In Between

Soaring back from the stratosphere, your mind slams into your skull.  Phish holds their final climactic note as Trey announces the band’s return in fifteen minutes.  You wipe away the sweat from your eyes, catching your breath as that note comes crashing down.  The silence is loud; glancing around, you get your bearings.  Night turns to day.  It is setbreak.

picture man @ pbase

Hampton - photo: picture man

Feeling far different than you did when the set started, Phish has taken you to away to that place deep inside.  You see your friends collecting near that staircase over there, as some Dave Brubeck gently wafts through the house speakers.  Making your way over before the rush, you reunite with your crew, all together in the lair of the Phish.  Absorbing the atmosphere surrounding you, everyone glows with vibrant life in the aftermath of the first half.  Spotting a patch of empty seats, you head over and set up shop.  For the next thirty to forty minutes, you have nothing to do but reflect on the music, enjoy your friends, run to the bathroom, and burn a few.  Time literally turns elastic.


Deer Creek

Sitting back, you relax and gaze through the spectrum of color, and movement in front of you.  Running through the highlights of the set, mentally and verbally, you pull out a couple of pre-rolls, as you’ve learned that your rolling capacity can be astonishingly diminished in this vortex between the music.  Sparking one, you are soon passed a bowl from your buddy, and before too long you’re in the middle of the ritualistic setbreak session.  Allowing the smoke to enhance your fantasy land, you inevitably have some clowning interactions with heads you never met before; familiar strangers traveling a common path.  A time when the humor of the absurd rears its bizarre head, setbreak often becomes a straight-up comedy session of psychedelic hilarity.  Everyone’s heightened states and the ever-present magic present at Phish can combine to create side-splitting interludes between the music.

picture man @

photo: picture man

Soon your awareness shifts to your corporeal self, and you set your compass for the bathroom in order avoid the urge during the ensuing madness.  Thrusting yourself into the herd of cattle filling the arena corridor, you slither your way through a space preposterously packed with people perfectly content to inch around like snails.  In an uncrowded venue, this mission is a cinch, but when the big shows arrive, the secondary protocol is needed.  After executing your plan, you head back in the direction of your crew, everything around you sliding past in slow motion.  Light on your feet, you float through the hallway and touch down back at your home base.  (Unless you get lost, and then your mission takes on unknown dimensions of confusion and horror.)

picture man @ pbase

photo: picture man

Returning to your crew, a few spliffs still circulate, as the talk has turned to the approaching music.  There is nothing quite like the anticipation of the oncoming freight train that is set two.  If the first set was hot, you knew the second set was going to be something special.  If the first set dragged a bit, lacking many highlights, you knew the band would come out and blow the place apart.  It was a win-win situation, but the course of your cosmic adventure was yet to be charted.  Some fans create betting pools on the set opener; some merely venture a guess, and while almost always wrong, there is nothing like the band coming out and dropping into the song you called five minutes earlier.  A smile engulfs your being as you cannonball into the bottomless musical ocean.


photo: picture man

It’s been over a half an hour, it must be getting close.  As you stand, clinging to the rail, a handy metaphor for your present reality, you are ready for the music.  You’re done talking, there is nothing else to say.  As you see Paul and Chris making their way back to the boards, you hop out into the aisle and down the steps, reclaiming some dance space before the flood of people arrives.  As you sit on the railing, just waiting, you spot some of your other friends down on the floor.  Leaning over, you point them out to your buddy.  “Where? Who?” he asks.  “Not there!” you respond.  “The section to the right.  See that guy in the yellow shirt?  Go back three rows from–”

And the lights go black.  Everything falls into irrelevancy.  That feeling of divine possibility peaks inside your chest as your soul smiles, awaiting to receive the music.  Walking back on stage, the band assumes their places as Trey noodles and scratches at his guitar, checking in with each.  “One. Two. One, two, three four…”

Post your most absurd setbreak anecdotes in Comments below!



