The Island Run: Nassau

It all started with a surprise announcement in the beginning of March.  Phish was so juiced and inspired by the music of their epic Fall and New Years ’97 runs that they just couldn’t sit around and wait for their July European tour.  They were “bored,” as Trey would explain.   I remember exactly where I was in my buddy’s house in Philly when I heard the news- Phish would play a four-show run at the beginning of April in Nassau and Providence!  There was no mail order for these spontaneously announced shows; there simply wasn’t enough turn-around time.  Tickets would be sold via Ticketmaster, and that was it.  The excitement that prompted the band to announce these shows was fully ingrained in the Phish community after the end of 1997.  It seemed that nobody could wait for the next show– and now, we wouldn’t have to.

4.3.98 Nassau (phish.com)

4.3.98 Nassau (livephish.com)

Two at Long Island’s legendary Nassau Coliseum and two at Providence’s Civic Center- The Island Run- as it was dubbed, would immediately vault into the upper-echelon of all-time Phish performances.  Never has there been such a dynamic four-show run– ever.  You can put up any four consecutive shows against them, and they would get beaten down like Peter McNeeley against Mike Tyson.  There is simply no contest.

My friends and I used to posit theories as to why these shows stood out so brightly amongst all others.  Maybe Phish had time-traveled back from the future to play these gigs, showing us what we had to look forward to?  Perhaps that was the reason for the quick, out-of-nowhere, announcement? Although we sought explanations to this one continuous four-night super-highlight, we never came to a definitive conclusion (theories are still welcomed!)  Needless to say, these were four of the most powerful, magical, and transportive nights of the band’s two-decade career.

4.2.98

508742593_d894737740No one knew quite what to expect as we entered Nassau’s Thursday night show, but everyone was overflowing with adrenaline.  As soon as the lights went off, there was a mad rush of fans climbing onto the soon-crowded GA floor.  Yet, before anyone even had their bearings straight, Phish bust into the run with an opening “Tube.”  OK!  “This is gonna be a fun four days,” I thought to myself.  But I didn’t even know the half of it.  As the “Tube” provided a kick-start to the weekend, the crowd was lifted back to that emotional place we had all been jonesing for since the end of ’97.  This jam hinted at a groove plate that would be the launching point for the other-worldly “Roses Are Free” the following night.  Whipping the crowd into an immediate frenzy, the whole building nearly burst with energy upon this asteroid’s crash.

While much of this initial set was comprised of mild-rarities like, “My Mind’s Got a Mind of Its Own,”  “The Sloth,” and “Horn,” the undeniable highlight of the set, and arguably the show, came in the form of a twenty-minute, supremely psychedelic “Stash.”  The improv started immediately as the band drifted into the jam with Trey taking the lead with some staccato melodies over the menacing pattern.  The band seemed to be communicating without thinking, fully tapped in and feeling the flow, only songs into their first set.  This adventure continued to build in intensity, creating an undeniable musical tension, spiraling upward.  Easily one of the top “Stash’s” ever played, this version contained mind-numbing playing and went directly for the jugular.  But just as the music couldn’t have grown any more intense, with Trey wailing subconsciously, the entire band connected as one, and with the peak of the jam imminent, the band allowed the tense textures to settle, and Phish entered one of the most beautiful musical passages of the weekend.

This “Stash,” all of a sudden, became a delicate palate for spiritual work.  Trey shifted his tone and began to play improvised melodies that you could have sworn you’d heard before.  He was channeling the powers of the universe directly through his guitar and into our minds; an incredibly powerful moment.  The dark and twisted took a turn for the sublime and inspired, creating one of the highest points of the four nights right off the bat.

1998-04-02gn1The Coliseum buzzed with excitement during setbreak, mostly regarding the insane “Stash” that had just gone down, but more generally about the undeniable collective vibe in the room.  Everyone seemed to be on the same revelatory and exploratory page; all in it for the same reason, band included.  And that was only the first set!

As the band came out for their second frame, the high-energy combo of “Punch,” “Simple” got the arena rocking, while setting up the debut of “Birds of a Feather.”  A song that had grown out of a jam from 12.12.97 in Albany, the song’s rhythms reached out and grabbed the audience, urging them to move to the high-paced and boisterous rock textures.  While this was a noble debut of the song, two nights later in Providence, the song would explode, immediately discovering its improvisational potential.

