Getting Into IT

We all love Phish for their ability to rearrange our realities with improvisational jams channeled from the ether.  The transportive nature of their music was the central reason that Phish became such a musical phenomenon and a central part of our lives.  Traveling to places deep within, riding the rapids-filled river of Phish music, we were able to discover things about ourselves, our friends, and the world around us.  We learned to believe in Phish and trust that their musical maze would lead us where we needed to go.  Yet, between these extended periods of cosmic improv, Phish possessed a completely different side.  They wrote great songs.  I’m no longer thinking of improv based pieces, but the classic Phish songs that we all love, that are the same every time out.  After seeing twenty, fifty, or hundreds of shows, these songs became “filler” in the evening, as they were consistently taken for granted as breathers before the next huge adventure.

42950698Yet, not everyone had an older sibling or friend usher them into “the scene,” and these songs that later became less relevant to our show experience were once central in lassoing our interests away from hip-hop, alt rock, metal or whatever we were into at the time.  You may not remember the first time you heard “Bouncin’ Around the Room,” but you remember how you felt.  Enchanting and different- the harmonies were so rich and the melodies sang in your head for hours after.  The percussive beat and the singing in rounds added to the intrigue, and then it was over.  Hey, this was pretty good.

One day, maybe in a parents’ car, high school party or dorm room, someone put on “Sample In a Jar.”  Wow!  This was pop rock taken to a whole new level.  The guitar sounded so warm and inviting, and the grooves just felt right echoing inside of you.  The verses sounded just as cool as the chorus, and that big peak at the end got you every time.  You began asking your buddy to play that song each time you saw him.

At some point ,”Fee” provided an introduction to Phish’s narrative lyrical nature.  Listening to the tale of Floyd, Fee and Millie, you couldn’t help but be tickled by the absurdity of it all.  Floyd, the chimpanzee tried to court Millie away from the weasel only to being sliced on the nipple by Millie, herself, and fall to his aquatic death.  Fee’s life was saved and their romance lived on.  Listening to the details, the music simultaneously narrated the story, complementing the words perfectly- pretty clever these Phish guys were.

Matt Collins

12.29.03 - photo: Matt Collins

Soon, your interest was peaked and you turned to a bootleg.  You had been told of this Gamhendge story, and when you heard “Lizards,” a new world opened- not only to Colonel Forbin.  This was the song that hooked me and I needed to know more.  The fairy tale magic combined with Trey’s sublime super-emotional guitar in the second part, had me wanting to discover what Phish were all about.  The verses, the chorus, the musicianship- everything!  Who was this band, and why was I listening to Use Your Illusion all the time? (n.b. They are great albums!) Before long I found myself at a Phish show and the rest is history.

While everyone’s path to Phish was different, at some point, these anthems, with no jamming whatsoever, played a significant role in our love for the band, and perhaps still do.  Maybe it was the quirky lyrics and multi-faceted music of “Golgi Apparatus” that caught our ear first.  Or possibly, “Picture of Nectar” was the initial song you were jonesing to hear- oh yeah, they call that one “Cavern.”

42950724The fact is, those five-minute songs are as Phishy as twenty-minute “Tweezer”s.  These songs that so often got ignored in our later days of being a fan were just as much a foundation of Phish’s success as “You Enjoy Myself” or “David Bowie.”  Not everyone could latch onto intricate psychedelic journeys right off the bat, but if those twenty minutes were surrounded by “NICU” and “Sparkle,” it all became more palatable.  And even though you were at your two-hundred and seventy-fifth show, the band always understood that there were many present for the first time.