4.17.94 The Patriot Center, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA SBD ^LINK

The Patriot Center, Fairfax, VA

The Patriot Center, Fairfax, VA

A crispy soundboard recording from the spring of ’94, this one contains a great second set.  With shredding set-opening “David Bowie” followed by a rare pre-97 jammed-out version of “Wolfman’s Brother,” this set starts out with a bang.  Including a typically smooth and exploratory ’94 “Reba” and a manic “Maze,” the show certainly does not lack in improvisational chops.  Respek.

I: Loving Cup, Foam, I Didn’t Know, The Divided Sky, Mound, Down With Disease > If I Could, My Sweet One, Cavern

II: David Bowie, Wolfman’s Brother, Uncle Pen, The Sloth, Reba, Big Ball Jam > Maze, Contact, Golgi Apparatus

E: HYHU > Cracklin’ Rosie, Bold as Love


23 Responses to “In Between”

  1. play_it_leo89 Says:

    Another good post! Setbreaks are always an adventure. Damn I HATED getting lost. But the best feeling is when you are lost (or you think you’re lost) and you finally lock sights onto your spot, and right as that dread completely lifts, just then BOOM – the lights go out…perfect timing, as seemed to happen oh so often.

    You should write in greater depth about the songs/artists/house music played during pre-show, set-break, and post-show exiting. It could be about music played most commonly and/or music with a message (10/7/00, etc.). Could get a few good posts’ worth probably.

    Also, are you sure that picture of Deer Creek in this post is properly labeled? I’ve never been to Deer Creek, so I don’t know what it looks like there, but that picture looks an awful lot like Great Woods/Tweeter Center/whatever in Mansfield, MA. Just my 2¢.

  2. Al Says:

    I live in Germany and travelled to Camden and IT in 2003. On the second night in Camden I HAD to leave during Setbreak, which tore my heart out, as you can imagine. The reason for that was that I had to catch the LAST Greyhound to NYC to get my flight to Limestone. I had asked the woman at the NYC Greyhound ticket counter which was the last bus going out of Philly to NY, because I wanted to see a concert. I told her at what time I had to be at La Guardia! She told me I had to take a bus at 10:50 pm (as far as I can remember exactly). I knew then that I had to leave earlier because I had to use the ferry which had no fixed time to get people across the river. One thing was clear – missing the plane to Limestone would be the nightmare of nightmares. So I left, when the houselights went on. I took the ferry and walked and walked. I kept turning around watching the lights at Tweeter Center, which stayed on for an incredible long time. When I reached the Greyhound station I was quite early for the bus, but I didn’t want to take any risk. After a while there was quite a long line on my exit door to the bus – when it arrived I stood up and pulled out my ticket and wanted to get on the bus. BUT: Hey, the guy said: sorry Mister, no place left for you…! I said, “sorry, I have a ticket here!” So I learned that having a ticket doesn’t mean a shit in America – first come > first gets! Well, that was bad news. I thought that this was it for me – no Limestone! After a while people from the show came in – I mean – AFTER the end of the show! Nice….I missed it and I am still sitting here. Then I found out that the woman at the Greyhound counter gave me a ticket for the last bus on July 31st., but she could have given me the first on Aug. 1st., which was at 00:10 am right after midnight. Was I so stupid or didn’t she get it???? I could have taken that one, of course, without missing a second set I travelled 3000 miles for!! Now you guys think I’m a stupid idiot, but I am simply used to the fact that in germany:
    1#: you get a ticket for a seat
    2#: when you tell a person you want to go to a concert and you don’t want to leave early, people tell you that there is a bus right after midnight (which is in fact the next day/date)

    That was my setbreak experience.

