The Moments Before

Hampton (A.Kuroda)

Hampton (A.Kuroda)

Beyond sets, songs, and jams, Phish shows are made up of a series of moments.  Some of these moments seem frozen in time, allowing us to soak in the energy before moving on.  One of the special aspects of a Phish show is that everyone holds different moments in their hearts.  The band’s musical snippets and licks speak to everyone differently, personalizing the communal experience of a show.

These Phishy moments are those split seconds where you think you might explode from being so happy, so excited, so pumped and “in the now;”  those times where your thoughts transform into physical sensations and shoot through your soul, reminding you of just how real your experience is.  Often, these are the moments directly preceding colossal improv, readying you for what is about to erupt.

While improvisational triumphs are the fabric of our Phish addiction, there are plenty of these composed moments within a show that speak to us in a similarly inspiring way.  Precursors to the most serious improvisation, they are signposts along the road that read, “Danger! Phish Bombs Ahead!”  While all of these soundbites are meaningless on their own, placed in the context of their respective songs, they are the gateways to the heavens.  Here are some of my favorites:

The Drop Into the “Mike’s” Jam

Hampton (R.Siegal)

Hampton (R.Siegel)

Few moments carry more bombastic anticipation than the back and forth guitar licks immediately preceding the drop into “Mike’s.”  Preparing for a dark and sinister adventure, when this ultimate bomb drops, my head verges on bursting every single time.  Clutching my heart with the grips of their music, Gordon pounds away his initial pattern, leading the evil march.  These initial seconds of a “Mike’s” jam comprise one of the most powerful Phish moments, as the band prepares to take us on a ride to the center of the earth.

The Antelope “Jump” Guitar Lick

Hampton (R.Siegal)

Hampton (R.Siegel)

As Phish busts into the onset of an “Antelope” jam, they always hit a composed groove, directing them into the thick of it all.  Yet before they make the final plunge, Trey’s signature lick to me has always represented a sprinting Antelope leaping high into the air amidst a hurried escape.  This lick, composed of few notes, is the last signal before the band descends into the depths of an “Antelope” jam.  This metaphorical lick represents the band’s launching point, while conjuring a vivid mental image.

“Thank You Mr. Hood”

Hampton (R.Siegal)

Hampton (R.Siegel)

This moment, in one of the band’s earliest and most defining songs, exists as a sacred point in the Phish canon.  Following a gorgeous composition and a heavy musical interlude, these lyrics, sung in harmony by the band, are the last words we hear before Phish enters one of their most uplifting pieces of improvisation.  Used as a melodic device, this lyric dissolves into the ethereal textures of the “Hood” jam.  Like magic carpet rides through divine musical atmospheres, “Hood” jams are the stuff of dreams and catharsis.  With sublime interlaced melodies that seem to derive from another plane, it is here that Phish channels the higher powers – and it all happens after thanking Mr. Hood.

The Climax of the First Half of “You Enjoy Myself”

1998 (B.Brecheisen)

Fall '98 (B.Brecheisen)

An opus that combines the band’s eclectic composition with their loosest improvisation, “YEM” is the best of both worlds.  Often cited as the definitive piece of Phish music, “YEM” has been a staple for decades.  Connecting the divergent halves of the song is Phish’s most high-energy composed climax.  Following almost ten minutes of tight playing, Phish revs it up, not once but twice, before crashing into the colorful Jello funk with a resounding “Boy!”  Few moments in any show approach the point when Trey holds that note, staring at the sky, white beams blazing, as the band chugs beneath him.  Then comes the build- then BAM!- in a split-second the funk hits like you’ve splash landed in a pool of crystalline water.

