Twelve Years Ago: 2.17.97

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

phish-amsterdam-97Twelve years ago today, and four shows into 1997, the Phish created a monster.  In their second visit to Amsterdam, and their first to Paradiso, Phish played a second set that was not only musically superb, but pointed in the direction the band would head during the famed year.  It wasn’t until the Hamburg show in Germany on March 1st that the band say they “clicked” during the “Wolfman’s” jam, finally realizing the style of collaborative play they had sought.  Yet, this epic night in Amsterdam was like a neon street sign pointing in the direction of Hamburg.

Opening the second set with “The Squirming Coil,” the band built the piano outro directly into the amorphous intro of “Down With Disease.”  Throughout 1996, “Disease” had become a central jam vehicle, creating upbeat rock textures and extended feel-good excursions.  Sparked by the Clifford Ball’s third set version and strewn throughout Fall ’96, “Disease” had developed into a melodic Type I Phish anthem.  This version from Amsterdam would be vastly different.

2.17.97 Paradiso

2.17.97 Paradiso

The band sat in “Disease” territory for the first part of the jam, but as the improv progressed, some layers were pared away and the pace began to gradually slow.  When Fishman dropped his driving beat, things began to get quite interesting.  The entire band found themselves in a more spacious musical medium, allowing them to greatly alter their phrasings.  This segment first developed into a mid-tempo rendition that still held some ties to “Disease,” but that all ended at once.

As the band moved into one of the first extremely slowed down “Disease” jams, a trend that would dominate ’97, this music sounded different!   I vividly remember getting this tape and when listening to it for the first time, being staggered by the pace and patience of Phish’s playing.  This was the same band that wound up 1996 in Boston’s Fleet Center only two months earlier, but they sure sounded completely different.  This was the first early ’97  jam I heard that opened my ears to where the band was heading.  Mike was far more prominent in their slowed down grooves, while Trey played far more sparsely, accentuating the band’s rhythms.  The music seemed like molasses compared to the arena rock of late ’96, and it sounded amazing!

Paradiso 7.2.97 (M. Loertscher)

Paradiso 7.2.97 (M. Loertscher)

Careening down I-95 with a couple of friends, we sat in silent amazement as this analog uncovered the raw ’97 style for the first time.  The band brought the music to a creeping pace where every note offered by each member could be heard distinctly and meant something.  There was no high-speed layering, but a focus on completing the musical ideas that were started by each other.  As the jam hit a few rhythmic stops and starts along the way, listening to this tape was like rediscovering Phish.  Their improv just kept getting deeper and deeper, leaving any remnants of “Disease” far in their wake.

Right out of this dark and methodical jam, Phish seamlessly moved into the debut of “Lucy Had a Lumpy Head,” a song that seemed to fit congruently with their new style.  Far slower than most versions played in the future, the song was a revelation- a dark, eerie composition that catered to the new sound Phish was moving towards.  This wasn’t your happy-go-lucky-Phish; this was something wholly different.  After the band moved through the verses of their newest song, they briefly sat in the thickness before Trey initiated a soaring guitar lick that brought the jam in a totally different and triumphant direction.

244411682_f359516c38

Paradiso, Amsterdam

Leaving the song behind and embracing sublime adventure, Phish built this segment into a cathartic piece of music, complete with spontaneous melodic chants.   Before long, the band was back to a quicker place and carried a strong melodic theme that directed the jam.  Page commandeered the lead with his aggressive piano patterns, while the rest of the band created a dissonant backdrop for his work.  This was Phish in the process of discovering; taking risks with abandon and just creating.

Flowing through more overt psychedelic textures, the band naturally arrived at a chugging rhythm which transformed into yet another section of improv; one far closer to the groove-based sound the band was gradually uncovering.  Spanning several peaks and valleys of musical creativity, this surreal jam out of “Lucy” is must hear Phish- and was so revolutionary in its context.

17Accessing a far more mellow and transcendent realm in its final stage, this jam contained it all- a beautiful illustration of Phish at their best and on the brink of something huge.  Without any awkwardness whatsoever, the band transformed their gorgeous ambient creation into the beginning of “Taste.”

This “Taste” was phenomenal, carrying all the energy and momentum Phish had built over the course of the night; however, instead of focusing on the jam itself, I want to highlight one of the most masterful transitions in the band’s history.  As Phish built the song’s polyrhythmic patterns, it was clear that their musical brains were adhered tightly together.  Moving effortlessly through the soaring jam, the band prepared to approach the final ascent to the peak of the jam- and they were absolutely crushing it.  Building…building…building…the peak was imminent, as Trey hit  the melody signaling to his mates to enter the final stages.  Yet, instead of playing the shrill peak to “Taste,” Trey perfectly- and i mean perfectly- laid down the “Disease” lick at the peak of the jam, bringing them back to where this madness had begun.  The rest of the band moved triumphantly with him, reentering “Disease” immediately.  This was one of those spine-tingling Phish moments that my friends and I listened to at least 1000 times, often cheering in response, as if the band had just hit a home run.

1997-02-17gnPhish pulled off such a full-speed and wildly creative idea with absolute flawlessness it was almost too much to believe.  The perfect apex to an incredibly new-sounding set, Phish was off and running down the yellow brick road of 1997.  The final three songs-  “Suzy, “Caspian,” and “Sleeping Monkey”- were mere afterthoughts to the revolutionary playing that had preceded them.  This was only the beginning, but what a beginning it was!

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

2.17.97 Paradiso, Amsterdam, NL < LINK

I: Soul Shakedown Party*, The Divided Sky, Wilson, My Soul, Guyute, Timber Ho!, Billy Breathes, Llama, Bathtub Gin > Golgi Apparatus

II: The Squirming Coil > Down With Disease > Lucy Had a Lumpy Head* > Taste > Down With Disease, Suzy Greenberg, Prince Caspian

E: Sleeping Monkey, Rocky Top

*First time played

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“NO SPOILERS” HAMPTON DOWNLOADS – UPDATE

phishhamptoncrowd

The Mothership

We are making quick progress in our quest to bring “No Spoilers” versions of the Hampton shows to anyone and everyone who can’t make it.  We have created a FAQ and all information related to this project will be hosted at http://phishthoughts.com/nospoilers.  If you have any further questions, comments or suggestions, please email them to nospoilers@phishthoughts.com.

If you are patient enough to stay off the grid, this will be the next best thing to being at Hampton.  You will experience the show in tape delay, but also in mystery, without knowing what Phish decided to bust out.  You can have a legitimate Phish party if you have enough like-minded friends!

Remember, bookmark http://phishthoughts.com/nospoilers !!  (This URL is subject to change; stay tuned!)

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NO MORE LANGUEDOC

Paul @ Hampton '04

Paul @ Hampton '04

The rumor that has bounced around the Internet has been confirmed, Paul Languedoc will no longer be mixing sound for Phish.  Here is some recent correspondence between a Phish Thoughts reader (name removed) and Paul:

Hey Paul,

you’re probably getting a lot of this but the band wont be the same with out you. I hope your back to keep those boards consistent and the band pumping. They need you and most of all we need you! A band is like an instrument with out a main component it will never be the best! You know this better then anyone!


Thanks so much for the compliments, but I’m sorry to say I won’t be with the band on the upcoming dates. I had to move on a few years ago and I like very much what I’m doing now. It’s true that I’m getting a lot of this, nice to be appreciated.

Take care,

Paul L


Best of luck, Paul.  We will miss you.

Just keep making those guitars for Trey!