  3. James Says:

    Set break of the second night ofr Great Woods 2004 was scary. I was tripping out hard and my brother, whom I had been on tour with, left me on the lawn. He was in a state as well and I wasn’t sure if he was going to return. I waited for what seemed like hours, as the voices of other heads rang out. Just as the band took the stage, he showed up holding a huge package of Starburst. We screamed and yelled during our reunion and needless to say it was the best Starburst I ever ate.

  4. Jeff Says:

    wow. the crashing back to reality during setbreak was always tough for me. i had way to much nervous energy to have to deal with anything normal (although nothing is very normal during Phish setbreaks). I would say my favorite thing to do now, since I don’t dabble in the “ether” as much, is listen to others conversations. I particulary enjoy listening to people who are tripping. It’s interesting to get their take on what had just transpired, or what is transpiring.
    Setbreak (fall tour 95) was also responsible for me being introduced to Medeski Martin & Wood. That is probably the best that came out of setbreaks.

  5. cason Says:

    link is not working

  6. Jerrydamule Says:

    ahhh, setbreak… the sweet, comforting, familiarity of maddening anarchy. “familiar strangers traveling a common path,” you said it, Miner!

  7. Mr.Miner Says:

    Link is working.

  8. lanser Says:

    one of my favorite posts so far mr. miner. thank you.

  9. J.Campion Says:

    Ok gotta start by saying I love this site. Check it every morning. Best Phish site since Gadiel’s was up. This is my first post, but I’m sure there will be more. Anyway, 9 outta 10 times the first word outta my mouth when the lights went up were “wow”. I’d have to sit and compose myself before making the trek outta my seat/spot. Once out in the hall its was all smiles. Even bathroom lines were fun! Sometimes they are alittle too long. Only one time was a set break bad. Providence 12/95 after the 1st set me and a few friends were PEAKING so went to get water and a girl grabbed my buddies arm and had a seizure!! Police and EMTS ran to her and we all BUGGED OUT! Unfortunately…3 outta 5 of us couldn’t handle anything else so we had to leave the show. Had to stick together! Know what I mean!??!

  10. Jampirate Says:

    Yet another great post. Thank you, Mr. Miner.

    Halloween ’96 at the Omni in Atlanta, I decided to dress up as a slave to the traffic light. I created and built a fully functioning stop light that dangled from a set of handcuffs about 2 feet in front of my face. After a crazy first set, I had to make the mind bending customary venture to the bathroom. I was standing in the hallway, trying to make sure I remembered which section I had just come from, when 8 people dressed as one “bus” came chugging right at me. Since I was, as you say, feeling far different than I did when the set started, I fully assumed my character. Without hesitation, I stepped in the middle of the hordes of people trying to get through. I turned my traffic light to red and stopped half of the hallway from moving as I waved the other half through. I flipped my light to green, and I allowed the bus and the other half of the hallway of people through. I stayed there for 2 full cycles of green/red for each side of the hallway. The bus, and everyone else out there during setbreak, stopped and passed by without a complaint, comment, or hardly even a recognition of how unusual having to stop at a human stoplight was. The normalcy of such a bizzare moment was what made me laugh the hardest. When I made my way back to my seat, I could not make sense of the story to my friends. Apparantly, my cognitive speach ability during setbreak is limited to 1st set musings 2nd set predictions.

  11. bingosbrother Says:

    Wow Jampirate, great costume and way to take charge! Setbreak I remember most vividly is the first night of Clifford Ball. I was pretty close to the stage and I remember turning around and looking behind me for the first time. It seemed to me that I was the only one standing and how strange that felt. And also thinking, where the fuck did all these people come from?

  12. Jeff Says:

    jampirate – that story has me laughing hard – thx for sharing.

  13. Chicago_Head Says:

    setbreak. always a doozy. can’t remember much about them. although Hamburg & Amsterdam 96 seem to stick out in my mind. remember having an out of body experience during the Mikes-H20-Weekapaug in Hamburg (500 people max) before the set break and then huddling up with my good buddy while waiting for set ii, and the McGrupp. Amsterdam on the other hand, took some wonderfully clean shrooms and had a few set breaks to chill out in, it was most mellow, everyone on the same level up in the stars, or cats down under, just chit-chatting the time away. and then, The Curtain.

