8/12/98 - Vernon Downs, Vernon, NY

well well well, i didnt think the drive from pa would be as bad as it was. I dont think it would have been all bad if the car hadnt over heated. We had to drive the whole way with the heater on, WE finally got there and had to sit in a line of cars on some freakin dirt road. These people from upstate were sitting outside there houses watching us like were caged animals. Didnt like that too much. The lot didnt have the usual friendliness, it seemed like there were more tour rats and what not than heads but thats phine by me. The thing that drives me crazy is i saw groups of kids who looked like they were ready for a woo tang concert that were blaring rap music. They didnt have ticketsand were making fun of people as they walked by. Just there for the drugs??Thats bullshit. ONTOTHESHOW....They were on tonite. A la Grange opener beat the pants of me. It was followed by makisupa. Trey either said buring down( appropriately for the encore) or vernon downs (appropriately for the venue). Funky bitch got everyone movin, and possum bitch slapped us all. Character 0 was alright not one of my favorites, but ramble on made up for it. It had an allmansyish jam that i liked. Followed by slave. standard set 2: mikes groove was pretty standard with simple rift loving cup and sleeping monkey inside. The encore was weet, burning down the house!!!woohooo YEM was good, as always with hyhu and mission impossible teases all in all i had a good time...seeya in the fall!!
SCENE: We'd left Star Lake Amp in Burgettstown, PA at about 10:30 that morning hoping it would be an easy drive to just east of Syracuse. We were wrong. I've never gotten to a show so late before, but things seemed odd for other reasons than that. I've only been to Phish shows in the midwest, and experiencing some of the people of upstate NY for the first time was surprisingly unpleasant. (of course this is a generalization) For instance, walking into the show, instead of hearing "come get your phatty garlic grilled cheese" from those sweet and inocent voices, one girl was basically bitching me out for not buying a grilled cheese from her. I know this seems small, but my observations were not swung simply by that. VENUE: Vernon Downs is an old horse race track where only DMB had played before Phish. About 30000 crammed to get the best seats as possible and most couldn't see the band at all. At setbreak, yes, I tried to get slightly closer and basically had a set from hell. I was a good 150 feet back still and just CRAMMED really hard to the point that I just couldn't get out if I wanted to. Going to the Lemonwheel reinforced my belief that a lot of this had to do with the types of people there. In Maine, everyone, except a good 1000 in the middle, wanted their dancing space and were totally cool about it. When they did start playing, I started grooving and got some looks like "what the hell are you doing, man?" I've never felt that way at a Phish show, and for a minute thought this just had to be another band. MUSIC: (set I) Ahhhhhh......the definite relief of all my worries. La Grange was absolutely rockin'. The openers this year have just kicked my ass. I heard Trenchtown Rock, Mike's, My Friend x 2, Ginseng and this one and they ALL got me fired up. Makisupa was definitly appropriate. Given this was the 2nd show at this venue, and it was NY, cops were EVERYWHERE. We saw a car getting searched on the way in, and just dickhead looking cops all over. In the midwest, they don't seem as bad and walk around with smiles on their faces until someone messes with things, seriously messes with things. I've heard better Funky Bitch's, and it didn't seem like the crowd to play it to, to tell you the truth. It was more of a Possum night, and I have to say that it was very jamming and sweet to hear at that point. Trey asked the crowd the name of Fishmans old high school band which I forget now, but that song was dedicated to them. A couple songs down the line Trey remarked that Fishman saw Led Zepplin in Syracuse when he was in junior high, so they broke into Ramble On. Not being much of a Zepplin fan, if I could pick one song from them, this'd be it. Something with me and Slave's, but it was beautiful, as always. It's really hard not to make this song just incredibly pretty, hence it's hard to rate as a slave. However, peering over at the setting sun during the triumphant jam about the pity of materialism put a HUGE smile on my face. (set II) This is after