The Jewel of Japan

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Drum Logos, Fukuoka

Upon stepping out of the dark and musty club into the clear Japan night, I knew that we had just seen the best show Phish would play all summer.  It wasn’t that they had been playing poorly, in fact, quite the contrary, Phish had been tearing up Japan.  This show was just that good.  We were all a bit awestruck by what had just happened inside Drum Logos, and everyone’s faces conveyed this.  I turned to my buddy, and made the bold, yet confident, statement, “That was the best show we’ll see all summer.” And the US tour hadn’t even started.  But it turned out I was right- at least in my humble opinion.

One of the smaller clubs of the tour, Fukuoka’s Drum Logos sat unassumingly along a city sidewalk across from a park.  It would have gone unnoticed but for the smattering of fans congregated outside.  The mid-point of Japan’s two-week tour, this night in Fukuoka would live immortally not only in the memories of everyone present on Japan’s southern island, but also in the form of Live Phish Volume 4.  From note one of the first set, it was clearly on, but the ridiculously powerful exploration took place in the second.

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Drum Logos In the Distance (J.Greene)

Following a set opening bluegrass-funk session in “Get Back on the Train,” Phish got down to business in earnest as the opening of “Twist” echoed delicately through the intimate room.  The band moved through the initial section of the song and dropped into the jam with utmost subtlety.  Allowing the improv to move organically instead of pushing it in any direction, the band took their time as they quietly bounced ideas around the stage.  This mellow portion lent ample space for each member to develop and offer their own musical phrases without overriding anyone else.  Stepping into some blissful drone patterns, the band created a musical milieu that most definitely didn’t pop off the stage at every show.  This music was deliberately patient, developing incredibly slowly and  coherently, sounding like a Phishy “Dark Star”-style jam.  The jam held a very enchanting quality that drew you in- stub-0614Page played beautiful piano chords, Mike played a select few notes at a time to carry the sparse rhythm, Trey focused on texture and sound, while Fish framed it all with a minimal cymbal-heavy beat.  Sounding like the soundtrack to a dream, the band progressed through some of the most sublime improv in recent memory.  This was IT; this is why we were in Japan.  This was not the type of music Phish played every night, but rather a mystical aberration in a tiny Japanese club, with the higher powers harnessed fluently.  Eyes closed, I glided away in a dream state, floating in space with the meticulously played music as my invisible magic carpet.

Japanese Heads (John Greene)

Japanese Heads at Drum Logos (P. McGuire)

The improv wound itself to an even more mellow and beat-less space where Trey began playing refined high-octave melodies atop the band’s sonic backdrop.  This was the first time that Trey played outright melodic leads, and it was in a segment of music that sounded like a cosmic lullaby; sheer beauty supported by a web of psychedelia.  Allowing this minimalist segment to take its natural course, the band settled into a near-silent state before Trey brought the “Twist” melody back from the depths.  A truly epic jam that focused on sound rather than melody- textures rather than beats- had just unfolded, and it took a minute to readjust our perceptions.  But as this marked the end of one divine excursion, it was merely the start of another.

4lpAllowing the feedback from the end of “Twist” to linger in the air, the band seized the moment and began sculpting that quiet feedback into an abstract soundscape.  Before long, all band members added layers to the sonic puzzle which continued to deepen.  The patterns played seemed almost mechanical as Fishman subtly created a quiet, yet driving, beat.  Underneath layers of effects, Mike began playing what sounded like a super-slowed down version of the “Ghost” intro bass line.  But this didn’t seem to be heading for “Ghost”- the band was fully immersed in something completely other.  An ominous feeling ballooned from the stage as the improv turned into creeping psychedelic grooves with Mike still leading the quasi-melodic path.  A melange of thick tonal color emanated from both Page and Trey’s keyboards, furthering the eerie theme.  Mike’s playing grew even more prominent, quickly directing the band into a much heavier jam, and the band once again found themselves floating amidst IT.  Trey finally began to use his guitar more conventionally, adding some rhythm licks to this sinister music.  Phish had transformed the small venue into some sort of futuristic dance hall with one of those jams that you knew would hold up forever, even though you were still living it.

Any thoughts of “Ghost” were left in the wake of the band’s virtuoso jamming and infectiously slowed-down patterns.  This was Phish at their sound-sculpting best, creating a unique and methodical musical monster.

phish-kabuki-99Finally, Page and Trey removed some layers of sound and the band broke into an outright groove that reached out and grabbed you.  Turning their focus to rhythm and melody rather than overt psychedelia, the band emerged in a drawn out and addictive groove that we soaked in before the band gradually began building into….”Walk Away!?”  Out of the depths of this colossal jam, Phish seamlessly segued into their old-school cover that had only seen the light of day four times since 1994.

