Archive for September, 2008

Five Flavors of Gumbo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 19, 2008 by Mr.Miner

As Phish’s music transformed into deep heavy funk grooves during the year 1997, and would subsequently evolve from there, their musical catalog would be similarly altered.  Some songs remained structurally the same, while others made the transformation with the band, finding themselves slowed down, and funked out.  Songs like Wolfman’s Brother, Tube, and Free became permanent funk vehicles.  Old songs and covers like Camel Walk, Sneakin’ Sally and Cities re-emerged.  New songs were written specifically in this vein- Ghost, The Moma Dance, Meat and later Sand, and Jiboo.  What they played was certainly adjusted to how they played.

One of the songs most profoundly effected by the onset of the “funk era” was Gumbo.  Initially debuted in 1990, Gumbo was a loose jazz-based composition that came into its own during the Summer ’91 tour with the Giant Country Horns.  The horns added the necessary accompaniment to the band in Gumbo, making the composition sound complete.  Up until 1997, the song stayed within its structure and was more often than not, part of one of those first set string of jamless songs.  Featuring nonsensical Phishy lyrics, the song was fun, but nothing to get you pumped up.  This all changed in the summer of 1997, when making three fifteen minute plus explorations- two of which were among the best jams of the summer- Gumbo took on a whole new character.  It now became a song that included exploratory jams, and was always good for at least ten minutes of dancy improvisation.  As Phish’s career progressed after 97, many standout versions would be played.  Below are five versions that you should, and probaby do, know about. Let’s revisit each of them.

1. 7.29.97 Desert Sky Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ

This desert Gumbo was the first time the band truly jammed the song out with any significance, and it worked out great.  Trey has referenced this jam as a personal favorite, and an example of the type of playing they were striving for in the Summer of ’97.  With the band completely locked, they work cooperatively to produce some quintessential whole-band Phish grooves in this fourteen-minute version.  A week into the tour, this Gumbo provided a preview of what was to come over the following two plus weeks on the way to the Great Went.

LISTEN TO 7.29.97 DESERT SKY GUMBO NOW!

2. 8.13.97 Star Lake Amphitheatre, Burgettstown, PA

A personal favorite, this Gumbo has all the dialed in funk of the 7.29 version, but then transcends it, adding layers of melody and harmony on top of the heavy grooves.  Known among many fans for its “Frankin’s Tower”-esque jam towards the last third of the song, whether intentionally or coincidentally, the band hints strongly at the Dead classic within the context of their own Phish funk.  This version includes some Phish-crack funk grooves at the onset of the jam, illustrating their musical progression over the summer.  This version has a certain flow to it the entire way through.  An A+ version all the way, this one is a can’t miss.

LISTEN TO 8.13.97 STAR LAKE GUMBO NOW!

3. 7.17.98 The Gorge, George Washington

This version, directly preceding the sunset serenade of Divided Sky, gave the crowd some extremely thick open-air grooves to navigate, juxtaposing the band’s looseness and precision.   The Gorge’s huge bellowing, uninhibited sound brought the band’s playing even slower, as this version resembles an elephant strolling slowly down to the watering hole.  Some classic ’98 Trey licks are contained in this version that also sees some round and perfectly atypical Gordon basslines leading the way.  A laid back version that practically transports you to the Columbia River, this one is perfect is setting and ambiance.

LISTEN TO 7.17.98 GORGE GUMBO NOW!

4. 8.3.98: Deer Creek, Noblesville, IN

Deer Creek - photo Sean A

Deer Creek - photo Sean A

Perhaps the best Gumbo ever played, this set opener goes deep and clocks in just under twenty minutes.  With Trey leading the way right out of the gate, he picks up on a familiar melodic lick that he continues to play with and reference throughout the extended improv, and finally uses to peak the jam at the end.  This jam is a Deer Creek classic, and one of the highlights that never faded from the Summer of ’98.  Flirting with Manteca at points, this Gumbo is non-stop entertainment from beginning to end, and sees Trey absolutely shredding staccato funk lines the whole time.  Including some melodic resolution to the funk as well, this version illustrates how big this song had become in the post-’97 era.  This version sees the band firing on all cylinders in the middle of one of their best years ever.

LISTEN TO 8.3.08 DEER CREEK GUMBO NOW!

5. 8.15.98 The Lemonwheel, Limestone, ME

photo- Dan Gareau

photo- Dan Gareau

Inseparable from its completely epic combination of Gumbo > Sanity > Tweezer, and following a divine Reba, this Gumbo had magic written all over it.  Taking on a larger-than-life feeling up at Limestone, this Gumbo moved slowly, yet powerfully, echoing through the vast concert field and showering the crowd with searing guitar lines and heavy bass bombs.  Once the band drops into the jam of this version, its gets downright dirty.  Ridiculously thick and percussive, this Gumbo initiated a 80,000 person throw down while taking on a life all its own.  One of those times you felt that band was channeling the universe into your brain, this Gumbo felt perfect.  As the jam progresses, the band begins a Tweezer Reprise chord progression, signalling the huge upcoming Tweezer that was minutes away from blowing up.  The ending of this jam builds into some melodic territory that out of nowhere leads you directly into Sanity.  The most bizarrely natural transition, the age old classic brought the set to new heights.

LISTEN TO 8.15.98 LEMONWHEEL GUMBO > SANITY NOW!

DOWNLOAD ALL 5 VERSIONS OF GUMBO

What’s Your Favorite Gumbo? Respond in comments below??

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY: 11.30.96 ARCO ARENA, Sacremento, CA

Coming at the end of a transformative tour in the Fall of 1996, this show would become known for one of the best guest sit-ins of the band’s career.  Welcoming Peter Apfelbaum on tenor sax to the stage for the second set sequence of 2001 > Timber Ho! > Taste, and Funky Bitch, the show transformed into a psychedelic jazz fusion performance, with Apfelbaum taking center stage multiple times.  Simply an epic portion of Phish +1.  The first set also featured John McEuen on banjo for My Old Home Place and Uncle Pen for you bluegrass fans out there.  Everyone united for a sublime Amazing Grace jam at the end of the night.  This one is special.

I: Runaway Jim, Punch You in the Eye, All Things Reconsidered, Bouncing Around the Room, Stash, Fluffhead, The Old Home Place*, Uncle Pen*, Prince Caspian, Chalk Dust Torture

II: La Grange, It’s Ice, Glide, Brother, Contact, Also Sprach Zarathustra-> Timber (Jerry)**, Taste**, Funky Bitch**, Amazing Grace, Amazing Grace Jam#

E: Possum#

*With John McEuen on banjo. **With Peter Apfelbaum on tenor sax. #With Peter Apfelbaum on tenor sax and John McEuen on lap slide guitar.

Tour Stop: Thomas & Mack Center

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 17, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Phish in Vegas- seldom things were more indulgent and dionysian than seeing the greatest musical show on earth in the most lavish of adult playgrounds.  As Hunter S. Thompson once said, Vegas is the greatest town for psychedelics- overwhelming the senses from every angle, carpet pattern, slot machine ding, flashing light, and neon color.  Las Vegas and Phish made quite the festive combination.  The round-the-clock Vegas experience, spring-boarding off of magnificent Phish shows each night, created the best-weekend long party on tour.  From the pool to the blackjack table, to the bar, to your room, to the bar, to the show, to the after-parties, to your room, to the clubs, to the casinos, to your buddy’s suite, back to the casino- it never stopped.  All fun, all Phish, all the time.  Vegas, baby!  After Phish closed out Fall ’96 at the Aladdin Theatre on the strip, Phish found a permanent Las Vegas home in 1997 at the Thomas & Mack Center- the major sporting venue for UNLV.  It was in this building that ten shows would take place between the years of 1997 and the final year of 2004, all just a quick walk or cab from your hotel.  All shows here were fully general admission creating a Vegas-style free for all atmosphere in the overwhelmingly red venue. Let’s go to the videotape!

1997 saw Phish open its now-legendary tour in the City of Sin, with the back half of the Thomas & Mack Center curtained off due to the smaller crowd.  Creating a much more intimate feel, the GA floor was about half the size and had no seats, and plenty of room to move- unlike the later days of human sardines on Vegas floor.  The second song, a blazing funk instrumental, set the tone for the fall and had the crowd buzzing at setbreak, trying to figure out the name of “Black-Eyed Katy.”  Signaling the focus of Fall ’97, the funk instrumental provided a jolt of excitement to the first set which also included a great Split Open and a solid YEM. Yet, the hands down highlight of the show was the second set opening, Stash.  Stretching beyond twenty minutes, this spellbinding jam breaks down to an ambient tribal section before mystically building back into the song.  A dark-horse version, this is one of the best and most unique post-95 Stash’s out there.  This excursion got the tour underway, in earnest. A deep Mike’s Groove on a small spacious dance floor punctuated the evening.  As the Mike’s got into a tender melodic place, it sounded as if they would move into Piper, a move many fans had anticipated for the new song.  However, the band played it true with a Hydrogen intermezzo.  As the show ended and fans drove on to Utah, the lingering question was, “What was that funk jam?”

1998 brought Phish back to Las Vegas for a two-night weekend around Halloween.  These shows would officially stamp Thomas & Mack with the Phish logo, as it would become a favorite tour stop for the rest of Phish’s career.  The Friday night affair was Phish’s “supposed” 15th anniversary of their first show, and though further research proved this to be inaccurate, the night progressed with that assumption.  Honoring the alleged anniversary, Phish played “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” the first song they ever played back on December 2, 1983, and never played again over the next 1,204 shows.  A long and blistering Antelope highlighted the first set, but it would be the second set that people would remember from this one.  The opening sequence of Stash > Manteca > Tweezer provided the darkest improvisational segments of the evening, and the section of the show that would be played the most on fans’ CD players. The rest of the set mellowed out with a segue into NICU followed by an interesting interwoven jam by Trey and Mike leading the band into Prince Caspian.  A Golgi closer and a Freebird encore were also classic nuggets of Phish on their faux fifteenth.

