Archive for September, 2008

Lot Daze

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 23, 2008 by Mr.Miner

One of the most entertaining parts of the Phish experience was “the lot.”  Whether you were someone who arrived at the venue at 3pm and hung out all day, or you pulled in at 6:45 and walked right to the doors, you inevitably witnessed some absurd lot humor each and every night.  This humor could take the form of someone offering offering good vibes and hugs for a ticket or a hippie sporting a hemp necklace so thick, it would have made LL Cool J jealous.  It could take the form of fans’ clever signs asking for a “miracle,” or simply a “puddle” for the night.  Anyway you cut it, the parking lot at a Phish show was a hysterical place, and had a language all to its own.

One of the funniest parts about the lot, and “Shakedown Street,” was the incredibly diverse items you could buy outside a show.  The ability to purchase so many things brought convenience, humor, and spice to the scene- especially after the show as your saucer-eyed self meandered through the madness.  Let’s look back at some of the things most readily available at a show.

Food: A downright buffet of questionable cuisine, the lot provided many options for the diner daring to go there.  The most popular item being hawked had to be the veggie burrito. Having to be made at some point during the day (hopefully the same day) and inevitably sitting in a van until after the show, I never understood the people whose eyes lit up when they saw these on lot.  Then you had your french bread pizza, somehow cooked in ovens that heads traveled with around the country.  These were always the highlight of my purely olfactory experiences.  Moving on, some standard fare included quesadillas, pizza-dillas, and the classic “grilly,” or simply put, the heady grilled cheese.  From ganja gooballs to rasta pasta, you could compile a lot cookbook of recipes you would never use.  (On a side note- ganja gooball!?  Are you kidding me?  What that means is, “Do you wanna’ buy a kneaded orb of sticky, sugary, “organic” crap that was on sale in the local grocery store today mixed with ganja butter?”  Sounds like a perfect pre-show snack.)

Clothes: If you were late, and couldn’t stop at Walmart, odds are you could find what you needed at the show.  From “freshies” (new socks) to “hoodies” you could pimp yourself out with “heady” lot gear.  First and foremost, you had your classic culture of bootleg Phish lot t-shirts.  Whether it was the classic Antelope Crossing long sleeves or the Star Wars take on Mike’s Song, everyone, at some point bought a lot shirt.  It’s probably still in your drawer right now, cherished, tucked away for watching Sunday football.  Maybe its the upside down Hood milk logo or the Glide version of Tide detergent that you sport when you work around the house.  Perhaps you bought the classic LL Bean Llama or the Camel Walk cigarette pack tee; the Ghost on the GI Joe logo or Forbin’s Ford Truck shirt, and just can’t get rid of it due to nostalgia.  Too many to remember, the t-shirt market had a life of its own, yet there were other items for sale. Fans sold patchwork of all shapes and sizes sewn into shirts, pants or dresses; hemp and beads twisted into any form of necklace, anklet, or dread holder were hawked like wildfire.  This was the high hippie fashion of the ’90s, and lots of fans and “custies” bought into the trend.  Let’s also note that once these folks stepped off Phish lot, they appeared as if in some sort of costume to citizens of the rest of the world!  (On another side note, you gotta love the term “custies,” derived by the tour head selling items to get from show to show to describe their customers who drove up in mom and dad’s Ford Explorers, and broadened to mean uncool or mainstream.)

Drugs: The lot was an open air drug market in which you could score just about anything if you hung out on Shakedown long enough.  All you had to do was stand still and allow enough people to whisper in your ear.  Whether it was “gellies” or “25,” “pressies,” or “molly,” “sexy beasters” or “headies,” “pharmies” or “mushies”, the Phishies had you covered.  Party favors for the show and beyond, the lot was a psychedelicitessan that never closed its doors;  just avoid the middle aged men with moustaches and bright tye-dies.  They like to hang out in Virginia Beach.



Smoking Devices: With the herb being such a large part of Phish culture, the market for ways to smoke it became huge on lot.  Ranging from a recreational activity to a holy sacrament, just about everyone had their own routine of puffing.  Part of this ritual was something to pack.  Having evolved from a utility to an art form, certain glass bowls, bubblers, and bongs began to be identifiable by who blew them.  A psychedelic form of art in its own right, this could be a place to score a “head piece” to display and use in your home, or a “traveler” to roll with and dispose of after tour.  With more glass available on Shakedown then on Haight Street, the glass market proved that it clearly matters to fans what they burn their weed in.

Alcohol: Fans liked to “schwill.” There was never a lack of adult beverages available for consumption on Phish lot before and after a show.  While Summer tour was the high season for beer sales, they took place throughout the year.  Hippies like “heady” beer- the darker the better- with a Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout being the king of lot ales.  Known affectionately as “Oaties,” these were a staple of any Phish lot.  Going as far as selling shots of Jaegermeister and other bottled liquor for a few dollars each, fans created their own versions of a bar- the bartenders just usually weren’t as pretty as usual.

