Not A Wasted Note

Fall '98

Fall '98 (Unk)

Once in a while, Phish will play a jam where every note falls in the right place.  Fluid and flowing in the subconscious state, the band becomes a model of musical efficiency, using each note with intention; nothing is superfluous.  The music is channeled directly from the source, untouched by human error.  Each tone, texture or sound has a purpose, and there is no part of the jam that isn’t completely coherent.  When all four members peak together for twenty minutes, the results can be glorious. A jam can- no doubt- be outstanding without this level of perfection, yet every now and again a version of a song pops off in such a way, leaving you amazed that four humans just created it.  There are many examples of this phenomenon, and 12.29.98’s “YEM” is one of them.

Punctuating arguably the best set of the ’98 New Years Run, Phish morphed into a robotically-precise groove machine, transforming Madison Square Garden into an all-out, end of the year, dance party.  This “YEM,” from its first note to its last, never missed a beat; a model of collaboration.  With communication like none other, this version sounded like you were listening to a record.

1998-12-29moThe initial composed portion was played almost impeccably, at a pace where every note of every arpeggio could be heard with crystal clarity.  Moving into the blissed out soundscape- the calm before the storm- the band never faltered, providing divine harmonies, yet moving through the passage with direction and a subtle sense of urgency.  As Phish moved into the next compositional segment, followed by the song’s mid-point build, they were firing on full throttle, without getting ahead of themselves for a second.  The pace of their playing was discernibly patient, yet fierce at the same time.  As Mike played a series of melodic lines behind Trey’s massive sustained peak, The Garden was cleared for take off- and that is exactly what it did.

From the initial funk drop though the end of the song, the band’s playing was flawless.  Moving through the lyrical segment and Page’s solo during the trampoline section, the band was clearly locked in and ready to explode.  And then Trey and Mike jumped off.  Communicating with mind-bending efficiency, the ensuing jam sounded completely rehearsed.

Hampon (Unk)

Hampon (Unk)

Beginning a clinic in Phish grooves, Trey initiated a crack-style rhythm pattern that Mike immediately backed with “The Way I Feel’s” bass line.  As the band moved into the jam, every member’s phrases were offered as complements to each others’, clearly listening as hard as they were playing.  Collectively switching patterns at the drop of a hat, or more literally a single snare hit, the band progressed through a catalog of dance patterns.  The music jumped from the stage with such vitality as a living breathing entity.   Dynamic and bursting with a controlled energy, this version showcased the band not only at the climax of a standout show, but at the end one of the peak years of their career.

Artistically building out of the funk, the jam gained a head of steam, driving forward like a freight train, with every member crushing it while fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle.  Page’s lines leapt from his grand piano, Trey painted colorful strokes across Mike’s oddly melodic musings while Fish surfed a wave of precise beats and incredibly tight rhythms.

The peak and the post-peak sections maintained 100% engagement by all, and were good to the absolute last drop.  With each band member at the top of their game, this version of their seminal piece provided a snapshot of what 1998 Phish grooves were all about.  An archetype of efficiency, this “YEM” represents the type of jam that emerges when everything clicks and no notes are wasted.


LISTEN TO 12.29.98 “YEM” NOW! < LINK (Roll over, click play)



3.6.09: Photo: C. Taylor Crothers



4.10.93 Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL SBD < LINK

4.10.93 Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL SBD < TORRENT  LINK

Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL

Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL

Taking it back exactly 16  years, here we have a SBD memoir of Phish’s performance on this day in 1993.  In Chicago, the band threw down a hot show, with a big “Mike’s Groove” strewn with humor, darkness, and an interlude of “Great Gig In the Sky” holding down the second set.  In addition, local blues artist, and multiple-time Phish guest, Sugar Blue, joined the band for the final four songs of the second set.

I: Runaway Jim, Weigh, Sparkle, Split Open and Melt, The Squirming Coil, My Friend My Friend, Uncle Pen, Chalk Dust Torture, Lawn Boy, David Bowie

II: Lengthwise > Maze, Bouncing Around the Room, Rift, Glide, Big Ball Jam, Mike’s Song > Great Gig in the Sky > Weekapaug Groove, Funky Bitch*, Help Me*, Hoochie Coochie Man*, Cavern*

E: Amazing Grace, Good Times Bad Times

*With Sugar Blue on harmonica and vocals.

