A New Era

Regardless of your political leanings, and unless you’ve been in a coma, you have been moved in some way or another by the events in Washington, DC over the past few days.  A hopeful wave of good feeling has crested in America, despite hard economic times, and a new era is dawning.  Today is the the most momentous day of my lifetime.  Only 46 years after Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, his dream has become embodied in Barack Obama.  Today, Obama, an African-American, will be inaugurated as the President of the United States.  This notion seemed so inconceivable only a few years ago that Chris Rock made a spoof about its absurdity in 2003’s “Head of State.” Yet, today, in 2009, America is making the greatest step forward that I have ever witnessed.

861967917_598b96e7a4In a strange way, Phish is riding this great emotional wave.  2009 is the year that things are beginning to progress again; we were stalled there for a bit.  Obama even bodes well for Phish, as they have always flourished under a Democratic White House, while not faring so well with Republicans in office.  As Clinton was inaugurated in January of 1993, Phish went on a streak of years representing the greatest of their career (so far.)  Bush was “elected” president a month after Phish played their final show at Shoreline in 2000, and, as we needn’t be reminded, remained in office for the past eight years.  Let’s see, in the past eight years, Phish played for one and a half before crashing and burning. Hmmm.

2904046075_1258b89024Yet, on the brink of a new era of potential unity in America, the hope of redemption lingers in the air.  Simultaneously, a happy and healthy Phish has emerged out of the woods in Vermont to bring us back to the promised land.  As I have watched the inaugural celebrations and thought of Phish, I have had a distinct feeling that this wave of inspiration will not be limited to politics, but infuse American culture at large.  Only time will tell, but it sure feels different today than it did yesterday, and once March 6th hits, things will shift yet again, and our dream will be realized.

header-new1As most of America is optimistic for Barack, so should we be for Phish.  Things are pointing in the right direction, and it seems to me that the third time around will last considerably longer than part deux.  Our soundtrack is back.  No longer will we need to dig into the archives to find some new Phish to listen to, we will be living it.  We will download new shows instead of searching for old ones, but most of all, we will dance again to the greatest beat in the universe.

To commemorate this historical day in American history, I have compiled some Phish to complement the occasion.  Here are some choice cuts and a blurb about each that make up “Miner’s Picks: 1.20.09.” Download links are below. Enjoy!


2001 > Curtain > Tweezer 11.19.95 Charlotte Colieum, NC

513460520_fe780696b6A phenomenal start to the second set of this standout Charlotte show, this segment seemed like an appropriate launching point for a new era.  A classic combination of Phish springboards splash-lands in a twenty-minute “Tweezer.”  An improvisational monster, this jam progresses through distinct portions, all possessing their own feel and building to their own peak.  This is a heavily underrated nugget of Fall ’95.

Piper 12.8.99 CCCC, Portland, ME

In a year that featured too many outstanding “Pipers” to list, this one stands apart from the rest.  After its typical break-neck paced shred-fest, this version breaks down into some mid-tempo grooves before transforming into a gorgeous and abstract ambient excursion.  This multi-faceted jam is highlighted by the transcendent  final portion of soul-filling music.  Completely atypical for any “Piper,” the powers of Phish took over, directing this episode places never explored by the song.

Reba 10.18.94 Vanderbilt Univ., Nashville, TN SBD

1141298742_834063c5201994 was unquestionably the year in which the band took “Reba” for the most exciting rides.  This dark-horse ’94 version features Phish at its best, creating something wholly different with the classic groove.  Transcending the song’s blissful path, the band takes an abrupt turn, moving into more subtle and spacey patterns.  This new segment grows on its own and blossoms into its own peak within the jam.  A phenomenally triumphant and dynamic “Reba” seemed perfect for this historic day.

Run Like An Antelope 8.6.97 Riverport Amp. Maryland Heights, MO

This ridiculously intense summer Antelope closed the set after an absurdly long half-country trek from The Gorge to St Louis.  This version includes top-notch fiery Summer ’97 jamming, while stopping in a Makisupa portion during the post-jam segment.  I believe this to be the wildest North American Pronghorn of this summer, and because it’s not a part of one of the tour’s high-key shows, it often gets overlooked.  Trey absolutely slaughters this version with thoughtful, atypical offerings.

