Camden 7.30.03– A “Post-Hiatus” Masterpiece

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 29th, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Post-Hiatus; 2003-2004 Phish means so many things to so many different people.  Some savor it; some don’t even really listen to it.  Some trash it for petty reasons.  Some were unable to drop their personal or Phish baggage and allow moments to exist and unfold in front of them.  Yet, anyone who turns a cold shoulder to this segment of Phish history may be blindsided by certain shows and jams that would beg to differ.  The SPAC stand in ’04 might object to such an argument.  The Nassau ’03 show might want to throw its two cents into the conversation, while the near 50 minutes of Hood>Bowie from Charlotte might want to speak up.  The IT certainly would rise to make a case.

To name a few more argument makers; the entire June ’04 run from Brooklyn to Alpine, Walls>Carini from the LA Forum sending its Valentine’s love, Deer Creek’s Split>Free, or the Chicago show followed by the Cincy two-night run in the winter of ’03 might raise their hands to be called upon.  I could go on and on.  It’s funny, because there is often so much trash talked about these two years while they are strewn with high quality shows and great jams.  People would make the following point– Trey flubbed too many composed licks of Stash, or messed up the fugue in Reba; he wasn’t as accurate on the technical aspects of written pieces.  First off, who goes to shows with the primary goal of hearing the composed sections of songs played immaculately?  There are albums and 1993 tapes for that.  The essence of Phish- and what has always been the essence of Phish- is their improvisation.  And to be honest, the “post-hiatus” period was heavy in improvisation and exploratory jamming, typified by the dark-horse show in Camden on 7.30.03- five years ago today.

When Phish played two-night stands, the first night was usually reserved for darker, more experimental jamming, while night two was more often than not, a “greatest-hits” type of show, reserved for more of the crowd favorites and classic jam vehicles.  This first night in Camden of ’03 follows this pattern and remains one of the strongest shows from ’03-’04.  In looking at this show, we can uncover the facts that Phish, while their sound was ever evolving, and Trey’s tone dirtier and more distorted, were still producing heavy improvisational journeys for all who opened their hearts and minds to them.

On the heels of one of the more popular ’03 shows on 7/29- (the Starlake Crosseyed>Thunderhead & bustout fest), Phish did not let up on the 30th of July as they prepared for IT.  Overshadowed by the next night’s more bombastic songs of Piper, Mikes>H2>Weekapaug, Free, and Hood, many don’t recognize the depth and darkness of what happened the night before.  In fact, when I mention this show to people, many are not even aware of it.  Let’s quickly run through the first set.

In menacing fashion, foreshadowing the rest of the evening, My Friend, My Friend opened the show, honing in on the darker side of things right away. Following Star Lake’s trend of pulling dusty songs of the shelf, Velvet Underground’s “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” batted second, put in the setlist for the first time since Halloween ’98.  What followed was an absolute highlight of the show, and the entire summer tour- a sublime 30 minute performance of Scents and Subtle Sounds, the post-hiatus Anastasio/Marshall masterpiece about living life in the Moment.  Steeped in blissful and surreal improvisation, this best-ever version reached abstract and psychedelic realms that would be virtually untouched by the song until the band returned to Camden the following summer.  Truly a jam for the ages, words can only go so far in describing its regal nature.  (See below for the track).  A first ever performance of the Dylan classic, “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” followed this deep exploration, providing a respite before they launched into the rare and sought after Spock’s Brain, showing its face for the first time since 10/6/00.  A more conventional end of the set included Chalkdust, On Your Way Down, Fast Enough, and Taste- a combination of commonly played and not-so-commonly played songs.  The stage was set for what would be a serious second set.

After the break, the opening notes of Twist filled the pavilion.  Greatly divergent in form and focus, Twists always appeared in differing forms- from the more Santana-sounding Latin grooves that typified many, to the space-funk that defined the Island Run and SPAC, to the straight alien ambience that made the Meadowlands ’03 version and the Alpine version from earlier in the summer (7.18.03) so heavy.  Well, this one would also be different.  The jam eased in through previously scouted Twist territory, but soon Trey began to lead the jam outwards as the rest of the band built a collective and cohesive groove underneath him.  As Fishman switched beats, the feel of the jam changed and the whole band began to dig deeper, as Trey’s tone became a little dirtier and more distorted.  As the band locked into a singular rhythmic pattern, the improvisation moved into darker depths.  Speeding up, Phish turned into a chugging freight train with some serious non-conventional Twist jamming highlighted by a sick drum beat which Trey soon picked up on and began to speak over.  This jam moved into very abstract and dissonant places which transformed into frenetic madness with Trey offering some of his deepest phrasings of the night, before it chilled out into walls of sound with lighter Trey and Page melodies on top.  With a magnifying glass on evil darkness, the Twist trickled to an end as a stand alone piece without resolution within the jam itself- but as Phish can often do, they used the next song, Bug, as the release to the Twist.