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The Return of Phish 2.0

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

It was on this weekend six years ago that Phish re-established themselves in the post-hiatus era.  As much of the Phish community flocked to Las Vegas for two nights at the beginning of the band’s winter comeback tour, many fans held lingering questions in their mind.  The Hampton shows left a bland flavor in mouths of most fans, and aside from those who saw the “Walls > Carini” at the LA Forum on Valentine’s Day, many wondered when, and if, Phish would regain their explosiveness.  Any unclarity was wiped away over the course of two demonstrative shows in which Phish musically exclaimed their return.

image-808998a843c311d7There was nothing like another spectacular weekend in Vegas for Phish to regain the confidence of their fan base. (Ironically, it would be a weekend in the same room about a year later that signaled the band’s imminent demise.)  Returning to the Thomas and Mack Center, the site of so many special nights, the band played with a creative dynamic and that sense of urgency that was so blatantly lacking in their four-night reverse New Years Run.  Weaving together lively sets all weekend long, Phish highlighted songs past and present, culminating with the much-loved second set of the 2.16.03 show; no set of the weekend better exemplified the meshing of the old and the new.  The opening segment of “Disease > Seven Below > Disease” popped with intensity while the band’s playing remained incredibly intricate.  With remarkable improv and seamless segues, this was one of the first big highlights of 2003, a year that would resurrect Phish and bring us all back to those mystery-laden adventures of yesteryear.

powerYet, what also emerged from this Vegas weekend was a new direction in the band’s sound and playing.  Not as squarely focused on groove as in the late-90’s, the band still anchored their playing in dance rhythms- though with far more texture and effect- creating a “space-like” quality to the music.  This new direction would be typified by such legendary Winter ’03 jams as the Cincy Gin (2.22), the Chicago and Nassau Tweezers (2.20 & 2.28), and the Worcester Ghost (2.26).  This style of dissonant-space-groove became magnified as the tour and year moved on, taking Phish’s jams to new and different places than ever before.

image-ba5346c0449611d7The colossal “Piper” that came later in 2.16’s second set also foreshadowed a post-hiatus trend; that of huge “Piper” jams.  On this night, the song would fly off the handle for 22 minutes, something that became the norm throughout the year as it produced continuous highlights.  Including musical references to the set’s “Seven Below” and a full “Disease Reprise,” this “Piper” soared in a new direction for the song- a launch pad for adrenalized, full-on improvisational adventures.  Like this Vegas version, every time “Piper” appeared in ’03, jaw-dropping  jams materialized.  A full-speed canvas that the band collectively shredded to bits, “Piper” became one of the best developments of ’03, fully realizing a transformation that began as the band wound down in 2000.

While the most impressive playing came within the weekend’s final set, the others shone as well.  2.15’s “Waves > Bug,” highlighted the Round Room composition for the first time since the comeback show, and the “Ghost” that followed absolutely smoked. (Potentially in response to a banner that hung from the second level image-ba5300d6449611d71proclaiming it had been 871 days since the previous version.)  The first set boasted hot versions of “Reba” and “Antelope,” while 2.16’s first set opened with a ferocious “Bowie > Catapult > Bowie,” and brought some amorphous new-school improv with the second “Round Room” ever.

This Vegas weekend back in ’03 was cause for universal celebration in the Phish scene, as they were finally back.  Both inspirational and playful again, the Phishy vibe had returned in a city where it had thrived for years.  These nights were the first building block for Phish 2.0, in a year that saw their playing evolve, exploring a plethora of new ideas.  This was the first step (well, second and third) down a path that would culminate in Miami’s magnificent New Years’s Run.

All photos from Vegas ’03

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GUESS THE HAMPTON OPENER, WIN PHISH TIX!

Over at Jamtopia.com, they are running a Hampton opener contest!  If you guess correctly, and we all know we have the right answer, you have a chance to win summer tickets. The top prize is one ticket to The Fox if you are the only person to guess the answer correctly!  Give it a shot; why not?  Details are on the site.

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FYI : HAMPTON AFTER-PARTIES

hampton_outsideFor those of you who won’t nearly be done with your night when the encore ends, there are Phish after-parties scheduled in the surrounding Hampton area each night.  If you are arriving on the 5th, the night before the shows begin, The Disco Biscuits will be passing through Norfolk on their winter tour.  After Friday’s Phish show, Bassnectar and Orchard Lounge will take The Norva Theatre’s stage starting at midnight.  Following both Saturday and Sunday’s shows, Steve Kimock and Friends will be playing late-night gigs at The Norva as well.  In addition, after Sunday’s show, UK psychedelic dub maestro, OTT, will be headlining a down-tempo electronica party at The Omni in Newport News.  Click on artists below to buy tickets now!

3.5 The Disco Biscuits @ The Norva, Norfolk, VA (Pre-Phish)

3.6 Bassnectar, EOTO, Orchard Lounge @ The Norva

3.7 Steve Kimock and Friends w/ Melvin Seals @ The Norva

3.8 Steve Kimock and Friends w/ Melvin Seals @ The Norva

3.8 Ott, Bluetech, Telepath @ The Omni, Newport News VA

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

10.26.96 Charlotte Coliseum, Charlotte, NC < LINK

1996-10-26gnA show that has always been overshadowed by the Halloween hubbub in Atlanta just a few days later, this stop in Charlotte had plenty to offer. With a second set filled with feel-good Phish anthems, the band took the most improvisational liberty with “YEM,” “Simple” and “Antelope.”  This night had an upbeat feel from the beginning, and was a solid effort amidst a relatively generic east coast run to begin Fall ’96.

I: Julius, Cars Trucks Buses, Wolfman’s Brother, Reba, Train Song, Character Zero, It’s Ice, Theme From the Bottom, Sample in a Jar

II: Down With Disease, You Enjoy Myself, Sparkle, Simple, McGrupp and the Watchful Hosemasters, Waste, Run Like An Antelope

E: Fire

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Weekend Nuggets: The Back of the Worm

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

DOWNLOADS OF THE WEEKEND:

Paradisio 7.2.97

Paradisio 7.2.97

In the middle of their revolutionary Summer ’97 Europe run, Phish stopped for two nights in Amsterdam.  Following up their amazing show on 2.17.97, Phish brought the heat in the former church turned venue, The Paradiso.  Legend has it that during their weekend in the worlds psychedelic capitol, Trey had some “adventures” resulting in this stage banter:

Now be careful when you walk out of here tonight…because you don’t want to be swallowed up by one of those worms in the canal. You know those toilets on the side of the road here — don’t go in there — because you’ll get sucked down into the canal and be stuck all night riding along those giant worms….you might think I’m kidding around, but it happened to me last night and it was scary.

One can only imagine the antics that went into that story!  Nonetheless, “the back of the worm” became the theme of the weekend, as the phrase was repeated and catcalled by Trey and Fish throughout several jams during both shows.

"Wormtown jam" 7.2.97

"Wormtown jam" 7.2.97

The music over these two shows stellar was very illustrative of the changes the band was undertaking during their Europe run.  The first night started with an extended “Ghost” story, setting the laid back and funked-out tone for the stand.  Both second sets were perfectly flowing sets of improvisational Phish.

7.2 began quickly with a massive first set “Mike’s Sandwich,” while set two featured a 30-minute masterpiece in “Stash,” and a “Llama” that found its way into a jam that brought everyone onto the “back of the worm.”  This legendary set was capped with a double encore- taboot, taboot.  These shows were classic pieces of the Summer of 1997.

