Archive for Songs

The Middle of Mike’s

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on January 26, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Mike’s, Hydrogen, Weekapaug. Ahhh.  It rolls off your tongue sweetly, with just enough syllables to create a mini-rhythm all its own.  This musical combination represents a pristine Phishy realm, like an untouched natural habitat.  Debuted at Underhill, VT, on July 23, 1988, the trilogy of “Mike’s Groove” was born.   During the band’s formative years from late-1988 thru the end of 1992, the band would engage in over 200 “Mike’s Grooves” without anything but “I Am Hydrogen” between the bookends.  Yet, as the band progressed into late-’93 and ’94, things didn’t always remain as pure.

img_1416Regardless of the many interludes the band would take between “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug” during their career, “I Am Hydrogen” always fit the best.  Providing a gorgeous confluence of harmony and melody, it was the ideal connection between the dark and boisterous “Mike’s” jam and the happy, celebratory nature of “Weekpaug.”  Together, the three formed a mini-psychedelic journey all on their own.  Flowing seamlessly from sinister mystery to inner reflection and capped by cathartic release, “Mike’s Groove” was an acid trip in a microcosm.  The three-song suite grew to be as Phishy as anything in the band’s catalog, never ceasing to bring roars from any and every crowd.

Before “Simple” was debuted at San Francisco’s Warfield Theatre on May 27, 1994, Phish had already begun creating divergent segues out of “Mike’s Song.”  Breaking the 200+ streak on February 4th, 1993 in Providence, RI by merging “Mike’s” with “The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday,” all bets were now off.  But on this spring night in San Francisco, Phish introduced what would become the next chapter in “Mike’s Groove” mid-pieces.

picture-021bAs the band began to experiment with the transition into “Simple,” hitting it at various points in the Mike’s jam, the effect was always similar- a surge of collective adrenaline and a roar from the crowd.  The guitar anthem had such a catchy hook and playful lyrics, it was hard not to enjoy the new addition.  Yet, the Gordon-scribed piece, while adding energy to the overall “Mike’s Groove,” took away the flowing peaks and valleys of the musical path.  Throughout the rest of 1994, “Simple” split time with “Hydrogen” as the Mike’s Groove connector.

Once ’95 hit, Phish began using different songs out of “Mike’s,” diverging from their pattern of years past. 1995, the year of the fewest “Mike’s Groove’s” up to that point, saw such diverse pieces as “Contact,” “McGrupp,” “Keyboard Cavalry” and “A Day in the Life” take “Mike’s” into “Weekapaug.”  In 1996, “Simple” morphed into its own jam vehicle, and while often played inside “Mike’s p1010089Grooves,” many standalone versions provided set highlights.  Throughout ’96 and ’97, “Simple” and “Hydrogen” again split time as the dominant “Groove” connectors, and on July 22, 1997, amidst an epic second set and monsoon in Raleigh, NC, the band brought both songs into a super “Mike’s Groove” for the first time ever, a hallmark occasion in Phish history.  During these same years, however, a new trend was also emerging- the “Mike’s Sandwich.”

As the mid to late ’90’s progressed, “Mike’s Sandwiches”- instances where Phish would stuff multiple songs in between the slices of “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug,” became more prevalent.  Often creating whole sets out of a “Sandwich,” the band turned more inventive in what could constitute a “Groove.”  Most of these “sandwiches” fell in line with the burgeoning pattern of using “Simple” as the main exit out of “Mike’s” for ’98, ’99, and ’00.  During these years, the band literally cut most “Mike’s Song’s” in half, substituting “Simple” for the second Mike’s jam after the initial, old-school strobe and trampoline jam.

image-ba5376ba449611d7Phish’s final show at Shoreline before the hiatus, 10.7.00, saw “Mike’s Groove” return to its original incarnation, kick-starting the band’s finale early in the first set.  This farewell “Groove” proved to me a harbinger of post-hiatus “Mike’s Grooves” which would see a return to the combo’s initial form.  All but one performance in ’03 and ’04 adopted the uncompromising flow of the original trilogy- “Mike’s > Hydrogen  > Weekapaug.”

Only three times in their career did Phish bypass a connector all together, improvising right from “Mike’s” directly into “Weekapaug.”  All three- Hershey 12.1.95, Niagara Falls 12.7.95, and The Gorge 7.17.98– were huge moments in band history.

With the impending return of Phish, you would figure we aren’t too far away from our next “Groove.”  It will be interesting to see what direction Phish will take its classic interlude in this third time around the block.

What are your favorite “Middle’s of Mike’s?” Respond in Comments!



BONNAROO: While the official line-up will be announced on February 3rd.  Most feel that with the addition of Knoxville, that Phish is a shoe in.  This article from certainly seems to think so.

header-new1TICKETS: Things seemed to go more smoothly for the general community with Summer Tour’s ticket requests.  Despite the inevitable rejections (including my order), with less concentrated demand, more fans seemed to get their hands on some tickets.  If you have some extras that you need to trade, there is a lot of trading going on over at Phantasy Tour.  If you have any extra pavilions for any show, look no further than! I’m looking! I’ll get all the regular on sale info up here in an organized fashion before Friday so you can plan your strategy….In other news, I’m already hearing talk about Halloween at MSG!



8.20.93 Red Rocks SBD < LINK
pollockposterWith most everyone waiting with bated breath for the potential announcement of Red Rocks shows, (and others denying it could ever happen), I thought we’d revisit the band’s first trip to Morrison, Colorado’s legendary venue. A sublime show the whole way through smack in the middle of one of Phish’s best months of their career, highlights abound from both sets.  The setlist speaks for itself.  The “Antelope” is insane.

I: The Divided Sky, Harpua, Poor Heart, Maze, Bouncing Around the Room > It’s Ice > The Wedge, Ginseng Sullivan, Rift, Run Like an Antelope

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Slave to the Traffic Light, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil, My Friend My Friend > Chalk Dust Torture, You Enjoy Myself > Purple Rain* > HYHU, Cavern

E: The Mango Song, Freebird

*With Mimi Fishman (Fish’s mom) on vacuum.

