A City Spectacle

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 21st, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Just when we thought we’d seen it all from our band, they came up with one last stunt.  We’d seen Phish play in so many contexts– atop an air control tower, on a flatbed truck rolling through the lot, from midnight to sunrise in the swamps, at Mt. Fuji, in European towns, at huge festivals, in giant hot dogs, in tiny clubs, and on multi-band bills– you name it, they had done it.  Yet, on the day after SPAC on their June ’04 run, they would pull off one more spectacular act.

img-3On June 21st, they were scheduled to play Letterman in NYC.  My ride was coincidentally heading back to NYC where I was hopping a late-afternoon plane to Indianapolis.  But on the way down to the to the city, we started getting text message rumors that Phish was going to play on top of the Ed Sullivan Theatre, where the show is filmed, that afternoon!  Whaaat?!  We were shot with 100 ccs of adrenaline knowing that we were headed directly for Phish’s next “concert.”  I told myself that I’d believe it when I saw it.

When we turned onto Broadway in midtown Manhattan, we looked up to the theatre, and sure enough they were setting up equipment!  Before long, the band was atop the two-story marquee for an extended soundcheck before taping their four-minute late-night promotional spot.  Immediately, I called American Airlines and switched my flight to the last one of the night, giving myself ample time for whatever might happen. We got there a couple hours before it was supposed to start, and there were already fans congregating behind the metal barricades that blocked off part of the street.  As time passed, fans continued to steadily stream in, creating an oversized crowd in the middle of the New York City block in broad daylight.  This was surreal.

img-4As Phish stood atop the marquee, they continuously practiced the newly-shortened version of “Scents and Subtle Sounds,” the song they would play for the show.  The gorgeous jam became the soundtrack to the afternoon, as they literally must have played it through ten times.  Meeting up with some others, we grabbed some rail space, watched the cars go by, and waited.  New York didn’t stop for anyone, not even a spectacle like this, and that made it all the more crazy.  Cars, trucks, and buses drove by like nothing was going on while over a thousand people congregated across the street and hundreds of others leaned out the windows of their apartments above the marquee.  In all of the my wildest Phish dreams, never did the this scenario pop up, and that is why Phish is Phish.

When the band finally took the mini-stage for the formal filming, they evoked memories of The Beatles playing their final concert as a surprise gig atop a building while cameras rolled.  As Phish started, they played “Scents and Subtle Sounds” not once, but twice!  I guess they would later choose which one to air, but what would happen next was anyone’s guess.  This was the discussion of the entire afternoon. How long would they play? What songs would they choose?  Would they rage it?  Would it be mellow?  All of these questions were answered at once as Phish dropped into a mid-day “2001” in the middle of the Manhattan skyline!  As they swirled the grooves around the skyscrapers, I looked up and saw Phish against the New York City backdrop speckled with the bluest sky and cloud puffs.  A question we often found ourselves asking when baffled by this band seemed very appropriate here, “What the hell was going on?!”  Trey stared up at the clouds above and smiled as he was having as much fun as anyone with this Phishy spectacle.

ph20040621-162We were all blown away with the magnitude and sheer absurdity of what was going down; Phish, amidst a sea of skyscrapers, was ripping a “2001.”  As the band peaked the abbreviated version, they moved right into “Wilson.”  No one knew when this set would end, so every next song was like another shot of energy.  The crowd played their part chanting “Wilson!” from across Broadway, and the band looked giddy with amusement.  They tore into the song with utmost energy as we raged the the flat cement dance floor provided so graciously by the city.  Riding the frenetic tide, Trey concluded the song and ripped into the beginning chords of his personal favorite, “Chalk Dust Torture.”  We all exchanged shit-eating grins while passing some herbage, this was too cool to be true; we were five songs deep in a mini-urban-Phish set!  Sure the versions were truncated, but the jamming clearly wasn’t the point here.

img-1As the band wound up the final twist of “Chalk Dust,” it seemed perfectly reasonable that their “set” would end here.  But without saying a word, Trey dropped the opening lick of “Tweezer!”  I laughed so loud inside my head I’m certain that some sound came out of my mouth, but needless to say, I was speechless.  Trey looked like a kid in a candy store atop the marquee melting into a “Tweezer” jam with the sun reflecting off the glass monstrosities that surrounded him.  The band bounced their grooves around the urban playground, improvising directly into “Tweezer Reprise.”  Now this was the way to end the afternoon!  Everyone collectively freaked as Reprise bellowed through the streets of New York.  Phish was having at it in one of their favorite cities of all time, playing a selection of the most boisterous tunes possible to match the midtown madness.  They played to their surroundings perfectly as they always seemed to do.  Whether it was 100,000 at Big Cypress or 1,100 at The Fillmore, Phish were maestros of matching the mood.  With the final note of Reprise, Phish walked off the stage much more carefully than usual, leaving us with one of the most unique memories in Phish history.

