The Summer of ’99: Starting up the Mountain

So much love permeates the Phish scene for the years of 1997 and 1998; yet people don’t often mention 1999 in the same way- and I’ve never understood this.  ’97 and ’98 were clear steps on the way to 1999- a year that featured a blistering summer tour, two fall tours, and Big Cypress- the millennial festival the band has called the apex of their career.  1999 was defined by the momentum gained over the past two years, melding the musical approaches they had developed, while adding a new “millennial” sound that featured more dissonance and distortion; prominent walls of sound and color, and fast-paced abstract psychedelia. As the band careened towards Big Cypress in the fall and in December, this millennial sound would become more and more prominent- but here we will focus on the beginning of that journey during the placid days of summer.

Taking a full six months off Phish, Trey initiated his solo trio, and completed a well-received Spring run introducing his first side project and a host of new songs.  Coming off their collective break, the band reassembled in June ready to continue their romps across the country that had defined their career.  Excitement was high that Kansas afternoon of June 30th, as fans readied themselves for their re-immersion into paradise.  Bonner Springs kicked off the tour in grand fashion with a show that set for the tone for the month.  Mike was in the middle now; jams were more bass lead than ever, and his Modulus sounded massive with the uncovered pavilion in Kansas.  After stopping in Atlanta for the introduction of “Meatstick”- the summer’s anthem- and a top notch July 4th offering, the band turned up through the Southeast, up through Jersey to the only mid-tour festival at Oswego, NY, and into Canada before circling back around the Midwest, settling in the comforts of Alpine and Deer Creek.

The music on this tour took the raw funk ’97, and the funk/ambience of ’98, and incorporated new styles featured on the newly released, The Siket Disc, a collection of instrumental shorts and ambient experiments that went over huge with fans favoring dark, more adventurous jamming.  The result was not only an alteration of their musical style- no longer solely focused on groove- but also the addition of “My Left Toe” and “What’s the Use?” to the rotation, two songs that got into deep abstract improvisation quickly, and provided “connector-jams” in several second sets- Kansas, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Star Lake- to name a few.  Some fans didn’t care for this more overtly abstract style, longing for the direct dance music and rhythm guitar of the past.  But one thing I learned over the years is that Phish was constantly evolving, and you must also evolve with them, or you’ll be left in the past.  This happened to a lot of people in 1997, as they dropped off with the onset of the slow funk era.  Each tour and each year, added something to Phish’s style and approach, and as things were added, other facets of their playing were necessarily lessened a bit.  But let’s be serious, there was no lack of funk and dance music in 1999, there was just more aspects to the music.  As 1998 saw the addition of “ambient jams” in the fall, Summer ’99 is when Trey began to develop his “millennial” sound that would become accentuated throughout the fall and December, and deliver us into 2000.  With more focus on layering, tonal texture, and manipulating sounds and effects, Trey and Phish tore through an amazing Summer that provided many highlights and pointed to a very exciting Fall.  Finishing up in Japan for three stellar shows at the Fuji Rock Festival- setting up their Japan Tour of 2000- Summer Tour ’99 continued building on the musical evolution that started two years earlier in ’97.

The band was firing on all cylinders all summer, as it began its uphill climb to the pinnacle of Big Cypress.  While many cite a drop off in consistent balls-to-the-wall playing in the year of 2000, it was 1999′s drive to the millennium that pushed the band to the brink.  As Trey and Fish walked off stage at Big Cypress, with tears in their eyes, after reaching, in their opinions, the high point of their career, they looked at each other and said, “I think we should stop.”  In the words of Trey, “The wave had crashed into shore,”  indicating a wonderment of what else there was for Phish to accomplish.  Everything that preceded this moment in Phish’s career had built to this point of indescribable magic- experienced by the band even more strongly than the fans- and the summer of ’99 was a significant building block in the year that Phish reached the top of the mountain.