The James Gang song gave the audience some composed moments to digest the magnitude of the music that had just happened, because when it ended, Phish was right back at it.  Allowing the ending of “Walk Away” to linger, much like they did with “Twist,” the band took the sonic wash and began to, once again, mold it like Play-Doh.  The subsequent six minutes saw Trey play chorded melodies over a quiet canvas with Fishman keeping a muted beat behind him. This jam progressed to near silence before Page began blocking out some sparse piano chords.  Meanwhile, Fish and Mike were busy crafting what certainly sounded like the very beginnings of a “2001” intro.  As Trey added some quintessential space-age effects, it seemed that the club had been cleared for blast off.

phish-japan-00-cardOut of this gorgeous soundscape, Fish nailed his snare and the place exploded with the onset of full-on space funk.  For the last fifteen minutes of the set, Phish settled into the groove they had hinted at all night, and slaughtered a smooth club version of “2001.”  This was a celebratory dance session, as the entire audience felt the same flow, having been brought through a deep and eerie set to this vibrant peak.  This “2001” served as an indelible exclamation point for this top-notch set.  It was, in fact, the first time in the band’s career that they ended any set with the dance anthem.  Fitting perfectly at the conclusion of this excessively exploratory set, the Japanese crowd reveled in the slick grooves that slid through the air.  As “2001” peaked, everyone expected to hear something come out of it; whether it was a “Sample,” or “Golgi” or “Frankenstein” or something!  But no; nothing at all- it was so powerful!  Phish masterfully worked the feedback down to silence to the amazement of the crowd.   As Trey walked off stage, he gave his signature bow and “Domo Arigato!” to the crowd, when in fact the crowd could have done the very same for the band.

(Note: The standout first set has not even been mentioned!  The opening series of “Carini,” “Curtain > Cities,” “Gumbo > Llama” absolutely crushed, with the clear highlight being the “Crosseyed”-laced “Gumbo” grooves.  The set ending “Split” was also a jam to be reckoned with).

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

6.16.94 State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN SBD < LINK

State Thatre, Minneapolis, MN

State Theatre, Minneapolis, MN

A SBD copy of an exciting Summer ’94 show, this one comes in as a special reader request. The second set reads like a classic ’94 adventure, with a fierce “Antelope,” a rare “Forbin’s > Kung > Mockingbird” and an interesting “Disease > Contact.”  The first set saw “Gumbo” appear for the first time in 103 shows.  Enjoy!

I: Bouncing Around the Room, Rift, Julius, Fee > Maze, Gumbo, The Curtain > Dog Faced Boy, Stash, The Squirming Coil

II: Suzy Greenberg, Run Like an Antelope, Colonel Forbin’s Ascent > Kung > Famous Mockingbird, Big Ball Jam, Down With Disease > Contact, Big Black Furry Creature From Mars > Purple Rain > HYHU, Golgi Apparatus

E: Ginseng Sullivan*, Amazing Grace*, Good Times Bad Times

* acoustic, not on recording.

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140 Responses to “The Jewel of Japan”

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  1. Ryan S Says:

    Hell yeah, first comment…….this recording was the first Phish I ever heard, absolutely amazing. I know this recording inside and out, and whenever I’m faced with breaking in a set of speakers, whether it be in a new car or apartment, this is the CD I choose.

    So much emotion for me is tied to this recording. Back on the Train has become somewhat of an anthem for me. With all the ups and downs, the daily grind of life….this is what I turn to to let me know that it’s time to dust myself off, chin up, and get back out there and get after it.

    I hit a really dark time in my life, and remember moving back in with my parents and sleeping in the guest room for a couple months. On one of these nights, I put on my headphones and just let it rip…and facing the window with vertical blinds, I was able to focus on the moon and watch as it moved across the window, in between each of the blinds. With Trey’s melodic, high-pitched solo twinkling in my ear, I literally watched the earth spin that night….and it is one that I will NEVER forget.

    I know that words on a screen can never truly convey the emotions you feel in your heart, Mr. Miner….just as mine have surely fallen short. What I can say, though, is that feelings like the ones we have when we listen to these recordings (or live shows in person, for that matter) can never escape us as long as we respectfully appreciate the magic that is unfolding.