As we sit on the brink of Hampton, creeping closer everyday, the fact is that there will be a whole new generation of Phish fans once we step back into the freezer.  Kids who were twelve, thirteen, and fourteen when Coventry happened, and have spent the last few years listening to shows and posting online, are dying to experience Phish for the first time.  There will also be those who will be those who will be discovering Phish for the first time ever, like we did so many years ago; some with no knowledge of the band’s music at all.  As they always did, Phish will play to entire room in Hampton, mixing new and old school “singles” in with their improvisational adventures.  Yet this time around, when Bouncin’, Golgi, and Sample boom through the PA, they will sound a little bit sweeter, and a lot more meaningful.  They will be sonic blessings whose musical paths will bring us back to a time long ago, while introducing others to their future.  Anyway you cut it, they will be magic to our ears.


[polldaddy poll=1166392]



7.11.91 Battery Park, Burlington, VT SBD < LINK

artist-99187166-1450185Here we have a crispy DSBD of a free show in Phish’s hometown during the Summer ’91’ tour with The Giant Country Horns.  This show marks the first performance of The Doors’ “Touch Me,” and features bust-outs of “Frakenstein” and “Flat Fee” after 217 and 348 shows, respectively.  Amidst a tour of standout shows with the horns, the band was ripping as the next night would be their a classic show in Keene, NH released as Live Phish 19.

I: Oh Kee Pa Ceremony > Suzy Greenberg, The Divided Sky, Flat Fee, My Sweet One, Stash, Lizards, The Landlady

II: Dinner and a Movie > Cavern > TMWSIY > Avenu Malkenu > TMWSIY > Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, HYHU > Touch Me*, Frankenstein

E: Contact > Big Black Furry Creature From Mars

With The Giant Country Horns. *First time played.


46 Responses to “Getting Into IT”

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  1. still bummed Says:

    but do these new phish fans know that tickets didn’t always cost $300 to $1000 a pop? Do they know not to buy tickets from scalpers? I have a feeling that hampton will only shed brief joy on these new and gullible fans. But at what price? I feel something is getting lost in this translation. Or maybe this is just how thing$ are gonna be fro now on….very disturbing indeed.

  2. bhizzle Says:

    Regarding the poll: REBA

  3. John Campion Says:

    The first notes i ever heard from Phish were in the long jam section at the end of “Daivd Bowie” off Junta. That was 1993,i was 15 riding around in a friend of a friends car, and i thought, ” Oh my God, I have never heard anything like this music. The are no words…..and it still ROCKS!!!” Needless to say I was hooked. I have always love the simple songs Phish play. They are BEAUTIFUL! Mountains in the Mist, Driver, Billy Breathes, Strange Design, Anything But Me, Dirt, Lifeboy, Tela…etc etc etc. Certain songs were perfectly placed as a “come up for air” song. I am guilty of rolling my eyes when they played a bouncin > rockytop….but i can 100% say, that won’t be the case anymore. So bring on the “waste” encore in 2009….I’m ready for it!

  4. Little Buddy Says:

    Nice work Mr. Miner. Once again you are right on with your insights. When I think back to when I was first exposed to Phish as a high schooler in the early 90’s I had no idea that following this band seeking out a pocket of warmth inside a nice long Slave, Reba or Bug jam or the funk of YEM or Black Eyed Katy/Moma would consume my life. What I did know was that these guys wrote songs and played music like I’d never heard before. Not only were the lyrics just different from anything I heard before, but the way they were presented through the structure of the song; the instrumentation and the interplay between these four masterful musicians just grabbed me somehow and it still hasn’t let go. I was blown away by the compositional elements of YEM and early epics like that, but I was just as intrigued by Bouncin, Esther, Sample and many of the shorter, simpler songs on the first few albums that were just interesting. I remember playing It’s Ice about a million times when Rift came out because I just couldn’t believe how amazing the interplay between Page and Trey was. I think most of us have gone through many stages as Phans. In the beginning, it just about being awed by the music and the experience and trying to figure out what songs were being played at shows (“Do you know the name of this song?”), then being aware of Phish’s repertoire and seeking great “bust outs”, and finally – to the point where I am now. I don’t care what they play. I really don’t… I have my favorite jams, but I’m really just searching for that pocket of warmth that I fall into at some point (usually several times) during any show. Sometimes its a long jam that brings me there, but other times it a just a short un-improvised beautiful song at just the right moment. The ‘Mist at Hampton ’03 somehow changed my life forever. I have no idea why, but I had an epiphany during the short 5 minutes and it changed my life forever. I can’t wait to see what brings me back there next… People I know think I’m nuts for paying the exorbitant prices that the brokers are charging for my wife and I to go to Hampton, but if they could be inside my head, heart and soul for some of these moments, they’d understand. And sometimes, its Dog Faced Boy or Albuquerque (yes, I know its a Neil Young song) that brings the chills and tears – it isn’t always the epic jam, even though that what I’m usually seeking out.

