Archive for 1998

Not So Simple

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 12, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Debuted at the Warfield Theatre on May 27, 1994, “Simple” has played several roles through Phish’s career.  A central use of Gordon’s composition has been as a high-energy interlude between “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug,” supplanting “Hydrogen’s” role for much of the late ’90s.  Giving any “Mike’s Groove” a vastly different contour, “Simple” became a somewhat galvanizing song among fans.  Some loved it’s catchy hook and bombastic energy, while others thought it was an intruder on sacred ground.

2998740559_9879522a7aAlthough the band integrated standalone “Simples” into their setlists, it wasn’t until 1996 that it emerged as a vehicle for improvisation.  Taking its feel-good melodies for the musical equivalent of mellow sails across the bay, Phish began to gradually explore the song’s potential.  During Fall ’96, this potential was realized with several standout versions; specifically Halloween’s third set standout, Champaign’s powerful version of 11.8, Memphis’ emotive rendition of 11.18, and the popular twenty minute excursion from the tour’s last stop in Vegas.

1997 brought some outstanding versions of “Simple,” as the song straddled the fence between its independence and its connection with “Mike’s.”  The Great Went‘s super-sized version was one of the most poignant ever played, while 12.9’s half-hour exploration brought the song to depths uncharted.  1998 brought “Simple” closer to its roots, as it was again the primary link in “Mike’s Grooves.”  Yet 1998 is where our story begins.

phish-worcester-98A week after Phish had unveiled a stunning ambient journey through “Simple,” immortalized on Hampton Comes Alive, the band found themselves in Worcester, on the cusp of their last set of their ’98 fall tour.  As they picked up their instruments for the final frame, they decided to open with “Roses Are Free!?”  As the opener of the last set of tour, the sky was the limit!  My mind zoomed directly into the stratosphere, dreaming of Nassau’s hallowed trek.  As the song moved out of its composed section and into the distorted grooves that followed, all hopes were peaked for about a minute of music filled with aggressive textures.

Then, like a slap across the face, Trey came over the top of the potentially explosive launchpad and laid down the “Simple” lick completely out of context.  Catching the rest of the band totally off guard, the “transition” was a trainwreck.  “Ouch!”  I thought to myself.  Cutting of a “Roses” that had a full head of steam for “Simple!?”- that just didn’t seem right.  But it was what it was, and I rejoined the concert after a momentary reflection on the musical incongruity.  As the song passed through its verses and the band entered the jam, the music dynamically glided through the guitar-led improv.

511633729_2a62d0a2f3Just when “Simples” usually trickle out into a quiet melodic ending, Phish chose the road less traveled.  Instead of moving into silence, Trey began playing searing strings of notes that signaled to the band that they wouldn’t end there.  Quickly getting the message, the others hopped back on board, creating an improvised realm that took very little time to grow into something wholly different.  Taking a moment to collect their bearings, Phish plunged into a dark and evil jam.  From the onset, the intensity was electric as the band molded a ball of dissonant sonic madness.

As the effects and distortion provided the glue of the jam, Trey and Fishman broke out into a cooperative groove that Mike and Page meshed their way into.  For a period, this “Simple” existed as a driving rhythmic canvas dripping with excessive psychedelia, but it transformed quickly into outright lunacy.  The band entrenched themselves in one of the craziest jams of the entire tour with absolute aggression.  Mike’s basslines thumped a unique pattern buried deep under layers of experimental dissonance.  Trey and Page created a terrifying wall of sound as Fishman threw down a barely-human beat behind it all.  This was a voyage to the center of the earth, descending through the pathways of Hades.  This was the power of Phish rearing its head in a brand new way; this time as the soundtrack for an insane asylum.

507822011_63b14557b7Peeling away some of the layers in play, Phish took the madness down momentarily before returning to a peak that ended this twenty-minute adventure.  As the band let their effects echo out over the crowd, most people were completely floored by the sheer intensity of it all.  Phish had entered a whole new territory and it took a mental adjustment to process the music.  Yet, just as our minds were organizing the lunacy, Phish skillfully slid into the opening of “Makisupa.”  Ever the tacticians, the band used one of their more relaxing songs to bring people “back” from the netherworld of “Simple.”

The rest of the set would progress to great heights, closing the tour with the triumphant farewell of “Bathtub > YEM.”  However, none of jams would approach the daring experimentation and outright psychedelia of the not-so-“Simple” episode that took place at the beginning of the set.

LISTEN TO 11.29.98’s ROSES > SIMPLE NOW! (Roll over links and press play)

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“NO SPOILERS” HAMPTON DOWNLOADS UPDATE

Aaron de Groot

(A. de Groot)

The feedback received to the idea of “No Spoilers” downloads was a resounding, “Hell, Yes!”  That being said, we are going to give it a whirl!  There were many questions that came up, as well as some good suggestions- I will address a few now, but there will be a FAQ put up soon regarding the process.

The downloads will be hosted on a separate page.  This is where the FAQ will also be posted, and I will publish that URL as soon as it’s up.  Regular downloads (tracked and labeled) of the Hampton shows will be  posted around the same time on Phish Thoughts’ home page, which will be the norm.  The goal is to have two mp3 files for download: “Set 1” and “Set 2+E.”  Every effort will be made to have one show posted before the next show starts, yet there is only so much within our control. (This time would be greatly decreased if there was a taper willing to join in on this project!)

While this all takes a lot of restraint on your part, it seems that people are willing to exchange patience for excitement, and we are gonna give it a go!  More to come…

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

7.24.93 Great Woods, Mansfield, MA < LINK

Great Woods, MA

Great Woods, MA

Here is Phish’s stellar performance at Great Woods in the revered Summer of ’93.  A ripping second set opened with the fire of “2001 > Split, Fluffhead,” while also featuring a strong “Mike’s Groove” with an outstanding “Weekapaug.” Phish were a week away from entering August ’93, one of their peak months ever, and here you can begin to see why.

I: Llama, Horn, Nellie Cane, The Divided Sky, Guelah Papyrus, Rift, Stash, The Mango Song, Bouncing Around the Room, The Squirming Coil

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Split Open and Melt, Fluffhead, Maze, Glide, Sparkle, Mike’s Song > Y-Rushalayim Schel Zahav > Weekapaug Groove, Purple Rain > HYHU, Daniel, Good Times Bad Times

E: Golgi Apparatus, Freebird

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The Island Run: Providence

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 6, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Exiting the Coliseum at Nassau and preparing for our trip north, spirits could not have been higher.  We were smack dab in the middle of some crazy-ass Phish, and we just left one of the most transcendent musical experiences of our lives.  The drive through the night to Rhode Island was fun and refreshing, trying to replay the nights events in our mind.  As The Beatles once sang, “It [was] all too much.”  The entire community was juiced after the first two episodes of The Island Run, and they brought every ounce of that juice up to New England.

4.4.98

phish-providence-4-4-98There was quite the scene outside the Civic Center on Saturday night, as fans congregated in the streets and lots surrounding the venue.  The hardest ticket of the four, many sought out extras to get themselves into what would surely be another outlandish event.  Never were you so sure that a show would blow up than this one on 4.4.98.  Following Nassau, everyone knew Phish were knee deep in IT, effortlessly creating masterful music.  Everyone wanted in, and those who found their way through the threshold were treated to a show they would never forget.

As many fans predicted from Nassau’s closing “Reprise,” the band opened up the Providence weekend with “Tweezer.”  But this was no standard “set-opening” jam, rather a deep exploration into the groove-based ethos of the song.  Complete with multiple improvisational segments, much like the Nassau “Mike’s” did, this “Tweezer” gave us the impression we were far into the show already.  Phish didn’t need to warm up  for these nights, they were feeling IT, they were living IT, they were IT.  As soon as the jam dropped, Mike led the band out of the gate in a patient opening before the band dove in earnestly.  What came out was a near twenty-minute groove-fest that sparked the Providence crowd, catching them up to what went down in Long Island.

Trey stepped in, providing guiding rhythm guitar patterns that framed the jam flawlessly.  This was one of those moments that I couldn’t help letting out a somewhat maniacal laugh while raging, just pondering the sheer absurdity of this colossal opener.  This jam existed as a measure of how balanced the band’s playing was at this time, with no one member dominating the textures, yet churning out amazing music like a machine.  Interestingly, Trey introduced a melody in this jam that he would toy with and carry throughout most jams in this show- a sort of themed lick for the evening.  (For those who care, it comes at about 12:25 on the SBD).  This “Tweezer” grew out of the funk and into its more climactic space.  Once the jam peaked, the band settled into some late ’97 stop/start solos before dripping into a smoking version of “Taste.”  Despite a nice “Limb by Limb,” the rest of the set was filled with fun, yet composed pieces.  The stage was set for what was sure to be an epic second half.