The Twist>Bug is really one entity- one experience- juxtaposing crystalline guitar melodies, providing the emotional and triumphant conclusion, to the 25 minutes of darkness that preceded.  Trey and Page built the Bug to a truly massive crescendo before its conclusion.  The band took longer than normal after such an adventurous excursion before deciding to turn the Tweeter Center into a dance party with the opening melodies of You Enjoy Myself.

The YEM, itself, is multifaceted beginning with minimalist staccato rhythm licks from Trey over the notoriously bulbous groove, letting Mike and Page take the lead.  Trey seamlessly morphed his licks into melodies, providing lead lines and rhythm patterns simultaneously, before ripping into a more typical YEM shred session that brought the crowd to energetic heights.  The four-song set closed with the highly allegorical Walls of the Cave, made even more poignant in the long-cast shadows of New York City.  Ending the dark and exploratory set with some high octane energy to lead the crowd off into the night, Phish had just provided a set (+ Scents) of incredibly deep improvisation which, honestly, typified a lot of summer 03 shows.  Secret Smile provided the perfectly sensual ending to an evening that would live on in infamy.

Regardless of the year, 1993 or 2003, Phish are magicians.  A couple of years off didn’t change that, and fours years off now will not change that either. Should we expect things to sound different when they come back for post-hiatus part deux?  For sure.  Will it still be magic that speaks to and explores our souls?  For sure.

Pictures above are from 7.30.03 Set II. (Thanks to Phishpics.net)

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And So It Begins

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 28th, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Nothing compares to the anticipation of an upcoming Phish show.  Knowing the inner emotions that will be accessed by the music and the transcendent experience you will have, the wait for the show takes on a life of its own.  It usually started- well, for me it usually started when dates were announced.  Immediately, plans would be whipped into place-hotel reservations, mail order tickets, scoring Ticketmaster tickets, figuring out with whom you’d share a car, a quickening heartbeat–all that and more.  While Phish has yet to officially announce their return, and those emotions that rest inside us all will have to lie dormant for a little while longer, a similar inner-dynamic, on a much smaller scale, is happening for Trey’s comeback shows.  Much anticipation and genuine excitement is swirling around his intimate 550 person Brooklyn show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, and his set at the All Points West Festival in New Jersey, both just around the corner on August 7th and August 10th.  These two gigs represent his return to the proverbial ring; the beginning again.  The hype around Brooklyn has been juiced by the virtual impossibility of scoring Ticketmaster stubs over the weekend, while secondary market tickets are ranging from anywhere $200 to $500.

With his Languedoc slung over his shoulder, his old mates Russ, Tony and Ray back in place, he is primed to set the Phish scene afire with what is sure to be an electric show featuring classic TAB songs and, hopefully, some previews of what will soon be new Phish songs.  The “power-trio” was always the best TAB incarnation– a deep and steady groove with limitless space for Trey to rewrite the universe.  Then the horns came, and then came the keys, and percussion and backup singers to the point where Trey became a conductor for parts of the show.  The Afro-Cuban poly-rhythmic ten-person TAB, although technically quite good, got old pretty fast for the simple fact that there wasn’t enough focus on the man himself and his searing melodies and uniquely funked-out rhythm licks.  Yeah, I get it, that wasn’t the point with ten people on stage, but when you go to see Trey, you want to see some shredding, am I wrong?

There will be no lack of focused chops come the seventh of August with his quartet, when Trey and his sober enthusiasm will surely translate into the most fierce playing we have heard from him in a while.  You may read Phantasy Tour and see people posting about how it won’t be that good because it’s his first show back and he won’t be that sharp– wanna’ bet?  You can name the stakes.  Those people are just bitter because there weren’t enough tickets to go around.  Trey is going to be coming out with his renewed game face on, and this show is one that is literally a no-brainer.  His first show back– his first time to emote publically through his guitar again, to speak from his soul and to rejoice in his happiness– all in a tiny room in New York City.  You think it’s gonna’ be anything less than amazing? No, it will be just that.  This is the first step back onto the yellow brick road on the way to see the wizard to get back to Kansas- to get back home.

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Rhythms of Nature

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 25th, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Being smack dab in mid-July with dreams of Phish on the mind and the ten-year anniversary of Summer 98 upon us, one can’t help but reminisce on the wistful days of summer tour.  Arriving to the lot early on a hot summer day at Lakewood; meeting up with friends in that dirt lot across the little bridge on the back side of the venue and kicking it until show time.  Chilling at your campground down the street from the amphitheatre at Deer Creek, knowing you need only roll a few hundred yards to get to the show and knowing it would be a killer.  Running into your friends at rest areas along I-95 in the middle of a humid night and swapping analogs for the next leg.  Driving through the breathtaking wilderness of Washington state only to find that the Gorge is by far the most awe striking site on your journey- and Phish was about to play two nights there?!  Sleeping nicely in your air conditioned hotel room while the 90 degree day passed you by, awakening at five pm to start your day with a shower>Phish show.  Only to be followed by a hearty evening and morning of partying, talking Phish, listening to tunes, joking and discussing life.  Summer tour was everything people cracked it up to be and then some, but but fall tour was so much better.