This Everlasting Spoof

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

A song that is as old as the band itself, “Halley’s Comet” is also a cover!  Go figure.   One of the band’s college roommates, living with them across the street from the Hood milk factory, wound up with a buddy’s cassette.  On it was then-Goddard student, Richard Wright’s  “Halley’s Comet.”  Wright (a.k.a Nancy), wrote both the music and lyrics to the song, originally conceived as two separate tracks.  Responding to the overwhelming media hype about 1985’s appearance of Halley’s Comet, Wright scribed “Halley’s Comet,” the repetitive part of the song, mirroring the overload of society.  “Goin’ Down,” the verses, was conceived as a jovial response to the early-’80s revival of Motown.  He spliced the two together, and the song was born.


Halley's Comet

Around Halloween in 1985, Phish went to Goddard to play a show that wound up getting canceled because the guys got way too high on LSD.  But on this night, Trey introduced himself to Nancy, and soon asked if Phish could cover his song.  Flattered, he immediately obliged and the rest is history. (Facts taken from this interview with Wright from The Phish Companion)

A seemingly nonsensical song, “Halley’s Comet”‘s lyrics may have more meaning than one might think.  Combining an astronomical phenomenon with the very pedestrian idea of going downtown, the likening of the natural, human and existential realms  emerge.  The silly lyrical passes could be metaphor for the sheer absurdity of the world, the mind-bending nonsense that is commonplace.  The line, “What is the central theme to this everlasting spoof?” seems to ring true as the song’s theme of man’s ultimate inability to comprehend and/or come to terms with his existence.  Maybe I’m inferring to much.  Maybe not.

phish3Halley’s has an odd musical history.  Played frequently between the early years of ’86 and ’89, the song was then shelved until the spring of  ’93 (3.14).  Played sporadically throughout the next few years (’94 would see the most appearances) it was generally used as a funk-rock launchpad into something bigger.  A short ripping guitar solo transitioned into a jam vehicle, a la “Halley’s > Bowie” (6.24.95) or “Halley’s > Mike’s” (12.1.95).

Yet, on 12.14.95, at Binghamton, Phish let then loose on the song, creating a monster jam out of Halley’s into “NICU” amidst a standout second set.  Many credit this version for opening the floodgates for the song’s jamming potential,  but the best versions didn’t emerge until 1997 and beyond, when anything was fair game for profound exploration.

hw99A full benefactor of post ’97 era of groove, Halley’s soon transformed into a jam vehicle.  Many Halley’s became funked-out dance sessions, while others remained palates for uptempo rock.  As Phish evolved, these genres fused into one jam, and then ambient movements were sprinkled in.  While remaining a relative rarity, its appearances increasingly meant musical adventure in these years.  Well-loved by all, the drop into Halley’s was always cause for immediate childish excitement, and wonder about where we were headed.

The following are five of the greatest “Halley’s Comet”s of all time in no particular order. (Not necessarily the five greatest…etc) Roll over links and press play!

11.22.97 Hampton, VA


Hampton Coliseum

Opening the legendary second set, this Halley’s was far and away the best jam in the show.  Exploring full-band funk textures while soaring into psychedelic territory, this jam laid the groundwork for the fireworks that would follow.  Morphing into a spiritual guitar confessional, this jam reached places we dream about.  This is Phish at its finest.



11.11.98 Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids, MI

img_0527This Halley’s is a straight beast.  Opening the second set of a stellar show with twenty-five minutes of deep improvisation, this version passes through many diverse musical segments.  A great example of Fall ’98 Phish, this passage begins at a high pace, ripping through several minutes of guitar-led shredding before settling into a full-band jam.  The gates are then opened for the show’s best improv, as Trey begins offering sick rhythm licks as the whole band gains a greater say in the musical direction.  At this point, the power of Phish takes over, directing the jam through driving dance floors, ambient alleys, and aggressive asylums before crashing into “Simple.”  This one is a keeper.



8.3.98 Deer Creek, Noblesville, IN

Sean A

Deer Creek Sunset - Photo: Sean A

Following the surprise “Rhinoceros” cover to open the show, Phish wasted no time getting to business on the second night of their Deer Creek stand in 1998.  This Halley’s served to open the show with a massively creative jam, sparking a phenomenal night in the cornfields.  Beginning with some light day-time grooving, Trey then assumes the drivers seat with a solo that steers the band into more percussive-based playing.  Crawling though a stunning ambient segment, illustrating a growing ’98 trend, this Halley’s got excessively deep while the sun was still out.  A hearty welcome to the show, the band progresses into more amorphous psychedelic realms before ending this show opening epic with a funny transition into “I Didn’t Know.”  Delving into soulful places early on, the band absolutely slaughtered this beautiful summertime version, highlighted by some sublime playing by Trey as the band confronts their maker.



8.16.97 Great Went Limestone, ME

The Great Went Entrance

The Great Went Entrance

In the summer that saw a global movement of raw unpasteurized cow funk, Phish’s travels culminated in Limestone for the first time.  Opening the third set of the first-ever Limestone show, this Halley’s defines the music of summer ’97.  Beginning a spiraling jam with a perfect tempo, Trey is ripping with his classic tone and phrasing of that summer, as the band sits in a quickly evolving backing groove.  As Trey steps back, joining the whole rather than leading it, magic happens.  One of the quintessential jams of the Great Went, this late-night odyssey moved from the central part of town directly to “Cities,” with a thick-as-tar transition into the Talking Heads cover.  Some of the most exciting music of the summer, this sequence is a personal favorite.



7.10.98 Zeleste, Barcelona

Zeleste Ticket

Zeleste Ticket 7.10.98

This diamond in the rough illustrates club-style Phish at its finest.  Growing a garden of grooves as soon as this jam sprouted, Phish engaged in some compelling dance music.  Mike gets straight silly all over this jam as Trey provides yo-yo grooves to keep your booty moving.  As he fades into his solo, the music takes on a new, more driving feel.  Slowly crafting an artistic narrative over the band groove, Trey gradually builds his line into the melody of  “First Tube” before anyone, except those at Higher Ground’s 8 Foot Fluorescent Tubes show, had heard it.  Painting an infectious masterpiece of patient band improv, this Halley’s jam is something to behold.



12.15.95 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA < LINK

The Spectrum, Philadelphia

The Spectrum, Philadelphia

Thirteen years ago today, Phish first stepped foot into the Spectrum.  Playing a scorching show at the mid-point of their epic month, the band set the tone for the many return visits to this classic building.  Before they stepped away in 2004, The Spectrum had become as Phishy a venue as any.  In their debut, the band got straight to it with a “Chalk Dust, Hood” opening combo.  The whole first set contained Phish classics while the second set was straight fire from beginning to end.  Starting with the Reprise completing Binghamton’s “Tweezer” from the night before, the band was off creating a set full of phenomenal jams.