With the two insane SPAC shows and this surprise appearance, New York rejuvenated the Phishy spirit one last time before the second go-round was over.  A band known for their extraordinary antics and sense of spectacle, this was one last ride on the ferris wheel.  Yet, as dormant as this spirit has been for the last five years, it has been reawakened, well-rested from an extended hibernation.  Regardless of what music Phish decides to play this year, you can be sure it will be infused with this very spirit we have come to love.

DOWNLOAD 6.21.04 The Ed Sullivan Theatre, NYC < LINK

Scents and Subtle Sounds (x2), 2001 > Wilson, Chalk Dust, Tweezer > Tweezer Reprise



1997-12-09gn12.9.97 Bryce Jordan Arena, Penn State, PA < LINK

This show gets overlooked and dogged on way more than it deserves.  While it may not be the greatest show of a standout tour, it has some great segments. First and foremost, an incredibly exploratory second set “Simple” that lasted over thirty minutes.  Leaving behind ’97 funk grooves, this jam goes way out, providing some abstract psychedelia.  This jam dominated a show that also featured a great show ending “Harry Hood,” and the infamous and blistering first set “Stash > Hydrogen > Weekapaug” songs after the “Mike’s” opener.

I: Mike’s Song, Chalk Dust Torture, My Soul, Stash > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Dogs Stole Things, Beauty of My Dreams, Horn, Loving Cup

II: Julius, Simple > Timber Ho, Contact, Axilla, Harry Hood

E: Fire

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A New Era

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 20th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

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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Weekend Nuggets: Paul Remasters Providence

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 17th, 2009 by Mr.Miner


12.13.99 Providence Civic Center, Providence, RI < LINK

1999-12-13gnOur own resident sonic engineer, Paul Gwynne Smith, has brought us yet another remastered gem from Phish’s past.  This time, he has worked his magic with a special night from Providence in December ’99.  The entire night, focused centrally on groove, was foreshadowed by the always-elusive and raucous “Tube” opener.  The first set was anchored by the mid-set combo of “Gumbo” and “Moma Dance, while the second features one of the most extended and exciting “Sand”s from the run.  Thanks to Paul, we now have a crispy snapshot of some superb late-’99 Phish.  This was first return to the Civic Center after the cosmic Island Run.  These are single song downloads again, so create a new folder and have at it.  Thanks, Paul!

I: Tube, Cars Trucks Buses, Gumbo, The Moma Dance, Piper*, Theme From the Bottom

II: Gotta Jiboo, NICU, Sand, The Inlaw Josie Wales, Mountain in the Mist, Limb by Limb, Golgi Apparatus, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Silent in the Morning#, Heavy Things

*With Trey on keys.  #Not accompanied by “The Horse.”



“YEM” jam 4.5.98 Providence Civic Center Pt.1

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YEM jam Pt. 2

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Phish’s Last Stand: Part II

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 16th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

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.



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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Phish’s Last Stand

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 15th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Something was in the air at SPAC on those June nights five years ago.  In the woods of upstate New York, Phish would throw down the gauntlet one more time before calling it quits.  Sure, Coney Island was a great time with the huge movie broadcast, the baseball field, and Jay-Z’s appearance, but musically, nothing from ’04 can compare to SPAC.  Deer Creek and Alpine would go on to provide us with fabulous music and moments, but it was in the intimacy the New York forest where the band last dipped their golden ladle.  On June 19th and 20th, Phish delivered the last opuses of their career.

6.19.04 (Mark Terry)

6.19.04 SPAC (Mark Terry)

The 2004 summer run was surrounded by a bittersweet aura.  Knowing this was gonna be it, we wanted to savor every last drop, but that unspoken feeling of imminent loss lingered.  We didn’t want to mourn something that we still had, but the knowledge that this would be the end of the road wouldn’t disappear.  After two exciting nights in Coney Island, the caravan headed north to Saratoga Springs for the first time since Summer ’95.  Following issues with management, the band was not invited back after until nine years later under new ownership.  The whole community knew that these shows would be special, but we didn’t know the half of it.  Once Phish hopped onstage in the beautiful northern setting, the magic hose would be turned on, and left on full blast for two straight days.  Phish would tap into the universal spirit more coherently than any other time in 2004, providing the audience with two final nights of cosmic communication to hold in our hearts.

While all four sets of this weekend were out of hand, this is a story about the second sets of 6.19 and 6.20, two of the greatest, if not the greatest, post-hiatus frames of music created by the band.  Whether it was the light at the end of the tunnel or just the the inspiration of performing their final run, Phish dug in and played their souls out.

"A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing"

"A Song I Heard The Ocean Sing"

As the lights dropped signifying the start of the second set, we assumed our places.  After a stellar first half, highlighted by an opening “Reba” and a sublime ambient jam bringing “Walls of the Cave” into “David Bowie,” we knew that what was about to drop would be special, yet how special, we didn’t know.  Launching the set with the opening drum beats of Undermind‘s “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” Phish chose one of their most sought after new songs to sculpt into a masterpiece.  As soon as the song started, everyone knew the jam would be huge, but the sheer perfection of it would be uncovered slowly.  After an abbreviated first-set “album version” at Coney Island, this second-set opener would clearly take a different course.