511609734_ae413fe390The buzz that had began in Nassau had traveled to Providence.  Setbreak had a tangible vibe of excitement as everyone knew that the second set would be epic- there was no doubt.  And everyone was right. The upcoming frame would be composed of some of Phish’s biggest songs, all magnified under the almighty lens of The Island Run.

They opened with the quickened drum beats of “Birds of a Feather,” and it took a moment to place the song, due to hearing it for the first time only two nights before.  They never repeated songs over four nights, so if Phish was opening this second set of this show with a song they debuted in Nassau, you knew there had to be a reason.  Over the course of the next 17 minutes, the reason became evident as the improvisational potential of “Birds” was wholly uncovered in a fiercely psychedelic odyssey.

Creating an intense jam that went beyond the typical aggressive rock rhythms of “Birds,” Phish engaged in some intergalactic communication, playing one of the definitive jams of the run.  As the band engaged in improv, it was as if they were collectively sailing the smooth strings of the universe, playing with no hesitation whatsoever.  About halfway through, when the band diverted their course into some chunky and locked music, effects were layered onto the jam and it adopted a certain outer-space quality.   Possibly foreshadowing the upcoming “2001,” it was at this point that Trey returned to his “4.4.98” melody, integrating it into this building jam artistically and with slower phrasing.  The band was passing musical ideas as easily as a spliff, tearing through sublime improvisational planes at a breakneck speed.  Gradually, they brought the music back to the song’s lyrical refrain, completing the high-speed chase through spacetime, and leaving the arena drenched in sonic residue.

1998-04-04gn2Yet, these residual textures soon developed into an intro to a larger-than-life “2001.”  As the band brewed their aural stew, the crowd was perched at the edge, waiting for Fish’s snare hit to transform the Civic Center into a space-aged dance hall.  And then it happened- the band entered the crack-groove as the lights dropped; only colored rays danced around the arena (see video below).  The grooves were straight slammin’; the band was subconscious yet again, effortlessly creating some of the best music of their career.  This “2001” doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough with top versions, but I would challenge anyone to find 20 more intense and  coherent minutes to ever come out of the song.  Sure, there are longer renditions (The Went, The Gorge), but they don’t hold up to the insane tightness and urgency of this version.  This was a perfect example of the band members playing as one entity- they may as well have had one brain- as they flew through grooves like never before.  Trey absolutely annihilated this jam with far more aggressive leads than usual for the song.

Ironically, one of the best versions of “2001” ever unveiled only moved through the theme once.  The band spent most all of their time improvising like never before.  The post-theme section of the jam was fairly succinct, as they created a sparser palate colored by Page’s Rhodes washes.  Cleverly, the band broke down the groove piece by piece, eventually landing in a vocal jam!?  Yes, this is how spontaneous the band felt during these nights, bringing one of their most intense jams to a quirky conclusion before Trey, in rhythm, strummed the beginning chords to “Brother!”

508818184_8994fa2000While most renditions of “Brother” focused on brain swelling intensity and seeing how far the music could be pushed before it imploded, this version grew quite differently.  Following the initial high-paced section, the band entered some surreal improvisation that brought the maniacal jam to a place of beauty with its odd time signature; like a ride on a psychedelic swing set.  Leaving the song far behind, this turned into a completely original jam, and one of the true highlights of the show.  Beauty and delicacy after such bombast lifted up people’s souls.   It’s hard to claim any band member “stood out” in such a collective effort; this was pure Phish, plain and simple.  Ending in cacophonous dissonance before returning to the song’s theme, this was a bona fide Phish adventure.

Following a second 15-second “radio friendly” version of “Brother,” Trey explained that the next song was “radio unfriendly” because it was “really long and really slow.”  Following the build-up, Phish dropped into the old-school opening of “Ghost,” automatically upping the ante of the set.  Often overlooked due to the plethora of stand-out “Ghosts” in this era, the Island version deserves its proper credit.  This 4.4 rendition didn’t focus on thick funk, but rather an eerie climbing melodic theme.  Ridiculously patient, the band allowed the jam to evolve organically, again complementing each other as if using ESP.  Latching onto each other’s phrases, and building the jam like a psychedelic construction crew, Phish built a swirling peak of harmonic melodies, seemingly levitating the venue.  Quickly popping from his plane, the band segued jokingly into the “Blues Brother’s” theme they had bust out during the 12.29.97, telling us they hadn’t forgot about those MSG shows either.

508843989_25d12a8c62Following the non-stop hour of intense psychedelia, the band used a Gamehendge centerpieces, “Lizards,” to provide for some breathing space and reflection.  As we tried to wrap our minds around the madness, Trey’s “If I Were a Dog” solo in the second part of the song gave every one the space to move inward.  This song couldn’t have been more randomly placed, and it couldn’t have been placed more perfectly.  Everything was clicking, we were fully immersed in Phish’s power.

This marathon set had to be coming to a close soon. And with the signature cymbal hits of “David Bowie,” we knew how things would wrap up- with another dark journey.  The entire set had an “unknown space-age” feel to it, with each jam more unique than the next.  This set created a powerful counterpart to the previous night’s in Nassau .  The band’s enthusiasm was indicative by the fact that every song in this set, with the exception of “Lizards,” extended beyond fifteen minutes.

“Bowie” was the ideal closer for this set of super-stardom.  The effortless quality of their jamming continued, quickly translating into a vintage version of the classic song.  In a set that favored darkness over light and madness over calm, “Bowie” served as the only fitting punctuation to the set. With the encore drop of “Harry Hood,” the crowd exalted in what was to come.  A twenty-minute pristine “Hood” put a sublime exclamation point to a night of menacing mania. It was crystal clear that Trey ‘s melodies were flowing directly from his soul as he gazed up into the rafters while losing himself in the music’s majesty.  Intricate and perfectly played from note one, this fantastic voyage landed us exactly where we needed to be.  As the poignant music washed over me, I felt so lucky to be there.  Not just “there” as in Providence, but “there” as in the era of the Phish.  As my mind spun with dizzying realizations and was flooded with sublime music, I felt an overwhelming sense of bliss and an appreciation for life in all its majesty.  I was alive, Phish was alive and things had, literally, never been better for me in my entire life.

“2001” 4.4.98



4.5.98

1998-04-05gnIt felt so strange to be entering the fourth show already; the first three blurred together like a dream.  Following up their “Tube,” “Mike’s” and “Tweezer” openers from the first three nights, the band raised the proverbial curtain with another huge bomb- “Oh Kee Pah > YEM.”  With everyone in the venue expecting a transition to “Suzy” or “Bag,” Phish surprised all with the opening to “You Enjoy Myself.”  Not only did the band open with “YEM,” they opened with one of the most defining “YEMs” of the late ’90s; the show’s highest highlight came right off the bat on this night!

With the dive into the jam, the Civic Center exploded.  Laying back and listening to his bandmates set up an insane groove, Trey entered the jam with a set of rhythm licks that could not have been conceived any better if composed.  This was some funky Phish music, far beyond a conventional “YEM’s” rhythmic patterns.  Subtly adding layers to the jam, the band set up Trey’s entrance.  Using the space perfectly, he brought some infectious rhythm playing to the onset of the jam, before his licks gave way to a sublime guitar narration.  Sounding as if telling a story to a group of children, Trey delicately accented his phrasings, lending emotional meaning to his notes.  If I were to pick one “YEM” to listen to for the rest of my life, this would be the one.  Yup, it’s that good.  It is so coherent and smoothness is surreal without being in your face.  There are so many distinct parts of the jam that we used to have own ideas on which part was the sickest, and the choices were manifold.  This was a huge highlight of the run.

862779724_8182271e4fA serene “Theme,” “McGrupp” combo brought the aqua blue lights out and chilled the arena with soothing songs before the next significant improvisational segment of “Bathtub Gin > Cities” took over.  While not incredibly extended, the “Gin” featured tight playing and a feel-good vibe that infused the audience.  The band’s methodical playing stood out during this jam which remained harnessed to the song’s melodic theme.  Yet, instead of returning to the original melody at end the song, Phish spent the last couple minutes of the jam improvising away from “Gin’s” structure, creating a funked out texture that seemed to be heading elsewhere.  Pretty quickly, Trey started slowly playing the chords of “Cities” over this canvas, and the band gradually all caught on, creating a less-than-perfect transition into the Talking Heads cover.  But once the opening groove hit, any small stumble was meaningless.  The composed section of the song featured many subtle improvised variations that always stood out so vividly in Phish songs.  Mike hits up a melodic bass line at the end of the jam that sounds like it belongs in a Wu-Tang verse; it’s quite nasty.  This wonderfully satiating dose of dance grooves absolutely hit the spot, as everyone wanted to hear “Cities” any time possible over ’97 and ’98.

