PHISH: 11/14/95 University of Central Florida Arena, Orlando, FL essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (2/19/07)

PHISH: 11/14/95 University of Central Florida Arena, Orlando, FL
essay by Phish Archivist Kevin Shapiro (2/19/07)

After touring in support of "A Live One" the previous summer, Phish's Fall 1995 tour kicked off in late September in California and spanned from the Pacific Northwest through Big Sky country and the southwest reaching Chicago for their second modern era Halloween show, 24 shows later. The band solicited votes for their second Halloween musical costume and even led the fans into believing it could be a Michael Jackson album (a joke which dates as far back as the band's first gig in 1983). On Halloween, the band performed an impressive reproduction of The Who's "Quadrophenia" complete with horns, guest vocals and pyrotechnics (see This Month In Phish History September and October 1995). After a ten day break, the tour resumed in Atlanta for a three-night stand at the Fox Theatre, which began a second leg of nearly thirty more shows eventually ending the year in style with the "New Year's Eve 1995" concert at Madison Square Garden

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The three nights at The Fox were legendary, building toward the magnificent peak of the 11-11 show before rolling down to Gainesville for Phish's first Florida dates of the year. Phish had been gaining notoriety in the sunshine state ever since they first played there in February 1993 but the shows in August 1993 and spring and fall of 1994 cemented the band's reputation there. Those previous shows had been clubs and a couple small amphitheaters so the college arenas in 1995 were a step up, however the energy of The Edge and even The Ritz shone through.

Shows that week in Gainesville, Tampa and most notably West Palm Beach were all excellent, but the magic that took place inside the University of Central Florida Arena on November 14th was of a higher order. Having written about the personal impact of this day in other forums, it suffices to say that a trip to Disney World was the perfect buildup to a remarkable show. This show also marked the time when Eric Larson was equipped to videotape some key shows (12/31/95 and 12/29/97) and luckily, the Beta SP masters of the Orlando show turned out great. The result when synced with engineer Paul Languedoc's 2-track soundboard reference audio mix mastered by Fred Kevorkian elevates the intended archival-only status of these tapes to that of must-have release.

The University of Central Florida Arena is a 5300-seat bleacher-lined basketball arena which, for this show was set up with the soundboard against the back, leaving no room for the taping section where it usually was beside the front of house mix position. Instead Paul helped set up a special taping section in the bleachers at stage right so tapers could still record the show. The two thirds full room buzzed with anticipation as the band made their move in their continuing chess match against the audience and started a blazing Chalk Dust Torture which served as an initial portal into the show. A particularly intricate and dynamic Foam kept the eager crowd’s attention as the possibilities of the evening continued to unfold. A pretty Billy Breathes, which had been debuted at the beginning of fall, came next before Trey looked skyward for The Divided Sky. Just a few seconds passed after Divided Sky before Page dropped into the circus-y opening of this tour's second Esther - the theme of which would be revisited later in the show's peak moments.

A solid Free and a spirited Julius came next, further stoking the electric atmosphere. The acoustic instruments and arrangements that had been honed the previous fall tour were used for I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome which featured a brave mandolin solo by Fish as well as some especially inflected vocals by temporary upright bassist Page. Cavern provided a fitting close to a tight, well-played set that alluded, only in subtle ways, to the incredible madness that would manifest during the second set.

After a set break and the audience chess move, Trey taunted the audience as the band broke into a frenzied Maze– traversing alien switchbacks fueled by swirling organ and Trey singing along with his guitar for a gremlin-like effect. Gumbo was next and provided a funky interlude before the band launched into one of the deepest and most exploratory versions of Stash, which was masterfully woven in and around most of the rest of the set, spanning an epic forty minutes before returning to the more earthly environs of Central Florida. Alongside telepathic sets like 2/20/93 The Roxy, 8/14/93 Tinley Park and 5/7/94 II Bomb Factory the improvisational skill and grace demonstrated in this Stash set the standard for years to come.

Trey began the first segment of Stash so quickly that the rest of the band was barely ready. By this time in Stash's history, it was standard for the audience to clap along to the woodblocks, but their in-unison shout of "please don't do that" signaled the Florida kids' intensity and no doubt helped this masterpiece pick up even more steam. Staccato guitar and clavinet accents began to lead into some incredible jamming with massive, swirling tension as the band weaved in and out of Stash's theme in a loose, psychedelic approach. Deep rhythmic tribal incantation followed with Trey eventually switching to percussion and grooving into something akin to the ending of Fee. This jam continued, melting perfectly into a supercharged version of Manteca, played for the first time in a year and sandwiched between segments of Stash for the first time since 2/21/93 at the Roxy.

Manteca resolved back into a soaring jam that begat the second segment of Stash – lighter and more dynamic in contrast to the more slanted feel of the first section. It's here that Leslie-soaked guitar floated serenely over Fish's ethereal cymbal and woodblock work to allude sublimely back to Esther, conveying a level of emotion capable of coaxing tears of joy from even the most grizzled listeners. A primal jam developed from this moment of beauty that swirled deeper and darker into a drone accented by tick-tocking percussion that lasted a few minutes before tender a capella vocals emerged for the only Stash > Dog-Face > Stash in Phish history. After Dog-Faced Boy, the band returns to the harmonic bed that begat it, mysteriously skipping the final lyric "but ask me and I'll do anything but you" as they add increasingly-intense layers of hypnotic sound complete with some swirling megaphone work by Trey and (so it seems) a paintbrush solo on the bass. This experimental jam ultimately reverses its cacophonic swirl back into the triumphant final segment of Stash, leaving minds blown and jaws on the gymnasium floor.

Strange Design provided a needed entrée back to reality – sung and played superbly and providing a chance to catch a breath before Trey counted out the opening of You Enjoy Myself. Like parts of the show-stopping Stash and other versions from this year commonly ranked among the best ever, this YEM is amazing, intense and engaging, exploratory and rocking especially when teamed with Chris Kuroda's phoenix-shaped lighting rig. A brief nod to Led Zeppelin's The Immigrant Song punctuates the jam and the energy in the room and intensity of playing throughout kept the set flying as high as Trey and Mike's mini-trampoline performance. A two-song encore of The Wedge and lickety-split Rocky Top provided the sweet icing on the cake of this landmark performance in the Magic Kingdom.

Enjoy!

--ks

Published 19 October 2010 08:09 PM by admin

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