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. SOAM Says:

    I am gonna assume it is because you can’t Juggs mann

  2. elbows Says:

    Sorry, saw your post after I hit submit. I’m done with all that.

  3. SOAM Says:

    My friend My friend He’s got a beef.

    remember individualism is what makes us special-catch you cats at the gigs

    who’s got my Hershey

  4. SOAM Says:

    Bruins -Sharks gotta run

    Thank you mr minor-I enjoy the dialogue.

    We all got one thing in common-we got a band (finally)

    peace brahaskis

  5. showhe Says:

    Back at the Chicken Shack opener…

  6. elbows Says:

    Someone posted this on PT as a potential opener, and I thought it was hilarious!

    Bouncin->Ha Ha Ha->Fluffhead

  7. showhe Says:

    Do you think the boys already have the setlist(s)planned out and are just practicing the songs on them like crazy?

  8. Clod Says:

    Dear Abby (Miner),
    Last night, while listening to Rift for the first time in 10 years (Thanks Miner for making me dig through the CD wallets), my 5 year old daughter asked when SHE was going to a Phish Show (She was visibly miffed at the fact I was going to Hampton without her). Putting all other parental issues aside (i.e. busting your kid’s eardrums or the sheer fear of becoming separated), I could not imagine a Phish scene that i could bring her to. Is that because I am stuck up here in New England? or is it a tough scene everywhere? what are my options as a dad who needs to fix her daughter’s Phish jones? do i need wait until Phish becomes a “nostalgia act”? help
    sincerely,
    feeling old

  9. elbows Says:

    Man, I don’t know. I’d imagine they have a basic outline. Talk about the million dollar question…

  10. dyda Says:

    Were you in WWII, SOAM?
    The ‘remember Pearl Harbour’ bit was a little much…
    America is great but to rag on Japan for something 60+ years ago is just as disrespectful as bagging on people for negativity directed towards the USA. (we did win the war, by the way, with the help of nukes … plenty of other atrocities in our nation’s past too… Big Cypress Seminoles weren’t natives of that area originally…)

    Let’s just keep the politics right out of this cause ‘there’s some good points … there’s some bad points …’

  11. Davey Says:

    SOAM – You sound like the drunk girl at a party.

    I don’t think the boys have a predetermined setlist. I bet they are just practicing the shit out of all their songs and they judge how the feeling is and base that on what they play. Although I DO think they probably have an opener already chosen. Maybe something new to symbolize a new era and a new beginning.

  12. full tour: announced! Says:

    scents and subtle sounds opener…..with the old arrangement

    or

    jerimiah was a bullfrog….. joy to the phishes in the deep blue sea, joy to you and me.

  13. elbows Says:

    I LOVE Scents & Subtle Sounds…I’d be very happy to hear that sometime soon. I hope they bring back the intro.

  14. bhizzle Says:

    all of you are on drugs…back at the chicken shack?…..jerimiah was a bullfrog?…..you guys are the best example of a mind on drugs….fuck the fried egg.

  15. elbows Says:

    Clod: I know you didn’t ask me, but my advice is to take the girl! Maybe not an indoor show, rather somewhere where you can hang in the back of the lawn and dig the lights. My folks took me to Dead shows from age 1-5, and it didn’t impact me negatively at all. My dream is to be able to take my children (once I have them) to see Phish. And west coast shows, in my experience, have been much, much tamer.

  16. full tour: announced! Says:

    lighten up bhizz…..this isnt phantasy tour. whatsoever wrong with being on drugs?

  17. Chalkdustin Says:

    opener call:

    Hip to Be Square.

  18. Davey Says:

    My call:

    “I’m just a bill, yeah I’m just a bill and I’m sittin here on capitol hill.”
    for real though

    Curtain.

  19. Mr.Miner Says:

    “And west coast shows, in my experience, have been much, much tamer.”

    ^^ I was gonna say, West Coast seems like a perfect fit…The Gorge?

  20. carl Says:

    Thanks for the post, Miner. I think this was the second complete show I listened to when I came back to Phish after a 12 year break, and it blew me away (& gave me unrealistic expectations for the rest of the 2000 catalog

    If you haven’t, listen to the drum fills during the Carini jam and final refrain–one of my favorite moments in all of Phish. maybe it was the jack herer, but the first time I heard it, the sounds become totally spatial, the shape of the venue became totally defined, and Fishman’s kit seemed to be on top of a white pillar towering over the band, at the center of a rotating plexiglass sphere… it made me remember what it was like to see Fishman play in the mid-90s–when he was wearing the goggles, it was like he was powering some giant invisible vehicle through metaphysical space, which he was

    the relevant drum logo is three interlocking circles

    @anoble–can’t abide 6/15/00, though I’ll grant that it’s one of the *longest* DWD jams I know (wankage)

  21. carl Says:

    do we know for a fact that they’re practicing?

  22. MannyFresh Says:

    Thinking of buying Phish tickets on ebay for Hamptons. Has anyone ever been burned before. I have never bought tickets through ebay before, but my plans opened up for that weekend, wedding was canceled. Better my friend found out his fiancee was an unfaithful **** before they were married. Now that is what I call being burned, but I would hate to spend money on a ticket to find out it was a fake at the gate.

  23. Mr.Miner Says:

    ^ I’d call and talk to the people, or send em a message first. Though I bought mine on ebay way back in October, and have been in touch with the broker the entire time…I think Stub Hub (owned by ebay!) may guarantee their transactions….anyway you figure it, you gotta be there!

  24. Mr.Miner Says:

    “do we know for a fact that they’re practicing?”

    ^^ Yes. They have been sighted at least three times in studios in NYC. But I guess that guarantees 3 practices. 😉

  25. elbowleg Says:

    Hey MannyFresh, If you can afford it, get tickets that you pay with paypal… that way you can get your money back if the tickets never arrive.

    Hey elbows… how long have you been elbows?

    i’ve been elbow since 2000… and the leg was added in 2005…

    Hey My. Miner… I’ve been reading for the last 4 months or so… I think I was turned onto this place by a link on phish.net or something like that….

    Very good reading… I enjoy having something new to read several times a week….

    I have to ask… how did you make it to so many shows? Do you travel within the bands entourage? or are you just the most hardcore fan ever?

    Either way, cheers for all the great reads. I don’t go to phantasytour and by the way you guys talk about it I don’t want to go… and week4paug and inforoo and infobury & jambase & jambands.com just don’t have it on point like you do man. I’m a lurker here and I look forward to all you have instore for us!

    Oh yea and good shot on linking to the Surrender to the Flow survey a few days ago. I still have my last issue from Coventry.

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