The Phish 52: 12/5/97 Slave To The Traffic Light

Another personal show, another hidden gem if you ask me.  This entire show is a bit uneven, no doubt and when compared to some of the monster shows from 1997, especially the night that followed, it is an easy show to overlook.  I would however, recommend that you give it a listen, especially this Slave.  It is not what we have grown to expect from Slaves.  When I hear this tune at a show, it almost always signals the end is nigh.  A nice mellow jam is on the way to ease us to the end of the show and stick around for the encore if you’d like.

On this winter’s night in Cleveland (and it was winter, the weather was terrible) Slave came in during the middle of the set, following another underrated jam, Julius.  It starts out like any other Slave you’ve heard, but as we approach the build up and quick break that defines the song, things are different. At 2:54 the feedback and distortion that Trey uses is much more present than normal.
At 4:13 things seem to be back to normal and the mellow, blissful sounds of Slave are back.
5:44 More light soloing from Trey, he is definitely taking the forefront on the song at this point.
7:33 Just some beautiful stuff in hear.  Page and Fish are keeping a steady rhythm while Trey just is playing wonderfully over them.  Mike is very subtle.
8:04 Trey starts to rumble and Fish makes a greater impression as well.  By the nine minute make a definite rise in the tension can be felt. It is still well within the Slave structure and the high point of the jam feels like it is about to present itself.
10:16 The peak is reached and Trey just shreds and rises to the occasion. If the song relaxed and worked its way to its conclusion, it would have been a good, but not exactly memorable Slave.
10:27 Trey just pounds back into the song.  The whole band just gets to another level of intensity.  By the 11 minute mark, the light, airy, angelic Slave that is custom, is going away and something much darker is rising.  A wall of noise just explodes.
11:30 Or there abouts.  I can’t precisely mark it, but Mike gets into a fantastic groove that carries the song into an even darker place.  It is at this point I wish I had a better music vocabulary and understanding.  I can hear what he is pounding out, but I can’t convey it properly in words.  All the while, Trey is bringing his best Jimi Hendrix-type sound.  I know we say Rage Side Page Side, but Trey is raging at this point.
14:30 Page starts to bring in the synthesizer, adding an excellent touch of space. At this point all real structure has left the song and the jam.  I would call it spacey, but that conjures up ideas of something ethereal, something weightless.  We are not in that territory.  Or better said, it is not that kind of space, the space of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  No, this is the space of Alien, a dark, we are going to get eaten kind of space.

In the last few moments of the song, things start to lighten up.  One of the most light-hearted songs, Lizards, comes about.  I can’t help but think that it was a direction reaction to what was just going on.  Overall, it was kind of jarring.  Once we got to such an intense spot, leaving felt like a let down.  Sometimes when things get dark, it’s just better to dwell in that place for a while. But that just wasn’t to be on this night.

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