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Harry Hood, Wilson > Maze > Ha Ha Ha, Suspicous Minds, Cars Trucks Buses, Bouncing Around the Room, Free,  Possum

II: Tweezer Reprise,  Runaway Jim, It’s Ice > Bathtub Gin* >  Also Sprach Zarathustra > David Bowie, Sweet Adeline

E: Good Times Bad Times

*With instrument switching (Fish – keyboards, Trey – drums, Mike – guitar, and Page – bass).

The Night That Birds Took Flight

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

As we stood outside The Grey Hall in Christiana, it was June 29th, and Phish was busy playing a marathon sound check for the fans who had congregated behind the back doors.  On the night before the first show of tour, plenty of fans had ventured out to Freetown Christiana for smokeables and found a whole lot more.  Able to clearly hear the band’s practice, “Roggae,” “Brian & Robert,” and “The Moma Dance,” all new songs, leaked out the intentionally opened barn doors.  With each previously unheard selection, excitement built for the forthcoming two weeks, while friendships blossomed.  Along with these new songs, Phish played the newly reworked “Limb By Limb” and the twice-played “Birds of a Feather,” among others.  Coming off of the Island Run, at the coolest venue ever, spirits were sky high for what the band had in store.

lightsThe band took periodic breaks from their extended warm-up session, occasionally slipping outside to chat with all of us that had found our way to the venue.  As Trey popped in and out, he was greeted with shit-eating grins and many questions from his loyal fans that made it to Scandinavia.  At some point during the conversation, the topic turned to the re-worked “Black-Eyed Katy” they had been rehearsing, complete with new vocals.  Trey explained that the band had listened to some of their shows after Fall’ 97, and began to create songs out of some of the jams they liked.  Clearly, “The Moma Dance” was a prime example of taking an instrumental and molding it onto a full-on song.  But what about others?  After Trey explained this process, I nervously interjected, “Was ‘Birds of a Feather’ a song that developed out jams from Albany?”  Without delving into specifics, Trey affirmed that “Birds” was indeed another song that had developed out of the band’s live improvisation at the end of ’97– and in that moment, it all became clear.

1997-12-12mo2Back on the penultimate day of Fall ’97, Phish set up shop at “The Knickerbocker” Arena for the last two shows of their epic tour.  One more two-night stand, and then this month of unmatchable memories would be over.  Per usual, the first night turned out to be the more exploratory, psychedelic, and “out-there” performance, while the last show was reserved for the “greatest hits” and crowd-pleasing, heavy-hitting dance grooves.  The 12.12 show in Albany, eleven years ago today, was a swan dive into the unknown- producing a show of heavy experimentation and a second set with few songs.  Tonight the band would delve into improvisation with no landing point in mind, attacking the universal mystery without the expectation of finding any answers.  Yet, through this exploration, not only was an aggressively adventurous set sculpted, but a new song was born as well.

206After opening set two with a scorching “I Saw It Again,” the band dropped into one of the year’s new songs that had yet to be fully explored, “Piper.”  A song that would come into its own over the next couple of years, thus far, it had been a perfect interlude of spinning melody, artistically placed in sets for its cathartic effect.  Tonight, however, things would be different. For the first time in its young life, “Piper” would be blown out of its conventional form, and its course set for the outer regions.  More akin to later versions of ’99 and ’00, the band used this “Piper” to get into some high-octane improv that had everyone trying to keep up.  Moving quickly and aggressively, the entire band left the song’s orbit and brought it into the stratosphere.  With Trey wailing masterfully, Gordon slamming lines down like his life depended on it, Fish keeping an insanely driving, yet changing beat, and Page added the missing pieces to the dissonant and harmonic puzzle, the band was 100% full-on raging.

photo - Jeffery

photo - Jeffery

About halfway through the twenty- minute ride, the band peeled away a lot of their distorted affects, and slowed the pace down ever so slightly, allowing more room for the music to breathe.  Soon, all members latched onto this more patient groove, utilizing the musical space to introduce new ideas.  Already immersed in an uptempo monsoon, Trey began to play some purposeful rhythm chords, altering the vibe of the jam, merging the outer-space psychedelia with a more percussive-rooted palate.  Throughout this part, Trey continued with said rhythm licks, and at the time, I, and many others, thought, “Llama?”  It certainly sounded like Trey was teasing the opening licks to the song amidst a texture that would fit perfectly.  Yet, each time one thought the band might actually make the move, the jam would all of a sudden launch back into maniacal madness, leaving any hint of “Llama” far behind.  The band was absolutely tearing the roof off “The Knick” with their audacious, break-neck playing.  Yet, within all of this insanity, the band was locked together, navigating as one, through the darkened galaxies of the night.  The communication present at the end of their month long stretch was untouchable, and the band soared through uncharted territory with ease, determination and focus.

As the wild “Piper” jam slowed down into “Swept Away > Steep > Prince Caspian,”  it seemed like the terrorizing part of the adventure had concluded.  However, the band was so infatuated with the music they had just finished playing, they wanted to go right back to the same place.  Following a colossal “Prince Caspian,” right as the jam usually ended with the post-solo metal chords, Phish decided that they weren’t finished- not even close.  Re-launching back into the jam that they had sat in during “Piper,” the band was off and sprinting again, right when everyone least expected it.  Following Trey’s lead, the band cannon-balled directly back into seething territory- and there were those “Llama” licks again!?

photo - Jason Pinsky

photo - Jason Pinsky

As you go back now and listen to these jams, you will hear them quite differently than you did back in 1997.  Amidst the “Piper,” and  the “Caspian” what you are hearing is the genesis of “Birds of a Feather.”  Those “Llama” teases turned out to be “Birds” licks, and the entire pace, beat, direction, and sound of this music represented the first incarnation of the “Birds of a Feather” jam– even though the song had yet to be written.  The monstrous improv that defined the second set of this dark show turned out to be the foundation for the band’s new song that would be found all over 1998; even on the radio as the band’s single from Story of the Ghost. The intro rhythm licks, the avalanche of drum beats, the searing psychedelia that would come to define the Birds jam- it was all there, strewn innocently about this massively improvisational set.

After the Island Run, when I first made the discovery of where I thought “Birds” came from, it was mere conjecture- but it sure sounded like the song!  I wondered if I was accurate in my thinking, and there was no better place to get confirmation of my theory then from Ernest himself.  On a surreal evening in Copenhagen, on the brink of two weeks that would change my life forever, my friend and I biked back through the canal-filled city to our hostel.  What a story we had to tell our other buddies, and we now knew when “Birds” was born-  12.12.97 in Albany, NY.

