Albany YEM: Best Jam Ever?

[Originally Published December 9, 2006] Today marks the 17th anniversary of the Albany You Enjoy Myself. On that cold, snowy night in Upstate New York, Phish took their game to a whole new level.

[Albany YEM: Fan-Shot Video, Download Soundboard Audio]

I entered Skidmore College in September of 1995 unsure of whether I had made the right decision about where to attend school. Quickly I met people that would remain my friends ’til this day and had incredible educational opportunites that made it fun to learn for the first time. As the first few weeks of school passed I met a number of Phish fans that were interested in seeing the upcoming December shows. Add to that a few high school friends who were staying with me — the shows were close to Saratoga — and the Albany show turned into a meeting of the minds.

But things got hectic as the show date approached. The weather in the Capital District became nightmarish, and a blizzard arrived. Luckily my friends from home arrived at Skidmore just before the storm was hitting its stride. Still, we hit the road early, the trip to Albany no doubt troublesome. Sure enough, as we traveled down I-87, the road was littered with spun out cars. We drove really slow but got to the venue with plenty of time to spare.

The Knickerbocker (now known as the Times-Union Center) has many parking garages nearby, and as we had two hours to kill, I walked around. Having seen Phish a number of times by this point I had met a lot of people seeing shows, many of whom I ran into in that parking lot. I went into the venue and settled in the upper deck with five or six of my closest friends at the time.

The show started with a first set that was extremely tight yet featured minimal improvisation. Many shows during this time period had similar agendas: the first set focused on the compositional aspect of Trey’s music, while the second set was all about the jams.

There was a very happy vibe in the arena as the second set started — it was quite warm and everyone had dried off and forgotten about the terrible storm outside. The lights dropped and the band opened the set with Timber Ho!. Timber featured the first real improvisation of the night, and Page really added some magnificent fills to Trey’s solo. As the song ended, Trey couldn’t stop grinning as he called Mike over for a discussion.

The band started playing Wilson, and Trey began using a Beavis and Butthead Talking Remote Sensor. When he would trigger the device, Beavis and Butthead would say “Asswipe!,” “This Sucks!,” or “You Dumbass!” People were confused to say the least, and it was pretty cool to see all the puzzled faces in the crowd. The energy from the Beavis and Butthead gag lent itself to a romp through Wilson. A stellar Gumbo followed, and then innocently enough You Enjoy Myself began.

You Enjoy Myself was the song Phish played the most in their career. Certainly each version was different, but for the most part one version wouldn’t stray too much from another structurally. This night was different as the band left the typical YEM jam terrain with a quickness. Here is the best review I have read about this version, as written by Charlie Dirksen.

From: Charlie Dirksen
12/9/95 The Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY

Flawlessly perfect opening. The “pre-Nirvana” section begins around 1:15 with Fishman rapidly swiiishing the hi-hat. Trey, Page and Mike ominously sustain some eerie notes, presumably trying modestly to create a Vibration of Life effect (very modestly… no effect occurs). Watery-effects around 3:15 from someone (presumably Trey). Sounds like machinery operating under water. Floyd-like in its majesty. Page begins building up to the Nirvana segment (and Trey joins him, as usual)…

“Nirvana” at 4:15. This segment is typically gorgeous. Page’s soloing is as delightful, free and as Kind as it ever gets. Mike’s solo section begins at almost 5 minutes, and Mike is surprisingly chipper, playing an unusually high number of notes and in a rather upbeat, HAPPY TO SEE YOU AGAIN fashion. The pre-charge section begins immediately thereafter, and it sounds like the trampolines are brought out on stage by Brad Sands at this time (as usual; crowd goes nuts). First shot at The Note at 6:11 — Trey nails it and immediately begins masterfully soloing about it. Second shot at the Note occurs at 6:54, and it is perfectly sustained.

“Boy” at 7:27, after a great scream (crowd is realllly into this). More watery-machine-like effects from Trey in the WUDMTF segment (Page funks out on the ‘moog a little bit). Very funky, tightly played section. Page noodles on the organ. At roughly 9:38 the trampolines section begins with Page taking charge. I hear signaling from Mike for the trampolines moves… Page’s soloing is steady, patient for the first ten to twenty seconds, but he tears it up around 10:30 or so, and starts progressively getting more funky. Sounds like Trey is chording a bit while on the tramps with Mike (and not screwing anything up). Page is primarily sustaining around 11 minutes, and then Trey begins soloing around

11:05 to *really* open the jam segment. Trey, almost from the start, seems to have an Idea for this groove. The entire jam segment of this version of YEM seems to tell a story (what is that story telling you!?) right from the start. Trey begins melodiously soloing right from 11:10 on. By around 12 minutes or so, he launches into a preciously enchanting, mesmerizing double-stop groove — it sounds like he’s playing several notes *at once* in here! Like he’s got several hands hammering the frets!

