When will the next show be? How many on the tour? Where will they play? Are they going international? The story goes on an on. Rumors are an ever-present part of the Phish landscape; they exist because we want them to. Everyone wants to guess, refute, and predict just where the next cosmic conference will be. With so-called reliable sources ranging from “a friend who knows Page’s brother” to “someone in the music industry,” everyone gets their word from someone who “knows.” As rumored dates come and go, your expectations rise and fall as well, so what have “people” have been saying?
photo - Danny Clinch
Maybe in March. Maybe in the summer. Maybe in March in Europe. I have heard all of those from different people within the last little bit. In March they have venues booked, so they say. Hampton, MSG, Philly, and Boston? Maybe so, maybe not. Phish has been known to book venues, just in case, and let the dates sail on by. As weird as Europe sounds, it would make sense that the band would want to play some smaller scale “warm- up” shows before stepping on stage in a rowdy arena. Their initial comeback into four high key arena gigs didn’t work out so well. Maybe so, Maybe not. They’ll just wait until summer, and practice a lot. Make a new album and come out loaded with new material. Maybe so, maybe not.
It’s all just words until we read it on Phish.com, but it is always fun to speculate. Just another area where Phish imitates life, rumors are everywhere. Pervading all areas of celebrity and entertainment, politics and sports, circles of friends and extended families, rumors live everywhere we turn. But when it comes to Phish, rumors get the heart pacing a bit faster than the latest US Weekly, and create that feeling in your stomach when you really think that they may be true. Announcements could come at any time, especially if they are playing in March. Who knows? And that is the fun of this all. Except for the insiders, everyone is grasping for the same knowledge, like Colonel Forbin looking for The Book. As Bob Marley once sang, “Oh, time will tell.”
One of the standout shows from a standout summer, this well circulated FM Broadcast soundboard source is quite crispy. A setlist looking like it was written by a fan, the Phish came with no-nonsense on this evening. A staple of every collection, this one is a must own. Grab it now if you don’t have it! (Also, I am uploading a remastered Nashville source, and will link it at the bottom.)
I: Wilson, Chalk Dust Torture, You Enjoy Myself, Rift, Down With Disease, It’s Ice, Tela, Stash
II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Run Like an Antelope, Fluffhead, Scent of a Mule, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil, Maze, Contact > Frankenstein
Music exists as a medium that mirrors the human experience; a way to evoke wordless feelings, a way to talk when language can no longer describe. In the truest sense, this was the essence of Trey’s orchestral opus, Time Turns Elastic. Debuted in Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium on Saturday night, Trey’s autobiographical piece narrated the story of his past few years, while obliterating traditional boundaries of classical music. Standing humbly, center stage with his Languedoc, Trey wove melodic and lyrical tales of his life within the rich musical tapestry of an avant garde orchestra. Very much a part of the orchestra’s palate, rather than playing on top of it, this performance focused on the music as a work rather than someone playing guitar.
photo - Bill Kucinski
With an elegant program specifically designed around Times Turns Elastic, Orchestra Nashville played a first set of relevant orchestral pieces. Opening with an introductory piece without Trey, director Paul Gambill, then then welcomed him to the stage for a breathtaking rendition of Divided Sky. Playing in an incredibly delicate and understated fashion, he worked his way through the Phish classic that was presented as a straight piece of the program with no specific introduction. He then sat in as part of “Concertino,” with a with group of two mandolin players, and played acoustic guitar while sitting in the back row as part of the orchestra- one of the most ego-less things Trey has ever done on stage. The set featured two more symphonic pieces, the last, “Le Tombeau de Couperin,” a Ravel piece that greatly inspired Trey and influenced the opening movement of Time Turns Elastic, as Gambill explained. Yet, the evening was focused on the music after intermission.
Surprisingly subtle, and distinctly non-Phishy, Trey delicately played through the debut of his piece with a clear sense of deep emotion. Yet, as we are accustomed to hearing Trey speak to us through his cosmic guitar fury, this time he had over 25 people to help him share his thoughts. This changed the dynamic of the concert, a story was told collectively as opposed to his upcoming tour, which represents more of a monologue. As life, Time Turns Elastic contained a distinct ebb and a flow to its emotional color, moving through playful and pensive, uplifting and somber segments. Comprised of two movements, the first instrumental, and the second, complete with whimsical poetic verses, this performance was one of the most unique nights of Trey’s musical journey. As lyrical segments emerged, lending a Broadway-eque feel, Trey sang delicately, using as his voice as yet another instrument to add to the symphonic whole; an instrument, interestingly enough, often more prominent than his guitar. Staring into his magical space above, Trey shared his words in a gentler way, greatly divergent from his arena-rock norm. Taking a complete 180 degree turn from a normal Trey-based event, the spotlight was less focused on him than ever, despite his stage positioning.