7.1.97 Paradisio, Amsterdam, NL < LINK

1997-07-01gnI: Ghost, Horn, Ya Mar, Limb By Limb, Ain’t Love Funny, I Saw It Again, Dirt, Reba, Dogs Stole Things

II: Jam* > Timber Ho!,  Bathtub Gin > Cities, Loving Cup, Slave to the Traffic Light

E: When the Circus Comes

*Fish alone on piano, then builds into a jam distinct from “Timber Ho!”

7.2.97 Paradisio, Amsterdam, NL < LINK

1997-07-02gnI: Mike’s Song > Simple > Maze, Strange Design, Ginseng Sullivan, Vultures, Water in the Sky, Weekapaug Groove

II: Jam > Stash > Llama > Worm Town Jam* > Wading in the Velvet Sea

E1: Free^

E2: David Bowie

*A jam on “Swing Town”  (Steve Miller tune) with dark vocals about “Back of the Worm.”  ^Band left stage after Free.

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VIDEOS OF THE WEEKEND: CLIFFORD BALL DVD PREVIEWS

“Punch You In the Eye”
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“Fluffhead”

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The Hampton Opener?

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

508665625_591543fa33With 21 days to go until Hampton’s three-day reunion bash, few fans can stop speculating about what song the band will open up the third chapter of their career with.  Speculation has been running rampant daily on Phish Thoughts’ comment threads and Internet message boards all over, so I figured that we would dedicate this Friday to the question fans have been tossing around for almost five months now- “What will they open with?!”

Always a fun topic to discuss, even for a regular show, the reasoning used to support current theories are far more detailed and thought out for this comeback show.  Everyone has different opinions on what Phish will start with because everyone has different opinions on what message they will be trying to send.  What will they welcome us home with?  In the most highly anticipated show of the band’s career, the opener will be used to not only set the tone for the run, but for all of Phish 3.0.  Let’s explore some of the possibilities and reasonings for some potential tour openers. (Revised and updated from October.)

507814199_b5715078861. You Enjoy Myself: The magnificent opus that has long defined the band is one obvious choice for the opener; getting back to where it all began right off the bat.  “YEM” has always been Phish’s quintessential song, merging precise composition, loose improvisation, and silly lyrics.  Earlier this summer, Trey said he would give his left nut to play “YEM” five times in a row every day until he dies, however, odds are they will only play it once.  A “YEM” opener would signify the enthusiasm of the band to return to glory, and would get Hampton bumping in no time.  Usually reserved for the end of a set, “You Enjoy Myself” would be a perfect reentry into Phish’s kingdom.

2. Down With Disease: We all know how much the band loves to break out this song in big situations, and there has never been a Phish situation bigger than the one at hand.  “Disease” has to be a strong candidate for the first song out of the gates.  Lyrically symbolic of leaving their troubled times behind them, Phish will “be on their way” to becoming a dominant musical force and the inspiration for so many fans again.  The lyric, “Trying to stop these demons that keep dancing in my head,” delivers the message of redemption and a focus on the future and not the past.  The future is what 3.0 is about after all- letting bygones be bygones and moving forward.  In addition, “Disease” contains plenty of time for the crowd to let out minutes of deafening roars before launching into the jam.  This seems like strong candidate.

Hampton (C. Clark)

Hampton (C.Clark)

3. Chalk Dust Torture: One of the most frequently played songs in the band’s career, and a clear favorite of Trey’s, this song could be used to open the run and whip the crowd into an immediate frenzy.  A common set opener, this is another likely candidate.  Lyrically fitting, the reprise of, “Can’t I live while I’m young?” still has profound meaning for Phish and their aging fan base, and it would be a poignant message to deliver right away.  If the band wants to start back with some straight rock and roll, you can be sure that “Chalk Dust” will be leading off.

4. Tube: If Phish wants to use Pulp Fiction’s technique of giving us an adrenaline shot directly to the heart, they will choose “Tube.”  Can you imagine if the lights went out, they stepped on stage, and an asteroid crashed?!  The place might just pop- the energy would be straight up, unfathomable.  This would be the opener in a crazy dream you might have, but it could happen- this is Hampton after all.

507864448_9be89ae1455. Punch You In the Eye / Wilson: Either “Punch” or “Wilson” would serve as a rowdy Gamhendge supercharge right from the get go.  Both of these songs would bring forth amazing energy and get the crowd re-situated in Phishland very quickly.  With nothing too improvised, these songs would, nonetheless, get Hampton sweating and bouncing in no time at all, complete with audience participation.

6. Mike’s: If Phish were to come out to the opening licks of  “Mike’s”- forget about it.  We would witness the immediate implosion of the venue and surrounding Hampton area.  This would be the ultimate statement that “We are back, and we mean business.”  Hampton “Mike’s Songs” were a staple of Phish’s previous life, and this would be the perfect time to drop the sixth one ever.  Imagine if three minutes into Phish 3.0 we plunged into a 511197412_b46c4bbe11militant “Mike’s” jam!?  Whew!  Just the thought of it makes my heart pound faster.  A “Mike’s” would catapult us back into the thick of things with little time to mentally or physically warm up for the madness.  This would be a dream come true- a Hampton”Mike’s” straight away.  This would be incredibly powerful.

7. Get Back On the Train: If this song were selected, it would obviously be a lyrical choice that would reflect the band’s personal battles they have overcome to reach the stage together once again.  Although the lyrics fit the situation, this would be an incredibly underwhelming choice for Hampton’s opener.  An average song at best, this one wouldn’t have the same musical effect as other choices.  But who knows, Phish could open with this and drop right into YEM, something not so far fetched.  Although there would be legitimate meaning here, I think the opener will be a bit bigger.

8. Undermind: This song, the title track of Phish’s last album, was never played in 2004.  Busted out by Trey’s solo band a couple of times years ago, this song would be a perfect musical and lyrical fit to open up the rest of time.

Relocated, not retired
Reprimanded and rewired

Mystified and mishapen
Misinformed, but not mistaken

Reinvented, redefined
Rearranged, but not refined

These spot on lyrics, infectious melodies, and chunky grooves could be the ideal opener.  Familiar, yet never played, it would represent Phish bridging their past with a new sure-to-be crowd favorite.  This could be the perfect way to start- with a new jam we have never heard.

Andy

Coventry

9. The Curtain (With): This would seem like the natural choice to lead off with since they closed Coventry with a horribly botched version of their hallowed classic.  Beginning in the wrong key, the band had to stop and take it from the top for their their last song ever.  It was sad.  But now there is a chance to right the wrong of Coventry, and they could very well choose to symmetrically open up their next chapter by nailing the gorgeous composition which leads into an uplifting jam.  It would give a nod to the fact that Coventry was not the way it was supposed to end, and that Phish is back to do things the right way again.  Used as a launching pad into a larger jam vehicle, they could use a “Curtain (With) > YEM” combo to open the show in incredibly Phishy fashion.  “Curtain” could also be paired with a lot of other songs to initiate the party.  “Curtain > Tweezer,” anyone?

508844243_dbfa6d4e5c10. A New Song: It is very possible, since Phish will evolve into a different monster, that they will come out with something we’ve never heard before. With all the new material Trey and Tom have been writing, it would be a very Phishy move to ignore the obvious classic choices and welcome people to the future with a song that nobody has heard.  It would send the message, “We are back, and don’t expect us to be the same.”

