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:Tags: Culture, Jams