Greetings, everyone! @wforwumbo back at the helm with a new edition of From the Tapers’ Section.
Let’s start with a quick PSA: protect your ears. Go out and buy a pair of solid, inexpensive, reusable earplugs. I suffer from tinnitus - hence the delay of nearly two years between the last edition of FTTS and the words you read today. It does more than get in the way of enjoying music; tinnitus interferes with sleep, understanding of general conversation, and general mental/emotional irritation because of constant ringing. Earplugs today are pretty good, and the better ones don’t muffle sound but rather act as a general "volume knob on the world" thanks to hearing research. Three short hours of joy at a Phish show sans earplugs is not worth the resulting lifetime of pain. I am lucky that my tinnitus happens to be treatable - but this is a rare exception to the rule, and it’s still an expensive and slow recovery process.
Today, we journey deep into the heart of my favorite tour: Summer ‘99. In my opinion, no other tour in the Phish catalog has peaks this high. There is a signature goopy, washy, swirly haze that just hangs thick in the air over these jams. The grooves are tight with a spunky snap to the snare; the feedback is ferocious; the synthesizers (both Page’s Prophet and Trey’s AN1x) are warped tidal pools of glory; and Mike’s bass roars and rattles. Jams have both quiet, patient ambience and intense skull-pounding intensity. And big jams are sprinkled everywhere throughout first and second sets.
7/13/99 - Great Woods night 2 - is a great example of much of this. There’s not a lot of fluff, only the appropriate breather for the band to catch its breath. An overlooked and under-discussed guest appearance from Scott Murawski - Mike's longtime bandmate - in the form of "Possum" set closer and the debut of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s "Tuesday’s Gone" populate the end of this show. Oh yeah, and we have a massive bustout in the form of "NO2" - the first in five years.
PHISH | Tuesday, 7/13/1999 | Tweeter Center, | Mansfield, MA
Set I: NICU, The Curtain > Halley's Comet -> Roses Are Free -> NO2, Lawn Boy, Reba > Carini > Funky Bitch
Set II: Wolfman's Brother > Piper, Bug > Mountains in the Mist, Run Like an Antelope > Possum
Encore: Tuesday's Gone
NO2 was played for the first time since July 16, 1994 (356 shows) and, for the first known time, included the instrumental ending originally included on The White Tape. Reba did not have the whistling ending. Antelope included Meatstick teases and Trey acknowledging his friends Dave and Luann Abrahams, who were in the crowd. Possum and the Phish debut of Tuesday’s Gone featured Scott Murawski on guitar. Possum contained a Lazy (Deep Purple) tease.
Set 1 has noteworthy jamming in "Halley’s Comet," which contains a slick -> into "Roses Are Free" (which itself slips into the aforementioned "NO2"). "Reba" flirts with greatness but does not peak, instead making a left turn into a thick "Carini." Set 2 has the meat and potatoes in the form of "Wolfman’s Brother." I can write essays on this "Wolfman’s." The pacing up top is slow and thick, matching the hazy humidity of northeastern summer nights. This one is patient and rhythmically dense; Mike and Fish lead the charge for much of it while the collective band seems to trod along with little agenda. At 16:50, Trey lets the feedback purr, melding it into whale call and firing up the looper. From this point on, the jam begins to blossom and unfurl, coasting through the cosmos on weightless momentum. Eventually the jam winds its way into a delicate "Piper." The second set is rounded out by a classic ‘99 feedback-laden "Bug," and a "Run Like an Antelope" that proves Phish can still do dissonant and chaotic jazz with aplomb. The show finishes strong, with Scott Murawski's guest spot in "Possum" and again for the "Tuesday's Gone" encore.
By now, you should know that I enjoy Schoeps microphones. Deploying them myself at shows, there is something about the holographic and larger-than-life midrange, combined with an incredible penchant for detail in dynamic range that I consistently find in Schoeps tapes. The mk41 is a supercardioid microphone; it sacrifices depth in the bass, in exchange for solid clarity and a narrow pickup pattern allowing the mic to capture more PA and less room/audience. The benefit to mk41 tapes is that they generally reduce audience chatter, and give a very direct recording that is mostly devoid of unfortunately-timed reflections (which can make a tape sound very washy and echoic in the wrong spot). I have offerings from multiple mk41 tapers for 7/13/99 - the usual suspects like Taylor Caine, plus Rob Clay and Van Murphee (running Craig Hillwig’s rig) have recordings on eTree. However, it is Dave Flaschner’s pair that just happens to be in the right location - a mostly centered image, a nice bloom to the kick and bass notes rather than echoic slapback, and that lush Schoeps midrange bringing Trey and Page to the front are all in perfect harmony on this tape. This comes at an expense - a great-sounding spot also happens to be surrounded by a very chatty crowd, and while the mk41 does reduce audience talking there is still lots picked up on tape. On top of the chatter, it seems a limiter was applied somewhere in the chain to squeeze a bit more volume - this could be from the dynamic range of the house mix, the mic preamps or converter clamping down on the waveform, or even during transfer from DAT to a computer. Further, there were a handful of spikes on the tape I had to quickly edit out, opting for silence over a loud pop. But at the end of the day, I think the music is best enjoyed on this tape relative to all others - warts and all.
In production work, I always prefer the results of gently nudging a great recording into perfection rather than trying to polish an imperfect result. This tape already sounds great without my production, but I do feel the aforementioned gentle nudging helps this tape really shine. A small dip in the lower-mids helps separate the kick from the bass guitar, and the gentlest treble lift helps the high end complement an already-forward midrange.
With this, I cease my yammering and allow the tape to do the rest of the talking for me. If you are hearing this show - especially the “Wolfman’s Brother” - or Summer ‘99 for the first time, I gladly welcome you with open arms to a combination of serenity and firepower in my favorite tour. If this show is already an old friend to you, I am excited to share a stellar recording that allows the detail to punch through, in a manner that is hopefully novel to you.
FLAC and MP3 file sets can be found at this link (Google Drive): DOWNLOAD HERE