SPAC '04

Following Trey’s Hendrix-esque guitar solo, the jam began in earnest, and one could tell it was on.  The twisting and sinister music soon settled into a space where the whole band hopped into a collective jam rather than merely supporting Trey.  This is where the shit began to go down.  Improvising on the future epic for the first and only time, Phish created a menacing, yet uplifting, jam that would immediately vault into the annals of Phish history.  The exuberance of hearing the band absolutely slaughter this new favorite, combined with their absolutely locked and flawless playing, resulted in one of my top Phish experiences ever.

14071878106_0_albThe band connected several directed sections of improv, building a monstrosity.  By merging hard groove with searing evil psychedelia, Phish created a beast we had never seen before.  About half-way through the jam, the band snapped into some collaborative playing that set the table for the unbelievably spiritual jamming that would follow. This is where the magic began to blossom at an alarming rate, infusing the menacing piece with a sense of redemption and hope.  The band garnished a serious Pink Floyd vibe at this point, creating a beautifully  intense soundscape that was led to a cathartic release by Trey’s surreal and triumphant melodic licks.  This jam defines epic; for those looking to start listening to post-hiatus, start here.  As the only improvisational version of the song, Phish went all out and created a masterpiece.



As the twenty-minute jam closed, Phish moved directly into the opening of a superbly unique 32-minute “Piper.”  Using the popular jam vehicle to blow out any of the song’s conventions, the band took the momentum from their opening jam and kept it rolling.  As “Piper’s” scorching path left a wake of fire in its trail, it wasn’t long before the band broke down the jam into a more percussive place, stirring more musical creativity and diversity into the mix.  Bass-led grooves began to boom as Trey initiated some highly-addictive rhythm licks; where were we headed?  The pace slowed a bit, allowing for more spacious improv from all band members.  Following minutes of this polyrhythmic playing, Phish settled the music down again, creating an ominous tone before dropping into an “Tweezer Reprise” themed jam.  Starting with slow infectious patterns, the band built a completely unique jam into a straight dance-a-thon.  Gripping us with their imagination, the entire venue was soon bumping to the otherworldly rhythms.  Infusing an edgier tone to the music, the band built towards the Tweezer-laced peak.  This was heaven; one of those times where you danced so hard you knew not where you were, and you smiled so hard that your face muscles began to cramp.  This was IT, plain and simple, and everyone knew it.  IT was unmistakable.  With Trey wailing with the enjoyment of 1995, we all seemed to jump into a time warp to a place where things were firing on all cylinders again.  Were they really stopping in a month?  That didn’t make any sense now.

SPAC '04 (Mike Piera)

SPAC '04 (Mike Piera)

As if the “Reprise” peak wasn’t high enough, the band eventually morphed into the third section of this “Piper.”  Peeling away some of the layers of sonic residue, the band stripped the music down to some heavy drum and bass patterns.  Soon Trey and Page jumped into the mix and the band was locked into another infectious piece of improv, this time a down-tempo bulbous groove.  At this point, everyone’s minds were shattered to smithereens.  We were 40 minutes into the set and the entire time had been filled with some of the best Phish improvisation ever.  Before we knew it, we were coaxed into a funky and accented rhythm that delivered us right into the bouncing beginning of “Jibboo.”

3176382207_0d3c0e8ddaAt this point, we all knew we were in the grips of the Phish on an incredibly special night of music.  The jam stemming from “Jibboo” provided the us with the tight and uplifting candy-grooving that was much-needed after such a long and ominous period of improv.  Returning our brains to some sense of normalcy, this “Jibboo” was placed at the perfect point in the set, bridging the dark and the light.  With none of their impeccable tightness lost, Phish lept from their melodic relief into a late-set “Limb By Limb” that turned into yet another indelible 6.19 memory.  Transcending the general path of Limb jams, this version blossomed with patience and beauty into some truly delicate Phish.  As the jam reached its midpoint, the music gained some swing and built into something far greater than an average Limb peak.  In a geyser-like eruption of melody, Trey led the band towards spiritual apex that echoed of The Grateful Dead’s rolling melodic peak of “The Eleven.”  This was pure hose, and it was good. Perfection, beauty, and symmetry are all words that could describe this musical arrival, putting an exclamation point to this set of utter insanity.

With the classic set closer of “Cavern,” everyone’s brains came back to earth and realized the enormity of the Phish they had just experienced.  This was a perfect set; the type that didn’t come around all that often in the post-hiatus period.  As the set ended and Phish came back for an encore, there was nothing they could do to upstage what had just happened. Fully cognizant of this, they elected for one of the classiest encores in their repertoire, “Wading In the Velvet Sea.”  Reserved for post-epic situations just like this one, Velvet Sea provided the perfect reflective denouement to a show that no one would ever forget.