3177217568_24476d84e0But the true fireworks of this set came after the first three songs.  As the band sank into a warm and groovy “Wolfman’s Brother,” the audience basked in the thick grooves that they had grown so accustomed to the previous fall.  As the smooth patterns washed over the audience, prompting all sort of funkified movement, the band methodically churned away, creating a series of infectious rhythms.  Intentionally, yet subtly, the band set up a seamless transition into “Sneaking Sally Through the Alley,” a song that brought our collective consciousness back to that crazy night of 12.30.97.  Combining these two funk springboards, the band created an incredibly infectious dance session with their precise and collaborative playing.  This was some addictive music.

Interestingly, following the rhythmic pop-off, the band transitioned into another debut, “Frankie Sez” (though no one really knew the name at the time).  An enchanting and mystical tune about the earth’s natural movements and its relationship to humanity, its first performance was a gripping juxtaposition amidst this phenomenal set.

3251307446_d82a7cd91cThe highest point of this set, however, was about to drop– “Twist.”  Taking this song further out than ever before, the band created an astounding psychedelic journey of melodic space-groove.  This is pure Phish crack, the stuff that just reaches out and grabs a hold of your heart without letting go. This was IT.  About halfway through the jam Kuroda hopped on board, creating perhaps his best lighting performance ever (see below.)  This jam is an essential piece of Phish history, illustrating the improvisational chops of the band and Kuroda, all at once.  A blissful amalgamation of melody, harmony, and rhythm, this set the bar for the following three nights- a bar that would readily be demolished with the following show.

4.2.98 “Twist” Jam (Kuroda’s Finest Moment)

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4.3.98

Simply put, this is my favorite Phish show ever played.  With two sets of pure fire, and a second set that represents the ultimate in Phish improvisation, the numbers 4.3.98 will always hold a special and unique place in my heart.

4.3.98 Nassau

4.3.98 Nassau

On the second night of our island adventure, the band chose to begin with a full-on “Mike’s Groove.”  (They opened the four shows with “Tube,” “Mike’s,” “Tweezer,” and “Oh Kee Pah > YEM”…’nuff said!)  Building on every bit of energy from the previous night, the band busted out of the gate like Secretariat with a booming “Mike’s Song.”  Like most Fall ’97 versions, this one included a distinct funk jam before it dove into its more seething psychedelia.  Mike was straight thumping as Trey joined in with perfectly complementary wah-grooves.  Page fit in playing short organ patterns without dominating the texture.  The band entered in a dance groove that seemed like we were deep in the second set.  Before long, Trey began playing leads over the bulbous and layered grooves, sounding as if his playing was composed.  Trey was flowing like lava from his first note on this special evening, and he never stopped.

As this “Mike’s” grew more engaging with each passing moment, it was quite evident that the band had something special going on this evening.  With one screaming lick, Trey initiated the darker half of the jam, leaving the sparse funk behind and heading for dirty psychedelia.  Oddly enough, this “Mike’s” segued into “My Old Home Place” rather abruptly.  But following the down-home ditty, the band tore into a multi-faceted twenty-minute “Weekapaug” that would normally stand out as the highlight of any show; but not on 4.3.98.

4.3.98 Nassau

4.3.98 Nassau (Joel Price)

The band didn’t take long to improvise away from “Weekapaug’s” typical path, heading for much more percussive territory.  With each member using their instrument as a rhythmic tool, a polyrhythmic groove emerged.  At this point, the band dove into some extremely Talking-Heads-esque playing; some of the most interesting bass-led music of the evening.  The band entrenched themselves deeper in their percussive experiment, creating some phenomenally tight patterns.  Soon, the band found themselves chanting the “Crosseyed and Painless” melody over the insane grooves.  What the hell was going on!?  The band was this deep twenty minutes into the show?!  Yes; that they were.  Trey took the “Crosseyed” melody to his guitar, artistically peaking the section of the jam and landing perfectly back in “Weekapaug.”  These were some amazing musical acrobatics, pulled off right at the onset of the show.  After the 35 minute “Mike’s Groove” ended with an unconventional double-time musical sprint without a lyrical reprise, the crowd was floored.  Was the band serious?!  This is when I started to ponder what was really going on at these shows- the band might as well have been a four-headed monster rather than four individual humans.  This was different than the previous fall.

