Phish @ Sessions At West 54th

On October 20th, Phish played at The Sony Studies in New York for The Sessions at West 54th Series
10/20/98 - Sony Studios, New York, NY (Sessions At West 54th Series)

  Sleep*, Frankie Sez, Ghost, Roggae, Guyute, Wading in a Velvet Sea, Driver*,
  Albequerque**, Birds of a Feather, Piper, Taste

*=acoustic tune, dubuted at Bridge benefit
**=not filmed for show, Bridge Benefit mentioned again (N. Young tune)

Thanks to Dan DeBeer & Daniel Estrin for the list!

Well, I just got back from NYC, and to sum it up, this was the most intimate
Phish show I'll probably ever see.  My friend Kathy works at a music
magazine (Phish article by her to be posted in a few days), and is
researching an article on Sessions, so I was lucky enough to get tickets.
We got to the studio and waited outside for a bit while the VIP/Guest List
was sorted out, Brad Sands was outside and things seemed a bit hectic, but
everyone was cool.  Finally we were led inside to the hospitality room where
we hung out for a bit, and live Grateful Dead was being played.  I talked to
the Dude of LIfe for a bit, and saw many familiar faces from shows, although
I don't know who any of them are, although that guy Big Phil was there (who
is he, and why is he at every show I've ever been to ;)  Anyways eventually
they led us into the recording studio...

    This place is tiny, it was a theatre in the round style setup, although
there was no stage.  A little wave actually broke out for a bit, making this
a little more surreal than it already was.  David Byrne came out before
Phish and spoke a few words.  Is it me, or was this guy wierd???  He seemed
very eccentric.  Anyways, Phish came out, and Trey played some familiar
guitar lick while David Byrne introduced them.  They opened with Sleeper,
nice acoustic tune, can't really comment too much on it, because I do not
remember it to well, although I do remember a cellular phone ringing at end
of the song ;^P.  There seemed to be sound problems at first, but when
Frankie Says came on the sound exploded into fierce loudness.  I was seated
behind Trey, about three rows back, they were no more than 15 ft. away from
me.   I will definitely be on TV a lot ;)  Page was facing directly at me,
so I was able to see his playing and strange faces up close.  Anyways,
Frankie Says was nice, and played as it usually was.  At the end of the
tune, Trey threw in one of his little loop effects, and the place was dead
silent, not a noise, the loop kept going, and Fish's familiar drum beat
beginning Ghost started up...
    ...alright...we got a little funk, this place was so tiny, and so
intimate, I felt like I was in the recording studio listening to them record
an album.  Ghost was tight, and they ripped into a frantic, in your face jam
that worked the crowd into a sitting frenzy.  One of the highlights of the
set for me.  Roggae was next and once again was very nice (what
description), these tunes definitely were fitting for this setting, the
songs were very slow and cozy, which was perfect for the mood of the studio.
The sound was great, and every note was perfectly crisp.  One thing that
surprised me was how much Fish actually sings, I could hear him perfectly.
The setlist may not seem to thrilling, but believe me, it was thrilling.
Guyute came next, Trey made some comment, I don't remember what, and Fish
started doing some different drumbeat, which I think was meant to be tongue
in cheek.  Well, Guyute was _tight_ very well executed, and very enjoyable.
The intimacy of this venue really got everybody worked up for this tune, the
place was bursting with energy when they hit the peak of the song.  Even
though everyone was sitting, one could feel the rush rippling throughout the
place.  This was _the_ highlight for me!  Easily my favorite Guyute
(although this is probably due to the circumstances, not the actual
playing).  Due to the acoustical clarity (wha??) of the room, Fish's evil
copying of Trey's singing at the end of the song made it even darker.  It
was wierd seeing Phish without a light show, but Guyute managed to
hypnotize.  Wading In A Velvet Sea came next, and it was introduced as a
long tune, Trey joked around a bit about this, than they played it.  Very
touching, emotional solo.  Once again, perfect for the setting.
    After this Trey spoke a bit about Bridge School, and how they were still
buzzing from the excitement of the event.  He introduced Sleeper and Driver,
Driver was written by Tom Marshall, who was at the Sessions show, and Trey
commented how this was Tom's first time seeing this song live.  It was
another slow acoustic song, with quite amusing lyrics.  The Driver is in his
head and it makes him do wierd things, such as dragging his shirt through
the dirt (in his next life he hopes he has better clothes), or something
like that
.  Pretty fun, Phishy song.  At this point, they are notified that the
analog tape must be switched, instead of stopping Trey  asked if they could
just play a song that won't be on tape...thus ensued Albequerque.  Very
enjoyable (I'm not good at describing music alright!).  Nice harmonies in
this song.  As Trey commented, "only Neil Young could use the name
Albequerque in a song."
    Birds Of A Feather was next, and BAM!  It was very intense.  This place
was so small, I can't say it enough, I had a grin THIS BIG ON MY FACE!!!!
The energy from every song was just too much, this song did not let down, I
don't care what people say about this tune, it is GOOD!
  Piper was next, it was shortened but it was the Piper we all love, it
whipped me into a passive frenzy, making my grin THIS MUCH BIGGER THAN I
ALREADY WAS.  The lyrics were so much more inaudibally audible than they
usually were, I think I almost made out the words, but than I didn't.  At
this point they were notified that they only had one more tune.  The fans
took this oppurtunity to shout out requests.  I heard Farmhouse, Maze, Hood,
Freebird (many times), Taste, Beat It, and the best of all Fluffhead,
requested, but they chose Taste, which was good enough for me.  This was
probably the most frenetic, bugged out song played at the show.  Being right
there, I was able to fully appreciate the intricasies of this song by seeing
them play it right there.  They seemed to wait for Fish's drumming to begin
so they could get there bearing on the time and beat of the song.  This tune
must be hard to play!  It soared, and literally blew the roof off the studio
(I swear, the roof came off, really).  They ended, thanked everybody, and
left.  On the way out I saw Mike talking to someone.  Oh yeah, when everyone
was leaving a bunch of fans swarmed the "stage" and took what they could,
guitar picks, setlists, and even Trey's cup!  I remember at one show I went
to (Maybe Dude of Life, and Trey sat in), during a set break, someone
somehow got a cup Trey had drank from, and they were passing it around
giving sips to everyone as if it was the holy grail, strange.  Sorry about
the digression.  Anyways, on the way out I checked out Page's setup up
close, pretty cool stuff.  I should've sat down and busted out a little
Beethoven, but I think that may have been a bit intrusive.  So alas, I only
looked, well, I did touch one of the keyboards , but just the cabinet of it
(hey at least it wasn't Trey's cup!!!).
    Obviously this was a very special show to see, and yes I am bragging.
The intimacy was definitely awkward for both the band and the fans.  When
the band would finish a tune, people would cheer (loudly) than quickly get
silent for the next tune.  At this point, it would be dead silent, you could
hear a pin drop, and this made it awkward, not that I'm complaining.  One of
the things I love about seeing Phish is that there doesn't seem to be much
distance between the band and its fans.  What I mean is they can be on a
stage at MSG, yet I feel like they're playing in my living room.  They're
not rock stars per se, just a bunch of people from Vermont that play GREAT
music, at least that's how it seems when I watch them play.  This show was
like they were playing in my kitchen!  I remember at one point Trey went to
switch his electric for his acoustic, and almost dropped the electric, Mike
helped him, but the place was so silent that I think it actually made him a
bit nervous, because he laughed, and the audience laughed too.  Ahh, nervous
energy...Wouldn't you be nervous if you were playing in front of 200 people
and they were dead silent, and you're used to them screaming their asses
off?  I don't know why I'm telling this, but I'm trying to convey the
feeling of the show.  It was this >< small.  I don't feel I'm wrong saying
that everyone, band, crew and fans left the show feeling good about Hood.
And don't worry, Phish isn't selling out, they like playing music too much.