    With that being said, I’d like to wish everyone a happy, safe, and somewhat sober tour season….because what’s the point of paying to go if you’re not even paying attention? See you all this summer……

  2. mittens Says:

    This is crazy. I was listening to set two of this show on my ipod at work when I loaded the page and saw the new post. Weird. Although it is one of my favorite shows of all time and I live in Korea. I went to Japan this past October and the Japan run has been in rotation since. This show is fire, it easily is in my personal top ten. The Carini and Gumbo are my favorite two versions. Thanks Miner.

  3. bhizzle Says:

    I can only imagine what it’d be like to go see a Phish show overseas. As posted previously, I enjoy the lot and wonder what a lot scene might be like in Japan or any other overseas country for the matter. Then during the flight the outflowing of excitement. It would be tough to sit tight in an airplane seat for so long.

    I picked up the Live Phish Vol 4 due to a friend raging about it, in particular the “Fukouka Jams”. I was going through a ambient jam phase and he knew it so…. Now I’m going to have to throw that mother in and listen during work. Thanks for the suggestion Miner.

    Also, looking at that ticket stub: SPACE SHOWER TV? huh?

    P.S. – thanks to all with help with my shn/flac conversion problem. Trader’s Little Helper is the shit. I have made my own little hiatus regarding bt.etree.org, but am now shaking that off to prepare for these Hampton shows.

  4. bhizzle Says:

    I was just remembering the scene from Bittersweet when Trey and Brad(?) are overseas at the beach and taking the headless pictures. Hysterical! You get any those pictures taken when in Japan Miner?

  5. nonoyolker Says:

    I hate belated posts, but didn’t get a chance to listen to the antelope from yesterday until later last night. Got out of work, went to the gym (oddly a particularly fierce ‘lope came on shuffle mid-cardio, arguably my favorite, VA Beach ’98), got home, got a belly full of wine, a little kevin spacey, then blasted desert-lope full volume. WOW. Some serious gearshifting into high gear! I love that after all these years you can still uncover a disgusting jam that you never knew was even there. I pulled a sublime – it was so nice, i wanted to hear the same song twice… run run run run run run run run run run run! That is all…

  6. paul hannon Says:

    this show is the shite,its amazing to go back to a 94 show,then pop this on and realize how dope the band has evolved..to all those that think 2000was a bad yr.Just listen to this 2nd set…AMAZING GIG!

  7. Frankie Says:

    I love this show! It is quite a unique Phish listening experience… It is so sophisticated and relaxing. A great example of the Phish sound after Big Cypress. I wonder what would’ve happened if they had continued out west for a worldwide tour !! African Phish! Indian Phish! Nepalese Phish! Their music is so influenced by their surroundings that i would’ve been very curious to hear them play in all kinds of different environments…

    Anybody else remember the rumors for the millenium concert to be held in Hawaii on an island? How crazy would that have been? A Phish concert with an active volcano right behind it… A real LOST-style Phish experience!

  8. WALSH Says:

    Thanks again for such a wonderful site, i am so excited as I read do to the re-release of Knoxville tix. Drum Logos is so amazing in Set II!

    All I need now is 2 tix to Star Lake, and I will be happy as a clam.

  9. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    Prepare your self for the outrage of domestic Phish fans facing increasingly difficult times getting tickets to go berserk when Phish announces another overseas run within the next year.

    I would absolutely love to do a run overseas. I’ve already seen a lot of Europe, and Japan would be incredibly expensive. So where exactly is the perfect foreign place to see Phish? I don’t think anyone can replicate the Dead in Egypt, although I’ve heard the Pyramids show, and it isn’t all that good.

    Hmmm… I think Australia would be fun, because they love to have a good time. But I have to go with Brazil. A venue overlooking a beach, beautiful people, and I think the setting would inspire some polyrhythmic magic in the music. World music Phish – I like it more as I think of it. Bring Cyro Baptista along to translate and contribute. He’s Brazilian, right?

    Anyone else have a fantasy foreign county?

  10. In Flagrante Delicto Says:

    *yourself

  11. elbows Says:

    Great writing, Mr. Miner. I remember eagerly awaiting setlists and tapes of the Japan run before climbing aboard summer tour (U.S). Mr.Miner, have you been to every Phish show played? Sure seems like it. If you wouldn’t have confessed yesterday to missing the Arizona show, I’d a thought you worked for the band. Man, I thought I saw a lot of Phish.