“What!?” You might say?  Yes, fall kicked summer’s ass- no question.  There are so many reasons that this is true.  First of all, there were simply way less people on tour, making your secret-agent Phish mission that much more clandestine.  Everyone was either in school or working jobs, not willing or simply not able to fully give up the month.  The weekend warriors popped up across the country for Friday and Saturday shows.  No disrespect intended, people did what they could in the context of their own life.  But that core of people that would drop it all and go was noticeably less in the Autumn months.  The big east coast shows always sold out, but those out of the way shows took on a whole new intimacy.  Boise 99.  Vegas 97. Utah 98. Las Cruces 99, to name a few.  A lot of the south and west, regardless of the year.  Classic shows where you could walk up to the front of the floor without crushing anyone’s vibe.  It was different- they were playing to you, and not New York City.

The intensity in the fall was unparalleled.  The almighty power of Phish, the power of the universe, was contained within four cement walls.  The sheer amount of energy enclosed and being bounced around the room made fall shows so much more concentrated and powerful than anything on the amphitheatre tours of June, July, and August.  Even the lights were so much brighter and deeper, and they reached you no matter where you were.  You were in the jaws of the Phish, and there was no escaping to the top corner of the lawn if things got hectic.

Space was often a little more limited, making finding that special place you needed to take it all in just a bit more difficult, adding another step to your covert operation.  Suddenly the lights went off- and then it all began.  Mike’s Modulus bass lines filled the room, and your brain, instead of drifting off into the warm summer evening.  Trey’s tone was so crystal clear as it wove tales of darkness and beauty throughout the arena.  The drumbeat was at the heart of it all, instinctively and masterfully driving the symphony.  Page’s piano and keyboards whispered melodies into your ear that twisted between the whole of it all, adding yet another layer to the complex jigsaw puzzle.  There were no cool breezes coming in from the side of the pavilion if you started to get to hot or sweat too much.  You were in the thick of things with nothing but concrete under you and metal railings all around.   This was a little darker than your blissful summer tour, and the band’s playing certainly followed.

You would never get a show like 12.28.98 (Carini>Wolfman’s, MSG) at Deer Creek.  You could never imagine the 12.29.94 Providence Bowie popping up at Shoreline.  The 11.23.97 Winston-Salem Bathtub Gin doesn’t happen at Vernon Downs and UIC 98′s madness doesn’t happen at Verizon Amphitheatres in any state across the nation. Hampton 97 could not have occurred at Virginia Beach or Camden.  The Island Run did not carry the mellow vibe it implies; we were all in the confines of two concrete super-structures while blessed with the greatest four night run in history.  You are getting my point here- Phish played differently indoors.  There was more of an urgency, more of an intensity; it was more of a deranged and boisterous dream state than those sacred days of summer tour.  Summer exists as an incredibly exciting, yet laid back time of year, and Phish’s jams followed the natural course of the season.  The music and the experience took on a whole different feeling when you escaped the biting New England November wind and entered Phish’s lair- shed your layers and got ready for the fire.  If you were there, even a few times, you know what I’m talking about.

Sure, there will always be counter examples to this trend- some, ironically, corresponding with severely inclement weather like Walnut Creek 97 (see a few posts below), Columbus 99 (Ghost>Free>Birds), Darien Lake 99 (Drowned>Crosseyed).  Then you’ve got about every show from Summer 95, each characterized by unique and extended deep, dark, abstract improvisation. But regardless of any of these wonderful aberrations, fall tour was the place where Phish dove the deepest. The tapes are here to prove it.

Being a force of nature unto itself, a proverbial sixth element, Phish abided by the forces of the natural world.  As each season has its natural place in the year, each type of Phish had its place as well.  Careening towards New Years, fall tour provided the celestial launching pad for Phish’s heaviest culminating journeys of the year before capping it with a four-night party.  Just listen, you’ll see.

Here is an example of stuff you won’t see outdoors:

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The Festival

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 23rd, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Bonnaroo, Rothbury, 10,000 Lakes, Coachella, Outside Lands, Lollapalooza, All Good, Camp Bisco, Gathering of the Vibes, Summer Camp, All Points West, moeDown, Langerado.  So many festivals, so little time.  That quick list ranges from the massive corporate festivals to the more mid-range festivals happening this summer.  JamBase’s festival guide lists 302 music festivals happening this summer!  Obviously, these run the gamut of size and type of festivals, but the jam-indie-rock festival landscape has been greatly altered since the days of The Clifford Ball and Coventry.  The post-Phish festival scene is quite interesting to dissect, and speaks volumes about those carefree days in Limestone and upstate New York.