Matured with a greater perspective, the band could come out and drop something that reflects their renewal- a proposition that seems very inviting.  Phish will be different, that is for sure; so we might as well start off on a new foot.  While I think “Backwards Down the Number Line” will open up a second set during the three night run, it could be what they come out of the gates with.

hampton0The first notes that emanate from the stage at Hampton will spark joy and jubilation in the minds of thousands, and it could take so many different routes.  These are merely some of the possibilities I have conjured up, and I am sure there are more legitimate guesses out there.  They could always open up with “Runaway Jim,” like most every other show in history- who knows?  What do you think?  One of these?  Something different?  Respond in comments and let’s hear what you think!
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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:
12.17.95 Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY < LINK

Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY

Olympic Center, Lake Placid, NY

This is the final show of the marathon 54-gig run of Fall ’95. Well-oiled and firing on all cylinders, Phish would conclude their epic journey with two standout shows in the intimate upstate New York venue.  I’d run through highlights, but the setlist speaks for itself.

I: My Friend My Friend, Poor Heart, A Day in the Life, Run Like an Antelope, The Mango Song, Tube, Stash, Lizards, Chalk Dust Torture

II: Bouncing Around the Room, Maze, Free, Also Sprach Zarathustra > Harry Hood, Sparkle, Tweezer > Tweezer Reprise

E: Hello My Baby, Runaway Jim

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Not So Simple

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

Debuted at the Warfield Theatre on May 27, 1994, “Simple” has played several roles through Phish’s career.  A central use of Gordon’s composition has been as a high-energy interlude between “Mike’s” and “Weekapaug,” supplanting “Hydrogen’s” role for much of the late ’90s.  Giving any “Mike’s Groove” a vastly different contour, “Simple” became a somewhat galvanizing song among fans.  Some loved it’s catchy hook and bombastic energy, while others thought it was an intruder on sacred ground.

2998740559_9879522a7aAlthough the band integrated standalone “Simples” into their setlists, it wasn’t until 1996 that it emerged as a vehicle for improvisation.  Taking its feel-good melodies for the musical equivalent of mellow sails across the bay, Phish began to gradually explore the song’s potential.  During Fall ’96, this potential was realized with several standout versions; specifically Halloween’s third set standout, Champaign’s powerful version of 11.8, Memphis’ emotive rendition of 11.18, and the popular twenty minute excursion from the tour’s last stop in Vegas.

1997 brought some outstanding versions of “Simple,” as the song straddled the fence between its independence and its connection with “Mike’s.”  The Great Went‘s super-sized version was one of the most poignant ever played, while 12.9’s half-hour exploration brought the song to depths uncharted.  1998 brought “Simple” closer to its roots, as it was again the primary link in “Mike’s Grooves.”  Yet 1998 is where our story begins.

phish-worcester-98A week after Phish had unveiled a stunning ambient journey through “Simple,” immortalized on Hampton Comes Alive, the band found themselves in Worcester, on the cusp of their last set of their ’98 fall tour.  As they picked up their instruments for the final frame, they decided to open with “Roses Are Free!?”  As the opener of the last set of tour, the sky was the limit!  My mind zoomed directly into the stratosphere, dreaming of Nassau’s hallowed trek.  As the song moved out of its composed section and into the distorted grooves that followed, all hopes were peaked for about a minute of music filled with aggressive textures.

Then, like a slap across the face, Trey came over the top of the potentially explosive launchpad and laid down the “Simple” lick completely out of context.  Catching the rest of the band totally off guard, the “transition” was a trainwreck.  “Ouch!”  I thought to myself.  Cutting of a “Roses” that had a full head of steam for “Simple!?”- that just didn’t seem right.  But it was what it was, and I rejoined the concert after a momentary reflection on the musical incongruity.  As the song passed through its verses and the band entered the jam, the music dynamically glided through the guitar-led improv.

511633729_2a62d0a2f3Just when “Simples” usually trickle out into a quiet melodic ending, Phish chose the road less traveled.  Instead of moving into silence, Trey began playing searing strings of notes that signaled to the band that they wouldn’t end there.  Quickly getting the message, the others hopped back on board, creating an improvised realm that took very little time to grow into something wholly different.  Taking a moment to collect their bearings, Phish plunged into a dark and evil jam.  From the onset, the intensity was electric as the band molded a ball of dissonant sonic madness.

As the effects and distortion provided the glue of the jam, Trey and Fishman broke out into a cooperative groove that Mike and Page meshed their way into.  For a period, this “Simple” existed as a driving rhythmic canvas dripping with excessive psychedelia, but it transformed quickly into outright lunacy.  The band entrenched themselves in one of the craziest jams of the entire tour with absolute aggression.  Mike’s basslines thumped a unique pattern buried deep under layers of experimental dissonance.  Trey and Page created a terrifying wall of sound as Fishman threw down a barely-human beat behind it all.  This was a voyage to the center of the earth, descending through the pathways of Hades.  This was the power of Phish rearing its head in a brand new way; this time as the soundtrack for an insane asylum.

507822011_63b14557b7Peeling away some of the layers in play, Phish took the madness down momentarily before returning to a peak that ended this twenty-minute adventure.  As the band let their effects echo out over the crowd, most people were completely floored by the sheer intensity of it all.  Phish had entered a whole new territory and it took a mental adjustment to process the music.  Yet, just as our minds were organizing the lunacy, Phish skillfully slid into the opening of “Makisupa.”  Ever the tacticians, the band used one of their more relaxing songs to bring people “back” from the netherworld of “Simple.”

The rest of the set would progress to great heights, closing the tour with the triumphant farewell of “Bathtub > YEM.”  However, none of jams would approach the daring experimentation and outright psychedelia of the not-so-“Simple” episode that took place at the beginning of the set.

LISTEN TO 11.29.98’s ROSES > SIMPLE NOW! (Roll over links and press play)

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“NO SPOILERS” HAMPTON DOWNLOADS UPDATE

Aaron de Groot

(A. de Groot)

The feedback received to the idea of “No Spoilers” downloads was a resounding, “Hell, Yes!”  That being said, we are going to give it a whirl!  There were many questions that came up, as well as some good suggestions- I will address a few now, but there will be a FAQ put up soon regarding the process.

The downloads will be hosted on a separate page.  This is where the FAQ will also be posted, and I will publish that URL as soon as it’s up.  Regular downloads (tracked and labeled) of the Hampton shows will be  posted around the same time on Phish Thoughts’ home page, which will be the norm.  The goal is to have two mp3 files for download: “Set 1” and “Set 2+E.”  Every effort will be made to have one show posted before the next show starts, yet there is only so much within our control. (This time would be greatly decreased if there was a taper willing to join in on this project!)

While this all takes a lot of restraint on your part, it seems that people are willing to exchange patience for excitement, and we are gonna give it a go!  More to come…

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

7.24.93 Great Woods, Mansfield, MA < LINK

Great Woods, MA

Great Woods, MA

Here is Phish’s stellar performance at Great Woods in the revered Summer of ’93.  A ripping second set opened with the fire of “2001 > Split, Fluffhead,” while also featuring a strong “Mike’s Groove” with an outstanding “Weekapaug.” Phish were a week away from entering August ’93, one of their peak months ever, and here you can begin to see why.

I: Llama, Horn, Nellie Cane, The Divided Sky, Guelah Papyrus, Rift, Stash, The Mango Song, Bouncing Around the Room, The Squirming Coil

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Split Open and Melt, Fluffhead, Maze, Glide, Sparkle, Mike’s Song > Y-Rushalayim Schel Zahav > Weekapaug Groove, Purple Rain > HYHU, Daniel, Good Times Bad Times

E: Golgi Apparatus, Freebird

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Dear NooBs,

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on February 11th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

First and foremost, Welcome!  You are about to arrive at the greatest place on Earth; Phish.  Yes, I speak of it as a place because in many ways it is.  In the most literal sense, you must go to the show, so it is a concrete location.  But more figuratively, Phish is a place inside of you.  Phish ultimately has nothing to do with the spectacle and madness of “tour,” and everything to do with what happens inside of you.  Sure, everything else is a blast, but it wouldn’t exist without that inner connection.