The remaining highlight of the set, as if it needed any, was a sublime trip through an extended “Reba.”  Phish pulled out many heavy hitters, and the quality of the playing was extraordinary; perfect in a way I had never heard before.  So many of the jams from this night are so together and tight they sound rehearsed.  With transcendent melodies effortlessly rolling off the stage, the band was in a place of supreme musical comfort, and we were blessed to be a part of it.  It’s no wonder they were bored up in Vermont with this type of energy bubbling inside them.

1998-04-03gn2However, for every bit as good as the first set was, this night’s second frame would go down in history as one of the best ever played.  I am hesitant to even attempt to write about this set of music, knowing whatever words I devise can not come close to describing its majesty.  The 40+ minutes that made up “Roses Are Free > Piper” passed through so many Phishy realms- grooves, bliss, ambient space, and evil darkness- all wrapped into one jam, it was literally a dream come true.  Exploratory, yet cohesive; out there, yet directed, this segment of music contained unbridled power.  Initiating the improv with an extended set of to-die-for Phish grooves, Trey and Mike absolutely crushed it, wrapping their minds and musical ideas tightly around each other.  Page and Fish framed their grooves, contributing as two complementary cogs in the machine.  After this period of sublime rhythmic focus, Trey transcended the patterns with ridiculously flowing improvised leads that sounded completely pre-written.  How could everything be so perfect?!

Soon the jam traveled into an abstract Phishy-ambient space.  With Fishman bringing the music deeper with shimmering beats, Page, Mike and Trey transformed into an amorphous ball of harmony and melody.  When the jam finally seemed as if it could be heading for a calm landing point in “Piper,” the whole band jumped on a new idea and took the abstract jam to a much darker place.  Before long, the music built into one of those delicate and sacred places where the band just oozes IT.  Trey ascended to his “spiritual” tone with divine phrases and licks, bringing everyone along for the ride.  Things then became subconscious- for them, for me, for everyone- the unifying spirit; a completely unique experience.  Led by improvisation that was not heard every day, and was most definitely worth writing home about, this jam possessed at least some of the answers to the universal questions.  Phish then somehow crept the music, unsuspectingly, back from the depths, right back to where it was headed in the first place, landing in “Piper.”

4.3.98 Nasau

4.3.98 Nasau (Joel Price)

Seamlessly transitioning into the song, they band absolutely nailed it, and just as the adventure was winding down, there sparked a new beginning!  For the first, and only time in the band’s career,  they improvised out of the melodic denouement of “Piper.”  From the first time I heard this song in Virginia Beach, I always knew it could reach another level if they used the ending as a springboard, and they finally did!  This was my perfect world.  The progressed  from this beauty back into even darker and heavier abstract places- stuff you’d never really imagined.  Spirits of the universe groaned awake after a slumber of a million years.  They band channeled extra-terrestrial energy, providing a psychedelic trampoline to face your inner-self amidst this celestial sludge; confronting your fears and realizing your dreams.  Building to a frightening peak in this alternate universe, the music finally trickled back down to earth.  This was the ultimate.

As my my brain slowly slid back to Nassau, NY, Page began a celebratory “Loving Cup” that seemed so perfectly placed after the unrelenting and gorgeous psychedelia that preceded it.  Yet what happened during this “Loving Cup” turned out to be more significant than the song itself.

3176382207_0d3c0e8ddaToward the end of the song, a fan jumped on stage, and narrowly avoided being caught by drum tech and stage security guy, Pete Carini.  The crowd roared as the the fan hurled himself back into the crowd untouched, and as the song ended with the crowd deafening, the band started up an “Antelope.”  This intro had the now famous, “Carini’s gonna get you!” joke, started by Fishman and carried out by the rest of the band.  You could feel the overwhelming energy of the audience bubbling up with each repetition of the line.  The place was about to explode, and it did with a ridiculously fierce set-closing “Antelope.”  Phish had the the venue literally going berserk when this set ended.

Although the band had just played a career-defining concert, this massive surge of energy certainly came from this late set stage jumping episode.  Had it not been for his antics, the encore most likely would have taken another route.  But with the building vibrating with enthusiasm, the band came out and dropped the second ever domestic “Carini,” only three shows after dropping the first (12.30.97).  The show could have ended here, but instead, surfing the emotional wave, Phish dropped into “Halley’s Comet” to the delight of all!  As the time came for the jam, the band cut right into “Tweezer Reprise”- but there was never any “Tweezer!”  Breaking out their ultimate tool of adrenaline when it was most appropriate, they would follow up the improvised “Reprise” with a set-opening “Tweezer” in Providence the next night.  This “Reprise” found Trey aggressively marching in circles on stage, knowing they were putting the stamp on one of the best nights of their career.