Radiohead. Widespread Panic. The Dave Matthews Band. My Morning Jacket. Phil and Friends– interchangeable headliners on an ever changing festival poster. These days, promoters put together festivals with as many bands, genres, stages, and gimmicks as possible trying to bring together as many fans from across the country. Bonnaroo drew 80,000 people, Rothbury 40,000, Coachella around 60,000.  While some of these festivals are obviously successful ventures, they are promotional monsters that lack a cohesive vibe to their event. With so many people coming to these gatherings for so many different reasons and to see so many different acts, there is hardly a unity to the masses that gather on seemingly every weekend of the summer.

A Phish festival was so very different.  At a Phish festival you had the feeling that you were in on this little secret with 75,000 other people.  Even though there were often more people in attendance than these new school festivals, everyone knew why each other were there. There was only one reason– Phish.  With 92 (!) bands playing over four days at Rothbury on god-knows how many stages, you have a crowd that is motivated to attend for so many different reasons.  These bands include most all of the aforementioned headliners– the biggest names in the biz, yet none that could draw these numbers on their own.   This dynamic dilutes the genuine unity of a festival that was so prominent when Phish reeled 60-70,000 fans to the tip of America three times, and 85,000 to the Everglades of Florida.   What’s going on here?

Phish could announce a festival in East Podunk, Saskatchewan, and virtually 100,000 people will find a way there.  One band.  One stage.  Two days.  Six sets.  That’s all, nothing else.  That is enough, and anyone who understands Phish, knows it.  That is the difference– the power of the Phish experience, which is magnified under the lens of their festivals where it is all Phish, all the time.  Apparently both the magical and financial power of Phish equals the power of every other band in the scene put together.  That’s simply proven by empirical data.

New-school festivals, while no doubt hosting great talent, lack the ethos of Phish festivals.  Maybe some of the “band-centric” mid-range festivals like Camp Bisco, Summer Camp, or moeDown scratch the surface of this dynamic, but even at these events, there are still double-digit number of other bands and DJs there to, well, to take that united magic away while hopefully bringing in a few more people. Not to say magic doesn’t exist in new-school festivals.  I just came back from a very magical time at Camp Bisco where the Biscuits were the overwhelming draw for the 7,500 in attendance.  The music was transcendent and the crowd, albeit quite young for the most part, were definitely were there to rage Biscuits. I heard that Rothbury, amidst its masses, tapped into something special, yet not because of one particular act.  But the post-Phish festival model, and maybe the pre-Phish model too (think Woodstock, The Horde (w/Phish), Further Festival), lends itself to a greatly different experience.

No one band could pull off what Phish pulled off.  Fact.  If they could, why don’t they?  In all my x-number of Phish shows, some of my greatest all-time memories come from Phish festivals.  Those places were vast Phish playgrounds with absolutely no rules.  The freedom I felt at those festivals were like none other I’ve felt in my life.  The sites were so endless and bliss-laden, with art installations and interactive activities and “projects” for fans to engage their twisted minds.  Almost always tour-ending musical showcases for the band, we all looked forward to the wide open Phishy freedom those weekends provided.

The sky was always a little more blue than usual. The air a bit cleaner.  The clouds a bit more fluffy.  Remember the Great Went night 2 sunset?  Probably the most Crayola colors in one sky ever. Orange, yellow, purple, blue, and every shade in between–  so rich.  The shimmering moon surrounded by the most regal violet.  The natural environment coupled with the massive air-force-base locales created the most carefree and Phish focused atmospheres ever.

Some memories from those hallowed weekends.  The Clifford Ball-  who knew this model was possible?!  Limestone, ME and The Great Went- one of the most spiritual weekends of my life.  Halley’s>Cities.  The return to Limestone– The Lemonwheel, capping the modern day Summer of Love, 1998. The Ambient Set- possibly the best hour of Phish ever. The Tower Set- an hour long exploration with a lens on the darker and dirtier side of things. The Cypress Roses bringing the dark into the light.  The sunrises, the traffic, the parties, the air-strip long shakedowns, post-show lot disco parties, every friend you know in one place.  Oh, the memories.

These memories are about to return.  Mike Gordon, after his set at last weekend’s Mile High Music Festival, made it clear we can expect to see the boys back together “pretty soon.”  Those are his words, not mine.  He is already talking about “leaving room” for solo projects, which can only mean that this whole Phish thing is very much around the corner.  We can only hope that for their first show back, we can can return to the enchanted land of the Phish festival. It is really the only way to comeback.  They tried the MSG thing, and that turned out to be a fiasco, with fans trying to wrestle all the tickets away from scalpers to the tune of $500 a piece.  The only place for Phish to comeback is in the context of their hallowed festivals. Anyone can come. Noone can be turned away because it’s sold out.  How amazing would it be to hear Phish’s first notes back bellowing from the speaker towers of a festival with 75,000+ friends.  Groups of friends sitting in circles during setbreak, passing spliffs and laughing together, trying to figure out what is coming next. That is the way it should be. We can only hope the band feels the same.

