Archive for 2004

A City Spectacle

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 21, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Just when we thought we’d seen it all from our band, they came up with one last stunt.  We’d seen Phish play in so many contexts– atop an air control tower, on a flatbed truck rolling through the lot, from midnight to sunrise in the swamps, at Mt. Fuji, in European towns, at huge festivals, in giant hot dogs, in tiny clubs, and on multi-band bills– you name it, they had done it.  Yet, on the day after SPAC on their June ’04 run, they would pull off one more spectacular act.

img-3On June 21st, they were scheduled to play Letterman in NYC.  My ride was coincidentally heading back to NYC where I was hopping a late-afternoon plane to Indianapolis.  But on the way down to the to the city, we started getting text message rumors that Phish was going to play on top of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, where the show is filmed, that afternoon!  Whaaat?!  We were shot with 100 ccs of adrenaline knowing that we were headed directly for Phish’s next “concert.”  I told myself that I’d believe it when I saw it.

When we turned onto Broadway in midtown Manhattan, we looked up to the theatre, and sure enough they were setting up equipment!  Before long, the band was atop the two-story marquee for an extended soundcheck before taping their four-minute late-night promotional spot.  Immediately, I called American Airlines and switched my flight to the last one of the night, giving myself ample time for whatever might happen. We got there a couple hours before it was supposed to start, and there were already fans congregating behind the metal barricades that blocked off part of the street.  As time passed, fans continued to steadily stream in, creating an oversized crowd in the middle of the New York City block in broad daylight.  This was surreal.

img-4As Phish stood atop the marquee, they continuously practiced the newly-shortened version of “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” the song they would play for the show.  The gorgeous jam became the soundtrack to the afternoon, as they literally must have played it through ten times.  Meeting up with some others, we grabbed some rail space, watched the cars go by, and waited.  New York didn’t stop for anyone, not even a spectacle like this, and that made it all the more crazy.  Cars, trucks, and buses drove by like nothing was going on while over a thousand people congregated across the street and hundreds of others leaned out the windows of their apartments above the marquee.  In all of the my wildest Phish dreams, never did the this scenario pop up, and that is why Phish is Phish.

When the band finally took the mini-stage for the formal filming, they evoked memories of The Beatles playing their final concert as a surprise gig atop a building while cameras rolled.  As Phish started, they played “Scents and Subtle Sounds” not once, but twice!  I guess they would later choose which one to air, but what would happen next was anyone’s guess.  This was the discussion of the entire afternoon. How long would they play? What songs would they choose?  Would they rage it?  Would it be mellow?  All of these questions were answered at once as Phish dropped into a mid-day “2001” in the middle of the Manhattan skyline!  As they swirled the grooves around the skyscrapers, I looked up and saw Phish against the New York City backdrop speckled with the bluest sky and cloud puffs.  A question we often found ourselves asking when baffled by this band seemed very appropriate here, “What the hell was going on?!”  Trey stared up at the clouds above and smiled as he was having as much fun as anyone with this Phishy spectacle.

ph20040621-162We were all blown away with the magnitude and sheer absurdity of what was going down; Phish, amidst a sea of skyscrapers, was ripping a “2001.”  As the band peaked the abbreviated version, they moved right into “Wilson.”  No one knew when this set would end, so every next song was like another shot of energy.  The crowd played their part chanting “Wilson!” from across Broadway, and the band looked giddy with amusement.  They tore into the song with utmost energy as we raged the the flat cement dance floor provided so graciously by the city.  Riding the frenetic tide, Trey concluded the song and ripped into the beginning chords of his personal favorite, “Chalk Dust Torture.”  We all exchanged shit-eating grins while passing some herbage, this was too cool to be true; we were five songs deep in a mini-urban-Phish set!  Sure the versions were truncated, but the jamming clearly wasn’t the point here.

img-1As the band wound up the final twist of “Chalk Dust,” it seemed perfectly reasonable that their “set” would end here.  But without saying a word, Trey dropped the opening lick of “Tweezer!”  I laughed so loud inside my head I’m certain that some sound came out of my mouth, but needless to say, I was speechless.  Trey looked like a kid in a candy store atop the marquee melting into a “Tweezer” jam with the sun reflecting off the glass monstrosities that surrounded him.  The band bounced their grooves around the urban playground, improvising directly into “Tweezer Reprise.”  Now this was the way to end the afternoon!  Everyone collectively freaked as Reprise bellowed through the streets of New York.  Phish was having at it in one of their favorite cities of all time, playing a selection of the most boisterous tunes possible to match the midtown madness.  They played to their surroundings perfectly as they always seemed to do.  Whether it was 100,000 at Big Cypress or 1,100 at The Fillmore, Phish were maestros of matching the mood.  With the final note of Reprise, Phish walked off the stage much more carefully than usual, leaving us with one of the most unique memories in Phish history.