photo - Bill Kucinski
In and out of focus, time turns elastic
In and out of focus…
In and out of focus, time turns…
Sounding like the musical backdrop to a dream, Trey provided heartfelt accents and melodies to the music, as his notes seemed to float on the orchestra’s musical ocean, navigating the forty minute piece. The second, and far longer movement, saw Trey layering his self-reflective symbolic poetry over the music, each part having its own name, though there was no break in the music. Picking up momentum during the last segment, “Carousel,” Trey’s guitar became far more prominent and pronounced as the piece built to its final peak.
In and out of focus, time turns elastic
In and out of focus…
In and out of focus, time turns…
photo - Bill Kucinski
Though poetry can be interpreted in countless ways, being someone who wholeheartedly believes that Trey, despite his repertoire of side projects, is truly all about Phish, this is my take. This consistent reprise of this verse, and accompanying melody, throughout the movement brought out the meaning of the tale. From the time around Phish ended, he has moved in and out of focus, grappling with the various realities that have confronted him. Yet, with every part of unfocused life will inevitably come the counterpart of living in a directed and intuitive way. We become lost and then find ourselves again, and Trey has found himself again. Time is what we make of it, often stretched and pulled to extremes, as life’s challenges and successes bring us on the universal roller coaster. Through these times, he never lost sight of his heart; he never lost sight of Phish.
And when its time, the landslide
will free what froze inside
While all around the rocks collide
You finally see the lines
That point toward the light that
photo - Bill Kucinski
The landslide has come. Time is thawing the frozen part of Trey’s life, the part that has always made him the happiest. As he pondered his future throughout the past years, the light and hope of Phish, that would bring him back into focus once again, never died. Like the sun of your soul, while it can get shaded, it can never be extinguished. As we all anticipate the future of Phish, the future of our own musical journies, we can feel assured that Trey is right there with us and just as excited as we are.
And this life, it’s bending and
swelling around me
Turning and peeling into the
mist around me
And the winds all rising in the west
And the carousel turns into
breath around me
In and out of focus, time turns
The final lyric of the piece suggests hope- hope that life again will turn another page and the winds will lift us back into the sky. Breathing life into a once lifeless force, hope is bringing Phish back again. Time turns; we turn too. The light never dies.
Back by popular demand, another performance during Phish’s hallowed month of August 1993. Filled with top notch musical communication and a set list that is purely delightful, this one is sure to put a smile on your face. Enjoy this ear candy in crisp soundboard fashion! With must hear versions of classics, Tweezer and YEM, some rarities, and a Dude of Life appearance, this show from north of the border is a great snapshot of one of the best-ever months of Phish.
1: Chalkdust Torture > Who Knows* > Chalkdust Torture, Mound, Fee > Split Open and Melt > Glide > Nellie Cane > Divided Sky, Memories, The Squirming Coil
2: Dinner and a Movie > Tweezer > Tela > My Friend My Friend, My Mind’s Got a Mind of its Own, You Enjoy Myself > Smoke on the Water > You Enjoy Myself**, Contact, Crimes of the Mind#
E: Rocky Top
*First time played. **With “Psycho Killer” parts. #With the Dude of Life.
For all of the psychedelic madness and insanely heavy music produced by Phish, the four band members never lost their sense of humor. Possessing an incredible duality of serious musicianship and lyrical on-stage absurdity, they never took themselves too seriously. Grounded in a humble perspective coming from over a decade of grassroots touring to make it, Phish never let their success get to their heads- at least not on stage or in public. Always maintaining a certain gaiety to their shows, the band fostered a community feel of amusement and silliness around their entire scene.
Throughout their two decades of touring, these four loons from Vermont that started all this, somehow never lost their looniness. Almost as silly as the day they began, Phish was always in it for a good time. Can you believe that Fishman still ran around in a dress twenty years later? That’s not an act- that’s in his blood. From day one, Phish was about having fun. From mushroom-induced Oh Kee Pah Ceremonies in college to antics, comical lyrics, and onstage banter throughout their career, a thread of pure unadulterated fun ran remained consistent. Often worked right into the sinister mind-fucking, the humor of Phish always reminded you to not take yourself so seriously.