As good as the 30th was, this 1998 weekend will live in Phish immortality for the ridiculous Halloween show the next night.  Probably the most “Phished-out” Halloween set, with the band jamming on and extending most songs off Velvet Underground’s Loaded, this show had three sets chock full of great Phish.  The first set’s palate was painted brightest by the mid-set Sneakin’ Sally and the set ending, aggressive Mike’s Groove.  Having warmed up with some heavy artillery, Phish was ready to slip into their Halloween costume.  As they worked through Loaded , you did not have to know the album to appreciate the music that emanated from the stage.  Emotionally driven songs gave way to Phishy extensions that created one of the more poignant performances of the band’s career.  Classic songs like “Sweet Jane,” “Rock and Roll,” and “Cool it Down,” just sounded right when Phish played them.  They especially killed the emotional ballads of “New Age” and ” Oh! Sweet Nuthin.'”  With not a single down point in the entire set, you could not help but feel proud of what the band had just accomplished when they walked off stage.

The third set, however, was when the demons of All Hallows Eve came out.  The supremely ominous and darkly exploratory 30 minute Wolfman’s provided the jam of the weekend, as Phish fused their new ambient style with their excessively dark psychedelia.  Reacting to one of the deepest points of the Fall ’98 highlight, the crowd, inspired by the sheer madness of the music, responded with a collective roar of insanity and a flurry of neon glow sticks.  Mired with darkness, artistic noise, and masterful improv this is a masterpiece of terrorizing Phish.  The jam finally segued into a  Piper, bringing some upbeat and melodic resolution to the darkness, and finally into a strangely abbreviated, set-ending Ghost, with delay loops left playing onstage.  Many fans were perplexed as to the reason for the abrupt ending, but one way or the other, they had just witnessed Phish at it’s maniacal best.  A classic that now lives on in the Live Phish series, this was the hallmark weekend for Phish at the Thomas and Mack Center.

morgan

2.15.03 - photo: Morgan

Somehow missing Las Vegas during a heavy touring year of 1999, Phish next came back to the desert oasis in 2000, on the brink of their hiatus.  September 29th, and 30th- the latter being Trey’s birthday- would be the last Vegas Phish party until 2003.  With only five shows left after this stand, the shows began to take on more meaning, knowing that this would be it- indefinitely.  The circus came in full force to Las Vegas for another weekend of debauchery.  The first set of the run featured a late Spock’s Brain, Bathtub Gin combo that got the improvisation moving, after a rocking Carini, Rift, Frankenstein opener boosted the energy to start.  The Gin was the real noteworthy highlight, featuring a wide open up-beat funk jam, not too far off from a 2001-type groove.

The second set opening sequence obliterated the building with the bust out Dinner and a Movie, followed by a huge Moma Dance, paying homage to the song’s roots.  Not letting up for a second, they dropped into a 2001 > Fluffhead.  These four songs had the crowd as high as possible, which was good, because following a Meatstick, the set degraded into a Kid Rock-fest with crappy covers of “Walk This Way,” what could have been a phenomenal “Rapper’s Delight,” and “We’re An American Band.”  Our beloved superheroes were now kicking it with Kid Rock- he and Trey had apparently hit it off.  Times, they were a’ changin’.

Trey’s birthday show, officially released as Live in Vegas, was high in bust out material and somewhat less in consistent heavy improvisation.  Opening with Walfredo, the catchy tune with all band members on different instruments, played for the first time since 1997, was a classic Phishy way to begin the show.  Stepping into their normal places on stage, the band played the recently busted out Curtain (With), the original composition with a blssful ending jam that would evolve into Reba.  Esther,  a Forbin’s > Mockingbird, referencing the upcoming hiatus for the first time, A Day in the Life and Emotional Rescue all appeared for the first time since 1998 throughout the course of this show.  The improvisational highlight came in the second set ending Twist > Sand > A Day In the Life.   As Phish bid farewell to Vegas and headed west to Phoenix, and then up the coast to Shoreline, fans became more nostalgic and reflective on the significance of these last few nights in the desert.

After a lackluster comeback run over New Years of ’02-’03, many were left wondering if Phish had lost their mojo.  After a series of shows that were noticeably lacking in adventure and engaging material, Phish had business to take care of as they embarked on their Winter ’03 tour.  After a strong opening statement in the form of Walls > Carini at the LA Forum on Valentine’s Day, Phish headed four hours east, back to the Thomas & Mack, for yet another two-night stand.  Playing with a renewed fire and explosiveness, Phish tore apart the Thomas & Mack once again, with a first night’s second set of Waves > Bug, Ghost > Free, Hood.  On this night, Phish showed that LA was no fluke, and that they were back- at least for now.

The second night of ’03 got underway in a hurry with an opening Bowie > Catapult > Bowie, and a unique amorphous jam out of the new title track, Round Room.  The second set saw a masterful transition from Disease into Seven Below, and then back into Disease.  Later in the set, the long Piper jam would contain a reprise of Disease, while also teasing Seven Below, making this a very thematic set.  Both of these nights, again scheduled over a weekend for fans nationwide to attend, fully established Phish’s return.  They went on to play a solid Winter tour, and a stellar Summer tour before ending the year in Miami with four amazing shows.  2003 was a good year.

Derek

4.17.04 - photo: Derek

2004, not so much.  Phish’s final trip to Las Vegas’s Thomas & Mack is a time many fans point to where things really unraveled.  For the first time, Phish and Vegas were not going so well together.  Many in the once musically focused Phish community now seemed to favor the post-show party over the show itself- band and fans alike.  Trey’s voice was noticeably haggard throughout these three nights, and while each show contained its moments- this was still Phish, after all- the band seemed less unified than ever, producing some shows that would go down in Phish history for all the wrong reasons.  Despite the three-night struggle, the Disease on the first night was awesome, and the Twist and Tweezer from the second and third nights respectively were also solid.  Interestingly enough, I thought one of the more intense moments of the three nights was the seven minute Secret Smile late in the show on the first night.  This song saw Trey emoting a beautiful, yet sorrowful extended solo.  Looking back with perspective, he was crying through his guitar, talking to the world the best way he knew how, fully knowing that Phish was spiraling towards an imminent demise.  Phish doesn’t play three nights without ripping really hard at many points over the course of the shows.  It was quite perplexing.  This was the beginning of the end.

soyhead

4.16.04 - photo: soyhead

As rumors now swirl about March dates and Summer dates, one would assume that Phish would go back to Vegas and do it up again.  Yet, perhaps, that is exactly what they don’t need- a 24-hour party.  Only time will tell if we will enter the familar confines of the Thomas & Mack Center again; to squeeze onto the floor, or find a bit of room on a third level balcony behind the stage, directly level with the speakers.  Perhaps Phish has matured past Vegas, for everyone’s well-being, or perhaps we will walk the strip wide-eyed all night once again.  Regardless of the future, Phish definitely has a rich past in this classic venue.

To commemorate Phish’s Thomas & Mack Shows, I present Miner’s Picks: Thomas & Mack. With about five and a half hours of pure Vegas Phish, this one should bring back some memories.  I had to leave out the Halloween ’98 show (ouch!) and the 2.15.03 show, because I only have the official releases. Nonetheless, there is plenty to keep you busy in here.  The link and tracks are below.

MINER’S PICKS: THOMAS & MACK <<< DOWNLOAD LINK!!

1. Black-Eyed Katy 11.13.97

2. Split Open and Melt 11.13.97

3. Stash 11.13.97

4,5,6. Mike’s > H2 > Weekapaug 11.13.97

7. Antelope 10.30.98

8,9,10. Stash > Manteca > Tweezer 10.30.98

11,12. Spock’s Brain, Bathtub Gin 9.29.00

13,14,15,16. Dinner and a Movie > Moma, 2001 > Fluffhead 9.29.00

17. The Curtain (With) 9.30.00

18,19. Twist > Sand 9.30.00

20. Round Room 2.16.03

21,22. Down With Disease > Seven Below 2.16.03

23,24. 2001 > Down With Disease 4.15.04

25. Twist 4.16.04

27,28. Halley’s Comet > Tweezer 4.17.08

(all photos @ Thomas & Mack Center. Credit: anonymous photographers at Phishpics.net)

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY: 8.6.93 Peacock Pavilion @ Cincinnati Zoo, OH

This is a classic show in the classic month of August 1993.  Smack in the middle of Phish’s “speed jazz” era, Phish was embarking on high-paced journeys every night.  This show, actually in a zoo, is a keeper right from the hot Split opener.  The real heat is turned on in the second frame with a Buried Alive > Tweezer, and a YEM > Halley’s > Slave.  Grab this if your missing it, its a staple of a complete collection. Set two is a nice soundboard!

1: Split Open and Melt, Poor Heart, The Curtain, Sample in a Jar, Rift, Horn, The Divided Sky, Nellie Cane, Chalk Dust Torture, Suzy Greenberg

2: Buried Alive-> Tweezer*, Guelah Papyrus, The Squirming Coil, Uncle Pen, You Enjoy Myself**-> Halley’s Comet-> Slave to the Traffic Light, HYHU-> Cracklin’ Rosie-> HYHU, Tweezer Reprise

E: Amazing Grace

*With “Tequila” tease. **With “Cocaine” (J.J. Cale) jam, including some lyrics.



The Siket Disc

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 17, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Phish is a live band whose musical essence lives in their on-stage improvisation.  Because of this truth, their many attempts at studio albums throughout their pre-1997 career, never truly captured their live sound.  With 1996’s Billy Breathes, they had finally succeeded in making an industry-accepted and widely acclaimed studio album, yet it still didn’t reflect their live sound.  In the days following Phish’s Winter 1997 Europe tour, where they had fully completed their funk transformation, the band stepped into Bearsville Studios in Woodstock, NY with a new approach to their work.

Having discovered a looser approach to their live jamming, the band decided to bring that approach into the studio.  Throughout 1997 and 1998, they would be in and out of the studio for sessions of straight improvisation.  Phish had no preconceptions of what would come out of these Bearsville Sessions, and the goal was just to create.  After the sessions, the band went back and listened to their jams, and began to write songs around the most interesting and catchy sections.  This was how The Story Of the Ghost came to be. On the album, the tracks existed as shorter ghost-like apparitions of the songs they represented, often fading in and out without any hard endings.  A true concept album, The Story of the Ghost came closest to representing their live sound.  However, when the band released their favorite outtakes from their sessions of March 11-15, and September 29-October 2 of 1997, on an instrumental album The Siket Disc, a new level of studio and live sonic resemblance emerged.