And this was only night one.  To be continued…


ironmountain_archive2ARCHIVE REMINDER: I know there are a lot of new readers lately, and I wanted to remind everyone that there is over 150 articles archived on Phish Thoughts.  You can use the orange “tag cloud” on the bottom right of the page to search by category (right above this paragraph), or you can search for any term using the search bar on the top of the page.  The search bar is especially useful when looking for particular show downloads.  You can always just click on a particular month of the archive, and all the articles should appear chronologically.  Also, the entire “Miner’s Picks” series is linked at the right side of the page as well, for quick access to the goods.  All links are always active.  If you find a broken link, please let me know via email.  Thanks so much, and enjoy!



Markthalle - Hamburg, GR

Markthalle - Hamburg, GR

7.23.96 Markthalle, Hamburg, GR < LINK

Dipping back into Phish’s oft-overlooked Europe ’96 tour, this show was their last headlining gig, and a fan favorite from the tour,  A standout show from start to finish, this should fill in a gap in many collections.

I: AC/DC Bag > Foam, Theme From the Bottom, Gumbo, Scent of a Mule* > Down With Disease > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > Stash, Hello My Baby

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Runaway Jim, Loving Cup, Sparkle, Mike’s Song > I Am Hydrogen > Weekapaug Groove, Bike, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: Rocky Top

*Contained an a capella solo by Trey.

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More Than Fun

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on January 14th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

508836127_44cdb2be4eConcerts are fun.  Parties are fun. Carnivals are fun.  But Phish was so much more than fun.  If fun was the primary thing we drew from this band, would we all be rearranging our summers to hit as many shows as possible?  If fun was the only thing we derived from Phish, they would have been like any other crazy Saturday night.  But they weren’t.  There was something intangible for all of us, something more than fun, that kept drawing us back to those arenas and amphitheatres for years on end.  There was something strangely personal about the whole Phish experience, as if the band was sometimes playing to you and you, alone.  That connection we all felt inside; to the music, the experience and to the moment kept us yearning for just one more taste.  Whether that taste came the next day, the next weekend, or the next tour, we knew that taste was coming and we awaited it like we awaited nothing else.  Yeah, there was something more than fun going on.  And now, that next taste is in reach once again.

3181882151_d0fea0a7871That late-night jolt of life that came last fall; the mystery that gripped our soul when the lights suddenly went black; that bursting sensation at the peak of the most grandiose Harry Hood; the sense of adventure when another Tweezer jam opened; the silence that fell over every crowd at the start of a Slave jam; these things were far more than amusement.  Those tranquil inner moments or those times you felt like you were going to explode; balancing on the cusp at the onset of every Bowie or the sea of bliss that sailed with each Reba drop, this was not the stuff of birthday parties and pin the tail on the donkey.  This stuff was serious, our car’s odometers and our former bank accounts can attest to that.

The reason why Phish 3.0 has revitalized the community and brought us all backwards down the number line is because we know that whenever we next see Phish, whether at Hampton, Jones Beach, Alpine Valley or beyond, we will have an experience that no one in their same mind could simply describe as fun.  We know that when we find ourselves in front of the Phish, that special place inside that has been closed for so long will reopen.  We will feel different. We will be different.

3176382295_a7653d1791This even helps explain why Phish tickets are at such a premium today.  Everyone wants a part of what’s left to come, because the experience provides us with so much more than fun; something with which to dream.  Stir your best friends, post-show parties ’till way past sunrise, road trips, and mayhem into the mix with the transcendent live experience, and Phish tour magically morphs into one constant and reliable “Fun > Magic > Fun” segue.  And it’s about to start all over again.  With a blank canvas, Phish will paint a new self-portrait that will also serve as a mirror reflecting our own growth and change since Coventry.  As Phish steps to each stage during this upcoming year, spawning new jams while revisiting old ones and evolving into the future, there is one thing you can be sure of, it will be far more than fun.



8.17.96 The Clifford Ball SBD < LINK


The Clifford Ball

Taking care of yesterday’s unfinished business, here we have the final three sets from The Ball.  Highlights include a divine afternoon “Reba,” a beautifully crafted second set capped with a “best-ever” version of Slave, and an adrenaline-laced third set with a “Tweezer” centerpiece, that left everyone wanting just a little bit more.

I: The Old Home Place, Punch You in the Eye, Reba, Cars Trucks Buses, Lizards, Sample in a Jar, Taste, Fee, Maze, Suzy Greenberg

II: The Curtain > Runaway Jim, It’s Ice, Brother*, Fluffhead, Run Like an Antelope, Golgi Apparatus, Slave to the Traffic Light

III: Wilson, Frankenstein, Scent of a Mule**, Tweezer, A Day in the Life, Possum, Tweezer Reprise

E: Harpua#

NOTE: Before the second set, the Clifford Ball Orchestra played classical music by: Debussy: Nocturnes (2 movements), Ravel: Pavane Pour une Enfante Defunte, Debussy: Claire de Lune, Ravel: Tombeau de Couperin (2 movements), Chavrier: Joyeux Muse, Faure: Pelleas et Mellisandre (2 movements), Stravinsky: The Firebird (2 movements). *With Ben & Jerry singing a verse. **With a Fishman solo instead of the typical Page/Trey duel.  #Without the “Ooom Pah Pah” opening and cut short before finishing.