Happy 11th “Birdsday!”

DOWNLOAD 12.12.97 Albany, NY NOW! < LINK

I: Funky Bitch > Also Sprach Zarathustra > Camel Walk, Taste, Bouncing Around the Room, Tweezer > Train Song, Character Zero

II: I Saw It Again* > Piper*# > Swept Away > Steep, Prince Caspian* > Izabella, Tweezer Reprise

E: Guyute, Run Like An Antelope**

*With long jam not usually a part of the song  #With “Llama” teases; “Llama” teasing continued throughout the set **With “Buried Alive” teases



12.12.1995 Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI < LINK

Providence Civic Center

Providence Civic Center

Sticking with the theme of 12.12 anniversaries, here we have the under-the-radar Providence installment of December ’95.  Without a doubt, the largest highlight of the band’s second visit to the venue was the half-hour “Down With Disease” that anchored the six-song second set.  A true Phish odyssey, the band had begun to use Disease as a jam vehicle throughout the year, and this may be the crowning version (see also 6.26 SPAC). A first set Antelope and second set “Free” add some more improvisational spice to the late ’95 outing. Enjoy!

I: Ya Mar, Sample in a Jar, The Divided Sky, Lifeboy, Punch You in the Eye, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Run Like an Antelope, I’m Blue I’m Lonesome, The Squirming Coil

II: Free, Sparkle, Down With Disease > Lizards > Simple, Runaway Jim

E: Fire

From the Bottom, From the Top

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 25, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Along with the big guns that always ensured a large section of intense improv, Phish has so many great songs that were not always stretched out.  Being Phish and always prone to taking musical risks, from time to time they extended one of their songs, turning it into something out of the ordinary.  Sometimes staying within the songs’ chord progressions, and other times taking them out, these jams always took on a sense of excitement because you never knew they were coming.  “Theme From the Bottom” was one of these songs.

picture man

"Theme" Hampton '03 - photo: picture man

Debuted at the Lowell, MA show of 5.16.95 along with several other new songs, Theme soon became a crowd favorite.  Combining aquatic symbolism for life, poignant lyrics, and infectious melodic hooks, this song about friendship and the unknown became a staple of Phish setlists in years to come.  With a delicate composed section and an soaring emotional guitar solo “jam,” few were disappointed when Fishman’s shimmering cymbal hits initiated this one.

When the band decided to use Theme as a vehicle for improvisation, the resulting textures from this blissful song varied with the times.  Below are six versions of Theme that move beyond its standard structure to varying degrees.  When listening, you’ll notice how the sound of the each jam is definitive of Phish’s point of sonic evolution at that time.  Ranging from 1995 to 2003, these are some of the most interesting versions of “Theme” you’ll find.

6.22.95 Finger Lakes PAC  Canandaigua, NY II

Tim Mosenfelder

1995 - photo: Tim Mosenfelder

Only the seventh Theme ever played, this one opened the second set of this epic show known for its 40+ minute Tweezer that slid out of this Theme’s amorphous post-song jam.  The actual Theme jam features some ripping Page piano work coupled with some inspired soling by Trey, forming an extended and soupy version- akin to many ’95 “Free”s.  While the jam grows into some spirited full-band shredding, the most exploratory part of this Theme comes as Trey sustains the ending note of the song and the band builds an amorphous space-scape of sound around it.  This post-peak jam develops into some quintessential Summer ’95 abstract psychedelic madness.  Eventually gaining momentum, heading towards the opening lick of Tweezer, Fishman adds an aggressive beat and the band is off into an exciting second set that would read “Theme > Tweezer > Tweezer Reprise.”

LISTEN TO 6.22.95 FINGER LAKES THEME >JAM NOW! (Roll over link and press play!)

(The Tweezer lick slowly builds right as this track cuts off)


11.27.96 Key Arena Seattle I

1996 - photo:

In this version which emerges out of “Free,” the band delves into some darker exploration outside of the song’s melodic theme.  Notice the slower pace of the grooves as the band is amidst their transformation to the style of 1997.  This version features some wailing Trey work, as well as precise soling.  Almost sounding like a “Tweezer” at times, the band finally resolves to more melodic territory as they re-enter the song’s peak.  A concise, yet excellent version.



7.21.97 Virginia Beach, VA II

photo - photorazzi

photo - photorazzi

In the historic first show of the US Summer ’97 tour, Phish went big on Theme in the second set.  A twenty minute version, this Theme was an outright highlight of the show.  Right away you will notice the incredibly slowed down playing that characterized the year.  Giving the music more space to breathe, Trey is able to use shorter phrasing and let his notes carry over multiple beats.  Using this more sparse style of soloing, Trey, Page and Mike all compliment each other much more than playing “on top” of each other.

Leroi Moore

Leroi Moore

As the songs triumphant composed jam came to a peak, Trey began hitting some rhythm licks that initiated a transition into deep Summer ’97 funk.  As this Theme becomes a dance party, the band welcomed the late LeRoi Moore from The Dave Matthews Band to stage to join them on saxophone.  Easily joining in the thick groove Phish was churning out, Moore added a jazzy element to the jam as he took front and center with his solo.  After some time of locked in jamming, Moore picked up a second sax and began playing both at once.  Mimicking the silly vibe, Trey grabbed a second guitar and slung it around his neck, began rhythmically strumming both.  Soon Page was on all fours playing four keyboards, Trey added a third guitar, and Fish began to play with upwards of seven drumsticks before running around the stage with cymbals.  Mike joined in and played two basses for this part of the jam that somehow sounds more coherent than you would think.



7.26.99 Deer Creek II

indexPlaced into the second set of the tour closing show, this Theme provided a palate for poignant reflection on the past month.  A ripping version that illustrates the cohesive jamming typical of the end of a tour, the entire band crushes this version.  Using a dissonant tone and wailing walls of sound to extract emotion, Trey paints most of this jam with extremely ’99-esque playing.  Fishman provides a driving, cymbal-heavy beat with which Mike’s and Page thump away interesting patterns.  A great version that I often forget about, this was one of the highlights of a strange last set of Summer.