Below are some nuggets from festivals past:

Great Went Bathtub Gin Jam

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Clifford Ball Clips

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IT Lizards

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Walnut Creek…Finally!

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on July 16th, 2008 by Mr.Miner

It’s about freakin’ time!  With all the Live Phish releases, I could never understand why they kept passing over this show.  Finally, someone came to their senses.  And a DVD taboot! Crazy that they have so much archival footage of so many/ all shows to take off the shelves like this.  Anyone who was there on the twenty second of July in 1997 understands the absolute mastery that Phish displayed on this torrential night.  For those that weren’t there, let’s reminisce for a second.

This was the second show of tour, yet Phish was not just warming up.  Coming off a nineteen show European tour over late June and early July, Phish was plenty warm.  Tales were coming  from across the pond of deep extended funk explorations like nothing Phish had produced before.  Tales of twenty plus minute “Story of the Ghost”s; slower playing, much slower. Stories of new songs. Stories about the back of the worm. Huge band groove.  Tales of Phish funk- lots of it. US fans that didn’t make it to Europe were salivating with the coming of Virginia Beach.  August 21st was marked with anticipation on all of our calendars as the beginning of what would be a new chapter in Phish’s career from 1997-1999.  The time when they built themselves into an inter-galactic millennial groove machine.  But it all started in the summer of ’97, the summer that brought us what Trey coined as “cow funk.” In America, started on the 21st, but let’s talk about the 22nd.

People always talk about the lightening.  It couldn’t have hit further than a few hundred yards from the amphitheatre.  The crackle was electrifying.  You can hear the thunder on the audience tapes as the storm smashed Raleigh.  The band intensely built the shortened first set closer of “Taste” in unison with what would soon be a monsoon of biblical proportions.  With nothing much to speak of in the first set other than a pretty nice “Stash” and the US debut of “Vultures,” the lightening-laced “Taste” was certainly the experiential and musical highlight.  The weather brought an abrupt end to the set, and during the break, many fans wondered if they would call the show and send everyone home because of this most ridiculous thunderstorm.

However, after what was truly a fifteen minute set break, the band emerged on stage to the excitement of the overcrowded pavilion with hundreds if not thousands fans packed in from the lawn for protection from the rain.  The ambient opening dropped into the now famous version of “Down With Disease.”  This jam showcased Phish’s improvisational mastery at a time of peak enthusiasm and creativity.  With Mike, Page and Trey each weaving melodic phrases around each other, no member of the band was leading this jam any more then the next.  This is truly an example of virtuoso on-stage communication, and four band members equaling far more than the sum of their parts.  Mike’s bass lines were as melodic as Trey guitar lines.  Page’s clavinet melodies and phrasing was perfect.  The band was as locked in as it gets.  When you listen back to the tape, the music exists as a ridiculous entity woven together by musical magicians.

As the jam slowed down, the band spent about four to five minutes setting up, teasing, and building an epic transition into “Mike’s Song.”  All band members were hinting at it well before they decided to take the plunge, and it is just beautiful to hear.  All members bouncing phrases of each others’ lines; moving as one.  As they slowly cranked up the Mike’s melody, I distinctly remember a rush if energy surging through my soul, yet I couldn’t immediately tell what was coming.  As they slowly sped up the intro, the entire crowd realized simultaneously what they were witnessing and with the collectively exploded.

It’s a beautiful thing when Phish follows up one huge jam with another.  And this Mike’s is just that- a huge, multifaceted sinister jam.  Toying with the unbelievable energy of the crowd, the band entered the jam with a deep funk section that typified the beginnings of all songs’ jams in 1997.  The remastered soundboards will allow everyone to crisply hear Mike’s bass lines bounce off Trey’s thick rhythm licks, directing the early part of the jam with his bass work.  (note: Mike’s playing throughout this set is particularly ridiculous.) The band sat in deep grooveland for some minutes before Trey launched into a solo line and the band changed gear into more evil territory.  After moving through darkness, the band downshifted, and provided a perfect soundtrack for psychedelic swamp warfare.  Your brain was minutes into the bog, up to your neck in thickness, when on a dime, they hit a note and relaunched into the Mikes>Simple transition, bringing some light to an otherwise very dark thirty five to forty minutes, some of the best stuff ever.

The smile inducing Simple dissolved gracefully into a dissonant place before whispering into Hydrogen, connecting the two typical Mike’s Groove links. The Weekapaug is another example of the band’s fully locked and loaded improvisation, and Mike is at it again during the high-powered set closer whose jam goes to very unique places.  The whole set was just an hour- or a lifetime.  You know, one of those sets.  It was capped with an encore of Circus, almost always placed after some madness throughout their career, and a gorgeous Hood which on a night when the band could do no wrong, provided a blissful end to a best-ever evening.  The Hood is often overlooked due to the raunchiness of the rest of the set, but if you don’t know it, check it out.  It’s amazing.

