Archive for Songs

Not So Simple

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Aaron de Groot

(A. de Groot)

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

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

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



7.24.93 Great Woods, Mansfield, MA < LINK

Great Woods, MA

Great Woods, MA

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

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

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

E: Golgi Apparatus, Freebird

A Desert Antelope

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 9, 2009 by Mr.Miner

I was blindsided at the gym this weekend.  No, not by some musclehead in a roid rage, but by an aggressively improvisational “Antelope” that might as well have been on the cream and the clear.  I had been continuously working my way through a Phish playlist from a friend, and as I was finishing the cardio portion of my workout, the old school version of “Oblivious Fool” came on.  Not particularly suitable for working out, and an odd addition to the playlist altogether, I skipped directly to the next song-  Antelope.

gw2I didn’t bother to look at the date or anything, I just kept going.  Since I consider myself pretty well-versed in Phish, especially Phish highlights, I thought I’d figure out what I was listening to.  Yet, as the jam progressed, it was raging, and though I could tell it was from ’97 or ’98, it didn’t ring a bell.

During the late ’90s, Antelope’s jams generally remained within their predestined structure.  While there was never any lack of improvisational madness, Anetlope jams rarely went “way out” there, or really anywhere except where you thought they would go.  In no way is this a knock on the song; the same holds true for “Harry Hood” or “Slave.”  That’s just the way some Phish jams are.  There was no shortage of huge Antelope’s in the late ’90s, but the song didn’t necessarily possess the adventure it did in ’94 and ’95.  It’s just the way things were.  But this version blaring in my ears was different.

533239286_d84e190ab7As this mystery Antelope raged on, Trey annihilated the early jam with soaring evil licks, before moving into more intricate patterns of notes.  All the while, the band was knee deep in a heavy, sinister groove.  This music began moving in an alternate direction as Fish and Mike switched up the rhythm; less straight ahead than most Antelopes, and as I was doing sit-ups, my ears perked up and took notice of the diverging musical course.

Pretty quickly the improv got really dark and the entire band began jamming out of the song’s structure.  Entering a quiet and murky musical pond, Mike’s bass lines lead the way.  The music continued progressing “way out” of “Antelope” and into some insane Phish improv.  “What!?” I thought.  Quickly flipping over my iPod to see what I was listening to and why I wasn’t fully cognizant of this epic jam I was immediately foiled- no date, Damn!  I decided to ride it out.

Moving deeper in, the music got into some slower melodic places that do not really come out of Antelopes.  Straight up mystical, transcendent Phish- this was crazy!  It was like hearing a brand new Phish jam for the first time; and that hadn’t happened in eons.  The band built the jam into a faster affair with all members just shredding at insane speeds, gradually merging paths with the original course of the song.  As the band built towards the Antelope peak, the playing was particularly frenetic, yet beautifully coherent- one of those things that Phish does masterfully.  To an untrained ear, it sounds like cacophony, but when you hear what they are actually doing at the peak of an Antelope, it’s just absurd.

gw1The jam finally dropped into the post-peak funk at the seventeen minute mark to the monstrous roar of the crowd.  The band continued to heavily improvise throughout the “composed” ending, as they tended to to when they were feeling the flow.  This normally routine section became quite interesting with heavy effects from Page, Mike and Trey, and then they popped into the final chorus with more spunk than usual.  This was my new favorite Antelope, but what was it?  As I looked back at the playlist menu, it was listed under 7.29.97.  A ha! Desert Sky. I had a huge “Oh yeah!” moment, as I remembered the magnitude of this Antelope that batted second in set two.

I wasn’t at that Phoenix show, and for some reason, I hadn’t heard the jam since the late ’90s.  A pretty high key show to have just forgotten about, but aside for the first set “Gumbo,” I had.  That’s what’s so great about Phish- just when you think you’ve heard it all, you’ll hear a new jam that absolutely floors you.  There are just so many out there, and soon, there will be so many more.