In honor of such an amazing summer, and to expose a lot of music that may be unfamiliar to a lot of people, I am releasing the second in the series of “Miner’s Picks,” “Summer ’99.”  Totaling 34 tracks and over seven and a half hours of music, this compilation should allow everyone to discover, or rediscover the amazing playing that went down during this historic summer.  Enjoy! (Photos: band-summer ’99, Fishman-oswego)

THE DOWNLOAD LINKS AND TRACK LIST IS BELOW:

MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’99 PT. 1 ( all new mediafire links)

MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’99 PT. 2

MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’99 PT. 3

MINER’S PICKS: SUMMER ’99 PT. 4

“MINER”S PICKS: SUMMER ’99

1. Run Like An Antelope: 7.3 Atlanta

2. Bathtub Gin 6.30 Bonner Springs

3,4. Birds > If I Only Had a Brain 7.8 Va. Beach

5. 2001 7.7 Charlotte

6,7. Tweezer > Have Mercy 7.17 Oswego

8,9,10. Mike’s > Simple > My Left Toe 7.21 Star Lake

11,12. Reba > Carini 7.13 Great Woods

13. Chalkdust 7.10 Camden

14. Free 6.30 Bonner Springs

15,16. Ghost > Slave 7.4 Atlanta

17. Split Open 7.12 Great Woods

18,19. My Left Toe > Stash 6.30 Bonner Springs

20,21,22. Tweezer > Catapult > Tweezer 7.24 Alpine

23,24. Runaway Jim > Free 7.18 Oswego

25,26,27,28. Meatstick > Split > Kung > Split 7.15 PNC

29,30. Birds > Walk Away 7.25 Deer Creek

31,32. Halley’s > Roses 7.13 Great Woods

33. Tweezer 7.10 Camden

34. YEM 7.1 Nashville

VIDEO BONUS: TWEEZER: ALPINE 7.24.99 (IN TWO PARTS)

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13 Responses to “The Summer of ’99: Starting up the Mountain”

  1. Matso Says:

    First off, this is the best Phish blog/page going. Thank you for all the choice cuts (many of which I’ve read about but never bothered to track down) – Please keep it up! Your posts are astute and put tours/versions into a historical context free of the emotional pros/cons (noob v jaded) of most standard show reviews.

    In response to your comment about why people lack the same enthusiasm for Summer 99 as compared to 97 and 98, I have two reasons why this might be the case, both of which are entirely subjective and open to argument:

    1. Consistency: When Phish was “on” in 97 and 98, I felt like it usually lasted the entire show. Even if you got filler in the first set and towards the end of the second (or encore), those songs nonetheless were imbued with the special aura passed on by the jams that surrounded them (“That was a great Sample!”). In 99, you could get a superb first set (see Great Woods second night), followed by something much harder to be enthusiastic about (pedestrian funk in Wolfmans and nothing much worth seeking out in the rest of the set).

    Not sure if that holds water, so perhaps a more likely explanation is that 99 was when we all started getting spoiled and jaded and thus found it harder to stay in the zone over the course of an entire show.

    2. Health: There’s been a lot of talk recently from various band members about how they’re all so much healthier now then they used to be, meaning of course that they’ve all cleaned up their bad habits (most publically Trey). Summer Tour 99 was when those bad habits became obvious, to me at least, and that, I think, somehow tainted my appreciation of the music (which continued through 2000. 2003 felt ‘clean’ to me, and I only saw Coventry in 2004, which was disastrous). In 99, if you went to a show, you were going to see Trey rub his nose vigorously between every song and even during the songs. Rumours about how much they consumed made it all a bit uncomfortable. I’m not a teetotaler, but Phish always felt more like friends partying than out of control rock stars to me.

    I appreciate this is getting away from the music they made that summer, which as you’ve made clear here was full of fantastic jams. But perhaps the fact that they still played so many great jams means that the reason why people’s attitudes changed had something to do with what was going on off-stage.

    Anyway, other than that, I agree with you that the more challenging sound probably alienated some of the less adventurous listeners.

  2. R1 Says:

    I, for one, remember being blown away by the intensity of the dissonant, envelope-pushing What’s the Use and My Left Toe jams that summer. This was a new, almost scary, direction and it stopped me in my tracks and made me reassess what these guys were doing. These jams, and a whole lot of Bug, were a nihilistic (“It doesn’t matter”), apocalyptic juxtaposition against the life-affirming joyfulness of Meatstick (which really seemed to tickle the band pink) and Get Back on the Train.

    Another great post evoking a lot of great memories.

  3. lanser Says:

    the VA. beach birds is the heat!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Monster Says:

    The Atlanta July 3-4th shows were my first shows outside of New York State. I happened to be on a week long church trip to Atlanta where we would do daily projects like work in soup kitchens and clean up homeless shelters. The group was flying back to NY on July 2nd. A friend of mine happened to be down there visiting his old friends so I convinced my parents that I should stay for two days and go see Phish and stay with him.