Here are some clips that Phish released as a preview.  I’m including the Taste, the Weekapaug, and the first set Bouncin’, but if you want to see the three minute out of context Mike’s intro that should never stand alone, search You Tube.

TASTE

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WEEKAPAUG

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BOUNCIN’

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07/22/97 Walnut Creek Amphitheatre, Raleigh, NC
Set I: Runaway Jim> My Soul, Water in the Sky, Stash, Bouncing Around the Room, Vultures, Bye Bye Foot, Taste
Set II: Down With Disease> Mike’s Song> Simple> I am Hydrogen> Weekapaug Groove1, Hello My Baby
E: When the Circus Comes to Town, Harry Hood
1 With “Hydrogen” teases

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Is This The Real Life? Is This Just Fantasy?

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on July 12th, 2008 by Mr.Miner

You may doubt me, but i assure you every single part of this story is absolutely true.

I was in college. Georgetown, senior year, 1996. It was finals time, first semester.  I lived with a couple other guys who were into Phish, and we had just gotten our mail order new years run tickets. Philly and Boston- got ‘em all.  Psyched. Very psyched.

One night I was deep asleep in my bed in a vivid dream state.  At the New Years show in Boston, I was awash in purple, pink, and deep blue lights in the middle section of the floor.  I didn’t necessarily see others, but those lights were covering me like waves.  I felt and heard the music emanating from the stage; this was certainly more lucid than my average dream.  Yet, there was a twist.  Instead of hearing Phish play Phish music, they were playing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  They were playing it really well- nailing it!  They built the song masterfully to its classic crescendo, “Beelzebub has a devil put a side for me- for me- for meeeee”….SILENCE!  At the very peak of the song, the Wayne’s World headbanging part-  the whole reason the song is so amazing- the sound went out.  I’m not sure what happened in my dream after that.  I don’t recall anything else.  My dream simply ended there.

The next morning, I went down to the basement to tell my friend, Jon, about the dream. I just told him what happened and how weird it was.  I had to share it with someone.  That was that.  We took finals, partied, and went home for break.  Fast-forward to the afternoon of the 31st.  Jon, a few friends, and I were grabbing lunch at a Boston deli;  one of those delis that has a completely open kitchen right across the counter.  We were eating sandwiches in a booth, and as we ate, “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on the radio station playing in the deli.  As the song progressed into, “I see a little silhouetto of a man. Scaramouch, scaramouch will you do the fandango?”,  a chef behind the counter began to sing along with the household lyrics.  Then, the other chefs joined in, prompting some people in line to begin singing the song as well!  We followed suit and sang the different parts leading up to the peak when everyone laughed, and some imitated Wayne and Garth as the ripping guitar line came in.  Oooookaay….That was a pretty strange experience.  A minute or two later, I remembered the dream for the first time since the day after I had it.  I then told the dream to my friend Mark as we finished our sandwiches.  Jon joked, “There’s your second omen.”  We laughed.

Fast forward. The show. Set 3.  2001>1997…Happy New Year!!! Feeling great- smack dab in the moment. I was catching up with myself after a blistering mid-set Antelope.  They were taking a little more time then usual between songs.  Then the stage lights dimmed to nothing.  Four white spotlights lit each member simutaneouslyas they sang–”Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.” I had the strangest sensation.  Was I dreaming?  Was I the only one experiencing this?  I was pretty sure I was the only one experiencing it- my own alternate reality-it was the most peculiar sensation. I turned to my left, not totally sure if I would see Jon, who had been there the whole show.  As I moved my head, not sure if I was there or not, I saw him.  “Is this happening?  Is this really happening?” I asked, somewhat desparately, needing figure out what was going on.  While in disbelief, he assured me he was seeing and hearing the same thing.  I didn’t believe him. I kept asking and he kept telling me the same thing, and then suggested that I stop asking and be there and enjoy it.  I was in a state of hyper-reality, I really wasn’t sure what to make of this experience, but I gathered my wits and raged the anthem right through the headbanging crescendo.  The set ending  Julius that followed, though spiced up with the choir, gave me plenty of time to freak out about the surreal nature of what had just transpired.

I had been effected; touched by something that I had never been touched by before.  I felt distinctly different and straight baffled for the rest of the night as we made our way through the frigid, coldest-ever, Boston evening back to a friends apartment for some intense relaxation.  Soon after leaving the show, I remembered the final piece to this bizarre tale.  The night before, the 30th in the Fleet Center, in the middle of the first set Funky Bitch, the PA went out for a couple minutes of silence, as the band pretended to play on!  Really?  Yes.

Enjoy this video memoir to one of my most existential experiences to this day.