205When the lights go out, you can’t see all your friends- all you have is you and the music.  And this is the part that you have no idea about.  You may have listened to every bootleg from ’95 on or ’97 on, and you may know every jam like the back of your hand, but in the end, that has nothing to do with it- those are the fun tangentials.  Listening to the tapes afterwards, talking about the shows, compiling stats, post-show parties; these are the external frills.  Of course they are fun, but they also wouldn’t exist without that connection.

One the music starts, nobody will look at you.  There is no such thing as cool or uncool.  Image is nothing; soul is everything.  Regardless of if you stack hemp necklaces five deep or wear an Izod shirt to the show, it doesn’t matter.  Wear what you love- nothing else matters.  You don’t need to wear patchwork and grow pseudo-204dreads to be a fan; all you truly need is you!  Once the lights go out, that is all that is present- yourself and the Phish, and this is when the magic begins.  These frozen moments will transform you like you never knew possible. You will discover an intimacy that is impossible to achieve via headphones, and with nothing but a blank canvas and Phish, your journey will begin.  There are few thing as beautiful in the world; this is what you will learn.

Phish is going to be different than they were on those old tapes and CDs, so I wouldn’t come with a list of your top 15 songs you’re dying to hear.  Odds are you’ll be disappointed.  Be thankful for those tapes- they brought you here, but you needn’t try to recreate them.  This holds true for experiences as well.  Don’t try to recreate Phish experiences you’ve read about online or have been told about over the years- this is your time!  Forget what you’ve heard and discover your own adventures with yourself, the band, and whatever music they churn out.  There is no doubt it will be special.  There is no reason to fret about being too young for the ’90s, because you’re here now, and that’s all that matters.  Now is the time.

(J Huntsman)

(J. Huntsman)

So don’t bother coming armed with glowsticks, tortillas, marshmallows and whatever else you’ve heard people throw at Phish shows; don’t worry if your hair is clean and you like to shower daily; don’t worry about figuring out how to look cool, or what to wear.  Just bring comfortable sneakers.  Because once your eyes close, the only thing that can stand in the way of your night-long bliss can be uncomfortable shoes.  I don’t jest.  I have had trial runs for tour kicks- don’t ask.  Surely there will be other variables, but whatever you do, take care of your shoes.

Lastly, if I can leave you with any words of wisdom, they would be, “Dance your heart out!”  You are about to discover that you can dance better than you ever thought you could- well, most of you.  Rage like there is no tomorrow and without a care in the world.  Regardless of what is going on in your life, for those sacred three hours each night, you can’t affect that stuff and nothing else matters.  When the song ends, everything will still be img_0077the same- relatively, of course.  Don’t get too preoccupied with where you are in the arena or amphitheatre, just find a place that’s loud and where you have some room to move.  Everything else will take care of itself.

Oh- and if you get separated from your friends at setbreak or during the show, don’t freak out- they didn’t go far, you are all there for the same reason.  The best solution is to relax and continue raging.  Once the lights come on, they will magically appear.  And in the end, this isn’t about your friends.

You are about to uncover a mystical world that you never knew existed, and guess what- you DESERVE to be there!  Enjoy this time; it will never come again!

Miner

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“NO SPOILERS” HAMPTON DOWNLOADS- Need Feedback!

hw22Phish Thoughts is kicking around the idea of offering “No Spoilers”
versions of the Hampton shows for download as soon as possible after
they’re available.  Since there are so many fans unable to head to Hampton, this would be the next best thing to being there.  You would experience the show in tape delay, but also in mystery, without knowing what magical journeys Phish decided to bust out.

These downloads would be hosted on a separate page, as you would need to avoid Phish Thoughts (and other electronic devices, for that matter) until the show was ready.  These would be decent quality MP3 versions, with identifying information scrubbed clean (i.e. generic file names, and no tag information).  We’re even toying with the idea of having two files for download: Set 1 and Set 2+E, so you wouldn’t even know how many tunes they played in each set. (Will the 4-song 2nd set return in 2009?  you won’t know until you listen to the whole damn thing!)

3251307416_fd2bc41136Is this obsessive-compulsive and geeky behavior taken to a whole new level?  Sure, but we think there are a few fans that fall into those categories.

The caveat is that these downloads wouldn’t be available until approximately 12 – 24 hours after the show, so you would have to possess ultimate patience and not find out what was played. (Exactly how long depends on the tapers.  If you are a taper and would like to collaborate on this crazy project, please let us know!)

Email us at nospoilers@phishthoughts.com and let us know your thoughts- i.e. should we do this?

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

8.3.98 Deer Creek, Noblesville, IN < LINK

1998-08-03gnThis is the second show of Phish’s outstanding two-night stand in the cornfields during Summer ’98.  Highlights abounded from this night at one of Phish’s Midwestern homes.  Opening with Smashing Pumpkin’s “Rhinoceros,” out of nowhere, the band started the show with some fun and excitement.  But the second song “Halley’s Comet,” kicked it into high gear with a devastating jam. The second set is anchored by one of the defining versions of “Gumbo” of all time, and a classic Deer Creek “Antelope” for an encore.

I: Rhinoceros*, Halley’s Comet > I Didn’t Know, Ride Captain Ride**, Cars Trucks Buses, The Moma Dance, Strange Design, Character Zero

II: Gumbo, Axilla, Limb by Limb, Meat, Hold Your Head Up > Bike > Hold Your Head U, Tube, The Wedge

E: When the Circus Comes > Run Like an Antelope

*First time played (Smashing Pumpkins cover); allegedly had been part of soundchecks for years **Blues Image cover; last played 12-30-92 (486 shows)

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The Jewel of Japan

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on February 10th, 2009 by Mr.Miner
dscn0996

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.

preshow_from_balcony

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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A Desert Antelope

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

I was blindsided at the gym this weekend.  No, not by some musclehead in a roid rage, but by an aggressively improvisational “Antelope” that might as well have been on the cream and the clear.  I had been continuously working my way through a Phish playlist from a friend, and as I was finishing the cardio portion of my workout, the old school version of “Oblivious Fool” came on.  Not particularly suitable for working out, and an odd addition to the playlist altogether, I skipped directly to the next song-  Antelope.

gw2I didn’t bother to look at the date or anything, I just kept going.  Since I consider myself pretty well-versed in Phish, especially Phish highlights, I thought I’d figure out what I was listening to.  Yet, as the jam progressed, it was raging, and though I could tell it was from ’97 or ’98, it didn’t ring a bell.

During the late ’90s, Antelope’s jams generally remained within their predestined structure.  While there was never any lack of improvisational madness, Anetlope jams rarely went “way out” there, or really anywhere except where you thought they would go.  In no way is this a knock on the song; the same holds true for “Harry Hood” or “Slave.”  That’s just the way some Phish jams are.  There was no shortage of huge Antelope’s in the late ’90s, but the song didn’t necessarily possess the adventure it did in ’94 and ’95.  It’s just the way things were.  But this version blaring in my ears was different.

533239286_d84e190ab7As this mystery Antelope raged on, Trey annihilated the early jam with soaring evil licks, before moving into more intricate patterns of notes.  All the while, the band was knee deep in a heavy, sinister groove.  This music began moving in an alternate direction as Fish and Mike switched up the rhythm; less straight ahead than most Antelopes, and as I was doing sit-ups, my ears perked up and took notice of the diverging musical course.