With the two insane SPAC shows and this surprise appearance, New York rejuvenated the Phishy spirit one last time before the second go-round was over.  A band known for their extraordinary antics and sense of spectacle, this was one last ride on the ferris wheel.  Yet, as dormant as this spirit has been for the last five years, it has been reawakened, well-rested from an extended hibernation.  Regardless of what music Phish decides to play this year, you can be sure it will be infused with this very spirit we have come to love.

DOWNLOAD 6.21.04 The Ed Sullivan Theatre, NYC < LINK

Scents and Subtle Sounds (x2), 2001 > Wilson, Chalk Dust, Tweezer > Tweezer Reprise

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

1997-12-09gn12.9.97 Bryce Jordan Arena, Penn State, PA < LINK

This show gets overlooked and dogged on way more than it deserves.  While it may not be the greatest show of a standout tour, it has some great segments. First and foremost, an incredibly exploratory second set “Simple” that lasted over thirty minutes.  Leaving behind ’97 funk grooves, this jam goes way out, providing some abstract psychedelia.  This jam dominated a show that also featured a great show ending “Harry Hood,” and the infamous and blistering first set “Stash > Hydrogen > Weekapaug” songs after the “Mike’s” opener.

I: Mike’s Song, Chalk Dust Torture, My Soul, Stash > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Dogs Stole Things, Beauty of My Dreams, Horn, Loving Cup

II: Julius, Simple > Timber Ho, Contact, Axilla, Harry Hood

E: Fire

Phish’s Last Stand: Part II

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 16, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Streaming out of the venue after the show, silent disbelief fell over most everyone. What had just happened?  That wasn’t just good, that was IT; but Phish was now calling it quits?  This inner mounting conflict swirled in so many minds after the first night of SPAC.  What had suddenly come over the band?  Would this type of playing continue for the rest of tour?  It was all a big mystery to which another clue couldn’t be discovered until Phish took the stage again.  After such a performance on night one, something hinted to us that night two would also be something to behold.  And it was.

"Ghost" 6.20.04

"Ghost" 6.20.04

Following another hot first set that featured smoking segments of improv out of “Waves” and “Drowned,” Phish prepared to play their final set of the weekend.  With echoes of Oceans and ‘Piper’ bouncing in the recesses of our minds, we readied ourselves to receive what Phish had left to give.

As the opening licks of “Seven Below” emanated from the stage, the seminal post-hiatus song enveloped the summer evening with new crystals of snow.  Having worked itself into Phish’s regular rotation, “Seven Below” had already produced several monster jams, and as this one opened the second night in Saratoga, everyone knew we were in for an improvisational beast.  As they began to move beyond the song’s chord progression, the playing moved from a rhythmic palate to a slower more amorphous place.  Phish smoothly slid into an overtly psychedelic melange of sound, beats and dissonance.  The jam had taken a turn for the dark side and began to explore a beautifully demented soundscape, neither led by nor devoid of groove.  Phish was happening once again.  Right in front of our eyes, the band engaged in a compelling journey that cast a spell on the legions of fans who willingly surrendered their souls to the extraordinary improv.

39302878106_0_albPicking up the pace, Phish emerged from the murky textures with a head of steam, tightly chugging away while hinting at the original composition.  Having no intention of conventionally wrapping up “Seven Below,” the band took this momentum and transformed it into a slowed down groove that somewhat abruptly moved into “Ghost.”  It was apparently just as on as it was the night before.  The band oozed into the “Ghost” jam favoring a slower playing, utilizing the pace to assemble musical phrasing that brought them back to the ambient and psychedelic realm.  Transforming into a stunningly amorphous and cooperative work of art, this jam moved far away from what you’d expect to hear from any “Ghost” jam.  Entering truly beautiful and transcendent territory, this jam conveyed both mystery and beauty simultaneously.  Skyscraping in scope, this divergent path was crafted with utmost care and delicacy, and was very much a continuation of the musical ideas presented in “Seven Below.”