Page went back and listened to the material not used on their official release, selecting portions of music he found particularly interesting.  These portions were then brought to engineer, John Siket, who mixed the selections- but there was never any other music played on the album.  No overdubs, no retakes, just snippets of live Phish- in the studio.  Totaling nine instrumental, bordering on ambient, tracks, The Siket Disc was a instant favorite of fans favoring more abstract Phish soundscapes and darker psychedelia.  When it dropped less than a month before summer tour on June 3, 1999, many fans wondered if these live outtakes would somehow be incorporated into the upcoming tour.

Needing to wait no longer than two sets to find out the answer, late in the second set of Bonner Springs’ tour opener, Phish started a dark ambient jam out of Bug that built into layered sheets of distorted sound, eventually segueing into the beginning of Stash.  Phish had just debuted “My Left Toe,” the first track of The Siket Disc. This abstract jam would work its way into setlists all summer long, providing dark intros, and outros for jams- the most glorious coming in an dark-turned-blissful extended exploration at Star Lake on 7.21.  In addition, the post-apocalyptic sounds of “What’s the Use,” the album’s most impressive track, regularly worked into sets as well.  With such precision, melody, percussion, and subconscious bass work, it’s hard to believe that this “song” is really just a jam.  Transforming into a composed piece, this heavy musical segment was awe-inspiring to see live, and helped define the 1999 sound.

“The Name Is Slick,” evokes the feel of a late-night smoky jazz club, and it’s choppy guitar licks came straight out of Trey’s repertoire.  The track’s melodies appeared live both before and after the disc’s release.  The “Slick” melodies are particularly prominent in the Great Wood’s Split from 7.12.99.  “The Happy Whip and Dung Song,” a track sonically resembling a crazed psychedelic merry-go-round, made one live appearance in Alpine Valley’s huge second set of 7.24.99, out of the end of Mango song.  The only other track off The Siket Disc to appear live was “Quadrophonic Toppling,” a soundscape that came at the end of the gargantuan 40 minute Big Cypress “Sand,” cementing its place in the annals of Phish history.

Mere snippets of improvisation, The Siket Disc, brought forth studio-set Phish jams, that when compiled into an album, transports the listener right into the middle of Phish jams.  With no context surrounding the deep musical segments, it’s not necessarily an album for Phish beginners; but when you know what’s going on, it emerges as Phish’s most creative and interesting album to date.

1.4.03 (Weekapaug >) What’s the Use

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

Miner’s Picks: Summer ’96 & Miner’s Picks: Fall ’96 (links below)

Because these didn’t make it up to the site until the end of the day yesterday, I wanted to give you a chance to download this great music.  Totaling 15 hours, it covers most all essential 1996 Phish, as they moved toward a new sound.  I am giving you second links right below here, but the track listings, and original links, are in the previous post. Enjoy!

MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER’ 96 PT. 1

MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’96 PT. 2

MINER’S PICKS: FALL ’96 PT. 1

MINER’S PICKS: FALL ’96 PT. 2

MINER’S PICKS: FALL ’96 PT. 3

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In other news, with all the Phish hubbub these days, Scott Bernstein, of Hidden Track fame has started a Phish portal site called You Enjoy MyBlog.  With links to articles, videos, and audio downloads, its a place for all things Phishy. Check it Out!

1996: The Forgotten Year

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 16, 2008 by Mr.Miner

What happened between the climactic year of 1995 and the transformation of 1997?  Many seem to gloss over this time period as irrelevant to the band’s history, but when looking back with perspective, 1996 was a crucial year in Phish’s development.  Not to mention, it is a wholly underrated year of Phish.  Interestingly, you can actually hear the band’s music changing as they moved through the year, slowly evolving toward the sound of 1997.  Phish ended 1995 on the highest note possible; imploding Madison Square Garden in, certainly, their biggest and most significant show to date.  They stood at the mountaintop and could now gaze into the lush valleys below, reveling in the glow of their triumph.  Yet, after spending over a decade striving to reach this point, the question that would soon loom over the band was, “Now what?”

phish.net

Fall '96- photo: phish.net

Once you have reached a goal that has been in the distance for so long, self-reflection and reevaluation become a natural byproduct of success, and trying to figure out what comes next.  As Phish embarked on the year 1996, it was this natural process of self-discovery that would unfold over the course of the year.  Unsure of where their next musical move would take them, a new direction would emerge over the course of the summer and fall, and by the time early- 1997 rolled around, Phish would be reinvented.

Taking the six months off after a marathon Fall 1995, Phish first reemerged for an exciting daytime slot at Jazzfest in New Orleans- for which they would not be invited back due to the scene that came with them.  An 18-show European tour followed in June, mixing opening gigs with Santana with some headlining gigs of their own.  Musically, these shows remained relatively conservative for Phish, and didn’t necessarily break new ground while working some new songs into the rotation.

nugs.net

Red Rocks - photo: nugs.net

As they wound up their European vacation, Phish headed back to the US for an abbreviated eleven show summer tour.  This underrated tour featured standout shows, and amazing jams; yet Phish’s musical textures seemed to remain similar to the previous year’s fast, arena-rock psychedelia.  For a band who was always pushing the envelope of their own live music, they weren’t incorporating any truly new elements into their music- though they did feature a mini-acoustic stage throughout the summer.  With no lack of sharp and precise jamming, Summer ’96 produced some excellent musical portions.  Specifically, the four-night run at Red Rocks, (for which they would also not be invited back), contained some of the more inspired music of the summer.  With each night providing an array of smoking musical highlights, some of the best, in no particular order, were the 2001>Disease, Mike’s Groove, Runaway Jim > Gypsy Queen > Jim, Curtain > Tweezer, and the infamous Forbin’s > Mockingbird about the giant iguana and the newly discovered life on Mars, which they followed up with the appropriate Bowie cover.  Unfortunately, due to unruly fans, Phish would not be allowed back to this powerful venue, stamping these final four nights as Phish’s farewell to Morrison’s musical mecca.

Moving into the Midwest, Phish debuted at Alpine Valley, and then played arguably the best two shows of the summer in the cornfields at Deer Creek.  With first night highlights of Split Open, Antelope, Timber Ho! and Possum, and the second show being such a complete masterpiece, this was the year that Phish made Deer Creek their own personal Midwestern home.  With only one previous visit to the venue, these two stellar performances indelibly stamped Deer Creek on the map for all Phish fans to flock to for the following eight years.  Featuring one of the best first sets of the year, and a 30 minute monstrous and terrifying Mike’s Song in the second, 8.13.96 went down as one of the best shows of 1996.

After a consistently underrated show in Hershey Park, PA,  Phish and their traveling circus headed up to Plattsburgh, NY for the first weekend of over-sized Phish bliss in the playground of The Clifford Ball.  With art installations, interactive activities, rides, art projects, actors, contortionists, and an incredibly fan-friendly vibe, the Phish festival was born.  One of the most significant developments of 1996, this weekend would set the template for all the Phish festivals that dominated our imaginations over the years.  Chock full of excellent music and sensory overload, The Clifford Ball was a paradigm shift in possibilities that could come out of a live concert.  Once again, Phish had redefined what was possible in rock and roll.

The triumphant end of the summer, gave way to a new, more critically acclaimed, album in “Billy Breathes,” and a 35 show fall tour that would wind from Lake Placid, NY all the way to Las Vegas, NV.  Through the course of this fall itinerary, Phish would rediscover themselves, and begin to reinvent their approach to improvisation.  People often look at this tour in segments- the east coast segment up to Halloween, the post-Halloween through the Midwest, and the final run down the west coast.  It is fair to say that as each leg of this tour progressed, Phish’s playing became more and more energetic and began moving further along in a new and original direction.

jawrat.com

Fall '96 - photo: jawrat.com

The first leg of the tour remained fairly tame with some minor highlights popping up here and there, but as the band began to play arenas exclusively, the fluid translation of their sound to the bigger rooms wasn’t immediate.  With Trey playing a lot of his mini-percussion kit all fall, Page was forced to carry the top half of the music a bit too often.  Things shifted, however, on October 31st.  The musical costume Phish would don this year, profoundly effected the musical course of the rest of their career.  As we all know, Phish chose to cover the Talking Head’s 1980 classic, “Remain in Light.”  With a focus on groove and percussion, this album forced Phish to take a divergent approach to jamming.  Typically, Phish integrated their individual lines or patterns, matching them up and bouncing them off, what other band members were playing to create a heavily layered psychedelia.  However, given the percussive polyrhythms of “Remain In Light,” Phish had to work as one entity to create one groove, with each band member contributing a part of the greater whole.

Listening and completing each others’ musical ideas and phrases, Phish practiced this type of cooperative playing, and came out to the Omni’s stage on Halloween and nailed it, discovering their next musical step in the process. The band would now begin to work as one to create slower, more intentional rhythm grooves, a style that would not truly come to fruition until March 1st of 1997 in the industrial city of Hamburg, Germany.  In a club called Markthalle, during the Wolfman’s jam, Phish’s transformation was realized.  They had finally uncovered the musical style they had been carving away at since that night in Atlanta.  The band chronicled this show of great significance with the release of “Slip, Stitch, and Pass.”

jawrat.com

11.2.96- photo: jawrat.com

After Halloween, Fall ’96 would begin to pick up steam.  Beginning with the Crosseyed > Antelope of following show in West Palm Beach, and the Tweezer in Gainesville, Phish would begin to crank out some inspired jams over the course of the tour, many which still hold up- if not forgotten- today.  Blazing a trail through the Midwest, highlights included the Curtain > Mike’s from Knoxville, TN, the Bathtub Gin from Lexington, KY, the YEM from Auburn Hills, the Grand Rapids Tweezer (!), the Omaha Harry Hood, the Target Center’s 2001 > Suzy, and the Simple from Memphis.  Seemingly driven with more emotion, enthusiasm, and inspiration, these Midwestern shows upped the ante from the east coast run, and prepared Phish for their final west coast stretch.