“Tweezer Reprise” 4.3.98

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WEST COAST SUMMER ’09 RUMOR MILL:

3250483699_bf81d04535Expect an announcement soon!  Maybe today!  The dates I’ve heard are:

7.30 – 8.2: Red Rocks, Morrison, CO
8.5: Coors Amp. Chula Vista, CA
8.7 – 8.8: Hollywood Bowl, LA, CA
8.11 – 8.12: Shoreline, Mountain View, CA
8.14 – 8.15: The Gorge, George, WA

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PHISH THOUGHTS TICKET EXCHANGE:

3251306826_09e533a8acThe board is up and running with well over 200 users having posted requests or tickets.  I am putting a permalink in the upper right hand corner of the home page, so you can always access the board from there.  Remember, you need an invite in order to post on the board.  To get one, send an email to ticketexchange@phishthoughts.com with your email address as the subject line and a funny joke in the text.  Thanks!

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

6.13.97 SFX Centre, Dublin IR

phish-1The initial show of Summer ’97 featured the debut of seven originals and two covers, comprising almost half the show.  Along with their new host of songs, Phish squeezed in great versions of “Stash,” “Maze,” and “Slave.”  The highlight of the show, however, came when “Chalk Dust” morphed into an atypical funk jam which led into the first-ever “Ghost.”

I: Theme from the Bottom, Dogs Stole Things*, Beauty of My Dreams, Billy Breathes, Limb By Limb*, Wolfman’s Brother > Wading in the Velvet Sea*, Taste

II: Stash, Maze, Water in the Sky*, Vultures*, Slave to the Traffic Light, Chalk Dust Torture > Ghost*, Oblivious Fool*, Character Zero

E: Stand!#, Izabella##

*First time played. #First time played (Sly and the Family Stone cover) ##First time played (Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)

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215 Responses to “The Island Run: Nassau”

  1. Davey Says:

    And Camm. TicketsNow is NOT a good idea when the sole distributer of tickets owns the company that marks up the price AND owns the tickets and how they are distributed. Ticketmaster could be/already are setting aside huge blocks of tickets to put up on their website without the public even getting a chance to buy them. Or they could be turning a blind eye to TicketsNow’s ticket purchasing software. It’s just too easy for shady things to happen when one company owns everything.

  2. camman Says:

    davey,… i meant the concept of ticketsnow… having a place where people could sell tickets.. i wasn’t actually endorsing ticketsnow

  3. Davey Says:

    @elbows. I totally agree to keep the stress level of the band down. It’s either
    a.) fight for tickets in an unfair fight.
    or
    b.) have Phish break up again and not even have the chance to fight for tickets.

    I just think they should do a WAY bigger amount of tickets through the lottery. Something like 50% or so. But I bet TicketMaster wouldn’t allow it.

  4. camman Says:

    Sarah Palin listens to Phish

    ;)

  5. Davey Says:

    I get what you’re saying but we don’t know what percent of the tickets on ticketsNow actually come from real people you know? Instead of brokers. We could use Ebay for that.

  6. elbows Says:

    Davey:

    Your two options are dead-on. If they are caught in the same bullshit, and the stress overwhelms the joy of the music, they will break up. I do not want that. So I guess if I have to miss a show here or there because I couldn’t score tickets…at least they’re playing.

    I hope my post didn’t come off too negative. I recognize that these guys just want to play, and that’s all I want them to do: play.

  7. elbows Says:

    Sarah Palin’s favorite song is Funky Bitch.

    “Everytime I see her, she’s got new fancy clothes”

    by the way, I really hope Palin doesn’t like Phish. It’s bad enough that Ann coulter saw the Dead more times than me.

  8. Clod Says:

    I sometimes think that Ticketmaster was arrogant (corporate and political arrogance is certainly not new to our lexicon these days!) enough to think that they could fool ticket buyers into thinking that Ticketsnow was just another version of Stub-Hub.

  9. Davey Says:

    No negativity. I hope Miner doesn’t get upset that we always seem to go way off topic. I just love talking with like-minded individuals. :D

  10. Davey Says:

    I just don’t get how someone couldn’t see the connection between the company that owns the pool of tickets at face value and the company that hikes up that face value and ALWAYS seems to have tickets before they are even on sale.

