Phish’s Last Stand: Part II

Streaming out of the venue after the show, silent disbelief fell over most everyone. What had just happened?  That wasn’t just good, that was IT; but Phish was now calling it quits?  This inner mounting conflict swirled in so many minds after the first night of SPAC.  What had suddenly come over the band?  Would this type of playing continue for the rest of tour?  It was all a big mystery to which another clue couldn’t be discovered until Phish took the stage again.  After such a performance on night one, something hinted to us that night two would also be something to behold.  And it was.

"Ghost" 6.20.04

"Ghost" 6.20.04

Following another hot first set that featured smoking segments of improv out of “Waves” and “Drowned,” Phish prepared to play their final set of the weekend.  With echoes of Oceans and ‘Piper’ bouncing in the recesses of our minds, we readied ourselves to receive what Phish had left to give.

As the opening licks of “Seven Below” emanated from the stage, the seminal post-hiatus song enveloped the summer evening with new crystals of snow.  Having worked itself into Phish’s regular rotation, “Seven Below” had already produced several monster jams, and as this one opened the second night in Saratoga, everyone knew we were in for an improvisational beast.  As they began to move beyond the song’s chord progression, the playing moved from a rhythmic palate to a slower more amorphous place.  Phish smoothly slid into an overtly psychedelic melange of sound, beats and dissonance.  The jam had taken a turn for the dark side and began to explore a beautifully demented soundscape, neither led by nor devoid of groove.  Phish was happening once again.  Right in front of our eyes, the band engaged in a compelling journey that cast a spell on the legions of fans who willingly surrendered their souls to the extraordinary improv.

39302878106_0_albPicking up the pace, Phish emerged from the murky textures with a head of steam, tightly chugging away while hinting at the original composition.  Having no intention of conventionally wrapping up “Seven Below,” the band took this momentum and transformed it into a slowed down groove that somewhat abruptly moved into “Ghost.”  It was apparently just as on as it was the night before.  The band oozed into the “Ghost” jam favoring a slower playing, utilizing the pace to assemble musical phrasing that brought them back to the ambient and psychedelic realm.  Transforming into a stunningly amorphous and cooperative work of art, this jam moved far away from what you’d expect to hear from any “Ghost” jam.  Entering truly beautiful and transcendent territory, this jam conveyed both mystery and beauty simultaneously.  Skyscraping in scope, this divergent path was crafted with utmost care and delicacy, and was very much a continuation of the musical ideas presented in “Seven Below.”

Having been taken for an abstract ride through Phishy psychedelia for the first 30+ minutes of the set, Phish patiently transformed their playing into a groove that seamlessly entered “Twist.”  Far smoother than the initial transition of the set, it seemed as the band was working on a subconscious level at this point.  Flowing effortlessly, the band continued to produce music as if there was no separation between themselves and their instruments.  Completely connected and moving on sheer instinct, this “Twist” turned into an intricate masterpiece that would hold up to anything played over the two nights.

Using conventional “Twist” patterns, the band dove into the jam.  Swimming in the shallow end for the beginning of the jam, the band soon pushed off into deeper waters led by a thumping bass line that the entire band hooked onto.  Immediately, the jam took on an entirely new life with infectious and quickened staccato dance grooves bubbling from Phish’s cauldron.  The entire band jumped on the bus and went on a fifteen- minute joyride through some of the best music you’ll ever hear.

"Drowned" 6.20.04 (

"Drowned" 6.20.04 (

Busting into an outright Phish groove, the music grew in stature as Trey and Page delicately tickled the rhythmic canvas.  Just when you thought things couldn’t get better, Trey quietly began strumming some of the most delicate rhythm licks ever played, and the band moved directly into the center of IT.  Completely lost in their fantasy world once again, this moment is what it was all about.  Pure Phish improv showered down from above, lifting us to unimaginable heights.  As the band painted a surreal portrait of psychedelic groove, the crowd body-surfed the vibrant rainbow of Phish.

Tearing into the peak of the jam, Trey shredded as if there was no tomorrow, while the entire venue seemed to float.  Descending from the apex of the jam, the band concluded this journey with some slowed down, menacing funk grooves, letting the last note carry out into silence.  The crowd quickly picked their jaws up off the floor to fill that silence with boisterous applause and enthusiastic cheers for the perfect 50 minutes of music they had just witnessed.  Two nights in a row?!