Examples of this spirit abounded. Take the “secret language” back in 1992, when the band gave musical cues to the crowd to, literally, do something at that moment. From yelling Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!” to falling down and pretending to die, these commands could provide subtle humor directly within the heat of the moment. This language was woven through intros and jams throughout their career. I remember being at Deer Creek once, and Trey gave the “fall down and die” signal. After doing it, and getting up, I watched the uninformed peoples’ utter dismay and confusion at what just happened- it was pure comedy. Trey described, and laughed, at this phenomenon in one of his language explanations in a ’92 show- it was like the band was getting us in on their jokes! Collectively, we would mess with the people who were just coming to shows for the first few times. Nothing mean, just fun. Classic Phishiness.
Then you had Jon Fishman. One of the most amazing drummers around, the guy pranced around in a dress and goggles for his twenty years, belting out songs that sounded as good as you or me in the shower. With a career total of well over 100,000 stage laps ran, a Fishman song placed deep in the second set always provided comic relief to a show that was challenging your grip on reality. If you were teetering, these interludes almost forced you to laugh with the sheer absurdity of the spectacle coming right after a huge jam. After a while I grew tired of Fishman songs- I thought they shot musical momentum directly between the eyes- but the band never got sick of it! Certainly providing laugh-out-loud humor for most all in attendance, Fishman continued hamming it up until the end. At some point I gotta’ say, more power to him.
Then there were all the festivals, designed largely by the band themselves. It was Phish’s idea to revolutionize the concert experience by hosting us for an entire weekend, and providing interactive entertaining activities for all, covering the concert grounds. They created those festivals in their own spirit; the same spirit in which they created their music, and shared that spirit with whoever wanted to come. With such generosity, Phish was like the Salvation Army for Fun. Anyone could come and take as much fun away as they wanted, no questions asked. Not many bands are so proactive in providing entertainment and comedy for their fan base. Usually, its just the good ol’ rock and roll.
Let’s not forget the Gamehendge mythology. No, not the serious Grateful Dead-type mythology about muses, ladies with fans, and cryptical envelopments, but lizards, and multibeasts, Tela and Icculus. Colonel Forbin stepped into another reality where he needed to help the lizards find a book of life’s secrets to restore order and seize power back from the evil King Wilson. Read-Icculus! Yes, we all know the story- but come on! It’s second nature to us at this point, and we don’t even think twice when they play songs about such fairy tale magic, it’s just Phish. But the very essence of Trey’s senior thesis is more silly, then sacred. Not that there isn’t a moral to the story, but you understand. The juxtaposition of such serious musical composition and childhood story-telling is what makes Gamehendge so unique, and in the end, so Phishy.
You also had the other songs, the ones written by Trey and Tom in their early years. The songs, themselves, were fun, and often straight up ridiculous. Think of the lyrics to these songs: Reba, Gumbo, YEM, Harry Hood, Contact, Run Like An Antelope, Cavern, Tweezer, David Bowie, Ghost, BBFCFM- I could go on. Notice how almost all the songs I listed were significant jam vehicles, and the same juxtaposition of musical depth and lyrical humor emerges. It was like Phish wanted to balance out their monster jams with some fun and comedy to provide a well-rounded experience. It is certainly one part of why they appealed to so many people, and not just the niche fan bases of today’s “jam bands.”
Throughout the majestic and incredibly accomplished musical career of the band, the members of Phish kept it real. Whether Mike was talking to fans in the parking lot, or Trey was telling jokes and making himself laugh on stage, Phish was always synonymous with fun. Whether Page was serenading us about smelling colors and Fishman was imitating Prince or Syd Barrett, or the band performed a Rotation or Big Ball Jam, no show went by without some laughs. Reflecting who the guys are as people and what their goals were when they got into this, the world they created was more fun than Mr. Wonka’s- it was candy for the mind. Phish’s ability to reflect all aspects of the human experience within there hours was always astounding, and regardless of how deep the band dove on any given night, even when they brought you down the darkest alley, there was a Meatstick or a Mockingbird right around the corner.
DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY: 12.7.95 Niagara Falls, NY << LINK!
Not exactly a diamond in the rough, this one is a fan favorite from the classic month of December ’95. With a first set that had a great Slave and a then-rare Guyute, the set was full of classic Phish songs. Yet, as usual, the true psychedelia was left for set two. Opening with as nasty of a Split as you’ll ever hear, and with huge versions of Fog That Surrounds and Reba, the set was already great before ending with a fierce Mike’s> Weekapaug. If you don’t have this one, grab it now! I’m off to Nashville to check out Trey’s new orchestral piece!