I seperated from my friends and went up, which I now recommend never to do, no matter how close you want to be. It crams things up, plus it lessens your fun at least 20%. Mikes->simple was great. I was dying to hear that Hydrogen, as most fans are STILL, but Simple really is a beautiful jam, which I hope is not taking I'm H2's place. This was reinforced, the next SET I saw in Maine where they played the exact same thing. But Mike was on, and Fishman led us right into a KILLER Rift. Much more together than the Columbus Rift, but nothing jamming to hard. Loving Cup was good and I get more and more prone to this Stones song everytime I hear it, but I think it's a little bit overplayed, even though the Lemonwheel Cup exploded to say the least. I'll never understand Sleeping Monkey so I just sit back and listen. It's not a bad thing, but it's a mixture of the Beatles and American country-western, sort of an odd combo, but the lyrics are funny and it's not overplayed. I've heard some good Mike's solos at the beginning of weekapaug, but this was THE best. He tore it up and Fishman joined along. Definitly a show for those two boys as this was definitly the highlight of the show (so far) for me. Coil was Coil, pretty, serene, and beautiful. (encore) I'd usually include this with the 2nd set, but there's a good chunk to tell. Burnin Down the House is an old Talking Heads song. Between Cities, Crosseyed+Painless, and Psycho Killer, I'm starting to realize that part of Phish is moving backwards in time to Heads type jamming. Not a bad thing at all, its very exciting to hear a band not be ashamed to rockin 70's and 80's tunes. Fusion is what they're all about anyway, right? I swear at one point Trey smiles and says "Vernon Down the House." After that Trey remarks that Fish wants to play a tune for his friends and family. Holy Christ, YEM for an encore??!! This was great, the show picked its momentum up after Mike's and really never lost it. A sweet, sweet jam, with some great Fishman licks. If you like Jon, or you're a drummer, get this show. I learned a lot! The vocal jam was enormous. From "Who's your Daddy" to "Who's your Dentist" sort of hard to explain, but it was hilarious and a good 6-7 minutes of vocal jamming to end the show. RECOLLECTIONS: It took us 2 hours to get out of the show, and a lot had to do in part to guys in minivans with, no doubt, NY licsence plates cutting us off. I was really bummed. I grew up in CT and really had never seen anything like this. So if you NICE east coast people that are used to this want a change, come out to Deer Creek or Alpine. I'd rate the scene almost up there with the Lemonwheel. Musically this was up there on the charge. On a 1-10 scale, musically, I give it an 8.5 peace, brian - Wooster, OH
A good prelude to the LemonWheel. The parking lots were fun, but getting in and out was slooooooooow. I could go on about this, but nobody reads this anyway. This was my first show since the NYE run (damn domestic real world life is killing my extensive touring endeavors). Anyway, I was psyched for these shows (the Wheel to follow) and my anticipation higher then in the past due to the new tunes, various new covers, and especially the return of Fish to the forefront. To me, that's one of the unique things about the band and it's great to see that he's back to the mic. It didn't happen at this show, but at least the bands back up to some old tricks that provide a little comical fun in addition to everything else. Anyway, the show. LA GRANGE--Great to hear. I love when Mike's the first to step to the mic. It sends a vibe that I can't explain. Anyway, there was nothing special about this version, actually it was a little flat, but I was still glad to hear it also due to the fact that it's a rare one. MAKISUPA--The tune does nothing for me, but I like it. Another fun one, but it was also pretty flat. FUNKY BITCH--Here we go! I love seeing this tune live. My buddy Mike called it to open, and I think it kind of did. It got everyone moving and was really tight. POSSUM--One of my favorites. Trey introduced it as one of the first tunes that they played and mention Jeff's part in the writing of the tune, after he introduced Fish as the hometown boy. They lost the jam a bit in the middle, but it was solid. ROGET--First time hearing it, so I can't compare it. I still went to take a piss during it. CHARACTER ZERO--I catch this all the time. I like this tune and was really glad it didn't close the set as that's it's usually placement. Despite was you think of this tune, no one can argue that they don't play this song well everytime. RAMBLE ON--Yeahhhh! For years I pictured Page singing this one. He does have some sort of Plant-esque pitch to his voice. I was psyched to see that they played it at Alpine, and was hoping it wasn't a one-time wonder. Thanks. Was the highlight of the set until.... SLAVE--Great choice to close a set (that's not the 2nd). Always great live. It's one of those tunes that's just meant to see as well as here. ***Overall all there was nothing too exceptional that would make me say it's a must have, but for my first set in 7 months, It's do.