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”

  1. bhizzle Says:

    Machu Pichu would be cool, but I fear my cigar-smoking ass would be dragging climbing those steps. That is unless there is an escalator?

  2. bhizzle Says:

    At the 10:10 +/- mark of that “Fukuoka Jam #1”, Trey enters with the scorching feedback and lets it ride over that spacey key work. Then Mike hit that funky bass line. Damn!

  3. wanderin Says:

    Be Careful what you wish for…..

    http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE5194DL20090210

  4. Dr. Pauly Says:

    One of my favorite shows from the Japan run. That venue was super tiny. Great post, Minor. I didn’t know that you went to the Japan shows. Surprised that we never crossed paths since it was a very small amount of Americans who went there.

    Just a quick note, I took that photo of Japanese Phisheads (my friends Kimiko and Aki) but you gave source credit to someone else (JGreene). Thanks in advance for fixing it.

  5. wanderin Says:

    I think everyone should go and visit Japan, regardless of Phish playing there or not. Don’t get me wrong, to be able to travel and see your favorite band is awesome. Japan is a great place to visit!!!

  6. SOAM Says:

    don’t forget pearl harbor

  7. elbows Says:

    Hey, thanks for the well-wishes, guys^^^

    Although I’m far from a religious man, I’d love to see Phish in my homeland, Jerusalem. They could play the obivious TMWSIY->Avenu, maybe throw in an Amazing Grace, The Wedge (limestone blocks…). Ah, to see the palestinians and israelis getting down, side by side, to Melt, or 2001 perhaps. Citites, I think, would be a bit too ironic, controversial. Hey, a man can dream, right?

    P.S – I’ve noticed lately that my days are strangely not the same without the daily Hasselholff trivia.

  8. camman Says:

    no offense morrocoo, or however you spell is was just an idea…. i’ll be glad to get to see them wherever.. i am totally stoked that my Phish shows will be in Tennesee.. good ole rocky top.. God Bless i love that state….

    Elbows.. that would be an amazing thing to have happen.. but very doubtful with the deveolpments in the middle east..

    man,, i’m pissed that the livenation ticketmaster merger is going to go down after.. fuuuuck……

  9. camman Says:

    maybe they could call it livebastard

  10. guyforget Says:

    Thank you Mr. Miner, for bringing me back to the begining, as we all embark on another one.

    I’m headed to Hawaii on Monday, and i remember during hiatus 1, thinking how sweet it would be for them to come back and play in Hawaii amidst the mountains and rain forest. Always wishful thinking.

  11. guyforget Says:

    BTW, that pic of the state theatre looks a little similar to someplace else this summer!!!!

  12. camman Says:

    maybe they can call the new merged company livebastard…

  13. full tour: announced! Says:

    didn`t the band eat mushrooms at this show? they were legal in japan at the time. hence the extra heavy psyedeliic edge to this show and the cap in the album art…….

  14. camman Says:

    and elbows… that would be sweet… but wonbt happen…

  15. Mr.Miner Says:

    “didn`t the band eat mushrooms at this show? they were legal in japan at the time. hence the extra heavy psyedeliic edge to this show and the cap in the album art…….”

    ^^ had never heard that. but it makes perfect sense.

  16. camman Says:

    i love me a daily does of physidellic phish…

  17. elbows Says:

    Mr. Miner (or anyone else who was in Japan/Europe),

    I’d be very interested to hear about the locals at Phish shows abroad. Were they as crazy as some of us American folk? Were there spinners, dosers, tweakers, tapers? How was Phish received? Were most (or some) of the songs recognized? Any locals participate in Hood calls, Stash claps, Wilson chants? Were there substances available, indulged? No need to answer, these are just things I’ve always been curious about.

  18. alumnidog Says:

    ticketmaster and live nation are merging today…… never saw it coming

  19. camman Says:

    hwy miner…. i think it’d be interesting to see what you think Phish’s best show over see was overall….

    i would did some nepalese phish as welll

    SCHWiNG!

  20. full tour: announced! Says:

    the germany show on slip stitch and pass might take that prize cam…..shame that dinner and a movie and reba were left off the album. the glorious birth of the dinofunk of 97.

  21. camman Says:

    i love the weekapaug off that album.. i listen to it almost daily…

  22. Mr.Miner Says:

    The Japanese fans were THE GREATEST! They knew everything about Phish, took psychedelics, and were ultimately quiet and respectful at the shows. I would rather see every Phish show in Japan. Here’s a link to a review all the Japan 2000 reviews I write for Jambase that helps describe what I am saying….Read the 6/11/00 Hibiya Outdoor Theatre show to get a real sense of the vibe…

    http://www.jambase.com/features/misterminor/japan.asp

  23. jon_hansen Says:

    fukuoka #1 – one of the best phish jams out there

  24. nonoyolker Says:

    Miner just touched on a great point. Fans were “respectful at the shows”. Not to sound like an old phish fart, but the post hiatus saw some negative fan elements at some of the shows. People shouting for song requests, which is flat out my #1 pet peeve, AND shouting for songs that were played the night before! I am wondering how much more of that is going to be around at v3.0.

  25. bhizzle Says:

    ^oh it’ll be around. Not due to my behalf, but people will always want to hear their favs. And their is not much left of the word respect out in the world today unfortunately.

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