I: The Old Home Place, The Curtain-> AC/DC Bag, Demand, Rift, Slave to the Traffic Light, Guyute, Bouncing Around the Room, Possum, Hello My Baby
II: Split Open and Melt, Strange Design, Fog That Surrounds, Reba, Julius, Sleeping Monkey, Sparkle, Mike’s Song-> Weekapaug Groove*, Amazing Grace
E: Uncle Pen
*Unfinished, spiraling into a space jam (with digital delay loop)
By the time the late ’90s rolled around, Phish had become a massive entity and musical force of nature, whose live shows contained a large scale production. No, there were no pyrotechnics, (except on 7.4.00), but the crisp sound and elaborate, other-worldly, lighting rig gave the shows a fantastical feel- something outside the realm of conventional reality. Half the fun was being overwhelmed by the size of the music and the show, as Mike’s bass filled your chest, and Fishman provided your heartbeat. The monstrosity of what happened on stage was mind-altering. After seeing the band so many times in arena and amphitheatre settings, when Phish played small clubs, the experience took on a whole new feel.
No longer was Phish a mechanical monster opening its razor sharp jaws to the pavilion, but a ripping band on stage playing music. It all seemed more intimate and real- the monstrosity was gone. Instead of silhouettes in smoke and magical lights, you actually saw the faces of the band members and watched them communicate. That massive production was scaled down into the size of your average concert, and for Phish, that changed the course of the evening. Everyone in the room felt more connected in the same experience, unable to escape to the lawn or the corridors if the desire struck. The focus on the visual candy that was Kuroda’s light show was absent, changing the majestic appearance, but often intensifying the music that showered the crowded floor from a much closer proximity.
6.9.00 On Air East - Tokyo
Not only was there an alternate aesthetic to the experience, the music actually sounded different. With far less space for the music to travel, the band often played more notes in their phrases. Conversely, when playing on huge open-air festival systems, the music often slowed down to a crawl to allow the music to bellow forth and cover the extensive fields. This phenomenon was often most translated through Mike’s playing. Instead of playing his spacious wide open bombs that resonated through your imagination, he tended to play more complex melodic lines, keeping your ears alert as his glue held the bands diverse musical patterns together. Although some counterexamples to this trend can be found in the initiation of the Summer ’97 funk in Europe, over the course of their career, this held true. (See Ghost video below for a great example of the “club style” that I am describing!) Moving the improvisation along a different course, some jams played in clubs you would never have heard at MSG or Hampton- they wouldn’t have translated.
Along with all of these experiential differences, there was also a distinct difference in the vibe of the crowd. Usually taking place in an international country, or a special club like The Fillmore or Roseland, for which people gave an arm and a leg for a ticket, there existed an enhanced sense of mutual respect. With only a few hundred to a few thousand people present for the music, tickets to these shows didn’t fall into the hands of the folks who stood around, distracted others, and talked during shows. A more focused musical audience, especially in Japan, was one of the supreme perks of club and international Phish. People weren’t there for the lot, or to sell drugs- people were there for Phish and Phish only- the vibe was pure. Friendliness was contagious at these shows, as every person felt the same privilege to be in attendance; egos tended to fall by the wayside- “We’re all in this together, and we love to take a bath,” took on a whole new intimate meaning.
Instead of dispersing all over the land of the brave and free, after these international club shows, most fans would reunite at bars and nightclubs to carry on the festivities together; a sort of traveling party. Often, band members would slip in, further shattering the barriers between the fans and band. Americans mingling with Japanese and European heads using the international language of Phish as common ground; ’twas a beautiful thing. Without the concern of police harassment due to overwhelming numbers of hippies, you could navigate the cities in your post-show euphoria without a care. The world was your oyster- checking out places you’ve never been by day, and capping each evening with a hearty dose of Phish. Is that not the perfect vacation?
In the grand spectrum of Phish experiences, the small club show was an irreplaceable gem that not all fans got to take part in. Therefore, for those of you who haven’t seen a club Phish show or even heard much club-sized Phish, I have put together Miner’s Picks: Club Phish. With seven hours of small-sized Phish highlights from 1997-2000, this sampling should give you a taste of what Phish does when contained in a smaller tank. Enjoy!!
Another show that flew somewhat under the radar in an amazing Fall tour of 1998, this show has a little bit of everything. A ripping opener of Punch followed by a slow as molasses, Gumbo started the show with a bang. But it’s all about the second set of this one. Opening with a 25-minute ripping Halley’s Comet that explores some maniacal territory while also containing plenty of grooves, this set is one of the best of Fall ’98. This Halley’s immediately stood out as a huge tour highlight, as the end gave way to some lighter fare in Simple > Walk Away. With an impeccable Limb by Limb and a disgustingly groovy, lesser known, Ghost to end the set, Phish hit a winner on this evening. Check it out.