*** MIKE'S--Can't go wrong. The epitome of a Phish tune. It can go anywhere and still fit. A solid Mike's. SIMPLE--Bummer (for me). I don't like this tune, even though they play it really well. But the majority like it, so it was fun. Finished with a mini-jam and the transition to Rift wasn't smooth. RIFT--Two years ago I wouln't be happy to hear it, but tonight it was sheer joy. The 2nd in almost a year and half (the 1st earlier this tour). It's fast, fun, and you can dance your ass off. LOVING CUP--A surprise here. I liked it better when it was rare, but I was glad it they didn't close or encore with it. Played exceptionally well. Tight and longer (so it seemed). I can't complain, it's one of the better tunes they play these days. MONKEY--I love hearing this tune. Any song that Fish has a vocal in, I like (and I'll include Taste into that if they play it as rare as they have this summer). Tight. A throwback to when I first starting seeing the band before they bloomed. Once again, glad to hear it in the middle of a set as opposed to an encore. WEEKAPAUG--After hearing Mike's I was hoping to hear HYDRO before they played GROOVE. This song is always good. Mail me a show date that has a bad one if you dare. COIL--Once again, always good. Not one of my favorite tunes, especially as a show closer or an encore, but who can complain when Page solos. ***Great set. Kept us moving and the band seemed to enjoy it too*** BURNING...HOUSE--Love hearing tunes for the first time. Being a Talking Heads fan, I was happy. Trey and Mike talked about it for around a minute before deciding that they'd play it. Fish started with the soft beat to the song. I thought it was something that I haven't heard yet (either new or a new cover). From the beat I was thinking Sweet Emotion. Was played well for a first time. Not tight, but enjoyable. Page got up, so I thought they were done, but the rest stayed. YEM--before they played it, Trey thanked the crowd for the tour (I like how he separates the LemonWheel from the rest of the tour--it gives it it's own identity from the rest....as it should be). Trey tried prodding Fish to take the mic for his hometown. He claimed he was pissing Fish off and played some HYHU licks, but the man in the dress wouldn't move. So they played a tune that went back to the old days. As opposed to the last YEM I saw (12/29/97--which was the weakest I've seen to date), this one was fun. A lot had to do that it meant they'd be playing for 15-20 minutes long, but the post lyrical jam was short and sweet, and the vocal jam was enjoyable. They were saying "who's your daddy" as part of the undertone which turned into "who's your dentist." Maybe another shot at Fishman (his dad being a destist and all). ***Overall, a very enjoyable show. Far from being remotely close the BEST, but being in a huge low security field, free to roam free or be sardined was the epitome of what a summer show is. See ya in Maine.*** Ari Petroff (dogman@istar.ca)
Ya wanna hear about Vernon Downs? Ok. Traffic getting into the venue was pretty standard, nothing too rough. Maybe about a 30 minute backup from the exit to the lot.....whatever. Vernon Downs is one of the more laid back places I've seen Phish in awhile. Very rural town with a lot of townsfolk turned entrepreneurs at the sight of Phish heads. Yup, like Limestone. All of the lots were either grass or gravel, and at least from what I gathered, bacon was at a minimum. Gorgeous weather too. The venue itself was basically a big GA field surrounded by a racetrack for horses w/buggys. I was sort of hoping we could use the grandstands, but no dice. The stage was as big as the Limestone one, and the throngs of people went WAY back (screens might've helped). A few mud pits here and there, but no big deal. The whole experience was sort of like a "mini-Wheel" per