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A Beacon of Light

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 13th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

cliffordLost amidst the excitement of last week’s summer tour announcement was the Dry Goods preview of the long-awaited release of a seven DVD box set chronicling The Clifford Ball, the band’s inaugural Phish-only mega-festival in 1996.  After staging seven larger-than-life weekends, all begging for their own DVD release, the band is finally dropping a long-overdue audio-visual treat.  This box set will recap every single note played that weekend in Plattsburgh, NY, including a disc of extra footage of the late-night “Flatbed Jam,” a thirty minute mini-feature with band interviews, an interview with artist Jim Pollack, August 15th’s 90-minute soundcheck and more.  Needless to say, this will be special trip down memory lane for all who attended and a glimpse into the weekend that started it all for those who didn’t.  A weekend highly deserving of recognition, the Phish community would never be the same afterwards.

The Clifford Ball was a game changer.  As Trey said in Billboard Magazine in September of 1996, “We realized that there is another whole level of concerts that hasn’t been explored yet.Needless to say, Phish pioneered that exploration.  Never before had a single band staged a festival of such magnitude all by itself.  What Phish presented to its fan base on the weekend of August 16-17 of 1996 was something far more than a concert.  From the moment of arrival, fans were given site maps and greeted with an interactive experience that transcended music.  As the 70,000 fans explored the fantastical psychedelic playground, they were greeted with bizarre performers mingling about, art installations, human gyroscopes, and several carnival rides and activities.  This was a 24-hour experience, and there would only be less than six hours of Phish per day.


"Ball Square" (Todd Wickesty)

With a mid-day orchestral performance coupled with a glider plane’s graceful stunts, Ball Square, the festival’s center of activity, snowboarders ripping high-flying stunts on trampolines during “Tweezer,” and a risque trapeze act by a female acrobat during Antelope, the entire festival seemed as imaginary, hallucinatory, and improvisational as Phish’s music itself.  The band had created an experience– a mini-civilization– that mirrored the values and freedom of their transcendent jams.  There was a constant sense of disbelief throughout the weekend that emanated from the band and audience alike; we had discovered a new way to do things and the results were other-worldly.  Complete with its own “Ball Radio” station delving into the archives and giving reports on the weekend’s happenings, The Clifford Ball was truly something groundbreaking in the music industry.  With the super-saturation of summertime festivals these days, it is hard to remember back to a time when they were few and far between.  As they consistently did with their music, Phish pushed the envelope of what was possible in a live music experience, creating a brand new festival model.


The Clifford Ball

It wasn’t just the various forms of entertainment that made The Clifford Ball so unique, it was the emerging sense of the Phish community that permeated the weekend.  Collecting the diverse energies of Phish’s unique fans and allowing that energy to guide the festival; when the shows were over the all-night fun was just beginning!  Meandering down the endless airstrips after the shows, one was greeted with a selection of dance parties featuring different types of music, all being spun by fans.  There was nothing official here, just the Phish community going off in the way they knew best.  Between the disco trucks and the large PA’s set up by smaller bands, the conclusion of the official music only meant the beginning of the non-official madness.  This is when the fans took over, putting on their own impromptu all-night events.  This pattern would be built upon throughout the band’s career, as fans continued to play a larger role in the late-night entertainment over subsequent festivals.

phish-clifford-ball-96-1A weekend that would forever change the face of Phish’s summer celebrations, The Clifford Ball was a revelation.  Once you arrived, you didn’t have to go anywhere for the entire weekend.  Cars were parked and not revisited until it was time to leave.  Everything you needed was provided.  From food vendors, to ice trucks, to the 24-hour general store, this was the way to throw a party!  As the final notes of “Tweezer Reprise” blared through the speaker towers closing the final set of the weekend, everyone knew that the community had arrived.  Awestruck by the massive Phish experience, fans floated on cloud nine, not believing what they had just witnessed.  The Ball was a weekend-long lucid dream; it was heaven and you could control your destiny.  With no next show to get to and ultimate freedom from authorities, the weekend served as a colossal decompression tank, akin to a real-life “choose-your-own-adventure” book.

After this August weekend, the paradigm had forever shifted.  Soon Phish found Limestone, ME, and our own sacred decommissioned air force base, to continue this summertime tradition.  Next came The Went, and then The Wheel.  Oswego, Big Cypress, IT, and Coventry would follow, but none of these indelible memories would have come to fruition had it not been for The Clifford Ball– “A beacon of light in the world of flight.”

What are your memories of The Clifford Ball?  Respond in Comments below!