    We’re nearing lift-off, fans! It’s all I can think about. This past year for me has been tragic in the sense that I lost someone very close to me, and for the first time I find myself excited for the future. Even though I only have a Hampton Sunday ticket, I will dance so hard, in order to remove the cobwebs from the last five-years. Thanks again, Miner, for reminding me of the beauty that lurks just around the corner. I can’t wait until I open Miners page and it’s a review of the night before! Phish!

  12. bhizzle Says:

    I’m not all that keen on south american countries. I have this phobia of being kidnapped by FARC or some other vigilante group. Australia would be cool, right next to that big red rock. Let them levitate that shit. Or the Sydney Opera house. Where’s Borat from?

  13. nonoyolker Says:

    Dream location: Phish at Machu Picchu!

  14. SOAM Says:

    The pryamid shows as well as all dead shows were not just about impeccable musicianship-I equate it to proffessional athletes-there are 2 types-the talented god given stud and the blue collar-down and dirty balls out scrapper-both are valuable and one can’t exist without the other. No matter how good or even bad the music is-nothing beats going to a live gig-the strangest of places if you look at it right-lets keep our band inour mother f’in country-buds and tix are expensive enough and they havent toured in 5 years-they better not go over seas or they will have to deal with the east coast tune caller.

    “he told me not to worry cause they’d soon be back”

  15. SOAM Says:

    BOOGIE ON ELBOWS-We are all human and I second your emotions

  16. Frankie Says:

    Alaska summer tour!

  17. camman Says:

    I would have to say my top 5 other countries to see Phish would be Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica, Russia, and China i would love to see Phish get down and mingle with some otehr countries… that are going to be playing out of the states by the end of 2010… it’s only a matter of time… oh those shows would be outrageous… a phish show in Morraco would be sweet as well…

  18. anoble Says:

    I almost agree with you on this one, but my personal favorite from the Japan run is the 6/15/00 show. No one ever talks about this show. The first set is really good, but the 2nd set is why I love Phish.
    The DWD Jam is pure magic, improv like I’ve never heard before. It’s a crazy electronic/jazz/funk jam that explores the dark and light side of Phish at the same time. When it ends it kind of just fades out, but not into Lizards. That’s the only way I can describe it.
    The Lizards while pretty standar just fits perfect after the DWD jam. It brings you back to the reality, and sets you up for the next exploration.
    A strange and bizarre Bike follows, very Syd Barrett like craziness. One of the best Vacume solos ever in the jam. After which the comdey of Phish comes into play with a brief HYHU.
    A short but explosive YEM to end the set, and a Gotta Jibboo encore that almost lifts the face off the floor form it’s recent meltdown.
    If you don’t have this show get it, turn on the lava lamp, find something with lights that’s activaed by music, and go for the DWD face melt.

  19. camman Says:

    WALSH-

    are they rereleasing knoxville tickets? if so when? what indo do you have about it, bud

  20. WALSH Says:

    I just got lucky by going on PT Phish and seeing someone post. Goto the link on Phish.com and search for 2 tix(only way it is working)…I mean they are behind the stage, but I really could care less where I am, as long as I am inside.

  21. SOAM Says:

    It amazes me that phans get their undies in a bunch over a marked up ticket broker for a local gig but then say it would be great to drop a couple grand on plane tickets, hotels etc. for an out of the country tour

    c’mon.. I’d rather see them in Limestone and be able to eat and pay rent-now a cruise with gigs each afternoon and night might work but I ain’t got the cash to be a worldly traveler-and I suspect that is the case for alot of us

    gimme a simple kind of man…

  22. nonoyolker Says:

    Elbows – sorry about the rough times man, good times are just around the bend!

  23. Clod Says:

    Dream Location? Somewhere in the Caribbean. I could kill two birds with one stone – give the wife and kids a beach and I can go lose my head

  24. nonoyolker Says:

    Packing up the car for a nice stretch of shows is so great but phish abroad makes it almost like a full vacation. Good to spread out and mingle with heads in different cultures. See how they get down.
    That being said, Camman, I was in Morocco last summer for work and it is kind of a toot-hole (Sorry if any of you are from there…). I’ve never showered longer in my life than when i got back to the states. I want a dead/pryamids type show. Great Wall of China maybe??

  25. AbePhroman Says:

    I wish I got to see the boys abroad, but I was too young when they did that schtick. Well I was 18 in 2000 but no cash to get to Japan! Maybe one day they will do another small tour over there. I will make it!

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