AC/DC Bag > Sparkle 8.9.98 Virgina Beach Amp, VA

This AC/DC bag was not only the outright highlight of this great show, but one of the defining jams of an outstanding Summer of ’98.  With grooves straight out of the gate, this is some classic summertime funk, not to deep, but infectious and as dancy as anything.  An outstandingly tight carnival ride through Phish improv, this Bag kicked off the blistering set that would end with the “Terrapin Station” encore.

Ghost > Free 7.23.99 Polaris Amp. Columbus, OH

2338849685_1576546f7dOne of the nastiest portions of Phish in all of 1999, this segment was composed of militant, in-your-face Phish.  One of the great “Ghosts” of the year opened the second set with a larger-than-life feel.  This version features some precise and standout playing that can best be characterized as slow, yet urgent.  Trey emotes deeply, annihilating this version, while locked with Gordon who straight owns this piece.  This “Ghost” is a phenomenal archetype of Summer ’99 and redefines the word “raging.”  A very cool, unexpected martian-esque transition into “Free” blew the place apart.  A jam that saw Trey lunging and leaping all over the stage, this “Free” creates a sonic soundscape of that seems like it is coming from the depths of fall tour.  An inseparable piece from the “Ghost,” this jam complements the audacity and massive quality of the set opening jam.

Stash > NICU 11.23.97 LJVM Winston-Salem, NC

I have often said that “Stash” is the dark horse song of Fall ’97, while the magnifying glass was most often placed on more funk-rooted vehicles.  This intricate version of “Stash” passes through both melodic and dissonant sections on its twisting path, but ultimately ends up focusing on eerie and intense psychedelia.  Overflowing with intensity, this quality of improv illustrates where Phish took some other jams in the fall of ’97.  Traveling far off the beaten path, this mind-fucking episode winds up innocently segueing into “NICU” in Phishy fashion.

Tube 9.18.99 Coors Amphitheatre Chula Vista, CA

phili3In a two-set outdoor fall show completely in the dark, the Phish community discovered one of the greatest most accommodating amphitheatres in the nation.  Covered with huge flat cement platforms made for throwing down, Phish allowed just that by exploding in an outstanding ten-minute “Tube” toward the end of the first set.  Pure Phish crack, this one got the heart rate up quickly and didn’t let up as the band explored the funk at a slower open-air pace.  One of the best “Tubes” of the late ’90s flourishing of the song, Page sparkled as this one lit up the dark desert night.

Down With Disease 12.11.97 Rochester, NY SBD

This wildly popular Disease never gets old because it detaches so far from the song’s conventional upbeat structure.  Delving deep into darkness early in the the first set, Phish created a monster that features some of the band’s best playing of the entire tour.  Moving away from the rock n roll, the band settles in a menacingly slow, inspected groove that eventually moves unfinished into “Maze.”

YEM 8.12.98 Vernon Downs, NY

2926669175_bbc854cbf7This encore version following the bust-out cover of “Burning Down The House,” capped a ridiculous pre-Lemonwheel show.  Amidst a predominately muddy field aside the horse track, this wide open free-for-all made for two outstanding sets that led up to this YEM.  The chunky grooves echoed across the fields as bodies moved as if in some sort of mind-control experiment. These gargantuan grooves were prominent throughout Summer ’98, but this night in upstate New York, the size of it all was awing.

Slave to the Traffic Light 12.5.97 CSU Convocation Cntr, Cleveland, OH

When was the last time you listened to this “Slave?” If ever?  I bet it’s been a while.  This Cleveland show gets buried in the excitement of Detroit and Dayton, and when it does get its cred, it is usually in the form of first set praise.  This second set  “Slave” culminates a jam out of “Julius,” and takes a path you don’t hear every day.  As the jam builds along its delicate and transcendent path, the band begins to add layers of dissonance to the jam, and soon Trey initiates what you would think to be the beginning of the peak of the jam.  Not even close.  On one collective hit, the band decides that the jam is going elsewhere, vary far elsewhere.  For the rest of the time, the band created a climactic and colossal soundscape that sent everyone into the stratosphere.  What was going on?  Nooone really knew,  but it was insane.  Check this out for a real ride over the edge.

Harry Hood 8.16.96 The Clifford Ball, Plattsburgh, NY SBD

1996-08-16mo2When thinking about a wave of positive emotion overtaking people, “Harry Hood” immediately springs to mind, and this version washed over 70,000+ at The Clifford Ball.  One of the most majestic of all “Hoods,” this version closed out the first night the first festival ever.  Everyone was in awe of the weekends’ spectacle, and the band harnessed that magic in this sublime jam.  One of my all-time favorites, this one suits the dawning of a new age just fine.  Tapped in like none other, the band reaches places words cannot begin to describe.