6.16.00 Zepp Osaka, Osaka, Japan II

stub-0616This version, also included in the last set of a tour, provided an expressive centerpiece in an emotive set.  Following the standout “Runaway Jim,” the band lost no steam as they entered into the Theme jam.  With a perfect pace to the improv, the band began toying within the chord progression of the jam.  Yet, as the melody settled, the band progressed into some strapping grooves and heavy drone patterns that provide a juxtaposition to the song’s standard course.  This is the version- this past Saturday night- that inspired this post.  This is some vintage ’00 Phish, before the band started to lose steam later in the year.



2.25.03 The Spectrum, Philadelphia, PA II

2.25.03 The Spectrum

2.25.03 The Spectrum

A definitive highlight of a relatively thin show, this Theme moved creatively through a precise composed jam the highlighted the band’s newly rejuvenated chops. Before the jam reaches its composed peak, the band entered a “breakdown” section out of which they flow a funky groove.  This groove is still loosely attached to the song, though that attachment would soon be snapped as Fishman switched to a sparser beat, encouraging Trey to get into some dirty ’03 soloing.  This section moved away from the song’s usual focus and transformed into a dancy, psychedelic segment of music.   Hitting the ending lyrical verse, this version would enter a post-song dissonant crescendo, eventually segueing into Runaway Jim.




7.9.98 Zeleste, Barcelona, SP < LINK



The highlight show from the three nights in Barcelona ’98, this one has outstanding improv throughout.  A top-notch opening trio of “Carini, Boogie On > NICU” got the show started quickly.  A ripping Split and a sublime Gordon-led “Tweezer” highlighted the first set, while the second set featured a unique “Drowned,” and yet another big second set “Theme From the Bottom.”  The improv only gets hotter throughout the set, culminating in a phenomenal “Hood > Izabella.”  (The Chalk Dust encore is missing from this recording)

I. Carini > Boogie On Reggae Woman > NICU, Split Open and Melt, Meat, Poor Heart, Tweezer, Hello My Baby

II. Drowned > Theme From the Bottom, When the Circus Comes to Town, Scent of a Mule > Blister In the Sun > Scent of a Mule, Harry Hood* > Izabella

E: Chalk Dust Torture

* unfinished

Here is a 192 kbps link w/ the Chalk Dust if you are interested.

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.





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.

Yet To Become

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

Songs and setlists are sure to shift in the upcoming chapter of Phish.  While they will almost certainly retain a number of classic songs, their frequency possibly decreasing, more room will need to be carved for new material.  Not only for the songs that already exist in Trey’s catalog, but also for songs yet to be written.  Somewhere within this return, you can be sure Phish will find their way back into the studio to create another, if not multiple, new albums.  In finding an equilibrium with their future setlists, you can be sure the band will dip into their post-hiatus material.  Despite a lot of negative fan feedback, I personally think the two post-hiatus albums are amazing.  I am not trying to prove any point here, but they really are the only two Phish albums I listen to- Round Room and Undermind.  Both albums flow beautifully from beginning to end, and have distinct vibes.  Yet, my point here is not to defend these albums, but to discuss all the material on these albums that Phish barely got to explore in their brief “second phase” of existence.

11.29.03 Philly

11.29.03 Philadelphia

Featuring so many creative songs, these albums will certainly provide improvisational vehicles for the future Phish.  We got a glimpse into the potential of some of these songs, and others- not so much.  Let me get a little more specific here.  Round Room brought us such launch pads as Seven Below, Waves, Pebbles and Marbles, Round Room, and Walls of the Cave.  All five of these songs have proven that they are legitimate Phish jams, with Seven Below and Waves having already gone to incredibly deep and psychedelic places.  In terms of Undermind, we have already bore witness to sacred explorations of Scents and Subtle Sounds and The Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, while they were still in their infancy.  Let’s familiarize ourselves with what will most likely be resuscitated from Phish’s sudden demise.


Seven Below

Jason Pinsky

12.1.03 Albany - photo: Jason Pinsky

Seven Below is already synonymous with “Phish jam.”  A proven monster, you knew this song had big things in store with its majestic New Years Eve debut, amidst new crystals of snow.  Having been played significantly during ’03 and ’04, almost all versions went off in one direction or another.  Sandwiched in Disease in Vegas ’03, and busting out of its shell at the Chicago show of the same winter, Seven Below earned its stripes unusually quickly.  With a ridiculously dark and psychedelic jam deep into the second night of the Gorge, the song officially became a huge vehicle.  Featured in the IT’s Rock and Roll > Seven Below > Scents, and blowing up into a dark groovefest at Alpine June of ’04, the song was as big as any during the post-hiatus era.  Expect a lot more from this one!


Another song that has already reached great heights and depths, Waves will almost surely return as a massive jam in the future.  Some of post-hiatus’ most interesting jams grew from the nautical epic- see 8.2.03’s 40-minute dark triumph, SPAC ’04 first set’s intricate and ambient exploration that eventually segues into the intro of Bowie, or Lakewood 03’s Waves > Tweezer.  A great set opener as well, Waves is a versatile masterpiece that can remain in composed shallow water or plunge into the abyss at any moment.

Round Room

8.12.04 - Camden

8.12.04 - Camden

A personal favorite, this song has provided two beautiful and ambient journeys with its Vegas ’03 and Nassau ’03 winter appearances.  Only performed four times ever, this is one that Phish held back on.  A syncopated rhythmic melody that inadvertently evokes musical references to Blondie’s reggae cover, “The Tide Is High,” this song has a quirky calypso and very Phishy feel.  With great potential for patient, layered jams that could define a large part of the new Phish, Round Room is a song to look out for in the future.

Walls of the Cave

While performed quite a bit within the year and a half it was alive, the song never really reached its potential. Generally remaining within sped up rock territory, it only appeared as a true improvisational vehicle at the LA Forum on Valentine’s Day, as the massive second set centerpiece of Walls > Carini.  Almost two distinct songs within one, the compositional part carries the feel of an eerie fable, symbolically referencing the Twin Towers tragedy, while the disjointed jam takes off as a straight rock and roll romp through the silent trees.  Placed in significant slots, closing several sets, Walls served its purpose.  Hopefully, if it remains as part of Phish’s setlists, it will begin to do much more.

Pebbles and Marbles

12.29.03 Miami

12.29.03 Miami

A beautiful and poetic Trey composition, Pebbles and Marbles is a Phish song whose jam never did much in its six appearances.  With its most extended improvisation coming as part of the much maligned Vegas ’04 run, this is another song whose potential has yet to unfold.  As it has appeared, its Phish-rock jam resembles the textures of standard Down With Disease improv.  Another song that could evolve into great jams during Phish’s next stage, we will wait and see what the future holds for this potential beast.