se. Onto the show.... LA GRANGE is a fun way to kick off any show. Doesn't change much from gig to gig, but the Mike vocals and bluesy jamming are always enjoyable. The MAKISUPA which followed was pleasant and had some cute high pitched keyboard melodies from Page reminiscent of Bernie Worrell's work with P-funk. The word(s) of the day were "burning down". Not really a reference to the diggity dank, but hey. FUNKY BITCH rocks consistently as well. It had more in common with '96 stand alone versions with some sick organ work and Trey madness. No segues a'la Worcester (11/30) or Albany (12/12) '97. After the beeeatccchh, Trey begins to tell how Fishman is a hometown boy, and proceeds to embarras him by talking about his high school band ("Frodo" ?) that he was in before Phish. POSSUM was dedicated to Fishman and was a pretty standard version...not meaning unenjoyable, but nothing unordinary. At this point, a dude next to me offered me a hit of opium. Uhhhhh....thanks but no thanks dude. ROGET was next. This was my first time hearing it, and I was impressed. Reminded me of a more interesting twist on "Dirt" with a "Theme" like jam. Nice lyrics, and everyone gets a turn on vocals. Mellow, but not boring. CHARACTER ZERO was ok only because it didn't close the set. Strictly in '96 mode with some arena rock jamming and the howls at the end. At the start of the tune, I made a joke comment about teenyboppers to my friend, and these 5 high school girls in front of me thought I was talking about them, and I got a dirty look. I wasn't, but might as well have been. All they did was pass the glass throughout the entire set, and didn't acknowledge the music one iota. If you really dig the music, that's one thing....but if you don't care, can't ya save $27 and get stoned at home? Now Trey talks some more about Fishman and says something like, when Jon was 11, he saw Led Zepplein for the first time. Let's play some Led Zepplein. RAMBLE ON had Page on vocals, and predictably ROCKED! Excellent Zep-like jamming with what I thought were teases of Clapton's cocaine. This eventually gets mellow and melodic, not unlike a Simple wind down jam...goes into a gorgeous SLAVE. Most SLAVES sound alike to me, and this one was sort of ruined due to these 3 assholes who talked throughout the entire quiet portion. Oh well. Overall, a pretty good first set (6 out of 10 maybe?). Not much jamming, and some very standard tunes, but good standards (Possum, Bitch, Makisupa)...as opposed to annoying standards like Bouncin', Guelah, or Golgi. Ramble On into Slave was particuarly nice, and I enjoyed my first taste of Roget. II: MIKE'S SONG. C'mon now folks, who's going to bitch about a Mike's opener? This one was extremely hot. Jammed much longer than the last one I saw from the Island Tour. At times, it was very HEAVY with Trey hitting these loud crunch chords, and very thick bass grooves. Mike's are always hard for me to put inot words, but I think HEAVY is as good an adjective as I can come up with right now (and good of course). Another thing....jeeeezzzz...'Toph....you're gonna give us a heartattack with those strobes! The lights NEVER CEASE TO AMAZE ME!!! SIMPLE out of Mike's is always (at least for me) welcome. Trey actually did justice to his "We've got bebop" solo this time by doing an "Eruption"-ish hammer on thing that worked! Fun rock anthem. The ensuing jam started out quiet and melodic, but then got slow and heavy with Mike turned up WAY LOUD. I called Jesus Left Chicago, and noone else in the area seemed to disagree, but somehow we got...RIFT...not a big fan of this tune. What can I say. LOVING CUP always rocks out, but it's pretty standard, and a little bit of a let down after Rift. Next we got a SLEEPING MONKEY, and this was my first in person taste of the phallicly oriented "Let it Be" rewrite. Cute as always, and extra points for some added Fishman "On the Train!" yelps during Trey's solo, but whatever. The ensuing WEEKAPAUG was definitely good, if a little short. Page funked it up on clav as usual, but much more structured around the main chord progression than most '97 (or Island run )versions. More like a '96 Paug, but plenty of machine-gun Trey though, so this was a highlight regardless. SQUIRMING COIL is Squirming Coil, and Trey muffed the composed work before the last "It got awaaaaaayyyy yeah" section. Page's solo was excellent, but isn't it always? I'd give this set an average grade....maybe 4.5 or 5 out of 10. Started out hot with the