"YEM" 6.20.04

"YEM" 6.20.04

Before we had time to process, the band dropped the opening melodies to “You Enjoy Myself.”  Of course.  What better way to end the weekend than a massive dance session to Phish’s most definitive piece.  The entire composed section was another one of those times that your cheeks began to cramp from the involuntary smiles.  As the drop of the jam hit, it felt as the entire audience was moving in unison as if some experiment in collective consciousness.  The dancing paradise that is YEM overtook SPAC for the final twenty minutes of the set, offering a catalog of grooves.  Straight Phish crack was this jam, and nothing could have been better to finish off this two-night other-worldly excursion into the depths of Phish’s universe.  Bringing it all back home, YEM centered us with a dose of classic Phish to bring out into the night with us.  The band put their signature at the bottom of the two night document that was SPAC.  A high-energy encore of “Good Times, Bad Times,” kept everyone’s spirits high while lyrically suggesting the ups and downs of life that the band was simultaneously experiencing.

6.20.04 SPAC

6.20.04 SPAC

Capping two of the best nights of Phish ever, the “four-song set” had returned, rearing its uber-improvisational head for the first time in 2004.  Thematic in nature and traveling an adventurous path, this set existed as one inseparable piece of music.  Like a psychedelic symphony, Phish delivered one of the most magical movements of the summer.  Rivaled only by the night before, these sets at SPAC suggested that Phish still had a hell of a lot of music left in their tank.  Unfortunately, it was their energy and motivation to produce that music that had been compromised.

The rest of the summer would wind up with the Midwest run and then the final farewell shows up the east coast.  Those SPAC shows must have been listened to more times than I can remember during that last month, because no matter how sad we felt, no matter how bittersweet everything grew to be, we would always have those two nights in Saratoga.



11.15.98 Murfreesboro, TN < LINK

21One of the smallest shows of Fall ’98, this took place in a college field house– bleachers and all.  The retro environment didn’t impede Phish from throwing down some nasty jams, something that was seemingly involuntary during Fall ’98.  A great opening combo of “My Friend,” “Ghost” got things started quickly.  The entire second set is great, highlighted by the opening triumvirate of “Runaway Jim,” Stash,” and “Mike’s.”

I: My Friend My Friend, Ghost, Driver, Scent of a Mule, Cavern, Limb by Limb, Roggae, La Grange

II: Runaway Jim, Stash, Mike’s Song  > Simple, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Loving Cup, Weekapaug Groove

E: Rocky Top

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44 Responses to “Phish’s Last Stand: Part II”

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  1. Mr.Miner Says:

    I wish i could post SBD links for SPAC, but go to Phish download and buy them. If there are any shows worth downloading, these are them! I would say SPAC = the cream of the post-hiatus crop…..

  2. camman Says: as usual has a download of this show

  3. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    IMHO – the miami new years run was the best post-hiatus phish…If only for the fact that they were over the top shows without the impending doom feeling looming overhead like summer 2004 had. Miami 2003 continues to be my favorite post-hiatus run. Just good vibes all around, especially on the 30th where it was literally strangers giving each other high fives in the hallways. The feeling from the 30th is indescribable…that feeling where everything was aligned in the universe. If those 2 girls i bought the extra hard $15 crown and cokes for are reading this: I LOVE YOU!! 🙂

    Its good to hear that i’m not the only one who came away from vegas ’04 with a bad taste in my mouth. It was also the first time in over 40+ shows i ever felt that way after a run of shows. Vegas 04′ was a bad sign of things to come and before i knew it was sitting in a movie theater watching coventry.

  4. Wilfred Brimley Says:

    Only post-hiatus show that i was able to go to was first night Alpine 2004 and was initially disappointed with the many flubs and difference in jamming styles…Once I came upon this site and was able to download more post hiatus shows, I’ve come to appreciate the jams alot more. Personal faves from post phish are Round Room, Tweezer and especially the killer Twist from Vegas 03-04, and a jam that can hold it’s own with any period of time-the Crosseyed and painless from Starlake…that jam at about 15-22 minutes is beauty and bliss….

