Spacetime Funk

holy-islandWith the next episode of LOST coming tomorrow, I figured we’d do a little time traveling of our own.  Let’s hop in, fire up the flux-capacitor, harness 1.21 jiggawatts of electricity and be on our way back to 1988.  August 6th, 1988 to be exact.  Upon vanishing from 2009, and skidding into the past, we find ourselves flux1amidst the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.  We land in the small town of Telluride; a ski town during the winter, but, for us, it is a fine summer night.  It feels like we were brought here for a reason- but what is that reason?  The quantum puzzle is a bit overwhelming and we just need a beer to relax for a minute.  Taking a turn down the nearest street, we ditch into the first bar.  It was called “The Roma.”

Sitting at a table, we order a few drafts.  But before getting them, we notice a thumping groove coming from the stage behind us.  Turning around, we are struck by the absolute dorkiness of the musicians, yet the music is good, no it was better than good, this shit is funky!  These guys are…Phish?!

telluride-town-centerAs our side-effects dissipate from the journey through space-time, we figure out we have been summoned by an old-school YEM jam to this very bar, but why?  When is the last time we have actually listened to 1988 Phish?  Maybe that was part of the answer?  All these existential thoughts are quickly wiped from the forefront of our mind as a huge groove takes over the bar.

The jam is laid back, very relaxed- almost like a half-speed YEM from the future.  But what stands out is the patience of such a young band and the way they use each other’s musical ideas to further their own.  They might be young, but these guys have the chops; they can play.  Forming some truly funky rhythms during the beginning of the jam, Trey sits way back and let phish-colorado_88_bMike and Fishman lead things out of the gate.  Page provides the lead melody in the form of large organ swells, while in the background, Trey smiles that goofy smile and begins throwing down a series of exact rhythm licks that we would come to love and know by heart nine years later.

Trey remains in the background as the other three direct this jam’s initial course.  But when Trey slides into the improv, he begins to wail some signature YEM leads with authority over the already fat groove.  All of a sudden we are smack in the middle of a raging YEM and Gordon begins to assault us with huge bass bombs, digging in far deeper mid-jam, launching the explosives into the small audience without concern.  The music far out-sizes these tiny surroundings as the band brings the YEM to a soaring peak- eighties style.

The drop into Mike’s bass solo lasts only a short bit before the rest of the band hops back into the mix, engaging in song-ending antics where Trey and Fish straight go batty.  As the two improvise lyrics such as “Baby! Baby! Baaabay!” and shouting “Good God y’all!,” all of a sudden, we are witnessing a legitimate old-school Phish freak-out!  The band emerges from this absurdity with a funky groove, different than then the previous jam.  Before getting a chance to acclimate to the jam, Phish shifts right into “Cities” without missing a beat.  Hearing this version that doesn’t sound all-together different from the versions of the late ’90s, a thought begins to stir inside your head.

While Trey sings the song as a twenty-something rather than a forty-something, the music behind it is still so slammin’!  All of a sudden, you find yourself carving out a slice of dance floor and bumping to the infectious beats.  This band was going somewhere- you knew that- but now you knew why.

p07074ew206As the second verse ends, Trey and Page begin a shrill pattern that departs from “Cities,” while Mike and Fish create a uniquely Phishy groove beneath them.  What the hell was going on?  You’ve never heard this before.  That is correct, this is a full on raging “Dave’s Energy Guide!”  As soon as you realize it, boom!  The band slams back into the full speed grooves.  And people say that Phish funk started during 1997!?  Ha!  This was funky as hell.  Phish had played funk all along!  Just as quickly as this crazy experience happened, the band slammed on the breaks, ending the song, and the 25 minute multi-dimensional experience.

25smAs we begin to join in the applause with the rest of the intimate bar, we feel a force drawing us backwards towards the door.  We try to stay, but we can’t; someone or something won’t let us.  As we are pulled though the doorway, we drop a couple twenties on the ground to settle our tab, as we hear Phish start up “Take the A Train.”  Once outside, we can barely hear anything at all.  What was the point if we couldn’t even stay for the second set?  The show had just started!  Hmmm.  Something strange was afoot at the Circle K.

As we are pulled back into the DeLorean and sped back to the future, the reason for this escapade dawns on us.  Someone wanted to send us a message, and the message came loud and clear.  Phish didn’t get funky on Halloween ’96.  Phish didn’t even turn funky in Hamburg, Germany on March 1st, 1997, even though they made an album out of it.  Phish were born funky.  Now we understood.

hw77The myth goes that Phish was a band that didn’t play dance grooves until their seismic transformation in 1997.  However, go revisit any show from any year, and I guarantee that you will hear echoes of the late ’90s ring true.  While the cosmic magnifying glass was certainly placed on whole-band groove come ’97, this was something Phish had incorporated into their music from day one. Well, at least since that crazy “YEM > Cities” in 1988!  That much we now know for sure.