“Sparkle” was the calm before the set-ending storm of “Split Open and Melt.”  A menacing jam saw the band play with the same effortlessness that had defined this entire run.  As if the instruments were playing them, there was no separation between thought and musical expression.  Basking in IT for four straight days, the band could do no wrong, regardless of what song they chose to play, and that is an absolutely literal statement.  There are simply no low-lights from the run, and this “Split” fit right into character. A ridiculously coherent jam, it is almost hard to distinguish any of the member’s playing as their musical offerings morphed into a complete whole; moving, twisting, and growing as one.

1874641252_ea3120c8f4When the lights came on after yet another absurd set, we looked at each other glowing, yet realizing there was only one set to go in this extraordinary place called “The Island Run.”  Yet savoring the moment, we tried to fathom what musical feats the band could possibly still pull out.  The last set grew in theme, favoring melody and triumph over rhythms and psychedelic dance music.  The set-opening “Disease” felt like a community celebration of all that had happened over these four nights.  Completely ripping joyful Phish rock carried the beginning of the set.  Yet, the jam grew dirtier for the second half, with the entire band crushing far more improvisational patterns.  This “Disease” moved from a gleeful stomp through the meadows to a brisk walk through the urban nighttime, growing in intrigue as it progressed.  Winding up in completely improvisational land, Phish finally left all traces of the song behind, creating an eerie canvas.  Just as we thought we might be heading way out into the stratosphere of psychedelia, the jam came to a natural end in silence.

Out of the silence came a change of vibe with the opening guitar chords of “Yamar.”  While this seemed like rather odd placement for the island cover, it kept the set moving along its upbeat theme.  Once the band entered the improv, this “Yamar” became magic.  Trey absolutely slaughtered this, playing lines as if they were coming off a record.  It was a joke; he was spewing gorgeous melodies as easily taking a pee.  Completely going off, Trey mesmerized the crowd, and his own band with his work.  Mike, Fish and Page quickly stepped out of the jam’s prominence, and then into silence, allowing Trey’s quiet solo melodies to take this version to the bank.  The whole arena was silent, listening to Trey play exactly what was in his heart at that moment of glory, his emotions to pour directly out though his guitar. The band emerged from the darkness with a stunning musical bliss, sounding like we were gradually headed for “Slave.”  The following portion of music is some of the most soulful of the weekend, as the band complemented each other subtly, flawlessly and beautifully.

2963669909_8b7183aff1This segment ended in some more solo playing by Trey that instead of leading into “Slave,” brought us into a classic second set “Prince Caspian.”  Love it, or hate it, late second set of a great show is when “Caspian” appears.  Bringing us childhood memories of Narnia, the band unleashed an awe-striking jam.  With stellar piano work by Page, classic Gordeaux bass lines, crashing cymbal work, and Trey wailing in a distorted tone, this wasn’t your every day “Caspian,” it was Island “Caspian;” there is a huge difference.

The rest of the set unfolded quite unexpectedly.  “Maze” thumped into play, seeming to not fit with the set’s or weekend’s feel, but Phish had a different plan; wanting to return to the funk, but in the Phishiest of ways.  Using “Maze” and “Possum,” two of the least funky songs in their repertoire, the band segued creatively into two last doses of dance music.  As “Maze” raged along as expected, the band used one of the “white-light crescendos” to smash into a bass-led song that was unrecognizable at first.  But as the band began to sing, it was apparent that they had re-arranged “Oblivious Fool” more than a little bit, transforming it into the bizarre and funky song we were seeing.  Even in the last minutes of their run, Phish was bubbling with tricks and energy.

Smack in the middle of what seemed to be a shredding set-ending “Possum,” the band pulled a similar stunt, transitioning on a dime into one of the most memorable jams of the weekend.  All off a sudden, Trey was tickling the crowd with his rhythm licks and the band cannon-balled into the jam with some the thickest funk of the weekend.  Trey summed up everyone’s feeling in his classic speech:

So it’s getting near the end of this little four day run. It’s been really fun, and its kind of weird having to stop after four days…And i started this little funk groove because we can’t end this whole thing without a little bit more funk, since that’s kinda been the theme.  So for those of you want to take off, take off, but for those of you who want to just dance to the funk, we’re gonna stay around and keep grooving.

4.3.98 (Joel Price)

4.3.98 (Joel Price)

Igniting the crowd to its highest possible point of energy, this banter will live eternally in Phish history.  The band proceeded to play the deepest funk of the weekend, cleverly building into “Cavern.”  Moving into the classic set-closer, the crowd was blindsided one last time, and roared in response.  Ending the run with possibly the Phishiest moment of the four nights, the bittersweet reality had come to light, the run was indeed over.

The Island Run remains a pinnacle of Phish’s career; a moment defined by such communal energy and enthusiasm, from the audience and band, alike.  The supreme magic of those nights remains a lingering mystery.  Never to be approached by another run for the rest of their career, these four nights were of another dimension.  The music created over those four nights is timeless, needing only a reference by song combos for everyone to understand what you are talking about. “Roses > Piper,” “Birds >2001 > Brother” “Oh Kee Pah > Yem,” “Wolfman’s > Sally,” Mike’s > My Old home Place,” “Gin > Cities,” “Disease > Yamar,” “Maze >Shafty”- you get the drift.  This was not everyday Phish; these were the best four consecutive shows ever played.  This was The Island Run.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

4.25.92 Evergreen College Rec Center, Olympia, WA SBD < LINK

phish-picture-of-nectar-tour-92Here we dip into the standout month of April ’92 when Phish visited Evergreen before their legendary Fall ’94 gig.  The setlist reads like a cannon of old-school Phish, and the second set is anchored by the “Bathtub Gin,” “YEM” combination.  A great SBD nugget for your Friday afternoon.  Enjoy!

I: Suzy Greenberg, My Friend My Friend, Paul and Silas, Reba, Brother, Tela, Chalk Dust Torture, Bouncing Around the Room, Rift, Magilla, Run Like an Antelope

II: Maze, Bathtub Gin, You Enjoy Myself, Silent in the Morning, All Things Reconsidered, Dinner and a Movie, Harry Hood, Weigh

E: Cold as Ice > Terrapin > Cold as Ice, Poor Heart

The Island Run: Nassau

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on February 5, 2009 by Mr.Miner

It all started with a surprise announcement in the beginning of March.  Phish was so juiced and inspired by the music of their epic Fall and New Years ’97 runs that they just couldn’t sit around and wait for their July European tour.  They were “bored,” as Trey would explain.   I remember exactly where I was in my buddy’s house in Philly when I heard the news- Phish would play a four-show run at the beginning of April in Nassau and Providence!  There was no mail order for these spontaneously announced shows; there simply wasn’t enough turn-around time.  Tickets would be sold via Ticketmaster, and that was it.  The excitement that prompted the band to announce these shows was fully ingrained in the Phish community after the end of 1997.  It seemed that nobody could wait for the next show– and now, we wouldn’t have to.

4.3.98 Nassau (phish.com)

4.3.98 Nassau (livephish.com)

Two at Long Island’s legendary Nassau Coliseum and two at Providence’s Civic Center- The Island Run- as it was dubbed, would immediately vault into the upper-echelon of all-time Phish performances.  Never has there been such a dynamic four-show run– ever.  You can put up any four consecutive shows against them, and they would get beaten down like Peter McNeeley against Mike Tyson.  There is simply no contest.

My friends and I used to posit theories as to why these shows stood out so brightly amongst all others.  Maybe Phish had time-traveled back from the future to play these gigs, showing us what we had to look forward to?  Perhaps that was the reason for the quick, out-of-nowhere, announcement? Although we sought explanations to this one continuous four-night super-highlight, we never came to a definitive conclusion (theories are still welcomed!)  Needless to say, these were four of the most powerful, magical, and transportive nights of the band’s two-decade career.