  11. Pence Says:

    Ebay is BS too, I will never buy a lawn ticket for over face..EVER. If people stop buying those, They will ALL be at the lot, lower than face. CHEAP BASTARDS UNITE!!!!

    Sarah Palin listens to phish, I find that hard to believe.

    And Miner how did your friend find out about those hampton tickets that came out, out of the blue, I would expect that to happen to all the venues eventually?

  12. Clod Says:

    I’ll bring back on topic. For about three weeks straight, my daughter and I listened to the Island Tour “Taste” every day on the way to school. Although their was little doubt of my excitement, that version of the song single handedely got me uber-amped up for Hampton.

  13. camman Says:

    i think the complaints we all have is legit.. and it may take a couple of turs to get this running smoothly… we will never always get the tickets we want…. but it takes time to get an organizations the size phish had back up and running on all cylinders…

  14. Davey Says:

    I just realized that 4-3-98 is the ONE show out of the island tour that I don’t have remastered. I even have the soundchecks for it but not the show. Bummer.

  15. Pence Says:

    Im going to be drawing up a map to get into alpine. Showing where the best spots are to rally the fence. If any one is interested drop me a line opence@inbox.com.

    Just kidding….Okay I only did it once…….. Okay twice, but I almost killed myself the second time.

    DeerCreek is like a fortress to get into. Like a Maze of Cornfed Indiana football players waiting to stiff arm you in the face

  16. camman Says:

    haha guys i was jsut joking.. but you know she had to have dropped some acid to name one of her kids “trip”

  17. full tour: announced! Says:

    @elbows… that was I defending Lakewood. Lalewood has always been like my backyard in the summer time. The lots always rage. So many hidden corners to chill in or by those cool bridges, or by that run down mini stadium, or on that road that goes behind the venue and up onto that hill.

    I have one rule….never miss phish at lakewood, period. They can rename it high fi-buys, but it will always be OG lakewood in the ATL for real.

    The most fun part was always driving through dpwntown atlanta after shows doing 100 mph trying to keep up with traffic.

  18. elbows Says:

    Sorry for the mistake, fulltour. You are so correct, though…and your rule about never missing Lakewood is a good way to ensure your getting a great show. They just always throw down there. I’ve only been there for four shows…7/3 & 7/4/99, and the 2000 June shows. But I’d always peak at the setlists, and regret missing it.

    By the way, everybody…I have three of the four DVD’s for the Island run on my harddrive. I’d love to up them for everybody, I just don’t know how to, and my HD is acting a little funky. If somebody wants to tell me how to up those DVD’s without an account, I’d love to share them, as long as I can get the HD working!

  19. lot rat Says:

    DeerCreek is like a fortress to get into

    That wasn’t the case on 7/2/95

    “There selling post cards of a hangin…”

  20. camman Says:

    i wiull never ever jump the fence at deer creek

  21. guyforget Says:

    Davey, i don’t know what teh answers are, but phish are tight with their state senators in VT, and they could easily do the same thing as Bruce did. It would be virtually no work on thier end except to make a call. I don’t konw what the answer is and I am by no means saying this is Phish’s responsibility to remedy. I’m just hoping the positvie steps the Bruce camp have taken actually gain a little traction. I’m not holding home for the late summer tour, just way too soon, but maybe by NYE and beyond??

    Elbows – you made me almost spit my lunch out when i read your letter to yourself. And no, it wasn’t me with the Lakewood props. i think it was Full Tour.

  22. showhe Says:

    I don’t think you can jump that fence anymore, unless you’ve got a ladder.

    Off topic: Indoor vs Outdoor shows?

    Tough call but I’ll say indoor since the light show is in effect from the get go but that usually means it’s winter time too which is the downside.

  23. curious about ticketmaster Says:

    have anyone else’s ticketmaster tickets for hampton not shipped yet? i know a guy who says he may be able to hook me up with tix and he sent me the confirmation with the tracking number but the shipping status still says “billing information received” which means that Ticketmaster still hasn’t shipped the tix. has anyone else not gotten their tix yet? i was under the impression that most people had, and i want to be sure he isn’t bull****ing me. shipping to east coast if that matters

  24. Clod Says:

    Yes….attacking Ticketmaster is a perfect fit for Bernie Sanders

  25. Selector J Says:

    Palin is totally a phish fan. We talk regularly (I pretend to be the ambassador of Gamehenge… apparently, she believes it to be more real than most of us.) She even named her kid Piper after the 4/3/98 version.

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