LISTEN TO 7.29.97’s Antelope now! < LINK (Roll over link and press play)



7.29.97 Desert Sky Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ < LINK

1997-07-29mo1Here is the show you just read about, and I forgot about.  It’s a certain keeper from the Summer of ’97.  With one of the great “Gumbos,” a classic-sounding “Ghost,” an early, yet all-time great version of “Twist,” and of course the epic “Antelope,” this show was as hot as the weather it was played in.

I: Theme From the Bottom, Beauty of My Dreams, Gumbo, Dirt, Sparkle, Ghost, Swept Away > Steep > Loving Cup

II: Oblivious Fool, Run Like an Antelope, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Twist, Taste, Sample in a Jar, Rocky Top, The Squirming Coil

E: Possum



400799230152In honor of today’s topic, I wanted to highlight a community member’s effort to help save the North American Pronghorn Antelope.  The website, Antelope Gatefree Paradise, details the issues putting Antelope in danger and what you can do to help.  In addition, you can purchase the classic lot shirts and stickers with the famous “Antelope Crossing” logo under “Merchandise.”  All proceeds go to volunteer organizations actively working to save the Pronghorn Antelope.  You can help out and score one of the all-time classic Phish lot t-shirts all at the same time!

So Stupendous…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on January 28, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Does anyone in the scene not love “Tube?” If such a person exists, I have yet to meet them.  A former four-minute rarity between the years of ’93-’96, “Tube” was busted out in more ways than one at Dayton’s Nutter Center in December of ’97.  A song that always contained small portions of incredibly dancy and hard-hitting grooves, one could never get enough of the elusive favorite.  But that night in Dayton changed everything.

508836745_2e13da97e8It was on that night that Phish discovered how perfectly congruent the song was to their new jamming style, and as the band tore through the patient rhythms that typified their style of Fall ’97, it was like they were rediscovering the song and finding its new potential for improv.  In fact, they liked what they heard so much, they decided to hop right back into the jam when the song ended, improvising off the funked-out theme by slowly blending melodies into the mix, reaching a transition to a majestic set-ending “Slave.” The band clearly enjoyed their new vehicle, revisiting the song twice more that month; once being the pimp-daddy version on 12.29.97 at MSG.  But over the next three years “Tube” would become a regular occurrence at Phish shows for the first time since the early ’90s.  And this time around, it was a whole new ballgame.

Everyone knows about the popular “Tubes”– Dayton ’97, MSG ’97, Nassau ’98, Gorge ’98, Hershey ’00, Miami ’03, Deer Creek ’04– but what about some more obscure versions of this dance anthem?  Making the transformation into a musical launchpad during late-’97, Phish would go on to play 31 tubes by the end of ’03, most of the extended variety.  Here are five of these lesser known, yet still stupendous, versions to check out. (Roll over links and press play to listen!)

7.29.98 II Riverport Amphitheatre Maryland Heights, MO

dscf0002Coming deep in the second set of this unique and outstanding show, this “Tube” has lived in the shadows of the monster “Gin” and “Buried Alive” in the same show.  If the “new” “Tube” was born during Fall ’97, the jam came of age in the Summer of ’98, moving in more directions than ever before.  This version features outstanding lead playing by Trey, coupled with passages of quintessential ’98 wah-grooves.  Mike let loose interesting bass patterns throughout the entire jam, providing a dynamism to the music that you don’t hear out of every “Tube.”  Locked in and oozing uptempo summer dance grooves, Phish provided a chunky late set highlight that absolutely raged.



11.2.98 I E Centre, West Valley, UT

This colossal “Tube” opened the usually overlooked first set to “The Dark Side Show.”  Many forget anything else even happened that night in Utah, but in fact the entire show was filled with blistering Phish, including this raucous fifteen-minute 510920898_5f88668239“Tube.”  Trey set up a palette of loops and effects at the beginning of the jam while Fish led a sparse groove with an urgent beat and shimmering cymbal work.  This opener is faster than many “Tubes” of ’98, unleashing a fury of dance rhythms at us.  Amidst this high-speed chase, the band allowed for bits of melodic release, a la Gorge ’98, while they continued to chug along. Trey moved in and out of lead melodies and funk rhythms fluently as this jam grew quickly.