Phish turned it on as the year headed for a close.  The ten show west coast run dialed up the intensity, and featured the best playing of the fall.  Beginning in Spokane, WA and concluding with the recently released Aladdin Theatre show in Las Vegas, Phish honed in on their developing style of play, resulting in some highlight shows and some jealous east coasters.  From a heavy Vancouver Mike’s Groove, to a Tweezer > Sweet Emotion > Disease Reprise in Seattle, some more significant ripples were made in Phish’s pond in the pacific northwest.  Continuing with a phenomenal California run through the Cow Palace outside San Francisco, Arco Arena in Sacramento, and Pauly Pavilion at UCLA, featuring the bust out pf Peaches and a top notch Tweezer, Phish built large quantities of momentum as they approached their last three shows.  After smoking stops in Phoenix, San Diego and an end-of-tour throwdown in Vegas putting a cap on their fall, Phish were now swimming in a whole new direction.

A year that started with Phish looking for their next move, ended with the band solidly on track for the next stage of their career.  Culminating with a Philly > Boston New Year’s Run, 1996 was a year of transition, and many tend to leave it out of conversations because the band experienced some growing pains along the way.  Yet, what is growth without adversity?  A year that is sandwiched on both sides by years of far heavier-hitting Phish music, 1995 could not have progressed to 1997 had it not been for 1996.  With that understanding, and a knowledge of some of the lesser-known gems of this year, we may find a new appreciation for 1996- the forgotten year.

In appreciation of this Phishy year of transition, I have put together a couple compilations that should bring everyone up to speed on 1996.  Below you will find links to Miner’s Picks: Summer ’96 and Miner’s Picks: Fall ’96.  Totaling fifteen hours of music, many of which you may not be familiar with, these picks should help bring everyone up to speed on the forgotten year.  Links and track lists are below.  As always, download away, and be sure to enjoy the music!

MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’96 PT.1 <<<ALL LINKS ARE LIVE!!

MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’96 PT.2

MINER’S PICKS: FALL ’96 PT.1

MINER’S PICKS: FALL ’96 PT. 2

MINER’S PICKS: FALL ’96 PT. 3

SUMMER ’96

1. Tweezer 7.21 The Forum, Nuremberg, GER

2. Reba 7.21 The Forum, Nuremberg, GER

3. Antelope 8.2 Wolf Mountain, Park City, UT

4. Reba 8.4 Red Rocks Morrison, CO

5. David Bowie 8.4 Red Rocks

6. Slave to the Traffic Light 8.4 Red Rocks

7,8. 2001 >Disease 8.5 Red Rocks

9,10. Curtain > Tweezer 8.6 Red Rocks

11. Stash 8.7 Red Rocks

12. Runaway Jim 8.7 Red Rocks

13. Split Open and Melt 8.12 Deer Creek, IN

14. Antelope 8.12 Deer Creek

15. Mike’s Song 8.13 Deer Creek

16, 17. Wilson > Disease 8.14 Hershey Park, PA

18. Tweezer 8.14 Hershey Park, PA

19,20,21,22. Mike’s > Simple > Contact > Groove 8.16 Clifford Ball

23,24. 2001 > Disease 8.16 Clifford Ball

25. Harry Hood 8.16. Clifford Ball

26. Reba 8.17 Clifford Ball

27. Fluffhead 8.17 Clifford Ball

MINER’S PICKS: FALL ’96

1,2,3. Mike’s > Horse > Silent 10.29 Tallahasse, FL

4,5. Crosseyed > Antelope 11.2 West Palm Beach, FL

6. Tweezer 11.3 Gainesville, FL

7. Split Open and Melt 11.6 Knoxville, TN

8,9. Mike’s > Mike’s Jam (tracked as Simple) 11.6 Knoxville, TN

10. Bathtub Gin 11.7 Lexington, KY

11. YEM 11.9 Auburn Hills, MI

12. Tweezer 11.11 Grand Rapids, MI

13. Slave to the Traffic Light 11.11 Grand Rapids, MI

14, 15. 2001 > Suzy 11.13 Minneapolis, MN

16. Mike’s Song 11.15 St. Louis, MO

17, 18. Axilla > Harry Hood 11.16 Omaha, NE

19. David Bowie 11.19 Kansas City, MO

20,21,22. Bathtub Gin > Vibration of Life > YEM 11.19 Kansas City, MO

23. Split Open and Melt 11.23 Vancouver, BC

24. Antelope 11.24 Portland, OR

25,26,27. Tweezer > Sweet Emotion jam > Disease Reprise 11.27 Seattle, WA

28,29,30,31. 2001 > Timber Ho! > Jam > Taste 11.30 Sacramento, CA

32. Tweezer 12.1 Los Angeles, CA

33. Reba 12.1 Los Angeles, CA

34. Slave 12.1 Los Angeles, CA

35. Mike’s Song 12.4 San Diego, CA

36,37. 2001 > Llama 12.6 Las Vegas, NV

38,39,40.41 Mike’s > Simple > Hood > Weekapaug 12.6 Las Vegas, NV

Classic Phish: 12.30.93

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 15, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Once upon a time, there was one analog tape- one set- that I played twice as much as all my others.  It was just that good.  Forward, backward- I played it over and over and over again.  This is the story of that tape.  After stepping up their game in August of ’93, concluding a very successful summer tour, Phish took the fall off from touring.  The next time the band hit the stage, they embarked on their customary December New Year’s Run tucked into the Northeast.  It is this New Years Run that produced 12.30.93, one of the best Phish shows in history, and the outlandishly over-played analog tape of my yesteryears was the second set of this show.

Coming on a brisk snowy night in Portland, ME, this show cemented Cumberland County Civic Center as an ultimately Phishy venue.  With the stage designed as a massive aquarium for the New Years’ Run, Phish dove deeply on this evening.  Still regarded as one of the marquee performances of the band’s career, 12.30.93 was an instant classic, and its absence in the Live Phish series boggles the mind.  Wasting no time at all, the band opened up with a thick and grooving David Bowie that incorporated some masterful teasing of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.”  This initial jam of the show was so locked and patient, clearly illustrating the level of synchronicity the band felt on this night.  The show would only grow from this point forward.

Bowie’s greeting gave way to a typical first set series of non-improvisational songs, with a Curtain > Sample, and a Forbin’s > Mockingbird both highlights of this string.  Before closing the set with an a capella Freebird, the band stopped off for a short Bathtub Gin that featured some thematic and flowing improv before moving into some chugging uncharted territory.  Peaking pretty wildly, this Gin balanced out the dark Bowie that opened- but in reality, this was all just warm up.

Improving exponentially each year in the early ’90s, Phish commanded your attention every night at the end of 1993.   Something to behold and now listen to, with a total commitment to the entity of Phish, the band blossomed so fast, like one of those scientific time-lapse clips, from the years 1991-1995.  Coming at the end of a huge year of growth for Phish, they were about to play one of the best sets of their lives.

Like they did for almost every single Summer show in 1993, Phish came out for set two and opened up with their newly discovered instrumental cover of Deodato’s arrangement of “Also Sprach Zarathustra.”  Coupled with a new light rig that debuted over the summer, allowing Kuroda to both move and change colors of lights for the first time, people were getting the first glimpse of the new, more futuristic look of Phish.  These new lights, now contained indoors for the first time ever, upped the ante of the Phish experience.   “2001,” as it became known, was simply a three minute intro to each set during 1993- a little space-funk to get things moving.  This time, the band immediately launched into the New Years Run’s Mike’s Song.

Crisply moving through the initial couple minutes, when the jam dropped, the place exploded, and Phish moved into one of the greatest Mike’s ever played.  Period.  Enough cannot be said about the quality and sheer perfection of this jam- pure Phish.  With the classic focus on the second jam of the song, (inexplicably dropped in later years), it was here that the Phish tapped into existential forces and simply channeled the universe’s energy.  With all band members just going off as one, this Mike’s defines the ethos- the fundamental spirit- of Phish.  Ranging from bliss to terror, this jam does not let up for one second, before it seamlessly moves into Horse > Silent.  Only twelve minutes long, this Mike’s is potentially twelve of the best minutes of Phish’s career.  Listen yourself before you tell me I’m exaggerating.  It’s amazing how “compact” Phish jams were back then, so much madness in a short amount of time- no nonsense playing.

photo - wolfgangsvault.com

Phish 1993: photo - wolfgangsvault.com

The dream setlist continued with a mid-set Punch You In the Eye.  Coming in an unexpected slot, Punch picked the dark energy in the building right back up again.  Directly following the tightly executed version, the band dropped right into McGrupp which dissolved into the beginning of Weekapaug, closing the “dream” Mike’s Groove.  This Weekapaug features prominent Trey shredding throughout, and the band members just firing like the pistons of a automobile.  This is some full-on no-hesitation jamming that illustrates the style of Phish at the end of one of their greatest years of improvement.

A then typical Fishman segment of Prince’s Purple Rain came next before the band closed the set with a rare and majestic Slave to the Traffic Light.  Busted out in Cincinnati on August 6, of ’93, Slave had been tucked away for two years and 241 shows.  Played only one other time, at their first Red Rocks show on 8.20.93, the band, supposedly responding to a front row request, played their delicate jam vehicle as the emotional crescendo of this set of pure Phish fire.  The song, being so rare at the time, got the full treatment with one of the more emotionally intricate and directed builds of all-time. This is ten minutes of sonic bliss.

After sets like this, encores mean nothing, but if you’re keeping score, they played a Rocky Top, and a Good Times, Bad Times to end this version of 12.30- the best night of the year.  So you can see why I kept listening to that analog tape over and over and over again- this set will hold up to any set ever played to this day.  If you’re not yet convinced, download it below and let Phish convince you.

LISTEN TO THE 12.30.93 MIKE’S SONG NOW!