I: Punch You in the Eye, Gumbo, If You Need a Fool, Sleep, Tela, Birds of a Feather, Theme from the Bottom, Julius
II: Halley’s Comet, Simple > Walk Away, Limb by Limb, When the Circus Comes, Ghost
E: Contact, Rocky Top, Funky Bitch
In other Phish Thoughts news, notice the “Miner’s Pick’s” clickable download links all along the right column of the front page. You no longer have to scroll or click through the site to find the entire Miner’s Picks Series. Cheers.
Aside from amazing music, great times, and great friends, Phish provided us with something even greater- an alternate reality. A realm where the most pressing issues were tickets, dance space, and finding your way from venue to venue on the maze of interstate highways, Phish tour provided a break from every day monotony, real-life problems, and cumbersome responsibilities. Yet, the funny thing was, time spent on tour was as real, if not more real than many days spent at the office, at school, or at work. It was here that you were living.
“Waiting for the time when I can finally say
That this has all been wonderful but now I’m on my way.”
photo - Otar Taktakishvili
In an alternate take on this lyric, a friend once explained to me that this line represented leaving all that crap behind, and heading out to Phish tour. Instead of bittersweet feelings, this song should evoke feelings of excitement and celebration, in line with its musical direction. I always found that interpretation to be thought provoking and pretty spot-on for my own life. On tour, whether for a weekend or a month, you were genuinely following your heart; your deep desire for human transcendence through music- a portal for your soul to reach the divine. Wasn’t that more real that than what you did at work every day? You never listened to tapes of meetings, recalling the feelings they evoked in you- that might be masochistic. You get my point, you were following your passion.
“We gotta get on the road, destiny unbound.”
photo- Laurie Gough
There was nothing like a long road trip to Phish with some friends and some weed to leave your problems in your dust for a while. Watching the fields of Iowa, or the desert of Utah, the farms of western Pennsylvania, or the coast of California fly by your car window- your consciousness slipped into your subconsciousness while the Bowie > Cities > Bowie provided the soundtrack for your journey. Your thoughts drifted into a state of nothingness as your imagination took over. The open road was inspiration, eternal possibility; perfect interludes between cosmic evenings of music and inward exploration.
“The passion that sparked me one terrible night
And shocked and persuaded my soul to ignite”
And each night, nothing mattered except every note coming from the stage. Life-sized Phish grooves as imposing and alive as any thing in the “real world” dominated your evenings and mind. Tomorrow didn’t matter as you danced like you had never thought you could; realizing this was it; this was you. Discussing setlists you had just lived through, and basking in the post-show glow, this is what spoke to your soul. Some people from back in that other life just didn’t understand, but now it didn’t matter. All that mattered was finding your friends and your spot for the show, and raging it for all you were worth. Embracing the privilege of being in front of the Phish, nothing else mattered when Trey dropped the the opening lick of Mike’s, or into when the band exploded into a Tube jam. Those “time and space”-less moments were the fabric of our dreams.
“The winds will lift you into the sky above
Where you will see a trail of treasure, memories you love
A rainbow record of the thoughts, the moments you’ve enjoyed
Arcs behind the earth as spectral colors in the void”
Some of our most treasured memories still come from the adventures of Phish. Whether in the venue, on the road, at a hotel or campground; these were our “trail(s) of treasure.” High times, cruising the country, living the dream with an unparalleled soundtrack. We have file cabinets worth of colorful memories at this point, and we are about to write some more. But, when it is over, what will remain are the eternal feelings, memories, and music. So even when life gets crazy, we have the respite of our minds to return to these times, and derive the power to persevere, the power of the void.
Surrounded by The Gorge, Alpine, and Deer Creek, this Summer ’97 gem often flies under the radar. With a killer first set sunset combo of Twist > 2001 > AC/DC Bag, followed by Yamar, YEM, the was place buzzing by half time. Another 20 plus minute Ghost exploration highlighted the beginning of the second set, while one of the best Antelopes from the summer took it home, this show full of amazing improvisation from start to finish. With a tight Stash tucked in this one as well, it’s the best show from Summer ’97 that you haven’t heard.
I: NICU, Stash, Beauty of My Dreams, Twist > 2001 > AC/DC Bag, Yamar, You Enjoy Myself
II: Runaway Jim > My Soul, Ghost, Prince Caspian, Cars Trucks Buses, Sample in a Jar, Run Like an Antelope> Makisupa Policeman* > Run Like an Antelope
*Instrumental, with Page on Theremin and Mike on mini-drum kit.