Having been taken for an abstract ride through Phishy psychedelia for the first 30+ minutes of the set, Phish patiently transformed their playing into a groove that seamlessly entered “Twist.”  Far smoother than the initial transition of the set, it seemed as the band was working on a subconscious level at this point.  Flowing effortlessly, the band continued to produce music as if there was no separation between themselves and their instruments.  Completely connected and moving on sheer instinct, this “Twist” turned into an intricate masterpiece that would hold up to anything played over the two nights.

Using conventional “Twist” patterns, the band dove into the jam.  Swimming in the shallow end for the beginning of the jam, the band soon pushed off into deeper waters led by a thumping bass line that the entire band hooked onto.  Immediately, the jam took on an entirely new life with infectious and quickened staccato dance grooves bubbling from Phish’s cauldron.  The entire band jumped on the bus and went on a fifteen- minute joyride through some of the best music you’ll ever hear.

"Drowned" 6.20.04 (franckedesign.com)

"Drowned" 6.20.04 (franckedesign.com)

Busting into an outright Phish groove, the music grew in stature as Trey and Page delicately tickled the rhythmic canvas.  Just when you thought things couldn’t get better, Trey quietly began strumming some of the most delicate rhythm licks ever played, and the band moved directly into the center of IT.  Completely lost in their fantasy world once again, this moment is what it was all about.  Pure Phish improv showered down from above, lifting us to unimaginable heights.  As the band painted a surreal portrait of psychedelic groove, the crowd body-surfed the vibrant rainbow of Phish.

Tearing into the peak of the jam, Trey shredded as if there was no tomorrow, while the entire venue seemed to float.  Descending from the apex of the jam, the band concluded this journey with some slowed down, menacing funk grooves, letting the last note carry out into silence.  The crowd quickly picked their jaws up off the floor to fill that silence with boisterous applause and enthusiastic cheers for the perfect 50 minutes of music they had just witnessed.  Two nights in a row?!

"YEM" 6.20.04

"YEM" 6.20.04

Before we had time to process, the band dropped the opening melodies to “You Enjoy Myself.”  Of course.  What better way to end the weekend than a massive dance session to Phish’s most definitive piece.  The entire composed section was another one of those times that your cheeks began to cramp from the involuntary smiles.  As the drop of the jam hit, it felt as the entire audience was moving in unison as if some experiment in collective consciousness.  The dancing paradise that is YEM overtook SPAC for the final twenty minutes of the set, offering a catalog of grooves.  Straight Phish crack was this jam, and nothing could have been better to finish off this two-night other-worldly excursion into the depths of Phish’s universe.  Bringing it all back home, YEM centered us with a dose of classic Phish to bring out into the night with us.  The band put their signature at the bottom of the two night document that was SPAC.  A high-energy encore of “Good Times, Bad Times,” kept everyone’s spirits high while lyrically suggesting the ups and downs of life that the band was simultaneously experiencing.

6.20.04 SPAC

6.20.04 SPAC

Capping two of the best nights of Phish ever, the “four-song set” had returned, rearing its uber-improvisational head for the first time in 2004.  Thematic in nature and traveling an adventurous path, this set existed as one inseparable piece of music.  Like a psychedelic symphony, Phish delivered one of the most magical movements of the summer.  Rivaled only by the night before, these sets at SPAC suggested that Phish still had a hell of a lot of music left in their tank.  Unfortunately, it was their energy and motivation to produce that music that had been compromised.

The rest of the summer would wind up with the Midwest run and then the final farewell shows up the east coast.  Those SPAC shows must have been listened to more times than I can remember during that last month, because no matter how sad we felt, no matter how bittersweet everything grew to be, we would always have those two nights in Saratoga.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

11.15.98 Murfreesboro, TN < LINK

21One of the smallest shows of Fall ’98, this took place in a college field house– bleachers and all.  The retro environment didn’t impede Phish from throwing down some nasty jams, something that was seemingly involuntary during Fall ’98.  A great opening combo of “My Friend,” “Ghost” got things started quickly.  The entire second set is great, highlighted by the opening triumvirate of “Runaway Jim,” Stash,” and “Mike’s.”