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

12.30.93 Cumberland County Civic Center, Portland, ME <<LINK!

This is an amazing matrix recording of one of the best Phish shows of all time.  If you don’t have this, grab it now!

I: David Bowie, Weigh, The Curtain > Sample in a Jar, Paul and Silas, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Famous Mockingbird, Rift, Bathtub Gin, Freebird

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Mike’s Song > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Punch You in the Eye, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Weekapaug Groove> Purple Rain, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Rocky Top, Good Times Bad Times

(The songs aren’t labeled by name, only track number.)

Tickets, Tickets, Tickets!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 13, 2008 by Mr.Miner

With the release of Trey’s fall tour shows, the ticket game has once again commenced.  Trades, sales, brokers, miracles, service charges, convenience fees- all those things we haven’t considered for four years are back again.  Message boards and Craigs’ List sites are filled with offers to buy, sell, and trade.  Trey tickets have now made it to EBay for fan bidding wars, while many ticket broker sites have significant allotments of tickets.  There are two specifically sought after tickets on this tour that have been focus of the many transactions and requests- Roseland and Higher Ground.  Roseland, originally slated for Port Chester, NY,  sold out in minutes on the day of pre-sale, and with the heightened interest from many New Yorkers, the Ticketmaster release didn’t last much longer on Friday.

Higher Ground is a different story.  With a capacity of only 500, these tickets were gone faster than Port Chester for pre-sale, and to make it even harder to obtain, there were no further online sales for this show.  The only way of snagging tickets was in Burlington, at the Higher Ground box office on Friday morning, with a limit of two per person.  A friend of mine went down an hour early, but people had been lined up since 3 am for the release.  No dice.  Clearly a special show in Phish’s hometown, as well as a benefit for Trey’s Seven Below Arts Initiative, a program to fund and advance arts education in Vermont, this show is hyped as a Burlington family and friends event with endless Phish possibilities.

With both of these shows now sold out, broker tickets are going for Roseland between $90-200, while Higher Ground tickets are anywhere between $200-$400.  One question I have been pondering- with the exclusivity of the Burlington release, how do scalpers have all the tickets?  It just doesn’t make a heck of a lot of sense.  A counterargument to this overall ticket conundrum would be, “These are all small venues- there just aren’t that many tickets.”  Yes, I hear that, but this is mostly an extended regional crowd trying to grab these few tickets for Trey on his special comeback tour, not the totality of Phish nation.  That would be another monster.

What does this all foreshadow for obtaining Phish tickets when they do come back?  First of all, they are going to be expensive.  These Trey tickets, when all said and done, were $50 bucks out the door.  You figure that Phish could easily charge $75 bucks with charges included; no questions asked.  It may be less, but it may not be.  Combined with the increasing cost of gas these days, for both cars and planes, touring in a post 9/11 world looks to be considerably more expensive than it was back in the day.  And then there is the incessant ticket demand- the demand that the brokers feed off of.  Everyone remembers the comeback shows at MSG and Hampton- those tickets were nearly impossible to get your hands on, flying out of brokers hands for anywhere between $300-500 each.  Are we heading for a scenario like this for the upcoming return?  Possibly.  This is why it is important for Phish to choose their comeback wisely. But regardless of their decision, I doubt that Phish is going to step on stage at a festival in front of 90,000 people for their first show back- so prepare yourself to play the ticket game once again.

In 2003 and 2004’s comeback, brokers played a major part in the ticket distribution for all shows, often scooping up most of the tickets on release day and then reselling them for far over cost.  The demand for Phish tickets will be greater than ever- there is now a whole generation of Phish fans who have never even seen the band live!  And while this may mean good business for scalpers, it means major headaches for all of us.  Oh, how I long for the days of postal money orders and the traditional mail order system.  At that time, you needed the cash in hand to mail order, and if you did, you were rarely denied. This was largely because there weren’t 20,000 teenagers using their parents’ credit cards flooding the pre-sale system trying to score tickets like today.  With the advent of technology, scoring tickets has actually become more difficult- pretty counter-intuitive isn’t it?

Anyhow, as transactions continue to take place from now through the end of Trey tour, we will not only be preparing ourselves for the musical return of Phish, but also the return of strategizing, scheming, and figuring out how to secure your stubs for entry into the grandest musical theater on earth.  It’s all part of the game of Phish; get ready to play again!

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

4.17.92 Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA <<LINK!

On their smoking west coast Sping ’92 run, Phish stopped in at one of San Francisco’s most storied venues for the first time.  Making their debut at the 2,200 person Warfield Theatre, Phish played a keeper.  Following an all-star first set comprised of all classics, Phish leapt even deeper into the fray with the second set.   As the theatre’s curtain opened, revealing Page’s brother lying in a bathtub onstage, the band ripped into their new song “Brother” as Phish crew members continuously jumped into the tub!  Classic.  Also featuring a YEM, Fluffhead, and Tweezer, this widely circulated soundboard recording gives you a clean and crisp snapshot of Phish amidst one of their most revered old-school runs.

I: Runaway Jim, Foam, Sparkle, Stash, I Didn’t Know, Cavern, Reba, Maze, Bouncing Around the Room, The Landlady, David Bowie > Catapult > David Bowie > Catapult > David Bowie

II: Brother, You Enjoy Myself, Fluffhead, The Squirming Coil, Tweezer, Uncle Pen, Cracklin’ Rosie, Tweezer Reprise

E: Golgi Apparatus

Tour Stop: Hampton Coliseum

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on September 12, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Though we formed intimate relationships with countless venues throughout Phish’s twenty year stint, none felt more at home then Hampton Coliseum.  As if the room were made for Phish, and Phish only, whenever you walked inside and down those few steps, you felt like you were returning back to where you belonged.  Over the course of eleven shows, Phish made Hampton their unofficial home turf, and routinely produced incredible show after incredible show in the spaceship-shaped building.  Holding just under 14,000 people, the room was considerably smaller then most venues of Phish’s arena phase, and provided an certain intimacy long gone from shows of yesteryear.  With every seat in the house seemingly on top of the stage, and a floor that more people could not have squeezed onto, a Hampton show felt different- more cozy, more crazy- than other shows.  With a total GA policy, the freedom to navigate the venue as your heart desired increased this free-for-all feeling that encapsulated Hampton.  Knowing every nook and cranny of the building from the countless visits, you didn’t need to ask to find your way around Hampton.  With security guards present as a formality, the coliseum turned into an all out raging Phish party for three hours every night.  Afterward, instead of having to crunch into a car and figure out your next step, you simply strolled off into the coastal evening to find your desired hotel party a few hundred yards from the venue.

The Hampton experience became a Phish institution between 1995 and 2004, housing so many classic shows and moments.  The surrounding hotels finally caught on.  Hampton’s Holday Inn, the hotel “in” the parking lot, created an all-night commissary and hangout in the lobby for elevated fans, with Phish DVDs playing on a large screen and drinks for sale by the time 2004 rolled around!  To be honest, Its surprising it took so long for hotels to capitalize on the of thousands of blissed-out nighttime revelers.  While Phish enjoyed playing in many special rooms, and we enjoyed receiving the music in many venues- none were more special than an evening in Phish’s own space portal, right off the highway in southeastern Virginia.

takashi37

1.2.03: photo: takashi37

In 1995, Phish made their first appearance at the former Grateful Dead venue.  Kicking off their Hampton career with a bang, this show encapsulated the ferocity of Fall 1995- all contained by the rounded walls of the circular Phish den.  While the first set had its moments, this show focused on the far-away journey taken with the onset of set two.  A 45 minute Timber Ho > Mike’s > Kung > Mike’s is what this night will be eternally remembered for.  Featuring a dark half-hour Mike’s excursion, with the first ever Rotation Jam, in which all band members switched instruments, this exercize in sinister groove punctuated Phish’s debut at Hampton. This one would be immortalized as a gem from Fall ’95.

Phish’s second Hampton show in 1996’s didn’t feature nearly as much heavy improvisation, but offered up some rarities with a show opening Ha Ha Ha, and a second set opener of the then-scarce, Tube.  On this night, Trey cemented the venue’s legend when amidst some stage banter, told the crowd that Hampton was his favorite room to play.  A solid Hood > Cavern ended the show on a high note, but even compared to the shows surrounding it in the tour, this year’s Hampton show seemed a little thin.

1997 would be a different story all together.  In the most epic Hampton installment ever, Phish gave a nod to the celestial portal by gracing it with it’s first two-night stand.  It would be over the 21st and 22nd of November that Hampton Coliseum would officially become Phish’s personal playground.  With two shows that were as good as any, on a tour that is sometimes overwhelming with all of its magnificent music, Phish threw down four sets for the ages that still live in legend today.  The first night, the deeper more truly psychedelic performance, gave way to one of the best Phish shows in history on the second night.  With the debut of the Stone’s “Emotional Rescue” to start the stand and jamming into an dark and nasty Split as the second song of the stand- Phish wasted no time in getting to business.  The three-song sequence of Ghost > AC/DC Bag > Slave comprised  the entire second set, less a Loving Cup closer.  This hour plus of straight Phish imrov is some of the most magical to come out of Fall ’97.  Delving into various styles and textures, this jam sequence was a trek through Phish’s imagination and was brought to fruition by a poignant Slave.  Moving through funk, rock, and straight madness, this set was an archetypal “night one” of a two night stand- going deep with no regard for time or space, playing what comes.  A four song masterpiece, this second set left fans wondering what could possibly come out of the next night.

11.22.97.  The date needs no introduction.  The best Phish dance party ever thrown, a night with more grooves than a 33 rpm record, it is up there with the the band’s elite performances ever.  Starting with a supremely thick Fall ’97  Mike’s Song, containing full band hints at Black-Eyed Katy, this show was off and running in no time.  Just after the massive Mike’s Groove ended with the last hits of Weekapaug, the rolling reggae intro of Harry Hood began.  Really!?  Now?!  Yes.  Really.  A phenomenal version of Hood left the crowd stunned and speechless for Train Song and Billy Breathes, before the set closed with the rocking combo of Frankenstein, Izabella.  After such an ludicrous first set, the crowd was left aglow, without words to describe what was unfolding.  One of the quietest set breaks ever gave way to one of the loudest sets of the band’s career.