One of the most entertaining parts of the Phish experience was “the lot.” Whether you were someone who arrived at the venue at 3pm and hung out all day, or you pulled in at 6:45 and walked right to the doors, you inevitably witnessed some absurd lot humor each and every night. This humor could take the form of someone offering offering good vibes and hugs for a ticket or a hippie sporting a hemp necklace so thick, it would have made LL Cool J jealous. It could take the form of fans’ clever signs asking for a “miracle,” or simply a “puddle” for the night. Anyway you cut it, the parking lot at a Phish show was a hysterical place, and had a language all to its own.
One of the funniest parts about the lot, and “Shakedown Street,” was the incredibly diverse items you could buy outside a show. The ability to purchase so many things brought convenience, humor, and spice to the scene- especially after the show as your saucer-eyed self meandered through the madness. Let’s look back at some of the things most readily available at a show.
Food: A downright buffet of questionable cuisine, the lot provided many options for the diner daring to go there. The most popular item being hawked had to be the veggie burrito. Having to be made at some point during the day (hopefully the same day) and inevitably sitting in a van until after the show, I never understood the people whose eyes lit up when they saw these on lot. Then you had your french bread pizza, somehow cooked in ovens that heads traveled with around the country. These were always the highlight of my purely olfactory experiences. Moving on, some standard fare included quesadillas, pizza-dillas, and the classic “grilly,” or simply put, the heady grilled cheese. From ganja gooballs to rasta pasta, you could compile a lot cookbook of recipes you would never use. (On a side note- ganja gooball!? Are you kidding me? What that means is, “Do you wanna’ buy a kneaded orb of sticky, sugary, “organic” crap that was on sale in the local grocery store today mixed with ganja butter?” Sounds like a perfect pre-show snack.)
Clothes: If you were late, and couldn’t stop at Walmart, odds are you could find what you needed at the show. From “freshies” (new socks) to “hoodies” you could pimp yourself out with “heady” lot gear. First and foremost, you had your classic culture of bootleg Phish lot t-shirts. Whether it was the classic Antelope Crossing long sleeves or the Star Wars take on Mike’s Song, everyone, at some point bought a lot shirt. It’s probably still in your drawer right now, cherished, tucked away for watching Sunday football. Maybe its the upside down Hood milk logo or the Glide version of Tide detergent that you sport when you work around the house. Perhaps you bought the classic LL Bean Llama or the Camel Walk cigarette pack tee; the Ghost on the GI Joe logo or Forbin’s Ford Truck shirt, and just can’t get rid of it due to nostalgia. Too many to remember, the t-shirt market had a life of its own, yet there were other items for sale. Fans sold patchwork of all shapes and sizes sewn into shirts, pants or dresses; hemp and beads twisted into any form of necklace, anklet, or dread holder were hawked like wildfire. This was the high hippie fashion of the ’90s, and lots of fans and “custies” bought into the trend. Let’s also note that once these folks stepped off Phish lot, they appeared as if in some sort of costume to citizens of the rest of the world! (On another side note, you gotta love the term “custies,” derived by the tour head selling items to get from show to show to describe their customers who drove up in mom and dad’s Ford Explorers, and broadened to mean uncool or mainstream.)
Drugs: The lot was an open air drug market in which you could score just about anything if you hung out on Shakedown long enough. All you had to do was stand still and allow enough people to whisper in your ear. Whether it was “gellies” or “25,” “pressies,” or “molly,” “sexy beasters” or “headies,” “pharmies” or “mushies”, the Phishies had you covered. Party favors for the show and beyond, the lot was a psychedelicitessan that never closed its doors; just avoid the middle aged men with moustaches and bright tye-dies. They like to hang out in Virginia Beach.
Smoking Devices: With the herb being such a large part of Phish culture, the market for ways to smoke it became huge on lot. Ranging from a recreational activity to a holy sacrament, just about everyone had their own routine of puffing. Part of this ritual was something to pack. Having evolved from a utility to an art form, certain glass bowls, bubblers, and bongs began to be identifiable by who blew them. A psychedelic form of art in its own right, this could be a place to score a “head piece” to display and use in your home, or a “traveler” to roll with and dispose of after tour. With more glass available on Shakedown then on Haight Street, the glass market proved that it clearly matters to fans what they burn their weed in.
Alcohol: Fans liked to “schwill.” There was never a lack of adult beverages available for consumption on Phish lot before and after a show. While Summer tour was the high season for beer sales, they took place throughout the year. Hippies like “heady” beer- the darker the better- with a Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout being the king of lot ales. Known affectionately as “Oaties,” these were a staple of any Phish lot. Going as far as selling shots of Jaegermeister and other bottled liquor for a few dollars each, fans created their own versions of a bar- the bartenders just usually weren’t as pretty as usual.