8.16.96 The Clifford Ball SBD < LINK

Here’s the phenomenal soundtrack to the first Phish festival day ever.  With a stellar three set performance, The Clifford Ball was off and running, blazing a new path of how to throw a concert.  All three sets were crafted masterfully, while the second and third were especially sick, featuring a monster Mike’s Groove and 2001 > Disease, respectfully.  This day was properly capped with a spirited rendition of “Harry Hood,” affirming that everything in the universe was indeed as perfect as it seemed

I: Chalk Dust Torture, Bathtub Gin, Ya Mar, AC/DC Bag, Esther, The Divided Sky, Halley’s Comet, David Bowie

II: Split Open and Melt, Sparkle, Free, The Squirming Coil, Waste**, Talk**, Train Song**, Strange Design**, Hello My Baby, Mike’s Song > Simple > Contact > Weekapaug Groove

III: Makisupa Policeman, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Down With Disease, NICU, Life on Mars, Harry Hood#

E: Amazing Grace

**Acoustic mini-stage.  #With fireworks.

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Asheville > Bonnaroo > Fox

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on January 12th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

The most intriguing and enticing slice of this upcoming tour has to be the week-long stretch of Asheville > Bonnaroo > Fox Theatre.  With all other shows contained within four-night amphitheatre runs, this will be the week of unique Phish experiences.  Carved out seemingly so that many can skip the chunk if they want to (or have to), some of the most magical moments will no doubt come from these unique shows.

3182714970_58492826c3After seeing pictures of the Asheville Civic Center, I can’t believe Phish will be playing there.  The place is not meant for such a monstrous act, boasting nothing more than an ovular field house.  Yet Phish will play there, and it will inevitably be an intimate indoor treat for the 7000+ with a ticket stub in their hands.  Coming directly before the largest show of the summer, and the largest show in stature of the band’s career, Asheville will be the kick down before the storm rages.

bonnaroo_copyWhen Phish steps to the stage late-night at Bonnaroo on June 12 and 13th in front of 80,000 people, what do you think will be the result?  Monster-sized Phish of the likes we may never have seen before.  With a musical message to send to a generation that largely missed them, and a diverse audience that will not automatically love what they hear, Phish will crush these shows like none other.  With two nights of gargantuan grooves, I can guarantee you it’ll be worth it musically.  I keep trying to convince myself that I should skip it and side-step the unbelievable hassle and nonsense I will have to deal with to attend the ‘Roo, but the thought of what will happen there is drawing me in.  With the industry and the audience in the palm of their hands, you know Phish will step to bat and rip the cover off the ball– we are talking massive festival sized crushing.  I have read everyone’s posts about the misery of the festival– the crowds, the heat, the cops, and the corporate rape– but will any of that matter once swimming in the bombast of the summer’s murkiest Mike’s jam?  The magnitude of the Phish could be too much too miss.  Any way I cut it, it’ll be pretty hard for me to sit by and wait for St. Louis!

Fox Theatre

Fox Theatre

Following up the colossal headlining explosion at Bonnaroo, Phish will travel to the 5,000 person, ornately designed Fox Theatre.  In what will almost certainly be one of the most vibrant summer memories, Phish is set to blast off in the stunning room untouched by the band since 11.23.1994, when they dropped one of the most magnificent Tweezers of all time.  As small a Phish show as we will ever get in America, this night is sure to be something to remember for the band and audience alike.

It’s always fun when they mix it up with indoor and outdoor shows, and this this week will be the ultimate indoor/outdoor Phish experience.  Tickets for these indoor shows will be tough, but I don’t think we’re talking Hampton here.  There is a spread out demand at this point, the shows are both on Tuesday nights, and the limit is  four so people can hook up friends.   It will be interesting how it all shakes down.

ph030104_148-4838_imgWith all of the other shows in 20,000 person amphitheatres, the ticket scene should be pretty mellow, even if you don’t score em right away.  Things should fall back into place a bit this summer.  Jones Beach will be the most difficult just because of the population of the New York metro area and the fact that they are the tour openers.  But Great Woods, Camden, Deer Creek, and Alpine are looking good from this perspective.  But honestly, it’s hard to believe this is really happening.

While pondering a topic for the day, it was very hard to sit down and write something about the past when all I can think about is the future.  I will most certainly get back to some more conventional and historical posts, but for tonight the adrenaline inside is keeping my fingers typing about the upcoming road.

All that, and Hampton is less than two months away!  Yes, kid.


42950406PHISH AUDS: I definitely plan on posting the Phish shows in mp3 format like I did for the Trey shows.  I know a lot of people have been asking about that, and the answer is most definitely yes.  I have to either find a taper to work with or I may do it myself.  If anyone can help, please email me! Not sure if the turn around will be the next day due to driving et al., but I will do my best to get a great copy of the shows up for download ASAP.  This is not against any policy of the band.



7.12.96 Melkweg, Amsterdam < LINK

phish-europe-96Throwing down a request for a loyal reader, this is a classic nugget of Phish history.  Marking the band’s first trip to Amsterdam, the band played a three set show that included as much comedy as anything else.  With the band enjoying the city’s delicacies as much as the fans, this night made for a hilarious memoir, but didn’t amount to a whole lot musically.  With some good tidbits thrown strewn about a sloppy, smoky show, this one is certainly a must have for its place in Phish’s legacy.