Hampton ’04 – Photo: Chris Clark

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56 Responses to “A New Era”

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  1. c0wfunk Says:

    I’ve often wondered if the phish hiatuses had anything to do with the political climate in America over the last 8 years. Phish used to always do a great job of keeping “the man” off our back and hitting venues that were less authoritarian and sketchy. When our country slid to the right, places fitting that description got to be fewer and far between. George Bush’s “Amurica” just didn’t seem like a very phishy place.

    Music trends in general over the last few years have been pretty dreary and depressing — remember the funk revival of the late 90s? And not just phish — funk was all over mainstream music. I’m hoping for a creative revival as people feel a new hope and a new way. Artists are already responding in a big way to this occasion. I’m hoping America will become light hearted again which is what phish needs to thrive.

    Great picks up there — the va beach 98 AC/DC has a great alternative jam to that song, steeped deeply in the funk. Love the YEM from Vernon Downs 98 with the “who’s your daddy / dentist” vocal jam. The rochester 97 dw/d is another favorite — the segue back into diseaseprise out of ghost in the second set ranks among my favorite segues of all time.

  2. Al Says:

    Nice to be always the first to make a comment – cause I’m from abroad and you guys are still asleep…This year is a very special year. It marks the rebirth of an America I fell in love with – and also the rebirth of a musical partnership I incredibly admire and enjoy. For us Europeans (I dare to speak as one), Obama seems to bring back the beloved image of an America, that can achieve everything, when its intentions are pure and derive from a truthful human heart. It almost makes me to cry to see the positive excitement in your country right now. It seems like the people are finally being released from an atmosphere of anger, pessimism and fear that dominated the country so much, but which was at the same time completely un-american. Now, no matter how hard the near future might be economically, this new optimism, trust and positive excitement about a reborn America will brighten the days and calm the nights, and everyone will feel a bit more home again.

  3. Jeff Says:

    Minor, i haven’t even read the post yet, but I saw you have my first show 10/18/94, so for that, I know we have a mutual Phish bond that runs as deep as that Reba jam. Also of note at that show was a killer transition from acoustic>electric Llama. It doesn’t cross over as well on the tape. You are the man!

  4. Matso Says:

    A new era indeed! Against the incredibly gloomy economic, environmental and political backdrop of the world today, a real ray of hope, a beacon of light if you will, now emerges on two fronts. And while there isn’t anything overtly political about Phish, the band embodies so many of the values which are returning to the fore and which will be celebrated today. Hard work, perseverance, success based on merit, optimism, creativity, fellowship, joy and celebration.

    America at its best – and pretty much only America – produces things like Phish, and like your new president.

    Miner you wrote: “As I have watched the inaugural celebrations and thought of Phish, I have had a distinct feeling that this wave of inspiration will not be limited to politics, but infuse American culture at large.”

    I’m a Canadian living in England and I can tell you that the inspiration will not be limited to your borders or to American culture alone. Like Al, I’m so happy to see the best and unique qualities that really does make America great back out there for the world to see. And the thought of how Phish themselves might rise to the challenge of keeping hope alive in the tough times ahead makes me especially giddy and inspired.

    I’ve taken the day off work to watch the inauguration and to have a mini-celebration with some very close friends at home. I wish you and the community that has taken shape around your blog, regardless of political affiliation, all the best and want to say that we’re very grateful to be able to share this day with you.

  5. Matso Says:

    Oh yeah, and this edition of Miner’s Picks is awesome. Lots of relatively obscure gems. Thanks again so much for all the amazing work you put into this blog.

  6. Mutha_Ohks Says:

    Well said Miner- I feel like I’ve been treading water these last four years with no Phish, and severe disapointment politicaly. ’09 has brought back the feeling that anything exciting could happen at any given moment. On the eve of my 28th birthday- I feel 24 again- I have wiped out those lost years. I feel the feeling I forgot.

  7. Coleman Says:

    Anyone know the date on the version of PYITE in the tour announcement video?

  8. showhe Says:

    Ghost > Free 7.23.99 Polaris Amp. Columbus, OH – That shit blew my mind…by far the craziest 50-60 minutes of phish I have witnessed live. At one point during the Ghost, I turned to a friend and had to ask what song they were playing it was so indistinguishable…this is some dark heavy stuff here. Maybe a bit of foreshadowing of what the next 8-9 years would bring us politically. 2009 thusfar has been the antithesis of that…one of hope and pride and utter joy for our country and our community. I think you’ve hit on a great point Miner…I was thinking some of the same thoughs…phish is back and it’s about time we all start feeling good about hood once again.