Pretty quickly the improv got really dark and the entire band began jamming out of the song’s structure.  Entering a quiet and murky musical pond, Mike’s bass lines lead the way.  The music continued progressing “way out” of “Antelope” and into some insane Phish improv.  “What!?” I thought.  Quickly flipping over my iPod to see what I was listening to and why I wasn’t fully cognizant of this epic jam I was immediately foiled- no date, Damn!  I decided to ride it out.

Moving deeper in, the music got into some slower melodic places that do not really come out of Antelopes.  Straight up mystical, transcendent Phish- this was crazy!  It was like hearing a brand new Phish jam for the first time; and that hadn’t happened in eons.  The band built the jam into a faster affair with all members just shredding at insane speeds, gradually merging paths with the original course of the song.  As the band built towards the Antelope peak, the playing was particularly frenetic, yet beautifully coherent- one of those things that Phish does masterfully.  To an untrained ear, it sounds like cacophony, but when you hear what they are actually doing at the peak of an Antelope, it’s just absurd.

gw1The jam finally dropped into the post-peak funk at the seventeen minute mark to the monstrous roar of the crowd.  The band continued to heavily improvise throughout the “composed” ending, as they tended to to when they were feeling the flow.  This normally routine section became quite interesting with heavy effects from Page, Mike and Trey, and then they popped into the final chorus with more spunk than usual.  This was my new favorite Antelope, but what was it?  As I looked back at the playlist menu, it was listed under 7.29.97.  A ha! Desert Sky. I had a huge “Oh yeah!” moment, as I remembered the magnitude of this Antelope that batted second in set two.

I wasn’t at that Phoenix show, and for some reason, I hadn’t heard the jam since the late ’90s.  A pretty high key show to have just forgotten about, but aside for the first set “Gumbo,” I had.  That’s what’s so great about Phish- just when you think you’ve heard it all, you’ll hear a new jam that absolutely floors you.  There are just so many out there, and soon, there will be so many more.

LISTEN TO 7.29.97’s Antelope now! < LINK (Roll over link and press play)

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

7.29.97 Desert Sky Pavilion, Phoenix, AZ < LINK

1997-07-29mo1Here is the show you just read about, and I forgot about.  It’s a certain keeper from the Summer of ’97.  With one of the great “Gumbos,” a classic-sounding “Ghost,” an early, yet all-time great version of “Twist,” and of course the epic “Antelope,” this show was as hot as the weather it was played in.

I: Theme From the Bottom, Beauty of My Dreams, Gumbo, Dirt, Sparkle, Ghost, Swept Away > Steep > Loving Cup

II: Oblivious Fool, Run Like an Antelope, Wading in the Velvet Sea, Twist, Taste, Sample in a Jar, Rocky Top, The Squirming Coil

E: Possum

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HELP SAVE THE ANTELOPE!

400799230152In honor of today’s topic, I wanted to highlight a community member’s effort to help save the North American Pronghorn Antelope.  The website, Antelope Gatefree Paradise, details the issues putting Antelope in danger and what you can do to help.  In addition, you can purchase the classic lot shirts and stickers with the famous “Antelope Crossing” logo under “Merchandise.”  All proceeds go to volunteer organizations actively working to save the Pronghorn Antelope.  You can help out and score one of the all-time classic Phish lot t-shirts all at the same time!

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Weekend Nuggets: Radio City

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , , on February 7th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

DOWNLOADS OF THE WEEKEND:

Radio City '00

Radio City '00

As the first shows after Big Cypress, these Radio City gigs made a huge splash in the community.  With a 6,000 capacity in New York City, these were the hardest tickets to get your hands on (before the comeback).  Phish did not disappoint, playing two phenomenal shows in the legendary home of The Rockettes.  The defining jam from this weekend was the second night’s “Ghost,” arguably the greatest version ever played.  But there are plenty of great jams to go around over these two intimate evenings.

5.21.00 Radio City, NYC < LINK

5.22.00 Radio City, NYC < LINK

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PHISH THOUGHTS TICKET EXCHANGE:

3251307416_fd2bc41136The ticket exchange is off and running!  Successful transactions are officially underway with many more waiting in the wings.  Take some time to scan the spreadsheet- people have the extras you need!

Remember, there is permalink to the board near on the right side of the home page, right under “Recent Comments.”  Also, if you would like to post tickets or a request, you must email ticketexchange@phishthoughts.com for an invite!

Thanks, and happy trading!

***

SURRENDER TO THE FLOW SURVEY:

badwookieSurrender To the Flow is a tour magazine published “By Phish Kidz For Phish Kidz,” with new editions coinciding with each new tour.  The magazine, which many of you are familiar with, contains Phishy musings, articles, and tour tips about each venue and their surroundings.  The Hampton edition is in its final stages of preparation, and you can help by filling out this fun online survey!  It takes about five minutes and it’s a interesting way to reflect on your last five years.

SURRENDER TO THE FLOW SURVEY (The survey has reached capacity. Thanks for helping!)

***

VIDEO OF THE WEEKEND:

“Mike’s” 4.3.98  Nassau

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

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The Island Run: Providence

Posted in Uncategorized with the tags , on February 6th, 2009 by Mr.Miner

Exiting the Coliseum at Nassau and preparing for our trip north, spirits could not have been higher.  We were smack dab in the middle of some crazy-ass Phish, and we just left one of the most transcendent musical experiences of our lives.  The drive through the night to Rhode Island was fun and refreshing, trying to replay the nights events in our mind.  As The Beatles once sang, “It [was] all too much.”  The entire community was juiced after the first two episodes of The Island Run, and they brought every ounce of that juice up to New England.

4.4.98

phish-providence-4-4-98There was quite the scene outside the Civic Center on Saturday night, as fans congregated in the streets and lots surrounding the venue.  The hardest ticket of the four, many sought out extras to get themselves into what would surely be another outlandish event.  Never were you so sure that a show would blow up than this one on 4.4.98.  Following Nassau, everyone knew Phish were knee deep in IT, effortlessly creating masterful music.  Everyone wanted in, and those who found their way through the threshold were treated to a show they would never forget.

As many fans predicted from Nassau’s closing “Reprise,” the band opened up the Providence weekend with “Tweezer.”  But this was no standard “set-opening” jam, rather a deep exploration into the groove-based ethos of the song.  Complete with multiple improvisational segments, much like the Nassau “Mike’s” did, this “Tweezer” gave us the impression we were far into the show already.  Phish didn’t need to warm up  for these nights, they were feeling IT, they were living IT, they were IT.  As soon as the jam dropped, Mike led the band out of the gate in a patient opening before the band dove in earnestly.  What came out was a near twenty-minute groove-fest that sparked the Providence crowd, catching them up to what went down in Long Island.

Trey stepped in, providing guiding rhythm guitar patterns that framed the jam flawlessly.  This was one of those moments that I couldn’t help letting out a somewhat maniacal laugh while raging, just pondering the sheer absurdity of this colossal opener.  This jam existed as a measure of how balanced the band’s playing was at this time, with no one member dominating the textures, yet churning out amazing music like a machine.  Interestingly, Trey introduced a melody in this jam that he would toy with and carry throughout most jams in this show- a sort of themed lick for the evening.  (For those who care, it comes at about 12:25 on the SBD).  This “Tweezer” grew out of the funk and into its more climactic space.  Once the jam peaked, the band settled into some late ’97 stop/start solos before dripping into a smoking version of “Taste.”  Despite a nice “Limb by Limb,” the rest of the set was filled with fun, yet composed pieces.  The stage was set for what was sure to be an epic second half.