LISTEN TO 8.6.88’s YEM >CITIES NOW! (Roll over songs and click play.)



7.23.88 “Pete’s Fabulous Phish Fest” Underhill, VT SBD < LINK

phish_logoKeeping with the theme of both yesterday (“Mike’s Groove”) and today’s of old-school improv, here we have a three-set Phish extravaganza from 1988 that features the public debut of “Mike’s > H2 > Weekapaug.”  All of the early classics are found somewhere within this marathon gig. Check out very young versions of lots of your favorite songs.  Ironically, this SBD recording will be passed onto Pete, the host of the party over 20 years ago!  It’s a small world.

I: Intro. Jam, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Famous Mockingbird, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Lizards, On Your Way Down, AC/DC Bag, Possum, Walk Away, Bold as Love, No Dogs Allowed

II: The Sloth, Fire*, The Curtain, Terrapin, Run Like an Antelope, Satin Doll, Blue Bossa, La Grange, Alumni Blues, Peaches en Regalia

III: You Enjoy Myself, Contact, Harry Hood, Dinner and a Movie, Slave to the Traffic Light, The Ballad of Curtis Loew, Good Times Bad Times

Show billed as “Pete’s Fabulous Phish Fest.” *With Peter Danforth (host) on sax.

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112 Responses to “Spacetime Funk”

  1. camman Says:

    Do I smell, I smell Home cooking….

    It’s only the river…

    It’s only the River….

  2. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^Camman comes correct yet again!

    Also, not sure what’s up today’s download link. I’m gonna see if it rights itself, bc it will take hours to upload that 500 GB three-setter again….

  3. guyforget Says:

    it’s working now…

  4. Full Tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    There is some good to be found in every ear of the band’s development. Cmparing phish in 1988 to 1998 is apples and oranges. Phish has always been a grand progression. Before the band became a “snowball falling down a mountain and getting bigger and bigger and more out of control” they had to work the kinks out. Playing in a bar and playing an ampitheater or MSG is very different. When you play in a bar you have mor eintimate contact with the crowd. Phish was essentially a bar band in the 80’s. It took them years to perfect their craft.

    If anything the older shows show just how much fun they were having onstage. They were still learning how to “teleport” people to gamehendge. I have an appreciation for 80’s phish, but to my ears the band wasn’t on point until 1990. 1990 is where they really started to get tighter and faster. I like those 80s shows, but i find myself not listening to as much of them. I personally like the “out of control truck with no driver” arena rock phish found from about 1994 -2000, 2003.

    Just to put thing in perspective – they went from a bar band in the 80s playing to 100 people in a bar to the Hugeness of big cypress playing to 100,000 people. That bar band never would have made it to big cypress if they didn’t branch out and innovate, constantly evolving and changing into the monster we all know and love.

    Thats whats crazy about the asheville and fox shows….its a return to their smaller roots. Its got to be fun to play ampitheaters, but as a musician i’m sure they really miss those smaller venues.

  5. bhizzle Says:

    This is what it’s come to; “laughable” and “suck”?

    Wax – Miner provides a new post and d/l everyday and more importantly a vehicle to which we all can converse around and a place to do it. And even though I can’t speak for him, I’m pretty sure he welcomes a devil’s advocate, an outisde of the box pov, etc, etc. But to start a reply saying he is laughable? That’s just down right disrespectful.

    Minor – in addition to my thanking for the 88’s, the pictures of the flux capacitor and Telluride are sweet. I went through that lil town on my way to jeeping that mountain in the background. I have got to get back there.

  6. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^^ Thanks bhizz!

  7. Full Tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    just in case anyone missed this link:

  8. c0wfunk Says:

    though wax banks certainly lacks tact, I think he makes a couple of valid points. After posting about “Groove” above I was thinking this morning about what it is that the early phish funk lacked, and Patience is certainly the key.

    I listened to 3-14-93 yesterday and remember thinking during Foam that Trey needed to take a breath and slow down. He was pushing the tempo through much of the show in fact., with ideas literally bursting out of him. The YEM medley comes to mind as well. This is a vibe that really appeals to many people and is one of the things that attracts people to Phish, but honestly it wears me out a little after a bit. I find I can listen to much more later phish back to back than I can with the earlier stuff.

    I think that Europe 97 tour really gave them an opportunity to take a step back into smaller venues with a more relaxed attitude and they learned better patience. Like Luke Skywalker, all Jedi do not automatically have this trait! Then that summer those shows were just MELLOW and in the pocket, and I remember some people wondering where all the energy had gone. But to me, they were perfecting their craft on a whole new level.

    The lack of setlist I’d say contributed a lot more to the development of the “any song can be jammed for a half hour” mentality that developed in Fall 97, more than it did to the funk itself.