Upon the conclusion of the song, the band was so amped about how the show had started, they leapt right back into the “Tube” jam a la Dayton ’97.  Splashing back into the fast-paced jam, Trey and Page immediately took it into darker, spacier territory as Fish responded by switching up the beat underneath.  The band entered a period of improv that digressed from the typical Phish-funk of “Tube.”  Trey played some leads that took the jam further down this divergent path, soon hinting at the chord progression of “Drowned,” foreshadowing their upcoming transition.  The music became increasingly nasty and sublime simultaneously before Trey peaked the jam with some “First Tube”-esque searing walls of sound.  Without missing a beat, the entire band smashed directly into into the beginning of “Drowned.”



9.28.99 I Oak Mountain Amphitheatre, Pelham, AL

508787037_b7ab1319a8After a long rainy day in a lot that, at best, boasted outdoor Kentucky Blueberry, fans were greeted by the thick triumvirate of “Wolfman’s,” “Sneakin’ Sally,” “Tube” to open the show.  Bursting with dance-candy, Phish treated the crowd to slowed-down experiment in “Tube.”  Utilizing the open-air structure of the amphitheatre, the band laid way back, playing less notes and allowing them to bellow over the crowd with emphasis.  This was the type of music you felt like you were in.  The initial part of the jam saw Trey and Page focus more on sculpting a soundscape than playing melody.  Instead, Mike takes over the melodic lead, providing an improvised series of bouncing Gordeaux bass lines.  Trey adds in some very ’99 style effects, allowing some seething sounds to emerge from his guitar.  Towards the end of the jam, Big Red finally adds some hard rhythm playing for all the Trey-crack addicts in the crowd.



12.13.99 I Providence Civic Center, RI

atl51This “Tube” fittingly opened a show that was squarely focused on groove the entire evening.  Phish cannonballed into this show with high-energy dance grooves that popped off the stage.  Trey sat back, set up his loops and effects and subtly accented the band’s pattens while Mike and Page stepped forward.  Following a drum fill, Trey comes flying into the jam off of a tornado slide with his “Joker” tone, as if he is actually laughing through his guitar.  Taking center stage, he absolutely shred apart the entire rest of the jam as the venue raged along.  The whole band decided to come out firing with enthusiasm on this night, creating a veritable fest of groove.



9.22.2000 II Allstate Arena, Rosemont, IL

9.22.00 Rosemont

9.22.00 Rosemont

Page, Mike and Fish carried the early portion of this succinct second set opening version. Trey played in the background of this deep groove moreso than most, yet would emerge more prominently as the version progressed.  This rendition, typical of many ’99 and ’00 “Tubes,” saw Trey set his own series of loops and effects while his mates created a rhythmic canvas for him to come in and paint on.  The band got hooked up in earnest during the second half of this jam, killing it, and setting up a big set. Trey hopped onto his keyboard for the final part of this jam, echoing patterns we heard played via his guitar.


What are your favorite “Tubes?”  Respond in Comments below!



12.4.96 Sports Arena, San Diego, CA < LINK

phish-clifford-ball-jp-fishThis penultimate show of Fall’96 was carried by a massive “Mike’s Sandwich” that is rivaled by few others.  The entire second set, aside from the quick “Ha, Ha, Ha” opener was stuffed into the over-sized “Groove.”  Coupled with a long first set that contained several favorites, this show can hold its own against any from the two-month Fall ’96 run.

I: My Friend My Friend, Chalk Dust Torture, Horn, Uncle Pen, Timber Ho!, Sample in a Jar, Train Song, Guyute, Character Zero, Lizards, David Bowie

II: Ha Ha Ha, Mike’s Song  > Prince Caspian > Sparkle > Punch You in the Eye, Life on Mars, Reba, Lawn Boy*, Weekapaug Groove

E: Jesus Just Left Chicago

*Trey thanks the caterering crew and gets two of them on stage to dance.

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.