Oh yeah, AJ, you got in!!!

Take care of your shoes, and remember, we can stage a runaway golfcart

--Adam Schneider

This was definitely strange to say the least. After passing up front row seats because my friend was off target thinking we would get a better seat, we moved to the back. However, we were more than close enough to see Trey's fingers and all of Page. Now to the show. First, David "Freak" Byrne came out and made some really funny comments that most people did not catch onto. He is clearly a legend, and is aptly the one and only host of this event. Then the band came on dressed casually (as you'll see when it is aired), and had a few words. The setlist was chosen already, so we thought as we were next to the camera man, but they quickly deviated and started up with "Sleep", which was not bad, but not great either. An acoustic number, which is nice to see, that I would not mind not hearing that often. It falls in with "Talk", but mellower. So after they "Sleep"ed us they asked us to "Relax" with "Frankie Sez". It was pretty standard, but the vocals were very clear which was nice. It was cool to see Tom Marshall nodding his head in approval during the songs. Trey later made reference to Tom as co-song writer which was nice. Next, the show BEGINS. "Story of the Ghost" was pretty much the reason that I and everyone else made the trip. It was compact, but solid. Trey started in with some of his squealing loops straight as they ended "Frankie". Mike and Fish slowly rolled in with the backup beats, and it began. They rocked it out. Trey had his solo, but I do not recall Mike's funky little bass jam, but it did not matter, this was the best song they played IMO. In and out of the funk and rock, and just when I thought they would close it they continued. The whole room was very into it. "Roggae...Velveeta Cheese...Birds of a Feather...Piper" were all okay. Nothing that great, very studioistic, if that's a word. B.O.F is "Chalkdust" to me. The other acoustic stuff was nice. Trey gave us some lowdown on the Bridge School Benefit, and played a new song, "Driver" which is about people who have within themselves a driver that guides them through life. It was decent. "Albequerque" ,on the other hand, was real nice. Done to perfection and one of the better tunes. Once again Trey had his acoustic, which he not-surprisingly plays very well. However, "Albequerque" will not be on the air because it was done during the tape-changing for the recording. They asked if it was okay and went along playing it. Moving to the end, "Taste". The band looked on sure of what to play and some of the audience thought it was over. At that point I shouted, "The Moment Ends?". Not that funny, but I wanted the "Moma Dance". Then my friends and I, amidst all the shouts for "Bowie,Antelope, Fluffhead" et cetera, shouted at "Crosseyed & Painless" because David Byrne was in the house. That went no where quick, and they started in to "Taste" as they were all in agreement. "Taste" was in place of "Moma" according to the setlist we looked at. Not happy about it, and not knowing it was the last song, they started in, and the song was typical, but great. One of the better songs, and a well-timed climatic finish. Overall, the performance was okay, but conceptually it was great. Being there was what made it really cool. Anytime it is tuesday afternoon, and you can pickup and go see Phish for free, it is a good time. Plus, everyone was talking about VEGAS BABY, VEGAS!!! Ciao. "Elwein Cummings"
1998 Setlists
Andy's Phish Page