Ahhh. The days of lot.  A tradition carried over from Dead tour, the lot existed as container for the scene.  Buying, selling, bartering, and trading, fans, “kids,” and “custies” conducted a self-experiment as an independent free-market economy, living on asphalt from state to state.  With cash flow that could be analyzed by economics students, the lot was a natural phenomenon in basic principles of supply and demand.  More than just an extension of the show, the lot was an independent entity all together, attracting hangers-on often not interested in seeing the band. But when it was all said and done, the lot was a place for natural social interaction, transaction, and a unique stage for human comedy.


What are your favorite lot memories and stories?  Share in comments!


DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY: 7.6.94 Theater St. Denis, Montreal, CAN

This short trip due north of their home in Burlington brought back a winner of a show.  Known for many fans’ favorite Reba of all time, and a ridiculous Tweezer, this show comes amidst a tour and a year that featured some of Phish’s most adventurous risk-taking and ballistic jamming.  With ten days remaining in a tour that started on April 4th in Burlington- three full months earlier- this show illustrates a band that was well polished and heading for home.

I: Llama, Fluffhead, Julius, Bouncing Around the Room, Reba, Axilla [Part II], My Minds Got A Mind of its Own, Carolina*, David Bowie

II: The Landlady, Poor Heart, Tweezer# > Lawn Boy, Chalk Dust Torture > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars > Sample in a Jar > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars, Harry Hood, Tweezer Reprise

E: The Old Home Place*, Nellie Cane*, Memories, Funky Bitch

#With a very “Also Sprach Zarathustra” jam, especially by Trey.  *Acoustic and without mics.

Laid Back in Las Cruces

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 22, 2008 by Mr.Miner
Las Cruces, NM

Las Cruces, NM

Nine years ago today was one of those Phish shows you just had to love.  In the middle of the week in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with few tangential show goers other than a few hundred students from New Mexico State, this one would be for the people on tour.  A casual afternoon lot scene gave way to a spacious venue with a GA floor that provided a very laid back experience for those in attendance.  Able to move around freely, stubbing anyone you wanted down to the floor, this show was as casual as it gets, and represented the perks of west coast, out-of-the-way, shows.  Sure, they didn’t have the ominous feeling of MSG or Worcester, but you a got the sense that you were getting a more exclusive concert, one played just for you and those who made it a point to drive into the middle of New Mexico, Idaho, or Alabama.  Taking on a completely different, but just as Phishy of a feel, shows like Las Cruces, New Mexico provided a necessary balance to a tour that would inevitably pass through all the major markets and wind up in the crowded venues of the northeast.  Back to back with another show of a similar vibe, Las Cruces and Pima County Fairgrounds in Tuscon, AZ, gave Fall ’99 a southwestern siesta portion of the tour.

Easily walking inside without waiting in line, using an empty bathroom, and finding the ideal space on the half-empty floor with friends, a very mellow vibe encapsulated the room.  As showtime neared, more people flowed in, yet space in the venue was just never a problem.  Phish often came out and ripped in these off-the-beaten-path shows, rewarding fans who traveled to such locales, and Las Cruces was no different.  Hot off an exciting run down the west coast, Phish began to carve their way east, and as they pulled into Las Cruces, not very far from Roswell, fans felt tapped into extra-terrestrial aura surrounding Phish’s closest performance to the controversial and highly publicized UFO conspiracy of 1947.

Fall '99

Fall '99

Apparently, the band was tapped into the same wave-lentghs, as they came onstage and used the first few minutes to build an ambient soundscape before dropping into a opening fourteen-minute 2001 dance session.  Combining high octane funk with ’99’s effects, and distorted, yet melodic, guitar leads, this version kick started the show, and gave a nod to all the conspiracy theorists out there.  Ripping right into Chalkdust, neither the band, nor crowd, had a lack of energy getting going on this night. Following a string of non-improvisational songs, the band sat into a twenty minute Bathtub Gin.  This jam began in laid back fashion, but as the band delicately moved the music to another plane, Trey and Mike began to lead the way with some tight interplay.  Trey took it flying into the emotional realm with those expressive melodies that remind you of your own inner thoughts and feelings.  This Gin generally remains tucked away in the first set of this under-the-radar show, but it’s a version that more people should know.  With a short interlude of Mozambique, Phish got right back to business, dropping the recently debuted Sand, late in the first set.  This jam provided fans- all with ample to room to move- yet another session of improvised dance grooves in what shaped up to be a very strong, and long, first half of the show.

The second set contained no nonsense as Phish built a set on diverse types of improvisation.  Beginning with the lighter candy grooving of Jibboo, the beginning of the second set continued the theme of open dance jams that had defined the first.  This got everyone warmed up for the meat of the show- a masterful and unlikely pairing of Ghost > Taste.  Totaling 30 minutes, this segment of the show began with some locked in jamming as the dark palate of Ghost provided the perfect canvas for Trey to color with consistently clean and snaking guitar melodies.  The band built the tension of the jam around his solo and Mike began to play in a way in which remained locked with Fishman, rhythmically, while simultaneously playing complimentary melodies to Trey.  Progressing into a more searing millennial ’99 segment, characterized by wailing walls of sound with Mike pounding away underneath, this Ghost contained multiple segments of standout jamming. Climaxing in a frenzied peak, this jam explored some aggressively psychedelic territory before quietly segueing into Taste.