  5. bryant Says:

    I think your the voice … I’ve read other writers on similar sites reviewing our band and they somewhat describe the power of what’s going on in any given set or connection of songs on any given nite … but your on the path to suppassing then, moreover your going to lap them … Just condense some of your words and theirin descriptions so they stand even taller and attach even stronger to our memories of shows past we attended or have listened to … that’s just where I see your stuff headed … its fun to read you getting better and better, and peaking so to speak… thanks for getting myself and others back in the groove and I’ll see you in Hampton and say thanks in person if our paths cross …awesome stuff, keep it up

  6. Jeff Says:

    Vegas 04 would be Mr. Minor worthy as we head to new beginnings, let’s look at the past mistakes. Everything about that run was off imo. Excluding extracirricular activities of the band, i blame it on Trey’s horrific tone, specifically at those shows. Also, no CK5 I think threw off the bands timing a bit (just a theory), and the gimics ran thin. I did get my first Camel Walk and the Shakedown Party was a treat, plus that Twist was huge, but that was it.

  7. nonoyolker Says:

    That weekend at SPAC was surely a post hiatus highlight. Both nights were brimming with great versions and exploratory jams. The waves as a great new jam vehicle, obviously the jump out of your skin intensity of twist as stated earlier, and one of the loudest crowd build ups to YEM i’ve heard in a long time. The weekend was truly great, but for me the post hiatus peak was definitely IT. What an amazing weekend that was. The boys were simply on, start to finish. Lot’s of positive energy, they seemed eager to start the next phase of phish, the music was crackling with energy and creativity, just a special experience all around. Worth the 30 hrs in traffic for sure.

  8. camman Says:

    Congressman, when/ if you get this please check you email.

  9. Mutha_Ohks Says:

    ^^^ Abe, I know that SHAWN- He was found swinging from a tree in the back of the venue. Thats how sick these shows were.

  10. lanser Says:

    a wonderful read as usual. happy friday everyone!

  11. Wilson Says:

    listened to SPAC last night after reading the review. Sorry, but I just don’t get that “amazing phish” vibe that i knew so well in the 90’s.
    And funny you picked the Murfreesboro ’98 show. I saw that one, and didn’t think it was all that great. (2nd set was so vanilla). The NEXT show, however (Greenville, SC) was perhaps the best show i ever had the pleasure of seeing. Truly magnificent and i highly suggest it to everyone.

    I really do want to see the beauty in the post hiatus stuff, but to me, most of it is strikingly sub-par compared to everything that came before.

    That leads me to my one solid thought on the band’s return: do it right, or don’t do it at all. Hoping for Asheville tickets. If not, waiting for west coast. Love the board, and love the excitement. Can’t wait to see our band again.

  12. camman Says:


    are all these picture of tickets stubs that you have up yours? if so…damn…

  13. themanatee Says:

    i have no idea how one can listen to SPAC and not feel that. what do you look for in a phish show wilson? i mean that sincerely as many people look for different elements, (groove, tightness, perfect playing of songs, energy, pscyhedlia, special song selection, bust outs, long jams, segues, etc…) ?

  14. anon Says:

    anyone have any insight into the asheville tix on sale at
    is this just speculative selling and if these selllers don’t get tickets they’ll just say oops sorry to the buyers?
    i thinks its gonna be a great tuesday night in nc

  15. bryant Says:

    I was at MTSU that nite, i wrote a comment earlier … yeah it was one of those shows you just had to be there … first and foremost a great scene at and around show … the lot was comfortable and it was a warm November day into nite … anyway the venue was a 5,000
    seat, oval venue with great sightlines that made it feel smaller … whenever I hear “My Friend,” open a show I get shivers cause many a great show has started there, an i’ve been to a few … I walked out of that show thinking B+, then I listened to it and still said B+, almost 5 years latter I happened to listen to it start to finish and If I were to take a snap shot of that moment, Fall ’98 Phish … that show would best represent them and the reasons are many … but I won’t waste your time here, just listen to it and comment back … they really give much care and respect to a show in a smaller venue, certainly after many nites of 15,000 + places …

  16. gills Says:

    The Camden show before Coventry had some worthy jams. Yem, momadance. chalkdust, sneakin sally were groovin. But the Miami new years run cam hold it down with most pre hiatus phish.

  17. timd Says:

    spac sucked.

  18. hairy pood Says:

    definitely didn’t suck, but I liked night 2 at Deer Creek the best of post-hiatus.

  19. SOAM Says:


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