4.2.98

508742593_d894737740No one knew quite what to expect as we entered Nassau’s Thursday night show, but everyone was overflowing with adrenaline.  As soon as the lights went off, there was a mad rush of fans climbing onto the soon-crowded GA floor.  Yet, before anyone even had their bearings straight, Phish bust into the run with an opening “Tube.”  OK!  “This is gonna be a fun four days,” I thought to myself.  But I didn’t even know the half of it.  As the “Tube” provided a kick-start to the weekend, the crowd was lifted back to that emotional place we had all been jonesing for since the end of ’97.  This jam hinted at a groove plate that would be the launching point for the other-worldly “Roses Are Free” the following night.  Whipping the crowd into an immediate frenzy, the whole building nearly burst with energy upon this asteroid’s crash.

While much of this initial set was comprised of mild-rarities like, “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own,”  “The Sloth,” and “Horn,” the undeniable highlight of the set, and arguably the show, came in the form of a twenty-minute, supremely psychedelic “Stash.”  The improv started immediately as the band drifted into the jam with Trey taking the lead with some staccato melodies over the menacing pattern.  The band seemed to be communicating without thinking, fully tapped in and feeling the flow, only songs into their first set.  This adventure continued to build in intensity, creating an undeniable musical tension, spiraling upward.  Easily one of the top “Stash’s” ever played, this version contained mind-numbing playing and went directly for the jugular.  But just as the music couldn’t have grown any more intense, with Trey wailing subconsciously, the entire band connected as one, and with the peak of the jam imminent, the band allowed the tense textures to settle, and Phish entered one of the most beautiful musical passages of the weekend.

This “Stash,” all of a sudden, became a delicate palate for spiritual work.  Trey shifted his tone and began to play improvised melodies that you could have sworn you’d heard before.  He was channeling the powers of the universe directly through his guitar and into our minds; an incredibly powerful moment.  The dark and twisted took a turn for the sublime and inspired, creating one of the highest points of the four nights right off the bat.

1998-04-02gn1The Coliseum buzzed with excitement during setbreak, mostly regarding the insane “Stash” that had just gone down, but more generally about the undeniable collective vibe in the room.  Everyone seemed to be on the same revelatory and exploratory page; all in it for the same reason, band included.  And that was only the first set!

As the band came out for their second frame, the high-energy combo of “Punch,” “Simple” got the arena rocking, while setting up the debut of “Birds of a Feather.”  A song that had grown out of a jam from 12.12.97 in Albany, the song’s rhythms reached out and grabbed the audience, urging them to move to the high-paced and boisterous rock textures.  While this was a noble debut of the song, two nights later in Providence, the song would explode, immediately discovering its improvisational potential.

3177217568_24476d84e0But the true fireworks of this set came after the first three songs.  As the band sank into a warm and groovy “Wolfman’s Brother,” the audience basked in the thick grooves that they had grown so accustomed to the previous fall.  As the smooth patterns washed over the audience, prompting all sort of funkified movement, the band methodically churned away, creating a series of infectious rhythms.  Intentionally, yet subtly, the band set up a seamless transition into “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley,” a song that brought our collective consciousness back to that crazy night of 12.30.97.  Combining these two funk springboards, the band created an incredibly infectious dance session with their precise and collaborative playing.  This was some addictive music.

Interestingly, following the rhythmic pop-off, the band transitioned into another debut, “Frankie Sez” (though no one really knew the name at the time).  An enchanting and mystical tune about the earth’s natural movements and its relationship to humanity, its first performance was a gripping juxtaposition amidst this phenomenal set.

3251307446_d82a7cd91cThe highest point of this set, however, was about to drop– “Twist.”  Taking this song further out than ever before, the band created an astounding psychedelic journey of melodic space-groove.  This is pure Phish crack, the stuff that just reaches out and grabs a hold of your heart without letting go. This was IT.  About halfway through the jam Kuroda hopped on board, creating perhaps his best lighting performance ever (see below.)  This jam is an essential piece of Phish history, illustrating the improvisational chops of the band and Kuroda, all at once.  A blissful amalgamation of melody, harmony, and rhythm, this set the bar for the following three nights- a bar that would readily be demolished with the following show.

4.2.98 “Twist” Jam (Kuroda’s Finest Moment)

4.3.98

Simply put, this is my favorite Phish show ever played.  With two sets of pure fire, and a second set that represents the ultimate in Phish improvisation, the numbers 4.3.98 will always hold a special and unique place in my heart.

4.3.98 Nassau

4.3.98 Nassau

On the second night of our island adventure, the band chose to begin with a full-on “Mike’s Groove.”  (They opened the four shows with “Tube,” “Mike’s,” “Tweezer,” and “Oh Kee Pah > YEM”…’nuff said!)  Building on every bit of energy from the previous night, the band busted out of the gate like Secretariat with a booming “Mike’s Song.”  Like most Fall ’97 versions, this one included a distinct funk jam before it dove into its more seething psychedelia.  Mike was straight thumping as Trey joined in with perfectly complementary wah-grooves.  Page fit in playing short organ patterns without dominating the texture.  The band entered in a dance groove that seemed like we were deep in the second set.  Before long, Trey began playing leads over the bulbous and layered grooves, sounding as if his playing was composed.  Trey was flowing like lava from his first note on this special evening, and he never stopped.

As this “Mike’s” grew more engaging with each passing moment, it was quite evident that the band had something special going on this evening.  With one screaming lick, Trey initiated the darker half of the jam, leaving the sparse funk behind and heading for dirty psychedelia.  Oddly enough, this “Mike’s” segued into “My Old Home Place” rather abruptly.  But following the down-home ditty, the band tore into a multi-faceted twenty-minute “Weekapaug” that would normally stand out as the highlight of any show; but not on 4.3.98.

4.3.98 Nassau

4.3.98 Nassau (Joel Price)

The band didn’t take long to improvise away from “Weekapaug’s” typical path, heading for much more percussive territory.  With each member using their instrument as a rhythmic tool, a polyrhythmic groove emerged.  At this point, the band dove into some extremely Talking-Heads-esque playing; some of the most interesting bass-led music of the evening.  The band entrenched themselves deeper in their percussive experiment, creating some phenomenally tight patterns.  Soon, the band found themselves chanting the “Crosseyed and Painless” melody over the insane grooves.  What the hell was going on!?  The band was this deep twenty minutes into the show?!  Yes; that they were.  Trey took the “Crosseyed” melody to his guitar, artistically peaking the section of the jam and landing perfectly back in “Weekapaug.”  These were some amazing musical acrobatics, pulled off right at the onset of the show.  After the 35 minute “Mike’s Groove” ended with an unconventional double-time musical sprint without a lyrical reprise, the crowd was floored.  Was the band serious?!  This is when I started to ponder what was really going on at these shows- the band might as well have been a four-headed monster rather than four individual humans.  This was different than the previous fall.

The remaining highlight of the set, as if it needed any, was a sublime trip through an extended “Reba.”  Phish pulled out many heavy hitters, and the quality of the playing was extraordinary; perfect in a way I had never heard before.  So many of the jams from this night are so together and tight they sound rehearsed.  With transcendent melodies effortlessly rolling off the stage, the band was in a place of supreme musical comfort, and we were blessed to be a part of it.  It’s no wonder they were bored up in Vermont with this type of energy bubbling inside them.

1998-04-03gn2However, for every bit as good as the first set was, this night’s second frame would go down in history as one of the best ever played.  I am hesitant to even attempt to write about this set of music, knowing whatever words I devise can not come close to describing its majesty.  The 40+ minutes that made up “Roses Are Free > Piper” passed through so many Phishy realms- grooves, bliss, ambient space, and evil darkness- all wrapped into one jam, it was literally a dream come true.  Exploratory, yet cohesive; out there, yet directed, this segment of music contained unbridled power.  Initiating the improv with an extended set of to-die-for Phish grooves, Trey and Mike absolutely crushed it, wrapping their minds and musical ideas tightly around each other.  Page and Fish framed their grooves, contributing as two complementary cogs in the machine.  After this period of sublime rhythmic focus, Trey transcended the patterns with ridiculously flowing improvised leads that sounded completely pre-written.  How could everything be so perfect?!

Soon the jam traveled into an abstract Phishy-ambient space.  With Fishman bringing the music deeper with shimmering beats, Page, Mike and Trey transformed into an amorphous ball of harmony and melody.  When the jam finally seemed as if it could be heading for a calm landing point in “Piper,” the whole band jumped on a new idea and took the abstract jam to a much darker place.  Before long, the music built into one of those delicate and sacred places where the band just oozes IT.  Trey ascended to his “spiritual” tone with divine phrases and licks, bringing everyone along for the ride.  Things then became subconscious- for them, for me, for everyone- the unifying spirit; a completely unique experience.  Led by improvisation that was not heard every day, and was most definitely worth writing home about, this jam possessed at least some of the answers to the universal questions.  Phish then somehow crept the music, unsuspectingly, back from the depths, right back to where it was headed in the first place, landing in “Piper.”