Taste’s polyrhythmic textures and unique time signature provided a stark contrast to the heavy grooves that had just concluded, but as they entered the jam, in was clear that the band was on, and their precise shredding adapted quickly to the new musical milieu.  The complex jam contained gorgeous symbiotic phrasing by Trey, Page and Mike, as they navigated the divergent territory.  Coming to a mind-bursting peak, this usual set closer was magnified as it was inserted into the high-profile mid second set slot.  A perfect example of the four band members totaling more than the sum of their parts, this Taste gave Ghost a perfect running mate.  A long segment of top notch Phish, this Ghost > Taste provided the high point of the evening- even though things were far from over.

Stopping in Brian and Robert for a minute to catch their breath, the band subsequently sparked a fiery Mike’s Groove that splashed with a heavy funk section; Trey using his patented rhythm playing to get the room pulsing again.  With Page adding some dark colors and sinister sounds, Trey would soon leave behind his whispers in favor of wails, as Phish dug to deeper and darker places.  This ferocious Mike’s fit in perfectly with the groove-heavy show and the band reached some raunchy territory before using the Simple transition as an emergency escape route out of the quagmire.

Finishing on a lighter tone with Trainsong and Weekapaug, this show was one that noone left disappointed.  With a bust out encore of their classic ZZ Top cover, “La Grange,” this show had everything that all of those shows in the middle of nowhere usually had- bust outs, huge jams, and two sets chock full of great Phish.  As tour twisted into Texas, the placid desert days of Arizona and New Mexico had come and gone.  This one will live on in the memories of all who enjoyed it, and now you can too, with the download below.


I: 2001 > Chalk Dust Torture, Guelah Papyrus, Axilla, My Mind’s Got a Mind of its Own, Beauty of My Dreams, Bathtub Gin, Mozambique, Sand, Waste

II: Gotta Jiboo, Ghost -> Taste, Brian and Robert, Mike’s Song > Simple > Train Song, Weekapaug Groove

E: La Grange


DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY: 11.15.91 Trax, Charlottesville, VA

Here’s a selection from back in the day.  This old school classic features the rarities of Landlady > Destiny Unbound and Tube in their heyday, along with Phish classics galore.  Filled with old-school Phish craziness, this one is picture of a different band at a different time.  Enjoy!

1: Chalk Dust Torture, Sparkle, Cavern, The Curtain, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil, My Sweet One, Guelah Papyrus, Gamehendge Rap > The Divided Sky, Lawn Boy, Golgi Apparatus

2: Llama, Bathtub Gin, Poor Heart, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Eliza, Tube, The Landlady > Destiny Unbound, Harry Hood, HYHU > Love You > HYHU, Bouncing Around the Room, Possum

E: Highway to Hell, Suzy Greenberg

Trey announces that the new name of the band is “Mrs. Pizza Shit,” and it is yelled repeatedly throughout the show.

Weekend Nuggets

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 20, 2008 by Mr.Miner

DOWNLOAD OF THE WEEKEND: 11.11.95 Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA

The culmination of three nights at the classic Fox Theatre in Atlanta, this show is among the best of 1995’s 54-show fall tour.  Taking a week off after Halloween, Phish reemerged in Atlanta for these three nights to kick off the second leg of the tour.  Wasting no time getting deep, the band dove right into a second song Mike’s that initiated the first set onslaught, leaving a set list that would read like a second set.  With a darkly layered Stash, precise Yamar, and ripping Chalkkdust, this set was chock full of imrovisation.  The second set upped the ante, opening with a 2001 > Bowie, in quintessential ’95 form.  A Fluffhead and a set closing Antelope rounded out one fans’ favorites nights of the fall.  A show focused on improvisation from start to finish, it is a must-have ’95 classic.

I: Cars Trucks Buses, Mike’s Song > A Day in the Life, Poor Heart, Weekapaug Groove, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Ya Mar, Stash, Amazing Grace*, Fee, Chalk Dust Torture

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > David Bowie, Suzy Greenberg, Uncle Pen, Fluffhead, Sleeping Monkey, Frankenstein, Suspicious Minds, Run Like an Antelope

E: Acoustic Army, Good Times Bad Times

*A capella

VIDEOS OF THE WEEKEND:  11.24.98 Moma Dance, New Haven, CT

This first set Moma, captured beautifully in this video, got the New England crowd moving quickly.  Showcasing the thickness of Fall ’98 Momas, this video is a little laid back funk for the weekend. (Excuse the couple minute video drop, the audio remains.)

6.13.94 Reba Jam Kansas City

Spectacular footage of a spectacular jam, this video illustrates the locked in grooves that typify so many ’94 Rebas.  Like all wine’s have their vintage year, Reba’s was most defintely 1994.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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



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!







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?”

Fall '96- photo:

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.

Red Rocks - photo:

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.

Fall '96 - photo:

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.”

11.2.96- photo:

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!







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


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