I: My Friend My Friend, Ghost, Driver, Scent of a Mule, Cavern, Limb by Limb, Roggae, La Grange

II: Runaway Jim, Stash, Mike’s Song  > Simple, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Loving Cup, Weekapaug Groove

E: Rocky Top

Phish’s Last Stand

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 15, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Something was in the air at SPAC on those June nights five years ago.  In the woods of upstate New York, Phish would throw down the gauntlet one more time before calling it quits.  Sure, Coney Island was a great time with the huge movie broadcast, the baseball field, and Jay-Z’s appearance, but musically, nothing from ’04 can compare to SPAC.  Deer Creek and Alpine would go on to provide us with fabulous music and moments, but it was in the intimacy the New York forest where the band last dipped their golden ladle.  On June 19th and 20th, Phish delivered the last opuses of their career.

6.19.04 (Mark Terry)

6.19.04 SPAC (Mark Terry)

The 2004 summer run was surrounded by a bittersweet aura.  Knowing this was gonna be it, we wanted to savor every last drop, but that unspoken feeling of imminent loss lingered.  We didn’t want to mourn something that we still had, but the knowledge that this would be the end of the road wouldn’t disappear.  After two exciting nights in Coney Island, the caravan headed north to Saratoga Springs for the first time since Summer ’95.  Following issues with management, the band was not invited back after until nine years later under new ownership.  The whole community knew that these shows would be special, but we didn’t know the half of it.  Once Phish hopped onstage in the beautiful northern setting, the magic hose would be turned on, and left on full blast for two straight days.  Phish would tap into the universal spirit more coherently than any other time in 2004, providing the audience with two final nights of cosmic communication to hold in our hearts.

While all four sets of this weekend were out of hand, this is a story about the second sets of 6.19 and 6.20, two of the greatest, if not the greatest, post-hiatus frames of music created by the band.  Whether it was the light at the end of the tunnel or just the the inspiration of performing their final run, Phish dug in and played their souls out.

"A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing"

"A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing"

As the lights dropped signifying the start of the second set, we assumed our places.  After a stellar first half, highlighted by an opening “Reba” and a sublime ambient jam bringing “Walls of the Cave” into “David Bowie,” we knew that what was about to drop would be special, yet how special, we didn’t know.  Launching the set with the opening drum beats of Undermind‘s “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” Phish chose one of their most sought after new songs to sculpt into a masterpiece.  As soon as the song started, everyone knew the jam would be huge, but the sheer perfection of it would be uncovered slowly.  After an abbreviated first-set “album version” at Coney Island, this second-set opener would clearly take a different course.

img_0627

SPAC '04

Following Trey’s Hendrix-esque guitar solo, the jam began in earnest, and one could tell it was on.  The twisting and sinister music soon settled into a space where the whole band hopped into a collective jam rather than merely supporting Trey.  This is where the shit began to go down.  Improvising on the future epic for the first and only time, Phish created a menacing, yet uplifting, jam that would immediately vault into the annals of Phish history.  The exuberance of hearing the band absolutely slaughter this new favorite, combined with their absolutely locked and flawless playing, resulted in one of my top Phish experiences ever.

14071878106_0_albThe band connected several directed sections of improv, building a monstrosity.  By merging hard groove with searing evil psychedelia, Phish created a beast we had never seen before.  About half-way through the jam, the band snapped into some collaborative playing that set the table for the unbelievably spiritual jamming that would follow. This is where the magic began to blossom at an alarming rate, infusing the menacing piece with a sense of redemption and hope.  The band garnished a serious Pink Floyd vibe at this point, creating a beautifully  intense soundscape that was led to a cathartic release by Trey’s surreal and triumphant melodic licks.  This jam defines epic; for those looking to start listening to post-hiatus, start here.  As the only improvisational version of the song, Phish went all out and created a masterpiece.