4.3.98 Nasau

4.3.98 Nasau (Joel Price)

Seamlessly transitioning into the song, they band absolutely nailed it, and just as the adventure was winding down, there sparked a new beginning!  For the first, and only time in the band’s career,  they improvised out of the melodic denouement of “Piper.”  From the first time I heard this song in Virginia Beach, I always knew it could reach another level if they used the ending as a springboard, and they finally did!  This was my perfect world.  The progressed  from this beauty back into even darker and heavier abstract places- stuff you’d never really imagined.  Spirits of the universe groaned awake after a slumber of a million years.  They band channeled extra-terrestrial energy, providing a psychedelic trampoline to face your inner-self amidst this celestial sludge; confronting your fears and realizing your dreams.  Building to a frightening peak in this alternate universe, the music finally trickled back down to earth.  This was the ultimate.

As my my brain slowly slid back to Nassau, NY, Page began a celebratory “Loving Cup” that seemed so perfectly placed after the unrelenting and gorgeous psychedelia that preceded it.  Yet what happened during this “Loving Cup” turned out to be more significant than the song itself.

3176382207_0d3c0e8ddaToward the end of the song, a fan jumped on stage, and narrowly avoided being caught by drum tech and stage security guy, Pete Carini.  The crowd roared as the the fan hurled himself back into the crowd untouched, and as the song ended with the crowd deafening, the band started up an “Antelope.”  This intro had the now famous, “Carini’s gonna get you!” joke, started by Fishman and carried out by the rest of the band.  You could feel the overwhelming energy of the audience bubbling up with each repetition of the line.  The place was about to explode, and it did with a ridiculously fierce set-closing “Antelope.”  Phish had the the venue literally going berserk when this set ended.

Although the band had just played a career-defining concert, this massive surge of energy certainly came from this late set stage jumping episode.  Had it not been for his antics, the encore most likely would have taken another route.  But with the building vibrating with enthusiasm, the band came out and dropped the second ever domestic “Carini,” only three shows after dropping the first (12.30.97).  The show could have ended here, but instead, surfing the emotional wave, Phish dropped into “Halley’s Comet” to the delight of all!  As the time came for the jam, the band cut right into “Tweezer Reprise”- but there was never any “Tweezer!”  Breaking out their ultimate tool of adrenaline when it was most appropriate, they would follow up the improvised “Reprise” with a set-opening “Tweezer” in Providence the next night.  This “Reprise” found Trey aggressively marching in circles on stage, knowing they were putting the stamp on one of the best nights of their career.

“Tweezer Reprise” 4.3.98

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WEST COAST SUMMER ’09 RUMOR MILL:

3250483699_bf81d04535Expect an announcement soon!  Maybe today!  The dates I’ve heard are:

7.30 – 8.2: Red Rocks, Morrison, CO
8.5: Coors Amp. Chula Vista, CA
8.7 – 8.8: Hollywood Bowl, LA, CA
8.11 – 8.12: Shoreline, Mountain View, CA
8.14 – 8.15: The Gorge, George, WA

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PHISH THOUGHTS TICKET EXCHANGE:

3251306826_09e533a8acThe board is up and running with well over 200 users having posted requests or tickets.  I am putting a permalink in the upper right hand corner of the home page, so you can always access the board from there.  Remember, you need an invite in order to post on the board.  To get one, send an email to ticketexchange@phishthoughts.com with your email address as the subject line and a funny joke in the text.  Thanks!

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

6.13.97 SFX Centre, Dublin IR < LINK

phish-1The initial show of Summer ’97 featured the debut of seven originals and two covers, comprising almost half the show.  Along with their new host of songs, Phish squeezed in great versions of “Stash,” “Maze,” and “Slave.”  The highlight of the show, however, came when “Chalk Dust” morphed into an atypical funk jam which led into the first-ever “Ghost.”

I: Theme from the Bottom, Dogs Stole Things*, Beauty of My Dreams, Billy Breathes, Limb By Limb*, Wolfman’s Brother > Wading in the Velvet Sea*, Taste

II: Stash, Maze, Water in the Sky*, Vultures*, Slave to the Traffic Light, Chalk Dust Torture > Ghost*, Oblivious Fool*, Character Zero

E: Stand!#, Izabella##

*First time played. #First time played (Sly and the Family Stone cover) ##First time played (Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)

A Little Bit Of Everything

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 2, 2008 by Mr.Miner

With all of the holiday hubbub, the anniversary of Worcester’s tremendous three-night run to close Fall ’98 passed right on by.  Each of these shows had their own tour highlights, peaking with the last set of 11.29.  Yet, when looking back at the most famous of these shows- the 11.27 “Wipe Out” saga- we see the band using all aspects of their repertoire to craft an ultimately Phishy evening.  Many people remember this night fondly for different reasons, and it is the holistic combination of these reasons that mark this night special in Phish history, and illustrate why the live Phish phenomenon appealed to so many people.

1998-11-27moWhen recalling this night, many remember the segues in and out of The Surfaris’ “Wipe Out” as the highlights of the show.  Much like Deer Creek’s “Moby DIck” show in 2000, the band continued to integrate teases of the song many times after it was performed at the beginning of set two.  Musically joking around, the consistent reprise of “Wipe Out” drew in the casual fans with a funny reference point, making even the local “one-show goer” feel part of the inside Phish experience.

home050505dv3Another way Phish integrated quirky humor into this show was the “Chalk Dust Torture” medley, featuring transitions in and out of The English Beat’s ska classic “Mirror In the Bathroom,” “Dog Log,” “Buffalo Bill,” and “Sanity.”  By infusing their rock anthem with a first-time cover and three bust-outs, everyone in the building ballooned with enthusiasm from this zany segue-fest.  The irony behind this musical segment is that it merely represents twenty minutes of a three hour show, yet it is this short, somewhat gimmicky section, that most fans immediately recall.  No doubt fun and invigorating to witness, no musical blip in this section extended beyond five minutes.  The improvised verses of “Mirror in the Bathroom” clocked in at exactly 58 seconds, while the other rarities of “Dog Log,” “Sanity,” and “Buffalo Bill,” were short composed pieces, sought after due to their elusiveness, not their musical journeys.  Don’t get me wrong, hearing Phish twist unexpected classics out of their jams is always exciting, but that’s not the reason I see Phish.  The reason I go to see this band is evidenced by everything that happened after this popular set-opening segment Phishiness.

live06After the dust had settled, and people had scribbled down the out-of-the-ordinary setlist, the real music began.  With the opening notes of “Mike’s Song,” Trey initiated almost an hour of ungodly improv.  Balancing out the humor and quirkiness of the first part of the set, Phish dug in for what would be a spectacular rest of the show.  The Mike’s jam opened as if the band had something to prove, with Mike pounding away some slammin’ bass lines.  The whole band jumped into this primordial musical soup, creating smooth yet militant marching grooves.  Pumped up, themselves, from the wild beginning of the set, the band sat into the rest of the show with a sense of vigor and purpose.

Playing with the sharpness of a razor and the momentum of an oncoming rhinoceros, Phish navigated the dark textures of the Mike’s jam, bouncing the building more significantly than any previous moment in the show.  Gathering a full head of steam, the band built a thick soundscape that grew in intensity as Trey dug into his sack of psychedelic sorcery.

108_0805

photo: Jamie Huntsman

As the bombast of Mike’s trailed away, an uncharacteristically ambient transition into Hydrogen unfolded.  Hovering in an abstract musical space before descending into the classic melodies of the song, Phish lent a pensive and evil tone to the aftermath of this Mike’s jam.  Fishman carried the backing beat of Hydrogen as the rest of the band evoked an eerie palate of psychedelic effects, stirring an improvised musical stew.  Dropping gradually into Hydrogen, the provocative entry point provided a stark comparison to the melodic musical interlude.

Patiently working their way through the serenity of Hydrogen, Phish opened the first breathing point of the entire set.  The slowed pace of this Hydrogen made it all the more poignant surrounded by powerful improv on either side.  While Mike’s Song usually anchors a Mike’s Groove, Weekapaug stole the show on this night.  With a blistering jam followed by a reprise section of improv sculpted from Phished-out psychedelia, this Weekapaug would carry its weight in Worcester.

pict0018

photo: D.Kirk

The initial jam displayed four musicians chugging together on mission to bring musical catharsis to the enthralled crowd.  With fast-paced communication, each member of the band contributed equally to this break-neck version of Weekapaug.  Moving from uptempo soloing into some heavy clavinet and wah-pedal funk, Phish found their way through multiple sections of virtuoso improv.  At the end of the Weekapaug, the band kicked into double and triple time, speeding up the composed ending of the song.