  14. brandofunk Says:

    Miner…..Wanted to share this with you . Saw IT on the train back from NYC.

  15. Mike Says:

    At the first night of Alpine ’03, I was definitely on some amazing LSD when the lights went up for set break. My buddy who I was sitting next to was also tripping good as well. We both looked at each other and could tell we both needed to piss but were dreading leaving our spots to find the pisser. When we finally worked up the courage to walk up the hill and make it to the bathroom, we had to stand in line for a few minutes waiting for the urinals to open up. When we finally got to the front of the line, we both had serious issues trying to squeeze out any piss due to the effects of the acid. Eventually, I finally get a steady flow going and finish up, satisfied beyond belief. But then I look over at my buddy next to me who still hasn’t managed to piss a drop. Right then, the guy waiting in line behind my buddy pats my friend on the back and just says, “come on, man, you can do it, you’re all over this piss right now.” Before I know it there were maybe 10 people cheering my buddy on, which quickly turned into the entire bathroom yelling and encouraging my friend to let loose and ‘feel the piss.’ Sure enough, my buddy just starts pissing like a race horse and the whole bathroom erupts with cheering and high fives. It turned out to be an extremely long piss, with everyone cheering him on the whole time. We both walked out the the bathroom with HUGE smiles on our faces, rejuvenated for another set of the phantastic Phish.

  16. R1 Says:


    That’s some funny shit. I mean piss.

  17. burndog Says:

    Setbreak is classic. There was a time at Deer Creek ’98, the lights come on and we are all fired up and my buddy (Prince Lone Star) turns to all of us and says “don’t worry, there is still an encore”. I look at him and told him that we still had another set of music. His reply, “Really, Nice!” Love the site…I am starting to get pre-show butterflys.

  18. Mitch Says:

    That piss story is money. If that were me I’d have freaked out.

    Anyway I hated setbreak when you were in assigned seats and everyone was trying to find an empty seat cause they all snuck down and your tickets were nowhere to be found. Then paranoia strikes and you’ve checked and rechecked. By this time security is clearing the area and you can’t even form coherrent sentences and people are telling you to move cause you’re in their seats now so you just bolt. As soon as you’re in a safe zone you find it in your front pocket. It’s like fear and loathing at circus circus sometimes.

    however on the flip side of that I loved walking around in a good mood and meeting strangers. Smiling faces everywhere. You make your way back and it’s time to do it all over again.

  19. Drinks>Chainsaw Says:

    Set break is always a great time. I ecspecially love set breaks at big fetivals. The confusion never fails…..rewind to day one at the IT festy. Right before set two of day one a buddy of mine drenches my palm. So long reality. I was with with an enormous entorauge for this festival, like most every other festival I have attended, which was all of them. Great group of dudes. Of Course, why else would I spend so much time with them? Back to the point. We would always try to head in together or meet up at some point, but most of the time we would break off into other little factions to rage the shows and meet up after the ordeal to convene over our hilarious adventures thru out the day, set, or sometimes even the entire weekend. It’s been known to have at least one or two disapearing acts over the festivities. At this time, it was me and one friend of mine who were “rained” upon and we headed into the concert field in our own stealth gorilla outfit. Or so it felt.