    Lakewood was awesome, and so were the shows. I wanted to take something home to remember the shows and figured the best thing would be… a poster! I went up to the merch table and saw that Pollock with a price tag of $35 bucks. I was pretty outraged by the price as I was a poor highschooler, but still blown away by the fact that I was seeing Phish hundreds of miles away from home so I sucked it up and purchased it.

    It hangs on my wall in my parents house, in my bedroom. Every time I look at it it reminds me of my high school Phish adventures, and the birth of my touring days.

    Here’s to Summer 99.

  5. Mr.Miner Says:

    love reading these comments! keep em coming in! :)

  6. Chainsaw>Drinks Says:

    Wow. A buddy of mine sent me a link to this blog. I have to say it’s probably the best thing attributed to phish on the internet. You capture the essence of seeing a phish show to a tee. You really put me back into the moment. It’s unbelievable. I had the privelege to see many a Phish show. Starting back in 92 and ending at the mud covered fields of the Northern Kingdom of Vermont. Now I sit in my cubicle as I have assimilated into the masses, dreaming of the shows past. You really are helping me out this summer. It’s been tough not being able to take a weeks vacation from reality and get down at a phish show(s). Nothing else comes close to the experience and you nail it. Kudos to you my friend, keep up the good work.

  7. shpongleyez Says:

    i think the commenters so far have touched on the why: it was the beginning of the end of phish as many of us knew it. sure, there was the huge-ness and the experimentation and the far-out psychedelia, but darkness was starting to fall. and not the darkness that leads to light, but another more insidious kind.

    anyhow, great stuff. keep it flowing.

  8. JD Says:

    I personally thought summer 99 was incredible. First stop for me was Camden and I immediately noticed something different other than the stage setup. Not sure I can totally explain it but I felt like Trey was playing down to us from atop a gigantic mountain. Especially during songs like What’s The Use. I hit the Jersey shows, Great Woods, and Oswego. I have to say my favorite jam of that tour was the Runaway Jim->Free from Oswego. I actaully listened to it last night to get fired up for a Beer League kickball game in Burlington. I’m guilty of seeking until you get to the jam as well Mr Miner. About 9-10 minutes into Jim the jam just goes out of control. It’s really led by Gordon laying down some serious lines and Fish adding an almost techno beat. Trey starts adding layers and anyone who knows this jam well knows that it builds and builds until Trey absolutely unleashes the furry. For me it was as insane as any jam I have ever heard from these guys!

  9. empire Says:

    dam I’m filling up my hard drive fast with all these downloads.
    I am loving it I had stopped collecting shows as soon as phish called it quits.
    Ive always wanted to do this myself, highlighting phish year by year just taking in the must haves and keeping them instead of having spindles and spindles of every show every tour that will only get played a couple of times.
    Mr. Minor you are making it way to easy..thanks again brother for putting together some kick ass tunes.

    I loved 99 but agree that the scene was getting bigger and darker all around. It was a different time for phish and i think the connection between the fans and the band started to wear down a bit. the atlanta shows were a blast. and so was oswego what a party!!
    another one that i loved was hampton 12/18 the second set was pretty cool

    Mikes> Simple, Weekapaug> Buffalo Bill

  10. themanatee Says:

    so great to hear all your opinions on this momentous summer for so many reasons. so many people did summer 99 tour in its entirety. I think i missed four shows. this discussion of the darkness that began to descend upon the scene is interesting. inflitration of mdma was particularly notable during the summer further transforming the “party” scene. Nonetheless there was so much incredible music. especially ghost>slave from atlanta (a simply epic jam)

    Clearly there were forces inside the band that were beginning to spiral. as the years went on, i found all the partying going on around me rather distracting at times. i would try and take refuge inside the music at a show, ignorning as much of the distractions coming from angles. Escaping inside a phish jam can be as comforting and as scary as anything I have ever experienced, making it both a refuge and an avenue to confront your deepest fears.

  11. jer Says:

    i know it’s been said already, but this truly is the best phish blog out there, kudos to you.

  12. Jacob Says:

    Like some others here, Summer 99 was my first real taste of the Phish touring life. Did Kansas->Atlanta, then Columbus->Deer Creek.

    Being an Indiana boy, pulling into the camps at Deer Creek was a moment I’ll always remember. Tired from the drive and a CRAZY Alpine Valley show (Fluffhead->jam!), but loving every second. Then that 7.25 Deer Creek show. Man, what a feeling I had going to back to my campsite that night.

  13. NewssyLee Says:

    Thanks to you

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