excellent Mike's > Simple, but the meat of the set had far too many predictable standards, and far too little jamming. Closing the set with Coil was a little unfortunate.....I would've much rather seen it flip flopped with the YEM encore...but what do I know. The encore, as has been par for this tour, was excellent. The band comes back out on stage, and Trey's having long conversations with each member (especially Mike...what was up with that?). He starts playing this low series of notes that I thought was going to turn into Floyd's ABITW (you know...the part before "Daddy's gone across the ocean..."). Of course if I was thinking clearly, I would've known it was the intro to BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE. This is a prefect Phish cover. Trey had a field day with the vocals, and I was amazed at how accurately they portrayed those odd "Wocka Wocka: guitar/keyboard sounds in the studio original. Fun, fun, fun! Then Trey launches into a banter about how much they've enjoyed summer...yada..yada..see you at the Wheel etc. Then he says that Fish wants to play this one, and we've been bugging him all night, so here we go. YEM ensues, and it was a little short, but nicely funked out with excellent clav work and a hilarious "Who's Your Daddy" vocal jam (STROBE LIGHTS!!!!). Bottom line...good first set, excellent encore, and a second set with a kick ass Mike's that was marred by some weak song selections in the middle, and never quite recovered. Definitely worth having on XLIIs for the encore, Ramble On > Slave and Mike's > Simple among some other things though, so be on the lookout. Indeed. -dave
I almost didn't make it to this show. I was expecting a lot of new stuff that I wouldn't recognize, being my first show since New Year's. Only one of the new tunes made an appearance though. I had no complaints. La Grange: Wouldn't have called this in a million years. No idea since it was last played, but it got everybody moving and set the tone for the whole set, which for the most part had a real rockin' feel to it. It was also apparent that Page was going to have a good night - and he did. Makisupa: Someone had moved around the letters on a sign near a school on the way into the show so it read "Hey Makisupa Policeman", and as a result it was stuck in my head for a while. Short but sweet. Funky Bitch: Screaming Bitch. I was right by this huge puddle up front on Page's side which everybody was pretty much avoiding. But once Funky Bitch got going nobody seemed to care anymore and the mudfest began. That pretty much got the boys nice and warmed up. Trey was making a lot of reference to Fish at this point, about him being from Syracuse ... eventually Fish just went "Shut uuuuuup!" ala Homer J. Simpson before Trey dedicated the next tune to Jeff Holdsworth. Possum: Wow. They must have really been in the mood for rocking. Of course I always like Possum. Keep in mind this was my only show of the tour so far ... but from what I can see the funk is gone. Actually, this set reminded me a lot of some of those tight shows from 93. The jamming is similar to that, only more refined. Roget: Didn't know what it was, but I could tell it wasn't a cover. I figured it was Roget as soon as I heard the chorus. Very phishy. Some neat little tempo changes and escalating jamming. Lots of potential - could turn into something really cool. Character Zero: Didn't think they were gonna pull this one out after the Funky Bitch and the Possum, but they kept with the apparent theme of the set and kept rocking. I have to admit I wasn't that psyched to hear it when it started, but by the end of the tune I was glad that I did. Ramble On: Love this tune. I had always hoped Phish would play more from that second Led Zep album. I had been hoping to hear this ever since I heard about Alpine Valley. Page was great on the vocals. The jam stayed rocked. Plain and simple. It had the original Ramble On flavour to it at first and then changed pace a bit to the point where I knew a Slave was on the way. It was actually Mike that convinced me it was coming with a few little notes. It just made sense. Slave: One of my favourite tunes. Never tires as a set closer. Page kept grabbing my attention until everything came together in the build up. I was happy to see Trey just ripping those notes and staying away from the funk chords (although he did throw a few in at appropriate times later in the show) Great climax. Great set - 68 minutes. Mike's: When the Mike's