    By the time my buddy and I had arrived to an area in which we thought the rest of the dudes would be, we could feel the feeling I never forgot. It was happening, and by the feel of it, it would be a doozy. Boy was I right. None of the other dudes were around, they were off getting into their own mental mayhem or working on a great chapter to unleash at the 3am convention at the camp site. The boys hit the stage Down with disease. Thats all it took. It was on. The dude I was was with, a solid veteran such as I, muttered something about he needed water and to take a dump or something. I decided he was crazy and stayed in place. He gave me a look like” In case I don’t make it back, tell my family I love them” You know, he knew his risk and I knew my fate, I couldn’t go with him DWD was just starting. We both knew he would not make it back to this same spot. If he did, it would be a miracle. We would rally at another point in time and we parted ways. It was like we both needed to have this time to ourselves. A vision quest as it would later be dubbed. What we didn’t know was this time we shared apart, would only be physically apart, we were on the same journey in our minds. I closed my eyes and got lost immediatley. I remember trying to find a better spot because the dudes around me were talking too much for my liking and I swear they were continuously puffing on a giant bowl of seeds. So I ventured out, deeper into the midst, heavier into the thick of things. It reminded me of that scene in the Matrix where they had the dance party in the caves. I found my spot. It was the same spot I shared with another buddy of mine for the first set. Great sound, right behind a tower. It was on again. The set continued and seemed like it went on for hours. The confusion started to kick in, at points I remember thinking about my buddy and where he was. The set ended. lights came on. The mid-set sounds of chatter and wide eyes looking around and smiles had begun. The set was over. At this time I didn’t know if the entire festival was over. I asked some people next to me, ” Hey is this set two on day three, or set three on day two, or set one of day 6″ and some mumbling in between. They saw my face and realized it was like that huh? We all laughed, or at least I did and it ened in awkward silence, or so I think. They didn’t mind the sour diesal, then we parted ways. Or I just got up and left in the middle of a conversation, either way. I decided it would be fun to head into the parking lot for some circus atmosphere festivities. Not knowing whether there was more music or not I just kept walking and taking it all in.I don’t know how much time went by but by the time I headed back into the concert field, the music was beginning again.” Wow, more music, thats great I had no idea”…did I say that out loud?….Close eyes, get in groove, put on seatbelt, get crazy…This is the part where trey decided to play an entire set just for me. And so he did. I am in a groove like never before, out of body experiences happen, and I won the trophy for best dancing while stuffed fill of Liquid. I open my eyes in time for Bug, look to my left and theres my buddy who started this journey with me. Smiling .We share a glimpse and his eyes say it all” WOW, do you believe this” I then tell him that Trey played that set solely for me, sorry if you wanted something else. He was on a journey as well that night, much like mine. It was something we both needed. This was the pinnacle of our lives at that moment. We were both proffessionals , deal with everyday corporate America BS, pay mortgages and live in harmony with society. Not this night. We drifted from the norm and became connected with our souls. It felt like 95 all over again. The care free days were back, just for that weekend, if not longer. We were not together for more than one song, but we were connected for the entire set’s.

    We rallied back out our base and met up with the other dudes in our crew. We shared our stories, Highlights of the music, crowd interactions and funny stories. I shared my hilarity that convened during set break and the confusion that occored, what I would not realize is the same confusion would happen that entire trip. Day two sets were the same” WHat set is this”…….and me and my buddy will share that night forever.

  20. Jason Says:


    Mike, I was one of the guys in the bathroom cheering on your buddy at Alpine 03. That is one funny memory that I hadn’t been able to wrestle to the front of my consciousness until I read your account of the episode.

    Great stuff!

  21. James Says:

    I was so far gone one set break I thought the show was over too. Man was I excited I had another set.

  22. David Says:

    Wow . . .nice post.

    Our thing during 97-98 was to use binoculars at setbreak. You would get completely lost peering in on all the other groups and circles. In a place like Hampton or Worcester it really made it that much more intimate

  23. Dizzwave Says:

    WOW, this is a cool site. I love your writings, jam-dj-mixes, and audio samples. I just found it today by doing a google images search for Phish pictures for my screensaver. LoL, very amusing description of setbreak, from the crazy conversations, to the bathroom-bound herd of cattle…. takes me back!! Nice work, friend.

    HAAAAHA! Mike, I just read your piss story…. too much…… 8)

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