511609734_ae413fe390The buzz that had began in Nassau had traveled to Providence.  Setbreak had a tangible vibe of excitement as everyone knew that the second set would be epic- there was no doubt.  And everyone was right. The upcoming frame would be composed of some of Phish’s biggest songs, all magnified under the almighty lens of The Island Run.

They opened with the quickened drum beats of “Birds of a Feather,” and it took a moment to place the song, due to hearing it for the first time only two nights before.  They never repeated songs over four nights, so if Phish was opening this second set of this show with a song they debuted in Nassau, you knew there had to be a reason.  Over the course of the next 17 minutes, the reason became evident as the improvisational potential of “Birds” was wholly uncovered in a fiercely psychedelic odyssey.

Creating an intense jam that went beyond the typical aggressive rock rhythms of “Birds,” Phish engaged in some intergalactic communication, playing one of the definitive jams of the run.  As the band engaged in improv, it was as if they were collectively sailing the smooth strings of the universe, playing with no hesitation whatsoever.  About halfway through, when the band diverted their course into some chunky and locked music, effects were layered onto the jam and it adopted a certain outer-space quality.   Possibly foreshadowing the upcoming “2001,” it was at this point that Trey returned to his “4.4.98” melody, integrating it into this building jam artistically and with slower phrasing.  The band was passing musical ideas as easily as a spliff, tearing through sublime improvisational planes at a breakneck speed.  Gradually, they brought the music back to the song’s lyrical refrain, completing the high-speed chase through spacetime, and leaving the arena drenched in sonic residue.

1998-04-04gn2Yet, these residual textures soon developed into an intro to a larger-than-life “2001.”  As the band brewed their aural stew, the crowd was perched at the edge, waiting for Fish’s snare hit to transform the Civic Center into a space-aged dance hall.  And then it happened- the band entered the crack-groove as the lights dropped; only colored rays danced around the arena (see video below).  The grooves were straight slammin’; the band was subconscious yet again, effortlessly creating some of the best music of their career.  This “2001” doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough with top versions, but I would challenge anyone to find 20 more intense and  coherent minutes to ever come out of the song.  Sure, there are longer renditions (The Went, The Gorge), but they don’t hold up to the insane tightness and urgency of this version.  This was a perfect example of the band members playing as one entity- they may as well have had one brain- as they flew through grooves like never before.  Trey absolutely annihilated this jam with far more aggressive leads than usual for the song.

Ironically, one of the best versions of “2001” ever unveiled only moved through the theme once.  The band spent most all of their time improvising like never before.  The post-theme section of the jam was fairly succinct, as they created a sparser palate colored by Page’s Rhodes washes.  Cleverly, the band broke down the groove piece by piece, eventually landing in a vocal jam!?  Yes, this is how spontaneous the band felt during these nights, bringing one of their most intense jams to a quirky conclusion before Trey, in rhythm, strummed the beginning chords to “Brother!”

508818184_8994fa2000While most renditions of “Brother” focused on brain swelling intensity and seeing how far the music could be pushed before it imploded, this version grew quite differently.  Following the initial high-paced section, the band entered some surreal improvisation that brought the maniacal jam to a place of beauty with its odd time signature; like a ride on a psychedelic swing set.  Leaving the song far behind, this turned into a completely original jam, and one of the true highlights of the show.  Beauty and delicacy after such bombast lifted up people’s souls.   It’s hard to claim any band member “stood out” in such a collective effort; this was pure Phish, plain and simple.  Ending in cacophonous dissonance before returning to the song’s theme, this was a bona fide Phish adventure.

Following a second 15-second “radio friendly” version of “Brother,” Trey explained that the next song was “radio unfriendly” because it was “really long and really slow.”  Following the build-up, Phish dropped into the old-school opening of “Ghost,” automatically upping the ante of the set.  Often overlooked due to the plethora of stand-out “Ghosts” in this era, the Island version deserves its proper credit.  This 4.4 rendition didn’t focus on thick funk, but rather an eerie climbing melodic theme.  Ridiculously patient, the band allowed the jam to evolve organically, again complementing each other as if using ESP.  Latching onto each other’s phrases, and building the jam like a psychedelic construction crew, Phish built a swirling peak of harmonic melodies, seemingly levitating the venue.  Quickly popping from his plane, the band segued jokingly into the “Blues Brother’s” theme they had bust out during the 12.29.97, telling us they hadn’t forgot about those MSG shows either.

508843989_25d12a8c62Following the non-stop hour of intense psychedelia, the band used a Gamehendge centerpieces, “Lizards,” to provide for some breathing space and reflection.  As we tried to wrap our minds around the madness, Trey’s “If I Were a Dog” solo in the second part of the song gave every one the space to move inward.  This song couldn’t have been more randomly placed, and it couldn’t have been placed more perfectly.  Everything was clicking, we were fully immersed in Phish’s power.

This marathon set had to be coming to a close soon. And with the signature cymbal hits of “David Bowie,” we knew how things would wrap up- with another dark journey.  The entire set had an “unknown space-age” feel to it, with each jam more unique than the next.  This set created a powerful counterpart to the previous night’s in Nassau .  The band’s enthusiasm was indicative by the fact that every song in this set, with the exception of “Lizards,” extended beyond fifteen minutes.

“Bowie” was the ideal closer for this set of super-stardom.  The effortless quality of their jamming continued, quickly translating into a vintage version of the classic song.  In a set that favored darkness over light and madness over calm, “Bowie” served as the only fitting punctuation to the set. With the encore drop of “Harry Hood,” the crowd exalted in what was to come.  A twenty-minute pristine “Hood” put a sublime exclamation point to a night of menacing mania. It was crystal clear that Trey ‘s melodies were flowing directly from his soul as he gazed up into the rafters while losing himself in the music’s majesty.  Intricate and perfectly played from note one, this fantastic voyage landed us exactly where we needed to be.  As the poignant music washed over me, I felt so lucky to be there.  Not just “there” as in Providence, but “there” as in the era of the Phish.  As my mind spun with dizzying realizations and was flooded with sublime music, I felt an overwhelming sense of bliss and an appreciation for life in all its majesty.  I was alive, Phish was alive and things had, literally, never been better for me in my entire life.

“2001” 4.4.98

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4.5.98

1998-04-05gnIt felt so strange to be entering the fourth show already; the first three blurred together like a dream.  Following up their “Tube,” “Mike’s” and “Tweezer” openers from the first three nights, the band raised the proverbial curtain with another huge bomb- “Oh Kee Pah > YEM.”  With everyone in the venue expecting a transition to “Suzy” or “Bag,” Phish surprised all with the opening to “You Enjoy Myself.”  Not only did the band open with “YEM,” they opened with one of the most defining “YEMs” of the late ’90s; the show’s highest highlight came right off the bat on this night!

With the dive into the jam, the Civic Center exploded.  Laying back and listening to his bandmates set up an insane groove, Trey entered the jam with a set of rhythm licks that could not have been conceived any better if composed.  This was some funky Phish music, far beyond a conventional “YEM’s” rhythmic patterns.  Subtly adding layers to the jam, the band set up Trey’s entrance.  Using the space perfectly, he brought some infectious rhythm playing to the onset of the jam, before his licks gave way to a sublime guitar narration.  Sounding as if telling a story to a group of children, Trey delicately accented his phrasings, lending emotional meaning to his notes.  If I were to pick one “YEM” to listen to for the rest of my life, this would be the one.  Yup, it’s that good.  It is so coherent and smoothness is surreal without being in your face.  There are so many distinct parts of the jam that we used to have own ideas on which part was the sickest, and the choices were manifold.  This was a huge highlight of the run.