6.19.04

6.19.04

As the twenty-minute jam closed, Phish moved directly into the opening of a superbly unique 32-minute “Piper.”  Using the popular jam vehicle to blow out any of the song’s conventions, the band took the momentum from their opening jam and kept it rolling.  As “Piper’s” scorching path left a wake of fire in its trail, it wasn’t long before the band broke down the jam into a more percussive place, stirring more musical creativity and diversity into the mix.  Bass-led grooves began to boom as Trey initiated some highly-addictive rhythm licks; where were we headed?  The pace slowed a bit, allowing for more spacious improv from all band members.  Following minutes of this polyrhythmic playing, Phish settled the music down again, creating an ominous tone before dropping into an “Tweezer Reprise” themed jam.  Starting with slow infectious patterns, the band built a completely unique jam into a straight dance-a-thon.  Gripping us with their imagination, the entire venue was soon bumping to the otherworldly rhythms.  Infusing an edgier tone to the music, the band built towards the Tweezer-laced peak.  This was heaven; one of those times where you danced so hard you knew not where you were, and you smiled so hard that your face muscles began to cramp.  This was IT, plain and simple, and everyone knew it.  IT was unmistakable.  With Trey wailing with the enjoyment of 1995, we all seemed to jump into a time warp to a place where things were firing on all cylinders again.  Were they really stopping in a month?  That didn’t make any sense now.

SPAC '04 (Mike Piera)

SPAC '04 (Mike Piera)

As if the “Reprise” peak wasn’t high enough, the band eventually morphed into the third section of this “Piper.”  Peeling away some of the layers of sonic residue, the band stripped the music down to some heavy drum and bass patterns.  Soon Trey and Page jumped into the mix and the band was locked into another infectious piece of improv, this time a down-tempo bulbous groove.  At this point, everyone’s minds were shattered to smithereens.  We were 40 minutes into the set and the entire time had been filled with some of the best Phish improvisation ever.  Before we knew it, we were coaxed into a funky and accented rhythm that delivered us right into the bouncing beginning of “Jibboo.”

3176382207_0d3c0e8ddaAt this point, we all knew we were in the grips of the Phish on an incredibly special night of music.  The jam stemming from “Jibboo” provided the us with the tight and uplifting candy-grooving that was much-needed after such a long and ominous period of improv.  Returning our brains to some sense of normalcy, this “Jibboo” was placed at the perfect point in the set, bridging the dark and the light.  With none of their impeccable tightness lost, Phish lept from their melodic relief into a late-set “Limb By Limb” that turned into yet another indelible 6.19 memory.  Transcending the general path of Limb jams, this version blossomed with patience and beauty into some truly delicate Phish.  As the jam reached its midpoint, the music gained some swing and built into something far greater than an average Limb peak.  In a geyser-like eruption of melody, Trey led the band towards spiritual apex that echoed of The Grateful Dead’s rolling melodic peak of “The Eleven.”  This was pure hose, and it was good. Perfection, beauty, and symmetry are all words that could describe this musical arrival, putting an exclamation point to this set of utter insanity.

With the classic set closer of “Cavern,” everyone’s brains came back to earth and realized the enormity of the Phish they had just experienced.  This was a perfect set; the type that didn’t come around all that often in the post-hiatus period.  As the set ended and Phish came back for an encore, there was nothing they could do to upstage what had just happened. Fully cognizant of this, they elected for one of the classiest encores in their repertoire, “Wading In the Velvet Sea.”  Reserved for post-epic situations just like this one, Velvet Sea provided the perfect reflective denouement to a show that no one would ever forget.

And this was only night one.  To be continued…

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ironmountain_archive2ARCHIVE REMINDER: I know there are a lot of new readers lately, and I wanted to remind everyone that there is over 150 articles archived on Phish Thoughts.  You can use the orange “tag cloud” on the bottom right of the page to search by category (right above this paragraph), or you can search for any term using the search bar on the top of the page.  The search bar is especially useful when looking for particular show downloads.  You can always just click on a particular month of the archive, and all the articles should appear chronologically.  Also, the entire “Miner’s Picks” series is linked at the right side of the page as well, for quick access to the goods.  All links are always active.  If you find a broken link, please let me know via email.  Thanks so much, and enjoy!

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

Markthalle - Hamburg, GR

Markthalle - Hamburg, GR

7.23.96 Markthalle, Hamburg, GR < LINK

Dipping back into Phish’s oft-overlooked Europe ’96 tour, this show was their last headlining gig, and a fan favorite from the tour,  A standout show from start to finish, this should fill in a gap in many collections.

I: AC/DC Bag > Foam, Theme From the Bottom, Gumbo, Scent of a Mule* > Down With Disease > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Stash, Hello My Baby

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Runaway Jim, Loving Cup, Sparkle, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Bike, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Rocky Top

*Contained an a capella solo by Trey.