Barry Brecheisen

photo: Barry Brecheisen

However, as the band collectively held the final note, Trey bust right back into the sprinting Weekapaug jam, and the band was off and running at a manic pace.  Rhythmically rooted in the composition, this jam did not take long to build texture and begin to divert from the song’s musical path.  Mike began to solo as Trey used a distorted tone to complement his quickened patterns.  This section quickly developed into the best music played by the band all night.  Taking on a course of its own, this improv got into some syncopated, Talking-Heads-esque grooves before entering abstract and down-tempo territory.  Jams like this, that grow seemingly out of nowhere, are the stuff that long-term highlights are made of.  Creatively assembling a unique musical puzzle, the band cultivated this jam into some crazy territory before using it as a bridge to a set ending Antelope.

phishAs Phish initiated the song that everyone knew would end the set, adrenaline coarsed through people’s veins as they realized the second half of the set read “Mike’s > Hydrogen > Weekapaug > Antelope!”  As the delicate musical depiction of an Antelope grazing the plains for food gave way to the aggression, the show spun as one.  Page opened the jam with some menacing piano licks as the band hopped right into briskly moving grooves.  The firey jam channeled the energy in The Centrum, creating a patient, funky and intricate piece of mastery.  Clocking in at sixteen minutes, the band gave this Antelope plenty of time to run wild before corralling it.  Without getting overzealous and chaotic, Phish crafted one of the best Antelopes of the tour using sinister and well-paced communication.  Page absolutely killed it on the piano the entire time, complimenting Trey’s blistering lines and a tightly glued rhythmic pocket.

262290013735As the Antelope peaked, moving into the ending breakdown, people caught a hold of their minds, realizing what they had just witnessed over the past hour, rendering the Chalk Dust / “Wipe Out” segment a distant memory.  Yet, as Phish does, they brought the show full circle, finishing with another chorus of “Wipe Out” out of the Golgi encore.

11.27.98 was a classic evening of Phish.  Combining so many elements that define why they are the greatest musical act on the planet, this night in Worcester literally had something for everyone.  This defines yet another aspect of Phish’s greatness- their ability to play to many different audience demographics during one show- or even one set.  Whether you wanted bust-outs, imposing psychedelic jams, random covers, or classic Phish, everyone walked away happy from this night ten years ago.

I: Funky Bitch, Ya Mar, Carini, Runaway Jim, Meat, Reba, The Old Home Place, Dogs Stole Things, Vultures, When the Circus Comes, Birds of a Feather

II: Buried Alive, Wipe Out, Chalk Dust Torture* > Mirror in the Bathroom# > Chalk Dust Torture > Dog Log > Chalk Dust Torture > Sanity, Buffalo Bill, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove*, Run Like an Antelope

E: Wading in the Velvet Sea, Golgi Apparatus > Wipe Out

*With “Wipe Out” teases. #First time played

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photo: picture man

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

12.2.95 New Haven Coliseum, New Haven, CT < LINK

New Haven Coliseum, CT

New Haven Coliseum, CT

Let’s take it back 13 years to the day for the second show of December ’95.  This one, in my hometown, contains an all-time favorite “Tweezer” (don’t expect any funk in this one), a ripping “Maze,” and a first set that reads like a classic canon of Phish songs with a few newcomers crashing the party in “Prince Caspian” and “Free,” and Fog.

I: Prince Caspian, Runaway Jim, Mound, Guelah Papyrus, Reba, My Sweet One, Free, Fog that Surrounds, Bouncing Around the Room, Possum

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Maze, Simple, Faht, Tweezer, A Day in the Life, Golgi Apparatus, The Squirming Coil, Tweezer Reprise

E: Bold as Love

A Three Day Weekend 10 Years ago

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 7, 2008 by Mr.Miner

phish-chicago-98A week and a half into Fall 1998, a tour that had so many high points, Phish stopped in Chicago for a virtually unprecedented three night stand at the venue they tore apart in 1994, UIC Pavilion.  The only domestic three night run between New Year’s at MSG in 1997 and  Deer Creek run in 2000, three night stands did not come often in the late ’90s.  What made these three nights so special was the intimacy of the venue.  With a 10,000 person capacity and a fully GA policy, this stand had totally different feel than Worcester ’97, MSG, 97, or Deer Creek ’00.  The venue seemed even smaller with no behind-stage seating, taking on the feeling of our living room for three nights.

Responding to the Phishy confines and cozy space, the band crafted a coherent three chapter odyssey, each with a distinctly different musical vibe to their second set, climaxing in a final night party of Phish favorites.

11.7.98: The Abstract Psychedelic Night

508770755_c2771e200cThe undeniable centerpiece of this show is the other-worldly twenty minute AC/DC Bag jam which segued into one of the most exciting Ghosts of the tour.  Starting out in a upbeat groove, the Bag jam bust of the gate like Secretariat at Churchill Downs.  Trey is the unquestionable leader of the first part of the jam as rest of the band begins to improvise a musical tapestry behind his lead lines.  Yet, the most engaging part of the jam comes when the band slows down and begins to take their music to the outer realms.  Switching to a shimmering, yet driving beat, Fishman slows down the rest of the band and the magic begins.  Getting into some transcendental jamming, this piece stood out immediately as a creative highlight of tour.  One of those truly spiritual passages of music, the band tread on sacred ground for some time.  Completely together in their exploration of this higher plane, this jam defines why we go see Phish.  One of the deepest psychedelic adventures in a Fall that featured many, this Phish epic is a portal directly to the spirit of the divine.

phish-uic-11-98And that is all one song.  The whole set is only made up of four, and the closer is a concise “Farmhouse.”  The “AC/DC Bag > Ghost”, “Reba,” are the stuff legends are made of.  As the Bag wound down into ambient tones, Trey triggered his Ghost loop signaling there was no slowing down.  Quickly building the beginning of the song, the band launched into a searing adventure in rhythm and sound.  Initiating with some dark Ghost grooves, this version gradually, yet continuously, picked up steam until the lid was about to blow off the place.  One of the standout versions of the song in a tour that had several gems,  this initial forty minutes of music finally wound back into the slower beat of the song, as everyone was left in awe.  Wasting no time in the set, the band decided to jump into an unexpected “Reba.”  In a delicate and dramatic classic-sounding “Reba,” Trey spouted sublime melodies throughout the floating improvisation. With a first night that I think stole the entire run,  there was no space to even mention the  seven song Mike’s Groove sandwich in the first set!

II: My Soul, Mike’s Song, Driver*, Brian and Robert*, The Wedge, Limb by Limb, Fikus, Billy Breathes, Beauty of My Dreams, Weekapaug Groove

II: AC/DC Bag > Ghost, Reba, Farmhouse

E: Guyute, While My Guitar Gently Weeps

*Trey on acoustic guitar.

11.8.98: The Rock and Roll Night

unk

Fall 1998 - photo: unk

With high-key, loud, and fast paced jams strewn about the second set, night two was unquestionably the “Saturday Night Phish Rock n Roll Extravaganza.”  Tearing through musical pieces like a NASCAR race, the theme of the show was Ricky Bobby’s “If you’re not first, your last,” as Phish played at a frenetic pace all night long.  The second set opening Chalkdust set the tone for the rest of the night with its typical shredding textures.  Pausing only briefly in “Meat,” the rest of the set was pure Phish fire.  The aptly placed “Rock N Roll” appeared for the first time since Halloween, providing its own springboard for guitar mayhem and up tempo jamming.  Sliding out of the Velvet Underground cover came the centerpiece of the night- “Disease > Piper” clocking in at forty minutes of balls-to-the-wall Phish improv.  Highlighted by urgent searing rock grooves, these two songs built one piece of music.  With a mere three minutes of quiet playing connecting the two songs, this segment was full throttle the whole way.  Trey finally took his foot off the pedal as the band waded in a perfectly placed Velvet Sea.  More often then not, when a late set Velvet Sea appeared, it was followed by a North American Pronghorn Antelope.  And sure enough, out came the blistering-set ending explosion.  Far groovier than much of the music that preceded it, the Antelope jam featured smoothly flowing Trey licks contributing to the appropriately nasty last segment of the night.  Climaxing at a dizzying point, this was the perfect cap for the magnified night of rock music.  As if that wasn’t enough bombast, the band encored with the second ever appearance of “Been Caught Stealin,” setting the roof on fire.