Scents and Subtle Sounds

12.28.03 Miami

12.28.03 Miami

The most majestic of the post-hiatus compositions, Scents has already illustrated a propensity for both bliss and psychedelia.  With mystical opening verses about living in the moment, appreciating the subtleties of life, and finding a metaphysical way to experience the magic of the moment forever, the song gives way to a gorgeous uplifting jam that resembles a modern-day Harry Hood.  Taking no time at all to establish itself as a jam vehicle, this quickly became a fan favorite in the summer of ’03.  With quintessential explorations happening in Camden, NJ during both summers of ’03 and ’04, the band has proven that the song can be used to build ambient sky-reaching soundscapes, as well as provide gorgeous climbing journies.  I can only hope they decide to put the song back together, and perform the initial verses, instead of starting the song halfway through.  Losing its continuity after its truncation, Scents was never short on producing intense improvisation.  Expect a lot more from Scents, as it seems like the perfect song for Phish to keep under the magnifying glass.

The Song I Heard the Ocean Sing


SPAC Oceans 6.19.94 - photo: Pat

Phish’s performance of this song at SPAC on 6.19.04, immediately vaulted itself into the “best Phish jams ever.”  With a dark composed section leading into virgin territory, what came out were sinister grooves, newly discovered psychedelic realms, and a melodic guitar led resolution for the ages.  This is one of those jams that practically sounds composed, with some Trey licks for history.  I will put this jam up against any other- it’s that good.  All of this in the second time it was ever played- the first being an “album length” version at Coney Island.  I’ve gotta’ believe that this will be one of the newest and brightest launch pads for Phish in the forthcoming era, and I am incredibly excited to see the future songs that will spring from the Ocean.


Having been brought out only two times, its second Deer Creek ’04 performance led into a mellow ambient segment eventually turning into Slave.  A whimsical song about the transient nature of life, its catchy melodies and lyrics fit its subject well.  This delicate jam could definitely grow into a more patient, mature piece of Phish improv.  We will see what happens, but if Phish continues to play this one expect some very unique textures to result.


Matt Collins

12.29.03 Miami - photo: Matt Collins

Untouched by Phish, I called this as the second set opener for most of those June ’04 shows.  Unfortunately, I was never right.  Having been played a couple times pre-Undermind (the album) by Trey’s solo band, it seemed like a likely addition to Phish shows.  With symbolic, yet fun lyrics, and an infectious groove, Phish could build some creative jams out of the title track from their last album.  I still feel Phish will open one of the Hampton sets with this song- it just seems so appropriate, but I’m no longer putting any money on it. You can be sure when Phish does finally play this, I will be one of the happiest cats in the building.

Maybe the band will play all of these, and maybe they will play none at all.  Its hard to say what will make up their yet-to-form newest musical portfolio. Odds are that at least some of these post-hiatus launch pads will find their way into regular rotation.  And let me just say, it is just so great to be talking about what might be in Phish’s upcoming rotation!  Anyhow, look out for these 2.0 jams to make a significant splash in v.3.

(I would have made a compilation- there are so many great post-hiatus moments-but I can’t post official sbds.  Oh well.)



10.29.94 Memorial Auditorium, Spartanburg, SC SBD < LINK

Memorial Aud. Spartanburg, SC

Memorial Aud. Spartanburg, SC

The show directly before the all-night Glens Falls Halloween affair, this one is a segue-laced, well-played show that features bust outs of Buffalo Bill after 220 shows and two years, and The Who cover, “Sparks.”  With a Sleeping Monkey sandwiched in a second set Antelope, and a significant mid-set YEM, this show is full of high paced Phish fun.  This pristine soundboard recording provides a crystal clear replica of the evening before Phish’s initial musical costume.

I: My Friend My Friend, Sparkle, Simple, Runaway Jim, Foam, Lawn Boy, Split Open and Melt > Buffalo Bill > Makisupa Policeman > Rift

II: Down With Disease > TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY > Sparks> Uncle Pen, You Enjoy Myself, HYHU> Bike > Run Like an Antelope > Sleeping Monkey > Run Like an Antelope

E: Harry Hood

Five Flavors of Gumbo

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

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

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

1. 7.29.97 Desert Sky Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ

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


2. 8.13.97 Star Lake Amphitheatre, Burgettstown, PA

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


3. 7.17.98 The Gorge, George Washington

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


4. 8.3.98: Deer Creek, Noblesville, IN

Deer Creek - photo Sean A

Deer Creek - photo Sean A

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


5. 8.15.98 The Lemonwheel, Limestone, ME

photo- Dan Gareau

photo- Dan Gareau

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



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


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

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

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

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

E: Possum#

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

The Phishiest Set Closers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


1. Run Like An Antelope 12.29.1997 MSG

2. David Bowie 7.6.94 Montreal

3. YEM 12.2.1999 Auburn Hills, MI

4. Possum 8.12.96 Deer Creek

5. Harry Hood 8.17.1997 Great Went

6. Slave to the Traffic Light 8.17.1996 Clifford Ball

7. Weekapaug Groove 7.2.97 Paradisio, Amsterdam

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

10. Character Zero 12.2.97 Philadelphia, PA

11. Tweezer Reprise 8.17.96 Clifford Ball


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

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

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

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

E: Sample in a Jar

The Best Set Openers

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 8, 2008 by Mr.Miner
photo Libby McLinn

8.11.04, Great Woods: photo Libby McLinn

The way a set opened always paved the tone for the next ninety minutes. Whether a first or a second set, an opener was used to get the proverbial party started.  An exciting opener gets the crowd, and the show, going much more quickly than a Get Back On the Train or a Water in the Sky.  Some openers are messages from the band to strap on your seat belt, because the ensuing ride might be a bit bumpy and quite maddening.  Others are clearly used for warm up, or to get the stage sound set.  Bottom line – sick openers, while never crucial to a crazy set, often pointed the initial course for your intergalactic nightly ride in a direction that delivered a message.  In thinking about openers in general, I compiled Miner’s Best Set Openers.  I stuck to songs that were often used as openers- and therefore didn’t list the biggest ten Phish songs as the top ten openers- that would be too easy.  I didn’t consider first or second set, because any way you cut it, these openers meant business for that set of music.  The list is in absolutely no particular order whatsoever.