The “Reba” Drop

Hampton (J.DiGiuseppe)

Hampton (J.DiGiuseppe)

Much like “YEM,” “Reba” features a ridiculously intricate opening section before loosening into a groove.  “Reba” contains some of the most complex playing in any Phish song and juxtaposed against its laid-back bass heavy jam, the composition seems even more tightly wound.  Following the fugue in the song, the band enters a pattern of collective hits that lead into the most blissful drop in all of Phishland.  As the gates to the flowing river of “Reba” are opened, you are guaranteed some of the most gorgeous music of the night.  Sailing away into a sea of euphoric grooves, paradise awaits.

The Opening Lick Of “Tweezer”

Hampton (P.)

Hampton (P.McGuire)

“Tweezers” routinely brings such adventure, adrenaline, and everything I am looking for in a Phish jam, that it takes nothing more than the opening guitar lick to bring me to the brink.  Especially when taken by surprise by this lick, like at Hampton’s comeback show, my heart virtually skips a beat as soon as the first note emanates from Trey’s guitar.  This level of adrenaline generally continues until the jam drops when all thought processes cease.  But that first lick of the song has been known to cause extreme reactions from me.

“An Asteroid Crashed…”

Similar to “Tweezer’s” dynamic, but not nearly on the same level, when Phish cannonballs into “Tube” with this lyric, all one can think about is the deep, layered funk that will surround them in a minute or two.  This moment was even more potent some years ago when “Tube” didn’t appear as much, and then took on new meaning as the song began to emerge as a jam vehicle.  Few moments are as universally exciting as the opening of “Tube.”

There are plenty of other moments that get all of us emotionally fired up for what is ahead, but when sifting through them all, these came out as my favorites.  Anticipation is one of the greatest emotions involved in the Phish experience.  The anticipation of waiting for shows to come, the anticipation that engulfs you all day before the show; the anticipation once you get inside the venue, waiting for the lights to go out- but none of these emotions approach the immediate anticipation of an impending Phish jam on the threshold of explosion.

What are your favorite pre-jam moments of Phish?  Share in Comments below!


Hampton – Photo: Unknown



10.22.96 MSG, NYC < LINK




Here is the second show of a two-night stand in early in Fall ’96.  With great playing all the way through and a killer setlist, this is one of the few shows that really stood out during the pre-Halloween east coast run of 1996.  Featured are great performances of “YEM” and “Mike’s Groove” and “Disease.”

I: The Curtain > Runaway Jim, Bouncing Around the Room, It’s Ice, Talk, Split Open and Melt, Sparkle, Free, You Enjoy Myself

II: Also Sprach Zarathustra > Down With Disease, Taste, The Mango Song, Lawn Boy, Scent of a Mule, Mike’s Song > Swept Away > Steep > Weekapaug Groove*

E: All Along the Watchtower**

*With The Madison Scare Garden dancers towards the end. **With Buddy Miles on drums, Merl Saunders on keyboards, and Fish on Trey’s mini-drum kit.

Source: B&K 4021s > EAA PSP-2 > DA-P1 > D(1) – ORTF / OTS (10F10 row 5)

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185 Responses to “The Moments Before”

  1. Chalkdustin Says:

    @ Davey and Mr. Completely, thanks for the help guys. It’s much appreciated, really. I can’t get onto most peer-to-peer sites (piratebay, demonoid, etree), any other suggestions? Otherwise I’ll just grab tomorrow’s DL and hope for the best.

  2. Davey Says:

    Actually you might need the torrent file to seed. I’d keep it just in case and trash it with the .rar after you’ve seeded up to at least a 1.00 ratio.

  3. Davey Says:

    Chalkdustin, I can give you an invitation code for

  4. guyforget Says:

    yep, we’re on the same page. thanks for the pointers fellas…happy DL’ing!!

    Chalk – my suggestion is to do it at home and get back to work!!!!

  5. voopa Says:

    Keep in mind that your overall ratio from all sites means nothing, aside from personal satisfaction, and perhaps karma. doesn’t care what your ratio is, but I think pirate bay does. So if you have an overall ratio of 2.0, but your etree ratio is only .5, then you’re probably over 1 at the bay. The ratio you’ve made from here won’t affect your ratio at a site that actively monitors and boots members based on your ratio there.

