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. gene Says:

    Thanks Minor for the 10-22-96 show, my first show! I haven’t listen to it for so long. It all started that night in NYC…

  2. Hooks Says:

    dunno if golgi’s been mentioned yet, but the swelling buildup to the final “I SAW YOU…” after the little tight interlude is a good one, among many others… although it’s not really subtle. but still pretty key

  3. Hooks Says:

    that song’s gotta be played at either ashevegas or the fox, despite the possibly too obvious line reference. seems like a good bet

  4. Ryan Schloffel Says:

    It might have been an etching on a marker of a grave. Or maybe on the walls of the cave……and then Fish comes in with the drums…..Listen to the silent treeeeeeeeeeees.

    Love it

  5. Davey Says:

    Hey Frankie I sent you some E-mails about the Gorge Pass.

    Anyone have a good way to send money from Canada to the US without too many fee’s or anything? I was thinking cashiers check for USD.

  6. BwanaSun Says:

    Best Moments… Nice Miner, definitely a cool post topic. All-time has to be YEM !! Hard to narrow it down though… Here are some other in addition to the ones you’ve already mentioned:

    Oh Kee Pah > Suzi: the anticipation of what follows Oh Kee Pah is heavy! Is it Suzi or is it a Bag or it is????

    Fluffhead: the buildup to “FLUFFHEAD” closing out the song!

    Wilson: bac, boom, bla……!!

    Harpua: Omm Pah Pah, Omm Pah Pah… (after E Center ’99 I have reason to beleive)

    Bathtub Gin: “we’re all in this together and we love to take a bath!”

    Possum: opening buildup to dance riot!!!

    Guyute: the ending climax > into lyrics > rebuild for finish…

    Divided Sky: holding the note…

    David Bowie: opening drop into song out of noodling & cymbals!!

    Theme From the Bottom: start of jam out of lyrics “…don’t you see anything that you’d like to tryyyyyyyyyyy. if I’m swimming byyyyyy.”

    Walls of the Cave: Fishman’s drum work and drawn out vocal harmonies entering heart of the jam…

    And finally where would be be without so many great opening licks – Phish may be the best band ever at opening intros!! DWD, Axilla, Wolfman’s, Guelah Papyrus, Funky Bitch, Frankenstein, Peaches, Chalkdust, Timber Ho, AC/DC Bag, PunchYITE, Seven Below, Halley’s Comet, Limb by Limb, Song I Heard the Ocean Sing, Character Zero, SOAM, Runaway Jim, Golgi, First Tube, Free

  7. Jay Says:

    @Davey said:
    “Anyone have a good way to send money from Canada to the US without too many fee’s or anything? I was thinking cashiers check for USD.”

    Have you thought of PayPal?

  8. Frankie Says:

    @ Jay
    I think that’ll be the best way… thanks Jay! We’ll figure it out! 🙂

    Fluo Mike!

    IT’S ICE!!! That’s another Phish moment i didn’t think about earlier… the one right after the composed section… at exactly 5:00 of this video! Hampton version is glorious also!!

  9. Davey Says:

    @ Jay, I was wondering if they do conversion rates and what the fees would be with paypal. It seemed like a no-brainer to me but then I started thinking about the logistics of it and it gave me a headache. :S We’ll figure something out. Sweet vid Frankie.

  10. Davey Says:

    To be fair BwanaSun, Frankenstein and Peaches aren’t Phish songs. Although they do open them exceptionally well.

  11. Harpua Says:

    Split Open and Melt, at “down, down, down…split open and melt”.

  12. Davey Says:

    Love the “Melt” like a command. You’d better melt.

  13. Mr. Icculus Says:

    has anyone talked about the drop out of my friend my friend… Such a beautiful beginning than the drop…….

  14. Matso Says:

    Completely off topic, but man, those Hampton shows are aging really well already! I just listened to the DWD>Seven Below on the way home and it is incredible. From the staccato funk to Fish’s awesome free-rock drumming to the beautifully unhurried, concise and focused Seven Below (still can’t quite put my finger on why this version just works so damn well).

    Alright, that’s it.

  15. Mr. Completely Says:

    @Davey exactly, “melt” in the imperative – pay attention, you are about to melt, bitches

  16. BwanaSun Says:

    ^Davey. Re: “To be fair BwanaSun, Frankenstein and Peaches aren’t Phish songs. Although they do open them exceptionally well.”

    Yeah, sure, but like many Phish covers, I’d rather see Phish play them than the original artists… These too: Ya Mar, Roses are Free, Cities, Boogie On Reggae Woman, Funky Bitch, Jesus Left Chicago, Purple Rain, Walk Away, Ride Captain Ride…

  17. Clay Says:

    Hey all have two DARIEN LAKE LAWNS

    Face value


  18. guyforget Says:

    Matso – said the same thing earlier. Buried hampton 09 for a few weeks, then took put them back in yesterday. Fresh perspective, kick ass.

  19. Mr.Miner Says:

    “Seven Below (still can’t quite put my finger on why this version just works so damn well).”

    ^ Page sets up a melodic framework with those blocked chords at the beginning of the jam that guides the musical path. This is another example of Page in the zone over Hampton. It’s one of my favorite jams of the weekend.

    have shoreline lawns if anyone needs em

  20. Mr.Miner Says:

    @Mr. Icculus- I almost wrote about the MFMF drop, then decided to focus the piece on specifically “pre-jam moments.” I plan to do another about Phish moments in general, and I agree- that is at the top if the list!! The reetative piano/guitar patterns that kick in are the greatest…also one of my favorite parts of Hampton!

  21. Mugician Says:

    I made a comment about the 2 Phish moments for me that happen during MFMF on the first page. Hampton is where it’s at though (click on the HD button, then turn off the lights and close the blinds, and put in on full screen, and crank your system):

  22. Mugician Says:

    Anyone have Sec. 100 for me for my first Phish Show? I have a lawn to trade among other things.

  23. gus Says:

    Oh my god this is COMPLETELY off topic, but the Mike’s Song from 2.20.93 at the Roxy is CRAZY! I don’t know if this was planned, but trey does the solo from Reba, then the lick from Tweezer, then the part from the Lizards, then the lick from Stash, then the “blap boom…” from Wilson!!

  24. Cactus Says:

    @ Frankie Says

    No doubt about the Ice part as being a great “moment before”.

    Great version that you posted too. Very dark and dreary and long before it kicks into the best part of the song where they bring it all back. I would’ve loved to have been at the Clifford Ball.

  25. Cactus Says:


    I’m pretty sure Trey didn’t plan that, he just sort of decided to go that route as the song was progressing. It’s sick regardless though.

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