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12/31/96 The Fleet Center, Boston, MA
Set III: Also Sprach Zarathustra>Auld Lang Syne> Down With Disease, Suzy Greenberg, Run Like An Antelope, Bohemian Rhapsody*, Julius*
E: Amazing Grace*
*With Boston Community Choir

12/30/96 The Fleet Center, Boston, MA
Set I: Ya Mar, The Sloth, Llama, Gumbo, Reba, Talk1, Funky Bitch2, Theme from the Bottom, Good Times Bad Times
1 Acoustic
2 The PA went out in the middle, however the band continued “playing”, including an “air drum solo” by Fishman


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It Was 10 Years Ago Today…

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on July 10th, 2008 by Mr.Miner

Barcelona. The mere mention of the city brings images of the Mediterranean coast, the architectural works of Antoni Gaudi, sandy beaches and paella. In the Phish world, it also coaxes memories of a hot (both literally and figuratively) three night run to end the spectacular Europe 98 tour. From the legendary Grey Hall which saw the debut of the Moma Dance, the epic Tweezer>2001, the exploratory Ghost>Jim, to the new(ish) live Phish release of 7/6 at the Lucerna Theatre in Prague, to the cozy confines of Zeleste, a tiny square club on the outskirts of the city. After two nights of World Cup-laced Phish jams in Spain, the stage was set for the tour closer on 7/10/1998.

For anyone who was there, the intense heat and humidity inside the club provided a wet backdrop for what would certainly be an interesting night. This was all supposed to go down at some beach front venue called the Bikini Club, yet with the number of ticket sales, the venue had to be switched to the not-so-unique Zeleste. Boo! Nonetheless, all were ready for what was certainly going to be a blow out affair- no pun intended.

The set opened harmlessly with a Disease, Dogs Stole Things. And then the “blow out” began. WIth the opening riffs of Divided Sky, everyone was amped as the compositional masterpiece hadn’t been dusted off across the pond. Yet, midway through the song, the crackling began. Apparantly, Phish, the musical super-heroes that they are, were having some serious sound issues. Interesting. Aborting the song because the feedback became far too obtrusive, Trey went on to tell some jokes as Languedoc and team worked quickly to ameliorate the situation.

When the band got the go ahead, instead of moving back to Divided Sky, Trey immediately pumped the energy through the roof, slowly beginning the licks to Mike’s Song. Hell, since the band had sound issues and the crowd was already drenched in sweat–might as well come back and throw down. It didn’t happen. Before they even dropped into the jam, similar issues plagued the system, and snap, crackle, and pop– the Mike’s was aborted. Trey was visibly pissed off as he informed the eager crowd that they would have to take a break while this all got worked out, and that they would play up to curfew from the time everything got fixed. Pretty strange happenings, especially coming on the last show of tour after the previous two nights had gone off just fine–same club, same system.

When they reappeared on the stage some thirty minutes later, Mike stepped up to the mic and began the a capella opening to Halley’s Comet, not seen since the 28th of December in Landover, MD. Not many know of this Halley’s, but it’s straight fire. Trey comes right out of the composed section with some “yo-yo” grooves using his 1998 wah-pedal funk. This jam develops into some real candy-grooving, and eventually slides into a driving preview of First Tube, at this point only played with the Eight Foot Fluorescent Tubes in Burlington at Higher Ground on April 17, 1998–the true first incarnation of the Trey band with local musicians Russ, Tony, Russ Lawson on guitar, and Heloise Williams on vocals. Definitely the highlight of the show, this Halley’s chills out nicely into Roggae. Sparkle briefly brought back the speaker demons, but all remained in tact. Upon the ending of Sparkle–take two! The opening riffs of Mike’s jacked the audience’s pulse right back up and featured an extended exploration of Simple, taking the song to places before uncharted.

With a definitively off-kilter show, Phish ended their European vacation and headed back to the states to Portland and the Gorge to begin the legendary summer 98 US tour. The fans dispersed to different night clubs around the city to revel in the couple weeks that had just ensued and to party with all of the new friends made. A strange evening it was .

Below is a link to the eighteen minute Halley’s for your listening pleasure.

BARCELONA HALLEY’S 7/10/98

07/10/98 Zeleste, Barcelona
Set I: Down With Disease, Dogs Stole Things, The Divided Sky, Mike’s Song
Set II: Halley’s Comet> Roggae, Sparkle, Mike’s Song> Simple> Weekapaug Groove, Sample in a Jar, Good Times Bad Times
E: Brian and Robert, Taste

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Backwards Down The Number Line

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on July 9th, 2008 by Mr.Miner

When all is said and done, through of all the majesty of Phish’s music and live shows, one uniting factor that all of us have experienced is the deep friendships made through the wacky neon roller coaster ride of Phish tour. Kind of parallel to life, regardless of all the madness that goes on around us, friends keep us grounded, friends inspire us, and friends support us. That is the essence of Tom Marshall’s newest publicly played song. Written for Trey last September, in a long standing tradition of Tom and Trey writing songs for each other’s birthdays, and debuted at Rothbury, we got our first glance of what will most likely be a new Phish song, “Backwards Down the Number Line.”

