the contrary themes of mellowness and subtlety. After a solid lyrics
section, Page begins the jam and is greeted quickly by Mike. The jam
begins to become quiet, however; even Mike is playing faintly, and Page's
piano has become a faint trickling in the distance. The song seems to gain
energy after a short chromatic build (again, led by Page), but Trey takes
over and returns the song to its region of sparse quietude. If you like
the Spokane Hood, you'll especially enjoy the middle section of this Foam.
Trey is playing alone, and he may as well be unplugged he's so quiet. The
rest of the band slowly returns as the jam becomes a series of staccato
two-note bursts. The rest of the jam is standard for Foam, but even this
concept of "standard" becomes newly mitigated by the delicate minimalism
of the song's interlude. A fantastic version.

If I Could and Maze, although solid versions, are not as profound as the
show's openers. Hence, I will not devote space to their individual
consideration. Rather, as a short aside, let me share a few words about
what makes a incredible show. An amazing show isn't made by a single great
jam (or even more than one); although such a show tends to contain one of
the best versions ever played of a song or multiple songs, this quality
isn't nearly as important as the show's overall Consistency. Looking at
shows like 10/31/94 or 12/31/95, among the two best shows Phish has ever
played, there's not a single bad moment in either. 5/8/93 II, another of
the best sets ever, has incredible versions of Bowie and Mike's (which
perhaps we'd expect) but also the best version ever of Horse, a great Ice,
an above average Big Ball Jam, and the teary-eyed Amazing Grace Jam to
close the set. A great show catches the band on a special night of their
musical lives on which they can do no evil. Kent State is one of these
special nights...

When I first reviewed this show, I didn't have a particularly high opinion
of its Guyute. Since then, given the poverty of good Guyutes in recent
years, I have been forced to revise my opinion. This is, in fact, a very
tight and enjoyable Guyute -- much better than most versions post-'94.
Which just goes to show how much difference _practicing_ a song makes.

The Kent State Stash is is an extremely non-standard version, and it
foreshadows a lot of the textural density that characterizes the jams of
Space Summer '95. I have always felt, however, that those deeply layered
Summer '95 jams at least went places; after a fresh funky opening and a
solid verse segment, however, this Stash just sort of meanders (although
it meanders in a very energetic and dissonant way, if that makes any
sense). Some thunder from Fish gives it extra propulsion. Although the jam
falls into a few little rhythmic themes, it tends to lack melodic
exploration. Page has a few nice things to say about two-thirds of the way
through the jam, and Trey breaks into the dissonant mush to provide a few
soaring leads; but these excursions are short lived, and they quickly
descend into what is probably the best part of this Stash: the crazy
"maybe so maybe not" _vocal jam_ that develops. This is really trippy and
dissonant, and includes what sounds like barking/howling from one of the
band members (Trey?). Unfortunately, it is over too quickly: the Stash
ending is just lamely stamped on. The version as a whole, however, is
extremely interesting, and even enjoyable; although it seems to be more
meaningful as a prognostication of '95-style jamming than as an end in

Esther and Chalkdust close the set: nothing particularly notable about
these versions, except that, like Maze and IIC, they are tight and

An above-average Julius opens the awesome second set. Mike is up in the
mix (yay!) and his walking bass lines are pretty funky. Fish adds various
drumm flurries. The backing vocals are on; various band members throw in
random hoots and squeals. If this Julius doesn't move you, you should get
your hearing checked -- or your pulse :).

The Kent State Fluffhead is a strong version (although it's no 4/27/91). I
should note, however, that I'm not really a big fan of the song; I've
often wished they'd skip the first 12 minutes and go right into Arrival
(maybe on NYE, out of Auld Lang Syne. Mmmm.) Because Fluff is a long
composed song that lacks any real opportunities to jam, the distance
between a good Fluffhead and one that drags is entirely a function of the
freshness and energy that the band puts into it. But they go all out on
this version. Beautiful little mellow stuff follows "deranged," and the
wonderfully wicked little laugh from Trey that follows the ensuing
"Fluffhead" is classic. Page is _On_ in this Fluff, and Fish....well, I
don't even have to mention Fish. He OWNS this show. Arrival contains a
wonderful sustained wailing note from Trey. This is so much fun; this,
friends, is what Fluffhead is all about.

The set really begins, however, with Down with Disease. How good is this
Disease? Well, let's put it this way: it's not often that the best version
ever played of a song like Harry Hood isn't even the highlight of a set,
but the Monster Disease -> Have Mercy -> Disease steals that honor away.
The lyrics section is strong. The jam starts off very upbeat, and includes
some sweet bass from Mike, who heretofore hasn't been a huge factor in the
show. Trey throws in a beautiful little teary-eyed melody on top of Page's
furious piano, which is simply beatific. And then, just like that, Page
and Trey drop out. A bass/drum driven section takes over the jam and we
are no longer anywhere near DwD. The music takes a turn towards the evil
(in a very Dark Magus-y kind of way) and then mellows into another
beautiful groove. Fish drops out and Mike gets quiet and the jam shifts to
Page, who himself yields to some Trey-led blues action. Finally, the lead
goes to Fish, who starts picking up the beat, bringing it faster and
faster. The rest of the band comes back in with dissonant fury, holding
this one tense chord that finally resolves back into Disease-style