The accompaniment from the others is so perfect and so strong. This is one of a handful of YEM jam segments in Phish history where they are truly making MUSIC, in my opinion, and aren’t merely jamming away in a masturbatory fashion. They jam in this version like their livelihood really depended on it. Page builds on the theme initiated and danced around by Trey, and at 13:58 Mike casually steps forward to a more prominent section of the mix. Trey gets low on his ‘doc in melodious accompaniment, and Page slides into the organ’s lower octaves, too. At 14:35 Trey begins repeating That Damn Note on his ‘doc that makes me teary-eyed whenever I hear it now (some people consider the repetition of this note effectively a tease of “Shaft”). Mike and Page groooooooooovily… I mean ULTRA-GROOOVILY funk beneath Trey’s repetitive “soloing.” This ultra-funky — yet melodiously enchanting — grooves continues steadily.. DANCE AWAY!!!!

At 17:04 Trey begins one of the most awe-inspiring, teary-eyed solos that I’ve ever heard him perform. There might as well be two fucking guitarists playing in here in perfect accompaniment (see Dicky and Warren of the old ABB). EVERYTHING CLICKS so IMPECCABLY around 18 minutes that I get shivers and teary-eyed in spell-bound wonder whenever I hear this, or even THINK ABOUT IT. This is one of those jams so glorious and so magnificent (especially around 18:36) that whenever I hear it I lift my arms up to the sky and Praise JAH!!! Whomever said that Phish has no soul has obviously not heard this jam segment… a jam segment that is EVIDENCE, in my opinion, that Phish can enchant and bewilder and inspire to the same degree AND EXTENT as the Grateful Dead could and did and still do on tape (at least, in my opinion).

It should go without saying that everyone’s accompaniment of Trey’s passionate soloing in this segment is *PERFECT*. Add this to the jams that Phish has performed that sound like melodious, composed music. If there was ever something fit for a *live* CD, it is this version of You Enjoy Myself in its entirety (it puts the “A Live One” version to shame, imo).

This amazingly charming groove ends around 20:19, when Mike again becomes much more pronounced. He steps out soloing masterfully around 20:44, funking away with Fish (and light, occasionaly chording from Page). [Editor's Note: My Wellesley-educated composition majoring girlfriend just noted that I would have FAILED out of Wellesley had I dared employ the word "funking" in any critico-musical context.] Trey is on the percussion kit now, grooving away (and not merely playing along with Fish either.. Trey actually FILLS in here for a change, instead of playing on all the downbeats matching Fish). Mike finishes up around 23 minutes, and instead of launching into the closing vocal jam segment, they basically begin yet another jam segment.

At 23:20 Trey starts teasing THAT DAMN NOTE again (“Shaft” tease I suppose) Page GETS DOWN on the moooooog a bit in here, funking away mightily. Fish keeps the beat steady, and Mike adds some dankly phaaaat licks to Page’s mooglicious soloing. Trey is still playing that NOTE over and over again, when at 25:07, he queries “Who’s the black private dick who’s the sex machine to all the chicks” (SHAAAAAFT). The groove gets progressively quieter until, around 26 minutes, it is only Fish lightly whisking the hi-hat. Fish drops out completely at 26:06, and the

SILENT JAM BEGINS. If you haven’t heard of the SILENT JAM, it has occurred a couple times now (e.g., see Funky Bitch from 12/30/96). Basically, the band jams on their instruments without making a sound, and the non-jaded part of the crowd goes crazy with excitement and glee (the jaded folks laugh, sit down, laugh a little more, and then say “Good one.. enough already” before leaving to get another beer).

At basically 27:30 Trey slowly and steadily begins chording again, and the others also return to their instruments, creating a soaring crescendo that climbs and EXPLODES around 27:52 back into a spectacular closing You Enjoy Myself jam!!!!!!! This is the closing of YEM jam segments that all should be measured against. It is thrilling, triumphant, masterfully played and just Generally Kicks Ass. At 29 minutes, however, it also just DIES OUT… basically flops. Still, a good close, but this would have truly been **THE** perfect close to the jam if it had only continued passionately right up until the closing WUDTMF segment, in my opinion.