  9. brandofunk Says:

    I could have been a bit more articulate when speaking of wax banks.

  10. Full Tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    like cowfunk said so elegantly above: luke skywalker didn’t become a master of the force overnight. It took years and 3 movies before Luke finally learned how to master the force. Same can b e said with phish. It took literally hundreds of shows over many years before they hit their full on stride.

    One thing about those early 80’s shows is how different they actually sounded. Trey in the 80’s had a whole different approach to the guitar. The older the show the cooler it sounds just for the fact that it sounds so strange compared to later the later years. 1993 is when they turned that corner when page finally got the baby grand onstage. I always found his older keyboard to be a bit out of place. Thats not to say that there wern;t some outstanding shows with that older keyboard. But compare that olderkey board to a real hammond b-3 and its light years of difference.

    If you got to see phish in the 80’s it must have been quite the experience. And to look back and see the grand progression to greatness is fun.

  11. HSV 007 Says:

    Thank you Mr. Miner for the blast from the past. Love the Telluride pics. Late 80’s Phish is raw and un-polished, but still critically important to the overall body of work. Don’t let the haters shed any negativity on the wealth of memories & quality information you bring us everyday. Maybe we can thank you in person @ Hampton.

    Wax – I completely disagree with you on 1996. Go back & listen to the Tallahassee, Atlanta, West Palm, & Gainsville Oct/Nov 96 run. I think these were some of the most impressive shows (& not just because I was there) due to their creativity, improvisation, & communication between band members. Absolute fire.

    “don’t you miss it, don’t you miss it…….some of you just about missed it”

    39 days……tick-tock, tick-tock

  12. Pence Says:

    knoxville is closed..not looking fwd to going 0-5(Hampton, deercreek, the fox, alpine, knoxville)

  13. elbows Says:

    Nice post. I personally love listening to the 80’s shows because they had a distinct ‘progg-y’ sound that is much more Zappa than Dead. Are the 80’s my favorite Phish years? No, but I think they have a lot to offer…and I’ve thought the same thing listening to some of those shows, or a Tube from 90: These guys have ALWAYS been funky! And I love some of the earlier funk because it’s a lot less traditional funk, performed on their own terms.

    P.S – When me and my wife got into LOST some years back, I remember telling her something like “I bet if phish were playing now, they’d make some sort of onstage allusion to the show…maybe to Locke…or screaming Walt! during a jam…I dunno. Phish has always incorporated some aspects of popular culture into their shows (Run O.J, Dust in the Wind Old School style at Alpine 03), and I’m sure the boys love the show. How could you not?

  14. Los Says:

    I find it interesting that people can not post their thoughts without being subjected to negativity from those who do not agree…Miner included…should everyone agree with you 100%?

    I enjoy the daily read and I luv phish but Im not sucking their 1988 dick…

  15. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    100% agreement on 11/02/1996. this was the turning point in the band’s evolution that stands out to me most. Its not quite funk and nothing at all like 1995.

    They were most certainly relaxed at coral sky. “crosseyed” > “antelope” is one of the all time greatest phish jams. Trey just belts those solos like never before, stretching them out farther and farther. The only outdoor show of the 1996 fall tour and they didn’t disappoint. You should have seen all the jaws on the floor after that second set. It was like someone dropped an a-bomb on the place.

    1996 is underappreciated and often missed. Looking back, that one 11/02/1996 show is what ultimately hooked me for life.

  16. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    Did phish do the soundtrack to “starsky and hutch?”…..they arn’t listed in the credits, but some of the instrumental funk jams in the movie sound awfully like funked out phish to me. The more i watch the movie the more i think it was phish doing the soundtrack. They are very tight with todd phillips, who directed both “bittersweet motel” and “starsky and hutch”

    Did anyone else notice this also?

  17. SOAM Says:

    I have not stopped vomiting since someone mentioned Star Wars

  18. SOAM Says:

    actually-full tour-The Movie you are refering to blew so not that many people watched it-peace

  19. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ Los, I’m not asking anyone to suck anything….I just brought out a great old school nugget of Phish that many probably never heard. Did I say that ’88 Phish is the ultimate– no. My point was that they were always a sick band that incorporated groove in their music. (They obviously got sicker with time)

    Also, I encourage debate, dissenting opinion, and discussion. I just want people to do it respectfully. Disagree with me all you want- I’m no authority- just do it civilly like adults without insulting people or their opinions- ya’ dig?

  20. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    i enjoyed “starsky and hutch” and i’m sure others did as well. I’m a big todd phillips fan since “road trip” and “bittersweet motel.” How can you now like “old school?”….