Ahhh. The days of lot. A tradition carried over from Dead tour, the lot existed as container for the scene. Buying, selling, bartering, and trading, fans, “kids,” and “custies” conducted a self-experiment as an independent free-market economy, living on asphalt from state to state. With cash flow that could be analyzed by economics students, the lot was a natural phenomenon in basic principles of supply and demand. More than just an extension of the show, the lot was an independent entity all together, attracting hangers-on often not interested in seeing the band. But when it was all said and done, the lot was a place for natural social interaction, transaction, and a unique stage for human comedy.
PHISH LOT VIDEO
What are your favorite lot memories and stories? Share in comments!
This short trip due north of their home in Burlington brought back a winner of a show. Known for many fans’ favorite Reba of all time, and a ridiculous Tweezer, this show comes amidst a tour and a year that featured some of Phish’s most adventurous risk-taking and ballistic jamming. With ten days remaining in a tour that started on April 4th in Burlington- three full months earlier- this show illustrates a band that was well polished and heading for home.
I: Llama, Fluffhead, Julius, Bouncing Around the Room, Reba, Axilla [Part II], My Minds Got A Mind of its Own, Carolina*, David Bowie
II: The Landlady, Poor Heart, Tweezer# > Lawn Boy, Chalk Dust Torture > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars > Sample in a Jar > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars, Harry Hood, Tweezer Reprise
E: The Old Home Place*, Nellie Cane*, Memories, Funky Bitch
#With a very “Also Sprach Zarathustra” jam, especially by Trey. *Acoustic and without mics.
Nine years ago today was one of those Phish shows you just had to love. In the middle of the week in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with few tangential show goers other than a few hundred students from New Mexico State, this one would be for the people on tour. A casual afternoon lot scene gave way to a spacious venue with a GA floor that provided a very laid back experience for those in attendance. Able to move around freely, stubbing anyone you wanted down to the floor, this show was as casual as it gets, and represented the perks of west coast, out-of-the-way, shows. Sure, they didn’t have the ominous feeling of MSG or Worcester, but you a got the sense that you were getting a more exclusive concert, one played just for you and those who made it a point to drive into the middle of New Mexico, Idaho, or Alabama. Taking on a completely different, but just as Phishy of a feel, shows like Las Cruces, New Mexico provided a necessary balance to a tour that would inevitably pass through all the major markets and wind up in the crowded venues of the northeast. Back to back with another show of a similar vibe, Las Cruces and Pima County Fairgrounds in Tuscon, AZ, gave Fall ’99 a southwestern siesta portion of the tour.
Easily walking inside without waiting in line, using an empty bathroom, and finding the ideal space on the half-empty floor with friends, a very mellow vibe encapsulated the room. As showtime neared, more people flowed in, yet space in the venue was just never a problem. Phish often came out and ripped in these off-the-beaten-path shows, rewarding fans who traveled to such locales, and Las Cruces was no different. Hot off an exciting run down the west coast, Phish began to carve their way east, and as they pulled into Las Cruces, not very far from Roswell, fans felt tapped into extra-terrestrial aura surrounding Phish’s closest performance to the controversial and highly publicized UFO conspiracy of 1947.
Apparently, the band was tapped into the same wave-lentghs, as they came onstage and used the first few minutes to build an ambient soundscape before dropping into a opening fourteen-minute 2001 dance session. Combining high octane funk with ’99’s effects, and distorted, yet melodic, guitar leads, this version kick started the show, and gave a nod to all the conspiracy theorists out there. Ripping right into Chalkdust, neither the band, nor crowd, had a lack of energy getting going on this night. Following a string of non-improvisational songs, the band sat into a twenty minute Bathtub Gin. This jam began in laid back fashion, but as the band delicately moved the music to another plane, Trey and Mike began to lead the way with some tight interplay. Trey took it flying into the emotional realm with those expressive melodies that remind you of your own inner thoughts and feelings. This Gin generally remains tucked away in the first set of this under-the-radar show, but it’s a version that more people should know. With a short interlude of Mozambique, Phish got right back to business, dropping the recently debuted Sand, late in the first set. This jam provided fans- all with ample to room to move- yet another session of improvised dance grooves in what shaped up to be a very strong, and long, first half of the show.