  6. Chalkdustin Says:

    Davey, I mean I can’t get onto the site itself because of security at work.

  7. Chalkdustin Says:

    @ guy, haha good advice.

  8. Davey Says:

    This one is for Chalkdustin so no one else steal his ok? Promise? Also Chalkdustin, if you get warned/banned I get warned/banned to so don’t Download kiddy porn or anything and keep your ratio decent.

    Go here
    And enter this

  9. Davey Says:

    Oh, well then someone else can use that invitation code.

  10. Chalkdustin Says:

    Yeah, I work at a school so the security is weird here. Some places you wouldn’t expect me to have access to, I do, and others I don’t. However, thanks man for helping me out. I owe ya one.

  11. Davey Says:

    Wow, just this much time DL’ing that Anime episode and my ratio is up to .73 you can change the setting for download and upload speeds. So if you really want to DL something fast set your upload speed really low and your DL speed unlimited (but you’ll have to leave it open longer) If you are boosting your ratio like me I set my upload to unlimited and my DL pretty low so I upload whatever I’ve downloaded. I’m about 23% of the way through the download but I’ve uploaded that first 23% to a ton of people so my ratio is getting better.

  12. Dr SF Jones Says:

    Hey Guys–maybe a dumb question too, but if I am using Transmission for Mac, does that Ratio apply to all torrent DL sites. What is an “acceptable”, good karma ratio?

    Thanks. ( Sorry if these have been addressed earlier)

  13. phil Says:

    nice SOTD: 10/22/96!
    it was my first, and i still think it’s a doozy.

  14. Davey Says:

    The ratio is based on wherever you DL the torrent. Every torrent comes with a “tracker” which tracks your ratio and what you’ve uploaded, downloaded, all users in the swarm etc… So if you DL the torrent from then whatever your ratio for that file is will be updated to that site only. If you are DL’ing torrents from Mr. Miner then no websites will no about it. You will just feel bad for leeching off all of us after we’ve shared so generously with you. Make sense?

  15. Chalkdustin Says:

    Wow, you’re right, Transmission is really fast. I just redownloaded today’s DOTD and it took maybe a third of the time that Vuze took. Maybe even less! Rad!

  16. Dr SF Jones Says:

    Not Really, but I will just keep the torrents open as long as possible. 🙂

    I will probably try to re read this again tomorrow though. i got a little buzz going here….

  17. Dr SF Jones Says:

    I have been using torrents since Mr. M suggested it though, so I guess I was really just kind of wondering if my present Transmission ratio of 0.18 was a shitty as it looks….

  18. wanderin Says:

    Although I haven’t used transmission, I used Vuze, and it is a hog. Go with Utorrent or Transmission. They take up less RAM, are stable and secure. You can always increase your ratio by seeding what you have dl’d and uploading anything you would like to share.

  19. Davey Says:

    Ya, Vuse was the “standard” for a long time but Transmission is really the way to go. I DL’d Ilife 09 (4.5gb) in like 3 hours.

  20. voopa Says:


    We are on the same page, I guess I interpreted what you posted earlier incorrectly.

    Here’s a tip…set your torrent program’s upload speed to about 90% of your total available upload speed…otherwise, your browsing will really bog down.

  21. Davey Says:

    And 0.18 is pretty bad. But if you are only DL’ing the shows from this site it’ll be hard to keep up a good ratio.

  22. Frankie Says:

    Could those new mics be part of the answer for the new improved sound? Interesting article…

  23. Mr.Miner Says:

    we will be getting a Phish Thoughts Torrent Tutorial Page up by next week, so don’t worry, it will be explained step by step.

  24. voopa Says:

    Thanks for that link Frankie! So the new sound guy is Garry Brown…couldn’t find a lot about him, but did find this:

  25. Davey Says:

    So he worked the sound for TAB?

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