Ironically, the improvisational highlight of the night may lie in the first set “Stash.”  In an extended jam of psychedelic sorcery, Trey masterfully teases the”Fikus” melody from the night before, providing connection between the evenings.  Along with the standout “Stash,” the first set included a second song “Carini,” with the debut of the verse about the “naked dude” that jumped on stage the previous night in Madison and Carini had to corral.  The rare covers of “Love Me,” “Ride Captain Ride,” and “Paul & Silas” rounded out the notable music of the first set with the “Taste” opener.

I: Taste, Carini, Love Me, Ride Captain Ride, Fee, Paul and Silas, Roggae, Water in the Sky, Stash, Cavern

II: Chalk Dust Torture, Meat, Rock and Roll, Down With Disease > Piper, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Run Like an Antelope

E: Been Caught Stealing

11.9.98 The Night of Phish Anthems

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"YEM" 11.19.98 - photo: unk

Following two high quality and thematic shows, Phish came right back on night three with their big guns loaded and ready for action.  The second set opened with a massive, celebratory “Bathtub Gin” that remains a highlight of the tour to this day.  This excursion is one that truly displays the improvisational chops of all the band members as they sculpted many fans’ favorite Gin of the year.  One of those second set opening masterpieces, this was a cathartic release of emotion and energy as everyone entered the sixth and final frame of the run.  Spanning diverse musical feels, this Gin moved from a climactic peak into a murky, quasi-ambient place for some time before dripping back into the melody of the song.  Trey is all over this entire jam, shredding lines of beauty with seemingly no effort.  With a sublime guitar exposition woven perfectly with the rest of the band’s playing, this one was an instant keeper.

Moving through the Phishy musical narrative of “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday,” the band infused this final set with some old school energy as the Gamehendge overture provided an ideal follow up to the monstrosity of the Gin.  When a “Moma Dance” comes out in the middle of the second set, you can be sure its going to thick and magnified.  This was the exact scenario, as the funk engulfed the arena with Mike’s bass bombs filling the room to the very last row.  The crowd danced in delight, sensing that Phish was in the middle of creating a really big set.  Following the standout Moma, the band ended the set with the combination of Slave, YEM.  Now that’s a way to close a run!  Seemingly working in one of everyone’s favorite songs, Phish closed out the show with two of their most hallowed anthems.  Both containing uplifting and life-affirming qualities, it was the quintessential combination of Phish magic for that moment, and it put an exclamation point on the three night stand.

The first set featured one of the meatiest and mechanically driven “Free”s of the year, a highlight of the run that is often overlooked due to its set placement.  In addition, a “Divided Sky” graced the first set with a fierce guitar solo at the peak of of the composition.

I: Llama, Horn, I Get a Kick Out of You*, The Divided Sky, Frankie Says, Dogs Stole Things, Poor Heart, Free, NICU, Bold as Love

II: Bathtub Gin, The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday > Avenu Malkenu > The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday, The Moma Dance, Slave to the Traffic Light, You Enjoy Myself

E: Frankenstein, Freebird**

*Cole Porter cover; second time played. **A cappella.

The diversity of music throughout these three nights touched on all aspects of Phish.  In a extended musical showcase, the three nights in the Midwestern capitol proved to be some of the most fun evenings of Fall ’98.  After the western leg of an incredible tour, the few nights to pause in one place seemed to do both the band and the fans just right.  This would be the final chapter of Phish’s legacy at UIC Pavilion, one which also included two ridiculous ’94 shows.  This venue will go down in Phish history batting a perfect 1.000, going 5 for 5 in its career.  Highly unlikely that the band will ever return to such a small arena, we will always have those five perfect nights in downtown Chicago.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

Night 1: 11.7.98 UIC Pavilion, Chicago IL < LINK

I: My Soul, Mike’s Song > Driver*, Brian and Robert*, The Wedge, Limb by Limb, Fikus, Billy Breathes, Beauty of My Dreams, Weekapaug Groove

II: AC/DC Bag > Ghost, Reba, Farmhouse

E: Guyute, While My Guitar Gently Weeps

*Trey on acoustic guitar.

Look for nights 2 & 3 on Weekend Nuggets!

The Madison Split

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 6, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Phish has explored their defining jam vehicles in so many ways, so many times throughout their career, it’s impossible to pin-point a “best version” of any song in their extended repertoire.  It’s even hard to name a top five for any particular Phish classic.  The best you can do is choose an era-1998 let’s say, or even a tour-Fall, and see what you can do from there.  Of course, any type of version “ranking,” is wholly absurd, merely a matter of taste and opinion, and usually leads to lengthy and futile, yet fun, conversations among friends.  However, ten years ago today, amidst a lackluster, nearly-jamless show in Madison, WI, Phish challenged this ranking theory by throwing down the objective “Best Split of 1998.”

Jamie Huntsman

1998: photo: Jamie Huntsman

On the first night of a four night run that would be completed with their stellar stand at UIC, Phish played a lot of fluff during this college town show.  Only extending jams over ten minutes in “Maze,” “Simple,” Caspian, and Hood, this fifteen-minute set closing Split Open would steal the show like the Hamburgler pocketing beef patties.  With nothing to speak of in the first set but a routinely intense “Maze,” Phish bust out of the end of “Sparkle” with the intro beat of “Split Open and Melt.”  The composed section flowed with the perfect tempo, Fishman holding down the smooth jazz beat as Gordon already began to improvise some of his bass lines.

“Down, down, down, down, down, down, MELT…”

Boom! Before realizing what hit you, Trey attacked with lively staccato funk licks, as Page rolled around the clavinet with menacing mastery.  Gordon was throwing down thundering lines from note one, and within ten seconds, you were in the midst of a ridiculous Phish jam.  One of those musical segments you didn’t need to put any effort into dancing to, this machine like groove continued to grow as Trey moved into some new, funkier phrasing.  Meanwhile, Fishman was  slaughtering the beat, effortlessly glued to Mike’s uniquely sinister thoughts.  I often reference the band being “locked in,” well in this jam, they are Krazy Glued together.

nye8Responding to each other with fully complimentary and improvised melodies, Page, Mike and Trey engaged in one of the more interesting musical conversations of the entire tour.  Collectively leading the jam, each of them completely knew what the other two were doing, as they all took center stage simultaneously, resulting one of the most intensely tight jams of the year.  Fishman steered the musical conversation like a river guide at the back of the raft, moving it gently from place to place, always considering what his mates were saying.  Often answering Trey’s patterns himself, Fishman made sure this jam got to where it needed to go.

Kohl Center, Madison, WI

Kohl Center, Madison, WI

With a continuously infectious groove, the music built in intensity as the band’s mind-bending improvisation never let up for a second.  In what seemed like no more than a flash, Trey’s end-of jam lick rang in, reminding you where you were and what the hell was actually going on, as your mind and body were gone amidst astral rhythms.

And just like that it was over.  Fifteen minutes of the best music from the tour passed by in a heartbeat.  Reeling as the band built to their final three beats of the song, looking around at my friends who had the same look that I wore, we knew that was IT.  So what if the rest of the show wasn’t that hot- none of us will ever forget the 11.6.98 Kohl Center Spilt.  Ever.

LISTEN TO 11.6.98 SPLIT OPEN AND MELT NOW!

DOWNLOAD 11.6.98 SPLIT OPEN AND MELT NOW! < LINK

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

3.22.93 Crest Theatre, Sacremento, CA SBD < LINK

It’s about time I got a Gamehendge show up here! Today we have the classic Crest Theatre performance in March of 1993.  The second set open with a Golgi before It’s Ice transforms into Lizards and the journey is on.  After the band finishes the Gamehendge narration with McGrupp instead of Possum, they proceed throw down a classic Mike’s Groove to end the show.  Rumored that the band decided to play the saga due to the audience’s extreme attentiveness, this one will live on in Phish history.  This soundboard copy will make sure you can hear the whole story as well as the music.  Enjoy!

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Guelah Papyrus, Uncle Pen, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Rift, Weigh, Reba, Sparkle, David Bowie

2: Golgi Apparatus, It’s Ice > Lizards > Tela > Wilson > AC/DC Bag > Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird > The Sloth > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove

E: Amazing Grace, Fire

Set 2 contained complete Gamehendge narration.