  5. Jeff Says:

    I took my hiatus from Phish in 97 (i know!) and 98, basically due to living in the wilderness with no money and no computer. So when I came back into it full swing in 99, it was wild to find that songs like It’s Ice, My Friend My Friend, Rift, and even Mule to a certain extent had become mild rarities! When in 95 it seemed those and others appeared every other show. So later when we did get one of those, it was so awesome! But then My Soul, Character Zero, Dogs Stole Things became the new “fillers” in the later years. It was easy to scoff at them. I was always a jam seeker, more than looking for the 4 min songs, at least until the first haitus. After that, I began to look at most songs differentlly, trying to find nuggets within their meaning, or little nuances each time they were played. Even Caspian! So this time around, I am eagerly looking forward to the new energy the band plays their “fillers” with, and how this new beginning will contrast with the older “filler” songs. I can already say that hearing Trey perform Brian and Robert, Strange Design, Velvet Sea and Bug, that there is a new density to these songs I once casually took in while waiting for the next big jam. I can’t wait to do this again!

    Little Buddy, I as well had that reaction to the Hampton Mist. I think that Mike’s>Mist was the best segment of the 3 shows.

  6. Matso Says:

    Poll: Guelah Papyrus. And Picture of Nectar.

    Miner: One of my favourite posts so far. Reading this, I got such a powerful sense of that initial wonder. I started on Nectar and at the time, it was difficult to get Lawn Boy and Junta in Canada. I remember driving down to New Hampshire with my mum in spring 93, listening to the recently release Rift all the way (to this day, Mound brings to mind that trip), and finding Junta at some Walmart-type store – what a happy day that was (although it would take a few more months before I “got” YEM, Bowie and Fluff’s travels).

    Little Buddy: well said. I had one of my best experiences at Coventry during the Poor Heart. Over the years the song had become so ingrained that we all sang along without consciously needing to the think of the words. Looking around at my friends, it made me so happy to see them yelling out the lyrics, knowing that they had also spent thousands of hours hearing about how detective work had sure become a bore, and that this little blue grass number about a four track of all things was something we all shared.

  7. Chief Says:

    Great Piece man…I was lucky enough to have an older friend who said hey wanna go to a show? i didn’t even kno any Phish except for sample and that night changed my life. 6/14/94. 14 years later , hopefully, this summer will bring me my 50th show. I personally can’t wait to feel the some noob energy, because when i was a noob i know i brought it and shared it..

