Niagara Falls has a long history of inspiring natives, travelers, adventurers, artists and romantics. By the beginning of the 20th Century, a series of daredevils sought to test the falls with varying degrees of success by riding over them in barrels or passing over the crest of the falls on tightropes. Toward the end of the 20th Century, on December 7, 1995, Phish played their one and only Niagara Falls show to-date at the Niagara Falls Convention Center. Niagara Falls was the ninth-to-last show on a 54-show tour that had already seen many high points - a handful of which have already been released as live albums including the Lincoln, Rosemont, Orlando, Heshey and Binghamton shows. The Niagara Falls venue was a multi-purpose gymnasium-style arena with a capacity of about 9,000. Tickets were general admission and cost $20.00. It was freezing cold outside and the mist of the falls turned to ice when it hit the ground, but inside the venue the band turned up the heat.
The December 7, 1995 show balanced Phish’s bluegrass and barbershop quartet talents with a healthy dose of expansive jamming for which this era of Phish is renowned. The band opened and closed the show with bluegrass songs and it was the only show to-date where both sets ended with an A capella song. The show featured standout playing with high-wire improv spread throughout both sets that mirrored the breadth and power of the nearby falls. Set I highlights included a hot combination of The Curtain > AC/DC Bag > Demand > Rift, a blazing first set Slave To The Traffic Light and a huge Possum. Among Set II highpoints were a legendary over-the-falls freakout of a Split Open And Melt opener with a nod to Inna Gadda Da Vida, a fast and furious Reba with a soaring jam and an unusual ending that led to a deep swinging Julius with a slight lyrical twist. The set ended with a bone-crushing Mike’s Song > Weekapaug Groove – one of just three times this combination was played. The extended ending of Mike’s Song found Trey on his percussion setup as the music cascaded into Weekapaug Groove. A dynamic jam graced the end of Weekapaug Groove, which ended with a digital delay loop section that almost launched Maze before showcasing drums and keys in a final improvisation as the band made their way upstage for a barbershop finale. Amazing Grace payed tribute to the majesty of the place and time and helped set up the Uncle Pen encore. Niagara Falls was a daredevil excursion through the heights of December 1995 – a jam packed show that never let up, with a flow to match its fury as it churned past the escarpment.
Niagara Falls was recorded by Paul Languedoc to 2-track DAT and mastered by Fred Kevorkian. Poor Heart (the slow version) from the soundcheck was included as filler at the end of CD 3. Niagara Falls will be available as a 3-CD set at stores and for download at livephish.com on November 12, 2013.