1.The Curtain: The ultimate Phish opus, dating back to the mid-eighties, this song opened big sets throughout Phish’s career.  The Curtain was not only made to be a great set opener, but it was also a “launch” song, after which you knew something huge was coming-( e.g. Curtain > Tweezer, Curtain > Mikes.)  An adreniline filled song that travels into dark places before coming to a climactic an abrupt peak, this set up a perfect drop into a big song.  Especially in the mid to late 90’s, a Curtain opener generally foreshadowed a big improvisational set.

2. 2001: Originally conceived as a short three minute set-opener to get the rev up the crowd in 1993 and 1994, 2001 was also used as a launch pad much like Curtain.  Yet 2001 was used much more liberally, and transitioned into big jam songs as well as non-jam songs in the earlier days.  As things got later in time, 2001 became a song that could appear anywhere in a set and stretch out to twenty minutes, but when used as an opener, a la Gorge ’98, or Charlotte ’99, it is a fool proof killer.  Every one gets up for this one as Kuroda enters his visual play land to the delight of all.  Pure audio-visual Phish crack- I don’t think there was one person who wasn’t psyched for it every single time. (Though ’93 heads may have got sick of it a bit when it opened something like 15+ consecutive second sets!)

3. Oh Kee Pah Ceremony: While the Oh Kee Pah Ceremony references a Native American rite of passage into manhood, for Phish, it was a college ritual in which the band would ingest massive amounts of mushrooms, lock themselves in a room, and jam endlessly- honing their musical communication.  Famed for their hilarity and their intense off-kilter wackiness, Oh Kee Pah Ceremonies became a part of Phish in the early days.  The short quirky instrumental has been used to open many sets through out the band’s career, always setting up a drop into something bigger, and more rambunctious.  Two-thirds of the time, the band followed Oh Kee Pah with Suzy Greenberg, but they were also known to drop Oh Kee Pah > Bags, Oh Kee Pah > YEMs, and a few Oh Kee Pah > Golgis.  This opener is one that signified the band was in a playful mood, and to get ready for a hot show.

4. Buried Alive: More of an old school opener, this one became a rarity in the later days.  A frenetic instrumental, featuring wails by Trey and some fast, almost nervous- percussion; a musical interpretation of this deathly fate, Buried Alive gave you a desperate tone.  You needed to get that breath of air, or it was done.  A smothering opener, it kicked off many an old school gem, while always holding a place in the hearts of all fans.  The much needed gasp of air came in the song that followed Buried Alive, as this was also a composition used to launch into something more upbeat.  In the early ’90s, this more upbeat song was most often Poor Heart, but as it became less frequently played, it began leading into different songs.

5. Punch You In the Eye: Punch, while being more of a rarity as an opener, was one that stoked the crowds’ fire immediately.  From the pre-start rhythmic scratches of Trey’s guitar to the opening grooves, there is nary a better way to start a show within the non-jam song category.  The fierce rhythms and lyrics generally meant that the band was ready to fire right from the start.  Well-loved by all, Punch was an sinister opener that was an omen of dark things to come.

6. Wilson: Always a treat when coming at the beginning of a set, Wilson set a bombastic tone for the set to come.  Rife with audience participation, and the supported by the myth of Gamehendge, Wilson got the band’s and crowd’s energies moving in the same direction- against the evil King Wilson.  Often giving way to some more heavy “metal” jamming, Wilson was an opener that got the heart pumping right away, and brought expectations of things to follow.  Potentially more powerful as a second set opener than a first, Wilson nonetheless graced the beginning of more than a few setlists during the band’s career.

7. My Friend, My Friend: The rarely used My Friend, My Friend opener is one of the dirtiest, most sinister way for Phish to start a show.  With the almost orchestral beginning segueing into the eerie opening piano chords and verses, if this song opened a show, you knew it meant special things.  A virtual bust-out in the later years, My Friend was always a welcome addition to the setlist, where ever it appeared- but more often than not, it was at the beginning of the first set, signaling the dark debauchery that was about to take ensue.  Foreshadowing a unique set, this song’s popularity never waned.

8. Mike’s: Now we are getting into some powerhouse openers.  I feel ok using Mike’s in this list because it opened 43 sets in its life, again, mostly before the latest era of Phish.  There is not a song that can get a Phish crowd amped like the opening guitar licks to Mike’s Song.  Like an adrenaline shot directly to the heart, this melody causes feelings to stir inside you, preparing you for the dark drop into an evil smoke-filled land that was a mere three minutes away.  If the band decided to open with Mike’s in the latter years, it was a sign of delving deep right off the bat, and a clear suggestion to hold onto your hats.  Especially if it was a second set opener, you could assure yourself of twenty minutes of dark space-groove exploration coupled with some soaring dirty guitar leads and big organ washes, taboot.  It doesn’t get much better than this at the beginning of a set.

9. Down With Disease: Disease became another larger improvisational song that became a staple set opener by the time Phish called it quits.  Starting in 1994, with the onset of the song, it was always used to explore deep percussive realms.  Disease went through a thematic phase in 1996 when the jams stayed within the context of the chord progression, but starting in 1997, this song transformed into one of the band’s biggest, and most divergent, jam vehicles.  The catchy and melodic hooks at the beginning of the song, reeled people in right away, and then the band carried everyone out to sea in improvisational vessels that often took twenty plus minute round trips.   Played abundantly in later years, the band created very different types of jams out of this song, and coming at the beginning of the set- it could very much set the high energy tone for the rest of the evening.


1,2. Oh Kee Pah > AC / DC Bag 11.24.95 Pittsburgh, PA

3. Wilson 8.9.97 Alpine Valley, WI

4. Mike’s Song 11.22.97 Hampton, VA

5,6. Punch > Free 7.9.99 Merriweather

7,8. Down With Disease > Piper 8.16.98 Lemonwheel

9,10. Buried Alive > Reba 12.7.91 Portsmouth, NH

11. 2001 11.19.97 Champaign, IL

12,13. The Curtain > Tweezer 11.12.95 Gainesville, FL




The Best Cover Band Ever

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 5, 2008 by Mr.Miner

The best cover band in history.  That is one trophy Phish could take home and put on their mantle- no contest.  For a band that wrote so many excellent originals, Phish never lost sight of their ability to nail and integrate the perfect covers into their sets.  Beginning as a cover band, way back when, Phish continued to play the music of other bands throughout their career.  Whether they adopted songs into their own repertoire, or dropped one-time covers that were inevitably your favorite songs from years past, Phish could nail them.  Any way you cut it, Phish could learn a song, or even a whole album in a short while, jump onstage, and shred it apart.  The hallowed Utah “Dark Side of the Moon” performance was conjured up in a few hours before the show.  We have all seen the off-the-cuff “Roses are Free” rehearsal in Bittersweet Motel, backstage in Rochester before they went on.  With the ears and abilities Phish possessed, cover songs were always fun tangents, or centerpieces, to their epic shows.