  8. MistaWard Says:

    It took me a long time to get to a comfort zone with Phish. My ex-girlfriend at the time had gone away to college in fall ’92, to a world of new experiences, including her first Phish show. I stayed behind, working a dead-end job and listening to Pearl Jam. It was a nasty breakup (seemed like the end of the world at 18) and I was resentful of everything she did and told me about – that included Phish. I was convinced she was just getting into them because they were “weird” and she thought she’d be cool if she listened to weird shit. In time we came to an understanding and somewhat of a friendship eventually. She introduced me to Phish, first playing Reba for me, which (predictably) I thought was “weird”. As much as I’d like to say I was hooked the moment I heard Reba, it really wasn’t until I heard DwD and then Sample on a “new music” show on the radio. I picked up the CD and Picture of Nectar at the same time. Clare dubbed Junta for me before she left for school that fall and I began listening to these 3 albums almost exclusively. She also told me that I really had to see them in concert – they had a lot of songs that they only played in concert (that concept blew my mind). That fall as I headed off to college, I made it my mission to see a Phish show at the first opportunity, which ended up being 11/2/94 Bangor. A bunch of people from residence were making the 8hr trek, I brought along my Junta tape, (which I had put Sample and Axilla II as filler). A Phish veteran in the van educated me along the ride, playing Lizards amongst others. At that point, I can safely say, “I got it”.

  9. Jeff Says:

    i guess as far as getting “IT” goes, I have the weird hippie kid (who later became my best friend) in 12th grade, 1992, to thank for that. I was a football player, basketball, and even some golf. I was strictly rap and grunge. We were assigned video projects in reading class and this hippie kid presented his video of him and another guy driving down a long road in southwestern ohio farm country, while Contact played. Needless to say, I had to know what the hell it was I just watched and heard. The rest was history.

  10. Buster Douglas Says:

    The first time i actually got “lifted” in high school at a party, we walked back in the garage where the party was being held. I was clearly out of it and just took a seat with my beer to observe this new outlook on life. Someone had thrown on A Live One and as Bouncing comes to the end where the singing in repeated in layers it seemed that it lasted for an hour-and i fell in love. As my catalog of Phish grew and i started to appreciate jams, i still have an appreciation for slower tunes, especially a good fast enough for you….

  11. Jerrydamule Says:

    I remember getting my hands on Junta, which I think I got in cassette version so I could listen to it in my car. I remember unfolding the liner notes and studying every inch of the art work in total awe and amazement. I used to crank Fluff’s travels through my old jalopy’s cassette deck w/o a care in the world. I would say YEM and Fluffhead were IT for me. Then dropped Lawn Boy (my sophmore year) right when Phish was playing our field house next month! Oh the buzz, the sweet, sweet buzz that permeated every inch of my world. Wait, how silly of me… you all know exactly what I’m talking about… exactly the same type of buzz and level of excitement surrounding Hampton.

  12. jon_hansen Says:

    I heard the Split Open and Melt jam at the end of “Hoist” while hanging out at a friends house and was instantly hooked and intrigued. I was a freshman in high school at the time (1996).

  13. Dave Says:

    This is a topic that has come up several times throughout my time with Phish (67 shows between 1996 and Coventry), and you have again articulated something that I felt to be true all along. When my tour pals started to get a little snobby or make a snide remark when the band started to play Bouncin’ or Sample, I would remind them that someone here is at the first show and maybe they’ve been dying to hear Bouncin’. So, while I would still take advantage for a quick piss break, I give a sincere cheer as the song started and would still dance all the way to the bathroom and back.

  14. Little Buddy Says:

    Still Bummed – I truly understand what you mean, but once the boys are back in the saddle for a while things will go back to normal and tickets won’t be so expensive. Hampton are the comeback shows, so of course things have gotten out of hand. Phish will learn to adapt their own ticketing/mail order practices to the new times. And frankly, its not real money – its Phish money. If you can’t figure out how to make your money back on the lot your not thinking hard enough. I know that in the end my $200 Hampton tickets will have cost me nothing more than a little hard work in the open market that is the Phish lot. A small price to pay, if you ask me. The ticket thing is a mess right now but have a little faith and get creative and you’ll be fine. If Phish plays 2, 3 and 4 days runs next summer that will make it even easier to use the Phish lot marketplace to your advantage. 1 for 3, 2 for 5 anyone?