strated I knew this show was a keeper. Again, there wasn't as much funk. It started off strong and led into a nice exploratory jam. Didn't last too long before it semi-segued into Simple: Didn't think they were gonna do it again this tour, but they did. Average Simple in my book. They stayed with the main sound of the jam for a while which was nice and then brought it down into a jam that eventually led into Rift!: Wow, I didn't expect to hear this baby either. But that seems to be the trend this tour. I'd have to say that Page upstaged Trey on this one. Lots of fun. The Mike's>Simple>Rift combined for about 35 minutes. Loving Cup: On the way up I said we would get one unless they had played it in Starlake. Well, they hadn't, and boy am I ever glad. Now, I always love Loving Cup, and the last one I heard live was that sick one on 12/31 ... but that didn't stop me from being impressed. I can't emphasize enough how good Page sounded. Hell, everybody sounded good. Sleeping Monkey: I needed this after the Loving Cup. Pretty standard really. Important to have though, or I might have passed out during Weekapaug: It's usual ripping self. Mike had a sweet intro ... he was laying some nice notes in this baby. Intense stuff. Coil: Very well executed ... not to mention the fact that it gave Page one last chance to show off. Beautiful. Burning Down the House: I thought we might get something big in the encore (actually I turned to my buddy after the Coil and said "How nice would a YEM be? Having heard about the other night. "Or a Guyute?" he responded ...) but they went for the new cover to start things off. Not too long. Very cool. Even cooler was the fact that they stayed on stage. Trey played a little HYHU and talked about Fish some more, saying they were gonna play one more tune, and that Fish wanted to dedicate it to his friends and family. Then came the YEM: What can I say? We got a YEM encore! It wasn't thrown away either, they went for the full thing, tramps vocal jam and all. Actually, the vocal jam was nuts ... it went on until you could make out someone saying "Who's your daddy?" Eventually Fish screamed the line out. Chris was great on the lights here too. Second set and encore clocked in at 100 minutes. Wow - Lemonwheel here I come.
I no longer feel the need to review a show like I am some film Critic. Phish is the best live band in the world, and Vernon Downs was testament to that, if you don't know now, then you will never know. I like the way Trey put it that summer night in Vernon, "I think it is time to play some Led Zeppelin", by god he was right!!!!!! Peace, Kris Booth
I'm going to cut right to the chase and say this show was incredible and I though the venue was gorgous. The clouds and the blue sky behind the band added an great touch. La Grange-Cool opener but once Trey started soloing the place was rockin' Makisupa- all I can say is thank you!!!. Key word was vernon downs Funky Bitch- Perfect placement got the whole place groovin' Possum-an incredible rockin' version the band was on I loved it. Roget- this is the first time I ever heard it and I really enjoyed it. it was placedin good spott in the set. A little Spacey Character zero- Standard version we thought it was the set closer but.... Ramble on->Slave- SICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Set 2 Mike's- Holy shit nobody could have predicted this. This version smoked for a good 17-18(min)and then Simple-whoa!!!!!!!!!! they are on tonight. they played with the delicated jam for a while before it took a spacy turn into... RIFT!!!!-YEAH!!!!! Standard version but who cares!!! Lovin' CUP- this was played perfectly in the set and simply rocked everyone's world. Sleeping monkey. fishman is hilarous and we let him know it Weekapaug- not a stand out version but the whole band was on fire none the less. we though this would close the amazing set but..... Squirming coil-thank God!!! beautiful. this sealed the deal on an amazing show i had a huge smile on my face during all of page's solo. What a set!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Encore _ Burning down the house- This was great. the boys really love talking heads and they show it by playing amazing covers. we were all ready to leave until......... YEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!-YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Tramps and all. this show just went from amazing to epic. thanks boys CM

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