There’s Someone In My Head, But It’s Not Me

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 3, 2008 by Mr.Miner
Todd Wickersty

11.2.98 - photo: Todd Wickersty

Few evenings have gone down in Phish history like the night of November 2, 1998.  Ten years ago yesterday, following their high-key sold out Vegas Halloween weekend, Phish pulled into the desolate E Center of Salt Lake City, Utah on a Monday night.  As the weekend warriors happily dispersed across the country with the sounds of Velvet Underground’s Loaded floating through their heads, others on tour chose to skip Utah in favor or driving the more direct route to the following show in Denver.  Ever since Phish began donning musical costumes in 1994, covering Pink Floyd’s seminal work, Dark Side of the Moon, was an idea and rumor that consistently permeated the community.  Always brought up in conversations regarding potential cover albums, Dark Side was seen as the ultimate choice the band could make.  Arguably the best album ever made by the best studio band in history, many thought Phish would never attempt at reproducing such an epic; the counter-argument always being- “They are Phish.”

Todd Wickersty

11.2.98 - photo: Todd Wickersty

Upon entering the frigid lot, one thing was abundantly clear- there was no one there.  This fact was confirmed once entering the arena.  With the seats virtually empty and the floor sparsely populated, everyone had the ability to roam freely throughout the venue.  This was the polar opposite of the densely packed Thomas & Mack Center, where you had to be a detective to find a few square feet of dance space.  With a totally divergent atmosphere from the opening weekend of tour, this evening had one of the loosest, mellow feelings of any post-1996 Phish show.  Something musically significant was bound to happen, but who knew?

Todd Wickersty

"YEM" 11.2.98 - photo: Todd Wickersty

As everyone chose their spot for the show easily and without hassle, Phish greeted the miniature 4000 person audience with something to dance to right off the bat.  Opening with a oft-looked over thirty minute combination of Tube > Drowned, Phish began to shred as soon as the lights dropped.  With so much focus duly placed on the other-wordly second set, this opening sequence consistently gets forgotten, but it is one of the best show-opening sequences of latter-day Phish.  A Tube jam that was sculpted by the band before Trey began painting their canvas with rhythm licks, this rendition kicked into overdrive when Trey and Page began to flow with complimentary lead lines.  Also standing out for its post-Tube jam similar to the classic Dayton ’97 version, this section differs in feel and grows beyond mere groove.  Far more than prototypical Phish funk, this jam evolved into improvised transcendent territory with Trey soloing majestically.  Finalizing itself with a smooth drop into Drowned, this Tube had the show off to the races.

Moving from its standard upbeat rock ‘n’ roll into some driving full-band improv, Drowned continued the bombastic beginning before slowing down and smoothly segueing into ZZ Top’s “Jesus Left Chicago.”  Calming down into the blues number, the small crowd responded in a big way to the opening half-hour of the set, but it was not near the ovation that occurred when the band stopped for the first time at the end of the song-40 minutes into the set.  Knowing they were witnessing some special Phish, the small crowd exuded big energy.

Todd Wickersty

11.2.98 - photo: Todd Wickersty

With a string of more mellow songs filling out the set, the band dove deep once more before the break, with a fifteen minute excursion into the poly-rhythmic textures of Limb by Limb.  With many standout Phish jams in the first set, it is interesting that it hasn’t attracted more attention over the years.  Understandably overshadowed by what would happen later in the show, the first set remained one of the best opening frames of tour.

With three relatively quick versions of Disease, Mango and Moma after half time, Phish sat into a mid-set YEM dance session to the delight of the few thousand sharing the more than ample arena space.  Seemingly going all out on this evening, as the band worked through the vocal jam with lots of time left to go, many wondered what would come next.

"Harpua" 11.9.98 -photo Todd Wickersty

"Harpua" 11.2.98 - photo: Todd Wickersty

With the opening Oom Pah Pah’s of “Harpua,” the “special out-of-the-way show” stamp was indelibly printed on the evening.  As the song entered its middle story telling part, Trey creatively crafted a tale that paralleled the fate of so many fans in attendance.  Jimmy decided to leave his house with Poster to go to Las Vegas, but upon reaching the city, he became overwhelmed by the number of people and chaos, and he just couldn’t take it.  Jimmy wanted to see a concert in Vegas, but he just couldn’t find a ticket- eliciting large cheers from the crowd.  Jimmy then hitched a ride back across the desert with a guy heading to Salt Lake City for a concert the following night.  As the guy puts on one of Jimmy’s “favorite albums,” the surreal quality of the night began.

Todd Wickersty

11.2.98 - photo: Todd Wickersty

With the unmistakable opening heartbeat of Dark Side coming through the PA, the few thousand erupted before a note was even played.  Sitting into the opening of “Breathe,” all were in disbelief of what was going down.  As Phish had often covered songs within the story of Harpua, the question of the moment was, “Were they playing the whole thing!?”  A piece of art that truly can not be broken up, it sure seemed like it was about to unfold.  Having decided to play the album only hours before the show, and “re-learning” it backstage, the band smoothly segued into “On the Run,” the ambient psychedelic buildup to “Time.”  If those bells rang, everyone in the building knew the band was going the distance.  The anticipation was intense, as they could have easily slid back into Harpua out of the space.  But sure enough, out of the silence came the barrage of alarm clocks- it was on!

Fans were shocked as they strapped themselves in for what would surely be one of the more memorable rides of the band’s career.  Sounding eerily similar to the original, Phish moved through the masterpiece of psychedelic culture with astounding proficiency only two days after playing one of the defining cover sets of their career.  “Time,” the first lyrical piece of the album, initiated everyone into the proceedings as the well known song set up the metaphysical themes of the album.

Todd Wickersty

"Great Gig in the Sky" - photo: Todd Wickersty

As the record progressed, the band continually nailed the vocal harmonies of each song, while being treated to a valiant effort by Fishman trying to reproduce the operatic solo in “Great Gig in the Sky.”  Certainly fluctuating between impressive and hard to listen to, this would have to be the obvious speed bump in an otherwise spot on performance.  Without anyone who could truly do the part justice, Fishman stepped up and certainly gave it his all.

The classic “Us and Them” immediately turned into a show highlight as the band treated the liquid composition with delicate reverence.  Floating through the mind-altering bliss of the album’s slower centerpiece, Phish absolutely nailed this nugget of rock history, with Trey filling in smoothly for the missing saxophone solo.  After the song’s dramatic crescendo, the band seamlessly oozed into the slowed down grooves of “Any Colour You Like.”  Absolutely owning this segment of the album, the band collectively built the instrumental peak before sliding into the epic ending of “Brain Damage > Eclipse.”

Methodically progressing through the climax of the album, jaws hung wide as Phish played this transcendent sequence of music’s past.  They had done it; pulled off one of the Phishiest moves in history, treating the smallest crowd of tour to the set that everyone had been dying to hear for four years.  As the magnificent ending of “Eclipse” came to a head, and the “sun [was] eclipsed by the moon,” the band did not hesitate in moving directly back into the ending of Harpua, something most of the crowd had already forgotten about.

Moving through the magical ending melodies of the song, the band reminded us that despite their two musical costumes in consecutive shows, Phish would always be Phish.  On a night where nobody needed to be reminded of the band’s versatility, the band came out and jokingly threw down a one-time sloppy cover of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”  A random ending to a once in a lifetime evening, the fans in attendance navigated the Utah cold with both an inner and outer glow that permeated the rest of the evening, the day off, and the entire drive to Denver.  A night no one would ever forget, many stories would be told about the night Phish covered Dark Side of the Moon, and nobody was there to see it.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

11.2.98 E Centre, West Valley, UT < LINK

E Center - West Valley, Utah

E Center - West Valley, Utah

Check it out in all its glory.  A great show even without Dark Side, this one is chock full of ’98 Phish improv. You need no more description of this night of pure Phish mayhem, just listen.

I: Tube, Tube Jam > Drowned > Jesus Just Left Chicago, Driver*, Bittersweet Motel**, Limb by Limb, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Sample in a Jar

II: Down with Disease, The Mango Song, The Moma Dance, You Enjoy Myself, Harpua > Speak to Me, Breathe, On the Run, Time, The Great Gig in the Sky, Money, Us and Them, Any Colour You Like, Brain Damage, Eclipse > Harpua#

E: Smells Like Teen Spirit##

Only about 4000 in attendance. *Acoustic; dedicated to Wendy and Lisa, two women whom Trey and Mike met the night before. **Acoustic; with a “Freebird ending”, similar to the 07-20-98 “Poor Heart.” Trey dedicated it to the people at the Dead Goat Saloon, and talked about getting free drinks and karoake. He also discussed the band picturing what it would be like if the entire audience were on stage with them, with no one in the audience. So they played it with this image in mind. #One verse sung twice; another omitted ##First time played