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162 Responses to “Not A Wasted Note”

  1. whole tour! Says:

    i just like seeing fish run laps around the stage….like 12-28-2003 in miami after “love you”…the guy did a mini marathon, like 10 laps in under 15 seconds.

  2. msbjivein Says:

    Hey SOAM, I bet you love it when Fish shows off the Boys don’t you?LOL!

  3. SOAM Says:

    I get it-he blows so it’s funny

  4. SOAM Says:

    I am normally power tweaked with limited vision so…actually his voice frightens me more than his bag o donuts

  5. whole tour! Says:

    on 10-31-1994 fishman let the frank and beans take an extended solo. many people in the front rows were permanently blinded.

  6. whole tour! Says:

    can we expect a “frank and beans” reprise at the fox?

  7. whole tour! Says:

    Dr. Rockso, the rock and roll clown, will be on tour this summer…..y.y.y.y.y.y.YA!

  8. Al Says:

    Fish flubbing the lyrics and singin’ on 12/28/03:”….can’t remember the words either, so it’s time for the vacuum cleaner!” (or kind of like that) is my favorite HYHU moment.
    His performance in Lille 6/25/97 is hilarious too.

  9. msbjivein Says:

    @SOAM, HMMMMMMMM, Your one of those guys.

  10. msbjivein Says:

    Al, Can’t forget “Gettin Jiggy w/ it” That was funny shit also.

  11. c0wfunk Says:

    You know I’ve been noticing that “the way I feel” bassline in many a YEM I put on recently – it stems from a tune I’ve heard Trey’s Big Band play a few times (I know they played in Asheville in 02 or so) .. kind of a long loping blues funky riff based on a pentatonic scale

    bah bah BADDA bah .. badabada-da or something like that 😉

    Sometimes an entire show feels note-for-note perfection -> one that comes to mind is 12-7-97 Dayton.

    My favorite shows are those that have this seamless, composed feel to them (11-22-97 also comes to mind), though they are stuffed full of jams, where every song naturally flows into the next perfectly.

    7-22-97 setII goes with this idea (though the song proper of DWD is a little botched, I can over look that), but from the dwd/jam>mikes>simple>h2>groove, then the hood encore, it’s all so natural and flowing.

  12. Al Says:

    @msbjivein – Oh yes!! the cards!

  13. Little Buddy Says:

    Miner – Several months ago you had a poll on this site. I think it was a “which show do you like better” poll between Rochester 97 and Philly 99. It would be cool if you worked in some more of these. Perhaps a “what is your favorite cover” poll…

    Just a thought. Thanks again for the great read this morning.

  14. Al Says:

    speaking of flowing: check out Bathtub>Makisupa>ACDC Bag from Dallas 7/25/97. Wow!

  15. c0wfunk Says:

    I forgot the consequent to that antecedent…

    bah bah BADDA bah .. badabada-da
    Bah ba-da .. badadada

    In the song the way I feel this bassline repeats, and modulates around with the blues scale. Mike usually just rides it in the YEM key (G?)

  16. Hooks Says:

    cover: Been Caught Stealin’

  17. A_Glide Says:

    I like bass lines that go
    bah bebe dede doh. baba bah.. bah ba bah..

  18. bcb Says:


    Thanks for posting that 7-2-98 show the other day, i have had it in heavy rotation all week, I just can’t get enough of it for some reason.

    When is Phish going back to europe? I want more shows like these.

  19. c0wfunk Says:

    @glide .. those are my favorites too 😉

    “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”
    (quote variously attributed to Miles Davis, Elvis Costello, Steve Martin, Thelonius Monk, or Frank Zappa)

  20. Al Says:

    If you like basslines, listen to GHOST from 8/9/97 and 11/27/97. Wow!
    Yeah, Phish should come to Europe in summer 2010!! I’m waiting!

  21. SOAM Says:


    I enjoy myself

  22. Mr.Miner Says:

    Fishman songs suck…. 😉

  23. voopa Says:

    The Way I Feel is a tune that appeared in demo form on Trey’s collection “One Man’s Trash.” The bassline is the same ascending pentatonic riff that Mike uses in most YEM jams. Trey band first played it on 2/27/01. The definitive version was with Santana on 5/31/03, and is available on DVD.

  24. Mr.Miner Says:

    bye bye foot is the bomb however…

  25. Jay Says:

    I always loved Roses are Free as far as covers go. Also Peaches n Regalia though they have not done that in ages.

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