Halley’s > Tweezer > Black Eyed Katy, Piper, Antelope.  The rest is history.  With utter command over the room, the band brought the audience through a clinic of Phish improvisation.  The most delicate and spiritually inspiring moments of the set came toward the end of the “best ever” Halley’s, while the band soon had the entire spaceship bouncing through the quintessential fall swamp funk of ’97- Tweezer> Katy.  Pure Phish crack.  Not letting up for a second, the blistering combo of Piper, Antelope provided the musical balance to the molasses that had preceded.  Universally regarded as one of the best nights in the twenty years of Phish, you have all heard this one as much as I have.  From that night on, every trip back to Hampton would be significant, and marked on everyone’s calendar.

Aaron de Groot

photo: Aaron de Groot

1998 brought another two-night stand to Hampton.  Subsequently released as “Hampton Comes Alive,” these shows were highly anticipated by all in the Fall of 1998; they again peaked with the last set of the shows.  The first night of 1998 delivered a first set of crowd favorites, as the opening debut of “Rock and Roll Pt.2” > Tube shot 100 cc’s of adrenaline into everyone’s brains to start the stand.  Followed by Quinn the Eskimo, for the first time since 1987, Funky Bitch and Guelah, this show got everyone engaged immediately.  Notable appearances were also made by the Beatle’s “Cry, Baby, Cry,” and the bluegrass cover “Nellie Kane,” both after 275+ show absences.  A Stash and a Split added flairs of darkness to this extended first set before the lights came on and everyone came back to their collective reality for set break.  The second set opened with a beautiful Bathtub Gin > Piper, and then trailed off a bit, somehow finding its way to a Fishman cover of WIll Smith’s “Getting Jiggy WIt it.”  A late set Hood brought some dignity back to the set, but the musical theatrics would again be left for night two.

Set two of November 21st, would stand out among the rest of the weekend.  Leading off with a crushing right hook in the form a heavy hitting Mike’s, the band soon transitioned into Simple. Adopting their Fall ’98 ambient style to the jam, they created one of the more beautiful and transcendent pieces of music from the entire tour.  Phish sandwiched a Wedge, Mango, Free > Ha Ha Ha > Free into the Mike’s Groove before capping it with a run through the upbeat fields of Weekapaug.  This set was non-stop action from beginning to end, and followed in the tradition of the previous year’s offering.

Sarahb.tv

Hampton Floor- photo: Sarahb.tv

The next time Phish would appear in Hampton Coliseum would be for the final two-shows of December ’99- the last shows before Big Cypress.  Upon the culmination of two fall tours, and on the brink of the millennium, the band again honored the venue with shows to be remembered.  The first night opened with a Piper to get things underway quickly, and soon followed up by the upbeat first set selections of Jibboo and Punch You in the Eye.  This set, while having some great moments, lacked flow, and ended oddly with a fairly standard Twist.  The second set, would open with a Birds, Moma> ambient jam > Bug, with some Birds licks prominently ingrained in the Moma funk.  Just about everyone was sure the gears were set for an intergalactic 2001 as the band finally veered into Bug, saving the song as a centerpiece for the following evening. A dark-horse Split Open highlights the end of the set- a very complex and layered version that is all too often overlooked by the 12.4.99 Cincy version.  This is a diamond in the rough that not many seem to discuss, so check it out on the compilation below.  Yet, after this night, it seemed as though the real bombast would be reserved exclusively for night two.

Chris Clark

8.9.04- photo: Chris Clark

A Hood opener of night two communicated that the band was ready for action.  Also including the sought after Dog Log and Tube, the first set ended with a YEM that got the building loosened up and sweating in earnest in preparation for the last set before The Everglades.  This last set, like the previous two years’ last sets, blew the cozy confines to smithereens.  The 36 minute fiery dance-a-thon of 2001 > Sand showcased the band’s 1999 style, and once again, Phish had the Coliseum’s audience in the palm of their hand.  The rest of the set didn’t slow down with Horse > Silent, Possum, before the band dropped into a heavy Mike’s Groove.  A set featuring three of their danciest songs at the time, this set brought back echos of 1997.  The set ending Weekapaug stopped off in a well executed segue into Buffalo Bill before capping the set, and a long fall of touring for the band.  Only Cypress remained.

The legacy of Hampton Coliseum was cemented long before Phish decided to go on hiatus, and come back for a year and a half between 2003 and 2004. However, during that short time, Phish managed to play four more Hampton shows- three of these coming directly after the MSG comeback in the opening days of 2003.  With little to write home about in these three shows, it was nice to have Phish back and to be in Hampton again, but the explosive psychedelia just wasn’t there- not yet.  Come the winter tour, and especially the summer tour, the powers bestowed upon Phish would be restored, and all would be well again- until that announcement.

Chris Clark

8.9.04- photo: Chris Clark

Coming in a perfunctory, and distant way, a message from Trey was posted on Phish’s website before the summer of ’04 that this would finally be it.  Left with tears running, staring at a computer screen, nobody really knew how to process this news.  As the days of the end crept near, Phish kicked off their final mini-run with one last visit to “The Mothership.”  Added later than the other shows, Phish had to come back one more time.  In what is a constantly underrated show, with an amazing first set, Phish would say good-bye to Hampton in bittersweet fashion.  An incredibly inspiring Chalkdust opened, which blew out the confines of its structure for twenty minutes into some very special places before the band turned to an equally inspired Bathtub Gin > Runaway Jim.  Using these melodic, emotional jams, Phish bid farewell to one of its most beloved haunts.

With the context surrounding Phish’s imminent departure, it was hard to feel completely positive about this last run, but Phish, indeed, dug in one more time at Hampton.  The first set full of improvisation overshadowed the second, whose highlight was an intense Seven Below > Stash.  Played on the anniversary of Jerry’s death, in a building he once oversaw, this sets’ ballads of All of These Dreams and Lifeboy, took on an even greater significance.  Only the fifth Bowie encore in history, and the first since Denver ’97, closed out Phish’s chapter at one of their favorite portals to the divine.  It was an amazing journey, and we can only hope that Hampton 2009 is around the corner.

In honor of all of these magical evenings, I put together Miner’s Picks: Hampton.  Again, without repeating tracks from other compilations, I chose some of the best The Mothership had to offer.  Enjoy this batch of memories.  Unfortunately I had to skip ’98 because all I have are the official releases without starting to convert my old DATs.  The track listing and links are below.

MINER’S PICKS: HAMPTON <<LINK LIVE NOW!!

1,2,3. Timber Ho! > Kung > Mike’s 11.25.95

4. Harry Hood 11.25.95

5,6. Trey talk > Stash 10.25.1996

7. Harry Hood 10.25.1996

8,9. Emotional Rescue >Split Open And Melt 11.21.97

10,11,12. Ghost > AC/DC Bag > Slave 11.21.97

13,14,15. Halley’s Comet > Tweezer > Black-Eyed Katy 11.22.97

16,17,18. Moma Dance > Jam > Bug 12.17.99

19. Spilt Open and Melt 12.17.99

20. Harry Hood 12.18.99

21. Tube 12.18.99

22,23. 2001 > Sand 12.18.99

24,25,26. Chalkdust, Bathtub Gin > Runaway Jim 8.9.04

27,28. Seven Below > Stash 8.9.04

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In other news: Trey’s 10/16 Port Chester show got moved to Roseland, NYC!  Tickets from brokers are going for $200 pre-sale.  I happen to have two extras if some one can hook me a Higher Ground!

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY: 10.29.96 Leon Co. Civic Center, Tallahassee, FL

As Phish geared up for their Halloween show in Atlanta, they threw down a great show, and an amazing second set of music, two nights before in Florida.  Using the Mike’s jam as a live-rehearsal for “Remain In Light,” the band distinctly moves through a “Houses in Motion” jam in this standout version.  With guest percussionist, Karl Perazzo, already on board, his textures add to the entire show, which features a Bowie and a Stash and closes with a regal Slave.  Enjoy this set II as today’s download of the day!

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Guelah Papyrus, Cars, Trucks, & Buses, Taste, Bouncing Around the Room, Stash, Train Song, Billy Breathes, Poor Heart, David Bowie

II: Rift, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Weekapaug Groove, The Wedge, Character Zero, Suspicious Minds, Slave to the Traffic Light, Hello My Baby

E: Good Times Bad Times

Karl Perazzo (percussionist from Santana) played the entire show.

The Phishiest Set Closers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 11, 2008 by Mr.Miner

With the strong response and discussion generated by the set openers column on Monday, I’d figure we’d spend a day pondering set closers.  Just like set openers, set closers had a specific role to play each show.  Set closers were the songs that offered a vibe “to go.”   Heading either into into set break, or heading home, Phish’s last notes were meaningful.  Always specific to the set that preceded them, set closers punctuated Phish stanzas with various intonations.  They were the band’s last statement before the “15 minute” break, or before moving onto the usually short encore and the next gig.  Often times, closers could climax a set with a natural peak, or they could also offer the set’s denoument- the post-peak come down.  Regardless of their individual purpose, set closers were chosen with intent, and throughout their career, a category of songs used for this purpose evolved.  In no particular order, here are some of Phish’s most popular set ending songs.

Run Like An Antelope: Closing 185 sets in its career, Antelope was one of Phish’s quintessential set closers.  More often featured at the end of the first set, the song always pumped up the energy in the venue, signaling bigger things to come.  An Antelope jam was a fierce exclamation point on a set that had included some adventurous improvisation, yet the tone of that improv could have been light or dark.  Antelope was a foolproof way to leave the set on an energetic high note.  Antelope defines what a set closer is all about, a last stint of madness resolving in a happy, high-paced colorful ending.

David Bowie: Generally reserved for darker sets, Bowie closed 155 times in its life- also preferring placement at the end of a first set.  Bowie existed as a dive into intricate depths as a way to take a larger journey to close things out.  Sometimes used in a set that was lighter in improvisation, Bowie ended things with a bang.  Always leaving with a searing peak, Bowie was one of Phish’s the favorite musical finale.  This composition, as old as the band itself, offered both dark and prestigious overtones to any set it ended.