  9. Brian T. Bowman Says:

    There were some rumors back in the first half of this decade that the boys were getting nervous about the Bush Administration and the Festival/Tour scene Phish envited and how there was some paranoia on how that all might come crashing down…

    Is it a coincidence that PH 3.0 is back 6 weeks after a liberal is elected?

    I dunno, makes for interesting thought over the morning coffee. More so than anything, I’m just glad the guys are healthy, I think that has more to do with it than anything.

  10. Scott Bernstein Says:

    Great picks, as always. Cheers!

  11. SOAM Says:

    What is the deal with the left leg of the tour/ Is phish going to do West Coast? No one has breathed a word of this and it was almost fact 3 weeks ago ? anyone?

  12. themanatee Says:

    well done son. it is a new era – and things are chaning. what changes can each of us make? what changes are we making to create our own wave…what can you do differently to be fuel this optimism in America and across the world. Phish can help us as a community and indiviudally…the inspiration is just a click away … lets do this.

    thanks miner.

  13. braindead Says:

    This is a joke, right? Regardless of your political views (disclosure: I voted for Obama), you cannot possible think that having a Democrat or Republican White House has anything to do with Phish “thriving”. Couldn’t you say that they wrote their best music while a Republican was in office (see YEM, Divided, Bowie, Reba, Antelope, etc, etc..)? To think that whoever is our president somehow affects Phish’s music is ridiculous and pretty insulting to the band.

  14. showhe Says:

    SOAM: My guess is that they’ll wait until after the tix for the current June tour go on sale to the general public and then we’ll get the news about the second leg. Predicting when will be tough though for those of us not in the know. Since these shows are later in the summer we may not know for another month or two?

  15. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ braindead…facts are facts my man…

  16. Mitch Says:

    We’re oPHishally free from Wilson’s rule!!

  17. hawkinbj Says:

    Once again, thoroughly enjoy the daily reads – it’s becoming hard to get through the weekends 😛

  18. themanatee Says:

    braindead –

    dont take it so literally.

  19. Heath Says:

    braindead – I really doubt the band would be insulted by that notion….. I bet they would readily admit the darkness that has enveloped our country for the past 8 years and that there is a feeling in the air these days of hope, community and brighter days ahead. I for one an reveling in the Obama, Phish, Steelers Trifecta! 2009 is shaping up to be an epic year!

  20. snigglebeach Says:

    I am broke, my job is hanging by a thread, and my living arrangements have hardly ever been worse..

    Yet i am hopeful and full of anticipation like i haven’t felt in a long time. Phish is coming back, Dr. Evil is finally not in charge (and i mean Cheney) and there are Dead shows to go to as well. And i might be broke, but there is always $$ for Phish tiks.

    “09” is gonna be a good year, especially if you and me see it in together.

  21. Panda Says:

    Braindead, come on man. Was your post a joke?
    Hw many shows were ther under W?
    I agree Miner 100%
    This is a new day and Phish along with many others are going to ride this wave in 2009!

  22. bjslick Says:

    the ghost —–> free is one of my favorite drawn out segues ever. It was a beautiful thing. They announced Big Cypress that day too. Good times – tough drive to alpine.

  23. Pencilneck Says:

    Gotta love the Hope > Union > Responsibility second set!

  24. BingosBrother Says:

    Mr. Miner and the rest of you posters have given me more hope and positive vibes in a single day than Obama has in all the years representing my state. Henrietta for President.

  25. Asher Says:

    As always, killer picks Mr. Miner!! 😉

    I too have been pondering the Phish return/ political sea change connection. Looking back it just seems that Phish would be out of place in the George Bush, Iraq war, “Big Brother” America of the last 8 years. I just can’t envision raging a tour in the midst of all that. Darker musics just seemed more appropriate.

    To those on the outside Phish might seem to be just a band with no direct connection to the political climate of the nation and world. But for those of us who have shared in the groove, to us they are so much more. Freedom, joy, adventure, happiness, excitement and endless possibilities. Many of the same things that the promise of this new President brings. It just feels right that Phish would return to soundtrack a more hopeful time. I can’t wait to hear what it sounds like!

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