First, there are all the cover songs that we all just consider Phish songs- “2001,” “Funky Bitch,” “Yamar,” “Ginseng Sullivan,” “Loving Cup,” “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own” (not a Gordon song), “Timber Ho!,” Hold Your Head Up,” “Frankenstein”- songs that worked their way so far into the fabric of Phish that were inseparable from the band itself.  You certainly didn’t think to yourself when they dropped into a Funky Bitch- “another cover song.”   Part of Phish’s greatness was recognizing and weaving nuggets of other bands’ work into their own staples.

Next, you had songs that Phish ripped apart, made their own and incorporated, but you could never separate them from their original artists.  These were songs like “Cities,” “Roses Are Free,” “Izabella,” “Rock N Roll,” “Peaches En Regalia,” “Purple Rain,” “Sneakin’ Sally,” “Crosseyed and Painless.”  They were Phish songs, no doubt, but you knew where they came from. Always.

Then you had the one-time (or few-time) covers, highlighted in the summer of 1998; the band seemed to break out another hit you had once put on a mix-tape, every single show.  Smashing Pumpkin’s “Rhinoceros,” Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On,” Van Halen’s “Running With the Devil,”
Jane’s Addiction’s, “Been Caught Stealin’,” The Dead’s “Terrapin Station,” The English Beat’s’ “Mirror in the Bathroom”- you knew these songs from sometime in your past, and so did the band.  Playing them was like a collective trip through our individual memories, going back and placing each song in the context of our own lives.

Finally, you had Halloween.  Armed with confidence and bravado for four years, Phish took on the challenge of covering an entire album- start to finish.  They played entire sets of non-Phish music, and at least two of them are thought of as “best ever” Phish performances.  The Talking Heads’ “Remain In Light” ‘s polyrhythms and percussion patterns forced the band to look at music from a different perspective in 1996- a perspective that revolutionized the way they would play all of their own music.  Absolutely crushing that set, fans looked to the next time the band would don a musical costume.

Waiting two years, the band next played Halloween was in Vegas ’98- a set in which they played Velvet Underground’s “Loaded.”  This was one of the more emotionally poignant sets of the band’s career.  Nailing the ’70s emotional pop-rock and ballads of Lou Reed, while making the songs their own and jamming on their musical themes- when the band walked off stage, everyone in attendance knew they had witnessed something very special.  It didn’t matter if you knew the album or not.  It was that good.

Amidst their 1995 marathon tour, they stopped at the Rosemont Horizon to cover The Who’s “Quadrophenia.”  Definitely the dark horse out of the Halloween sets, this night provided a spot on,

jim pollack

jim pollack

emotionally-driven, Who impersonation as they ran through the saga of Jimmy, the boy with four personalities.  Many expected them to come out and play a disco set of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” on this night, and the band played along, coming onstage to “Wanna Be Starting Something” over the PA.  Many fans were greeted by a British punk-rock opera that that they weren’t familiar with; others were thrilled.  They did a particularly good job in nailing this show, though it seems to have sat into the background of 1996 and 1998.

The original Halloween bash took place in 1994, when the band played into the wee hours of the morning after covering the Beatles double-LP, “The White Album.”  A more straight-up interpretation of the songs, the magic came in seeing the new Fab Four play the classics of the original Fab Four.  Each of them incredibly accurate to form, comprising the longest Halloween set in history.

Yet, regardless of what “type” of cover Phish played, they always seemed to nail it.  They sounded authentic; they sounded real.  The adrenaline kicked in when they would take one of these familiar songs and turn it into a Phish odyssey.  Examples of this phenomenon were the Nassau and Cypress “Roses,” the Cypress “Rock and Roll,” the Went’s “2001,” Merriweather’s ’98 “Sneakin’ Sally,” Star Lake’s ’03 “Crosseyed and Painless,” Albany’s ’97 “Yamar,” or Orlando’s ’95 “Manteca.”   These instances represented when the Phish universe merged with the more mainstream musical landscape, producing some epic portions of improvisation.

So next time the debate of cover bands come up- if that ever happens- be sure to interject, and let it be known that you are a die hard fan of the best cover band of all time.  Then you can explain they even had some pretty good music of their own.

To commemorate all the cover songs of Phish’s past, I’ve put together a compilation of covers (and jam sequences involving covers) that you are sure to enjoy. Below is the link and tracks for Miner’s Picks: Cover Songs. Download of the Day: Alpine 7.24.99 is below the video.


1. Yamar 12.13.97 Albany, NY

2,3. Timber Ho! > Simple 11.16.97 Denver, CO

4. Funky Bitch 11.30.97 Worcester, MA

5,6,7. Character Zero > 2001 > Cities 11.26.97 Hartford, CT

8. Rhinoceros 8.3.98 Deer Creek, IN

9. Rock And Roll 12.31.99 Big Cypress

10, 11. Twist > Izabella 7.31.98 Columbus, OH

12. Been Caught Stealin’ 8.1.98 Alpine Valley

13. Sneakin’ Sally 8.8.98 Merriweather

14. Running With The Devil 8.6.98 Atlanta, GA

15,16. Ramble On > Slave 8.12.1998 Vernon Downs,  NY

17. Roses Are Free 12.31.99 > 1.1.00 Big Cypress

18. Sabotage 8.8.98 Merriweather




With all the talk of Alpine Valley in a recent post, this show was requested for uploaded by several people.  A truly great night at the end of Summer ’99, this show was all that and a bag of chips.  Starting off with a second song Fluffhead that stretched out to over 30 minutes of serious whole band improv, this show was on fire to begin with.  The second set brought another huge Alpine Tweezer, this time highlighting methodical funk that segued into a digitally looped Catapult, and finally settled into Mango > Happy Whip and Dung Song.  The only appearance ever of this Siket track certainly added a special aspect to this show. After they busted out Glide, Camel Walk, and Alumni Blues for an encore- everyone went home happy.  This show is a top notch showcase of the band’s playing at the end of a great summer tour.