The second set contained no nonsense as Phish built a set on diverse types of improvisation. Beginning with the lighter candy grooving of Jibboo, the beginning of the second set continued the theme of open dance jams that had defined the first. This got everyone warmed up for the meat of the show- a masterful and unlikely pairing of Ghost > Taste. Totaling 30 minutes, this segment of the show began with some locked in jamming as the dark palate of Ghost provided the perfect canvas for Trey to color with consistently clean and snaking guitar melodies. The band built the tension of the jam around his solo and Mike began to play in a way in which remained locked with Fishman, rhythmically, while simultaneously playing complimentary melodies to Trey. Progressing into a more searing millennial ’99 segment, characterized by wailing walls of sound with Mike pounding away underneath, this Ghost contained multiple segments of standout jamming. Climaxing in a frenzied peak, this jam explored some aggressively psychedelic territory before quietly segueing into Taste.
Taste’s polyrhythmic textures and unique time signature provided a stark contrast to the heavy grooves that had just concluded, but as they entered the jam, in was clear that the band was on, and their precise shredding adapted quickly to the new musical milieu. The complex jam contained gorgeous symbiotic phrasing by Trey, Page and Mike, as they navigated the divergent territory. Coming to a mind-bursting peak, this usual set closer was magnified as it was inserted into the high-profile mid second set slot. A perfect example of the four band members totaling more than the sum of their parts, this Taste gave Ghost a perfect running mate. A long segment of top notch Phish, this Ghost > Taste provided the high point of the evening- even though things were far from over.
Stopping in Brian and Robert for a minute to catch their breath, the band subsequently sparked a fiery Mike’s Groove that splashed with a heavy funk section; Trey using his patented rhythm playing to get the room pulsing again. With Page adding some dark colors and sinister sounds, Trey would soon leave behind his whispers in favor of wails, as Phish dug to deeper and darker places. This ferocious Mike’s fit in perfectly with the groove-heavy show and the band reached some raunchy territory before using the Simple transition as an emergency escape route out of the quagmire.
Finishing on a lighter tone with Trainsong and Weekapaug, this show was one that noone left disappointed. With a bust out encore of their classic ZZ Top cover, “La Grange,” this show had everything that all of those shows in the middle of nowhere usually had- bust outs, huge jams, and two sets chock full of great Phish. As tour twisted into Texas, the placid desert days of Arizona and New Mexico had come and gone. This one will live on in the memories of all who enjoyed it, and now you can too, with the download below.
Here’s a selection from back in the day. This old school classic features the rarities of Landlady > Destiny Unbound and Tube in their heyday, along with Phish classics galore. Filled with old-school Phish craziness, this one is picture of a different band at a different time. Enjoy!
1: Chalk Dust Torture, Sparkle, Cavern, The Curtain, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil, My Sweet One, Guelah Papyrus, Gamehendge Rap > The Divided Sky, Lawn Boy, Golgi Apparatus
2: Llama, Bathtub Gin, Poor Heart, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Eliza, Tube, The Landlady > Destiny Unbound, Harry Hood, HYHU > Love You > HYHU, Bouncing Around the Room, Possum
E: Highway to Hell, Suzy Greenberg
Trey announces that the new name of the band is “Mrs. Pizza Shit,” and it is yelled repeatedly throughout the show.
The culmination of three nights at the classic Fox Theatre in Atlanta, this show is among the best of 1995’s 54-show fall tour. Taking a week off after Halloween, Phish reemerged in Atlanta for these three nights to kick off the second leg of the tour. Wasting no time getting deep, the band dove right into a second song Mike’s that initiated the first set onslaught, leaving a set list that would read like a second set. With a darkly layered Stash, precise Yamar, and ripping Chalkkdust, this set was chock full of imrovisation. The second set upped the ante, opening with a 2001 > Bowie, in quintessential ’95 form. A Fluffhead and a set closing Antelope rounded out one fans’ favorites nights of the fall. A show focused on improvisation from start to finish, it is a must-have ’95 classic.
I: Cars Trucks Buses, Mike’s Song > A Day in the Life, Poor Heart, Weekapaug Groove, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Ya Mar, Stash, Amazing Grace*, Fee, Chalk Dust Torture
II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > David Bowie, Suzy Greenberg, Uncle Pen, Fluffhead, Sleeping Monkey, Frankenstein, Suspicious Minds, Run Like an Antelope
E: Acoustic Army, Good Times Bad Times
VIDEOS OF THE WEEKEND: 11.24.98 Moma Dance, New Haven, CT
This first set Moma, captured beautifully in this video, got the New England crowd moving quickly. Showcasing the thickness of Fall ’98 Momas, this video is a little laid back funk for the weekend. (Excuse the couple minute video drop, the audio remains.)
6.13.94 Reba Jam Kansas City
Spectacular footage of a spectacular jam, this video illustrates the locked in grooves that typify so many ’94 Rebas. Like all wine’s have their vintage year, Reba’s was most defintely 1994.