862779724_8182271e4fA serene “Theme,” “McGrupp” combo brought the aqua blue lights out and chilled the arena with soothing songs before the next significant improvisational segment of “Bathtub Gin > Cities” took over.  While not incredibly extended, the “Gin” featured tight playing and a feel-good vibe that infused the audience.  The band’s methodical playing stood out during this jam which remained harnessed to the song’s melodic theme.  Yet, instead of returning to the original melody at end the song, Phish spent the last couple minutes of the jam improvising away from “Gin’s” structure, creating a funked out texture that seemed to be heading elsewhere.  Pretty quickly, Trey started slowly playing the chords of “Cities” over this canvas, and the band gradually all caught on, creating a less-than-perfect transition into the Talking Heads cover.  But once the opening groove hit, any small stumble was meaningless.  The composed section of the song featured many subtle improvised variations that always stood out so vividly in Phish songs.  Mike hits up a melodic bass line at the end of the jam that sounds like it belongs in a Wu-Tang verse; it’s quite nasty.  This wonderfully satiating dose of dance grooves absolutely hit the spot, as everyone wanted to hear “Cities” any time possible over ’97 and ’98.

“Sparkle” was the calm before the set-ending storm of “Split Open and Melt.”  A menacing jam saw the band play with the same effortlessness that had defined this entire run.  As if the instruments were playing them, there was no separation between thought and musical expression.  Basking in IT for four straight days, the band could do no wrong, regardless of what song they chose to play, and that is an absolutely literal statement.  There are simply no low-lights from the run, and this “Split” fit right into character. A ridiculously coherent jam, it is almost hard to distinguish any of the member’s playing as their musical offerings morphed into a complete whole; moving, twisting, and growing as one.

1874641252_ea3120c8f4When the lights came on after yet another absurd set, we looked at each other glowing, yet realizing there was only one set to go in this extraordinary place called “The Island Run.”  Yet savoring the moment, we tried to fathom what musical feats the band could possibly still pull out.  The last set grew in theme, favoring melody and triumph over rhythms and psychedelic dance music.  The set-opening “Disease” felt like a community celebration of all that had happened over these four nights.  Completely ripping joyful Phish rock carried the beginning of the set.  Yet, the jam grew dirtier for the second half, with the entire band crushing far more improvisational patterns.  This “Disease” moved from a gleeful stomp through the meadows to a brisk walk through the urban nighttime, growing in intrigue as it progressed.  Winding up in completely improvisational land, Phish finally left all traces of the song behind, creating an eerie canvas.  Just as we thought we might be heading way out into the stratosphere of psychedelia, the jam came to a natural end in silence.

Out of the silence came a change of vibe with the opening guitar chords of “Yamar.”  While this seemed like rather odd placement for the island cover, it kept the set moving along its upbeat theme.  Once the band entered the improv, this “Yamar” became magic.  Trey absolutely slaughtered this, playing lines as if they were coming off a record.  It was a joke; he was spewing gorgeous melodies as easily taking a pee.  Completely going off, Trey mesmerized the crowd, and his own band with his work.  Mike, Fish and Page quickly stepped out of the jam’s prominence, and then into silence, allowing Trey’s quiet solo melodies to take this version to the bank.  The whole arena was silent, listening to Trey play exactly what was in his heart at that moment of glory, his emotions to pour directly out though his guitar. The band emerged from the darkness with a stunning musical bliss, sounding like we were gradually headed for “Slave.”  The following portion of music is some of the most soulful of the weekend, as the band complemented each other subtly, flawlessly and beautifully.

2963669909_8b7183aff1This segment ended in some more solo playing by Trey that instead of leading into “Slave,” brought us into a classic second set “Prince Caspian.”  Love it, or hate it, late second set of a great show is when “Caspian” appears.  Bringing us childhood memories of Narnia, the band unleashed an awe-striking jam.  With stellar piano work by Page, classic Gordeaux bass lines, crashing cymbal work, and Trey wailing in a distorted tone, this wasn’t your every day “Caspian,” it was Island “Caspian;” there is a huge difference.

The rest of the set unfolded quite unexpectedly.  “Maze” thumped into play, seeming to not fit with the set’s or weekend’s feel, but Phish had a different plan; wanting to return to the funk, but in the Phishiest of ways.  Using “Maze” and “Possum,” two of the least funky songs in their repertoire, the band segued creatively into two last doses of dance music.  As “Maze” raged along as expected, the band used one of the “white-light crescendos” to smash into a bass-led song that was unrecognizable at first.  But as the band began to sing, it was apparent that they had re-arranged “Oblivious Fool” more than a little bit, transforming it into the bizarre and funky song we were seeing.  Even in the last minutes of their run, Phish was bubbling with tricks and energy.

Smack in the middle of what seemed to be a shredding set-ending “Possum,” the band pulled a similar stunt, transitioning on a dime into one of the most memorable jams of the weekend.  All off a sudden, Trey was tickling the crowd with his rhythm licks and the band cannon-balled into the jam with some the thickest funk of the weekend.  Trey summed up everyone’s feeling in his classic speech:

So it’s getting near the end of this little four day run. It’s been really fun, and its kind of weird having to stop after four days…And i started this little funk groove because we can’t end this whole thing without a little bit more funk, since that’s kinda been the theme.  So for those of you want to take off, take off, but for those of you who want to just dance to the funk, we’re gonna stay around and keep grooving.

4.3.98 (Joel Price)

4.3.98 (Joel Price)

Igniting the crowd to its highest possible point of energy, this banter will live eternally in Phish history.  The band proceeded to play the deepest funk of the weekend, cleverly building into “Cavern.”  Moving into the classic set-closer, the crowd was blindsided one last time, and roared in response.  Ending the run with possibly the Phishiest moment of the four nights, the bittersweet reality had come to light, the run was indeed over.

The Island Run remains a pinnacle of Phish’s career; a moment defined by such communal energy and enthusiasm, from the audience and band, alike.  The supreme magic of those nights remains a lingering mystery.  Never to be approached by another run for the rest of their career, these four nights were of another dimension.  The music created over those four nights is timeless, needing only a reference by song combos for everyone to understand what you are talking about. “Roses > Piper,” “Birds >2001 > Brother” “Oh Kee Pah > Yem,” “Wolfman’s > Sally,” Mike’s > My Old home Place,” “Gin > Cities,” “Disease > Yamar,” “Maze >Shafty”- you get the drift.  This was not everyday Phish; these were the best four consecutive shows ever played.  This was The Island Run.

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DOWNLOAD OF THE DAY:

4.25.92 Evergreen College Rec Center, Olympia, WA SBD 

phish-picture-of-nectar-tour-92Here we dip into the standout month of April ’92 when Phish visited Evergreen before their legendary Fall ’94 gig.  The setlist reads like a cannon of old-school Phish, and the second set is anchored by the “Bathtub Gin,” “YEM” combination.  A great SBD nugget for your Friday afternoon.  Enjoy!

I: Suzy Greenberg, My Friend My Friend, Paul and Silas, Reba, Brother, Tela, Chalk Dust Torture, Bouncing Around the Room, Rift, Magilla, Run Like an Antelope

II: Maze, Bathtub Gin, You Enjoy Myself, Silent in the Morning, All Things Reconsidered, Dinner and a Movie, Harry Hood, Weigh

E: Cold as Ice > Terrapin > Cold as Ice, Poor Heart

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