I: Wilson, The Divided Sky, Horn, Split Open & Melt#, Ya Mar, Funky Bitch*, Taste**, Theme From the Bottom, Tweezer > Llama

II: It’s Ice > Prince Caspian, Mike’s Song, Run Like an Antelope, Purple Rain > HYHU, G D E A- Minor Ska Groove***, NICU, Slave to the Traffic Light, Suzy Greenberg****

III: David Bowie > Free, Hello Ma Baby

E: Bathtub Gin, Johnny B. Goode

#With “The Landlady” tease. *After the end, Trey made a comment about the lack of curfew. **Trey announced that this will no longer be “Fog That Surrounds” and will be “Taste” from now on. ***Trey asked the audience to help make up a song. He asked the audience to shout out keys and the band played them. Trey then asked a guy in the front row for a groove, and he shout out “ska.” They start the GDEA-Minor (keys) Ska Groove but Trey said that this was too weird and that they were going to play one of their own. ****Trey unplugs and then plugs in his guitar, resulting in weird noises. Fish calls it, “It was cool when he plugged in his guitar song.”


Weekend Nuggets: Great Woods ’94

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on January 10th, 2009 by Mr.Miner


7.8.94 Great Woods Mansfield, MA < LINK

phish-great-woods-94-metAs we continue our virtual download tour of the Summer ’09 venues, right after Jones Beach comes Great Woods.  A site of so many Phishy evenings throughout the years, few were more exciting then this two night stand in ’94.  The first night featured the last performance of the Gamehendge saga.  Entering the alternate reality via a dentist’s chair, we were off on the last full narration of Trey’s senior thesis right as the show began.  With Phish unlikely to ever bust out the story again, this is a must have show for any collection.

I: Llama > N2O* > Lizards > Tela > Wilson > AC/DC Bag > Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Fly Famous Mockingbird > The Sloth > McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters > The Divided Sky

II: Rift, Sample in a Jar, Reba > Y-Rushalayim Schel Zahav, It’s Ice, Stash, You Enjoy Myself > Frankenstein > You Enjoy Myself, Julius, Golgi Apparatus

E: Nellie Cane, Cavern

First set contained a complete “Gamehendge” narration. *The idea was being in a dentist’s chair, with the gas slowly putting you to sleep, and on your way to Gamehendge.

7.9.94 Great Woods Mansfield, MA < LINK

The band followed up the legendary first night with a second night filled with Phish anthems.  Both sets were absolutely scorching, but set two was something special.  Check it out.  This is some great Phish.

I: Runaway Jim, Foam, Gumbo > Maze, Guelah Papyrus, Scent of a Mule, Down With Disease, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, Run Like an Antelope

II: 2001 > Split Open and Melt, Fluffhead, Poor Heart > Tweezer > Lifeboy > Sparkle, Big Ball Jam > Harry Hood, Suzy Greenberg

E: Sleeping Monkey, Tweezer Reprise


“Divided Sky” 10.31.94 Glens Falls, NY
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TICKET UPDATE: I guess Tickemaster hasn’t been cut out of things, because when you go to their scalping website, TicketsNow, the entire sumer tour is up with hundreds of tickets for sale.  Who the heck knows at this point?  Hey, it’s only $375 for an orchestra seat for The Fox and $431 for two to Asheville!


RUMOR MILL ’09: (Reminder: Rumors are things I hear that I do not know to be true.  When I hear something I feel would be interesting to people, I post it.  Nothing is confirmed until you read it on Phish.com)

For what it’s worth, this was posted by SOMEBODY on Phantasy Tour today.  This is NOT me speaking:

“The same source that gave me the scoop about summer tour told me that there will be no dates in august, and no red rocks. he said that fall tour will start in early to mid-September on the west coast, possibly at the gorge and go until early October. thereafter, there will be a short break followed by east coast dates ending with Halloween at MSG. take it for what it’s worth, but the dude was spot on about the routing for summer tour. he said that big cypress is being discussed, but that the band is exploring some “new” options (i.e., other than MSG, Miami or BC).”

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Musings On June

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags on January 9th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

After much anticipation, Phish has finally satiated us with a slate of ten shows comprising the June leg of their first summer tour in five years.  As yesterday passed, things finally began to come to fruition.  Hampton is now less than two months away, and Summer ’09 is only five months out.  Once again, we have Phish to look forward to– and everything feels different again, different as in way better!  I, for one, had a very hard time focusing and accomplishing anything non-Phish related today.  From the moment the dates were posted, and in fact long before that, there was little else occupying my mind other than the question of summer tour.  Now that we know where the scenes will be in June, let’s take a closer look.

photo - Adam Foley

photo - Adam Foley

One of the first things I noticed when looking at the dates and on-sales is that Ticketmaster has been shut out.  The band is now using Live Nation to sell their tickets, hence the selection of venues. Without using Ticketmaster, Phish had to select venues that don’t have exclusive contracts with Ticketmaster, most likely why we will be heading to Jones Beach instead of Darien, SPAC, or some of their other classic haunts.  I am not fully aware of what venues have contracts with each company, but I do know that while using Live Nation, they can’t play “Ticketmaster venues.”  It remains to be seen if the change in corporate sellers will result in an increased availability of tickets to real fans.  Interestingly enough, Ticketmaster’s scalping little brother, TicketsNow, has taken all summer tickets off of their site, leaving only the Hampton shows.  Maybe we are making some progress here!