  15. los Says:

    Still bummed:Hey Im I the only one that realized when they broke up in 2004 that when they did decided to come back it would be an expensive and limited ticket to get a hold of? To me that is common sense. Seriously you had four years to prepare yourself to score tickets. yeah I failed in lottery and ticketmaster but im going to hampton and yes I paid alot! but I had a phish phund set up so that i could make sure id get in no matter where or how much it would cost (i was actually hopin for europe tour).

    The most important thing is that phish is back and all indications are that they are healthy and happy. The last thing I wanna do is complain that our boyz are coming back on their terms. Hampton will be my 87,88, and 89th shows.

    Minor your point is well taken…their absence was difficult for the lot of us. I will make sure that every tone and chord is appreciated that much more.

    Thanks again…

  16. Weyoun42 Says:

    Great post and I have loved all the replies. It was fall of 1996, my freshman year at college and my roommate turned out to be a big Phish fan. I had never even heard of them. He listened mostly to the album “Rift” that semester. At the time my favourite band was They Might Be Giants (now demoted to #3 behind Phish at #1 and The Who at #2), so Phish’s “weirdness” was actually quite a bit of the draw. I was into wacky lyrics. So, around first snow here in Michigan, I went to Best Buy and picked up my own copy of Rift. Once I had it on headphones, listening to it with no distractions… wow. The quality of the music and instrumentation really started to hit me. I began to listen to it incessantly. Every song on there holds a special place in my heart. Rift and It’s Ice are probably two of my very favourite studio recordings of theirs. Fast Enough For You and Horn are so relaxing that I have to stop what I’m listening to at work right now and turn the iPod to Rift, just so I can mellow out. Snow out the window and Rift in my ears really takes me back.

    Needless to say, it didn’t take me long to pick up all the other studio albums. However, I still couldn’t get into their live work. The songs were too “different”. It took me almost eight years before the epiphany hit me and I “got” the live shows. Of course, eight years after 1996 was 2004, so I was too late. This time, I’m not going to miss out. I may be dirt poor at this point in my life, but I’m going to a show if I have to hoc a kidney to do it.

  17. Joe England Says:

    And I think of you unheeding
    All the times I raise my cup
    Its now I know that you knew that
    Id soon end up end up

    Thank you so much Mr.Minor for this site. It is pretty refreshing to be able to read your posts and enjoy the positive threads that come from them. There is a site, that will remain nameless, that is normally a big buzz kill because either people are doing the “I am a bigger fan then you” bullshit or “It will never be like (pick your year 95,98)”, just hating on the fact that there might be younger crowd that wants to get involved in seeing these new shows. If i could help expose someone to this music i would in a heart beat, thats what i think the music as well as the community is about.
    Sorry I will get off the soap box now. I found it when i heard the Bathtub Gin off of Lawn boy and I hope new a generation finds it at Hampton and beyond.

  18. Andrew Says:

    I’ve been reading your blog now for a while and I find it too be very well written and entertaining. I was, like you described, 14 when Coventry occurred, and now, as a freshmen in college, I am dying for my first Phish experience. I just started working 20 hours a week to save up for the expenses involved in going to concerts. But I just wanted to say that places like this and others on the internet make me feel like part of the community even though I have yet to see Phish together as a whole.

    This summer is going to be epic.

  19. Tadcaster Says:

    I’m aware of the hazing that Bouncin’ takes in the scene, but this is one veteran who thinks it would be a great Opener in Hampton. Along with the relaxed tempo and easy way for the band to settle in, the lyrics would be spot on:

    “Then before and now once more, I’m Bouncin’ Round the Room”
    “That Time Then and Once Again, I’m Bouncin’ Round the Room”
    “and I AWOKE!!!!!”

  20. John Campion Says:

    ^^^^ Look for my lot shirts that i’ll be selling at Hampton.
    “Then before and now once more”

  21. rb Says:

    ^^Andrew, there’s nothing to describe the first time you see them live and you hear the tone of Trey’s guitar. Prime example is the “Bye Bye Foot’ from the Walnut Creek DVD. A beautiful slow Fishman tune. When Trey take the solo, even Fishman, who’s been on stage with the guy for THOUSANDS of shows, can’t hold back the smile!! Check it. Anybody else notice that!?!?!