  21. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    ^ *not

  22. full tour: ANNOUNCED! Says:

    What i tried to say is “how can you not like old school?”

    todd phillips is a great director and actor (the foot guy in road trip)

    i wouldn’t be surprised if that was phish doing the soundtrack uncredited

  23. camman Says:

    i dig…. and i think that those that dont dig are probably chcocking the chicken over at PT…

  24. showhe Says:

    Random question as a weathr junkie…

    When can I expect to start hearing Guyute or Divided Sky during the local on the 8’s again? Now that the boys are back I think the weather channel needs to recognize!

    That being said, I enjoy listening to late 80’s phish shows but think their exploration of the mid to late 90’s in their song selection and the way they interacted with one another is a culmination of having spent so much time listening to one another in the 80’s. You can’t have one without the other, of course the drugs helped too.

  25. tbarelaxer Says:

    Miner, with all the great stuff you post for down load, and even though my computer mostly only allows for B+ cd’s from them/MP3’s, it’s so great to be able to tap many of my fave shows from post 97, and get them, your opinion is always respected. Even though I don’t agree 100% on stuff you say, I agree a hell of a lot, and in my opinion you know plenty, not that my opinion means shit. For someone to question your opinion is one thing, but please leave the insults at home for a nice person who really takes time to create a great website.

    OK, as for Phish not playing funk back in late 80’s, please they played every style, even back then, and it is this diversity that has always made Phish, Phish, and unlike anyone ever. Now obviously 97 and 98, they had played for 10 more hard years of touring, so whatever they did was more developed. That said, yes machine gun classic rock definitely marked The Front years, but there was PLENTY of Improv. Take Mike’s for example. I saw plenty in 88-89, and they all varied, no not as much as 97-98 where Mikes live may be the greatest jam vehicle of any band anytime in Rock’s great history, but they still were chalk full of improv nuggets. And excuse me, but is not YEM, no matter how composed, the definition of improv? To me, as a sophomore at UVM in 87-88, what got me over my very foolish in a way “I think I know it all; I’m all about The Dead and anyone who covers them, I ain’t paying for”, were tunes like Mikes and YEM, and OPkee paw blistering into Greenberg or Bag. Also, they knew exactly what cover songs to do, and exactly where to place them in the set’s flow. No it was not GD improv, and actually yes it was/is prog rock, but there was still great improv happening in those shows. For example, the specific nights and specific shows are but mainly a blur to me now, but there was this fiddle guy from a band called the Jalepenos brothers, and like Trey he was crazy good. Now we all know the classic Trey head bob and face that marked the machine gun years, and this fiddle guy was also a complete freak, and he also had quite the stage face/style (Throw in Ninja Mike and wow it would of been the band for the ages-all of you listen to Ninja Custodian They rock-especially that Tune about the LA girl they wrote after moving to CA but I digress). So anyway this fiddle guy and Trey would play together when he guested with Phish and it was ALL ABOUT IMPROV. Yes Phish songs and Phish as musicians were tight as a MF in those days (They really became one of the best ever bands once it was just the foursome with Page IMHO), but it was the tightness that also led to the wonderful improv.

    Frankly there is something to be said for bar band Phish, as the scene was mellow as hell, and they were unlike anyone I had ever seen, but at the same time very much like ever one I had ever seen. Actually the lack of a lot scene, and their explosive style, led me to go to more Phish shows, and less Dead shows, only to switch back once Phish hit the arenas to lovimg garcia band at Warfield, then back to Phisa once Jer passed, then to The Who after 99-00 Phish which of course still was pretty good as Phish is great, but those were the first years I walked out of a show going that fucking sucked. Money was also a factor for loving early Phish shows and picking them over Dead shows when conflicts arose, but not having a crazy scene outside, actually OK a bit crazy but SMALL. There will never ever be another band like that band, as the bar was a perfect size, and you felt so involved, as Trey is all about involving his fans. I don’t think Phish can ever be pegged as in they didn’t play funk, or Trey can’t jam with other musicians because he is all about himself ( I always hated that one and no one said that here so PLEASE I AM NOT REFERENCING ANYONE AND DO NOT WANT A FLAME WAR-SO IF YOU WANTs ONE I’LL save you the time-I DON’T KNOW SHIT).

    Actually many of my friends in Burly town were musicians, and many hated Phish, probably because they were so successful and lucky in many ways. Plus, they don’t call Gordon Cacktus for nothing.

    So keep up the site Mr. Miner, I love it, and you definitely share many of the same tastes for great shows (Gorge Mikes-Worcester Wipeout-Red Rocks Norwegian Tweezer-Barcelona 98 show 2-to name a few).

    Finally I think you should do a post on two venues from the early years. Places that will always have some of the top 10 times in my life associated with them. Number one is Keane, NH. Number two is Townsend Family Fun Park.

    So when are they going to announce West Coast Tour, please anyone?

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