6.28.95 Jones Beach (Joe Madonna)

6.28.95 Jones Beach (Joe Madonna)

Now to the dates themselves.  The tour kicks off with one of only two two-night stands, at Jones Beach in Wantaugh, NY.  Having not played the Long Island Amphitheatre since Summer ’95, this seems like an odd beginning.  Fans have already complained about the poor sound at the venue, though when the sun is setting with water behind the stage, the setting is quite serene.  These should should be a fun way to rev up again.  After the opening couplet, Phish will travel north to play only one night at Great Woods in Mansfield, MA.  It’s pretty surprising that the classic Phish venue, first visited in 1992, opening for Santana, isn’t getting two to the dome.  Having played two night stands in ’94, ’95, ’99, ’00, and ’04, I thought two shows would be a given. Yet, it seems that Phish is trying to keep it simple on the first go round, which is probably best for the long haul.  There will be a classic Phishy “Cannonball Run” down I-95 after the Mansfield show, as the circus heads for Camden, the site of so many great memories.  70% of the cars on the road all night will be packed with lit up Phishies, and filled to the gills with summertime accoutrements.  The one night in southern Jersey, hosted by the Philly nitrous mafia, will cap Phish’s first four-night run since coming back.

Asheville Civic Center

Asheville Civic Center

Everyone will have a day off to make the drive down to Asheville, NC for what is sure to be one of the hardest tickets of the tour.  With the Civic Center holding only 7,654 people, this stop is virtually inexplicable.  As fun as the intimate show will inevitably be, why would someone make the decision to create another ticket fiasco?  It is a Tuesday, so that should soothe some of the potential crowd, but you can bet Asheville doesn’t know what it’s in for with thousands of ticket-less fans sure to flood the small mountain town.  The show should be phenomenal once inside, but that is gonna’ be a challenge. Following this show are five open days, two presumably to be filled by Bonnaroo when the lineup in announced on February 3rd.  The tour can be split into the pre and post-Bonnaroo sections, with five days carved out for the clusterfuck festival.

Fox Theatre, St. Louis

Fox Theatre, St. Louis

After Phish and their fans emerge from Manchester, TN, they will move out to another special indoor show. Returning to the Fox Theatre in St.Louis for another Tuesday night special, this time only 5,060 fans will get to witness what is sure to be one of the standout shows of the tour.  Although this night will be amazing, there will be a lot of fans scratching their heads at this decision as well.  To put the size in perspective, Radio City fits 6,000; but the context doesn’t necessarily compare.  New York City on a weekend for the first shows after Big Cypress created one of the highest ticket demands in recent memory, with people flying in from all over the country.  But The Fox on their comeback tour, albeit in St. Louis on a Tuesday, is gonna’ be a scarce stub.  Lots of fingers in the air here, as the band could fill the arena with their guest list if they wanted to.

Deer Creek

Deer Creek

Yet, instead of complaining, fans have the option of taking the week off, skipping the two smallest and the two biggest shows, and hopping back on at Star Lake in good ol’ Burgettstown, PA.  It’s great to see Phish returning to a place of so many spectacular musical moments, ready to create new ones on the first night of the leg’s closing four-night run.  The second show will bring us back to the cornfields and campgrounds of Noblesville, IN in a highly-anticipated one show return to Deer Creek.  A venue with so much Phish history, mostly in the form of multiple night stands, will only be getting one night of action.  You can bet the house, however, that it will be one of the most exciting nights of the summer!  There will be no time to camp, however, as the the tour will head directly north to Alpine Valley.  The classic pairing of Deer Creek and Alpine lives on!  Tour will wind up at Alpine Valley for two nights of fun in the northern sun.  With so many great shows having gone down at Alpine, and with multiple tours having ended at the great wooden amphitheatre, it certainly feels like a nostalgic home for the scene.  With its sprawling parking lots and endless people, this will be a fun way to wrap up Summer ’09: Leg One.

So there you have it–  what we have all been waiting for– Phish Tour!  Ten shows confirmed; ten nights of summertime bliss, and that is only half of it.  Phish is back in action and the universe is looking up.  Here’s to a phenomenal 2009 with endless potential! Cheers, all.


SUMMER ’09 RUMOR MILL: If everything with Rothbury works out, don’t rule out a headlining slot for one or two nights between July 3-5th, a little more than a week after Alpine.  This announcement would obviously come later as the folks up there are still sorting things out.



6.29.95 Jones Beach, NY < LINK

1995-06-29gnThis is the sequel to the show up for download yesterday, and Phish’s last performance at the amphitheatre that will inaugurate Summer ’09.  A monster “Free > Bowie” highlights this night, along with a juicy mid-set YEM. The first set is solid all the way through, closing with a tasty ’95 Melt.

I: Runaway Jim, Taste, The Horse > Silent in the Morning, The Divided Sky, Cavern, Rift, Simple, Split Open and Melt, Carolina

II: Free > David Bowie, Strange Design, You Enjoy Myself, Acoustic Army, A Day in the Life

E: Theme From the Bottom