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 (franckedesign.com)

"Drowned" 6.20.04 (franckedesign.com)

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.

=====

DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

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. c0wfunk Says:

    I have to ask .. do you listen to these shows as you’re writing these reviews? Or is this all in your head? Either way, another great spin through another great show .. thanks for the memories.

  2. T Phish Says:

    Throughout the description of “Twist”, I could replay the parts of the song in my head you were describing. That’s how fond I am of the 2nd set that night. What an amazing two days. Thanks for the post, Miner!

  3. Jeff Says:

    i have yet to hear these. only 2004 I’ve heard is Brooklyn, DC, Alpine and Coventry, and that was because I was there or at the theatre. I’m holding off on SPAC for the last week before Hampton so I can hear the old into the new. You’ve got me excited!

    I do know that the Apline Seven Below in 2004 was too sick for it’s own good and I was stunned the band was quitting after dropping that heat. Of course Coventry helped bring it into focus..

  4. themanatee Says:

    wow jeff, i am amazed at you patience in waiting to hear these shows…though i guess if you have waited this long…you can wait a little bit more.

    thanks for reliving these moments miner…just an insane two nights

  5. nonoyolker Says:

    Ah, the twist from the second night, so intense. The build up is incredible. Love SPAC, such a beautiful venue.

  6. T Phish Says:

    Yeah I just listened to the Twist (I had to). My God Trey’s solo around 17 minutes so incredibly searing. The part where they get all quiet in the beginning is beautiful too.

  7. Chris Says:

    I thought the second night was crap, having seen alot of shows I thought this ranked right at the bottom. I am not sure what you were listening to.

  8. Jeff Says:

    well, the non-listening is mainly because once they quit, i totally broke free of my phish obsession. i managed to go 4 years w/o listening to a single show and instead just collected mass amounts of new music, and welcomed a kid into our life. it was honestly hard for me to revist 2004 Phish. Vegas was such an epic disappoint for me, the first I had ever experienced with the band. DC and Alpine made up for it, but then Coventry was so sad, so I had had enough for a while.

  9. SOAM Says:

    I am getting older-but the juices start to flow when I read this stuff. So many good tunes-epic jams and good times are on the way. I hope they are coming back for the right reasons becasue I want it to last. I need gigs

  10. Joe England Says:

    This might seem like a dumb question but i feel i must ask. Do we ie the fanbase feel like phish is back in the sense that this isn’t some sort of reunion run but rather the start of years more of music? I feel like they are back back but i have read anything that addresses this i was just curious to see what everyone at this site felt.

  11. JeffD Says:

    ^^^^definitely back for good!

    and the SPAC Twist is unbearably good. Probably the most vivid musical memory of any concert I’ve ever attended was raging that Twist. Great posts Miner.

  12. Jeff Says:

    i don’t think you will ever hear from their mouths that they are “done”. unless one of them dies. so i would say they are back back but instead of it being like Jordan with the Wizards, it’s like Foreman winning the championship at 50. a different way at being GREAT.

  13. Jacob Says:

    I think in 10 years, I’ll look back on 2003&2004 Phish as kind of the….transition years. They were difficult at times, fun at times, but overall just a phase in the band’s career.

    It’s been five years since Phish has played publicly together, and for my money, that means that from here on, it’s basically a whole new ballgame. Yeah, it will be fun to hear Tweezer, YEM, Harry, etc. from time to time, but for me, it feels like we are on the shore of an ocean of fun, NEW moments.

  14. camman Says:

    Jeff-

    as far as vegas goes.. i gotta say the ghost from that show is pretty sweet.. its an odd jam, but i really like that thick crunchy groove the band gets into.

    also hear a question, for thsie of who who can barely affors/ can’t afford to go to hampton, what would be the ebst way to make some money on these shows so that were not so in the hole?

  15. camman Says:

    i completely agree Jacob…. its been so long since post hiatus that i dont think it will cast very much of a shadow at all on the new era…

  16. c0wfunk Says:

    hampton lot should be an easy place to make money. Grilled cheese can be a good place to start if you’ve got a little coleman.. water is also usually easy to sell –go to sam’s or something and buy the big ones with the nozzle and sell them for a buck or two. If you want to be more adventurous, try burritos or quesadillas. If you have the means… do some gooballs or magic brownies/cookies. At hampton reunion #1 we made almost a grand on cookies over the 3 nights.. I wouldn’t suggest going any more shady than that, and if you are going to, don’t talk about it on message boards ;)

  17. Tadcaster Says:

    Hey All -

    I’m searching links here without much luck.

    Have the SPAC shows been posted?

    Or does anyone have a link?

    Thanks, stay warm.

  18. camman Says:

    i would do anything shady at all man, i could probably making a killing on grilled chesees….

  19. camman Says:

    *wouldn’t do!!! i dont want to get arresstedd

  20. AbePhroman Says:

    Anybody remember that girl who was obviously tripping face yelling “SHAWN!!! SHAWN!!!! SHAWN!!!”

    And everyone on the lawn started yelling back at her “SHAWN!! SHAWN!!!” It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

  21. camman Says:

    http://www.cnbc.com/id/28561896

  22. c0wfunk Says:

    Don’t forget the garlic. I also recommend spray butter for speed. Get a double burner coleman and two of those flat griddle pans– you can get 8 going at a time. Helps to have a partner. Best money is made immediately after the show, so make sure you’ve got your car close and your stuff together. Having a little table makes a huge difference– we used to have this great metal one that rolled up into a bag. Water is easy to do at the same time. Have fun! Working the lot is a great way to have fun, meet people, and kill some time before the show. We’re on vacation this time though!!

  23. camman Says:

    thanks for the advice man! i’ll see what i can do

  24. John Campion Says:

    I thought these shows were good. But not as incrdible as everyone on here seems to think. I also have yet to listen to them. I thought they had great moments.

  25. Nate Says:

    Wow…you really took me right back to that memorable weekend with an amazing write-up. Thank you.

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