About thirty seconds later, the Have Mercy beat comes in. This is such a
smooth transition: without a doubt, the sweetest segue ever into Mercy.
Although the harmonies aren't quite as spine-tingling in this version as
they are in 5/8/93, the jam is far superior. The mood begins to sound very
similar to the spacey beginning to You Enjoy Myself (sometimes referred to
as the "pre-Nirvana segment" for reasons that have always eluded me). The
band sings another verse and then returns to the realm of mellow, spacey,
reggae Groove. Except that now, the groove seems a little less calm, a
little more _evil_, as Page's organ leads the band from the calm pacifity
of the mellow groove back into the intensity of Down with Disease. The
transition is so smooth and sweet it sounds rehearsed, even though the
last Mercy was performed a year previous to this version. Trey is all over
the place in this Disease ending; this is sooo energetic and exciting; the
entire Disease -> Mercy -> Disease is easily among the sweetest jams Phish
has played. Disease doesn't even truly end, but becomes very dissonant
until all the instruments drop out and the jam drops right into a stunning
Lifeboy. This version of Lifeboy is the most tender and moving version
I've ever heard. Its placement, after that insane and dissonant Disease
jam, is perfect.

Rift is a great song, and is played suitably.

11/12/94 is not a "typical" show by any means, and yet it _does_ manage to
typify certain aspects of November '94. I don't have to go off on why that
month is one of the greatest in Phishtory, it should already be clear to
most or all of you. No month is so grossly ambitous, so unrestrained in
its pull toward the experimental. And, perhaps as a result, no month is as
eclectic as 11/94. Although acoustic bluegrass had been in Phish's
repetoire for years, Fall '94 saw bluegrass come into its own, beginning
with the acoustic Foreplay/Longtime which encored Lehigh's tour-opener and
culminating in 11/19's 45-minute post-show parking lot jam with Rev. Jeff
Mosier. But with the exception of 10/26's encore, Kent State was the first
show to contain an extended acoustic bluegrass section. None of the
versions of Old Home Place, Nellie Cane, or Foreplay/Longtime played at
Kent State  will give you goosebumps, but they are important for situating
11/12 in its context within the evolution of Phish. If the show transcends
this context in certain respects, it is no less the product of its time.

Transcendence has a name, however, and its initials are Harry Hood. The
Kent State Hood, taken by itself, is a musical masterpiece. Taken in the
particular context of 11/12/94, however, it represents the combination and
culmination of the improvisational themes that have guided the entire
show. It combines the Fishman-led dive into pure unrestrained energy
introduced in Jim; it contains the subtlety and delicateness of Foam's
jam, the precsion of Guyute and Fluffhead, the mellow sweetness of Have
Mercy, and the inspiration of the Down with Disease jam. The beginning of
this version is solid, but offers no hint as to the monster it is to
become. Its opening is playful and un-rushed: the post-"where do you go?"
section nicely played but unnotable outside of its beauty and precision.
The post-"Mr. Minor" jam starts out as usual with some quiet noodling from
Trey. He's just gently tickling the fretboard now. Control. Balance. Some
chimes from Page smooth out what could be church music in its sheer
pristine calm. A couple of minutes into the jam, Trey drops a few quiet
melodic lines which are echoed by Mike; and in the soothing calm that
follows, it seems like nothing bad could ever enter the world of this
Harry. Ahhhhhh.  As with the Spokane Harry (yet 11 months earlier), Trey
kills his volume almost entirely. This is sooo beautiful. A few chimes
from Fish, and Trey starts to sweep out of the quiet. The music just
slides and melts, ebbing and flowing like a moonlit ocean on some warm,
innocent, summer's night. The Harry theme eventually begins to assert
itself, but it keeps on being reeled back in. It sets out again, this time
more slowly and gently, and again it is withdrawn, burrowing back into a
growing nest of sound. Fish breaks it open with some timely smacks to the
drums. The tempo and volume start to increase as Trey starts soaring. But
Fish is just smashing the drums, hitting and hitting, and the momentum of
the music begins to usurp control; it can no longer be contained by the
band. Fish is just hitting, pounding. Trey breaks into the stratosphere,
holding this one note, and then diving back into the deep. The music is
just a freight train now, out of control and unstoppable. Fish is still
pounding away, but is it even him anymore, or has he too fallen thrall to
Harry's majestic will? Trey takes us into the final approach, breaking all
hell and heaven loose, and now the end is inexorable. The final chorus
enters and closes out this most amazing Hood ever.

By any standard, the Golgi that follows is unnecessary. Nevertheless, this
is the only version of Golgi that dependably gives me shivers. There's
this one part (a la the Jim opener) that seems to fade to nothing before
EXPLODING back into the theme. It may not be saying a whole lot to mention
that this is my favorite Golgi, but it is, and I'll mention it anyway. ;)

The Sample encore is a good choice. Bold as Love would have been a better
choice, but it might have caused the entire state of Ohio to spontaneously
combust, so Sample was probably the prudent call. I've always loved this
song and it really is a great, energetic, not-particularly-exploratory,
but nevertheless fun song; and it provides the perfect ending to this
great, fun, energetic, brilliant, powerful, inspired show. Shows like this
are the reason I love Phish.


Dan =^)

"Dan, if you were any less credible, you'd be writing music reviews for The National Enquirer. You preach atop your soapbox as if you're qualified to analyze the music of one of the world's most popular bands (certainly one of its most gifted), but you instead come across as a pompous, self-serving village idiot." -- Robert H. Wieman III