You Enjoy Myself: There was arguably no better set closer than YEM.  Any set, any time- YEM blew the place apart.  It really didn’t matter what preceded a set-closing YEM- dark or blissful jamming- it always worked.  Whether this 25 minute dance session came as a celebratory resolution to an evil adventure, or as the icing to an incredibly fun and flavorful cake, Phish’s defining composition never failed to obliterate the end of a show.  More reserved for second sets than firsts, when a YEM closer came in the first set- you knew you were amidst a special evening.  YEM funk emerged as its own genre of Phish music over their career, and these bass led grooves put a smile on everyone’s face, regardless of where in the set it was placed.  A no-brainer, YEM always ended things in a happy space.

Slave to the Traffic Light: Far less common than most of the closers on this list, Slave marked an emotional crescendo to the set in concluded.  Most often used as a emotional and cathartic release after a dark, harrowing, journey- Slave brought the light of the divine into your lap.  A more poignant than fun statement, Slave tapped into the emotional channel that runs between you and the skies above.  You always left a show inspired with a Slave ringing in your ears, and it brought a collective sense of reverence to the ending of any set in which it appeared.

Harry Hood: One of Phish’s most classic pieces of music, Harry Hood was used in the same emotional vein as Slave, but brought out much more liberally.  Almost exclusively used to close second sets rather than firsts, an inspirational Hood was an unparalleled way to end a show.  With the most glorious versions coming in 1994 and 1995, there continued to be standout Hood closers through 2004.  Transporting audiences back to Phish’s earliest days, Harry Hood was a climactic musical interpretation of the human experience.  Providing an intricate study in melody and harmony while illustrating the the majesty of life’s wonders, Harry Hood defines Phish in so many ways.

Weekapaug Groove: When Weekapaug closed a set, and sealed up a Mike’s Groove- odds are you just got finished hearing some dark and heavy music.  Whether at the end of large Mike’s Groove “sandwich” or just a Mike’s >H2>Weekapaug to end a show, this was always an upbeat and fun way to end a set.  Not as spiritually charged as some of the previously discussed closers, Weekapaug was all about high-octane enjoyment.  A fast syncopated jam characterized this closer which often built to a frenzied pace before landing in the ending chorus.  A song stressing the communal vibe at a Phish show, every one leaves happy having “shared in the groove.”

Possum: This post-Gamehendge saga was another popular bookend to sets throughout Phish’s career.  The band used Possum to end 121 sets, and while it was never a personal favorite, most seemed to always enjoy the bluegrass influenced staple.  Possum, like Weekapaug, was used as an upbeat and fun way to end sets, and could be placed at the conclusion of most any frame.  Often popping up when a Bowie seemed likely, Possum took those shows in a different ending direction.  Before 1997, Possum had more raucous psychedelia in its jam, and often reached some crazy places.  However, around 1997, Possum turned into an almost exclusively bluesy-twangy-bluegrass jam that brought the song down a notch, in my opinion.

Cavern: The first song on this list that is not a heavy hitter, Cavern was often the funky afterthought to a creative set.  Often used as that “extra” song after the large song you thought would close, Cavern was always a welcomed addition to the conclusion of a setlist.  Describing a nighttime mission, very much like that of a Phish concert, Cavern provided some bass slapping funk and a Phishy melodic refrain that initiated a sing along.  The song ended in a style perfect for that last big note that Phish would crash down at the end of every set.  Cavern added an extra five minutes of fun to the end of your night every time it popped out of the bag.

Character Zero: This song worked its way into a regular set closing spot in the years of 1996 and 1997, and would remain there for the rest of the band’s career.  While not always a welcomed closer by the masses, the initial guitar line that popped out of the ending of so many songs almost always signaled the ending of a set.  While always remaining within the confines of its structure, Zero gave Trey the opportunity to do his best Jimi Hendrix impression with distorted “talking” guitar solo that led the band to the ending of the song.  Good for its bombastic and rocking qualities, this song inevitably ended the show with energy.  The vocal harmonies at the end of the jam always gave some melodic resolution to the typically dirty song.

Tweezer Reprise: Perhaps the biggest jolt of adrenaline to the end of a show is an unexpected Reprise.  Those times you forgot it was coming- and then all of a sudden the venue was vibrating with energy, and so were you.  Taking one last shot at the cosmic bullseye, Phish stomped through the rowdy anthemic ending.  If you were hearing a Reprise to close, you had just experienced a Tweezer at some point in the show, and it reminded you of the sublime liquid improvisation that had preceded.  Much more effective as a set closer than an encore, the ultimate exclamation point in Phish’s repertoire, Reprise brought the house down every single time.

These were some of the most used set closers in Phish history; each took on a character of their own and lent a divergent feel to the ending of sets and shows.  While fans’ sometimes question the band’s decisions, more often than not, their choice of set closers was spot on.

What were your thoughts on set closers?  Respond in comments and share your ideas!

In following with tradition here at Phish Thoughts, to go with the compilation of set openers, I put together a short two and a half hour compilation entitled Miner’s Picks: Closers. Below you will find the download link and track listing, as well as the Download of the Day.  Enjoy!

MINER’S PICKS: CLOSERS <<DOWNLOAD LINK!!

1. Run Like An Antelope 12.29.1997 MSG

2. David Bowie 7.6.94 Montreal

3. YEM 12.2.1999 Auburn Hills, MI

4. Possum 8.12.96 Deer Creek

5. Harry Hood 8.17.1997 Great Went

6. Slave to the Traffic Light 8.17.1996 Clifford Ball

7. Weekapaug Groove 7.2.97 Paradisio, Amsterdam

8,9. Funk Jam > Cavern 4.5.98 Providence, RI

10. Character Zero 12.2.97 Philadelphia, PA

11. Tweezer Reprise 8.17.96 Clifford Ball

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY: 11.23.94 Fox Theatre, St Louis, MO

Having featured both the Tweezer and the YEM from this show on different compilations, I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to download this show in its entirety.  A magnificent showcase of Phish in the middle of one of their best months ever, this show is a classic that needs to be in your collection.  A perfect example of Fall 94 Phish, the first set is all Phish classics, while the second set is all Phish improv.  With some best-ever versions tucked in this one, it’s truly a can’t miss

I: Wilson > Sparkle > Simple > It’s Ice, If I Could, Oh Kee Pa Ceremony> Suzy Greenberg, The Divided Sky, Amazing Grace

II: Maze, Fee, Scent of a Mule, Tweezer, Lifeboy, You Enjoy Myself, Tweezer Reprise

E: Sample in a Jar

November ’94: On the Brink

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 10, 2008 by Mr.Miner

If assessing best-ever eras in Phish history, Fall 1994 has to be thrown into the ring.  In particular, November 1994, will always be remembered as one of the creative peaks of the band’s career.  November of 1994 will never be recreated in its cacophonous psychedelia, deep raucous exploration, and style that made it seem like Phish was constantly playing for their lives.  They had a sense of urgency and mania never before seen in a quartet.  As the band’s fan base continued to grow, slowly drawing more attention from coast to coast, their tour remained mostly in college towns while beginning to expand into bigger venues on the east coast.  Yet, as they grew in underground stature, Phish consistently maintained their stage pranks and humor; never taking themselves too seriously as they left a burning wake of fire on stage each night.

November 1994 officially started on Halloween in Glens Falls, NY.  Not to mention the marathon White Album Halloween set, Phish also tore apart sets one and three with standout versions of Reba, Bowie, Slave and Antelope-with even a Harpua thrown into the middle of the first set.  As Phish embarked on their month of madness, they left behind 21 shows that had brought them to this point in the tour, and were ready to dig to deeper places than ever before.  This era of Phish featured the most daring musical risk-taking of their career, as 30 minute exploratory Tweezers became the norm, and mind-numbing intense jams were strewn throughout every show; this month represents Phish at their most “balls-to-the-wall period.”  Adopting their model of jazz-based improvisation to a milieu of dark, churning, psychedelic dissonance, the results were some of the more adventurous musical journeys ever taken.  During an era focused on mastering the audiences’ psyche with space exploration and insane tension building and release- Phish was indeed a different monster.

A seventeen show month started in Bangor, ME on the second of November, and started out with a second set opener of Halley’s > Tweezer that set the tone for the month.  This was the first truly extended experimental Tweezer.  Featured on “A Live One,” this stretched out Tweezer would soon be well known even tangential Phish fans.  Two nights later, the band stopped in Syracuse, NY for a standout show that featured a first set Forbin’s>Mockingbird, and an ominous second set opening sequence of Curtain > Mike’s > Simple > Mike’s > Tela > Weekapaug.  Eight days off showed no ill effects when Phish returned to action on the 12th at Kent State, OH, for a college gig that was highlighted by a now-famous Disease>Have Mercy>Disease that recently made an appearance on my Labor Day Mix.

The 16th, saw Phish at another college- this time Ann Arbor, MI- for the appearance of bluegrass legend “Reverend” Jeff Mosier, who began a week-long traveling bluegrass clinic, appearing every night on stage with the band, teaching and leading them though traditional arrangements.  This style of play would integrate into Phish’s array of tricks after this fall, and some of these songs would pop up in the years to come.  This show also featured a fierce 40 minute Mike Groove at the beginning of this second set, punctuated by a “best ever” unique Simple jam.

As the month progressed, the trend of longer dark experimentation continued in the form of David Bowie. With Dayton’s David Bowie on 11.17, Madison’s Bowie on the 20th, and the the monumental Bowie, just released from the archives, from Minneapolis on 11.26, this composition provided a perfect launching pad for the type of intricate and maniacal improvisation that the band honed in on during this month.  In the same vein, the show on 11.22 at the University of Missouri included a huge standout jam to start the second set that emerged out of Funky Bitch.  Filler on one of the Live Phish releases, many are familiar with this diamond in the rough.  As the month headed into its final week, there was still a tremendous amount of top-notch Phish that was yet to unfold.