  22. bryant bozarth Says:

    yes very well put! 7/8/94, my first phish show, a unique one being that i couldn’t figure out why they were doing “aesop’s fables” or the like, and why everone was so happy ….anyway i know now I was bridging myself away from the alt/grunge that i had been into the previous few years as a 18 yr old, and back to the classic rock(Who, Yes, Zep & Zappa) that i had heard my older neighbors listen to as a 6-15 yr old, realizing now that Phish was that bridge and rock and roll never died …. I remebered how much I loved real rock that couldn’t be fully replicated by Pearl Jam, Nirvana and the Melvins … because I was happy and just starting to realize it, probably cause I left home for college… thank you Mr Minor and the boys

  23. Brad Says:

    ^^^Andrew, I also was 14 when Coventry occurred and I am now a freshman in college. I can’t wait for my first show. Even though I have downloaded over 200 shows, I know that I haven’t experienced anything until I see them live. Unfortunately I didn’t score tickets to Hampton but in reply to the first post, I do know to not buy from scalpers.

    ^rb. I just watch the “Bye Bye Foot” form Walnut Creek and it is moments like those that make me feel some warm inside like this article describes.

    Praying for summer tour

  24. bhizzle Says:

    Campion – nice shirt! I won’t be in Hampton but I’ll be somewhere on tour in the summer. I better see one. I want one.

  25. themanatee Says:

    what a topic, the most important topic of all really, huh? how did we all get so into this Phish thing anyway, why are we all here? and what is it that got it all started. so great to read this thread and get a feel for the beginning rumblings. thats definitely what it was for me, a slow burn to my first show. you see, i had an older brother (miner is his name) who began to get super into the Phish when he left for college. I was still listening to the Beatles, Marley, good stoner music (plus a hell of a lot of glam rock). I actively resisted the Phish for a long time because I saw it as intentionally “weird” and too “hippie” for me. I can remember sitting in my brother’s car when he was picking of shpongleyes one day and hearing “bag it, tag it, sell it to the butcher in the store”….i wanted to badly to not like the music but i found myself really enjoying it but not being able to say that because I wanted to rebel against what my brother was doing, i think at least. I couldn’t give in that easily. as miner dove deeper into IT, he kept telling me to go to shows…and I still resisted for my whole freshman year of college but began to listen to more and more studio albums. Billy Breathes and Rift began to infiltrate the cassette mixes I would make alongside Counting Crows, Cake, glam rock, hip hop and all the other random stuff I was listening to. Caspian and Silent in the Morning began to tug at my heart strings and while I lived in London between my freshman and sophomore years in college. Got a call from my brother who informed me that the band was playing Royal Albert Hall on 6/14/97. I was living with one kid from college who was into Phish in 92, 93 and was “over it” by the time they “blew up” but he was down to check it out. So we walked to the show from out apartment in South Kensington and immediately i was struck by the lively scene outside the venue…and of course the gorgeous venue itself. We found a box to commandeer half way up the Hall and had a party favor or two if i remember correctly. I remember a first set Chalkdust and Wolfman’s especially catching me and when the depths of the second set hit I was treated to a “bag it, tag it, sell it to the butcher in the store” and before long I was so immersed in the music I had forgotten everything else. Little did I know what Harry Hood would do to me and that was the end of it. I remember walking out and seeing A Live One poster being sold…I snatched it up and “officially” became a Phish fan. I called my brother the next day and told him to scoop of Star Lake and Darien tickets for me for when I returned home. Little did I know what I was in for. Following Darien, there was no turning back as we headed up to Limestone.

    brad: feel the same about the Bye Bye Foot from walnut creek dvd. it is sublime.

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