Back in the late ’90s and early ’00s, New Hampshire’s own Percy Hill was a band to reckoned with. Their album Color in Bloom is still seen as the untouched gold standard for a jamband album, capturing amazing songwriting and lyrics, fantastic production and instrumentation, and the ineffable energy and sparkle that makes the very best stand out and stand up to the test of time. But PH’s live show was even better, simply by virtue of taking what was best on the album and adding more and more. More tight breaks through complex songs, more open, group mind improvisation. More thrilling keys from Nate Wilson, more loping bass-lines from John Lecesse, more stunning guitar work from Joe Farrell, and more creative, compelling drumming from Aaron Katz.
This week’s Ghosts of Jambands Past episode features a sample of PH at the height of its improv powers. From January 15th, 2000 at Union College, my favorite single show, we start with the opening Earth Slow, which is really just a named version of the Geminatrix jam that was played for a series of shows around this time, a deeply grooved, trancy instrumental that took a variety of forms in different setting. It’s pretty mesmerizing right from the start – fans of ’98 Phish jams, be prepared for a treat.
The bulk of the music, though, comes from the second set, with a suite of Rush Hour Traffic > the instrumental Casa de Vino > Light Up or Leave Me Alone > Rush Hour Traffic. Here you get a great sample of everything the band did best, from the killer songwriting and free but focused improv of Rush Hour to the bright, slick shimmy of Casa, to the driving tour de force that is Light Up – this is my all-time favorite version of the song from any band. This one bears big speakers and repeated listens. As always, enjoy!