The Fox Theatre in St. Louis housed one of the more magnificent Tweezers of 1994 on November the 23rd.  With lengthy and abstract exploration leading to a spiritual guitar release by Trey, this version is a can’t miss- you may have heard it featured in the Labor Day Mix as well.   The band dropped a fantasy second set at UIC Pavilion in Chicago on the 25th, reading “2001>Mike’s>Simple>Harpua> Weekapaug>Mango, Purple Rain, Antelope!”  Yet the month’s most magnificent show may have come on the 26th in Minneapolis.  The aforementioned Bowie absolutely stole the show with its extended celestial psychedelia, while the overwhelming darkness was brought into set-ending light with the now renowned, and incredibly triumphant, Slave from “A Live One.”  This represented what a Phish show is all about- a dark inner journey, bringing you face to face with your soul, only to deliver you to glory with invigorating bliss and life-affirming wonder.

Not to be outdone by their own theatrics, the following show at the University of Montana in Bozeman, will always be remembered for the 45 minute Tweezer than defined the show.  The longest jam from the fall, this Tweezer remains particularly engaging the whole time, and a segment of it was featured as “Montana” on “A Live One.”  One of the deepest dives of the month for the band, the word “Bozeman” will live in Phish history for the Tweezer that was born that evening.  On the final night of this historic month, 11.30, Phish found themselves at yet another college- this time at the west coast hippie-haven of Evergreen University.  This show, later released on livephish.com, was a start to finish masterpiece.  The second set of this show was another massive segue fest strewn with incredibly locked-in jamming throughout the night.  The famous Antelope-laced set will go down as the triumphant conclusion of one of the Phishiest months in history.

With just a week left on the west coast before wrapping up their 46 show jaunt, Phish had reached a high point in their career.  Getting ready to begin the transition from colleges to arenas, Phish was on their way.  For their upcoming New Years Run, they would already be stopping at MSG and The Boston Garden.  The intensity of their playing and the sheer aggressiveness of how they went for the jugular every single night represented a young band, with unbridled enthusiasm, on the brink of making it.  With growing attention and word of mouth, Phish had become a new force in the improvisational musical landscape.  This fall tour completed a year of 122 shows; evenings where Phish explored, challenged, and redefined their own musical creativity.

This individual month of standout shows was Phish exploding at the seams; energy bursting from the stage, barely containable by four walls; Phish was now a sincere power to be reckoned with.  The band’s playing was unparalleled, their attitude, focused as a drill bit, while still having a blast every single night.  Phish’s momentum gained a head of steam through the end of 1994, getting ready for the year in which they would ascend to the soon-to-be vacated throne of the psychedelic universe.  Phish’s reign was just about to begin.

In honor of this momentous month of momentum, I have put together MINER’S PICKS: NOVEMBER ’94, which will take you on a chronological ride through this historic month.  Totaling seven and a half hours, this compilation should give you a pretty solid idea of what November ’94 was all about.  Many say it’s as good as it gets.  The download links and track listing are below.  Enjoy!

MINER’S PICKS: NOVEMBER ’94 PT. 1 << DOWNLOAD NOW!

MINER’S PICKS: NOVEMBER ’94 PT. 2 <<DOWNLOAD NOW!!

1,2. Halley’s > Tweezer 11.2 Bangor, ME

3. Split Open and Melt 11.3 Amherst, MA

4-9. Curtain > Mike’s > Simple > Mike’s > Tela > Weekapaug 11.4 Syracuse, NY

10. Stash 11.12 Kent, OH

11. Reba 11.13 Erie, PA

12. Run Like An Antelope 11.13 Erie, PA

13,14. Peaches > Bowie  11.14 Grand Rapids, MI

15,16. Mike’s > Simple 11.16 Ann Arbor, MI

17, 18. You Enjoy Myself ( > vocal jam) 11.17 Dayton, OH

19. Slave to the Traffic Light 11.17 Dayton, OH

20,21. Tweezer > Contact 11.18 East Lansing, MI

22. Harry Hood 11.19 Bloomington, IN

23,24. 2001 > David Bowie 11.20 Madison, WI

25,26. Funky Bitch > Jam 11.22 Columbia, MO

27. YEM 11.23 St. Louis, MO

28. Reba 11.25 Chicago, IL

29. Slave to the Traffic Light 11.26 Minneapolis, MN

30. Tweezer 11.28 Bozeman, MT

31-36. Antelope > My Sweet One > Antelope > Fixin to Die > Antelope > Yamar > Mikes > Catapult 11.30 Olympia, WA

9.9.99: 9 Years Ago

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 9, 2008 by Mr.Miner

As the nation crept closer to the turn of the millennium, and the fears over Y2K disasters mounted, Phish was also on a crash course with 2000, ever closer to Big Cypress, their highly anticipated all-night affair for New Years Eve.  In preparation for such a cosmic transition, Phish had planned two fall tours- one “normal length” 24-show tour starting in September and a two-week millennial primer during the initial fortnight of December. Distinctly remembering the drive from Santa Cruz to Vancouver, there was endless Phish ahead, and no finish line in sight- now that was an exceptional feeling.

GM Place, Vancouver, CA.

GM Place, Vancouver, CA.

Several groups of fans made it up to Vancouver, as we did, almost a week before the show; the burgeoning “Amsterdam” of the northwest needed some exploration.  As it turned out, there were only two real “coffee shops” there at the time- “Blunt Brothers,” a commercialized, larger hangout that served alcohol, and “The Amsterdamer,” a more traditional coffee shop that lacked much room, and was populated by a scene of locals.  We wound up sticking to The Amsterdamer, as the atmosphere far more resembled what we sought.  Instead of buying product in the shop, you needed to get the attention of the local dealer who would then walk around the block with you, make the semi-legal transaction in his hat, and stroll back inside.  Ah- Canada!  The funny thing was, you could then head back inside and blaze ’til your heart was content!

As new friends met amidst this atmosphere, and the time provided a necessary calm before the month long storm, 9.9.99 arrived quicker than expected.  Approaching General Motors Place, home of the Vancouver Canucks, and this year’s tour opener, fans were selling white t-shirts with small Canadian flags on them- but instead of the maple leaf, there was a Phish logo, and beneath it- 9.9.99.  Leave it to Phish fans to go the extra mile, making lot shirts unique to only one show!  The vibe outside and inside was distinctly mellow, being both on the west coast and in Canada.  People were ready for the first of many Phish shows- having drooled over the Fuji Rock Festival set lists long enough, we were ready for our own dose of international Phish.

A GA floor, and a less than sold out arena, combined for plenty of room all around the venue.  And Phish would most definitely provide the music necessary to make sure that extra space was used by people going huge.  As the lights went off and “that feeling” engulfed the venue, Phish, oddly enough, came out with the opening notes of “Mozambique.”  Played for the first time as Phish, this opener would signal a trend of

Fall '99- photo Brian L. Knight

Fall '99- photo Brian L. Knight

songs that were featured on Trey’s first solo tour in the spring of that year, transitioning over to the Phish world during this fall.  Having been first heard as a part of the Island Run’s Weekapaug jam, and then well-played throughout Trey’s solo tour, this was a debut that people were already familiar with.  The entire the set was a hodgepodge of random songs that lacked any real flow, but was highlighted by a ridiculously psychedelic Stash that would be the talking point for many during setbreak.

When Phish comes out and plays a warm up set like that, they rarely leave the venue without dropping some serious heat in the second- and this second set was as hot as they come.  Chock full of big jam vehicles, this set got the tour started in earnest.  A ripping Birds set the tone for the aggressive and intense set.  The rare and welcomed “Ha, Ha, Ha” came next and went right into an early set Ghost.  This Ghost was an improvisational masterpiece, with the band settling into some collectively patient grooves and building to a cathartic fusion of harmony and melody before bringing everyone back to their Canadian realities for a bit.  The whole band truly annihilated this Ghost- it’s a must hear.

Two more Trey songs made their debut next.  First, the acoustic, “The Inlaw Josie Wales,” and second, to the delight of all, “First Tube.”  “First Tube” took on a more fiery character when placed in the clutches of the Phish, and the band brought the dark composition to its screeching peak before the opening lick of Tweezer bellowed out of the feedback- boom!  The place exploded- at the most energetic point of the show thus far, they decided to drop the tour’s first Tweezer.  A twenty-minute odyssey, this Tweezer progressed through multiple stages of improv- starting with light grooves highlighted by Trey’s candy-funk rhythm licks, moving into a quieter delicate introspective space, and growing back into “millennial” psychedelic madness, with Trey spitting walls of searing licks, effects, and distortion.  This last section typifies the “millennial style” that challenged your sanity with sound, and was magnified throughout this fall.   As with the entire set, the band is locked and just flowing throughout this jam, hitting on a wide array of territory before peaking the Tweezer and moving down to a point of near silence where a segue into Bug was perfect.  The well placed guitar ballad provided some time for the crowd to collect themselves and reflect on the divine intensity echoing in their minds.

You knew the set had to be close to over.  A set-ender was coming up soon.  It was hard to gauge- after such a set- what would be chosen to end.  Sometimes it’s as obvious as reading a street sign that says, “Antelope Coming Next” or “Bowie Closer,” but there were no signs tonight.  Just as you didn’t expect, they went right ahead a dropped the opening melodies of You Enjoy Myself.  This big set was about to get quite a bit bigger.  Another twenty minutes, and catalog of Phish grooves later, there you stood, sweating in disbelief of the first show of tour.  Inside you knew this was only the beginning- and what a beginning it was.  There is nothing in the world like reveling in immediate post-set bliss knowing there are 23 more shows coming up.  Nothing.

A classic Phishy encore of Sample, Golgi, Reprise ended chapter one of Fall ’99.  The Canadian portion was an overwhelming success.  As we head out into the late summer evening, and popped the DAT into the car to drive south for two nights at The Gorge, the world was our oyster.  What could have been better?

LISTEN TO SELECT TRACKS FROM 9.9.99 RIGHT NOW!!

I. STASH II. GHOST , TWEEZER

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY: 9.9.99 GM PLACE VANCOUVER, BC

You just read about it- now download the show in its entirety!!  Enjoy. (Click orange link)