Damn! That setlist looks sick! Gotta’ hate that feeling. Even though seeing a show’s setlist online tells you just about nothing about the music that actually took place, sometimes you just knew it was sick. I was still in Europe, after Europe ’98 tour- traveling Spain with some friends I had met over there. I called home to get the Gorge setlist, and when my brother told me it was 2001>Mike’s>Weekapaug, Character Zero, my heart sank into my stomach. The beautiful town of San Sebastian along the north coast of Spain no longer mattered. I knew, regardless of my European adventures, that I had missed something big. I had no idea what they had played musically, but it was Gorge night II and with that setlist- forget about it. Because I was in Spain, that feeling lasted shorter than in regular circumstances, but you know that feeling I’m talking about- that existential “Fuck!” Maybe its just me, but I bet at least a few people know what I’m saying. This is just one example of this internal phenomenon that happens when you miss the show and see the setlist.
Sometimes you don’s even want to look to see what you missed, but you always do. You have to. This feeling drives people to drop out of school, or drop a job, ditch the summer, and the fall, and go on tour. Because when it is all said and done, what you are left with in life are experiences and memories, and few experiences and memories are as rich, colorful, and in tune as the ones we all remember from the days of Phish. That’s why we all keep talking about them. That’s why my friend compiled a 500 gig hard drive with virtually ever Phish show ever. To keep going back and remembering, and if we weren’t there, to listen and imagine. But damn, seeing that bomb setlist always hurt.
It was nine years ago today I was hit smack in the center of the forehead with that feeling. It was less than a week after summer tour ended in Deer Creek on July 26th. Phish had jet-setted directly to Japan for the Fuji Rock Festival. After seeing countless consecutive shows, not being able to swing Japan killed me. The base of Mount Fuji! The Field of Heaven!? Yeah- hanging out in Iowa on the way back west just wasn’t gonna hold up to that. The night before, on 7.31.99, Phish dropped the now legendary forty minute 2001>Bowie in the Field of Heaven, with a late set Fluffhead taboot. But when I saw the August 1st setlist, my jaw hit the floor- I knew I missed something huge.
Cities, Wilson, Moma opener. Yeah, this was starting to read like a greatest hits album. Divided Sky (in the Field of Heaven), Horn, Split- ouch, this was the only the first set. Poor Heart, Bouncin’, Antelope. End of set. Damn that read like a “who’s who” of an early-Phish VIP party, with Moma crashing the scene. That set obviously smoked. I hadn’t talked to anyone, but I just knew it. I bet some others did too. My jaw hadn’t dropped yet- though it looked like a great set, there were seemingly no really huge out-there jams. I could handle it. I looked down the page.
Possum>Tweezer>Llama>Mike’s>I am Hydrogen> Weekapaug Groove, The Wedge, Lizards, You Enjoy Myself. Excuse me? Did I read that right? Are all those arrows “true” transitions? They played Tweezer and Mike’s in the same set?! Damn! And a huge YEM closer? All at the freakin’ Field of Heaven with what had to be no more than a couple thousand people? Yeah, that one hurt. I knew I had just missed something huge. It didn’t matter that I was half-way around the world in Iowa City and had no chance, or viable financial way of getting there at that time, I was crushed. For a while. Couldn’t stay in that emotional place for too long, there was really no point, but that feeling lingered. Over the next few days we kept referencing “Japanese Setlists,” as if they were a new creation. (On the 9.9.99 opener of Fall, right after the show, my Iowa City buddy quickly remarked “That was a Japanese setlist in Canada!!”, in reference to the truly massive jam-laden second set that had just went down.) Upon listening to the Fuji Rock tapes from that night, all my thoughts were confirmed.
The Field of Heaven must have chilled the band out a bit from their cookie-cutter American amphitheatre tour, because they were playing in a laid back fashion. In that “heavy, deep and slow” fashion that typified many a huge outdoor, non-amphitheatre show when the sound would bellow and carry. Like a festival or the Gorge; a Bonner Springs or Portland Meadows show. That “big” sound that sounded different on tape. The Tweezer was so loafingly melodic, pushing along at the perfect pace. It was such a beautiful version, different than many of the Phish-crack deep funk grooves that typified so many of the summer’s Tweezers. And the Mike’s sounded like a massive UFO was slowly descending onto the field in front of the stage; mysterious, dark and other-wordly. Grooves from a foreign galaxy. The YEM funk was so thick as the basslines echoed through my imagination. This was obviously played in some heavenly field at the base of Mount Fuji- it had to be. And a Reprise end to the three-night run. Seemed perfect to me. Just wish I could have been there.
To this day the show is still not one that is talked about too much, and rarely listened to among many groups of friends- probably because few of us were there. But I am putting the 45+ minues of Tweezer>Llama, Mike’s>H2>Weekapaug here below to catch you up, or to remind you of a Phishy evening nine years ago.
Or if you want to download the set: CLICK HERE
Some Fan-Filmed Footage of the festival grounds to the tune of the 7.31 “2001”:Tags: Culture