At 29:32 the closing WUDMTF segment begins without any accompaniment (well, the crowd is clapping obnoxiously… but stops within twenty seconds). I’m honestly sick to death of vocal jams, but around 30:58 Trey appears to say some things (before adding “Asswipe” from that Beavis and Butthead device in there a few times). Mike’s chanting at first sounded like a possible segue into Yerushalim el Zahav, fwiw. Definitely a good vocal jam, but I can’t “review” these for shit (obviously). Trey is rapidly vocalizing mouthy-sounds, while the others chant. Sorta. Wink Everyone crescendo’s and begins practically screaming around 33:10. . . then they all quiet down again.. then crescendo and SCREEEEEAM yet again. Blah. Total time 34:09.

Strong vocal jam, but certainly not one of the MOST interesting, in my opinion. But the jam segment of this YEM — not to mention the masterfully played opening, BMGS/WUDMTF, tramps and bass&drums segments — make this version a HEAR AT ALL COSTS You Enjoy Myself. “N/R” rating easily… but it is also easily an “A” as well. Inarguably one of the greatest versions of YEM, all things considered, in all of Phishstory.

A Amazing. Get it. Not only is the jamming spectacular, but there MAY be some interesting teases of other tunes, and especially creative & glorious segments of the jam, that make this a must-have version, and should impress your friends and neighbors. N/R Not rated. This basically means the version is insane, and it wouldn’t be fair to rate it. I would recommend, strongly, that you hear it for yourself. I may have liked, or disliked, it immensely.

In my opinion, you haven’t heard “You Enjoy Myself,” until you have heard the 12/9/95 Albany version.

two cents,
charlie

[Originally Posted on Rec.Music.Phish – Archived at Phish.net]

Thirteen years later this jam still holds as much appeal as it did during that show. As the jam raged I remember thinking to myself, “Am I really hearing this?” Trey plays some blistering runs right after the silent jam that have to be heard to be believed. The reaction of the crowd was intense and didn’t take long for this YEM to get a reputation.

Few things in life are worth driving through a blizzard to see, but boy was that YEM worth it! I will never forget getting home from Albany and telling everyone I knew about the kickass YEM from that night. From the moment the jam began, I KNEW it would be among the best music I would ever witness in my life.

12/09/95 Knickerbocker Arena, Albany, NY
Set I: Maze, Theme from the Bottom, NICU, The Sloth, Rift, Bouncing Around the Room, Free, Billy Breathes, Dog Faced Boy, Chalkdust Torture
Set II: Timber, Wilson, Gumbo, You Enjoy Myself, Lawn Boy, Slave to the Traffic Light, Crossroads, Sweet Adeline
Encore: Loving Cup

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34 thoughts on “Albany YEM: Best Jam Ever?

  1. Pingback: Hidden Track » Video: Phish – Albany YEM |

  2. Saxilla Reply

    You can argue endless and never be incorrect about #s 2-10 or 2-100 or 2-1,000,000 but #1 IS the 12-9-95 Albany YEM.

  3. Kyle Reply

    I am so glad I am not a jaded vet. I dnt care how many shows i go to or how many shows ive been to I will NEVER leave while they are playing unless there is an emrergency. I dont drink so I never have to pee till set break and I never have to pay 9 bucks for a plastic cup of coors light

  4. Lenny Stubbe Reply

    Hey Scotty,

    Thanks as always for all the great work.

    The video is listed with “Soundboard audio”, but unless I missed something I don’t believe there is any soundboard material released in any way from this show?

    It always sounds like an audience to me. Just thought I’d ask.

    This YEM is the Barton Hall Dew of Phish.

    • Scott Bernstein Reply

      Lenny,

      Phish released audio of the Albany YEM as part of The House of Live Phish at Super Ball. To my ears, it sounds the video above has been sync’d with that audio.

  5. Pete Jones Reply

    Silent Jam, woah

  6. Piranha Reply

    10/31/95 is my fave. By a landslide.

  7. aburtch Reply

    The answer is yes. The Albany YEM is the greatest YEM ever. And not just because I was there ;)

    Back in 1995 I was a relative noob and got teased by Mr. Dirksen for “groveling” on rec.music.phish for him to review this particular YEM the day after they played it. Because, yes, I thought it was the best YEM yet.

  8. Mikey Ebz Reply

    That was my first show and it was the best I’ve ever seen….the snow, the vibe, and the jams make that Knick show 1 of the greatest ever!

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