“You were 8 and I was 9
Do you know what happened then?
Do you know why we’re still friends?
Laughing all these many years
We pushed through hardships tasted tears”

The song is lyrically poignant, citing the twisting path that life often takes us down. Tom and Trey are two people who would be friends no matter what the circumstances. We all have friends like this, and the definitive reality of the song is something everyone can relate to and makes the song something meaningful. This more mature lyrical approach typified the post-hiatus works of Round Room and Undermind, and it is these type of lyrics that we can expect from forthcoming Tom and Trey compositions. Tom says that he has “the old Trey back” and that in the last few months, they have written about fifteen songs. “We’re extremely productive and got the drive again.” That’s about the best news any of us has read in a while. Yet, somehow I don’t think they are writing about furry thugs and cans of corrosive anymore. In their return, expect more songs that reflect the here and now. Not necessarily anymore boymangodshit. But hey, we’ll see.

“You decide what it contains
How long it goes what this remains
The only rule is it begins
Happy happy o my friend”

When they do come back, Phish will most likely play a host of new songs, especially if we believe Mike’s Rolling Stone interview discussing the band’s contact with Steve Lillywhite regarding hypothetical plans of a new album. To be honest, new songs are more than welcome. While this may not be the overwhelming opinion, I was disappointed we never got to hear most of Undermind in a live setting. We’ve all heard a million Bowies, YEMs, and Diseases, and I’m sure we’ll hear many more, but we only got to hear one legit “The Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” two versions of “Nothing, “no “Undermind.” You get the picture– everything had to be cut short. In one interpretation of the above verse, Phish will determine what their return contains, how long it goes and what music remains. It will most definitely begin, and goal of it all is happiness. Happiness for the band, all of us, and the community. Expect changes. Embrace change. Change is bringing all of us back to the source; bringing us backwards down the number line. Change is bringing the light back. The only rule is it begins.

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FOR JUST THE TRACK, ROLL OVER LINK AND PRESS PLAY::

Backwards Down the Number Line mp3

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Reawakenings

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on July 9th, 2008 by Mr.Miner

So here we are in July 2008, almost four years later, and all people can talk about is when is IT gonna’ happen? Its gonna’ happen, we’ve all figured that out. If you haven’t, believe it. Trey is offering up gonads. Page is telling us to chill for a bit, until they are ready. Mike is in. He’s always in. Fishman isn’t known to blow against the wind. It’s no longer if, its when. And that, alone, is the best news of…well, the last four years. As Ms. Hawking told Desmond during his hatch implosion induced journey through his life, “The universe has a way of course correcting itself.” (Excuse me, non-Lost fans, if you’re out there.) That certainly appears to be true, the universe is slowly shifting back into alignment. Coventry, regardless of your experience (mine was great), opinion on the music (there were some great jams), the weather, the traffic, or the parking, was not the way it was all supposed to end. That much was obvious. Now we’ll all get it right.

Just this weekend, we had members of the band at Rothbury sitting in with each other all over the place with the others watching. Trey and Tom are voraciously writing new songs again. Phish songs. Trey has already played two. Things are coming back to life. Who knows what form it will take? Tours, runs, stands, shows…does it really matter? Not unless you’re nineteen and have been listening to your brother’s old Phish shows since you were fifteen, and are dying to gas up the family truckster to hawk hemp necklaces and burritos across our great land. Bottom line, the Phish are back. The magic is returning. We will all live through another golden age of our past super-hero lives.

Listening to Phish now takes on a whole new meaning again. That feeling inside. Just thinking about the next show. It’s there again. Looking at your music is like the proverbial kid in a candy store. It all it looks so good, but you can’t wait for that first taste! The 12.6.97 Tweezer sounds better than ever. The 12.30.95 Hood has a whole new meaning now. Life springs eternal. The chills that the Halloween 94 Reba send down your spine are of a different nature- a childish expectation and blissful memories flood the soul. The 7.4.99 Ghost>Slave that just celebrated its nine year anniversary sounds like the thickest most colorful molasses you have ever swam in. Break them out…the 97 Star Lake Gumbo, the 98 Gorge 2001, the MSG 98 Wolfman’s>Carini, the Riverport Gin, the Clifford Ball Slave, the Murat Gin, the Binghamton 92 Antelope, the 95 SPAC Disease>Free, the entire Island Run. Yes, kid. It’s on.

Don’t worry about when. Just enjoy knowing that we will all visit that place again before too long.  Until then, here’s some things to tide you over….

1. the aforementioned Glens Falls 94 Reba, 2. 2001 NYC style, 3. Trey at Rothbury, and 4. an old instant classic.

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lighting geometry

backstage

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